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While others are debating what it’s like to get around on public transportation, I want to bring into focus San Diego’s relationship to bicycles and bicycling.

Last year our editor Andrew Donohue wrote fondly about Minneapolis’ bike rental system, speculating “it would probably take just one small nonprofit or one major philanthropist to accomplish” it here in San Diego. Abundant bikes available at a cheap price throughout the city could change the way tourists and locals get around and their relationship to the city.

He’s not the only one who’s thinking along those lines. Below are three more ideas about how taking bikes and bicycling more seriously in San Diego could improve our quality of life.

Jonathan Cabral:

Make the city more bicycle-friendly. Create lanes for bicycles. Create an inexpensive online program to register and address the underreported, substantial stolen bike issue.

The Stolen Bicycle Registry may go some way towards helping to recover stolen bikes. What else do you think would help? What is “bicycle-friendly” to you?

Stephen Gordon:

Have you ever been to The Netherlands? After the war they developed an entirely separate travel system for bicycle use. It is well-used, healthful and safe. It would be wonderful if San Diego worked on such a system in its planning.

Currently, bicycle use in San Diego is inconvenient and dangerous but with long-term planning this could change. And bicycles are starting to appear in electrical versions. They can be stored easily and employers could easily provide shower areas for people bike commuting.

Someone who seems to agree: Sam Ollinger, writing on the Bike San Diego website, called the Bicycle Plan in SANDAG’s 2050 Regional Transportation plan “disappointingly vague.”

More ideas about bicycles from Don Gillies:

San Diego has some of the most beautiful countryside in all of California. And with great weather 350 days out of the year, it’s a perfect place for bicycle commuters to take advantage of the great outdoors in getting to work.

Unfortunately, the city of San Diego does not agree.

There are a large number of very difficult and dangerous areas for bicyclists in San Diego, which is evidenced by the large number of fatalities on bicycles here, per capita. The basic problem is that each mesa in San Diego is poorly and dangerously connected to every other mesa via a high-speed road with very little thought given to bicycle transportation. In other cities, when the difference between bike speed and car speed exceeds 25 MPH, they put in dividers (not just painted stripes) so that bicycles have a large measure of safety.

Particular problem areas are in getting from UTC and University City (both bedroom communities) to the Sorrento Valley/Mira Mesa area. For example, my own commute is four miles by car and eight miles by bike, because I don’t ride on highways and I don’t enjoy one-mile grades at 13% to get up into Sorrento Valley.

I would not be surprised if San Diego ranks near the bottom of the nation in terms of monies invested in bicycle transportation per mile of road.

Don left a note for us: “Research assignment: How does San Diego compare in bike fatalities to other cities?”

According to Ted Rogers of the Biking in LA blog (which pays attention to bicycling in the seven Southern California counties), there have been 11 traffic-related bike deaths in San Diego County so far this year, which “compares to an average of just under seven deaths each year in the San Diego area, and is just one below the 55 deaths recorded in the seven county SoCal region in each of the last two years currently on record.” (He later sent me a note and a link to a story about another death of a bicyclist: “Make that 12.”)

I’m looking further into data that compares San Diego to other cities, but according to Bicycling.com, San Diego is not in the top 50 bike-friendly cities.

So my question for you: What’s it going to take to bring bicycles in San Diego to the next level? How would life change for you if bicycling was a more practical (and safer) way to commute, play or exercise in San Diego? Do you think we could establish a biking culture that is so strong it could be an important part of marketing the region to visitors?

By the way, here’s a calendar of regular biking events throughout the area and a few more are here.

I’m Grant Barrett, engagement editor for voiceofsandiego.org, in part a new-fangled opinion editor. Got some strong opinions and ideas? Let me help you get them in front of tens of thousands of readers. Drop me a line at grant@voiceofsandiego.org or call me at (619) 550-5666.

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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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