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I read your blog about fixing San Diego’s bike lanes. Thank you.
I live in PB and work downtown and have been commuting to work occasionally via bicycle for about three years. During this time, I have come to the conclusion that San Diego is the one of the most unfriendly bicycle cities.
I moved here from Denver twenty years ago and that city has connected the downtown center with segregated bicycle paths from north, south, east and west. I have had the fortune to spend some time in Amsterdam this year for work at all times of year.
Perhaps most striking are not the thousands and thousands of people who commute there in good weather, but the stunning number of people who commute there in the cold and rain. What a fabulous city. Whole families biking together from five-year-olds to grandparents. Amazing contraptions that hold two kids, groceries and the family dog.
After my trips this year, I am very interested in helping make San Diego a safer place to commute on a bicycle. This only makes sense. My commute for example is about 20-25 minutes in a car and 40-50 minutes on my bike. Every year when I ride on Bike to Work Day, I am so frustrated how few people take advantage of this city’s fine weather. A little research reveals how cut off most commuters are to a safe ride to downtown.
Thank you for pointing out how cutoff the various mesas are in San Diego. I would also like to point out a few other outrageous bike safety problems.
First, on the subject of mesas, how about the problem of riding from North County? If the coastal route is not convenient, the rider must ride on I-5!
Second, on my commute from PB to downtown, you only have to go through a few of the most dangerous intersections to understand why most people avoid bicycling. For example, the Nimitz, Interstate 8, SeaWorld Drive, Sunset Cliffs intersection is a nightmare and requires southbound travelers to cross heavy traffic from the SeaWorld drive bridge to Sunset Cliffs if they want to continue on Nimitz to ride downtown.
Once you have negotiated that dangerous merge, the bike lane ends where Nimitz crosses West Point Loma Drive only to start up again 50 yards after the intersection.
Although you can avoid the crazy merge and the bike lane suspension by staying on the San Diego River bike trail and then take Voltaire, this adds at least 15 minutes to the ride and then forces the rider to confront dangerous portions of Voltaire, which has no bike lanes at all.
Third, speaking of Sunset Cliffs and Point Loma, there is no safe way to ride down Rosecrans. The bike lane on that street is so poorly and inconsistently marked, riding there is foolhardy. (I believe one of the 12 fatalities in the past year you mentioned occurred near Rosecrans and Nimitz.)
Fourth, if I decide to take the coast highway to my office instead of Nimitz (and crank out a few laps at Fiesta Island on the way) portions of that route have a decent bike route. Problem is, portions of that route are also life-threatening. The Pacific Highway and Rosecrans intersection feels exposed.
That exposure is nothing compared to the underpass where the Pacific Highway merges with Midway Drive. The underpass even has a bike route sign inviting the bicyclist to a dangerous blind merge where motorist accelerate onto the Pacific Highway with a 50 mph speed limit! This so-called bike path has to be one of the most dangerous spots in the city.
Fifth, why is the route around San Diego Bay incomplete? Portions require a ride through the industrial section that have damaged or incomplete bike lanes.
Obviously, the list of problems is far from complete. What makes the dangerous portions of all these rides the most puzzling is that other huge sections of these rides have adequate to very good bike lanes. To me, this list really highlights the largest problems with San Diego’s bike lanes: incomplete construction and inconsistent implementation. A great bike lane will suddenly end at a super-busy intersection while the opposing direction will have a continuous lane. (Example, where Nimitz meets Rosecrans.) This problem plays out all over San Diego.
Perhaps the best way to tackle these bike lane problems is to focus on fixing the incomplete/dangerous portions of these commuting routes first instead of making the entire city bike-friendly. Maybe a strategy could be developed to tackle each route one at a time. For example, fixing the Pacific Highway route alone would open a new corridor that has plenty of room for a completely segregated route. One technique employed in Amsterdam that is very effective would also make biking here much safer is giving bike lanes their own traffic signals at busy intersections.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions how I can help make San Diego a safer city for bicycling, I am open to suggestions.
Henry Rosen lives in Pacific Beach.