Little Italy pits parking preference against cycling safety

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SAN DIEGO - The Little Italy Association is soliciting business owners and resident support in its battle to preserve parking spaces instead of dedicate street space for bicyclists through the heart of the community.

In February, Little Italy Association leaders mailed a letter throughout the community informing residents of their opposition to the Downtown Mobility Plan, a transit-oriented plan to help promote walking and cycling in the city.

"It would just be detrimental to our community and to downtown san Diego as a whole," said Christopher Gomez, District Manager of the Little Italy Association of San Diego. "Understanding what the dynamic is of our community, we recognize there are certain streets that make sense and certain streets that don’t."

The concern for the Little Italy Association are the proposed two-lane bike paths along Beech and West State Streets.

"With these two locations that they’re proposing we are going to lose an additional 50 parking spaces in little Italy," said Gomez.

Association leaders say they aren't against cycling, they are against the proposed locations of the dedicated lanes. Their counter offer requests the lanes be relocated to Pacific Highway and Ash Street.

The letter states; "The proposed [Downtown Mobility Plan] cannot move forward as it is currently recommended by Civic San Diego staff... In an effort to create safe connectors for our downtown and visiting cyclists, we ask that you voice your support for the [Little Italy and Little Italy Residents Association]-approved alternative."

If an alternative plan is approved, cyclists would be required to ride around the Little Italy community on dedicated bike lanes rather than riding through direct neighborhood routes.

Brad Richter with Civic San Diego replied to the concerns with the following email:

"The Draft Downtown San Diego Mobility Plan has been prepared over a two-year period in an effort to improve active transportation choices in the Downtown area.  The plan proposes a series of one-way and two way cycle tracks, or protected bike lanes, which are located between the sidewalk and the parking lane (which is moved out away from the curb and replaces one of the three travel lanes).  The plan proposes to create a network of these protected facilities so people can safely bicycle in between all of Downtown’s neighborhoods and which connect to similar proposed facilities in adjoining neighborhoods.  The plan also proposes a series of pedestrian promenades/linear parks along streets connecting existing and future public parks.  As Downtown continues to increase its population and workforce, it is important to provide mobility choices to people who live, work and visit Downtown.  The plan is proposing a balanced approach which provides for enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities without causing traffic congestion and which strives to maintain and increase on-street parking.
The Little Italy opposition proposal to move the two-way cycle track from Beech Street to Ash Street would place cyclists on one of Downtown’s busiest and fastest streets where multiple turning conflicts would present increased danger to both cyclists and drivers.  It should be noted that the plan would increase parking in the Little Italy neighborhood, but not to the extent that they are proposing.
You may also note that the recently completed 600 space County Parking Garage at Beech Street and Kettner Boulevard is available to the public on evenings and weekends."
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