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The easiest first step to giving San Diego more of a bicycling mindset would be to get the community more engaged. Most San Diegans are already in favor of biking in some form.
The absence of political will to consider and speak up about expanding our transportation options definitely sends a message that bicycling is not welcome as a transportation option. But I sense that San Diegans are wising up and making their own choices in how they want to get around. Just look at the sort of comments you get on the local bike forums.
However, some businesses are making an end run around the lackluster leaders by catering to cyclists in a variety of methods. For example, the discount program managed by the San Diego Bike Union sends a message that a business who is part of the program welcomes and rewards patrons who will transport themselves by bike.
Other businesses are creating and installing bike racks outside their business to give a visual signal that they welcome bicyclists and also contributing needed public art in a city that doesn’t have much public art. Many businesses in the mid-city region do this already. This is also evident in the beach neighborhoods where many of the residents patronize local businesses by bike despite the poor condition of roads, the lack of bicycle facilities or political will to expand the region’s transportation options.
One easy way for bicyclists to become more visible is for residents to start biking, either alone or in group rides. The visual impact of a variety of residents on two wheels is definitely one easy way to send a message to the powers that be that bicycling is both accepted and a viable method of transportation. This was one of the ways residents in San Francisco, Portland and even New York got their elected officials to change how transportation was seen.
The next step is to get the traditionally shy San Diegan to become more engaged with the political process through baby steps. This is easily done by reporting street problems (especially with regard to bicycling) and by asking their council member to implement policies to make bicycling a more welcoming mode of transportation.
With these two simple steps, San Diegans can then move onward. I have found tremendous success just by complaining on a regular basis to my councilman, Todd Gloria. I specifically complained a lot about potholes and now we’re finally on our way to getting decent roads that don’t wreak havoc on my bike or my wrist. He has also learned to talk about bicycling when giving speeches about transportation, so it is an indication that he is aware of his constituents’ needs.
Sam Ollinger is the main editor of BikeSD.org. She lives in City Heights.