A plan to install dedicated bicycle lanes to Uptown communities of Mission Hills, Hillcrest, and Bankers Hill and close University Avenue to traffic in an attempt to make Uptown more pedestrian-friendly has divided the community and has resulted in allegations that plan proponents are trying to sabotage a community meeting to prevent opposition from organizing.
"This is getting old quick," wrote former Uptown Planners chair Leo Wilson to community members in a March 18 email blast. “Attacks on Hillcrest business leaders are also getting old.”
The message was sent after rumors spread that cycling advocates intentionally destroyed notices announcing a March 24 planning-group meeting at which the group will discuss San Diego Association of Governments' Uptown Regional Bikeway Project, a plan to improve bicycle lanes and the pedestrian experience in Hillcrest and other Uptown Communities.
"We did not intend to offend any one by the meeting notices and apparently we need you to call and email your friends and neighbors to alert them about this plan. To ensure that people who need the route are made aware of the meeting," wrote a group known as "Keep University Avenue Open" notifying Wilson and others about the alleged vandals.
The group, comprised of residents and business owners, feels the proposal to close portions of University Avenue in Mission Hills to make room for a protected bike path leading to Hillcrest's business district will create havoc on Washington Street and will result in the removal of as many as 130 parking spaces.
The group started a petition in opposition to the association of government’s plan. As of today, there were 224 supporters.
"Mission Hills will be land locked with limited ingress and egress if University Avenue is closed in our area. Any new bicycle proposal should keep our roadways accessible for all types of transportation because students, visitors, businesses, and residents all need to be able to get in and out of our neighborhood. Closing down University to through traffic will create more traffic congestion and exhaust fumes and is the wrong way to increase bicycle ridership."
Some residents and opponents of the plan say that the process has turned ugly due to only a few outspoken cyclists who want nothing else than to see cars disappear from San Diego's roads.
The cyclists say the opposite is true. They are only asking for a more safe cycling experience and SANDAG's Uptown Regional Bikeway Project will bring Uptown closer to being just that. They say the process has been hijacked by a few loud residents who have a track record of anti-cycling views, one of those being Bankers Hill denizen and longtime planning group member Leo Wilson.
Cycling advocacy group Bike SD defended the association of government’s plan and the nearly two years’ worth of advisory meetings the agency held in the community before devising the plan; they also attacked Wilson for stonewalling the process.
"Wilson and his cohorts, determined to keep Uptown auto-centric and dangerous, is rallying up support to fight safe streets. Wilson was behind the effort to shut down bike lanes on India Street and Kettner Blvd in Little Italy, he has filed a lawsuit against the Bankers Hill bike lanes, and is rallying up support to fight a safer University Avenue after deliberately choosing to not participate in the community process."
A group calling themselves "SD Streets for People" followed suit with their own petition in support of the regional bike plan.
"The city's Climate Action Plan calls for increasing bike commuter mode share to 6 percent by 2020, and 18 percent by 2035, along with more walking commuters. To accomplish these goals, we need safer streets for pedestrians and people on bikes. This proposal represents the most viable method for a safe east-west bike corridor in Mission Hills."
The group has so far gathered 335 signatures.
The March 24 meeting will occur at St. Paul's Cathedral, located at 2728 Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest at 6 p.m.
(corrected 3/23, 5:30 p.m.)