Reasons why BikeSD isn't supporting One Paseo or the token bike facility
I am the executive director of BikeSD, a non-profit advocacy group based in the city of San Diego. Our mission is to establish San Diego as a world-class bicycling city by promoting everyday riding. By "everyday", we mean riding to accomplish one's daily tasks - purchasing groceries, earning a living, attending events and more - by bicycle. The best way to explain our mission would be compare it to San Diego's existing state for driving. One can get to every destinations in the city - safely, conveniently and with relatively minimal thought - by driving. But getting to destinations on a bicycle is just not as feasible for the same population that currently drives. The reasons for that infeasibility are many - including high speed differentials on our main streets and arterials, dangerous conditions that exist in the form of off and on/ramps to the many freeways that intersect our city streets, lack of clear wayfinding signage, lack of parking facilities that exist at destinations. In short, the same accommodations that make driving convenient and easy do not exist for bicycling.
In April this year, Marcela Escobar-Eck, invited me and a few others to view the proposed Cycletrack (protected bike lane) that extended for a few hundred feet on the frontage of the One Paseo property. The presentation was remarkable and filled with lots of pretty visuals. I truly appreciate all the work and time invested toward making this project give the illusion that it makes Carmel Valley a bike friendly community.
After turning down the offer to meet again with various individuals involved with the proposed bike facility project, I explained the reasons (below) why we would not be supporting the project or the bicycle facility. Marcela responded, and her response indicated confusion. Why would a bike advocacy group refuse to support a bicycle facility project? Clearly our mission and written explanation hadn't conveyed the information well. So I invited Marcela to go on a bicycle ride with me. I proposed starting at Mid-City down Fairmount Avenue. Marcela declined stating that the ride would be too dangerous and then subsequently stated she was unwell as well.
My intention wasn't to put Marcela in danger, but rather to demonstrate that a project that accommodates driving exclusively is by default - bike unfriendly. Slapping a label calling a project bike friendly, doesn't make it so. That is because one of the most significant and perverse applications of CEQA to evaluate environmental impact as it relates to traffic circulation has been the reliance on Level of Service as a measurement of traffic impact. Level of Service (LOS) as a metric of traffic impact has been utilized in the practice of traffic engineering despite the complete lack of rigor or analysis underlying its usage. Widening roads to raise the LOS grade makes bicycling conditions both terrible and deadly as wide roads induce high speed differentials: One's chances of dying goes up when struck by a vehicle at higher speeds than lower [http://news.images.itv.com/image/file/3822/article_40f671fdaf79edc0_1331229110_9j-4aaqsk.jpeg]. One Paseo's implementation will have significant impact on the area, which if viewed in a vaccum is to be expected. However the mitigation measures detailed within the Statement of Overriding Considerations detail that the interchange at I-5 will be widened to accommodate the additional vehicle traffic. The reason additional vehicle traffic is expected is because the project is not transit friendly either. Congestion in and of itself is not a bad thing, but how congestion is accommodated has to be evaluated carefully, and solutions ought to be implemented to necessitate compliance with local, regional, state and federal policies and laws. Businesses thrive when people patronize the business and ideally when growth trends upward to prevent stagnation. However if we continue to accommodate additional influx of people by only accommodating driving convenience, it becomes unfriendly for bicycling, walking and transit use.
The project is endorsed by the Move Alliance (formerly with MoveSD and now part of CirculateSD) for, among many reasons, a "commitment to transit-oriented development and smart growth principles". Yet, Kathleen Ferrier who does policy analysis for Circulate SD (the merged organization resulting from the WalkSD and MoveSD), spoke passionately about not relying on Level of Service as a metric of environmental impact as it related to the adoption of the city's Bicycle Master Plan last summer [http://bikesd.org/2013/12/the-planning-commissions-gift-that-could-end-san-diegos-focus-on-cars/]. The Planning Commission did ask for a deemphasis on Level of Service after Ferrier's comments. Stephen Haase, who serves as a Planning Commissioner and is also the board chair of Circulate SD, mentioned this, "I would love to see something done about changing that and exempting intersections and coming up with a multi-modal Level of Service, and I’d like to see us be a leader rather than following the lead on that."
Since then due to multiple events that have been in motion for decades, the state has also indicated - in no uncertain terms - that it intends to ditch Level of Service as a measurement of traffic impact. While a replacement measurement has not been adopted, Vehicle Miles Travelled appears to be the strong contender as a replacement to LOS [http://www.opr.ca.gov/docs/Final_Preliminary_Discussion_Draft_of_Updates_Implementing_SB_743_080614.pdf].
The attorneys who wrote the Statement of Overriding Considerations should have been aware of this incredibly historic development. CirculateSD should have advised you of this development as well - because implementing the circulation policies as detailed within the Statement of Overriding Considerations - by relying on LOS - could make the project invalid if not illegal.
The way to ensure this project is in compliance with both the spirit and the letter of the various laws governing your project as it relates to transportation is to sure that the project truly serves multi-modal needs, instead of disingenuously placing labels contrary to what the implementation will actually be.
Thank you for reading.
Executive Director, BikeSD