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City of San Diego Bicycle Lanes opportunity to address Climate Change and the planting / protection / maintenance of the Urban Forest

Bike lane separated from street by concrete sidewalk median.
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The City of San Diego has created a document called the Climate Action Plan – I’m sure you have heard of it. A big effort when Faulconer was Mayor.   In it, the City called for 1 million trees to be planted in 10 years.  I believe that was already almost 10 years ago and if they have been keeping a running tab on the new trees planted, it is in the couple thousand, if that many.  Then here comes the dedicated bicycle lanes project  – Awesome, another aspect of the Climate Action Plan – less cars, more bikes.  So specific project being addressed here, the ‘improvements’ on southbound 4th avenue and northbound 5th Avenue.  Dedicated bike lane with a protective strip for planters.  Great I thought here comes trees + landscaping.  But what do they do?  Fill the planters with concrete!  Where are the trees City?  You make private developers comply with all of the landscape requirements including cramming trees into little cutouts where they typically do not survive.  And then you come in and as is typical City fashion – do not comply with your own requirements.  Big surprise!  So instead of these potentially beautiful shaded bike lanes that would also provide canopy and shading over the City streets, you insert white shiny, glaring concrete to really make sure that whomever rides in these lanes gets the full solar effect and has a miserable experience.  Millions of dollars for these projects but nothing for trees – that you were advocating for in the Climate Action Plan – but yet underfund the tree programs, do not provide staffing nor budget to service the need and continue to cut down mature trees instead of taking actions to preserve + protect.  What the hell are you people doing over there?  Did you throw away all that money on 101 Ash Street so every other project has to be be short changed and suffer for your inability to do projects correctly?

The City also attempted to insert some planters at the intersections for storm water management and traffic calming – presumably.  I say that because the planters rise up away from the gutters so that the water runoff cannot be treated because gravity won’t allow it.  Unless these are faux storm water treatment islands.  In that case they are just little token landscape islands – again with no trees.

This is beyond embarrassing.  The City has to be called out for their hypocrisy and inability to do the basics of complete streets and urban forestry correct.  Complete Streets are supposed to be just that – complete with all aspects of pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular, urban forest, site features, wayfinding, lighting, etc.  This is a Grand Onion candidate on par with any other faux pax that the City has pulled in the past.

City of San Diego Bike Lanes - where ever they occur - but these are specifically on 4th + 5th Avenue between downtown + Hillcrest

Project Owner/Developer:
City of San Diego

Contact Name/Email:
City Planning + Engineering

Project Architect/Designer:
Not sure and do not want to guess since this is a true embarrassment


  1. Anonymous

    Bike lanes that I’ve never seen used. Well, in all honesty, I have seen them used, 3 times.

    The way these curbs jet out as you turn corners are almost as if they want to destroy your car so you then have to ride a bike and use these.

    They are horrible.

    Plus, if you try and drive through an intersection, you are way more likely to hit a pedestrian, bike, car, or who knows what is out there since you can’t see until you are halfway through the street.

    Try using Fir Street heading east towards Balboa Park and when you get to Fifth Ave prepare to be scared.

  2. David M.

    Ill-conceived, confusing, dangerous and horribly designed. Takes “what were they thinking” to a whole new level.

  3. Pablo Mason

    A monument to the city’s arrogance and stupidity. How many more bike lanes will we have to tolerate in the name of climate action when it’s obvious to everyone that the vast majority of people don’t consider bicycles to be a practical transportation alternative and will never utilize the infrastructure? How about a tram line to the beach, or the airport, or even Balboa Park? That would get some people out of their cars. Bicycles will not.

  4. Anonymous

    I use this bike lane almost daily. I have used it to go to work, get groceries and to meet up with friends. It’s a vital connection for many as I often see 5-6 people using the lane just on my time there. Living by the lane though I also see it active all day and all night by commuters and recreationally. May not be right for everyone but it is used by many. As always it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Just because you are in a bike lane does not mean you can dismiss traffic around you. It does however put you in a better place. It’s scary to think about the days it was not there, often bullied by cars, ran off the road and many close calls. People are in too much of a rush and with an entrance to the highway and up to mission hills and the parks it becomes a raceway at the end of work days. Let’s get more bike lanes that work with an expanding trolly system to further encourage bike usage. E-bikes are pretty fun and very affordable.

    What I agree with though is that there was a great opportunity missed by not incorporating any trees and lighting. Would have been an even more beautiful and useful addition helping out with the heat island effect with such a wide roadway.

  5. Barry

    Right on! Thanks for shedding light on these urban eyesores – the grim, concrete islands. The revelation that these brutalist blobs were intended as planters comes as an astonishing twist – a true testament to the city’s tragic comedy of errors.

    They could have been green oases amidst the asphalt jungle, but instead they are gray monoliths, depressing testaments to a plan gone terribly wrong. Such a disheartening misuse of space in our beautiful city.

    At this point, one could argue that the situation is not unlike turning up to a swanky black-tie event dressed in a neon clown outfit. It’s comically pathetic and a sure-fire way to win the dubious honor of a Grand Onion. Surely, San Diego, we can do better. This grand city deserves more than half-baked solutions and uninspired designs. Please, it’s high time we got our urban act together.

  6. Scott Diego

    It’s a good idea that could have been designed better. Trees, lighting, something that improves the look, not just a barrier.

    Naysayers that only live in their cars need to understand that they need to share the road. So far, bicyclists and scooter riders have been put in danger by clueless car drivers on their phones. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s needed and better than what it was. Safety is paramount!


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