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    • CommentAuthortampig
    • CommentTimeJun 18th 2014 edited
    I live near the intersection of Genesee and Balboa Avenue, and I'd like to bike commute to the intersection of Genesee and Science Center Drive, to the north of UCSD. I'm worried about the safety of biking the ~7 miles along Genesee, despite the presence of a bike lane much of the way. Does anyone have any tips for handling this commute? In addition to general traffic, I'm worried about on/off ramps from the 52 and I-5. Are there any other tricky sections to navigate?

    I've only had experience commuting on dedicated bike paths in the past, so I'd appreciate any tips/words of caution you might have, or suggestions for alternative, safer routes (if they exist). Thanks in advance!
    • CommentTimeJun 18th 2014 edited
    The only real alternative I am aware of would be the Rose Canyon Bike Path. You would need to take Balboa west all the way down to about the 5 before heading north on Sante Fe. That ride down Balboa is not the most comfortable for avoiding high speed traffic.

    I live not too far from you. For my previous job I would commute to from my place to Eastgate Mall and 805. Doing that I would take the Genesee canyons going in. I never really felt unsafe as the bike lanes were pretty wide, but I understand they are intimidating. The one spot to make sure to watch for would be the 52 off-ramps. When heading north, the west bound 52 to northbound Genesee has no stop and cars come off it pretty fast. Short crossing though and you have plenty of visibility to see them coming. Also, of the many many times I did that commute, I made that light at the bottom of this hill like maybe 5 times. That light hated me and never wanted to let me carry my momentum up the hill. Only other thing I would mention (and this may have changed) but I felt the drivers in the UTC area there in the mornings were some of the worst, most oblivious drivers anywhere in the city.

    It's not a bad commute at all and I think you would get used to it pretty quick. I might suggest giving the ride a shot with a friend on a weekend when there is a little less traffic and get a feel for it.
    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeJun 18th 2014
    If you're willing to add a few miles to your commute, you can do something like this:

    Genessee north
    L Bannock
    R Kleefield
    R Merrimack
    L Coconino
    to Luna
    to Jutland down hill
    across the "informal" RR track crossing onto Santa Fe (not sure of the current status of this crossing)
    up Rose Cyn bike path
    Gilman into UCSD
    Work through to Hopkins, North Pointe (careful of "no bikes allowed" areas between 8A-5P)
    sidewalk/path to Genessee
    downhill to Science Ctr drive

    similar route through the general area:

    If you ride a mountain bike or even a cyclocross bike and are willing to do some dirt, then there's another world of possibilities using Marion Bear Canyon, Rose Canyon, the Eucalyptus grove at UCSD, maybe even Tecolote Canyon. Going to work could be an adventure! However, if you need to get to and from work efficiently, then I think the direct route on Gennessee is fine, except I would avoid the Gennessee/I-5 ramps by going through UCSD via the Voigt bridge (accessed via Eastgate Mall or Campus Point Drive) and then past the Geissel library, taking into account bike rules on campus. Gennessee/52 crossing is not great, but doable if you are careful and deliberate.

    A note about riding through UCSD: My preference is to ride a mountain bike and go through the eucalyptus grove, riding either the wide dirt path or the nice little single track that runs through:

    If you're really shy of the freeway-like conditions on Gennessee approaching Science center from the West, it is an option to cross onto the sidewalk on the north side of Gennessee at the light at John Jay Hopkins, then ride the sidewalk down to Science Center. It is wide and very lightly traveled by pedestrians. Not strictly proper, but I used to do this sometimes when I worked on Science Center Drive. Note that if you don't want to ride through the Eucalyptus grove to get through UCSD, you can snake through on the paved walkways from Gennessee/John Jay Hopkins up to North Point Lane (where the track and tennis courts are).
    • CommentTimeJun 18th 2014 edited
    I also live near Genesee and Balboa.

    Freeway ramps can be a little tricky, especially if you're not a vehicular cyclist. Going south, both of the 52 ramps are down hill and I always take the full traffic lane well before I reach the first ramp. It completely eliminates the crossing conflict and it's relatively easy because I'm usually going 35mph or more. I've actually hit the speed limit of 45mph there a few times. I stay out in the lane until after I pass the second ramp, making sure that the drivers coming off the ramp see me before moving over. Having a bright headlight on my helmet helps as I point it right at them and shake my head to oscillate the light that they see. North is different because the first ramp is a not a high speed ramp. It's a corner with a light but you're still going down hill fast. I still tend to take the lane on that one to avoid a right hook or pull out but a lot of times I miss the light and it's like any other intersection (on a high speed down hill). The next ramp is on the uphill side though so you'll tend to be going slow and you'll just have to watch and possibly wait for cars to go by before crossing. Don't trust them to stop or even notice you.

    Most of the rest of it is not too bad. There are a few other places I take the lane but they aren't as critical as the freeway ramps. High speed ramp access to/from surface roads should be banned.

    You could also work your way over to the Santa Fe/Rose Canyon bike path and go up Gilman through UCSD. Coming back that way is a bit tricky though since you have to deal with high speed ramp access from Balboa to/from Morena which is relatively easy going west/north down hill and a bit more tricky going south/east up hill. Again, I find that taking the lane makes this easier but it helps to have vehicular cycling skills.

    When I go through UCSD, I generally take Gilman to Mandeville Ln to a little path west of Library Walk, to the walkway near the main library, to Hopkins Dr, working my way back to North Torrey Pines, avoiding the I-5 ramps on Genesee altogether. If you want to stay on roads and avoid shared paths, you can take Gilman all the way over to Voigt and still avoid Genesee. It's a little longer but no pedestrians to deal with except at intersections/crosswalks and the occasional jaywalker. Going south, I'll hit Voigt and from there go to Campus Point Dr., and then Genesee, still avoiding the I-5 ramps.

    I'm prone to taking the Rose Canyon bike path when going north and Genesee when going south. The high speed ramp situations tend to be more down hill in those directions, which tends to make them easier to deal with.
    • CommentTimeJun 18th 2014
    billd: You could also work your way over to the Santa Fe/Rose Canyon bike path and go up Gilman through UCSD. Coming back that way is a bit tricky though since you have to deal with high speed ramp access from Balboa to/from Morena which is relatively easy going west/north down hill and a bit more tricky going south/east up hill.

    This is one of the only places where I will salmon up the street. I'll ride up from Sante Fe to Moraga before I cross over to the east bound side of the street.

    billd: I'm prone to taking the Rose Canyon bike path when going north and Genesee when going south. The high speed ramp situations tend to be more down hill in those directions, which tends to make them easier to deal with.

    I actually preferred the other way when I did the commute. Partly because I didn't like riding Genesee when it was congested with traffic when I rode home. Also because I went up La Jolla Colony after Rose Canyon too and it also just seemed like one long slow uphill climb the whole way.
    I agree with billd's general concept of taking the full lane well before the 52 ramps on Genesee and carrying bright lights. I know these lights are expensive, but in this case the $80-$200 you spend on bright headlights and tail lights will be well worth the cost. If you want to take it further, a dash cam (or handlebar cam) would be good too.
    • CommentAuthortampig
    • CommentTimeJun 19th 2014 edited
    Thanks, everyone, for your input! I had no idea there were so many alternatives to just going straight along Genesee. I've been reading these forums and "Bicycling Street Smarts", but the ride still is intimidating for me. If I'm going north (and uphill) on Genesee, approaching the 52 off-ramp, am I right in thinking that I'm not supposed to take the lane there because I would be moving so slowly compared to traffic?

    Also, any tips about the best time to bike Genesee to reduce exposure to commuter traffic? For example, is biking 6-7 or 7-8 am much better than 8-9 am, or are they all pretty bad windows? I'd need to work a fairly standard work-day, but there is a little leeway on start-end times.

    I also like the idea of taking Voight to avoid the I-5 ramps, if I muster up the guts to try the Genesee route.

    I'll have to check if the informal railroad crossing to get to the Rose Canyon trail actually exists (mentioned by Shady John), since I don't feel comfortable cycling down Balboa, past the Morena ramps, to Santa Fe.
    • CommentTimeJun 19th 2014 edited
    tampig:Thanks, everyone, for your input! I had no idea there were so many alternatives to just going straight along Genesee. I've been reading these forums and "Bicycling Street Smarts", but the ride still is intimidating for me. If I'm going north (and uphill) on Genesee, approaching the 52 off-ramp, am I right in thinking that I'm not supposed to take the lane there because I would be moving so slowly compared to traffic?
    It's not quite that simple.

    It is true that it's usually more comfortable to take the lane when you're going faster but I take the lane in lots of slow places too.

    In general, the issue with a freeway off-ramp is the speed of people coming off the freeway and having your path and their path crossing. If you take the lane, you will probably be OK but the probability of extreme motorist anger is very high. Most people will be riding at around 5-6mph at that point. Drivers are looking for cars there but there's a long merging space so they aren't looking that hard. A bike will tend to get ignored. There's a bike lane there and the right lane is wide enough that you don't really have to worry about close passes from your left when you're in the bike lane. At that slow speed and riding in the bike lane, you just need to worry about the people coming off the ramp. I generally try to time an opening and move over as quickly as possible across the ramp. It's a very messed up spot.

    Going west on Balboa to Santa Fe is not so bad. You're going fast down hill again and taking the lane is pretty easy and I usually don't get grief there due to speed. The only real trick is timing a slot between the cars coming from south bound Morena onto Balboa. I do this one a lot and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

    It's more tricky to go east on Balboa. You're going up hill and you need to deal with a weird cross over interchange. I take the lane there even though it's slow because riding on the line there puts me right in the cross-over space where people are merging both right and left, which is deadly. I almost always catch abuse when doing this because as we all know the left lane is made of cooties.
    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeJun 20th 2014
    Tampig, here's an alternative for handling Gennessee/52.

    Heading north: descend the hill approaching the 52, take the lane well before you approach the onramp to east bound 52 (before you cross under the freeway). This is pretty straightforward once you get used to it, because you'll have some speed coming down the hill. You will then cross through the trafflc light, under the freeway, and will approach the off ramp from 52 westbound onto Gennesse northbound. Now your speed will be low. Until you get comfortable with timimg the merge across the cars coming down the offramp, it is perfectly acceptable (to me anyway) to stop, bunny hop or walk onto the little sidewalk peninsula, and then wait like a pedestrian for a good opening to cross the offramp. You then mount your bike again on the (wide) shoulder/bike lane, and continue on your way north.

    Heading south: Follow the same routine as northbound. Take lane downhill ahead of the onramp, get past the second onramp (people turning left across your path, but not merging), then you can stop, get onto the sidewalk/peninsula, and wait to cross the offramp traffic. Once across, you continue unimpeded downhil under the freeway and then to the climb. It's less natural in this direction because you're still going downhill at the time you would have to stop, but the idea's the same.

    As you get used to the traffic patterns of the offramps, you might gradually work your way up to one of the techniques used by BillD, Shapps, and Deprotinator.

    Though I'm an "experienced" cyclist and am generally pretty comfortable on the roads,I don't like high-speed onramps and offramps. So I do tend to improvise to get past these (ride on sidewalks, do the peninsula/island deals, etc), especially the ones such as Clairemont Mesa/805 where, to do it "properly" as a cyclist, you're hung out to dry in the second lane over from the right, with cars merging next to you, and you're out there for maybe a quarter mile or more.

    Balboa/Morena is actually OK heading west on Balboa, but only if you immediately turn right on Santa Fe (in my opinion).
    Oh yes, I second Shady John. It's perfectly fine to walk across any of these dangerous intersections like a pedestrian. I'm also all for riding some of the dangerous stretches on the sidewalk if you need to. Don't put yourself in danger just for the sake of riding on the street in a "proper" fashion.

    I don't remember if you mentioned what kind of bike you'll be riding, but if it's a mountain bike, have you considered riding through the Marian Bear Natural Memorial Park? I personally have not gone through this park before, but it does connect Genesee to Governor Dr and bypasses some of the CA52 mess. Zoom your google map to the intersection of Lodi Place and Lodi Street and you'll see the nature trail in that area. It might be worthwhile to go through it and explore your options on a weekend. Since Genesee isn't perfectly straight north-south in that area, this detour may not be too far out of your way.
    • CommentAuthortampig
    • CommentTimeJun 20th 2014 edited
    I have a hybrid, an older version of this:
    It would be awesome if I could take it on the Marian Bear trail and connect to the Rose Canyon bike path! From Google Earth, it's not clear that there is a railroad crossing at their junction, but I'm hopeful. Thanks for the tips about getting past CA52, too. If I go that route, I'm sure I'll take the mixed pedestrian approach to get started.
    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeJun 20th 2014
    You can definitely go through Marian Bear to connect to Rose Canyon bike path:

    Some caveats:

    1) There are a couple of trails through. For you on a hybrid, you'll want to take the wider paths; i.e. you'll probably want to avoid the narrow single track trail that runs through the oaks along the south end of the park (in the Strava track link above, I mostly rode the south single track as much as possible, but you can see the wider paths through the open parts of the park).

    2) There's a lot of poison oak, especially around the single track trail. I am pretty sensitive to poison oak and I am very careful not to brush against it (leaves and branches--note that it's a deciduous plant, and in the winter you'll see a lot of bare sticks that aren't very distinctive, but which still carry the urushiol oil irritant). I am able to ride through Marian Bear without getting any poison oak on me, or just minimal spots on my lower legs, but there are places where at least half of the challenge of mountain bike riding is taking a line to avoid the PO, as much as to fit the terrain. If you stick to the wider paths you're probably fine, just be aware of the issue.

    3) There's no official RR track crossing. You follow the path to the tracks in a location where you have good line of sight along the tracks in both directions, then you pick your bike up and cross over. There are frequent Coaster trains during commute hours. They travel at a pretty good speed--probably 50ish mph, but definitely not 70 or 80 mph. I spent my youth crossing railroad tracks so I'm comfortable doing this, but never complacent. If you have a good view in both directions and start your crossing when all is clear, then even if a train appears around the bend while you're crossing, you have time to make it over.

    4) Going into Marian Bear from northbound Genessee doesn't completely take out the freeway crossing issues.

    5) There's some water to deal with in the winter months, depending on where you go.

    6) Some people are afraid to go through the park, believing that there are child molesters and rapists lying in wait on the trails and in the bathrooms. There have been some incidents in the past (then again, there have been incidents in most parks in a city the size of San Diego). I haven't had any issues. If I were female I would likely be less willing to go through there alone at times when the park is not very populated (i.e. weekday early mornings)
    • CommentAuthortampig
    • CommentTimeJun 22nd 2014
    Thanks, Shady John. I'll keep those points in mind. Unfortunately, I would be going through the park alone weekday early mornings to get through work. I'll have to see how comfortable I feel after I check out the area. On the plus side, the--imagined or real--threat of rapists makes going the direct route through Genesee more attractive.
    • CommentAuthorPetteri
    • CommentTimeJun 23rd 2014
    Bike train? :-P Not sure there are many takers or if a group would help...

    Looks like Genesee would actually be a shorter if hillier route for me, may give it a shot tomorrow morning to see what the 52 ramps looked like. It's been a while since I've been that way. The I-5 ramps are probably easier to avoid with some UCSD detours; I go down the I-5 to get to Sorrento Valley so no comment there.
    • CommentAuthorPetteri
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2014
    My verdict: Not a ton of fun but doable and I wouldn't go miles out of my way to avoid Genesee. I'd agree with John's suggestions on walking across the ramps if you're uncomfortable riding through, Northbound it may also be worth doing on the offramps but the visibility there is better. Doing a recon ride over the weekend might be a good idea, but the traffic wasn't bad at all today around 8am.

    For me getting to Genesee through Mission Valley and up Ulric was worse but that's another story, and the bike lane on Genesee is pretty rough in places...

    I can do another one-off Genesee run if someone wants a riding companion or if I'm going somewhere in the area, but luckily for me I have a much more pleasant route by the coast so will stick to that for the most part. If I need more hill training I can detour via Mt Soledad. :)