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San Diego plans for protected bike lanes on Park Boulevard in University Heights

San Diego is planning to add protected bike lanes to a one-mile section of Park Boulevard in University Heights, continuing a push from Mayor Todd Gloria to improve the safety and comfort of biking amid record high gas prices and a spike in traffic deaths.

The new bike lanes will stretch from Adams Avenue to University Avenue and will be implemented once crews complete a street resurfacing project that is already in progress. Currently cyclists on that stretch of Park Boulevard have to share a lane with cars.

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City officials stressed neither the project's timeline nor design details have been finalized. But they confirmed that Transportation Department staffers had begun the process of incorporating protected bike lanes into the street's resurfacing contract.

"The intent is to use the resurfacing project as an opportunity to improve our streets to be safe for all users by adding protected bike lanes, as called for in the Bike Master Plan," said city spokesman Anthony Santacroce.

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Santacroce added that the city is evaluating extending the bike lanes one block south to Robinson Avenue as part of a separate street resurfacing contract, and eventually into Balboa Park following a water pipeline replacement project that is slated for completion next year.

The plans for Park Boulevard are reminiscent of 30th Street in North Park, where the city added protected bike lanes following a water main replacement and street resurfacing project. Cyclists and environmentalists have praised that transformation as a critical step forward in creating a city-wide network of bike lanes with enough physical protection to make children, older adults and less experienced cyclists feel safe.

Ariana Criste bikes down a freshly repaved section of Park Boulevard where city officials plan to install protected bike lanes, March 22, 2022.
Matthew Bowler
Ariana Criste bikes down a freshly repaved section of Park Boulevard where city officials plan to install protected bike lanes, March 22, 2022.

Bike counting devices installed on 30th Street have recorded more than 18,000 bike and scooter trips in the past two months.

Ariana Criste lives a short bike ride away on Meade Avenue, where officials last Saturday cut the ribbon on a new 3.5-mile bike lane project that runs from Park Boulevard to Fairmount Avenue in Kensington. When Criste bikes to Hillcrest or Balboa Park, she tends to avoid riding on Park Boulevard, even if it means taking a longer detour on side streets.

"Park is a segment of our neighborhood that feels a little bit dangerous to ride on," said Criste, who works as communications manager for the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign and serves as a board member of BikeSD. "It always feels like you might get doored, or you have to dodge cars that are coming in and out of getting takeout and visiting shops. I think this is really going to go a long way towards improving the safety of biking in the neighborhood."

The bike lanes on 30th Street sparked a backlash from residents and businesses upset over the resulting loss of street parking. A group called Save 30th Street Parking sued the city in an attempt to halt the project, but the judge ultimately ruled in the city's favor.

It is unclear whether the addition of bike lanes on Park Boulevard will cause a net loss of street parking, and if so, by how many spaces. But Criste said in light of 2021's alarming spike in traffic deaths, she hopes residents and businesses will keep the neighborhood's parking challenges in perspective.

"At the end of the day, this is all about safety for us," Criste said. "We just want to protect our neighbors."