During his mayoral campaign, Bob Filner often voiced his desire to hold an event that would close roads to cars and allow pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy a section of the city without fear of a collision with a one-ton metal object.

The event, CicloSDias, was modeled after Los Angeles’ monthly Ciclavia, and is aimed at promoting cycling and building momentum for related infrastructure needs.

CicloSDias took place Sunday, mostly along 30th Street from Grant Hill and into City Heights, and was largely well received.

Ed Clancy, Filner’s manager of bicycle initiatives, orchestrated the event with the help of a group of committed cycling advocates and volunteers.

Clancy, also the point man on implementing the city’s bike-share program, set to begin early in 2014, talked with VOSD Monday about how he’ll follow up the event.

Questions and responses have been lightly edited.

I realize it’s only been a day, but do you have any turnout estimates, compared to expectations?

We had counters and surveyors on site, and we need to connect with them later today or tomorrow to have a closer estimate. Expectations were 10,000 to 15,000. I would feel comfortable saying we had more than that, based on how it was received throughout the community, end-to-end and citywide.

The idea, in addition to being an enjoyable event, was also exposure and “proof of concept” to the city. Once you establish awareness, how does that help make San Diego a more bike-friendly city?

In May, June and July, when we were doing CicloSDias minis in smaller sections, we were studying people’s responses to health, environment and economic arguments for doing such a thing. We’ll review that data, and it essentially gives us that tangible element of how we can do this, and how it’ll contribute to the fabric of communities, alternative transportation and the opportunity to continue to bring these to respective neighborhoods so it brings up the awareness, the safety and the opportunity to enjoy all this open space we don’t usually enjoy without vehicle traffic. So we’re heavily engaged right now in the post-strategic outlook, and then to continue the momentum.

With the first one, it’s hard to explain to people what it actually is until they experience it. And L.A. has experienced the same concept. Once people do it, they come back a second, third, fifth time, and bring more people along, and that increases the dialog to improve infrastructure and alternative transportation needs.

Does capitalizing on that momentum then mean planning another event, to start making the event regular, or are you looking for something else?

[Biking advocate] Sam Ollinger sent me a note today saying, ‘When do we start planning the next one?’ and in some regards the initial groundwork has started. We want to do one in Pacific Beach. I’ve had a couple meetings with them over the past few months, mentioning that we want to do the next one there. It’s started, now we need to sit down and go through the strategic planning and outreach, all that stuff.

It would be connecting PB to OB. I’d recommend we do that early in the year, say like April. So that next year in August again, we can do the third one at that time, because the goal is to have two next year.

It’d eventually be an every-six-months thing then?

That’s next year’s goal. The year after that we’d want to have three.

For PB and OB then, would the plan be to go through Ingraham Street?

That’s … wow …  I like that. (Laughs.) That’s very good.

But let me suggest this. The next event, in the spring, will be a new neighborhood. We want to do PB-OB, Ingraham is actually a really good idea, but I want to take a step back. What I’m proposing is that’ll be zone two. The one we did yesterday will be zone one. Next August we’d come back to zone one, but we’d change the route, with an existing portion of the route from this year, but maybe it goes south and then west into downtown, from Golden Hill. So use an existing portion of the zone, as we build up the momentum to three per year, and keep changing the route each year so each neighborhood feels the sensation and excitement to promote itself.

The other side of capitalizing on momentum seems not only to be to perpetuate the event, but also to use it to improve infrastructure, or enact policy outside of the event itself. What are you doing to make that happen?

For this event, we were working with the transportation department, the streets department, MTS and other stakeholders. The section of Grape Street, on 30th, down to Beech Street, needed some pothole repairs. They looked at the schedule and saw next year it’s due for underground work, so we could patch those holes, but we weren’t going to spend time or money on fixing the section since it was just going to be ripped up.

The focus on infrastructure is: When the event is coming, we say, ‘Let’s fix it, let’s paint it,’ we put in bike racks. Bike share had a kiosk on display, and bike share is coming to every neighborhood in the city, so it was a snapshot of what’s to come for infrastructure and for the bike program as a whole. So there are a lot of opportunities we can tap into for infrastructure from different angles.

Is there any sort of long-term policy fix you’re looking to, in addition to using this to help instigate infrastructure improvements?

Well, yeah. I can’t discuss policy, but I can say it’s more about implementation. With bike share coming, we need the commuters and the new riders to be able to get from A to B, with way finders, with green bike lanes and safe bike lanes or whatever it might be.

And we’re also talking to SANDAG, and Civic San Diego, and all the community groups, and working together, on building up that infrastructure and community involvement.

At the regional level, SANDAG has the fast-track 10-year program coming up for approval next month. Do you think the awareness component of CicloSDias plays into that vote at all?

I’d have to rethink what SANDAG’s proposing. In the simple context, the organizer for Los Angeles was here yesterday to check out and support us, and he worked with (former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) and the new mayor who came in and said, ‘I want to do one every month.’ So if we look at that, with the growth and momentum of CicloSDias, if we want to do it every month then yeah, we have to look at SANDAG and how they’ll be and how efficient they’ll be with the early action plan. And if we can go around the city, hopefully in the future, on a regular basis, then we need widespread collaboration and cooperation to be one of the top cities in the country.

What’s standing in the way to getting on a monthly schedule, as opposed to two to three times a year?

The first time you do it you have to show what it is, just like branding anything. After that, it’s just time really. The more we have, the more we’re used to it. Once that message starts getting out there, don’t see anything keeping it from happening. Bogata, Colombia, does it every week.

How much have you heard from people opposed to the event, that it messed up their travel plans or parking or whatever else?

(Laughs.) Yes, there have been some. Within a five-minute walk of the route, we put out 25,000 flyers to every home, every business, every car on the street, in addition to what city requirements were. So basically we went three to five times more than the requirement for notifications.  It was, in total, less than 1 percent of responses, the negative things we heard.

Photo courtesy of Jacob McKean of Modern Times Beer.

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Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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