SANDAG seeks biking input

Uptown communities express goals, concerns over regional bicycle corridor plans

By Dave Schwab | SDUN Reporter

Approximately 40 representatives from major community planning and transportation groups were asked to dream big at a brainstorming workshop held Dec. 5. Organized by San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the meeting was the first of its kind to solicit public input on updating the citywide regional bike corridor plans, including Uptown.

The Uptown Regional Bike Corridor Plan is being updated. (Courtesy SANDAG)

Fully half of those attending the workshop held at the Balboa Park Club represented Uptown organizations, including the Adams Avenue, North Park, Hillcrest and Bankers Hill business associations. Hillcrest Town Council and the North Park Community Association were represented, and members from the Uptown Community, Greater Mid-City and Old Town parking districts were also in attendance.

Transportation groups present included Walk San Diego, BikeSD, Move San Diego and Great Streets San Diego. Greater North Park, Uptown Centre City, Old Town and Balboa Park planning committees also took part as stakeholder groups.

After a slide-show presentation, SANDAG transportation planners went around the room asking community representatives to offer ideas as to how regional bike corridors could be improved and what factors need to be considered in making that evaluation.

SANDAG planner Beth Robrahn said they were trying to help “the average everyday person ride a bike for everyday trips around the neighborhood,” adding that there is much work to be done to improve bike corridors and making riding safer for cyclists.

“We know from data people don’t feel safe on the streets,” she said. “Many people want to bike, but don’t because they don’t feel safe. Experience in other places shows the best way to address those concerns is to balance the needs of all users.”

Robrahn said transportation planners have the opportunity through redesigning regional bike corridors to “build facilities with fewer cars, or greater separation [of cyclists] from moving cars.”

Large sheets of butcher paper lined the walls and all suggestions from community representatives on redesigning the regional bike corridors were recorded for further review.

Uptown community planners and cycling enthusiasts had their share of suggestions to offer as the best approach in improving the safety and viability of bike transportation corridors, including Richard Stegner of the Old Town Parking District. Stegner said creating parking facilities for bicycles deserves more consideration.

“When bicyclists get to where they want to go they need someplace to park securely, like in bike corrals,” he said. “It would be a disservice not to build infrastructure like this on the main business corridors.”

Bicycle corrals have been installed in Hillcrest and North Park, with a permanent repair kit installed at the Hillcrest corral, located at the intersection of Fifth and University avenues.

Leo Wilson, representing the Bankers Hill Park West Community Association, said a balance needs to be struck between accommodating non-motorized and motorized transportation, including attention given to parking in Uptown.

“The key thing is we want to improve bicycling, while preserving [automobile] parking as much as possible,” Wilson said.

BikeSD representative Chris Taylor said in addition to safety, connectivity between the route corridors needs to be a goal. “You need to make significant improvements to these major corridors – these arteries – and connect the rest of neighborhoods to the arteries,” he said. “Are you looking where existing ridership is and factoring that into your decisions?”

Transportation planner Chris Kluth of SANDAG gave a presentation showing different ways cities around the world have devised traffic calming measures, like roundabout traffic circles and neighborhood greenways. The measures accommodate bicycles and cars while making thoroughfares safer for both.

“These facilities modulate auto speed, discouraging cut-thru traffic, while at the same time maintaining road access and access to businesses and residences,” Kluth said, adding that it was important to keep the uniqueness of San Diego in mind.

“We need to design for San Diego,” he said. “Every one of the communities in San Diego has a different character with different challenges. We are here to listen to what the communities’ concerns and ideas are.”

SANDAG officials stressed that the Dec. 5 workshop was the first in a series of meetings with community planners and transportation user groups to come up with a game plan for revising regional corridors, with the potential to redraw the lines on the current map, if necessary.

Identified in the San Diego Regional Bike Plan, the Uptown corridor project is among the first set of high-priority projects to be funded for implementation by SANDAG.

The project is now in the design phase of the implementation process.

The next meeting on the project, likely sometime in January 2013, will be a report by SANDAG to the community representatives discussing and analyzing existing conditions of regional bike corridors and design alternatives. A final design for regional bike corridors will then be selected for construction through a collaborative, community-based process.

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