What’s with those concrete dividers? Downtown SLO streets getting new type of bike lane

·2 min read

As part of a $4.2-million downtown paving project in San Luis Obispo, small concrete medians are being installed to create protected bike lanes and a new parking area on Marsh and Higuera streets.

Luke Schwartz, transportation manager for the city of San Luis Obispo, said the changes involve converting the standard bike lanes to protected bike lanes.

The conversion will move street parking spaces from the curb to the left of the bike lane, on the opposite side of the medians and adjacent to the car travel lane. The median will then be landscaped with planter boxes once installed.

The benefit of the medians is to add a physical barrier between the bike lane and move auto traffic for added safety, Schwartz said. Standard bike lanes, which aren’t protected with buffers, increase the risk of car door collisions with cyclists, he said.

There will also still be two lanes for vehicle driving space.

“Essentially the parking lane and bike lane swap positions and a 3-foot buffer is provided between parked cars and bikes for a clear area for the car door zone and passenger loading area,” he said.

He added that “the final result visually narrows the roadway, which can help reduce illegal speeding.”

Workers install a median to protect cyclists from parked cars along Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo as part of the Downtown Paving Project.
Workers install a median to protect cyclists from parked cars along Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo as part of the Downtown Paving Project.

The medians are considered permanent, but are designed in a way that they can be easily removed if needed to accommodate construction work, future sidewalk widening or other street changes, Schwartz said.

“Typically, concrete medians are built into the roadway pavement and require significant excavation and paving work to install or remove,” Schwartz said. “These are poured in place on top of the roadway surface with dowels drilled into the road, so they are much lower-cost and easier to install or remove.”

New Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on-street parking spaces will also be added throughout the project area, along with other improvements.

Diagram of how to use the new parking and SLO Downtown Paving project parking.
Diagram of how to use the new parking and SLO Downtown Paving project parking.

The current 2021 project involves work on Higuera and Marsh streets west of Nipomo Street and east of Santa Rosa Street only. Additional city street improvements on Higuera and Marsh streets between Santa Rosa and Nipomo streets are planned in 2022.

Schwartz said the $4.2 million is the total projected funding amount, although the budget does include contingencies, so the “final project cost will likely be slightly lower.” According to a May staff report, funding sources include the city’s General Fund and SB-1 state gas tax funds.

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