Goals outlined & suggestions submitted; SANDAG to return in spring for 3rd workshop
By Dave Schwab | SDUN Reporter
Community planning and transportation representatives, including many from Uptown, weighed in Wednesday, Feb. 6 on the Uptown Regional Bike Corridor Project, giving their suggestions on what could be done to create an interlocking network of citywide bike paths to help connect neighborhoods.
It was the second in a series of community advisory meetings hosted by San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the region’s primary public planning, transportation and research agency.
The purpose of the bike corridor meetings is for city transportation planners to work with public groups to craft an updated regional bicycle-corridor transportation plan that accomplishes a number of goals. Among them:
• Improving connectivity among the various communities.
• Improving safety by finding ways to more efficiently share the roadway between pedestrians, bicycles and cars.
• Coordinate and design a comprehensive regional bike plan that balances the needs of all user groups.
• Support multi-modal efforts encouraging use of mass transit.
• Enhance supportive amenities such as bike parking and corrals.
• Encourage the pursuit of more holistic lifestyles, weaning people from dependence on automobiles by promoting cycling, walking and other alternative forms of transportation.
SANDAG principal planner Coleen Clementson served as workshop facilitator at the Feb. 6 meeting. Clementson was joined by SANDAG transportation planners Beth Robrahn and Chris Kluth.
Robrahn first gave an overview of the ongoing bike corridor project. Following, the approximately 40 community advisory-group representatives broke into small-group discussions, accompanied by transportation facilitators helping to guide ideas on what factors should be considered in designing routes to accommodate cyclists. A key factor discussed was to connect the routes to neighborhoods and business districts while avoiding traffic problems.
Led by Kluth, a senior active transportation planner at SANDAG, one discussion group brainstormed ideas on how best to reconfigure the Uptown segment, from Mission Valley to Hillcrest and Bankers Hill. Community representatives in the discussion included Char Lou Benedict of the Bankers Hill Neighborhood Parking Committee, Walt Chambers of Great Streets San Diego, Harold Clayton of Centre City Advisory Committee and Andy Hanshaw, executive director of San Diego Bicycle Coalition.
For the next 45 minutes, they examined a street corridor map provided by SANDAG, discussing existing traffic conditions and kicking around ideas for what might be done to improve bike safety while linking the three neighborhoods in question, which includes neighboring Balboa Park.
Chambers said the park is a key focal point along the traffic corridor because it is a “regional destination for residents and tourists.” Hanshaw said he suggested that Long Beach, Calif., which has bike-friendly paths separated from cars, should be looked at as one example of what can be accomplished.
Benedict said Robinson Avenue, which parallels University Avenue – both major bike thoroughfares along this traffic corridor – are distinctly different, as Robinson Avenue is primarily residential while University Avenue is mostly commercial.
Clayton said that whatever is done to improve this specific bike corridor should be done with the idea of making it more friendly for people of all ages, especially making it more family-friendly.
Other suggestions by group members included concentrating on University Avenue to improve it as a bike route, as doing so would promote business along the corridor, while avoiding Robinson Avenue as a bike route because of its residential character.
Additionally, the group consensus was that cutting the number of traffic lanes from three to two on Fourth and Fifth avenues in downtown would invite cyclists and offer more opportunities for improving bike safety by separating them from vehicles.
Near the end of the meeting, Kluth led the group in drawing conclusions to be offered to the advisory group as a whole. Clayton was designated to speak for his particular discussion group, offering these talking points for further study and review:
• Bike paths and related amenities should be made to coincide with businesses along the University Avenue commercial strip.
• Any regional bike path should move through Balboa Park, as it is a focal point for culture and recreation.
• Bike paths should favor commercial over residential areas.
• Traffic-calming elements should be considered in any discussion of updating regional bike paths in order to make it safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
• Ways should be found to physically separate bike lanes from traffic lanes.
SANDAG’s Robrahn said the next phase will be for traffic planners to discuss suggestions made by the advisory group over the next few weeks, and return in the spring for a third workshop to present design alternatives for preferred bike routes that may be designated for improvements.
Representatives attending the Feb. 6 workshop at the Balboa Park Club spoke for several Uptown groups, including Adams Avenue, Hillcrest, North Park and Bankers Hill business associations, Hillcrest Town Council and North Park Community Association, and Uptown Community, Greater Mid-City and Old Town parking districts.
Greater North Park, Uptown Centre City, Old Town and Balboa Park planning committees also took part as stakeholder groups. Regional transportation groups Walk San Diego, Bike San Diego, Move San Diego and Great Streets San Diego were also present, among others.