San Luis Obispo is removing a car lane from Higuera Street and replacing it with a striped bike lane next week—part of an ongoing city effort
to reimagine downtown in the face of COVID-19.
On Aug. 18, the city will start work on restriping the furthest right lane of Higuera Street—a one-way road with three lanes—to establish a new bike lane that will run from Santa Rosa Street to Nipomo Street.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SLO
BIKE FRIENDLY Visitors to downtown San Luis Obispo will soon see a new bike lane occupying the right-most lane of Higuera Street.
The project has three main purposes, according to SLO Transportation Manager Luke Schwartz: to slow down traffic on Higuera Street; to create more of a buffer between moving cars and the dining parklets that are now installed outside of many downtown restaurants; and to improve bike and pedestrian safety at a time when the city is trying to encourage outdoor patronage as much as possible during the pandemic.
“It gives you space from the traffic,” Schwartz explained, “and just gets the speeds down a lot on Higuera Street.”
The new bike lane will be unprotected—meaning it won’t have physical barriers separating bikes from cars. It will, though, include some green paint in each intersection to reduce conflict with cars turning right.
The decision not to pursue a protected bike lane came down to costs, logistics, and it possibly being just temporary, Schwartz said.
“We have a paving project [on Higuera] next summer,” he said. “As we look ahead, if this is something that works great, then we can stripe it permanently.”
Installing a protected bike lane downtown is also further complicated by issues like ensuring adequate emergency vehicle access and not interfering with downtown events like Farmers’ Market.
“Our long term vision is focused on physically protected bike lanes. In this particular case, we have a limited budget right now,” Schwartz said. “We will look again and see if there’s a way to do it that’s physically protected.”
The lane restriping will take two to three days to complete. ∆