Climate Action Event in San Diego – Notes

On Tuesday evening, September 8, a large group of San Diegans concerned with climate change gathered at the South Park Whistle Stop bar to wet their whistle and enjoying the air conditioning.  It was a very hot day in San Diego breaking records in the region – darkly fitting for a discussion of climate change.

Speakers at the event included City Planning expert Dr. Bruce Appleyard from SDSU and Nicole Capretz, Executive Director of Climate Action Campaign.  The event was organized and emceed by Howard Blackson – a man born to play the role of gregarious host.

Following are selected notes from the meeting – any mistakes are mine, I did my best to takes notes during the event.

Bruce spoke first and stressed the importance of supporting local planners.  There are good plans and talented planners in San Diego but too often they are not supported politcally, undermining the planning work done and resulting in little action on the ground.  Examples include the University Avenue bike corridor project, the Barrio Logan Community Plan, and the Clairemont Trolley station plans.  In each of these cases, and many others, years of planning and community input were scrapped at the eleventh hour.

On the topic of greenhouse gases Bruce noted that each mile of driving a car adds one pound of CO2 to the atmosphere, of which 80% will remain for approx. 200 years.  The remaining 20% will remain for millenia.  Utilizing our natural topography of “mesas, canyons, coastal plains” is critical to reduce our contribution to climate change – specifically our coastal plains.  Our coastal plans are centrally located and connected to transit, which avoids further sprawl and vehicle miles, and also can utilize the natural cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean.  The 30 foot height limit needs to be considered for adjustments if we are to take meaningful steps to leverage our coastal plains.

Nicole started talking by showing the mix of energy used in San Diego – 54% of our total energy usage goes to transportation.  The average driver in San Diego goes about 35 miles a day and 80% of those driving to work do so driving solo.  Climate scientists no longer discuss how to reduce the greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, it’s now about trying to slow the growth of emissions.  We’ve already passed the point of being able to stop severe impacts and many of the projections are downright scary.  With world leading climate research going on at Scripps it’s a shame that San Diego isn’t leading on how to adjust our lifestyles and cities to be more responsible and sustainable.  The city’s Climate Action Plan (which Nicole developed during Todd Gloria’s term as Interim Mayor) gives some hope, but needs to have teeth.  Nicole pointed out some of the areas she views as weak and needing to be adjusted.

Joe LaCava, candidate for Council District 1, gave a few remarks and implored those gathered to join local planning groups.  He noted that planning groups are important and would benefit from the backgrounds and skills of those in attendance.

Chris Taylor, former board member of Bike San Diego, questioned the speakers about how to support our planners and get vetted, community-supported plans to be implemented.  Specifically he asked about the University Avenue bike project and what supporters could have done differently to secure a better outcome.  This was a bit of a general theme of questions and comments – how do we get our on-ground reality to meet our expectations and plans, many of which are quite good.

Suggestions included having better communication to sell planning ideas and to avoid misunderstandings that can cause anger and resentment.  There were a few other suggestions but the ending tone of the meeting seemed to be one of slight dejectedness.  Those assembled are prominent community members in urbanism, sustainability, architecture, etc.  The shared experience of seeing good projects upended at the last moment due to lack of political support or a vocal minority was clearly on the minds of many.  How to create better outcomes going forward remains a challenge to be confronted.  Sustained efforts on education and communication may work, but the best argument doesn’t always win the day.  Hearts and minds need to be won if we are to see broader support for taking on climate change.  The dilution of an ambitious climate-focused law in California this week, SB350, is not a good omen of the current status of hearts and political clout in California.

Renee Yarmy from the San Diego Port Authority noted an upcoming presentation by Gil Penalosa – Creating Great Cities – which will take place on on October 8 at 6:30 PM at the Central Library.  Mr. Penalosa is renowned figure internationally and “over the past 8 years, Gil has worked in over 180 different cities across six continents”.  It should be a fantastic panel and details and registration can be found on here.

climate change event photo - 9-8-2015
Many thanks to Howard Blackson for organizing, and to all those that attended.

Bicycles Are Most Energy-Efficient Transport

The following is from Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s website,  It was forwarded to me by a friend and I couldn’t locate it online so am posting here to share the information.

Really enjoyed this somewhat quirky study of energy efficiency in transport and comparing human transport efficiency to a handful of animals.  Enjoy and ride on!

Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s Fitness and Health e-Zine
September 13, 2015
Bicycles Are Most Energy-Efficient

If you ride a bicycle, be proud. Humans riding on bicycles are more energy-efficient than any other animal and any other form of transportation. Vance Tucker of Duke University compared bicyclists to humans and animals running, birds flying and fish swimming, as well as to people in motor-powered cars, boats, trains and planes (J. Exp. Bio, 1973;68(9):689-709). The less energy per weight you use to travel over a distance, the more energy-efficient you are. Vance found that the most efficient creature without mechanical help is a condor. With mechanical help, the cyclist comes out on top. Here is a partial list, ranked from most to least energy-efficient:

human on a bicycle
human in a jet plane
human walking
human running
human in an automobile

Mice, bees and hummingbirds use the most energy per weight and therefore are very inefficient and tire the earliest. This concept explains why pre-historic human hunters could catch faster-running animals. The human would tire later, so it didn’t matter how fast the animal could run; if the human ran long enough he would eventually catch the exhausted animal.

A person on a bicycle is more energy-efficient than one using an automobile, motorcycle, train or plane, even though he is much slower. If you compare the amount of calories burned in bicycling to other forms of locomotion, you will find that 100 calories supplies an average cyclist for three miles, a walker for one mile and a car for only 280 feet. A walking human uses 0.75 calorie of energy per gram of body weight for each kilometer traveled, while a cyclist uses only a fifth as much, 0.15 calorie per gram per kilometer. The WorldWatch Institute reports that when you ride a bicycle you use only 35 calories per mile, while walking requires 100 calories per mile, buses and trains use about 900 calories per mile per person, and a car uses 1860 calories per mile (Ergonomics, 2008 Oct;51(10):1565-75).

Slow Riders Use Less Energy Than Fast Riders
Cycling is so energy-efficient that a good rider can go just about any distance. In 2014, Christopher Strasser won the Race Across America by cycling 3,098 miles in seven days, 15 hours and 56 minutes. He averaged 16.42 miles per hour. The record for a woman was set in 1995 at an average speed of 13.23 MPH. Interestingly, slow riders use less energy per mile than fast riders. During a one-hour ride, a person riding a touring bike for nine miles burns 135 calories with an average power of 50 watts. In an hour an experienced bicycle racer can go 30 miles but will burn 2150 calories and produce approximately 500 watts or 0.67 horsepower. You burn more calories per mile because the faster you ride, the greater the wind and air resistance. Resistance varies with the square of your speed. A recumbent bicycle is more energy-efficient because being lower to the ground reduces the size of the bike and body that is being blocked by wind and air resistance (Proc Biol Sci, 2001 Jul 7;268(1474):1351-60).

More Cars Than Bikes in North America
The world’s 6.1 billion people own 1.2 billion bicycles and only 600 million motorized passenger vehicles. That’s one bike per five people and one automobile per 10 people. However, the highly-developed countries are dominated by automobiles. The United States has:
* Twice as many automobiles as bicycles
* More than 90 percent of transportation trips done in automobiles
* Less than one percent of trips done by bike

Benefits of Riding a Bicycle
More people should ride bicycles because:
* Bicycles require the least energy to go places. Cars use 30 percent of world’s petroleum.
* Bicycles are far more energy efficient than running or walking.
* Bicycles produce less air pollution than motor-driven transportation.
* Bicycles are manufactured with far less material and labor than engine-driven forms of transportation.
* Bicycles help to prevent disease and prolong life by giving you the health benefits of exercise.

2015-07-07 13.15.25
Biking through the Wachau Valley along the Danube River in Austria – fantastic fun!

North Park – San Diego’s Weak Excuse for a Bike Friendly Place

North Park is an urban neighborhood in San Diego.  It is often cited as the “hipster” area of town and is generally known for being one of the more walkable areas in San Diego.  North Park is home to the only 2 parklets in San Diego, the majority of the bike corrals in the city, and it is not uncommon to see people biking on the streets.

If there is anywhere in San Diego you would expect to find good bicycle infrastructure North Park would be high on the list, perhaps along with East Village, Downtown, Little Italy, or a beach community like Ocean Beach or Pacific Beach.  The reality on the ground is far from good.  The reality is a near absolute lack of any bicycle infrastructure.

Here’s a complete map of all the bike lanes in North Park, highlighted in red.  The gray, white, orange, and red lines indicate all roadways.  There are a total of 2 streets in North Park that have painted bike lanes.  One of them is a portion of El Cajon Boulevard, with cars regularly exceeding 40 and 50 MPH. There are no protective measures for biking anywhere in North Park.  There is no system or grid to bicycle – if you ride on a roadway with a lane you will be forced to connect to another roadway without any dedicated space for biking whatsoever.

north park bike lane mapSan Diego, and particularly North Park, has very wide streets.  There is plenty of room on many of the streets to add bike lanes with the minimal cost and effort of applying paint.  Paint is not protection, but it is much better than no dedicated space at all.  When conflict occurs due to lack of separated space, as on Adams Avenue recently, drivers can literally run over those biking without likelihood of prosecution.

If a place like North Park that is promoted as being a good place to bike or walk has so little accommodation for bikes what does that mean for other areas that are more explicitly car-first?  If our Climate Action Plan rightly targets transportation as a focus area to create a better future, how do we increase biking by a factor of 18 as the plan seeks without facilities to support that growth?  We will not get there without meaningful change on the ground.

A couple of bike lanes in a neighborhood of 50,000 people in the core of our city is not good enough.  It’s barely even laughable as an attempt at being bike and environmentally friendly.  It underlies how unserious we are about moving away from the private automobile as the overwhelming primary transport option.  It is no surprise that so few people bike in San Diego when the reality on the ground is unless you are confident and strong enough to bike with zero accommodation on wide, high speed streets you are out of luck.

Parents, myself included, fret about biking with their children or letting their kids bike to school.  Would you put your child on a bike on University Avenue (where SANDAG just scrapped a plan to add a bike plan) or El Cajon Boulevard?  Or even smaller streets like 32nd Street or Arnold Avenue?  On a recent speed survey on Arnold “City Engineers determined 85% of the traffic was indeed exceeding our 25 mph speed limit by at least 10 mph – one vehicle was going 71 mph – and that test wasn’t even on a Friday or a weekend!”  Quoted portion from North Park Nextdoor website.

Perhaps the good news is we can only improve from our current status.  That is little comfort for those working and fighting to create a safer, healthier future for our neighborhoods and city.  Real support for real improvement is needed from our elected officials and transportation authorities.  Foremost we need leadership from SANDAG to pursue a responsible future path on both transportation and land use – not plans that ignore climate change, encourage sprawl, and commit billions and billions to more highways and scraps for biking, walking, and transport.  Even the scraps committed to healthier transport are back-loaded and likely to be walked back when push comes to shove.

North Park – I dig you.  But bicycle friendly you are not.

2015-04-30 17.23.37
Granada Avenue – 54 feet wide but not an inch for bicycles or crosswalks. Good luck to those that don’t want to drive.

America’s Finest Bicycle Tour – October Debut for New Bike San Diego Event

Multi-day bicycle camping tour highlights natural beauty of San Diego

Thanks to A7D of North Park for design work!

Bike San Diego has had a busy year to date, adding many new events like the Beach Side Bike Ride from Old Town to La Jolla in July, the Bike Month Bash along El Cajon Boulevard in May, and the upcoming Bike to the Border ride from Barrio Logan to the Mexico border later this month on September 19.  In October another new event, the biggest for the organization to date, will debut. America’s Finest Bicycle Tour (AFBT), will showcase the natural beauty of San Diego and present an opportunity to connect with fellow participants.

AFBT is a three night bicycle tour of San Diego County with vehicle support for participants.  Vehicle support means that participants won’t have to lug their camping gear or clothes while they ride – their belongings will await them at each day’s destination.  Campsites are provided for each night, as is dinner and breakfast each day.  Food and beverages for the event feature San Diego establishments like Modern Times Beer, City Tacos, Golden Cost Mead, and other great local companies.

The three campsites are Sweetwater Summit, Dos Picos near Ramona, and Carlsbad State Beach – a variety of camping locations that give a broad view of the diversity of topography and climate present in San Diego.  Below is a map of the route, click through for a dynamic map you can manipulate for additional detail.

afbt map
2015 Inaugural AFBT Route

Cost for the event is $205 through September 26, increasing to $255 thereafter.  There is limited capacity for the event so interested parties are encouraged to register early to ensure a spot.  All proceeds benefit Bike San Diego, an organization working to “establish San Diego as a world-class bicycling city and create a more livable urban community by promoting everyday riding and advocating for bicycling infrastructure.”

For more details and to register see the official website –  For inquiries or questions please contact event organizer Tim Stempel at



Santa Cruz Cove – A Great Ocean Beach Spot

Waves coming in at main swimming spot.
Santa Cruz Cove is a lovely small beach in OB.

Ocean Beach is one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Diego.  It’s where our family typically goes for beach trips and I recommend it as a great place to visit for all our friends and family from out of town.  Recently I rediscovered a great pocket beach in Ocean Beach at the foot of Santa Cruz Street, dubbed “Santa Cruz Cove”.  Officially, the beach is known as Santa Cruz Avenue Beach but I like the Cove version better.

The beach is a great spot to take our young children due to the wide variety of natural elements present.  There are two separate sand beach areas with waves that are mostly gentle and the ocean floor has a gradual slope so you can swim out and remain in mostly shallow water.  Tide pools are present with a variety of anemones, crabs, snails, and other small wildlife.  There are rocks to climb (and jump off of) and you can adventure north or south along the coast for more exploring.  If you enjoy the sound of waves crashing it’s a great place since the cliffs rise quickly behind the beaches, amplifying the sound.

There are typically not many people at Santa Cruz Cove so it’s also a good place for sunbathing, reading, or taking a nap.

The main negatives are that there is not a public restroom near (the closest is the lifeguard tower north of the pier) and there can be trash issues at times.

To reach Santa Cruz Cove walk south a few blocks along the ocean from the Ocean Beach Pier or descend the steps at the terminus of Santa Cruz Avenue.  (You can use 5098 Santa Cruz Avenue, San Diego, CA 92107 as your search address if using GPS or a mapping app.)

Have a great day and I hope you enjoy your visit to a great beach in San Diego!

Balboa Park – A great place for a bunch of new parking lots

KPBS recently ran a story mostly lamenting the lack of parking for vehicles at Balboa Park in San Diego.  I strongly disagree with this premise, particularly because of the lack of parking studies to support this viewpoint.  I posted a bit on my Facebook page (re-posted below) and was surprised and grateful to see it included the next day in both the San Diego Free Press Starting Line and the Voice of San Diego Morning Report.

If you live in San Diego or like to follow news from San Diego these are my two favorite daily sources for information and viewpoints from the area.  You can subscribe to both of these sources via email if you’d like to get them in your inbox.

Here are my brief thoughts on proposals to pave more of Balboa Park for parking lots, garages, and roadways.  It is very sad to me that in some of our most precious locations – the beachfront, the bayfront, Balboa Park, and so many others – we actively go out of our way to spend millions to erase the natural beauty that exists here.  Hopefully we can start to change our ways and live in a more sustainable, and enjoyable manner in the future.

This is so terrible it’s not even funny. In San Diego, our biggest and most well-known, and well-visited, park is Balboa Park. If you’ve been to San Diego you may have been there.

Instead of preserving our park space we are actively trying to pave more and more and more of it to accommodate vehicle parking. If parking were difficult, this might be a cause worth considering.

But facts like usage of existing parking spots won’t be found in articles like this or conversations with our “Balboa Park leaders”. Maybe a quick anecdote to note that yes, there are almost always open parking spots, but then back to visions of parking garages and multi-million dollar roadways that taxpayers will pay for.

Fresh on the heels of a huge parking garage built by the San Diego Zoo (which all San Diego property owners pay for) we have visions of parking on the East Mesa (which is already a parking lot used by city trucks), and a parking garage behind the Organ Pavilion.

More parking, more cars, more pavement. Less open space, worse air, and more congestion. Everybody clap.

Ride For the River Park – Ocean Beach to Julian by Bike

Rest stop at the Iron Mountain trailhead

Ocean Beach to Julian is a long way to bicycle.  About 65 miles one-way, and entirely uphill with nearly a mile of elevation gain.  It’s a test worth taking, and one you’ll savor when done.

This is the 4th year I’m organizing the Ride for the River Park and I hope you’ll join me.  The event will take place September 26 and 27, 2015.  It’s been a great time riding with friends old and new and pushing through one tough day of riding to enjoy the mountain town of Julian, some good stories, and some good San Diego beer.  The upside to a really tough first day is cruising back down the entire way on the return trip.

The first year I organized this ride it was my longest ride ever – by a long shot.  I had never ridden more than 30 miles in my life, maybe not even 20.  If you’re concerned about your ability and the difficulty of the ride you’re not alone – most of us that have participated were in the same boat.  If you’re looking for a good challenge, and a good group to cheer you on I hope you’ll consider coming out.

Riding from coastal San Diego, through Mission Trails Regional Park, through vineyards near Ramona and Julian, and eventually through pine shaded roads is a wonderful experience.  The amount of diversity of natural beauty in San Diego is astounding and seeing it first-hand (no, out a car window is not the same) is something I look forward to every year.

For more details about the ride and to register please check out the official event page:

I’m proud to support the San Diego River Park Foundation with this event and regular donations.  The organization does great conservation and native space restoration work to preserve and enhance the native landscape.  Additionally, there are year-round clean-ups, educational workshops, and many other programs.  If you can’t join the ride I hope you’ll consider supporting the foundation financially or volunteering for a clean-up this year.

IMG_5566 IMG_5586Year 2 - Julian Return

I love trees. I love huge free trees even more.

I love plants.  Trees, shrubs, and especially in San Diego native species like manzanita, oak, sage, and pine.  I am frequently in the yard trying to find more 2015-06-06 08.37.39space to add additional plants or replacing ones that have died.  (My approach to plants is mostly trial-and-error and learning as I go about what thrives in San Diego so there have been some poorly picked casualties along the way.)

However, plants cost money – especially big trees.  Recently I’ve recently reading a lot of books and articles about personal finance and philosophy like the Mr. Money Mustache website and the book Early Retirement Extreme.  These readings, and others like them, are focused on thinking about priorities and lifestyle, not penny-pinching though the names may suggest otherwise.  In regard to my quest for trees for my property it led me to think about other methods than buying trees at a nursery to get some nice specimens.

I started with calling a number of nurseries to comparison shop and get an idea of the price for 3 good-sized trees (24 inch planting box or larger).  After calling around the best price I could find was $680 for 2 Palo Verde trees and one New Zealand Christmas tree.  That’s a good amount of money but plants are something I feel ok spending money on since you can’t make up the years it takes to establish a tree.

I talked about making this purchase with my wife and we decided to wait a couple of months and think about it.  As with many purchases, delaying for a bit is a good way to step back and contemplate to see if it’s really a legitimate desire/need or just a short-term itch wanting to be scratched.

During the “waiting period” I decided to search on Craigslist for free trees since I had gotten some plants and trees on the site in the past.  In San Diego most of the free trees are palms which I wasn’t interested in but a quick search for “tree” or “trees” in the morning took less than two minutes and I thought worth doing for a week or two to see if something more attractive might appear.

Was I in luck!  In less than a week I had found some large, gorgeous trees – an Australian Flame tree and a few African Sumac trees that were 100% free and within 10 miles of my house.  Since I care for two young kids most days, I scheduled a Saturday morning to go get them.  I arrived to the first tree, in Coronado, with a spade and my mini-van.  It was advertised as 12-15 feet but was easily 20 feet tall.  Undeterred, I spent the next two hours digging out the root ball and calling for a UHaul truck and a friend to help me carry the tree.

I headed home after the tree was out of the ground for lunch, the UHaul, and a good and willing friend.  We returned and loaded up the tree in short order then dropped it off at my house before heading to East Village for the other two2015-06-06 14.31.43
trees which were thankfully already in boxes.  24 inch boxes were advertised but this ad overdelivered as well and we found three 36 inch boxes awaiting us, along with two 60 inch boxes.  The three remaining trees are in the Pocket Park at J Street and 13th behind Mission if anyone is interested.

We proceeded to use a dolly, which broke, to move the trees into the UHaul.  With the dolly broken we slowly shimmied the trees up the ramp and then headed home.

2015-06-06 17.23.09
Flame Tree planted in yard – beautiful

That evening and the next day I dug 3 large holes – 36 inches cubed – to fit the trees.  All told, I spent about 12 solid hours digging and moving plus about 6 hours of time from my friend and wife.  18 hours plus a total of $92 ($76 for the UHaul rental and $16 for celebration beers) for three amazing trees.  My original budget was $680 so this seemed like a great deal.  Then I priced the trees that I did get – $450 per for the Sumacs and $1150 or likely more for the Flame.  Awesome!  Not only had I saved 86% from my original budget but I’d received far larger and more valuable trees as well.  Based on the nursery prices, I’d paid 4.48% of the value of the trees I ended up with.  Better yet, I’d potentially saved 3 gorgeous trees that may have ended up in the trash.  Someone else may have taken the trees, but if not they likely would have been chopped down.

If you’re looking to add some trees to your yard, take a look at Craigslist and save some major money.  It’s also a fantastic place to get free or discounted furniture and other goods.  (And also a great way to get rid of items you don’t need anymore.)

If you live in San Diego you can even get free street trees that come planted for you!  It’s a great program and you can even apply online.  I received a Hong Kong Orchid tree under this program that has done great and has beautiful flowers.

Own Property in San Diego? Get a Free Street Tree!


The current drought in California (or possibly a reversion to the long-term mean of precipitation in the state) has lots of people removing grass, planting native or other low-water plants, and rethinking what a yard should look like.  Adding a tree to your yard can provide shade, lower overall water use, and provide food and shelter for birds, insects, and other animals.  The City of San Diego even has a program that provides free street trees in the public right of way (the first 10 feet from the curb) on your property.   Below is a re-post of my experience with this program and how you can get a free tree(s) too.  Green your neighborhood, save water, and improve our region.

A recent pathway planting of sages, milkweed, fuschia, and verbena.
A recent pathway planting of sages, milkweed, fuschia, and verbena.





















Back in April 2013 I wrote about a program ran by the Urban Corps of San Diego that plants free trees in front yards for property owners in San Diego.  At the time I was living in an apartment and unable to partake of the green goodness but have since moved into a house – I can vote now! – and one of the first things I did upon moving in was contact the Urban Corps to get as many free trees as possible.

My yard already had a number of trees, all palms unfortunately, so although I applied for “as many as possible” on the application form I was only able to get one tree planted in my yard.  Yes, that is actually an option on the application form.  I applied for my tree on May 8th and it was planted, complete with support posts, on July 19th.  The Urban Corps team evaluated my yard, marked the appropriate spot for the tree, called to check for utilities, then brought the tree (approximately 7.5 feet tall), dug the hole, and planted it.  My cost: zero.  Work required on my part: none.  My responsibility: to water the tree occasionally.  Sounds like a good deal to me.

The tree added to my yard is a Hong Kong Orchid (Bauhinia purpurea).  Per the City of San Diego Street Tree Selection Guide this is a small canopy form tree that grows to a 15′ – 25′ spread.  It is deciduous and flowering as well.  They are relatively common along streets in San Diego and memorable for the large purple blooms they produce.  Although I would have preferred to have a native, drought-tolerant plant any tree is better than no tree.  If I had it over again I would make sure to note my preference for native trees on my application form when submitting since I didn’t have any contact with Urban Corps after submitting my application until the tree was in the ground.

Currently the Urban Forestry program of the Urban Corps is only open to City of San Diego residents so readers in La Mesa are out of luck for the time being.  But for anyone owning a property from Barrio Logan to Rancho Bernardo or Pacific Beach you most likely qualify.  The application is very simple and takes less than 2 minutes to complete.

Many thanks to the City of San Diego for sponsoring this wonderful program and to Urban Corps of San Diego for the effort and execution.  Two months after planting my tree is doing great and I’m looking forward to enjoying the shade and beauty for many, many years to come.  I invite other San Diegans to take advantage of this program and help to make our city better and healthier one tree at a time.  All it takes is two minutes of your time.

Link to application:

Urban Corps on the scene!
Urban Corps on the scene!
Preparing the planting hole
Preparing the planting hole
A job well done!
A job well done!

SANDAG Bicycle Corridors – Finished Before They Even Started

Two and a half years ago SANDAG announced $200 million for bike projects to create a regional network.  The first of these projects is a $40 million project in Uptown.  It would create a critical connection both East to West and North to South in the heart of San Diego’s most densely populated neighborhoods.

University Avenue at Park Blvd. Clearly our streets are too small for bike lanes.
University Avenue at Park Blvd. Clearly our streets are too small for bike lanes. And how would bikes fit with so many cars?

Since the original announcement SANDAG has repeatedly trumpeted these funds as a sign of commitment to healthy transport in the form of bicycles.  During the time since Uptown was selected for the first SANDAG bicycle project what has changed in the area?    Population, businesses, traffic, and roadways all remain the same.  There remain only two real options for an East to West connection – University and Washington.

What has changed in that period is the will of SANDAG and the Transportation Committee to support and implement real bicycle infrastructure.  SANDAG is now taking unilateral action, walking back any commitment to bicycles for this corridor and setting a poor precedent for the future.  Worse yet is the toxic effect this will have on the many, many San Diegans that spent thousands of hours attending the public forums to give input and show support for this improvement in Uptown only to be trumped by back-room dealings hidden from the public eye that gutted the project in recent months.

We need safe streets today.  There are too many deaths, too many injuries, and too little justice (or even simple apologies) to those left dead or injured.

We are a real, vibrant, beautiful city – not a collection of suburbs.  We need to behave as such.

SANDAG is doubling down on the failed policies of 50 years of planning and building roadways in our region.  More and wider roads, more cars, more congestion.  Less open space, weaker communities, a weaker economy for both households and government, and more deaths and negative health impacts.  This is the most recent example of a car first-last-and-only approach to transportation.

San Diego has many natural advantages that blunt the effects of these poor policies.  These will not last forever.  Cities such as Vancouver, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Paris, London, Stockholm, and many others showcase the real, tangible benefits derived from creating a livable and safe streetscape and city.

We need a firm, meaningful commitment to healthy, safe, and responsible transport.  Cars and bicycles are not equivalent transport.  Bicycles are better for safety, health, wealth, and should be put at a higher priority than cars.  Chicago Department of Transportation does exactly this by using the following order of priority for transportation:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Public Transportation
  3. Bicycles
  4. Private Automobiles
ped - chi
Chicago gets it right.

San Diego and SANDAG should take a page from this leading example and do the same, backed up by the allocation of funding and policies.  The opposite is the reality.

The lion’s share of all money goes to cars and roadways for cars while all other modes are made to beg for scraps or sue to compel what should be the course being set by our own leaders.  We need to create a true network for bikes, starting with University Avenue.  It will be a major step forward to improve our city and the individual well-being of our citizens.

If SANDAG is unable to implement the Uptown bicycle corridor with real, safe bicycle infrastructure throughout this $40 million should be moved to a different neighborhood where such a project can be realized.  If you can’t walk the walk, stop talking the talk.  Greenwashing is not a substitute for responsible, forward-thinking action.

More than two and a half years have passed since $200 million was promised for bike projects by SANDAG.  77 miles of bikeways in 42 projects was promised to be finished within ten years.    Where do we stand today?  Without a single foot of paint striped and the first project gutted and providing a maximum of three blocks of protected bike lanes.  A poor omen for the future projects, unless the desire to see a bicycle network was not genuine in the first place.  Hopefully the remaining projects will see real, on-the-ground results in quick order.  I would not hold my breath.