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We’ve got great weather, we’ve got great scenery, we’ve got hundreds of miles of bike lanes, and thousands of fit and healthy people. Bicycling in San Diego SHOULD be great. 

So why isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong – bicycling in San Diego could be a lot worse. Judging by the number of riders on any Saturday along Pacific Coast Highway, many people feel like bicycling around here isn’t so bad. But when you compare the percentage of people who ride to work in San Diego versus other parts of the country, it’s clear we have a long way to go. Even Fresno is doing better than we are.

What do they have that we don’t?

Some things are obvious. Davis doesn’t have hills. Sacramento has the American River Bike Path and a downtown friendly to bicyclists. Seattle has the Burke-Gilman Trail. Portland has a network of ‘bicycle boulevards’.

But it isn’t just about great facilities. It’s about communities with short distances between where people live, work, shop and play. It’s about drivers that understand and respect bicyclists’ right to the road.  It’s about bicyclists that ride safely, legally and responsibly.

Portland started ten years ago with the same general configuration as San Diego, but with a commitment to make bicycling better. The number of bicycle commuters in Portland has doubled in the last ten years.

If Portland can do it, so can we.

Right now we’re at a crossroads for bicycling in San Diego. Gas is $4.50 a gallon. The obesity and diabetes health issues have become epidemics. Greenhouse gas emissions (about 40% of which come from our transportation system) are a growing problem. Bicycling can be a part of solving all those problems, if we want it to be.

It’s not enough to build a bike path. We can’t possibly build a whole separate transportation system for bicyclists – we don’t have that kind of money. What we can do is plan and build systems (both facilities and programs) that recognize and capitalize on the contribution bicycling can make to ourselves and our communities.

One effort to do that is the SANDAG Regional Bike Plan, underway right now. You can comment online at www.sandag.org/bicycleplan (www.sandag.org/bicycleplan). Those comments will go into creating the blueprint for bicycling in San Diego County for the next 20 years, so think big!

I look forward to today’s discussion in the Cafe – I want to hear what people like and don’t like about bicycling in San Diego County. Do you think it’s worth the effort to make bicycling better? If so, what exactly do you think would improve things?

KATHY KEEHAN

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