To Those That Worked to Thwart the SANDAG Uptown Bike Project: Blood is on Your Hands

When a family was struck by a vehicle while in a crosswalk on 4th and University in the heart of Hillcrest, some news reports describe that the vehicle “collided” with the family, but that is false. When a vehicle strikes a human being, it strikes flesh and bone, causing immediate and often permanent injury. This happens to our friends, family, and neighbors twice a day on average.

We find it unacceptable that any pedestrian or bicycle rider might be struck, injured, killed, or terrorized by fast-moving vehicle traffic in a thickly populated, business district such as Hillcrest. We likewise find it unacceptable that our City and SANDAG turn a blind eye to this crisis, often times blaming the victim. Human beings make mistakes, which is why the infrastructure needs to accommodate people – actual human beings, powering themselves with their own energy – that use our streets for pleasure, for transportation, for meeting friends, going to church or school or the grocery store. Further, it is unacceptable that our City and SANDAG prioritizes parking over people. We also find it unacceptable and extremely disappointing that the powers-that-be, such as Councilmember Todd Gloria and County Supervisor Ron Roberts –  despite vocal support for community transformation – voted to maintain a street design status quo that has not worked for Hillcrest, and for reasons stated fly in the face of evidence that businesses in the heart of the district already routinely close.

“We’ll try this solution, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.” Harry Truman.

The system in Hillcrest doesn’t work. We should try something else:

1. Put people over parking: slow down vehicle traffic and install safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Businesses should support this because their businesses will improve. The data is unequivocal.

2. Stop treating pedestrian and bicycle advocates as special interests. We represent the vast majority of people who desire livable, walkable, bike-able neighborhoods. We are the people who participated in the years-long-SANDAG process for the Uptown Bike Project – which work was thwarted by politically connected operators, who did their lobbying behind-the-scenes and at the 11th hour.

3. Come to terms with the fact that Hillcrest is not a vehicle-based exurb. It is in the middle of one of our country’s largest cities whose economic future must draw young people who are not terribly interested in driving mad through city centers.

4. Realize that on our urban streets, you can’t – or shouldn’t be permitted to – drive your vehicle any faster than 20 miles an hour. And take to heart that those on feet have the right of way. We need to change our thinking about “inconvenience” – pedestrians and people on bikes aren’t there to delay anyone; rather, they are, just like those in vehicles, trying to get somewhere.

5. Abandon the reflexive blaming-the-victim. It should not be a first assumption to look for the “ah-ha” moment, in which we can point the blame at the victim and wash our hands of responsibility. Further, there must be real consequences to those driving vehicles that injure, maim, and kill almost 600 San Diegans on an annual basis.

6. Reject the culture that accepts that a 3-year old child can be struck in the heart of one of our most vibrant neighborhoods.

7. Adopt Vision Zero and commit as a City to eliminating traffic injuries and fatalities in 10 years.

We need to stop rationalizing for a system that treats the hospitalization of a 3-year old child as a cost of doing business and worth the trade-off for the storage of private vehicles in our public space. To those that worked so effectively behind the scenes to thwart the SANDAG Uptown bike project: blood is, and will continue to be, on your hands.