Posted by: cantmisssd | October 7, 2010

It’s not always about cars

Recent news that the Hillcrest DMV lot will be opened on evenings and weekends as a pay lot was welcome news (and especially popular on Todd Gloria’s Facebook wall). This will add 187 parking spaces in Hillcrest for a prepaid dollar per hour, and is the pinnacle of new parking development throughout the neighborhood in the last two years. It should provide a welcome boost to restaurants and nightlife that have struggled with the challenges of limited parking for years, and help assuage some of the angry locals (of which I’m one) who get tired of the party and the parking overflowing into the neighborhoods.

But when I went by to scope out the new pay boxes at the DMV, I was again struck by how little love there is in redeveloped Hillcrest- and most of San Diego- for bikes. In redeveloped North Park, there are no bike lanes, no signs, and it’s questionable whether the main roads like University, 30th, North Park Way are structured to be effectively shared by cars and bikes. And it’s tough to find somewhere to leave your bike even if you aren’t deterred by all of that.

In Hillcrest, angle parking improved capacity for cars and slowed down the traffic by narrowing the road, but it was done without space for bikes. And again, even with the continued march of new areas opening for parking, there are no bike racks. Parts of 4th Avenue and the Western end of University at least have a few signs, but no bike lanes and good luck finding a rack.

It was driven home even more deeply recently for me when I stumbled into the new(ish) townhouse developments off Waring Road on the north side of the 8. Years ago, I stayed in an awful (but cheap!) hotel in that space, and this is definitely a better use. But it comes with a rather elaborate elevated road connecting the dead-end development with an access road running past the trolley station to Fairmount and Mission Gorge.

At first blush, this is an admirable stab at connecting new density to nearby public transportation. But the bridge over Waring Road comes equipped with one wide lane in each direction, a narrow sidewalk on one side, and no bike lane. By simply breaking up the pavement a bit differently, the space could be significantly improved. The sidewalk could be widened to allow two people to comfortably walk next to (or past) each other. Just painting in a bike lane would improve safety for both walkers and bike riders while slowing down traffic that was flying through a presumably pedestrian-friendly area when I was there at 40+ mph.

The secondary purpose of this road, presumably, is to connect the folks off Waring Road to the Grantville Trolley Station and the Fairmount/Mission Gorge corridor without using Zion, Orcutt, Twain, or hopping on and off the freeway. But the Waring Road hill is incredibly steep and a death trap for pedestrians or bikers, and the light off Waring isn’t built to funnel capacity onto Adobe Falls and Alvarado Canyon. So in effect, this new road is to connect the new communities on Adobe Falls Rd with the trolley station. Great! But those communities are no more than a mile and a half from the trolley station. It’s the perfect occasion to foreground walking and biking and de-emphasize driving everywhere.

There’s been encouraging strides in recent years to develop better integrated neighborhoods and catch up with the infrastructure to support more visitors. But until we can break free of the notion that everyone must to drive in and out to make these neighborhoods function, we’re stuck with half-measures. The point of building density, of mixed-use development, and reinvigorating the notion of neighborhoods is that people will increasingly live and work and shop in the same place. And especially when economic resurgence is largely driven by restaurants and bars (like Hillcrest, like North Park, like Normal Heights), it reduces the number of people getting in their cars after drinking.

It’s a long transition, and especially in San Diego, we need cars. But we can develop alternatives also.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by toosunnyouthere, Lucas O'Connor. Lucas O'Connor said: It's not always about cars […]

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