Saturday Mornings in San Diego

Going for a run on a Saturday morning in San Diego is a great joy.  This is an undeniably outdoor town and seeing people out enjoying the sunshine and each other while I lumber by brings a smile to my face.  The past couple of Saturday mornings I’ve taken a few photos during my runs through Balboa Park and wanted to post them here.

I hope you enjoy your Saturday mornings as well, and sharing and enjoying the beautiful place in which we live.

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Lawn bowling area with symmetry and cool drinking water
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People gathering and strolling along the main East-West corridor in Balboa Park museum campus
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Cactus garden overlooking Florida Canyon, featuring dragonblood trees
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The Plaza de Panama is a great place for sitting for a picnic or coffee with friends.
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An early morning shot (approx. 6:45 AM) with the plaza still in the glow of morning.
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Florida Canyon typically has a small stream flowing, supporting large trees.
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A view from the lower portion of the cactus garden.
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Along 6th Avenue is a popular area for volleyball, frisbee, baby strolling, and napping.
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The Museum of Art recently installed a number of sculptures on the Plaza de Panama. A terrific idea and I love this piece.
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The botanical building is one of the most popular place for a group photo in the park.
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Spring is in bloom along Park Boulevard. (This shot is a bit better than the one with lots of pavement and cars)
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Running the trails in Florida Canyon is a great place to enjoy the outdoors in the heart of the city. Thanks to SD Canyonlands for working to protect our urban open spaces.

Want a Better San Diego in 2016? Make It Happen with Bike San Diego

2016 begins with San Diego looking at some pretty major changes.  Downtown San Diego is experiencing a building boom and has community groups pushing for it be a walkable, bikeable city center.  Awesome.  The San Diego City Council recently unanimously voted to adopt a Climate Action Plan to ensure our city is a leader in moving to renewable energy and reducing emissions.  The plan includes a goal to make biking 6% of commuter mode share by 2020 and 18% by 2035 (in select “Transit Priority Areas”).  Currently the city is around 1% bicycle mode share. Aim high – great.  Last week SANDAG held a meeting for public input regarding a bicycle / pedestrian bridge above Florida Street to connect Hillcrest and North Park.  This week SANDAG holds a meeting for public comment regarding Pershing Drive and creating a high quality bike route from North Park to Downtown.  Good stuff.

Biking is fun.
Biking is fun.

The tough bit about all these goals and plans – and there are many more great projects being proposed – is in making them a reality and backing up words and PowerPoints with actions and improvements on the ground.  Roadway and infrastructure projects changes happen over years, if not decades.  It is not a fast nor easy process and without consistent oversight and public pressure many, if not most, changes and projects will be scrapped a few years after being proprosed or passed.  To see long-term, meaningful progress in making San Diego a world-leader for bicycling is why I support Bike San Diego.

Today I doubled my existing monthly contribution to the organization and I hope you’ll join me and make a recurring donation today.

I have found no organization in San Diego that more strongly and consistently is pushing for real, positive change on our roadways than Bike San Diego.  If you want representation at public meetings, in meetings with elected officials and community groups, and ongoing leadership on the public stage I think you’ll find the same.

2015 was a tough year for biking in San Diego.  The SANDAG Regional Bikeway Projects, announced in September 2013 with $200 million of funding, have yet to paint a single foot of bike lane more than 2 years later.  The first project under this program, in Uptown, had the most critical portion – an East-West connection from Mission Hills to North Park – gutted despite many hours of meetings, and input from the communities to be improved.  I attended many of the meetings for this project, and for a paired project in North Park, and have since wondered why I spent so much time, stress, and effort to see a unanimous vote against bike lanes by the Uptown Planners group.  It has left me pondering if my time would be better spent elsewhere – if the “public outreach meetings” seem intentionally designed to give cover to the pre-ordained outcome as being community supported perhaps attendance is even counter-productive.  Across the bay Coronado was widely panned for ludicrous commentary regarding bike lanes (video below).

My solace comes from the growing bicycling community in San Diego, and the support and leadership shown by Bike San Diego.  We may have lost University Avenue (for now) but we showed up, spoke up, and connected.  At the next set of meetings we’ll be bigger, louder, and more insistent on the outcome of public meetings truly reflecting the content of those meetings.  When 70% of meeting testimony is strongly in support of a project the outcome should not be unanimous in the other direction.  Such disrepect for the public can stand temporarily but over time will not.

Biking is critical to the future of San Diego, if we desire to be a city succeeding in the future.  Look at world-class cities like London, Paris, New York City, Vancouver, Copenhagen, and others – they are embracing biking and walking and reaping immense economic rewards.  The backwaters are not those that walk and bike – they are those that are tripling down on freeways and levelling neighborhoods to pave even more.  Would San Francisco be more successful if four freeways were rammed through it or was the city right to demolish the freeway that long blighted the famed waterfront on the bay?

San Diego has no excuse to not be a world-leader in biking.  We have the best weather in the United States.  We stand to benefit economically, socially, and in health from increased levels of biking (and decreased levels of driving).  We are a major city and should stop pretending we’re a congolmeration of suburbs with a mall as a city center.  We need to get serious about real change on the ground.  Bike San Diego will be there every step of the way but can not do it without support.

Please support Bike San Diego today and help create a better future for our city.

The 2016 Fitness Challenge – You’re Invited!

Friends and Family,
In 2008, an insane tradition was born in the form of a New Year’s Resolution / Fitness Challenge.  Most of you have participated throughout the years, but for any newcomers, here’s a recap of the various challenges:
  • 2008 – 8 minute abs every day
  • 2009 – 1 mile run every day
  • 2010 – The Infamous Push-Up Challenge (1 additional push-up every day)
  • 2011 – Choose your Daily Workout! (20 minutes of running, 15 minutes of jumping rope, or 30 minutes of riding a bicycle)
  • 2012 – The Daily Nutrition Challenge (1 fruit + 1 vegetable + no deep fried foods)
  • 2013 – Choose your Daily Workout! (200 Pushups, 2 Miles Running, 400 Crunches, 4000 Meters Rowing, 600 Jumping Jacks, or 6 Miles Biking)
  • 2014 – 20 minutes of continuous workout each day
  • 2015 – no challenge / lack of interest / the year which shall not be mentioned
With 2016 nearly upon us, there’s still time to assemble a group of like-minded (crazy) fitness junkies.  For the 2016 Challenge, I’m proposing a workout that takes us back to the first two years of the challenge.  A ‘Return to our Roots’ workout:
  • Complete an 8 minute ab workout OR Run 1 Mile every day.  (A suggested 8 minute ab workout is included via youtube link at bottom, but 8 minutes of planking or a similar core workout are also acceptable.  The 1 Mile run is pretty self-explanatory, and can be completed inside, outside, in an airport, in another country, or on a boat.)
Why?
  • Takes less than 10 minutes to complete (assuming you can run a 10 minute mile)
  • Doesn’t require any gear / gym membership / additional purchases
What’s in it for me?
Besides toning up your core muscles and getting in better running shape, there’s a monetary incentive to the challenge each year.  $20 per person goes into the pot, and the ‘last man standing’ wins the money.  If there are multiple winners on 12/31/2016 (or sooner, depending on when the final participants drop out), the winners split the pot.
How do I sign up?
Great!  I’m glad you asked.  To sign up, simply send an email with your ‘verbal commitment.’  Then send in $20 – email for details.
Other important details:
  • The Challenge begins on January 1, 2016 (aka this FRIDAY).
  • You have 24 hours (from midnight to midnight) to complete the daily requirement.
  • This operates on the honor system.  If you fail to run/do your abs within 24 hours of the day, you must email the group (or at least the organizer!) to let us know.
  • Feel free to invite others!  Mo’ participants = mo’ money in the pot.

I think that covers the essentials.  I know it’s a bit daunting to commit to a whole year of daily workouts, but half of the fun lies in taunting and shit-talking with your friends and family.  Besides, even if you successfully complete even 3 months of working out, isn’t that worth the $20 commitment?

Invite your kids, invite your wives.

Go ahead and bookmark this page so you can watch this amazing video daily.  Come on gang, you’re almost there!


Temescal Creek – 374 Acres Of Beautiful San Diego Back Country

I was very happy to be included in an invitation to view and explore a new acquisition by the San Diego River Park Foundation just outside of Julian, California on Saturday, December 5.  Below are a number of photos of the 374 acres that the Foundation is in the process of buying from the current owners.  This acreage surrounds Temescal Creek, a coldwater creek that is part of the San Diego River watershed.  This acquisition will ensure the land is preserved for future generations and remains a wildlife corridor preserve for mountain lions, deer, turkey, hawks, and many other animals.  Executive Director Rob Hutsel noted that the vision is for this space to be open to the public and to host youth for overnight trips to explore and participate in science-focused lessons in nature.

Each September I organize a weekend bicycle ride, Ride For The River Park, from Ocean Beach to Julian and back to promote and support the idea of a continuous path for the entirety of the San Diego River.  2016 will be the 5th year for the event and if you’d like to join we’d love to have you.  My goal is to see this path be a reality by the 10th year of the event – by September of 2021.  The idea and the work is not mine, it is that of the River Park Foundation, I simply want to support and spur on the work they are doing.  At the event on Saturday, a mile marker post was debuted showing the start / end of the San Diego River Trail.  What a beautiful sight to see.

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Much work to be done, but a goal to strive towards.

In the same vein of supporting the vision of a full River Trail, 2015 is the first year for which I am donating 1% of my Airbnb income to charitable causes.  For this year that money is going to the San Diego River Park Foundation.  I got the idea from the 1% For the Planet movement, in which “Members donate at least 1% of sales to nonprofit partners we’ve vetted for participation in the 1% for the Planet network.”  I’m just a single person so after further research it doesn’t seem the 1% For the Planet program is a good fit for my giving.

Instead, I’m working with Airbnb for a roll-out to San Diego of their Charity Donation Tool which currently allows hosts in Portland to opt-in to donate a portion of their revenue to a local charity.  I’m hopeful that this will soon be an option for hosts in San Diego to automatically and regularly support great local charities like the River Park Foundation.  If you’re a host in San Diego and would like to help make this a reality please contact me.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll consider a voluntarily donation to the charity of your choice from your Airbnb (or VRBO or other platform) earnings.

The acreage surrounding Temescal Creek features many mature oaks, ravines, and all sorts of native plants thriving.  A beautiful, peaceful place to enjoy and savor the natural splendor of San Diego and a reminder that without support it will not endure.  It takes the efforts of many to protect and preserve our natural bounty.

[The Temescal Creek property is located at 5030 Eagle Peak Road, Julian, CA 92036 but is not currently open to the public.]

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Personal Finance – Three Broad Points to Start From

I’ve recently been talking about personal finance with a variety of people and following are some broad points that are a good starting point for thinking about finances and developing a game plan.  I hope these notes help you to get organized and put a strategy in place to chase down your goals.

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There’s a lot of beauty in the world. Enjoy it.
  • Know Your Info

    • To decide where to go, you have to know where you are now.  Put together a list of all your accounts – assets and liabilities.  Add the current balance for all the accounts.  I highly recommend using Mint to track balances and where money is earned and spent.  It’s free and a huge, huge help in managing your finances.  This simple exercise is so important and shows you how things stack up.  It might not be pretty.  It might be gorgeous.  Either way, you must know where you stand before you decide where to go.
    • Take it a step further and look at your income and expenses.  For the past month look at what you made and what you spent.  If you’re using Mint this process is automated and you can use the built-in budget and tracking tools to see where you spend and start to identify where you want to make changes.
  • Automate

    • Who wants to spend time paying bills? No one. (Except maybe Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters.)  Automate your finances – savings, bills, etc. – and save yourself time spent on recurring non-value activities.  Take that time and use it to pursue your goals.  Look over last month’s spending and see where you want to trim your budget.  Talk to your spouse about an investment you’re interested in.  Read a post or two by Mr. Money Mustache and learn something new.
    • Automating savings tools is especially valuable.  Put your 401k on auto-pilot, with an automatic annual increase, or open a Betterment account and contribute $10 a week.  You’ll remove the need to consciously choose to contribute and while you’re not paying attention those funds will grow.   Weeks, months, years and the power of compounding really starts to add up and you don’t even have to think about it.  Another benefit is once the money is invested you won’t be tempted to spend it.
  • Prioritize by Size

    • Focus your efforts on the biggest items in your budget whether income or expense.  We all have a limited amount of time and you’re better served prioritizing based on size.  Does the $4 latte you buy daily matter? Yes.  Does your $200,000 mortgage matter more? Yes.  Daily habits are important and consciously working to have healthier, better habits is a lifelong process.  Don’t beat yourself up about the small things – if you’re consistently working on the big things you’ll come out on top.  Taking a look once a year and getting comparison quotes on your insurance or cutting a $100 a month expense is worth more of your time than clipping $2 worth of coupons every week.  Again – good practices on small matters do matter but should be lower on the priority list than large matters.

Once you know where you stand and where you money is going to and coming from you can look at your goals and how you can take action to pursue them.  Best of luck on your financial journey!

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Cars are a huge expense for most Americans. Might be worth thinking about.

Cities Are What We Choose To Make Them

This summer I was fortunate to take a bicycle trip across part of Europe, from Budapest to southern Bavaria (just south of Munich).  It was the first time I had taken a trip primarily by bicycle and it was great.  Unknown to me before our trip, Europe has created a number of cross-continent bicycle routes, named the EuroVelo routes.

We used EuroVelo Route 6, which goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea – most of the route is bicycle only with some portions sharing the road through small villages.  We were only on a small portion of this route since our journey was much shorter than the route.  Here’s an overview of the whole network, it’s amazing.

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Europe’s current network of EuroVelo routes. Likely to expand.

The amount of people we encountered while riding was awesome.  Groups large and small, single riders, day trippers, and those camping along the way.  All enjoying the beautiful Danube River and a peaceful, quiet ride through the countryside and towns both big and small.

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One town we stopped in for a night was Tulln, Austria.  It was a charming town in central Austria with a well-kept town square.  It’s a very old town, first noted in 859, but is making proactive changes to thrive in 21st century and put people first.  The center city recently moved to a 20 kph speed limit for their city center. That’s 12.4 mph.

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This small town, with cobbled streets and narrow roadways went out of it’s way to actively change in a way that makes people feel safe, valued, and welcome.  The EuroVelo system has been created the same way – many people actively choosing to make Europe a place that increasingly values people and is a great place to live.  In Tulln, and many of the other places we visited you were far more likely to see people walking, biking, or sitting and enjoying some sun than you were to see cars rushing to and fro.  In America it is the opposite nearly everywhere – elementary schools, downtowns, suburbs, office parks.  It is this way because we have chosen to build a place that incents and endorses cars above people and community.

The same applies to any community in the world – what it is and what it will become are choices constantly being made.  Our roadways, our buildings, our speed limits are all man-made creations.  The status quo exists because we continue to choose and support it.  Cities like Tulln that are many centuries old have existed through great and terrible periods yet continue to thrive in the 21st century.  Economies change, and so do trends – valuing people and creating great places to live and celebrate life are timeless practices.

What happens when you reduce speeds and limit vehicles? You get more people, more money, and a livelier place to live and visit.  To Tulln – Prosit!

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Misty (Cowles) Mountain Climb

Note: I’m adding some old posts from other sites here over time. This post is from April 24, 2015. Enjoy!

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Cowles Mountain is a classic San Diego hike.  It’s the highest point in the city limits at 1,594 feet, and is popular every day (and many nights) of the year.  Near to San Diego State University and a number of neighborhoods as well as within close distance to much of the city it’s a great, moderate difficulty hike.  The hiking trails are surrounded by native scrub and there is little shade so it’s typically a hot and somewhat dusty climb with views from the Pacific Ocean to Mexico and into the East County reaches of San Diego County.

Today was a much different story.  Heavy cloud cover and fog along with a light drizzle accompanied our upward hike before clearing once we reached the top.  From the summit there was no view to be had, just a ghostly white backdrop.  We had a couple of visitors from Seattle with us, so perhaps for them it wasn’t so atypical but for the San Diegans on the trip it was a unique experience.

Have a great weekend and cross your fingers for more mist – and rain!

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Car Rage – A More Fitting Term

Road rage is defined as “violent anger caused by the stress and frustration involved in driving a motor vehicle in difficult conditions”.  The term has some nice alliteration but a more fitting term would be “car rage”.  Perhaps we use road rage because we don’t want to acknowledge the damage and deaths that our passionate and loving embrace of the automobile causes.  Tens of thousands of deaths every year, yet rarely a headline in the paper.  The deaths are in the paper, just in the small print area inside with some short explanations that will impugn the non-auto parties at every turn.  Lots of mentions of crosswalks, lighting conditions, and visibility of clothing but few notes about Big Gulps, radio fiddling, use of phones, makeup application, driving history, or attention paid to road.

If you walk, or ride the bus, or ride a bicycle you don’t experience the same elevation of pulse, stress level, and anger as experienced when driving – especially at high speeds.  It seems mostly confined to the experience of driving in an automobile.  So perhaps we should retire “road rage” and start using “car rage”.  It won’t do much for the victims but it will at least change the conversation a bit and recognize that the most aggressive parties on our roads (which includes in front of our homes, schools, and businesses) are those using motor vehicles.

There is also a definition for “bike rage” and helpfully included in the examples section are all the different attack methods of cyclists.  For some reason, in the road rage entry (below) there not similarly prominent categories regarding attacks by car drivers.

bike rage

Here’s the road rage entry with some bland categories.  The mentions of violence included regard shootings: guns = dangerous, cars = Hello Kitty.  It’s almost like we don’t take the responsibility and risk of driving a massive vehicle at high speeds seriously.

 

 

road rage

Drive safe, drive slow, drive less.  Avoid car rage.

Bike Sexy Debut – Tees Now Available

Excited to announce that I’m working with Ryan Woldt of Socalsessions.com on a project we’ve dubbed “Bike Sexy”.  Basically we think that riding a bike is sexy and we want to encourage people to be loud and proud about it.  Being healthy, having fun, helping the planet, saving some money, connecting with your community – how much better does it get? #bikesexy

Our first Bike Sexy product is a sweet black t-shirt with silver reflective ink.  The material is light combed cotton that is super soft.  You can order online here or hit one of us up personally.

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Awesome shirt for awesome you

Props also to Ryan for last week’s debut of Night Rider, a film produced with Cool Guys Productions giving a view of the joy of biking in San Diego at night.  I’m looking forward to many more video projects highlighting the cultural importance (and fun!) of biking here.  Check out the short film below with great music from local band Dead Feather Moon.

Bonus thank you to Ryan for putting together the first Undie Bike Ride in San Diego which took place in Pacific Back on September 17th.  Thanks to everyone that came out and hope you had a great time!

Pershing Drive Bicycle Corridor – It’s Go Time

SANDAG is preparing to implement bicycle improvements to Pershing Drive in the near future, creating a safe and functional route from North Park and surrounding communities to Downtown.  This is part of the $200M SANDAG bicycle corridors program which has yet to stripe a single foot of bike lane in the nearly 3 years since being announced.  The first project, running through Hillcrest, gutted the most important segment – an east-west connection to North Park – at the last moment as detailed in this film by Dennis Stein.

Pershing Drive is very different from University Avenue; it lies in a park rather than popular communities.  Pershing Drive is currently a fantastic bicycle connection in many ways.  It runs through the middle of Balboa Park’s open space area.  Heading into town it offers gorgeous views of Los Coronados islands, Coronado Bridge, and Downtown.  It connects the densely populated neighborhoods of Uptown and Mid-City to Downtown.  However, it is also very intimidating to bike on.  The painted lanes are adjacent to high-speed roadways with speed limits of 45-50 MPH (and we all know that 5-10 above that is the likely reality).  Heading into Downtown, cyclists need to cross two separate onramps to Interstate 5, while drivers are ramping up to Interstate speeds. Both onramps lie behind curving corners with limited visibility.

I’ve been writing about the dangers of biking on Pershing Drive since early 2014 and serious injuries continue to accrue.

So how do we best create a functional, safe and protected bicycle corridor on Pershing Drive? Following are a number of specific ideas for what this project should look like.  We should start with context and a general guideline.  This project lies in the heart of Balboa Park – it should connect with and enhance the park, not take away from it.  A guideline that should lead any transport project is to put people first – and that means pedestrians first, bicycles second, public transit third, and private automobile fourth.  This is the hierarchy of preference used by the City of Chicago Department of Transportation and one that San Diego should adopt.

The Pershing Drive bicycle corridor should establish a two-way bike lane and two-way walking / running path adjacent to the Balboa Park golf course on the south / east side of Pershing Drive.  The entry point would be located at Redwood & 28th.  By siting the path on this side of Pershing the major friction points of the I-5 onramps are avoided (which fall under CalTrans purview and would be very difficult to address).  It also presents the opportunity to put those biking or jogging in a shaded and enjoyable place along the roadway.

  • Connect the two halves of Bird Park at the north terminus of Pershing Drive (at 28th Street) and direct traffic either east on Redwood or north on Arnold.  This will add parkland and avoid much of the backup that results from the awkward and overly large intersection now present at that location.
  • Reduce speeds for the entirety of Pershing Drive from the current 45-50 MPH to 35 MPH maximum and 25 MPH within 1,000 feet of the terminus at either end.
  • Add a path for those biking, walking, or jogging along the south side of the Naval Hospital to add a connection from Golden Hill and South Park to Balboa Park, as well as a connection for those traversing the improved Pershing Drive bicycle corridor.
  • Create dedicated and protected space for running / walking / jogging as well as for bicycling.  Pershing Drive runs through the heart of Balboa Park and the context of this project matters.  We should seek to improve the park as a whole with any project lying inside it.  The space for biking and jogging should be protected by a concrete barrier or other substantial method.
  • Reduce Pershing Drive to one travel lane in each direction.  There is one through street that intersects Pershing Drive currently – Florida Drive / 26th Street (the road changes names at the intersection).  Other than this street there are only entry points for service yards and parking lots at the Velodrome and the Morley Field frisbee golf course.  This matters because a prominent reason for back-up on a street can be waiting for an opportunity to turn.  That option is very limited on Pershing Drive, greatly reducing the need for additional traffic lanes.
  • Establish trees on both sides of Pershing Drive as protective barriers for the bicycle lanes (on the south / east side) and for the running paths on the opposite side of the roadway.
  • Establish vines on the high fences adjacent the Balboa Park golf course and a tree line inside the fence on the golf course to provide shade for the bicycle path, better utilize the irrigation on the course, provide privacy for golf course users, and improve the aesthetics of the road for drivers.
  • Utilize a maximum lane width of 10 feet for all travel lanes on Pershing Drive.  Any additional space should be reverted to parkland and narrower traffic lanes will decrease the incentive to speed on the roadway.
  • To connect the Pershing Drive bicycle corridor to adjacent neighbors add additional bicycle infrastructure on adjoining streets.  These include: close Florida Drive to vehicle traffic to restore Florida Canyon while incorporating a biking and walking path.  Add a painted bike line going up 26th Street into Golden Hill – the current road width does not appear to have sufficient space for a lane on both sides and the high speed differential going uphill warrants a lane before one descending onto Pershing or Florida.

Additional details will follow this post, including street sketches and other visuals.  The important thing is to gather community support for real improvements now, and to do so in a constructive way.  This is not about bikes vs. cars – it’s about taking real action about public health, climate change, quality of life, park space.  In general, it’s about making the project area better for all San Diegans.  We cannot afford to let basic, functional bicycle infrastructure get axed in a program specifically designed to create bicycle infrastructure, as happened in Hillcrest.

I would love feedback and criticisms or additional suggestions regarding Pershing Drive.  Please drop them in the comments, social media, or email.  Thank you.