“No Center Line” – This Is A Good Idea…

Take a look at this image:

It’s a common sight – two very different vehicles sharing the road, one a car and one a bicycle.

What’s the difference between these two vehicles, aside from the obvious car and bike?

In California, to operate their car the owner must pay a vehicle registration fee which includes money for road repair and maintenance.

But to operate their vehicle, the bike owner pays…

Nothing.

Car and bike owners using the same roads, but only car owners pay a vehicle registration fee for the roads.

Now, every state requires owners of motor vehicles to pay a vehicle registration.  But since I live in California, and this story takes place in California, my focus is here.

In California it’s expensive to register a car – we’re the 10th highest in the country.  And that got more expensive in 2018, when the state legislature passed a new “Transportation Improvement Fee (TIF)” based on the value of the vehicle:

The purpose of the TIF is “to provide additional resources for the state to repair infrastructure and for road maintenance.”

And – no surprise here – the TIF is set up to increase every year.

OK, I get that.  As an automobile driver, I use the roads.  I want the roads maintained and improved and made safer, and since I use the roads, I accept paying for that.

Bicyclists also use the roads, and the bike owners pay…

Nothing.

Including no Transportation Improvement Fee.

And yet, in California – and elsewhere – in recent years there’s been a huge and expensive effort to add or upgrade bike lanes for, we’re told, the safety of both bicyclists and motorists.

And I’m all for the safety of both bicyclists and motorists.

But I think this has gotten out of hand.

Here’s one local example that began in 2013:

And by 2021 the cost had morphed into this:

“One thing not in question about bike lanes is the eye-popping nature of the latest estimated cost of the planned 77-mile, regionwide network.  The price tag was once $200 million.  Now…the cost has more than doubled to $446 million.”

“More than one person has done the math:  The new estimate brings the cost of the bike network to $5.79 million per mile.”

The SANDAG headline above says the funding for this is coming “from local sales tax as well as state and federal governments.”

And sure, bicyclists pay those taxes.

So bicyclists are helping to pay for the “77 miles of bikeways.”

I also pay those taxes.

I, however, in my vehicle, cannot use many of those bikeways, when they look like this:

But my taxes help pay for them.

Now let’s go to the story I mentioned earlier, this time about a scaled-down local example of bike lane mania.  I’ve been unable to find a cost for this, but that’s OK, because what I’m focused on is the stupidity of it.

This story is about a road, and bike lanes, and an arrangement not seen before in San Diego:

Now, we’re used to seeing yellow road signs – there are all sorts of yellow signs out there:

But I’m betting you’ve never seen one that says, “No Center Line.”

This contradicts what we learned in driver’s ed, and from our own driving experience:

Two-way roads are divided by center lines:

Broken, double or solid, the lines tell us this is my side of the road, and the other side is for oncoming traffic.

In this case, having a yellow sign that says “No Center Line” means there’s one lane for vehicles coming from both directions.

It’s the same as having a sign like this:

So, where is this road with “No Center Line” and why doesn’t it have one?

It’s in Mira Mesa, a community and neighborhood in San Diego:

Specifically here, and it’s a four-block stretch of Gold Coast Drive:

The yellow “No Center Line” sign is perched atop another, even scarier sign:

“Vehicles Share Center Lane”???

What is this – a city-sanctioned invitation to play chicken in our cars?

Vehicles Share Center Lane???

Well…it’s all to accommodate people on…guess what…

Bicycles.

Here’s the sign in full:

According to a Gold Coast Drive resident, prior to the new signs and paint job on the street:

“We didn’t have a problem.  The bicycle lane [was] in the middle.”

What the resident was referring to is called “sharrows”:

So this four-block stretch of Gold Coast Drive had bike lanes and a divided street. 

Then it all changed.

The new lines – and the signs – suddenly appeared “unannounced,” as this April 4 story put it:

The story was accompanied by a video which shows the – as promised – “No Center Line”:

And residents on this stretch of Gold Coast Drive were, as the above headline suggested, frustrated and confused.

And fearful, according to this April 4 story:

The people who live on this stretch have plenty of reasons to “fear a horrific crash is coming.”

Drivers have plenty of reasons to be fearful, as well.

And so do bicyclists.

In fact, one guy on his bike saw the crew from CBS and said:

“This is fricken asinine!  With distracted drivers, now you have people that have to drive head-on toward each other in cars.  They have to play bumper cars at the last minute to get away.  This is utter lunacy!”

Even a bicyclist thinks this is crazy.

Let’s go back and look at the full sign again:

Now let’s say you’re not familiar with the area and you’re driving on that stretch of Gold Coast Drive.  We all know that for safety’s sake, your eyes shouldn’t leave the road for more than one second, two at most.

You see a road sign that you’ve never seen before.

In that one or two seconds you’re supposed to read, comprehend, and react as needed to a two-part sign with two colors, three messages, and seven images.

And the images indicate that if an oncoming car is sharing your single center lane, you must move to the bike lane unless there’s a bicyclist in the bike lane in which case you’re supposed to drop behind the bicyclist but by the way watch out for those parked cars!

Did you take all that in, in the one to two seconds you spent looking at the sign?

Me, neither.

In this article – speaking of playing chicken – we learned that this setup is called “advisory bike lanes”:

So nobody who lives there knew this was coming, and they aren’t the only ones:

“‘We thought it was a mistake by the striping crew,’ said Councilman Chris Cate who represents the area.  ‘I have never seen these lanes in my life.  I have never been briefed on it, told about it.’”

But it turns out that lots of people knew about the advisory bike lanes.

And when the residents started complaining and the media started doing stories, those people-in-the-know started responding.

They were very-sort-of-not-really sorry they hadn’t bothered to give the residents a heads-up about the change.

In fact, all sorts of people were leapfrogging over each other to offer either apologies or sort-of-not-really apologies. 

Here’s one:

“This is the first time advisory bike lanes have been installed in San Diego.  As such, we acknowledge that more robust community outreach should have been done far sooner to inform neighbors in Mira Mesa about the plans and how the road is used.”  – City Spokesperson Anna Vacchi Hill

Here’s another:

“The Director of Transportation, Jorge Riveros, apologized for not notifying neighbors before last week’s restriping.  He announced all similar bike lane projects are being put on hold.  

“‘I completely understand the frustration that it wasn’t rolled out with a good education and outreach program.  We’re owning that,’ Riveros said.”

This last was from the Director of Transportation.  Then then whole damn Transportation Department apologized in a statement:

“We are sorry.  We neglected to do proper outreach and to seek feedback in advance of this installation.  We will do better.  Signage has been posted and our teams are working to provide more transparency in our process.  Thank you for the opportunity to explain.  We want to collaborate with you.”

Here’s another one:

“CBS 8 asked him [a city spokesperson] how someone could drop the ball on something as important as notifying neighbors that drivers will suddenly being heading straight at each other. “You’re right,” said Jose Ysea. “It’s a major miscommunication.’”

“Ysea says the transportation department was supposed to notify residents before the striping happened, but somehow that slipped through the cracks.”

I love that “somehow slipped through the cracks.”  What he’s actually saying is, “Not my fault!”

Here’s yet another:

And another:

“Mayor Todd Gloria also released a statement to FOX 5 apologizing for the city’s lack of communication and saying in part:

“‘I have directed the transportation department to halt the deployment of this new type of bike treatment until we can appropriately convey what criteria are being used to site these advisory lanes and how residents can be engaged and educated on how to use them safely.’”

You see what I mean about “sort-of-not-really apologies.”

And then there was this guy, whom I really wanted to smack:

“I think it certainly is warranted to say this is – its paint and thermoplastic so there is the option to return if we do find that conditions aren’t right for this particular treatment,” transportation department spokesperson Everett Hauser said.

“We know that humans make mistakes.  There will be crashes, but what we hope is that they are of a slower speed that they are not severe or fatal for any of the participants.”

Heads-up, Everett.  I want you to write this on the blackboard 100 times:

For now, it looks like Mira Mesa and the residents of this stretch of Gold Coast Drive are stuck with this:

And this:

But…we “hope” …

Not this:

In the meantime, remember the TIF – Transportation Improvement Fee for cars?

I recommend that California require a vehicle registration for all bicyclists, and institute a TIF for bicycle operators.

But instead of the amounts being based on the value of their vehicles, let’s make the amounts based on the number of their infractions:

Update:

On April 8 the City of San Diego announced they “will be removing the advisory bike lane recently installed on Gold Coast Drive.  The street will be restriped to its original lane design with bicycle ‘sharrows.’”

Mayor Todd Gloria said,

“Going forward, for other locations in other parts of the city, we need to sit down.  We need to have the conversation to explain it and hopefully come to agreement and support.  In certain cases where that doesn’t happen at least people will be informed.”

Translation:  If residents and drivers and bicyclists don’t like it the new arrangements…

Tough shit.

And when this happens…

Ditto.

Earlier in this post I said I’d been unable to find a cost for this fiasco, but that was OK because my focus was on the stupidity of it.

Now I was wondering about the cost of the doing and undoing and redoing.

I contacted the City of San Diego Department of Transportation and talked to an unidentified staff member who was unauthorized to speak about this event, but did share this contractor invoice:

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