To Bike or Not To Bike? That is a good question.

by on January 25, 2013 · 12 comments

in Culture, Editor's Picks, Health, Sports

By Brigitte Taylor

I love the idea of cycling all over town and the trend to encourage people (and currently women, in particular, to ride bikes.

Ideas are great, but as a result of biking in Mission Valley, Old Town, North Park, Downtown, College Area, City Heights and various parts of the city, I definitely have a new take on what it means to share the road with vehicles. I used to ride my bike frequently until I was knocked off by a driver. Thankfully, I was not injured but after that, I limited my rides to mountain biking and bike paths where road sharing is not an issue.

I decided that it was time to start riding on city streets again last year. Riding my bike on El Cajon Boulevard, I must admit, can be daunting. Depending on where you are riding, some of the lanes are so narrow that the cars parked on the street will position a cyclist in the middle of the lane for vehicles meaning that we literally must share the same lane with vehicles. The traffic is quite rapid and, in my experience, people are fairly hasty and do not drive in a manner or speed that promotes comfortable riding of a bike in the middle of the street. I noted the streets have designated lanes for the bikes; however, these lanes are in or near the same spaces along with vehicles. While I have noted more courtesy among drivers, I still think there should be a designated area specifically for bicycles.

El Cajon Boulevard has made some changes, added new businesses and other positive activities. I have noticed more activity in the 30th to 40th blocks. I do not see that many people walking the streets however. So, since we have a large number of families and children in the area, I wonder: what can we do to encourage even more transformations that would include positive, family-oriented activities for everyone. A few times I have seen children riding their bikes on the sidewalks of El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue. I like the idea. I like the idea even more since we have witnessed such as the prostitution and other activity that many associate with the area.

I feel bicycle riding should be legal on the sidewalks, too, considering how dark the streets are (side streets too, in City Heights and College Area) and the lack of space for sharing the road in these areas. The sidewalks are broad enough for considerate bike riding and simultaneous pedestrian use, when needed.

Overall the streets in many neighborhoods need more lighting and better alternatives for safe bike riding for people (including elderly and children). I love the idea of promoting cycling as a way of life in our city but more changes will need to be made to integrate cyclists into the transportation system. Here are a few things that I have been thinking about as a result of some of my rides and talks with people (especially those who live in the City Heights and College Areas).

City Cycling and Mindset.

I used to think of biking as relaxing and leisurely. After riding throughout San Diego’s Downtown and inner-cities, I feel like you definitely have to take on a more defensive approach when sharing the road with cars. I do feel that people have been more accepting of sharing the road in some parts of the city, but not all. On a bike (as well as on foot while running or walking), I feel I have to be ready for anything and everything — expecting folks NOT to see you, because many times, they do not. That’s why I feel it is even more important for designated and protected biking lanes.

Biking to Work.

I’m not quite sure how this idea of biking to work is going to play out, given the fact that the clothes most wear to work will not really be conducive to riding a bike, depending on one’s career. If you stuff your work clothes in a backpack, it is likely that they will be wrinkled so that sounds like an opportunity for a clothing designer! More options in terms of clothing that are suitable for biking and the workplace (business casual?) will certainly be beneficial.

Where will be the bike be stored upon arrival at your destination?

SANDAG says they have a lock for bikes (which I have not yet used). I have not met anyone yet who has used it. If you have used it, I wonder what your impression is of this locker system.

I noticed that most establishments do not have an area for people to lock their bikes upon arrival. How can we work this into the equation. Having a place for bike riders to lock bikes will be extremely useful and make it much easier for us to show up on a bike.

Putting the bikes on trolleys?

There really isn’t enough room for more than two or three people to have a bike on each car due to the design and sharing with passengers. How can we adjust this?

Overall, when I talked to residents, school employers and those who work in the areas — particularly from the City Heights, College Area and Rolando neighborhoods, the lack of street lighting, potholes and overall safety — especially during evening hours (i.e., street crimes solutions to help with safety concerns dealing with the elderly, children and single women’s safety) continue to be issues that need to be addressed.

During my daytime rides, I notice quite a few potholes and they are often undetected until it’s too late at night. Road repairs and lighting will make it easier and safer for pedestrians, cyclists and cars alike. Lighting and road repairs will make it easier and more safe for bikers and pedestrians alike.

In addition to biking conversations, people wanted to talk about the overall health of the neighborhoods. I feel that these issues belong in the same conversation that deals with community health. Some residents felt that the types of businesses need to be more diverse, that is, the neighborhood could be transformed by encouraging a variety of businesses such as florists, wellness centers, live music venues, yoga studios, cafes, dining establishments and the creation and use of spaces that bring people together as well businesses that have something different and positive to offer to the community. Perhaps these diverse businesses would encourage a different approach to family cycling as well.

By Brigitte Taylor, Originally Posted at www.suitebrigitte.blogspot.com

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Goatskull January 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The area where I work on Catalina blvd near the FT. Rosecrans cemetery has some very scenic riding areas but the simple fact is that between the unmanned gate and Cannon Street it’s extremely dangerous, at least during morning and late afternoon rush hour. I honestly don’t know why people ride there during those hours. There is absolutely no room between vehicles and the curb. You basically have to ride in the middle of the lane and that can be scary when you have impatient pissed off drivers trying to rush home. In the three and a half years I’ve been working up there I’ve seen 4 riders get clipped. In one case the driver got out of his vehicle and kicked the downed rider. While something like that has lawsuit all over it on behalf of the downed rider, is it really worth the risk?

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avatar Brigitte January 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and for your powerful comments. I agree with you — riding a bike in certain areas is no joke! I hope that we can find more ways to avoid these accidents, reduce traffic and create greater conditions so that people will feel more comfortable riding.

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avatar Chuck January 26, 2013 at 7:02 am

As a cyclist I enjoyed reading this article and appreciate any any attention drawn to safe cycling on public roads. There is a very good reason that bikes are not, and should not be allowed to ride on sidewalks. When a car driver is turning off the street into a private drive they are not looking for bikes moving on the sidewalk at 5-25 mph. It doesnt take long behind the wheel of a car or behind the bars of a bike to witness this dangerous scenario firsthand. Riding your bike on the sidewalk is absolutely more dangerous than the street and the danger multiplies quickly in a city enviroment. Might not be such a issue in a urban neighborhood setting. I use sidewalks when they provide me with a safer option than the street, but thats rare and almost always in a urban area.

Also, is there not a law requiring children to wear a helmet in San Diego? I know its a sensitive choice issue but the picture you used in the article shows a helmetless mom with a helmetless baby in a childseat. The scary part is that shes all engaged in dealing with the arm full of flowers than holding up the bike and protecting that kids pretty blonde head. Easy to imagine what could happen when she mis-handles the bike and it goes to the ground with baby in the seat. Im not sure I even support the helmet law but certainly don’t pretend my head is as safe without one on. Just commomn sense to me….

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avatar Brigitte January 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this piece and for addressing some of the contents. I understand what you mean in terms of safety issues re: riding on the sidewalk. What you are saying makes complete sense. There are so many times that there is no one on the sidewalk (because it is not really used that much in the urban areas of which I am) and I have felt myself up against a curb with barely enough room on the street. The cars are so close it is ridiculous. Yes, safety is a major concern when it comes to wearing a helmet and I think it would certainly be best to wear one. Although, based on what I have seen while riding a bike or while running in the city, I would not be comfortable with a child on the back of a bike with cars around — even with a helmet.

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avatar Krystall January 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I hate riding my bike at night here, even with a headlight. Especially in the neighborhoods, I cannot see the road ahead of me and every time I hit a bump I am afraid it is some big pothole that is going to send me flying! And this is partly because even in daylight I can see that a lot of the roads I ride on are bumpy and cracked. I used to ride up and down university to go to work, and when I would move aside for cars my wheel would get caught in the grooves and nearly send me into the parked cars! Maybe people in cars don’t notice, but it is easy for a skinny little bike tire to catch those cracks! One thing I do appreciate about riding a bike in this city though is the ability to get around my area on side streets. Though some of them are small, they are not usually so crowded so I don’t feel as wary as I do on the main roads. Also, I do agree that bike parking here is a pain! But Iwas in Hillcrest the other day and saw that hey had converted a parallel parking spot or two outside of a bank into bike parking. It had like 5+ bike racks lined up diagonally, and it also had a maintenance station. There was a pump and a bunch of tools attached so you could change a tire or whatever else you might need to do. It was awesome! If they had those scattered more throughout the city in heavily trafficked areas like that, it would help so much!

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avatar Brigitte January 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Thank you for reading and for your sharing your views, candor and experiences! I am excited to hear about the bike rack you are speaking of and I am sure others will be, too. I can definitely relate to what you are saying about the tires getting caught in the crevices! :) I think the more people speak about these things, the better.

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avatar Linnea January 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I live in LA and bike to work (7.5 miles/1 hour) regularly. Fortunately my employer has bike parking by the front door. Re the clothes, I find that the lack of a shower at work is more of a problem than changing clothes. I wear my work pants and socks, and gym top (optional hoodie). When I get to work, I change the top and put on jewelry. I usually wear grungy shoes and carry my work shoes – I don’t want to scuff them up on the pedals. Before I go home, I take off the jewelry and put on the gym top. This does create extra laundry, but I look at that as the price of an extra exercise session.

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avatar Brigitte January 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Ha! I love this. Your employer provides parking in front for your bike AND you have a system that works well! :) Thank you for taking the time to read and share. I have never biked in L.A. and I like hearing about the progress they are making re: transportation. And yes, the shower can be a factor, as well, depending on how far you’re riding. I’m glad you brought that up. It is great to hear that employers are doing things to make it easier for folks to bike to work.

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avatar SHRED January 27, 2013 at 7:45 am

Why do other cities with much worse climates have more and way better bike friendly paths? San Diego and San Diego County areas are shameful in their bike path planning.

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avatar Goatskull January 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

Because the city is run largely by people who suck at their jobs. Also a high # of residents who don’t want to be inconvenienced.

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avatar Brigitte January 28, 2013 at 12:50 am

Thank you very much for taking the time to express your opinion. Have you attended any of the biking-related advocacy groups to voice your concerns?

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