North Central Bike Lanes - Carriles de Bici en North Central
Above: On New Year's Day last year, a 68 year-old bicyclist was critically injured in a hit-and-run crash on Humboldt Street in San Mateo. Humboldt Street and Poplar Avenue, the focus of the North Central Bike Lanes Project, have seen 11% of all bike-related collisions over the past 5 years. The bike lanes were intended to implement two of the highest priority projects on the city's roster. However, concerns about parking removal have delayed the project and threaten the safety of the thousands of kids who navigate the neighborhood streets on their way to school on a daily basis. Photo: KTVU news, SMPD
A Dangerous Transportation Corridor
The City of San Mateo proposes bike lanes (Class II) on Humboldt Street from Peninsula Ave to 5th Ave, and on Poplar Ave from El Camino Real to Eldorado St, as well as a bicycle boulevard on Indian Ave between Delaware and Humboldt. This project is located in North Central San Mateo, which sees some of the highest active transportation mode share rates in the city and state, according to city staff. Humboldt Street is a main roadway connecting several important destinations, including the King Community Center, multiple highway overpasses with bike facilities, San Mateo High School and several other schools, and downtown San Mateo. Unfortunately, Humboldt and Poplar are also notorious for being some of the most dangerous streets for all roadway users. The images to the left show the history of reported car vs. bicycle collisions near the project area. Humboldt Street and Poplar Avenue both see riders forced onto sidewalks because they understandably feel unsafe on this roadway. Bike lanes improve street safety for all road users by giving bicyclists dedicated space, so they don't feel the need to ride on sidewalks, and aren't in the path of high-speed cars trying to get to highway 101. Bike lanes would help the city achieve its stated goal of increasing bicycle mode share and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while reducing fatalities on streets that have unfortunately actually seen fatalities and severe injuries. In addition to helping vulnerable road users, the increase in bike ridership and walking will reduce parking demand in the neighborhood, providing a sustainable solution to the parking headaches experienced by folks in the neighborhood. What history has taught us is that building more space for parking, or not investing in sustainable transportation alternatives, only makes the parking problem worse in the long run. This is exactly the problem that the North Central neighborhood faces today.
Lack of Investment in Active Transportation and Ensuing Car-Dependence
Due to historical development patterns, North Central is a dense and diverse neighborhood compared to the rest of the city. This density, combined with the neighborhood's lower average income rates, flat topography, proximity to transit, and proximity to downtown San Mateo and other shops/small businesses, is part of what drives the high active transportation rate in the neighborhood. At the same time, the relatively dense neighborhood of single family homes, duplexes, smaller multi family buildings, and some larger apartment complexes does see high rates of on-street parking due to a lack of investment in safe space for active transportation, as well as a prevalence of multi-generational families and overcrowding due to high housing costs. Folks who are car-dependent report having to walk further and feeling unsafe navigating the neighborhood at night from their car to home.
Working to Address Community Concerns of Safety, Parking, and Mobility Access
As such, the potential removal of parking spaces on Poplar Avenue and Humboldt Street has raised concerns among members of the neighborhood. Humboldt Street would see removal of parking on one side of the street for much of the length of the project area. Initially, construction of the bike lanes was supposed to start in October 2021. However, due to the above parking concerns, the city council voted to recommend additional parking data gathering at night, and additional outreach/a survey of the project and potential parking policy solutions. Members of our group worked with a neighborhood focus group and the city on outreach and brainstorming parking policy solutions, such as a 24/7 residential parking permit program, extended red curbs, permitting residents to park in front of driveways, and opening up one of the several large parking lots in the neighborhood that go unused at night for overnight resident parking. We also support better lighting in the neighborhood to improve a sense of public safety.
We support the city's project and hope you do too!
While we understand the difficulty of parking, and support the parking policy solutions outlined by the city, hoping to see them implemented quickly and equitably, we recognize that improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety helps the most vulnerable road users, who tend to track heavily low income and nonwhite. Bike lanes are an equity issue. It is time the city of San Mateo addressed the high rate of collisions in the North Central neighborhood and reduced the number of vehicle trips by providing alternatives.