Plan unveiled for walking, cycling
(April 29) Continuing to take steps to deliver relief to San Diegans affected by COVID-19, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer joined City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell and mobility advocates Wednesday to introduce a “Slow Streets” pilot program to repurpose certain public streets, create more outdoor space and encourage safe walking and cycling while still following public health rules for physical distancing and facial coverings.
“COVID-19 has forced us to rethink everything we do and how we go about our daily lives, and what we need right now are more safe spaces for San Diegans to stretch their legs with a walk or a bike ride,” Faulconer said. “This pilot program is about creating more space outside your place by closing a few streets to give people room to be active and maintain their physical distance from others trying to do the same.”
The “Slow Streets” pilot program begins Thursday with several changes that might make it safer for San Diegans to walk and bike by creating more space for physical distancing and reducing congested foot traffic at parks, beaches and outdoor trails. The changes include:
Creating slow streets: The City will close select streets to through traffic to prioritize pedestrian and cyclist use to prioritize cost-effective transportation for essential workers during a time of economic strain and decreased transit service. This includes temporary barriers and signage. It allows residents to move about their neighborhood while practicing safe social distancing.
Reopening commuter bikeways: The City will reopen key bikeways as transportation corridors to connect essential workers to their jobs. This includes major commuter bikeways like the SR-56 Bikeway, the San Diego River Bikeway from Ocean Beach east to Mission Valley, Rose Creek Bikeway, Rose Canyon Bikeway, the SR-52 Bikeway and Murphy Canyon along I-15 and Lake Hodges Bridge.
Enhanced pedestrian street crossings: The City will replace existing buttons with larger buttons that can be pushed with a forearm or elbow to eliminate touching potentially contaminated surfaces. The City has already changed the signals to a shorter default time in key areas to reduce wait times.
Communicating right-of-way and pedestrian safety: The Transportation & Storm Water and Planning Departments will develop a public education campaign to increase pedestrian awareness and safety practices for shared roadways that adhere to social distancing requirements.
“It’s time for San Diego to take positive steps to ensure our residents can get the exercise and outdoor time they need,” Campbell said. “That’s why implementing these common sense ideas will make everyone feel safer if they’re out walking, running or riding their bikes.”
Slow streets will be installed at Diamond Street from Mission Boulevard to Olney Street, Adams Avenue over the I-805, Howard Avenue from Park Boulevard to 33rd Street and a portion of roadway in District 4. Mayor Faulconer is working with councilmembers to evaluate additional opportunities for slow streets that are feasible from an engineering and safety standpoint, as well as supported by advocates and the community.
“Transportation is essential for everyone during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Maya Rosas, director of Policy for Circulate San Diego. “The Mayor’s slow streets initiative will create the space needed so that San Diegans can access their essential jobs or essential needs while physically distancing and staying safe.”
Since the stay-at-home order went into effect, vehicular traffic has been reduced significantly and alternative modes of travel have become increasingly popular. Several areas have seen more than 1,000 pedestrian trips per day and greater biking by families and people of all abilities.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials recently published a set of rapid response tools for cities to manage the COVID-19 crisis that included relieving crowded spaces like trails and parks by opening certain streets to walking and bicycling. The list also suggests other measures San Diego is implementing including clear messaging around use of pedestrian walk signals and shared roadways, and expanding space for walking near congested trails and sidewalks.
The City’s Sustainability, Transportation and Storm Water and Planning departments worked closely with the community and transportation stakeholders to develop this plan. Organizations involved included the City of San Diego Mobility Board, Circulate San Diego, San Diego Bicycle Coalition, BikeSD and the Climate Action Campaign.