If you believe the proverbial phrase, “When you are in your lane there is no traffic," you haven’t yet motored down Gold Coast Drive in the last two weeks.
In late March, the City of San Diego painted a new lane design it refers to as an "advisory bike lane," along a four-block stretch of Gold Coast Drive between Parkdale Avenue and Empress Avenue in Mira Mesa.
The new configuration is proving quite confusing to many drivers, as made evident by the sudden slowdowns and the odd swerving in and out of the single lane and into the bike lanes.
“You’re playing chicken and sooner or later there is going to be an accident," neighbor Carmen Harris told NBC 7. "We didn't have a problem. The bicycle lane [was] in the middle. We respect people not in vehicles, because they are like pedestrians. They have the right-of-way."
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The proper use of the advisory bike lane design is demonstrated in a short instructional video produced by the Canadian city of Ottawa and referenced by the city of San Diego.
There is a single center lane, bordered by bike and parking lanes. To avoid collisions with oncoming traffic, vehicles are to move from the shared center lane into the bike lanes. Vehicles should yield bicyclists if present.
The painted lines direct traffic going both ways into the center of the road, but as drivers, we’re accustomed to taking one side. This pattern often forces drivers to split lanes between the bike and car lanes.
“It is very confusing. I wonder where in the vehicle code this layout is pushed," pondered Alex Elward, a firefighter who lives along the stretch of street where the new design was installed.
Elward knows a thing or two about safety and says this design is more dangerous than cyclists sharing the two motor vehicle lanes, as it was originally divided.
"The resurfacing and restriping project on Gold Coast Drive has been in the works for several years, and new bike lanes have been in the plans for this road since 2013 as part of the city's bicycle master plan," City Spokesperson Anna Vacchi Hill wrote to NBC 7. "This is the first time advisory bike lanes have been installed in San Diego. As such, we acknowledge that more robust community outreach should have been done far sooner to inform neighbors in Mira Mesa about the plans and how the road is used."
Not everyone living on Gold Coast Drive is critical of the change.
Mira Mesa Resident Darrel Tria doesn't think the design change will lead to too many issues.
“It seems like the cars know when to distance each other," Tria explains.
Others wish they would've been made aware of the changes before they happned.
"There was no communication to homeowners or residents on the change," Elward said.
Mira Mesa Community Planning Chair Jeff Stevens confirms that.
“It came as a complete surprise and generated a lot of confusion as to how people were supposed to drive in them," said Stevens.
Councilmember Chris Cate, who represents Mira Mesa, was shocked at the city's work and was not notified prior to the painting, nor was he aware of the design in the planning stage, according to Cate's communications director.
"We were surprised to see how the new lanes were painted. I've requested a briefing from the appropriate City departments to better understand why this decision was made," Cate shared with NBC 7.
The city says they plan to post signs explaining proper driving procedures on this stretch of Gold Coast Drive.