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‘Not ideal’: New bicycle lanes coming to La Jolla prompt concern from locals

Portions of Prospect Street in La Jolla will be restriped soon with new bike lanes, reducing parking and vehicle travel lanes
Portions of Prospect Street in La Jolla will be restriped soon with new bike lanes, reducing parking and vehicle travel lanes.
(Screenshot by Elisabeth Frausto)

Plans to restripe two portions of Prospect Street and La Jolla Boulevard in La Jolla to include new bicycle lanes drew sharp criticism from avid cyclists and others at the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board meeting on Oct. 19.

The comments, given after a presentation by San Diego Transportation Department project manager Everett Hauser, indicated many believed the plan would not improve safety for local cyclists.

During Hauser’s presentation, offered as an informational item only and therefore did not lead to a vote, he said the restriping of the lanes will happen upon completion of the city project Slurry 2223, which will resurface Prospect Street from Draper Avenue to Ivanhoe Avenue and La Jolla Boulevard from Gravilla Street to Mesa Way with slurry seal.

To see a map of current and upcoming street repairs including Slurry 2223, visit streets.sandiego.gov.

The resurfacing project “is a chance to make improvements to the roadways,” Hauser said. “The biggest difference … is the addition or modification of bike lanes.”

The changes, Hauser said, will be implemented per the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, adopted by the San Diego City Council in 2013.

The bicycle master plan states it’s intended to create “a city where bicycling is a viable travel choice, particularly for trips of less than five mile [and] a safe and comprehensive local and regional bikeway network,” among other goals.

Per the plan, Hauser said the indicated portion of Prospect Street will retain parking on both sides of the street and two travel lanes for vehicles but will receive adjustments to fit in bike lanes on both sides as well.

The parking and bike lanes will each be seven feet wide; the vehicular driving lanes will be 10 feet wide.

La Jollan Mike McCormack expressed “significant concerns” with the planned new dimensions, adding he’d measured parked cars on Prospect Street earlier that day from side mirror to side mirror.

“Seven feet for parking is rather limiting,” he said, as one car measured eight feet from mirror to mirror, with an additional three feet for the door, meaning an open car door would further narrow a bicyclist’s travel lane.

“I don’t like skimming along cars [on my bike] that might open doors and I don’t like skimming along cars that have their backside to me in a diagonal space,” McCormack said. “That’s very dangerous.”

Hauser said Prospect is “already a very tight, very busy area,” noting the new dimensions are what engineers could design “without wholesale reconfiguration of all the street parking.” He said there would be no parking loss and angled parking will stay as it is, with sharrows painted in a shared vehicle lane.

La Jolla Boulevard from Gravilla Street to Mesa Way will also receive new bike lanes
La Jolla Boulevard from Gravilla Street to Mesa Way will also receive new bike lanes and adjustments to the dimensions of the parking, travel and center turn lanes.
(Screenshot by Elisabeth Frausto)

The restriping of the affected portion of La Jolla Boulevard will be simpler, Hauser said, with adjustments to the dimensions of the parking, travel and center turn lanes.

Paul Jamason, a board member with BikeSD who works at UC San Diego said he “would love to be able to bike over [to The Village]” but finds it “extremely unsafe to do so, and I’m not seeing much in this plan that makes it a lot safer.”

He said some parts are an improvement, but “this is really not ideal,” adding “I just think it’s regrettable that we’re still prioritizing abundant street parking over the safety of our residents.”

Will Rhatigan of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition said the plan “is certainly an improvement over the existing conditions; we know that bike lanes are safer than no bike lanes.”

However, he said “narrow bike lanes in the door zone are definitely not the safest option.”

Rhatigan said the coalition is willing to accept the narrow lanes as it would be challenging to remove parking along Prospect Street, but wanted to see removal of parking on La Jolla Boulevard to allow for a Class IV protected bikeway, which is separated from vehicular traffic by flex posts or some other physical barrier.

Bike lanes reduce injuries and fatalities by about 50 percent compared with not having bike lanes, he said, “Whereas actually building a completely separated bike lane — which is totally possible — would cut injuries and fatalities by about 80 to 90 percent based on nationwide studies.”

La Jolla Community Planning Association president Diane Kane said the association’s Village Visioning Committee “has been working for two years, trying to get ahead of the street resurfacing projects.”

She called for more community input on the city’s plans, saying the city is “slapping a standard bike engineering onto streets where it’s not going to work very well. … It won’t be safe.”

T&T Vice Chairman Dave Abrams, acting as chairman in Brian Earley’s absence, told Hauser “I hope you’re sensitive to the many comments that were made that aren’t exactly a full-throated endorsement of this.”

Hauser said the work will begin sometime in the next few months, adding timelines will be updated more specifically when contracts are awarded.