San Diego has one of the best climates in the United States. Where else (besides maybe Hawaii) can you golf, swim in the ocean and ride your bicycle all throughout the year?
With everyone environmentally conscious these days, electric cars and bicycles as an alternative form of commuter transportation are all the rage. In fact, biking initiatives are popping up all over San Diego.
In the last four months, three bike corrals have been installed in Uptown locations; Fifth & University, Mississippi near El Cajon Blvd., and, just this month on Sept. 5, the largest corral yet was installed at the corner of North Park Way and 30th Street, in front of The Linkery restaurant.
The same day this latest bike corral was unveiled, the San Diego BID Council announced that seven area business districts were being given a bicycle of their own to use as they see fit, not only to allow them easier travel within their district to conduct business, but also to help encourage more bicycle riding.
By the end of the year, 10 more districts will be added to the program.
On the heels of these latest initiatives comes “bike sharing” – a program District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria recently saw in Washington D.C. while there as part of a San Diego contingent advocating for the Balboa Park centennial.
No sooner was the councilmember back in his office, he and Mayor Sanders were hosting a “bike sharing demonstration” at Petco Park, on Sept. 17.
At the demonstration, Mayor Sanders called bike sharing “a perfect fit” for San Diego and promoted its advantages. Granted, bike sharing and/or bicycle riding in general sound to the untrained ear (or rider) like they should be synonymous with San Diego.
But are they?
In other words, is San Diego ready for an influx of bicycle commuters – or more importantly – are large numbers of bicycle commuters ready for San Diego?
After four months of strictly public transportation as an inner-city commuter, I decided to get my trusty 17-year-old Trek out of storage and incorporate it into my commute, which takes me from South Park, up through North Park and over to Hillcrest daily. Despite some of the harrowing moments I’ve experienced, I am enjoying it; but believe me, I have a lot of feedback when it comes to addressing the point at which my rubber hits the road.
I attended – on my own bicycle – that North Park press conference on Sept. 5th., and despite North Park and Hillcrest stepping up with these new initiatives, I can attest their streets have a ways to go.
The route along University Avenue between 30th and Park Blvd is one of the most dangerous stretches of city streets for a bicyclist in the county.
Likewise, Robinson Ave. from 10th to Fourth avenues, which includes the Robinson bridge, is a span that is pedestrian-friendly but far from biker-friendly. The edge pavement on Robinson Ave between Sixth and Fifth avenues in Hillcrest is extremely dangerous; you either ride in the gutter or encroach on the limited space allotted for a vehicle.
As most of us know, Downtown city streets are just as treacherous, and I’m hard pressed to think of any bike-friendly streets there.
I spent this past Sunday riding my bike all over Downtown going to and from Art Walk on the Bay and stopping over to check out the new Ruocco Park, and although the lightest traffic day of the week, it was still a conflux. There are no bike lanes anywhere, and the city streets that now advocate that a biker can use the whole lane mean nothing to drivers.
My issues or concerns are not isolated. That is obvious when reading the comments on the recent cover story I wrote for Uptown News [Vol 4, Issue 19]. Plain and simple, readers are concerned about bike safety. Even the comments on Councilmember Gloria’s Facebook page with regards to the bike sharing idea and demonstration, were predominately concerned with bike safety.
One follower even referenced a 2011 article on shareable.net (a website that focuses on the advantages of all things share) “Top 10 things every mayor should know before starting a bike sharing program.” The specific item the poster referenced was #1, “Be a bike-friendly community first.” Again, safety, safety, safety. For bike riders as well as motorists.
When I first added my bike to my commute, a good friend – who used to ride from Hillcrest to SDSU daily – told me to “avoid University Ave between 30th and Park Blvd at all costs.” For the most part, I’ve taken his sage advice with a couple exceptions. I can see why he holds this belief.
Another biking friend of mine just told me yesterday she was side-swiped by a MTS bus on that same strip of road. A coworker just recently saw a bicyclist hit by a car at the corner of Robinson and Fifth avenues.
Some say bike riders need to take a DMV-like test to become bicycle commuters. I’m not sure I agree, although I do think we should have to register bikes and attend a class.
But much more importantly, the roads in our region need to become bike-friendly. We need wider streets, bike lanes, bike routes, resurfacing of busy streets and more. Until then, I’ll continue commuting on my bicycle but I’m in constant search for the best routes and will continue to share my findings.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at email@example.com or post on this editorial when it hits the online news website.