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'Completely understand the frustration' | Drivers education needed for San Diego’s new 'advisory bike lanes'

Instructional video from Ottawa, Canada explains how to navigate confusing bike lanes.

SAN DIEGO — Part of the confusion surrounding the newly installed bike lanes along Gold Coast Drive in Mira Mesa, is some people don’t understand how these lanes are supposed to work.

They're called “advisory bike lanes,” and they consist of a single, shared lane in the middle and bike lanes on either side of the road.

The City of Ottawa, Canada posted an instructional video in 2016, explaining what a driver is supposed to do, and who has the right of way.

“Traffic from both sides share one center lane…When there are two drivers traveling in opposite directions the vehicles will move into the cycling lanes to pass each other safely,” according to the Ottawa instructional video. “Whoever is in front has the right of way. Vehicles travel behind the bike. And then move back into the center lane when it is safe to do so.”

The problem is the Mira Mesa neighborhood received no advance notice from the city of San Diego that the advisory bike lanes where being installed, and no education about how drive on the shared center lane.

Neighbors spoke out at a virtual meeting on Monday night. Some said they were worried about head-on collisions, especially at night.

“Something happened in a community, and nobody got notified from the city,” said Joe Frichtel. I mean, it just makes no sense that you trash our communities with this crap,”

The city of San Diego’s new director of transportation, Jorge Riveros, apologized during the meeting for lack of notice to the public.

“Completely understand the frustration that it wasn't rolled out with a good educational and outreach program. We're owning that for sure,” said Riveros.

The city approved its bicycle master plan in 2013 but advisory bike lanes were not part of the plan, until now.

Several experimental studies are ongoing across the country, according to the city. Only one in California, though, on federal park land at the Presidio in San Francisco.

Other studies have shown advisory bike lanes can reduce collisions, but the benefits are highly dependent on the amount of traffic on the road and education of drivers.

“People are used to driving between lanes. And now we're asking them to drive on top of a lane where they're straddling a lane,” said one Mira Mesa resident during Monday’s meeting.

The city has installed signs along Gold Coast Drive aimed at educating the public and it plans to expand advisory bike lanes to other areas, including Point Loma.

Given the backlash, however, the city has temporarily halted those expansion plans until a public outreach campaign is underway to alert drivers.

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