Will the Cycling Community Awaken the City of San Diego?
With fresh leadership from local bike advocacy groups and the political front, it seems that San Diego is headed in the right direction to make cycling safer and more accessible. Only time will tell if our community is ready for the changes, but the scene is set for action. We enjoy many cycle friendly paths in the tourist and waterfront areas, yet the thoroughfares we use to cross our cities are wrought with dangers and potholes.
The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition has worked hard and long to bring these failings to light. Yet, the changes we seek seem to be beyond their reach. My wife and I support them with our time and funds, but find many of their causes are not reaching the ears that can make a difference. As we hope they find their voice, we are encouraged to see a new non-profit rise to the top.
Bike San Diego (led by bike advocate Samantha Ollinger), has come forth with new power and a fresh message. Taking it to the community forums, business boardrooms and the very chambers where the laws are changed, there are a very large number of people hoping this group will break through the barriers than prevent our needs from being implemented.
Our brand new mayor (Bob Filner) has spoken long and hard about bringing San Diego into the forefront of being a cycle-friendly community. He has the power to bring it all about and much of his backing was based on these promises. Not just for cyclists, but for the pedestrians too. There is so much more to city life than letting stinky, polluting cars rule our roadways and minds. He will need help making the transition and I for one am here if he needs me.
So what exactly is it our cycle community needs? We have the awesome weather already. Our problem is that when the city planners laid out the transportation grid (back in the 50’s when most cities were planned, the auto was the only vehicle considered), they gave little to no consideration to walkers and riders. In more recent years, some streets have a narrow painted cycle lane that is too close to traffic, parked cars and is in the gutter where the potholes seem to mate and multiply.
In addition to that, freeways, freeway on and off ramps, and intersections divide and endanger our city in the worse way for those not behind the wheel of a money eating, smog spewing car. Our laws say we need to share the roads, yet the balance is not even. Much of our taxes are earmarked for cycle and pedestrian safety and yet the changes are not seen or felt by anyone. We need to enlist experts in such things and make their knowledge grow a new community feel that everyone can exploit in a good way.
The internet and my BikeBook (Facebook) are filled with easy (and some more complicated) ways to separate the bikers and walkers from traffic. There are ways to open up the city and suburban areas for easier, safer and more relaxed travel for those who want and need it. Many cities and countries across the globe have fully embraced these concepts and are flourishing because of them. Can San Diego do the same?
In her recent U-T San Diego newspaper interview, Samantha had this to say, “Bicycling can solve so many of our societal woes and problems we face as a city: poor road conditions that we don’t have the funds to even maintain, growing obesity epidemic which is starting to affect our military preparedness (important considering our city’s culture), and a lack of funds to deal with the massive vehicular traffic blight and all its resultant downsides. Investing in bicycle infrastructure is so absurdly inexpensive investment that yet has an incredible high rate of return, it’s a true head-scratcher on why we don’t do it already.” Follow the link at the bottom of this post for her full interview.
It has been proven that a local economy thrives when cycle traffic increases. Also, the commuter who cycles to work is more prepared for their work day in many ways. Everyone knows the freedom and happiness brought through bike riding makes for a person who enjoys life more. Why waste time at a gym when a fun filled bicycle ride can trim your body and sooth your mind? I really don’t think I need to convince you (my readers) about the reason we cycle. Thank you for that!
The people we need to convince are filled with negativity towards cycles and cycling. They say we don’t pay road taxes, (but we do of course). They think their needs are more important than ours, (yet they aren’t). They say bikes are just a hobby, (imagine that). They want bigger and wider roads to ease car traffic, (even though studies prove that not to be true). They tend to throw their (car’s) weight around against our lifestyle and choice of transportation, (and even they know that’s not right).
I do think one of the best way we can spread our word is to just live our lifes. As more people cycle the roads and trails, our government and city planners will have no choice other than to make our causes theirs. I wrote an article with this thought for the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition’s newsletter last month in response to a great post Timur Ender wrote for the UT recently about bike advocacy in our city. My words never saw the light of day, but still ring true in my ears.
My article, entitled “Waiting For the Bus”, simply stated that if we wait for the changes we want, our bicycle wheels will never turn. We need to ride and show our presence to be noticed and accommodated. Me personally, I am fully used to the ways things are. I’ve been riding the crowded city and suburban streets since the 60’s and am accustomed to doing what it takes from my bike’s saddle to keep myself as safe as possible. This old-school attitude works for me, but for the masses of cyclists, it is not enough. As my wife commutes on two wheels daily (and so many others), I want these needed changes to take place immediately. Her safety and happiness are my #1 concerns.
I can only hope that Samantha, Bob Filner and the powers to be in San Diego see the need and act on it swiftly. It may not be easy or quick to implement the needed changes to ensure the safety and comfort of every walker and rider in this great town, but it is so very important. With our new Bike-Share program that is scheduled to launch this year (for locals and tourists alike), a better bike infrastructure needs to complement it if it is to be a success. Who in this town can step up to the plate and hit that home run?
I’ll step off my soapbox now, I’ve got some riding to do, Turbo Bob.
“Whoever invented the bicycle deserves the thanks of humanity.”—Lord Charles Beresford.
Here is the link to Samantha’s U-T interview
Bike San Diego has this website—have a look
Also, the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition website
The net and Facebook are filled with ideas for safer cities and bicycle advocacy groups. Please take the time to find out more and see if and how you can help.
We do many group rides in town. So many of these people are shakers and movers at the topic at hand. Join in, have some fun and get involved. This article has a link at the bottom that can guide you to many of these rides and people.
Write your city leaders and tell them your wants for cycle safety and travel.