Friday, May 23, 2014

San Diego Waterfront Park Gets it Sort of Right

Yesterday we visited downtown San Diego's new Waterfront Park, highly touted for its futuristic playground equipment...

...not to mention its kid-friendly water feature (which I should point out is much more popular on a sunny day, though the clouds and cold--for us-- weather didn't deter my toddler).

Less kid-friendly are the pedestrian connections to the waterfront path that would otherwise connect the new park with existing parks and tourist attractions along North Harbor Drive. While the path is probably less than 100 feet from the edge of the park, here's how you're supposed to get there:

Welcoming to the pedestrian, isn't it? I especially appreciate that while you can almost make out the curb cut at the far end of the "crosswalk," you would have to navigate around three sets of raised curbs to get to it.

Oh, but first you also have to deal with this:

That would be a free right that encourages drivers to swoop through the crosswalk with little regard for a pedestrian hoping to get across the street. (Sure there's the nominal yield sign in place, but nothing about this design would lead a driver to actually yield--much less pay attention to--a pedestrian at the curb).

Being the determined pedestrian advocate that I am, I forced my way across this intersection--stroller with two kids in tow--and eventually made my way the half-mile down a poorly maintained sidewalk to the next park on the waterfront. All the while I was eyeing the lovely waterfront pedestrian path on the other side of the four-lane roadway. If only there had been a way for me to get there.

Most people aren't as stubborn as me, and so instead of schlepping it through streets that clearly have no interest in accommodating them, they'll take advantage of the free parking at the Waterfront Park, then get back in their cars and make the short drive to another parking lot to visit places like the Midway Museum or Seaport Village.

This is not a smart way for an urban center to work.

Key destinations in a downtown tourist zone should be easily walkable, with a streetscape that encourages people to meander, not dodge cars and hope for the best. I'm crossing my fingers that those connections are coming, and that the lack of walkability at the edges of the new Waterfront Park will soon be remedied by forthcoming street improvement projects. Given how low pedestrian improvements tend to be on the totem pole of infrastructure priorities, I'm not holding my breath.


  1. Oh good lord. We cross those crosswalks all the time with kids it's like any other cross walk in a city.

  2. Haha just read your about, now I see why you're using these terms "forced" and "schlepping" LOL good luck on your mission it's a nice blog.

  3. Too true, it is like many other crosswalks in the city--just not exactly like I would prefer any crosswalk in a city to be! And while for me (and my double-wide jogging stroller) it's a manageable inconvenience, for someone in a wheelchair (or even someone who can walk but has trouble going up and down curbs), a crosswalk like this is a very real barrier.

  4. I agree it's not designed with anything but cars in mind (big mistake). However, I have visited the waterfront in that part of Diego and it's a gorgeous City, I wouldn't mind living there if Cali wasn't run by a bunch of goons.