By car and on foot, tens of thousands of people cross the San Ysidro Port of Entry each day, spending hours amid fumes of border traffic. But people on bicycles are a rare sight.
Lately, though, transportation advocates have been talking about opening a bike lane between Tijuana and San Diego. And eventually linking the two countries with a bike route that runs from Point Loma to Tijuana’s outlying southeastern neighborhoods.
This idea is taking shape as the cities prepare for the World Design Capital 2024 – the first time a cross-border region has received the designation from the World Design Organization, a Montreal-based nonprofit.
The calendar for next year already includes dozens of events intended to feature design-driven innovations that can enhance the cross-border region. Organizers also want to bring visibility to long-term projects with lasting impact that will continue beyond 2024.
One of those projects – not yet formally proposed – is being spearheaded by Tijuana’s Economic Development Council, a nonprofit business planning group that works closely with the state and local governments. The Tijuana EDC, which joined forces with Tijuana cycling activists, envisions connecting the city to San Diego’s Border to Bayshore Bikeway, a 6.7-mile route being built by SANDAG between Imperial Beach and the San Ysidro border.
“We will end up with a cross-border bike loop. That would be, as far as I know, unique in the world, which is fantastic,” said Carlos de la Mora, CEO of World Design Capital 2024.
The next move is up to the Mexican side. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is unlikely to even contemplate a bike lane at San Ysidro unless Tijuana first builds its own bike route to the border, said Tomas Perez, a board member of the Tijuana EDC who focuses on the city’s mobility issues.
A critical step is to restore Ciclovia Tijuana, an existing two-mile bike path on the levee of the Tijuana River channel near the U.S. border. Design studies are currently underway for two ramps that will allow cyclists easy access to the path, which would eventually be extended for several miles into the city.
Perez believes the government resources are there, and the private sector could be willing to sponsor some sections. But also critical is the support of cycling activists who have spent years demanding bicycle infrastructure.
“Not everybody has to be an activist, we’re happy to join forces with people who have different points of view,” said Elizabeth Hensley Chaney, a member of the Tijuana nonprofit Alianza Para La Movilidad Activa, A.C. “If World Design Capital joins us, they are welcome.”
A Bit of History
There was a time when bicycles crossed easily through the vehicle lanes at San Ysidro. Back in the late 1990s, I used to join Tijuana friends on cross-border bike rides. We’d weave our way through lines of waiting cars, stopping at the inspection booth, then pedal onward to San Ysidro and beyond. Back then, cyclists were a rarity at the border crossing.
But the numbers of cyclists crossing at San Ysidro swelled to as many as 2,000 per day in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when heightened security measures led to regular two-hour waits in the vehicle lanes.
In response, U.S. Customs and Border Protection moved cyclists out of the vehicle lanes, allowing them to cut to the front of the pedestrian line. Eventually bike rental businesses saw an opportunity, renting old bikes to border crossers so they could get to the front of the line. But in 2006, CBP ended the practice, requiring cyclists to wait in line with pedestrians – an often lengthy and cumbersome process.
While San Diego has 1,340 miles of bikeways, Tijuana currently has two bikeways that together measure eight miles.
The city’s cyclists celebrated an important victory last year, when Tijuana’s City Council unanimously endorsed two bike path proposals championed by a citizens advisory group. The proposals, which are not funded, place priority on building a new bike path in Otay Mesa, as well as restoring the existing Ciclovia Tijuana bike path, and extending it several miles to connect to Rodriguez Dam, where the state is planning a park.
Former Baja California Governor, Eugenio Elorduy Walther, Dies at 82
Eugenio Elorduy Walther, governor of Baja California from 2001 to 2007, died following an illness last month at his home in Mexicali at the age of 82.
Elorduy, a longtime member of Mexico’s conservative National Action Party (PAN), spent years struggling against the dominance of Mexico’s long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.
Elorduy was both a political and business leader, and owned Mexicali’s largest Ford dealership. A fluent English speaker, he was a champion of cross-border ties.
Elorduy joined the PAN in 1967 when it was a small opposition party. He lost his initial bids for public office, claiming fraud in 1983 when he lost Mexicali’s mayoral election to the PRI candidate.
Elorduy, who was six feet four inches tall, “imposed himself, not only by his stature, but through his leadership,” said Luis Carlos Lopez Ulloa, a political historian at the Autonomous University of Baja California. “I always saw him as someone with the personality typical of someone from northern Mexico–very direct, rough, but at the same time very pleasant and accessible.”
Elorduy served as campaign coordinator for Ernesto Ruffo, a PAN member who became Mexico’s first opposition governor in 1989. Elorduy later served as Ruffo’s finance secretary. In 1995, Elorduy became Mexicali’s first PAN mayor. Six years later, he was elected the state’s fourth PAN governor.
During his gubernatorial tenure, Baja California boomed economically, but the rising violence in the state led to protests by business and civic leaders. He was still governor in early 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon sent thousands of troops to the state to fight drug traffickers.
Born in a Calexico hospital, Elorduy grew up in a well-to-do Mexicali family. He studied in California, graduating from the Jesuit-run Loyola High School in Los Angeles before earning a degree in business administration at Mexico’s Monterrey Technical Institute.