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Activists Rallying For Protected Bike Lanes In North Park

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego's climate action plan made an ambitious pledge to beef up safe infrastructure for bicyclists. But the city's track record isn't great. Numerous bike projects have been delayed or water down. Hey, PBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says one father in Northpark is hoping to reverse that trend. Speaker 2: 00:19 Okay, you don't put your helmet on. Comes down here and I'll put your helmet on. Matt Stuckey is helping his four year old daughter Kate with her bike helmet ropes. It fell apart. Kate sticks to the sidewalks, but Stuckey's seven year olds, Blake and Luke are fine on the streets. Okay, look for cars. We good. Ready? Oops. Watch my wheel. No, that's because the streets here quiet but venture over to 30th street, North Park's main north south thoroughfare and it gets a lot less safe. There's some people, maybe middle aged men who are comfortable riding there and you know, between the buses and speeding cars. But if we want to expand the number of people who are riding bikes, uh, especially kids are older people, uh, they need protection to be safe on 30th street. San Diego was currently replacing an aging water mains that runs underneath 30th after that's done and the street has resurfaced. Speaker 2: 01:18 Stucky wants the city to redesign it with protected bike lanes. The kind with a physical barrier separating cyclists for moving cars. He says a lot of people drive to the businesses on 30th because cars feel like the only safe option. But I think they want to transfer those trips from the cars to their bikes and go with the family to go out to dinner or to get ice cream or uh, even with their friends to go get a beer. Uh, so I think there's a lot of people who are willing to make that change and want to make that change and be more active, but they are only going to do it if it's safe. I have a five year old and I have an infant, so I would want to have the safest facility as plausible. That made me feel comfortable as a parent going with my kids. Speaker 2: 01:59 City councilman, Chris Ward got City staffers to analyze the bike lane. Design options. Protected lanes are feasible, but they may require eliminating on street parking. Word says he's taking feedback on what design residents prefer. You try to find that balance. But the good news is that we're already being proactive on looking for a parking modifications on some of the off streets, uh, that that dot cross the cross 30th street as well. So the community that choose to drive and park won't feel any net impact, but at the same time we'd be able to actually be successful and get new bicycle lanes. Parking in north park can feel difficult, but there's a parking garage on 30th that's about two thirds empty most of the time. The Neighborhood Business Association, North Park Main Street voted to support a painted bike lane option that would keep most on street parking. The groups, executive director, Angela Lansburgh says her board members are wary of drastic change. Speaker 2: 02:54 And so there's some hesitation because the evidence from their eyes is that there's just not enough people riding bikes to warrant that, uh, the elimination of all of those parking spots at the same time at Landsberg says if the city replaces street parking with protected bike lanes, maybe that wouldn't be so terrible. I think that the studies have shown that if you build protected safe bike lanes, people will use them. And also that, that does benefit business in those areas. So there's data to support that. It really is completely focused on the kids. On the one hand, Matt Stuckey just wants to be able to take his family on a safe bike ride to go get ice cream. But on a deeper level, he sees the potential redesign of 30th street as a test for San Diego, which does the city care more about the convenience of driving or fighting climate change, fired by what the city did when it passed its climate action plan and committed to reconsidering how we live. And I think as a parent, uh, we, I need to be doing everything I can to make sure the city lives up to those commitments. Stucky and other advocates are organizing a group bike ride on April 13th to drum up support for the safest design possible. Then on April 16th the North Park Planning Committee will discuss options. Stucky will be there as a member. Last month residents elected him to a seat on the volunteer community planning group. Speaker 1: 04:20 Joining me is KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Hi. Hi. Now how far would these new bike lanes extend along 30th street? The plan is to follow the North Park section of the pipeline replacement project on 30th so that would start at juniper in south park and then it would go north to Polk street, which is a little bit over a mile and a half. And the city is considering actually extending it a few blocks further so that it can connect to an unbuilt but planned bike project along Howard street, which runs east west. So can you talk some more about the difference between painted bike lanes that San Diego has created along a lot of city streets and the cycle tracks that may be created along 30th street? Yeah, so traffic engineer's generally group bike lanes into four different classes. So here's my bike lanes one on one lesson. Speaker 1: 05:09 Class one is a bike path. It's completely separated from vehicle travel. An example would be the bike path around mission bay, for example. It's very low stress environment. A class two is a painted lane. They're typically sandwiched between parked cars and moving cars. So a little bit less comfortable, especially for cyclists with less experience on the road or for older or younger cyclists who don't go as fast a class three is when a cars and bikes share the same space. Uh, you might see some signs, uh, on the side of the road declaring that it's a bike route or the little Chevron street markings. These are the least safe and the least comfortable, honestly. Um, and then a class four is protected bike lane or a cycle track. It's sometimes called, these are a somewhat new concept in America, although they've existed in Europe for a very long time and they generally follow the route as cars, uh, you know, parallel to the travel lanes of cars, but they have some kind of barrier that would protect the cyclist. Speaker 1: 06:04 It could be a concrete curb, it could be a planters planter, boxes with trees, it could be plastic bollards. But there's something that prevents the motorists from creeping over into the bike space. And it sounds like that one is the safest. Well, they're generally, uh, they're really the forefront of the expansion of bike lanes across the country. They're shown to be the most effective at actually growing bike ridership because in order to attract more people to get on their bikes, you have to give them a place that's both safe and it's comfortable. You want, you want a place that people enjoy riding. Why would the options be for cars with the on street parking removed along a large chunk of 30th street, there are a lot of side streets that either intersect or run parallel to 30th that are very wide. And the city has been a converting parallel parking on the streets to a angled or head in parking because there's all of that extra unused right of way. Speaker 1: 06:58 Um, the councilman ward mentions briefly in my story that the city is hoping to use that, uh, process of, of switching the, the angle of parking to offset any of the losses of parking on 30th street itself. We should also mention, of course, uh, North Park does have several paid parking lots and there's that paid parking garage that, um, the financial reports show that the average occupancy rate in the last three months of, of 2018 was about 33%. So there's plenty of parking there. You just have to be willing to pay for it. Cool. We'll make the call on which design gets built along 30th street. Ultimately, it's the mayor's decision, uh, whether or not he'll just simply defer to the councilman who represents this district, Chris Ward. Uh, you know, we can't really say for sir. Um, but I think that that councilman war, we'll have a lot of influence. Speaker 1: 07:42 You know, this is, I think a question that, uh, the city needs to grapple with. Who is the one who gets to decide? Is it a cyclist who are really leading the, the city into this future of reducing our dependence on cars? Or A, is it going to be, frankly, the majority of people who still do drive and are unwilling to or don't want to give up their cars, which is more important for the city? Is it the convenience and the speed of, of driving and finding a parking spot exactly where you intend to go, uh, for free? Or is it leading away into a future in which we, we are able to bike safely and comfortably? I've been speaking with Kpbs Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Thank you. Thanks, Maureen.

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A group of cyclists is pushing for the city to redesign a portion of 30th Street in North Park with protected bike lanes. The father behind the campaign says it's a test of the city's commitment to climate action. GUEST: Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS news.