Santa Cruz: “Contraflow” bike lanes for Pacific Avenue?

Transportation and Public Works Commission for the city of Santa Cruz, California will consider a bike-only northbound lane as part of a larger proposal to convert Pacific Avenue to a one-way, southbound-only street at their meeting on Monday, March 21, 2016. Pacific Ave is currently one-way northbound only between Cathcart Street to Church Street, and one-way southbound only from Water Street to Locust Street. Below is the current configuration as shown on Google’s Streetview, and a mockup of what the “after” view might look like. Click through each for larger images.

Pacific Avenue with one way bike lanes

Pacific Avenue with one way bike lanes

Pacific Avenue through downtown Santa Cruz is a de facto shared space, especially at the north end between Locust and Water Streets. Although it doesn’t have the design elements of a Dutch-style woonerf, people on foot and with bikes weave past slow traffic. Pedestrians are king and everybody gets along.

What's that on his head?

Most of Pacific is a one-way street, and Santa Cruz police do cite cyclists for riding the wrong way on this one-way street. As part of this project to convert Pacific from Church to Cathcart to southbound only, cyclists asked for this northbound lane. It would look something like this (looking north).

Santa Cruz Pacific Avenue one-way proposals + bike lane

I believe many one-way streets are candidates for this type of configuration. The one thing that gives me pause: note that southbound traffic parking on the east side of Pacific must cross oncoming bike lane traffic to enter those street parking spots. The city of Santa Cruz Public Works staff notes for this agenda item include discussion of this new conflict:

The contraflow lane will also create new conflicts. The contraflow lane will be positioned on the east side of the roadway (so both directions keep right) allowing bikes to travel northbound between the southbound traffic and southbound parking lanes.

This is consistent with the standard in NACTO for contraflow on one-way streets, but NACTO lists left side parallel parking across the bike lane as one of the hazards, and a “con” to be considered. NACTO States: “Special consideration should be given before implementing contra-flow bike lanes adjacent to parking. Cars entering and exiting the parking lane will be maneuvering headon with oncoming bicyclists, introducing an increased speed differential and unfamiliar traffic operations. The driver of a vehicle parked adjacent to a contra-flow lane will have reduced visibility of oncoming bicyclists when compared to parking adjacent to a with-flow bike lane. Increased bike lane width paired with parking-side buffer striping may be used to increase maneuvering space and sight distance.

Because Pacific already behaves like a “shared space” street, however, the conflict should be minor.

The Transportation and Public Works Commission Meeting meets 7 PM on Monday evening, March 21, 2016 at City Council chambers to discuss this and other issues. You can view the full agenda here; the Pacific Avenue bike lanes is under “Item 3 – Pacific OneWay RPT,” with additional info under Items 3a and 3b.

Bike Santa Cruz County asks local cyclists to send letters of support to the Commission, complete with a sample letter and an email address. It’s better if you can craft your own letter, but feel free to use their sample letter if that’s what you have time for.

2 Comments

  • Pete
    March 21, 2016 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

    “…note that southbound traffic parking on the east side of Pacific must cross oncoming bike lane traffic to enter those street parking spots. The city of Santa Clara Public Works staff notes for this agenda item include discussion of this new conflict”

    That’s exactly what caught my eye – oncoming cars crossing your path in order to park. Also, Santa Clara? Do you mean Santa Cruz, or Santa Clara County? Coincidentally, Santa Clara city BPAC meeting is this Wednesday (3/23) at 4 PM in the building department, FYI.

  • March 21, 2016 - 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, major slipup on my part. City of Santa Cruz. Thank you for pointing it out. I will correct in the text.

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