Filner’s Promises: Gearing Up for More Bikes

Filner’s Promises: Gearing Up for More Bikes

File photo by Sam Hodgson

George and Janet Keller steer their tandem bike around parked cars on India Street.

 

Image: Working On ItThe Promise: To make San Diego more bike-friendly and to host events to celebrate walking and biking.

Determination:Working On It

Mayor Bob Filner wants to make San Diego the bicycling capital of the nation but he admits he’ll need to sell the idea to most residents first.

That’s why he’s planning CicloSDias, a 5.2 mile-bicycle ride through the city from Logan Heights to City Heights. Come Aug. 11, Filner plans to shutter the area to car traffic to raise awareness of the benefits of cycling and walking. He hopes to host many similar events, though he hasn’t said how often he’ll host them.

As he campaigned for mayor, Filner promised to create the street fair as part of his larger goal of making San Diego more bikeable and walkable.

This pledge is one of many we’ll be checking as part of our effort to evaluate the mayor’s performance. (You can check the full list of promises we’ll be tracking here.)

Filner’s idea isn’t a new one. He’s borrowed the concept, best known as ciclovia, from Bogota, Colombia. The city has long hosted weekly community bike rides on Sundays. Los Angeles and other U.S. cities now host similar rides.

Filner thinks the events will give San Diegans a greater understanding of bicyclists and their concerns.

But the concept of shutting out cars hints at Filner’s larger challenge: San Diego’s streets aren’t truly bike-friendly unless the cars disappear.

The mayor acknowledges as much.

“We are building up support for building up a bike infrastructure,” he said. “How do you bike from one part of the city to another? You can’t right now. That’s gonna cost money and it needs political support so we’re trying to build that up through these little smaller events.”

Still, support for improvements is growing.

Last week, the San Diego City Council approved a resolution to emphasize a symbolic commitment to develop more bike-friendly infrastructure at intersections and unsafe roadways across the city.

And late last month, Filner and others celebrated the opening of the city’s fourth bike corral in Hillcrest.

At the Feb. 25 press conference, Filner promised bicycle enthusiasts something more: “We’re gonna have a whole infrastructure that ties together this city from south to north, from east to west, with adequate biking,” he said. “It’s great for our psyche, it’s great for our bodies, it’s great for our souls, it’s great for our city.”

He hasn’t offered specifics on what that infrastructure might look like but the city’s bicycling advocates are optimistic.

Samantha Ollinger, executive director of BikeSD, said she introduced the ciclovia concept to Filner early in his mayoral campaign. He’s talked about it ever since.

She believes the new mayor could usher in bold changes in how car-centric San Diegans view cyclists.

“I knew for a very long time that unless the mayor came on strongly this was not going to go anywhere,” she said.

Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, said he’s excited to see San Diego join a larger contingent of cities with ciclovia events.

Both Hanshaw and Ollinger’s group, as well as a handful of others, have met multiple times with Ed Clancy, the new manager of the city’s bicycle initiatives. Clancy, who served as Filner’s campaign manager in his run for mayor, is a longtime cyclist.

That the mayor has hired someone to handle such efforts shows the mayor’s commitment, Hanshaw said.

These efforts and the announcement of the August event earn Filner a “Working On It” rating but he has much more to do if he aims to follow through on his pledge to make the city more bikable.

It’s relatively easy to create a new event but it’s much more challenging to come up with the funding and public support necessary to make infrastructure changes.

Council President Todd Gloria is familiar with those roadblocks.

Gloria, who represents mid-city neighborhoods that many bike activists call home, said he actually proposed a ciclovia event more than two years ago. It never materialized.

And in his first term, it took more than two years to add arrows, known as sharrows, to some city streets to indicate that motorists need to share their lane with bicyclists.

The city has since added the bike corrals and is expected to unveil a bike-sharing program this summer. (For more details on the program, check out this post.)

Gloria believes the new mayor’s interest and the recent City Council support bode well for bicyclists but emphasized that supporters must be prepared to explain why improved infrastructure will benefit all San Diegans and why it’s worth the cost.

“It’s going to take a lot of will to do that,” he said.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa.halverstadt@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

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21 comments
hiker99
hiker99

At last someone is looking out for cyclists. When I moved to San Diego in the 80s it was considered one of the best places for cycling. I did many long distance rides on weekends and saw more of San Diego on a bike than in a car. Over the years it has become increasingly more dangerous to ride. And, cycling lanes are always low on the budget. Highway 52 was supposed to have a bicycle path from Santee to La Jolla. It was to be separate from the car lanes. But, it was cut. However, a small lane was finally created that runs from Santee to Tierrasanta - better than nothing. But, more should be done. There are many people like myself who would bike to work if that were possible. I will support Filner and anyone who works to make San Diego bicycle friendly once again.

Bill Davidson
Bill Davidson subscriber

Where does your $1 million/mile figure come from. There is no way that they cost that much.

billdsd
billdsd

Where does your $1 million/mile figure come from. There is no way that they cost that much.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

It has nothing to do with energy savings or health. It has to do with greed and selfishness.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

It has nothing to do with energy savings or health. It has to do with greed and selfishness.

David Cohen
David Cohen subscriber

This 70-year-old has not been on a bicycle in ~25 years and will not be in the future, but I support using tax monies to create bike lanes to encourage increased energy-saving and healthful use of urban bicycling for transportation and recreation. What special interest, self-interest do I represent so my support can be summarily dismissed?

fryefan
fryefan

This 70-year-old has not been on a bicycle in ~25 years and will not be in the future, but I support using tax monies to create bike lanes to encourage increased energy-saving and healthful use of urban bicycling for transportation and recreation. What special interest, self-interest do I represent so my support can be summarily dismissed?

Bill Davidson
Bill Davidson subscriber

Your focus on the trivial makes your bigotry against bicyclists is clear.

billdsd
billdsd

Your focus on the trivial makes your bigotry against bicyclists is clear.

Bill Davidson
Bill Davidson subscriber

Bicyclists already pay more than their fair share for the roads through general fund taxes, no matter how much you insist upon denying the evidence.

billdsd
billdsd

Bicyclists already pay more than their fair share for the roads through general fund taxes, no matter how much you insist upon denying the evidence.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Of course if they licensed bikes to raise money with fees, that could make a difference.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Of course if they licensed bikes to raise money with fees, that could make a difference.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage subscribermember

Linked above is our plan for an Elevated Pedestrian and Bicycle Cycleway for public safety between downtown to the San Diego River, along the publically owned Trolley tracks. The idea is based on a proposed Elevated HarbourLink in Sydney, Australia that was never built.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage

Linked above is our plan for an Elevated Pedestrian and Bicycle Cycleway for public safety between downtown to the San Diego River, along the publically owned Trolley tracks. The idea is based on a proposed Elevated HarbourLink in Sydney, Australia that was never built.

John Anderson
John Anderson subscriber

Thanks for reporting on this and looking forward to more stories on bicycling in San Diego (and the improvements to bicycling infrastructure). Also enjoyed the fact check on trees in SD.

John Anderson
John Anderson

Thanks for reporting on this and looking forward to more stories on bicycling in San Diego (and the improvements to bicycling infrastructure). Also enjoyed the fact check on trees in SD.