Bicyclists who ride the streets of San Diego daily are used to the constant hazards a bike ride can present. Texting motorists, freeway on-ramps, cracked pavement — veteran cyclists have grown accustomed to these challenges. But imagine a young couple who are looking for safe passage from one neighborhood to another. They are not daily commuters looking for the speediest route; they want a nice, terror-free ride on a Sunday afternoon.
With this couple in mind, we have identified five spots that have been deemed particularly nerve-racking, tricky, or dangerous. We will present alternative routes so the riders can reach their preferred destinations minus the fear many of these spots can induce. In most scenarios the alterantive rides will be longer, but remember, these are the bicycling equivalent of “Sunday drivers.” Even though they are trying to get from Point A to Point B, the main idea is to have a pleasant ride — and to get there alive.
These locations were submitted as responses to the Reader’s July 14 Facebook “Question of the Day,” which asked, “What do you think is the most dangerous bicycling spot within San Diego city limits?” And you, the noble cyclists of San Diego, responded in force. We thank you for your input there and have used some of your responses.
The collision data we have included was sourced from the Transportation Injury Mapping System (“TIMS”). It’s from a five-year query on “bicycle collisions” from January 1, 2007, to January 1, 2012. The map generated and utilized to pinpoint collision locations for this story accounts for 85.5 percent of all incidents. The data for 2013 and 2014 was still incomplete as of this story’s publication.
Friars Road from Morena Blvd. to Qualcomm Way
Imagine our lovely young couple rents an apartment off of Friars Road just west of Fashion Valley. They want to take a ride on their new bikes down to the Bed Bath and Beyond in Mission Valley to check out some curtains they can’t live without. According to our Facebook correspondents, here’s what they may be up against:
“Nearly all of Friars Road is a fully designated and recommended bike route on the official bike map,” complains one respondent. “Gotta love the freeway-style on-ramps, riding between merging lanes with cars doing 50 mph or more on both sides of you! Never again!”
“Agree with the folks who say Friars from 163 past the 15. Holy smokes. Why does that even have a bike lane? Never again.”
“Friars Road/Ulric St. Try to take a left to get on Ulric St. Friars Rd. in general. Speed limit is 45 and 55. Not cool riding there with cars flying by.”
If you are riding on Friars Road heading near Fashion Valley, you may be improperly lulled into thinking the designated bike lanes make it a safe option for cyclists. Just wait until you reach Ulric Street and the insane traffic that can build on the bridge that crosses over State Route 163. Add to that mix the freeway on-ramps and you have one heck of an opportunity to sharpen your skills at weaving in between multiple lanes of fast moving traffic, whether you want to or not. Between 2007 and 2012, there were 15 collisions listed on this stretch of Friars Road. Not the best route for timid or inexperienced cyclists.
Instead of beelining it to Mission Center Road on Friars (a straight shot on the map) a better option for our young couple is to take Friars to Fashion Valley Road and then hop on the San Diego River Trail heading east.
The San Diego River Trail now connects all the way from Ocean Beach to I-805 without interruption. It is a great option for navigating Mission Valley on a bike.
Nimitz Boulevard-Sunset Cliffs-West end of Interstate 8
Our couple was determined to be closer to the beach, so they rented an apartment just to the east of Nimitz on West Point Loma Boulevard. They are trying to make it over to South Mission Beach to toss around a Frisbee and tear up some waves on their boogie-boards. Here’s what they may face:
“The Sunset Cliffs, Nimitz, end of 8 freeway cluster is pretty bad. Going Southbound is okay but going Northbound is incredibly dangerous. The cycling lane ends...and everybody is trying to get onto the 8, and it’s impossible for a cyclist to actually change lanes to continue straight to cross the bridge over the river. Almost saw a cyclist get hit from behind there the other day actually because someone pulled out to change a lane (and didn’t signal of course) and the BMW behind him got upset, pulled to the right of the vehicle (onto the shoulder of the road) and passed from the right, nearly hitting the cyclist.” — Facebook user, 7/14/15
This spot was also mentioned by Hannah Williams from the San Diego Bike Coalition as a particularly tricky juncture. Nimitz and Sunset Cliffs are both major thoroughfares, while vehicles traveling north out of Ocean Beach and onto I-8 are bound to be moving at a rapid clip. It can be an overwhelming area for any cyclist, but, similar to many spots like this, it has seen very few collisions over the five-year period from 2007 to 2012. Only two were recorded during the timespan — one in 2009 and one in 2010.
Instead of riding through the trickier passage mentioned here, our beachy couple should take West Point Loma toward Ocean Beach and take a right on Bacon Street, which will take them into Robb Field. At the north end of the park, they will be able to pick up the San Diego River Pathway and head inland. After 100 yards, signs to Mission Beach will direct them onto the Sunset Cliffs bridge over the river, on which they will ride in a lane separated from traffic by concrete barriers. On the north side, they can veer off onto lightly traveled Quivira Way, which will bring them to West Mission Bay Boulevard. A tricky but short ride over the bridge and a left at Gleason and they can pick up the bike path south to the jetty and to South Mission Beach.