A plan to take San Diego streets away from drivers and give them to bicyclists stirred up emotions on both sides Tuesday night in Uptown San Diego’s Hillcrest community.
University Avenue – a very busy street in the heart of Hillcrest – is already congested with parking often at a premium. Both of those issues are front and center in the effort to stop a large bicycling project from moving forward.
But on the other side, cyclists are equally passionate.
“We need to stop this. We need to stop it now,” cried one man who lost a friend who was hit by a car while cycling. “I’m sorry for being upset, but this is something you don’t want any of your friends to go through ever in their life.”
That man and others walked up 5th Avenue Tuesday night holding a candlelight vigil for pedestrians and cyclists who have lost their lives in traffic accidents.
The bike protestors support a SANDAG project where standalone bike lanes will be built in busy neighborhoods like Mission Hills and Hillcrest, connecting the communities to downtown San Diego and Mission Valley. Those bike lanes would be built over some existing parking spaces.
People on both sides showed up at an Uptown Planning meeting to hear the latest on the project.
More detailed engineering analysis and environmental studies still need to be done, but regional leaders are determined to make bicycle transportation a bigger part of local communities.
One side feels that bike lanes are important for the safety of bikers. The other side feels that taking away parking spaces in already busy neighborhoods is not the answer and could negatively impact small businesses and residents who depend on those parking spots.
Many homeowners and business owners in Hillcrest are worried about the immediate negative impact to traffic and would like to see a compromise reached through the project.
“Trying to accommodate both cars and bikers – I didn’t get a flavor that they were attempting to do that; that they were attempting to get rid of the spaces cars have,” said Mission Hills resident Deena Staab.
"We need protected cycle tracks on University and we need them now and the fact we're debating whether a parking spot will be lost or traffic congestion may become worse, versus someone's life is just absurd to me,” argued North Park resident Amelia Anderson.
The Uptown Planning Group, which held this latest meeting, is just one of many groups SANDAG is working with on this project.
But bicyclists will be waiting a bit longer before they can ride in their own lanes through neighborhoods like Hillcrest and Mission Hills.
A planning group rejected SANDAG’S proposal to take out parking spaces and use them for bike lanes. SANDAG is expected to look for more alternatives for the plan.