(Lack of) Walking Infrastructure
I’m going a bit beyond the smalltownurbanism.com typical focus on small towns with this post and travelling south to San Diego. My daughter is a senior at UC San Diego. She’s had a great experience, even during the pandemic, and I’m happy for her education. The campus is in La Jolla, and very close to the beach. It’s a beautiful place. We love visiting! But the one thing that I don’t like about the campus environment is the lack of connection to the surrounding community. Campus is surrounded by high capacity arterial roads. The roads to the north and south of campus are 6 lanes wide. West of campus is 4 lanes wide. East of campus is 8 lane Interstate 5. There was not much around when the campus was established in 1960 so they really had no excuse to plan for better integration between campus and the city. Except for the fact it was the 1960’s in Southern California. Now that we know better, the damage has been done.
My daughter has lived in the same off-campus apartment for the past 2 years. There is a dearth of off-campus housing within walking distance of campus, but she was fortunate to score one during the early months of the pandemic. There is a ‘super block’ just south of campus with a number of apartment complexes and this is where hers is located. It’s about a half mile walk from the southern corner of the ‘superblock’ to the edge of campus across La Jolla Village Drive. Fortunately for her most of her classes are at this end of campus. But she’s a walker and doesn’t mind getting around that way. (There is a bus stop at that southern corner for those less inclined to walk.)
Unfortunately, the walking infrastructure for her, and many others, sucks! The road along the west edge of the ‘superblock’ is Gilman Dr. It’s a very wide road. Two driving lanes each direction, a center turn lane, a protected bike lane on each side and parallel parking on each side. The total width of the road must be at least 80′ from curb to curb. There is also a sidewalk on both sides, for part of the way. I also have to say traffic on this section of road is extremely light for the size of the road. It could easily be one lane in each direction. I’m not even sure the center turn lane is necessary.
There really is nowhere to walk on the west side of the road, other than from your parked car. If you were adventurous, at the traffic light about 300′ further along, you can find this convenient crosswalk to get back to the east side of Gilman, which does have some places you might want to be.
My primary reason for writing this post actually lies in the other direction, toward campus. At the edge of campus, Gilman travels under La Jolla Village Drive (see ‘the underpass on the aerial above for the location). This is what you see as you approach the underpass intersection from the ‘superblock.’
This is what happens when you get to the other side.
I’m not sure if they are walking on the ‘sidewalk’ or if they are in the bike lane. But this is what passes for pedestrian infrastructure.
If you are not comfortable walking in the street, there is a sidewalk on the opposite side of the road at the undercrossing.
But this is what you have to traverse to get from the east side to the west side. The 80+’ of Gilman, plus the slip lane to the La Jolla Village Drive on ramp.
Approaching the undercrossing from the north, you are provided with a crosswalk, but it doesn’t connect to a sidewalk, in either direction.
All in all, this is horrible pedestrian infrastructure. Fortunately, as I said, Gilman does not have a lot of traffic so walking on the street, or on the curb, doesn’t feel TOO dangerous. But if you were disabled, forget about it. I’m assuming the Gilman right-of-way below the undercrossing is the responsibility of the City of San Diego since it is technically off campus. But you think campus planners would be aware of this situation and trying to do something about it. Those apartment complexes in the ‘superblock’ must be at least 20 years old. More than enough time to improve the safety of students, and their parents, walking to campus. It would not be complicated to improve the situation. There are so many similar examples across the country, of a complete prioritization of vehicular traffic and a complete disregard for pedestrians. We must do better.