(UPDATE: Many commenters continue to blame jaywalkers for all collisions, even though a majority of cases in San Diego are the driver’s fault. Of course pedestrians bear responsibility for their actions, but many are being hit while crossing legally.).
Two Sundays ago, pedestrian Aaron “Curtis” Voorhies was killed while crossing University Avenue between Vermont Street and 10th Avenue. The driver did not stop. The incident occurred near an opening in the Uptown District plaza that funnels pedestrians to the street at mid-block:
Pedestrians will often cross the north side of University here, find refuge in the thin median, then cross to the south side. Voorhies was leaving the median (or may have been reaching to pick up his roommate’s dog) when hit. This stretch of University, much like the rest of it from 6th Ave eastward, is up to 8 lanes wide: 4 lanes dedicated to auto through-travel, up to 2 turn lane pockets at intersections, and 2 lanes for street parking. So out of these 6-8 lanes, we’ve set aside 0 for cyclists, and 0 to reduce crosswalk distance for pedestrians. The median is more to keep cars from hitting each other than hitting people.
Because Voorhies crossed the street outside of a crosswalk, some Facebook commenters actually said he deserved to be killed:
And idiots jaywalk expecting cars to see them. Roads are for cars. That’s why there are crosswalks.
One commenter speculated Voorhies was under the influence, a dog thief, and/or homeless. So it seems only drivers are entitled to our public streets, and if a bicyclist or pedestrian is hit, they’re to blame. While the SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor has been proposed as a traffic-calming measure for University, that feature is less important than the potential loss of any street parking. As one bike lane opponent said, “It should be about the money”. Yes, because people’s lives are less important than money.
Another commenter asked how a two-ton vehicle is supposed to stop “on a dime” for a jaywalker. No one is expecting this to happen, but by reducing speeds, a pedestrian – in or out of a crosswalk – has a dramatically-increased chance of surviving a collision:
Eighty percent of pedestrians struck by a car going 40 mph will die; at 30 mph the likelihood of death is 40 percent. At 20 mph, the fatality rate drops to just 5 percent.
This is the main commercial thoroughfare in the neighborhood, but the roads are designed to encourage travel speeds in the 40+ mph range. Those speeds are dangerous for pedestrians, even if they’re crossing legally. I can personally attest to the dangers of walking and biking in Hillcrest, since I was nearly hit in the unprotected bike lane on Cleveland Ave, and yelled at for crossing University “too slowly” while in a crosswalk. An intermediate step would be a mid-block crosswalk at this location until traffic-calming bike lanes go in, assuming they aren’t stopped by the opposition.
Walk San Diego performed a pedestrian survey of Uptown over a 10 years ago, identifying multiple trouble spots on University. Apart from some sidewalk bulb-outs and pedestrian lead-time crossings, little has been done to increase pedestrian safety. The recent fatality on University is the same location where another serious pedestrian injury occurred in front of Rich’s a few months ago. And another life-threatening injury occurred at 6th and Evans last year. In fact, in the 9 years after that 2003 survey (1/2004 to 11/2012) there have been 48 reported pedestrian collisions on University from Washington to Normal (where the bike lane is planned). Here’s are some partial maps – each dot represents a collision:
From my interpretation of the causes given, in nearly two thirds of the cases, the driver was at fault. Drivers were also at fault in a majority of city-wide collisions (and these are just the reported incidents). San Diego is one of most dangerous places in the country for pedestrians.
Considering the above, it appears there’s been a failure of leadership on pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Hillcrest. Is a lack of funding due to the city’s poor financial condition to blame? Then community leaders from Uptown Planners, Hillcrest Town Council, and the Hillcrest Business Association would welcome the substantial traffic calming funds provided by the proposed University Ave bike corridor. Instead, they all strongly oppose the project, because they’ve prioritized parking and traffic flow over safety. (UPDATE: Speaking of businesses, I forgot to mention that traffic calming increases business revenue [slower drivers see more businesses] – and nearby residential property values.) And it’s not getting any better: at the recent Uptown Planners election, 6 out of the 7 candidates (and all 3 elected) opposed the bike lane project.
Hillcrest’s (and San Diego’s) streets don’t have to be this way. In many countries, pedestrians have a greater right to public street space. For example, in the UK, where jaywalking is legal, road fatalities are one fourth the rate of the U.S. In the Netherlands, drivers have a higher threshold of responsibility in bicyclist collisions. In Sweden, roads are built for safety, not speed and convenience: “We simply do not accept any deaths or injuries on our roads.” That approach is known as Vision Zero, which new NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio has implemented. How great would it be if new San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer did the same? At the state level in California, a new bill to protect vulnerable road users has been introduced.
Cities around the country are implementing protected bike lanes to provide traffic calming as part of complete streets projects. Let’s hope Uptown will reconsider its opposition to them so we can address this urgent issue.
Mo’s Universe owner Chris Shaw wrote an opinion piece today for Voice of San Diego about the proposed Uptown Bike Corridor route for University Ave. With four businesses located along University, Shaw is greatly impacted by the project, and he organized a recent meeting with other Hillcrest businesses that was largely opposed to it. I appreciate the overall tone of Shaw’s article, in which he states his support for bike and pedestrian-friendly projects. However, there are some specific items I’d like to address without cluttering up Voice of San Diego’s comments more than I already have. Mr. Shaw’s words are block-quoted below:
These bike lanes would especially damage businesses on the west end, where congestion is greatest and parking is already at a premium. SANDAG reports most of the lost parking would be in the stretch between First and Sixth avenues…
There’s no denying that the First to Sixth section is the trickiest section of the project due to the narrow street there. In order to provide separate bike lanes, parking on one side of the street will have to be removed, barring some engineering miracle. I’ve pored over Google maps trying to find side streets wide enough to convert to angled parking there (to offset lost spaces), and apart from taking out a travel lane on 4th, I don’t see much. What I do see is 24 parking lots in this area on ParkHillcrest.com:
What’s an alternative approach? Install smart parking meters to demand-price the on-street parking and you’ll get more turnover among the street parking that will remain on *every other street* in Hillcrest. Another idea: institute a 10% fee on parking lots (like LA and SF do, to the tune of $80+ million/year) and put the revenue toward building a new parking garage.
Cities with these initiatives in place have reported that while bicycling ridership increased along routes with safe and buffered bike lanes, motor vehicle volume stayed about the same. This means that an equal amount of vehicle traffic can be expected along the proposed bike routes, on fewer and narrower lanes.
Three- and four-lane sections of Hillcrest would be reduced to two lanes through an already congested bottleneck.
The University exit from Washington Street in Mission Hills would be closed to traffic on a proposed bike route that would force drivers to take Washington and then cut through residential streets to get to University.
The congestion argument is new to me; I thought parking was the main concern. It’s interesting that Shaw says there will be no decrease in traffic on University, yet then explains University at Washington will be closed. Won’t that reduce traffic?
The closure is being done at the request of the residents of Mission Hills, who have complained for years about excessive cut-through traffic on University (residents will still be able to get in and out). Access to University from Washington could be restricted to commercial streets of 4th and eastward with street modifications. So it appears Shaw opposes a street closure that many residents support.
Meanwhile, Washington Street, with its steady four lanes, would remain largely untouched.
Is University Avenue really the best option for bike lanes?
In a word, yes. SANDAG, after working with community advisory groups in public meetings (for which there was little to no business participation) analyzed all east/west routes through Hillcrest and scored University highest:
See the last page for the scoring table, and the “Hillcrest-Hillcrest” rows in particular. Washington scored lower than University for route directness, proximity to other modes of transit, and “activity center proximity” – University is a superior and longer business corridor than Washington. While some have stated there would be 0 parking spaces lost on Washington, that’s simply untrue. Businesses on Washington also opposed the bike lane project because of a projected 60 spaces lost on the south side of the street.
If the bike lanes were moved to Washington, wouldn’t we just have the same fight about street parking again, yet for an inferior route – one that includes treacherous on/off ramps for route 163? Engineering effective traffic calming for those would eat up a significant part of the project budget.
Until SANDAG can account for and avoid the loss of parking and increased congestion with a much broader public conversation, the agency should pump the brakes on these proposed bike lanes through our neighborhood.
Is Shaw implying SANDAG has to replace every on-street parking space with cheap off-street parking? Doing so would exhaust the project budget on building an expensive parking lot or garage, and it’s clearly contradictory to the project’s goals. Even Todd Gloria told the crowd at a recent meeting that not every space will be replaced. Further, the notion that Hillcrest businesses somehow “own” public street space is disturbing, and speaks to the entitled auto culture here in San Diego.
I only hope they and the bicycling lobby don’t throw Hillcrest businesses in the back seat.
Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but “bicycling lobby” seems to imply some well-funded organization throwing its weight around the city. I’ve hung out with the bicycling lobby and believe me, that’s not the case. Instead, Mr. Shaw might consider the restaurant lobby that he’s a part of, which carries much more weight than our rag-tag cycling community.
In the last mayoral election, the San Diego restaurant lobby donated tens of thousands of dollars to the local Republican party (latecomers to the gay rights concept) and Lincoln Club. The Lincoln Club, you may remember, put out those fliers implying Democratic candidate David Alvarez was some sort of Mexican mafia thug – classy! University Avenue bakery Bread and Cie was among the donors. The powerful bicycle lobby’s funding is likely significantly less.
I’m still hoping a compromise can be reached that will see University become one of the best streets in Southern California. But it’s going to take brainstorming, creative ideas, and tough choices – not opinion pieces that lack any realistic suggestions on how we get there.
We’ve been wondering what’s going on with the Horton Plaza Park project downtown, and now we know: it’s completion has been delayed a year. The death of the state’s redevelopment program, obtaining a clear property title, and a substandard underground electrical box are to blame for the delay. Looks like that big downtown New Years party will have to wait until 12/31/2015. In the meantime, SD Downtown News has a new writeup on the project, and anticipates a late 2015 opening.
Speaking of New Years, @omarpassons asked for some “cost is no object” NYE ideas that would put San Diego on the map a couple of weeks back. I thought about our city’s geography and came up with this crazy idea: a temporary pedestrian bridge connecting Embarcadero Marina Park South to the ferry terminal on Coronado a half-mile away. Folks could hang out on the bridge right under the fireworks. And when the night is over, remove the bridge and let the boats through. Something tells me the Navy wouldn’t be too excited about this idea…
Over at the airport, they’re (justifiably) crowing over a marked increase in international passengers over last year. Still, with under 700,000 passengers last year, that’s 8 times less than the 10th ranked US metro – Dallas – in that department. Dallas’ metro is less than 2.5 times as large as San Diego’s, which means there’s still plenty of room for improvement (figuratively, not physically, given our single runway destiny) . Now if we can just get some more international carriers to buy Boeing’s 787… Not too far from the airport, Little Italy’s W Date St between India and Columbia could go car-free if the Date Street Piazza project happens. Why limit ourselves to just one street? Chicago came up with 20 car-free zones.
Moving east, Eater SD’s article about The Quartyard in East Village was one of the most exciting things I’ve read in a while:
The Quartyard, a pop-up marketplace that’ll be open seven days a week, is destined to fill a 30,000-square-foot vacant lot at the the corner of Park and Market (1102 Market Street).
When the East Village site opens in Summer 2014, it’ll hold a second outpost of Mission Hills coffee kiosk Meshuggah Shack, a yet-unnamed new food concept from Scott Slater of Slater’s 50/50 and a 10,000-square-foot beer garden operated by Best Beverage Catering, which runs bars at Coachella and Outside Lands.
The local craft beer bar will be housed in a shipping container, surrounded by plenty of seating and an outdoor space that’s kid and pet-friendly.
The Quartyard will also include stalls for a rotating cast of food trucks, host a weekly Thursday night market featuring local vendors, and be able to be reconfigured for all manner of events, from live bands to public and private gatherings.
This is exactly the kind of creative land use our city needs. Kudos to the Rad Lab folks for a massive improvement on a vacant lot. And if Harlem – currently buried under snow – can have an outdoor beer garden, surely we can have one in San Diego.
- Up in Pacific Beach, surfboard-shaped bike racks have been installed, while Balboa Park goes for the old-timey look (photo to right).
- In Hillcrest, Gossip Grill‘s move to the former Range spot on University has been delayed due to liquor license issues. 1202 also faced liquor license issues, which suggests a lien against the license from prior owners (Eden, Universal?). Hopefully this can be sorted out soon and the moribund corner can be partially re-awakened – the former nightclub space next door still awaits a (non-club) tenant.
- San Diego magazine has a wide-ranging list of our 18 best neighborhoods. Great to see the author including bike scores and carbon footprints for each neighborhood. And as Kensington residents, we were proud to make the list, especially since the construction of the Kensington Commons project was described as the neighborhood moving forward. Disappointed that North or South Park didn’t make the list though.
UPDATE: An analysis was forwarded to me showing 922(!) parking lot spaces within one block of University from 1st to 9th Avenues in Hillcrest. I’ve included this in the text below (and have now linked to it).
UPDATE #2: SANDAG asked me to make clear that the change to west University is to reduce “cut-through” traffic, not to prevent nearby residents from reaching their homes: ‘The concept is to reduce cut-through traffic on University specifically between Ibis and Front while maintaining access for people who live in the neighborhood south of University Ave and west of Front. I want to be sensitive to the fact that people may think “close through traffic” means people who live in the area will not be able to get in and out and around their own neighborhood. The concept put forward is meant to make it less convenient for people who use that residential section of University as a “by-pass” of Washington St. We thought referring to it as cut-through traffic might distinguish that type of by-pass traffic from local access. ’ (I’ve changed the relevant text below.)
Thanks to everyone who turned out for the Uptown Bike Corridor meeting last week. While Voice of San Diego noted that Uptown may be warming to bike lanes, Chris Shaw, the owner of Urban Mo’s, Gossip Grill, Baja Betty’s and Hillcrest Brewing is rallying business owners to stop the University Ave route. Shaw has done a lot for Hillcrest, including large donations for the Pride flag and Youth Center, and I’m personally grateful for his advocacy on equal rights for gays and lesbians. Plus his “Universe” of establishments are some of the most fun places to be in Hillcrest. All told, he’s probably the most influential business leader in the neighborhood, so his opposition to the project could kill it, or reduce it to a sorry set of sharrows.
Shaw’s letter says that 91 parking spaces will be lost in Hillcrest. SANDAG representative Beth Robrahn indicated by email that this was a preliminary, worst-case number that’s no longer true. Unfortunately, Bike Corridor opponents have seized upon that number and continue to use it as a scare tactic; reading his letter, it sounds like all 91 spaces are in the 5 block area west of 6th Avenue, which is completely false. In addition, parking will remain on every other street in Hillcrest, along with the 20+ paid parking lots/garages in the neighborhood.
With its narrow streets, that area is indeed the most challenging part of the University Avenue corridor. As Shaw points out, SANDAG is proposing to close
through-traffic cut-through traffic from Washington to University. This is at the recommendation of residents who are frustrated with the heavy volume of through-traffic cut-through traffic, much of which would be better suited for the additional lanes on Washington in Mission Hills (where businesses also opposed putting the Bike Corridor). So it’s not just cyclists who would benefit from safe lanes on this stretch of University, but pedestrians too; some beautiful street designs were shown at the meeting that would make these blocks among the most attractive in the city. This would be a huge positive for the area and draw people to local businesses:
Shaw posted his letter on all four of his Facebook and twitter accounts, as did SDGLN owner Jonathan Hale. The comments that were posted in response (Urban Mo’s shown to the right) revealed that many in our gay community, who have experienced discrimination in their own lives, are perfectly fine discriminating against cyclists if they perceive a threat to their parking convenience. And as a member of the gay community, I’m aware of the occasional astounding self-centeredness that some of us possess, but this might take the cake:
Frankie Mendoza: We shouldn’t be kicking people off the roads and say go pay for parking and walk. Businesses might be losing customers because of people like me, when I don’t really plan where I’m going, if there isn’t parking near by, I will find a place that has parking
Cyclists are getting killed, but “unplanned parking” is more important? The message, over and over again, is that only drivers have the right to every lane of every street in Hillcrest. Also, that parking garages must be built up and down University (how’s that mental image) before a bike lane can go in:
Brett Serwalt: We need MULTIPLE parking garages/lots up and down university BEFORE we remove more parking.
There’s absolutely no mention of the fact that this project is a single east/west pair of lanes in the entirety of Uptown; street parking will remain on every other street, and much of University. Serwalt says there’s “one parking lot” in all of Hillcrest; in reality there are 922 parking lot spaces within approximately 1 block of University from 1st to 9th Avenues. Here’s a map of all lots from Park Hillcrest:
Many seem completely out of touch with major demographic trends that are well underway in the US and being addressed by other cities, as Hillcrest bickers over parking spaces:
America’s third bicycling boom is underway, following those in the late 1890s and 1970s, and smart American cities, both large and small, are investing in bike paths and bike-share programs in an effort to attract Millennials and cut back on carbon emissions. As such, multifamily developers recognize that local cycling paths, as well as rental programs, bike parking places and on-premise bike storage units are coveted amenities and the way of the future.
All of the following strong arguments for a safe bike corridor in Hillcrest are ignored by the opponents, because they’re secondary to the requirement of convenient, cheap parking on every street:
Parking will take a hit, but they have developed a relationship with both Lyft and Uber to get patrons safely home.
I’m hoping that Mr. Shaw and other opponents to safe cycling and complete streets in Uptown consider some of the reasons justifying one east/west bike corridor. If additional parking is needed, perhaps these business owners can create their own parking resources, rather than laying claim to every parking space on its commercial thoroughfares. Our streets are public spaces for everyone, not just free evening and Sunday parking slots for business owners.
Thursday is the first “public” meeting for SANDAG’s Uptown Bike Corridor, with a current route proposed for 4th/5th Avenue through Bankers Hill and University in Mission Hills and Hillcrest. It’s at Roosevelt Middle School, 3366 Park Blvd., at 6 PM. If you’re a reader of this blog and recognize the value of protected bike lanes beyond just cycling, please come out and voice your support:
A street with a protected bike lane also has less speeding, shorter pedestrian crossings, less lane-shifting and more predictable movements for drivers, and the opportunity to add more trees and plantings. Injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and car passengers drop wherever the new designs go in.
Unfortunately, opposition to the project is strong, including a majority of the Uptown Planners Group that advises the city on these issues. Also, the opposition is very effective at mobilizing their side to attend these meetings in order to stop the project. So if you can make time to come out Thursday, please do!
This is a key moment for San Diego – can we make the same changes that have created successful, vibrant, walkable, livable, complete streets in many other cities? Or do we continue to follow the car-first crowd and put parking over people?
If you’d like to read more about the Uptown Bike Corridor, please see my recent post on Bike SD. And on a related note, CicloSDias 2 (Electric Bike-aloo?) is set for Sunday, March 30th in Pacific Beach, where they’ll be closing down parts of Garnet, Cass and Turquoise for the day:
Just don’t get too worn out from the Bikes and Beers event the day before. Here’s the map for that event, which will hit several local breweries: