Be Safe on Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 17th
By Doug Porter
The San Diego County Grand Jury report on the state of our city’s bikeways does its best to be positive. After all, decades of car-centric public planning and policies are slowly giving way to an increasing awareness of the benefits and possibilities of traveling on two wheels in a city with near-perfect weather conditions.
‘Everybody’ agrees, or at least pays lips service to, the need for safe and increased access for bicyclists on the roads around San Diego. The Grand Jury even called its report: San Diego – A Bicycle Friendly City.
The reality of riding isn’t so nice for today’s bicyclists, however. Years of deferred maintenance of roadways in San Diego have made many of the gestures towards riders empty ones. Despite the prevailing narrative that this infrastructural neglect is somehow due to incompetent or inefficient government burdened with an overpaid class of civil servants, the truth of matter is that public attitudes towards government in general are at the heart of the matter.
As Gov. Jerry Brown has shown via shutting down Redevelopment Agencies, the money to maintain critical services is out there. A mere trickle of diverted property taxes dating back to 1945 had become a torrent of cash flow piped into projects with little regard to the public welfare.
These public funded fiefdoms were largely protected from taxpayer angst over the cost of government, hidden away behind a bewildering array of claims purporting to show public benefit. Sometimes redevelopment did work. But more often these schemes were protected pathways for profit for private development.
The Grand Jury’s finding that “the designated bicycle paths and lanes in the City of San Diego (City) are often substandard because of their location and relative lack of maintenance” is a direct result of these misplaced priorities in the role of local government over the past few decades.
The report also looked at Montezuma Road, considered to be an ideal road for cycle tracks (a dedicated lane with a berm protecting riders from auto traffic). They found that there have been 49 cyclists hit by cars on Montezuma Road, including a fatality earlier this year.
There are no plans at present, however, to install a safer path. “Even though this plan has been adopted by the City Council, we understand that bicycle paths will not be installed on high-speed roads as proposed in the plan due to their cost.”
Here are the recommendations of the 2012-2013 San Diego County Grand Jury with regard to bicycle safety in San Diego:
- Improve bicycle safety and operational convenience by more frequent sweeping of bicycle lanes and paths.
- Develop and implement a plan, no later than June 30, 2014, to install more Class I Bike Lanes next to thoroughfares that provide a direct
- route into and out of the city.
- Update the City’s Transportation Plan, by the next budget cycle, to remove the Class 3 (sharrow) bike lanes in downtown San Diego and,
- as practical, replace them with dedicated bicycle/pedestrian only thoroughfares.
- Identify a funding source to finance the cost of bike lane installation, maintenance, and accessibility by the end of the next budget cycle.
Bike to Work Day: Friday May 17th, 2013
In Tijuana, cyclists have banded together for Tijuaneando en Bici events, seeking to increase awareness and change the way their culture views the bicycle. A highlight of San Diego’s Bike to Work day this year will be the 1pm crossborder collaboration at the San Ysidro Transit Center, where a group of cyclists from Mexico is expected to cross the border and meet up at one of the 94 pit stops being set up throughout the county.
The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition reports that more than 7,200 people took part in the region’s Bike to Work Day last year. During the morning and afternoon commute hours, volunteers will provide cyclists with free refreshments, T-shirts, bike tune-ups and lots of encouragement, at pit stops located countywide, from Oceanside to Chula Vista and El Cajon to Del Mar, with many concentrated in downtown San Diego.
If you need to use the Google map depicted above (Courtesy SANDAG) online to zoom in, click here.
Wikipedia reference: Bike to Work Day was originated by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956 and is a part of Bike-to-Work Week, which is in turn part of National Bike Month.
Biking for the Future
From an op-ed type piece, written by Andy Hanshaw with the San Diego County Bicycling Coalition, originally published in the Uptown News:
We envision San Diego as the most bicycle-friendly region in the world. Far to go? Certainly. This vision requires positive adjustments to our culture, neighborhoods, and streets, re-designing them to foster bicycling as an everyday activity for transportation and recreation.
Our region can continue to create a comprehensive approach to transportation policy and design, regarding the bicycle as a genuine mode of transportation, removing obstacles and empowering all people to choose to ride whenever and wherever they like. Our vision simply includes the bicycle as one piece of the comprehensive transportation pie.
With this vision, San Diego County will have a connected network of safe, convenient bike facilities and proper, secure, end-of-trip accommodations for people who ride. Constant encouragement of good roadway behaviors through education programs will also foster understanding and respect for all modes of transportation. Our vision includes all people of ethnic, economic and cultural diversity.
Learning the Local Scene
If you are unfamiliar with the local bicycle scene, there are plenty of places online to learns and groups looking for your help in advocating for a better environment for cyclists. Links we like:
iCommute –is the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) website for commuters. Basic information including bike maps, transit bike rules and lockers is available here.
The SANDAG Bike Plan – is where you’ll find Riding to 2050, the San Diego Regional Bicycle Plan. Read about what might be in store for the future in our region. (We can do better than this if you’re willing to step up and advocate.)
The San Diego County Biking Coalition – provides tons of useful information for bikers, including a very handy FAQ page with answers to questions like “I’ve been in a bike crash – what should I do now?” They also maintain a page with listings for Bike Clubs and other groups that have an interest in the subject.
(Note: If I left your group out, email me via the address at the end of this column and I’ll add you in)
The Pills on the Hill
Lest you get the impression that everything is lovey-dovey with bicycling in San Diego, let me put that to rest. Come up with a good idea in the USA these days and there will be cranky curmudgeons willing to make the case for just crawling into a fetal position near a TV broadcasting Fox news.
Most of these people are harmless. Some of them are not, as videos, like the one below, show:
An recent article at KPBS on the Grand Jury report brought out the haters. Here’s a taste:
Bikes are for children to ride, this green crap is out of control. Why don’t we spend a couple trillion building bike paths at every road ,highway ,street, and cut a aisle right down the middle of every freeway? This will employ millions of foreign nationals and will benefit our economy?????? The real agenda is to outlaw all gas burning vehicles put all people in busses where there is rampant crime .
It’s unfortunate that the grand jury has to waste their time on something like this. Riding a bike on a road made for cars is a pretty obvious assumed risk. Go ahead and do it if you want, but you might get hit by a car, especially if you ignore traffic laws and blow through stop lights. It’s like telling a young child not to touch the hot burner on the stove. Some kids just have to get burned to learn their lesson. How many cyclists have to get burned before the others learn their lesson? And I am supposed to pay tax dollars to mollycoddle the cyclists so that they don’t have to actually suffer the pain of learning bike safety? DIZZY, I fear you might be right, and unfortunately, as we are seeing with the high speed rail project, there are probably people out there who would think it’s a great idea to spend a trillion dollars that we don’t have for little bike paths covering every square inch of the county.
Amtrak’s New Crappy Bike Policy
Via the LA Streets Blog we learn about Amtrak’s new bike-unfriendly policies coming June 1st on the Pacific Surfliner service connecting San Luis Obispo to San Diego by way of Los Angeles.
Amtrak will require reservations and a $5 fee to “accommodate” bicycles on the Pacific Surfliner. A cyclist will either have to call Amtrak or go to the ticketing window to make a bike reservation and pay the fee; there isn’t any way to do this online because Amtrak apparently is operating in 1992. This change will apply to everyone: occasional riders, Amtrak monthly pass holders and Rail2Rail/Metrolink monthly pass holders.
“The Surfliner serves the most popular bicycle tourism route in the country, so it’s frustrating to see Amtrak California antagonizing what would otherwise be one of its most loyal customer bases,” writes Eric Bruins, the Program and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. ”
“Instead of dealing with its capacity issues, Amtrak is suppressing demand with a reservation scheme that makes commuting prohibitively expensive and leisure travel burdensome,” Bruins continues. ”I hope Amtrak reverses this poor business decision and instead seeks to grow ridership by promoting bike-train travel as a convenient and cost-effective way to enjoy California’s coastal destinations.”
Why Ride a Bike?
I’ll end today’s single focus column with a tidbit from Reuters, just in case you have any questions about the underlying reasons why bicycling should be a public policy priority.
Experts in Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada studied 4,000 summaries of peer-reviewed papers in journals giving a view about climate change since the early 1990s and found that 97 percent said it was mainly caused by humans… The report said it was the biggest review so far of scientific opinion on climate change.
A survey by the U.S. Pew Research Center published in October last year found 45 percent of Americans said “Yes” when asked: “Do scientists agree Earth is getting warmer because of human activity?” Forty-three percent said “No”.
Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, hit 400 parts per million in the atmosphere last week, the highest in perhaps 3 million years.
On This Day: 1987 – The Bobro 400 set sail from New York Harbor with 3,200 tons of garbage. The barge traveled 6,000 miles in search of a place to dump its load. It returned to New York Harbor after 8 weeks with the same load. 1988 – The Supreme Court ruled that police do not have to have a search warrant to search discarded garbage. 2000 – The Britney Spears album “Oops!..I Did It Again” was released. (Yup. All garbage news today…)
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