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San Diego to remove 'advisory' bike lanes in Mira Mesa

An SUV drives down a section of Gold Coast Drive in Mira Mesa that has new "advisory" bike lanes, April 6, 2022.
Andrew Bowen
/
KPBS
An SUV drives down a section of Gold Coast Drive in Mira Mesa that has new "advisory" bike lanes, April 6, 2022.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria on Friday ordered city workers to remove bike lanes that were added to a quarter-mile stretch of a street in Mira Mesa, bowing to fierce backlash from neighbors.

The redesigned stretch of Gold Coast Drive maintains street parking but removes the center dividing line, forcing motorists in both directions to share a single lane. When oncoming traffic approaches, drivers are expected to move over into the "advisory" bike lanes to pass.

Advisory bike lanes, also called edge lane roads, have existed for decades in other cities and countries but are new in San Diego. A 2021 study by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University estimates the addition of advisory bike lanes reduces the likelihood of collisions by roughly 44%.

"Possible explanations for these reductions include decreased speed and increased attentiveness as a result of the treatment's novelty or drivers' concerns about approaching vehicles," the study concludes.

But Mira Mesa residents last week expressed outrage that they were not made aware of the coming change. Many said the single vehicular lane for two directions of traffic felt unsafe.

San Diego's transportation director, Jorge Riveros, apologized for the lack of community outreach in a virtual town hall on Monday. Gloria also put future advisory bike lane projects on hold pending an outreach and education campaign.

But it wasn't until Friday that Gloria decided the bike lanes had to go. He invited media to accompany him as he knocked on doors in Mira Mesa to inform residents of the change.

"I'm the mayor, the buck stops right here, and that's why I'm out here right now explaining to the public what's going to happen and why we're fixing it," Gloria said. "By this time next week, you will see that the road is on its way to being returned to its previous condition."

City officials distributed flyers around Gold Coast Drive on Friday saying the street would soon be repaved and restriped with a double yellow center dividing line and "sharrows" — chevron street markings that indicate cyclists and motorists must share a lane.

Nicole Burgess, a cyclist who has been advocating for advisory bike lanes on Evergreen Street in Point Loma, said sharrows are less safe for cyclists and that a double yellow dividing line can also be confusing to motorists.

"As a bike traveler, I don't travel very fast," Burgess said. "So the worst thing for me is to have somebody behind me that I know wants to pass, but they don't think it's legal because they have a double yellow line."

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Cyclists like Burgess often prefer advisory bike lanes when streets are too narrow for conventional bike lanes and traffic volumes and speeds are relatively low. They argue the design gives cyclists their own space while forcing motorists to pay closer attention to their surroundings.

Cycling advocates expressed anger that the city had abandoned the bike lanes on Gold Coast Drive and characterized the mayor's decision as compromising bike safety in the face of negative press.

"Very disappointed that @CityofSanDiego has reversed a proven safety improvement in response to one week of right-wing media fueled backlash," the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition wrote in a tweet. "Safety data should guide our transportation policy. Not bad faith media coverage."

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Anthony Santacroce, a spokesperson for the San Diego Transportation Department, said the advisory bike lanes on Evergreen Street were on hold until the city conducts "robust outreach and education." He declined to say how long that outreach would last.

"We recognize the urgency in keeping with our Vision Zero goals and providing safer bikeways for cyclists throughout the City," Santacroce said. "Since we failed to properly communicate the installation of advisory bike lanes on Gold Coast Drive, it has become clear that educating the surrounding communities — most of which have never seen or heard of these lanes — on how to use and navigate them prior to striping is an important component of keeping San Diego streets safe for all."

2021 was an especially deadly year for San Diego cyclists and saw more traffic deaths than any year since the city adopted its "Vision Zero" goal of ending all traffic deaths by 2025.