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Friday, July 23, 2021
By Andrew Bowen
Photo by Andrew Bowen
Above: A cyclist rides down new protected bike lanes on 30th Street in North Park, July 23, 2021.
After more than two years of sometimes raucous debate between cyclists and business owners, the protected bike lanes on 30th Street in North Park are near completion.
Previously, 30th Street was only for the bravest of cyclists — those willing to share a lane on a busy corridor with sometimes hostile motorists. Now cyclists have their own lane with a painted buffer zone, plastic poles and in some areas a line of parked cars shielding them from traffic.
Marissa Tucker-Borquez, a North Park resident and member of the volunteer North Park Planning Committee, said the difference has been like night and day.
“It’s so relaxing, and I really feel like I could ride forever,” Tucker-Borquez said of the new bike lanes. “And the places where they were able to add additional parking back in — that parking really feels quite protective.”
The bike lane design is not perfect. Cars and delivery trucks can often be seen parking illegally in the bike lanes, forcing cyclists to weave in and out of traffic. And some restaurants are maintaining their outdoor dining spaces, which also intrude into the bike lanes. The permits for those “parklets” expire in July 2022.
But Tucker-Borquez said the city has time to fine tune the design.
“I have seen beautiful designs with planters, I’ve seen beautiful designs with cement, or trees,” Tucker-Borquez said. “As this corridor evolves … I would love to see a lot more greenery.”
The push to add protected bike lanes on 30th Street began in early 2019. The city had long standing plans to replace the aging water main underneath the street. In May 2019, after lobbying from cyclists and environmental groups, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer agreed to the re-design.
Community meetings on the project at times erupted into shouting matches. Opponents argued the loss of some 450 parking spaces would hurt North Park businesses, and a group called Save 30th Street Parking sued the city in an effort to block the project. A judge declined to halt construction, but the lawsuit is still ongoing.
Cyclists argued that a connected network of safe and comfortable bike lanes is necessary to meet the city’s goals of ending all traffic deaths and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. San Diego’s 2015 Climate Action Plan depends heavily on its ability to shift commute habits away from cars in favor of biking, walking and riding public transit.
The bike lanes currently stretch about 1.5 miles from Juniper Street to Polk Avenue. The city plans on extending them north by roughly another mile to Adams Avenue by the fall. In the meantime, cyclists are planning a celebratory group bike ride on Aug. 1.
Lara Worm, owner of Bivouac Ciderworks on 30th Street, said she sympathizes with business owners who fear their livelihoods are in jeopardy. But she said 30th Street already has an underutilized parking garage that charges some of the cheapest rates in San Diego.
And she said even with less parking, last weekend during the San Diego Pride festivities, her business saw more customers than at any time since the pandemic hit.
“We need to share the roads, we need to share the neighborhoods and we need to plan for progress together,” Worm said. “It doesn’t do anyone any good to be fighting, it doesn’t do anyone any good to hate bikers or hate businesses. That just doesn’t make sense, because we need each other.”
I cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I’m especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.
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