SANDAG (finally) released the first details for the Pershing Bikeway to connect North Park and downtown. Like many others, I was pleasantly surprised with how great the plan is. If you haven't already, go check out the proposals and other documents posted on the project website. The day before the open house, I wrote a post about what I hoped for and was delighted to see a lot of my wishes came true. Although I am happy with the general direction of the plan, I had a few more thoughts to share.
1. A lot of people seem concerned that this plan will never happen, but I'm optimistic. The money has already been set aside and SANDAG has committed to the project. Unlike Hillcrest, there is no obvious coalition with money and power to fight this plan. The only conceivable opposition I can see is from people that commute from North Park via Pershing and don't want to see their commute get longer. Although this plan will result in slower driving, the change is minimal and won't add more than a couple of minutes at most to the drive. In reality, it should be a lot less, as more people elect to bike and accidents and the resulting traffic jams are reduced by the safety improvements. I also don't see a problem on the litigation front; I doubtful an EIR would even be required under the new CEQA guidelines.
2. The biggest flaw I see is that it seems SANDAG designed this project in a vacuum and did not consider the other bike plans in the area. The SANDAG Pershing plan proposes connecting to a cycletrack on C Street downtown. But the only plan I could find for downtown San Diego for a cycletrack is in the Civic San Diego Downtown Mobility Plan for B Street or Broadway, not C street. Maybe SANDAG knows something that I don't, but given the information available to the public, it seems like SANDAG should be linking up with B Street or all the way to Broadway. Either way, it would be nice to see the City and SANDAG coordinate. (Update: SANDAG did know something I don't and I was wrong. The new draft of the Downtown Mobility Plan came out after I wrote this post and it shifts plans to C Street. Good job SANDAG)
3. On the same issue, this plan seems a little wasteful near the top of Pershing. Both the San Diego Bike Master Plan and the draft of the North Park Community Plan include a cycletrack or bike path on 28th Street. But SANDAG is now proposing building its own cycletrack on Pershing between Redwood and Upas, only a couple hundred feet away. Given the limited resources available for bike infrastructure, wouldn't it make more sense to coordinate and shift the SANDAG Pershing route over to 28th Street, like my proposal from the other day? Functionally, there is no big difference between the two, but I don't understand the lack of coordination. Likewise, the draft community plan envisions a bike route on Redwood, but this plan provides no connection to 28th or Redwood for cyclists. SANDAG has a history of not being receptive to the needs of our city, but being efficient here would be nice.
4. Indulge me one fantasy: Look at the renderings, consider the location, and imagine this: we should build some two-story apartments and townhouses right along the east side of Pershing on the current golf course (which is losing over a million dollars every year). Build a little public square with restaurants and shops and lots of bike parking just north of the big bend in Pershing, and convince SANDAG to extend the gondolas across Florida Canyon to this square. Use the proceeds to redo the golf course and turn it into a public park, with connections across to South Park for cyclists and pedestrians. These places would be minutes from downtown, North Park, and Balboa Park (with the gondola). Who wouldn't want to live there?