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Public records reveal San Diego’s ‘damage control’ over controversial Advisory Bike Lanes

In a response to a public records request from CBS 8, the city says it will no longer pursue plans to implement those planned for other parts of city.

SAN DIEGO — The City of San Diego has officially put the brakes on its plans to install Advisory Bike Lanes.

CBS 8 submitted a public records request for a city spreadsheet listing the locations for the Advisory Bike Lanes.

Editors Note: A previous version of this story stated that the City denied the request for the list of the Advisory Bike Lanes when in fact City staff did include a draft list of locations. CBS 8 regrets this error.

 In a message, city staff told CBS 8: 

"[The] list of potential locations to stripe Advisory Bike Lanes (ABL) on streets receiving slurry seal is a draft and not an official guiding document on where ABLs were to be installed. There are currently no plans to place ABLs anywhere in the City of San Diego and this draft is not reflective of future striping projects."

The city is scrapping the Advisory Bike Lanes after major backlash from Mira Mesa residents who woke up one day to the new street design without any notice.

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The new lanes in Mira Mesa converted a two-way residential road into a two-way shared single lane, with bike lanes on each side of the street. The idea is when cyclists are not present then vehicles can drive in the bike lane. When cyclists are present, then the vehicle needs to allow the vehicle traveling in the opposite direction to pass before going around the cyclist:

Credit: City of San Diego

But Gold Coast residents quickly complained and the city backtracked on the bike-lane plan

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Days after CBS 8 broke the story, Mayor Todd Gloria apologized personally to some of the neighbors for the lack of notification.

However, city emails obtained by CBS 8 show the city had planned to install the controversial lanes in at least 5 other locations throughout the city. Those locations included Point Loma, Liberty Station, Pacific Coast Highway, South Park, and San Ysidro.

Emails also show the city signed off on the lanes as early as last year. 

"This was the progressive design [Brian Genovese] and I discussed with you," wrote Everett Hauser, a Program Manager for the City's Transportation Department in a March 28, 2022 email to Department Director Jorge Riveros. "An item was brought to Mobility Board May of last year when we were issuing plans."

Other emails describe the so-called "damage control" that the city launched after the backlash in Mira Mesa.

"We need to do some very quick damage control on this, everyone," wrote Riveros in a March 28 email. "This has crossed multiple divisions here in Transportation, as well as departments, and, again, it doesn’t appear that there is education or a coordinated message or response as the City."

In the days that followed, Mayor Todd Gloria's top spokesperson Rachel Laing instructed city staff to not release any details on other locations where Advisory Bike Lanes were slated for.

"I think instead of feeding this whole blame exercise the news is angling for and driving reporters to do man-on-the-street interviews in communities slated for future projects, we need to say that all future projects are on hold until after the appropriate outreach and education is done in those communities," wrote Laing in an April 4, 2022 email. 

"Please do not provide a list of planned projects at this time. In all of our external communications, let’s please acknowledge that we failed to do the needed education on this design that’s widely used but brand new in San Diego and that we’re going to correct our process going forward."

CBS 8 reached out to the city about its decision to abandon the controversial bike lane proposal.

In a statement, a city spokesperson confirmed that the city has no plans for more Advisory Bike Lanes in the "near-term future." The spokesperson added, "Though the ABLs have merit and have been implemented elsewhere with positive results, we realize that this rather new striping design also needs robust community education and buy-in to be most effective. Right now we are focused on connecting San Diego with new bikeways that make mobility safer and helps The City of San Diego achieve our Vision Zero goals."

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