Is a Two-Way Bike Lane on 30th Street Even Possible?

To recap: the city has some plans for bike lanes in our neighborhood, but there are some problems with those plans. We can fix the flaws by adding a separated bike lane on 30th Street, but adding one-way lanes may be too difficult because it would require removing all parking.  The “improved but politically feasible” scenario would be to add a two-way separated bike lane on the east side, between Juniper and Redwood.

But is this even possible? Would the city go for it?  I believe so! But only if we can get the city to consider the plan soon.

First, as mentioned in an earlier post, the city already designated 30th Street a high-priority project in the bike master plan, meaning the city acknowledges any bike design should be built sooner rather than later.

Second, the city is already about to rebuild this entire area as part of the 30th Street pipeline replacement project in the next few months. The city will already be repainting the lines after repaving with smooth asphalt, so why don’t we give a bike lane a chance? It would start with some paint that could be easily removed if it causes chaos. What’s the harm in trying to add a bike lane on the only realistic corridor in our neighborhood? If we don’t do it now, while the road is being rebuilt, the city will just claim it costs too much to do later. If it fails, it will just prove we need to invest in major infrastructure over on 28th Street. If it succeeds, we can avoid wasting taxpayer dollars. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.

Third, adding real bike lanes on 30th Street is entirely consistent with the city’s general plans even though the city is always reluctant to remove parking or deviate from the precise plan.  Of course, as shown before, the current “plans” are infeasible and inconsistent.  But these plans are, in reality, mere guidelines: the city has already admitted it should “upgrade” the existing plans, even if it means losing some parking.  The Bicycle Master Plan itself admits the classifications are mere suggestions that can be upgraded at any time and that the city should “strive” for top-of-the-class bike lanes “when possible”:

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The North Park Community Plan says the same thing, allowing the bike facility classifications to “be refined upon further analysis,” and directing that the city should “repurpose right-of-way to provide and support a continuous network of safe, convenient, and attractive bicycle facilities, where feasible.”  As the same time the community plan was adopted, the city admitted the plans were not enough to meet the Climate Action Plan goals, but convinced a somewhat reluctant city council to adopt the community plans that appeared to violate the Climate Action Plan by promising it had some additional measures in the works.  One of the measures was to upgrade bicycle routes.  The city planners “recommended space previously dedicated to on-street parking be converted to new high class bicycle facilities.”

And there’s more: one of the mitigation measures in the environmental impact report for the bike master plan instructed the city to avoid adding bike lanes that would cause additional traffic.  In simple terms, this means the plan supported adding lanes, but wanted to avoid causing more traffic.  To avoid this, the plan requires that any bike lane design that will cause more traffic “will be redesigned” by reconfiguring a street, including with the “elimination of parking.”  In other words, when the city is faced with adding a bike lane that would slow down traffic, the plan requires the city to instead remove parking.  As discussed before, the “sharrows” plan violates guidelines, meaning real bike lanes are needed on 30th Street.  But this would require either closing it to cars or removing parking.  As planned, when faced with these options,the city has to remove parking.

Finally, and most recently, the city agreed to do exactly what we are asking for here.  As part of an implementation plan for the Bike Master Plan, the city promised to try to “leverage coordination of street resurfacing to take advantage of opportunities for progressive design standards to facilitate safer mobility, including . . protected bikeways . . . where feasible.”

So to sum it up: what do the city’s own plans tell us?  The currently planned bike route is unsafe and in conflict with nationwide standards.  The city has committed to upgrading bike lanes, even by removing on-street parking, in conjunction with street resurfacing when “possible” and “feasible.”  All we are asking is that the city use existing guidelines and follow its own goals.  Under current city policy, it bears the burden of showing that adding real bike lanes would be infeasible or impossible.  As far as I can tell, it has not done so.

To be clear, the current situation is not caused by any laziness or stupidity at the city. Designing our city and putting those designs in place is a complex process. In a world of limited time and resources, it’s difficult to not focus elsewhere or to lose track of things. The city has also had to deal with rapidly-changing best practices for street design, not to mention complications caused by things like CEQA and a division of local decision-making between planning groups, business groups, interested residents, and changing city councils. But the question remains: how can we make this happen.  More in the next post

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