City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution Prioritizing Bicycle Infrastructure Improvements in the City of San Diego to Enhance Public Safety

By now you may have heard the news from last Tueday about the unanimous City Council vote on the Resolution prioritizing bicycle infrastructure improvements to enhance public safety that got some excellent coverage on Fox 5. The Fox 5 coverage included an accurate visual depiction of how our riders have to play a dangerous game of frogger in order to navigate the various freeway ramps that litter our city.

First, a thank you. We want to thank Councilmember Lorie Zapf for rising up and pushing the issue. We reached out to her after David Ortiz died in her District last year. We encourage you to contact Councilmember Zapf and the other Councilmembers (Alvarez, Gloria, Kersey, Lightner, Sherman), who voted on this resolution to thank them as well. Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer and Marti Emerald were not present last Tuesday.

After our first meeting with Councilmember Zapf’s staff, we presented the case on why the I-805 and I-5 ramps on Balboa Avenue (and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard) needed to be redesigned. Councilmember Zapf, as chair of the Land Use & Housing Subcommittee agreed to prepare a resolution addressing our concerns. The original draft (.doc) that was sent to the City Attorney for review contained this paragraph which was then removed prior to being voted upon at the Land Use & Housing subcommittee and then later at the full City Council meeting.

WHEREAS, our San Diego community has experienced too many instances of bicycle related collisions in the public right-of-way.  In high risk conflict areas for cyclists, such as the heavily traveled I-805 and I-5 freeway interchanges, the City should utilize all methods for increased safety such as shared lane markings known as “sharrows” on narrow roadways without bike lanes, innovative pavement markings such as bright color bike lanes for better visibility by motorists, and to maintain pavement surfaces to acceptable conditions, AND

Without this specificity included, we felt that the resolution didn’t really have anything tying the resolution to actual change or project implementation. Our main concern that we raised in January was the deadly design of the freeway on/off ramps along Balboa Avenue and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard – language that was struck out by the City Attorney’s office. The resolution that was voted upon last Tuesday did have some good language which indicated that Councilmember Zapf and her staff was paying attention to what we write about here especially as part of our “Foto Friday” series, but the resolution by and large missed the point we were trying to raise about the freeway ramps.

However, we do realize that we are fortunate to have a very supportive and encouraging City Council championing our mission to create a livable San Diego while supporting our goals to implement world-class bicycle infrastructure in order to make our vision a reality. While elected officials elsewhere make asinine statements about bicycling and then backpedal when cornered, we’re lucky to have elected representatives who apparently were just waiting to be asked to support our mission.

While the resolution was being discussed, Councilmember Alvarez pointed out out that a Capital Improvement Programs with up to $40 million in funding could be applied to some bicycle projects around the city. He asked that Ed Clancy, the City’s new Programs Manager for Bicycle Initiatives to get some projects implemented quickly. Clancy stated that he’d been meeting with us and other transportation and built environment advocacy groups on this issue in order to do just that. Councilmember Alvarez also restated his desire to see some national experts come down to San Diego and see through some actual projects built. The archived transcript and video of last Tuesday’s Council session is available at the City of San Diego’s website for your perusal.

Council President Todd Gloria ended the discussion item by stating the following offering some perspective (edited from the transcript for readability):

The last time you came, we asked for you to keep coming back.  This is how you will make forward progress. I want to thank you Ms. Zapf for her leadership on this issue. The fact that city council is discussing this is change. When I first got on the Council over four years ago, there weren’t too many members on the council talking about biking. Ms. Zapf I appreciate your interest in this issue. With regard to the concerns about whether or not we are making forward progress, I think I may see a bit of perspective. I recognize the frustration.

This isn’t about a nice weekend jaunt for most of you. This is your means of commuting and your means of commuting is not safe. I understand exactly where the comments are coming from. That said, in my first term, there were no sharrows in the city of San Diego. We got over that hoop and now there are hundreds across the city. We had no bike corrals almost a  year ago and now we have four. They’re all in my district. You need a couple in yours. They are worth getting. We have a bike sharing program that’s on deck and we’ll start, I believe, this summer. The mayor has championed Ciclovia or CicloSDias as he likes to call it. And I believe that’s on deck for later this year. Additionally, probably most importantly, is that we are having the conversation and moving forward with a number of regional bike projects. Two, particularly in my district. One of the uptown area and the other in the north park city area. And as Ms. Zapf mentioned, that’s going to be difficult stuff but I’m there with you. I’m willing to consider road diets. I’m willing to eliminate parking to make space for bikes. We’re willing to do that difficult work but you can’t just be on twitter, you can’t just be on facebook and you can’t just yell at people who are supportive of you. You need to be at those community meetings advocating for bikes. Because I promise you the other side will be there as well.

So let’s keep the focus on where we’re at. A lot has happened. It may not feel that way especially when your livelihood and safety is at stake. You have a mayor who is outspokenly in favor of biking and I appreciate that the mayor’s leadership on this has been remarkable.

You have a Council who through this vote just will signal its support and to Mr. Alvarez’s point the question is less about what more funds we can put in for bike infrastructure but the funds that are going to road repairs and making sure whatever roads are capable of handling a bike lane actually receive a bike  lane when it is paved. And that’s something that I think is incumbent upon Mr. Clancy and his role to look at those lists and figure out where that’s done. It’s not additional money, it’s just a can of paint down the street to provide that safety. It can be just that simple.
I think this is the council, all of you already know is passionate about infrastructure, biking is part of our neighborhood infrastructure. We’re making progress, you’ve seen it with sharrows and bike corrals. You’re gonna see it with bike sharing and CicloSDia, with these mobility projects in my council district and elsewhere. By the way the two in my district have a price tag of roughly $2 million just for design. So getting to Ms.Zapf point, that’s not even building anything but that’s money that’s there. It’s budgeted and it is in there and it will be there when the time comes. With this resolution today, I hope we’re not just designing this stuff but we’re going to build it. When the City Council for the City of San Diego weighs in what I expect will be unanimously a signal will be sent both to the mayor’s office and SANDAG that there better be money for these bike projects. Once the community finishes its dialog, determine what streets it wants to paint these Class I bike lanes on and let’s just get the job done. Everyone wants to see this happen and that’s what this vote is about today.

Randy Van Vleck of the City Heights Community Development Corporation asked Brian Genovese of the City’s new Multi-Modal Division what this resolution symbolized and he responded,

The resolution is symbolic in the sense that it commits the City to emphasize the need for bicycle infrastructure. The gesture is important because it creates awareness and a commitment by council to back the Mayor’s agenda. TEO is already taking steps at implementation through re-striping efforts in conjunction with the overlay program (low hanging fruit).
So now that the wheels have gotten moving, we’ve got to keep moving. Thank you to everyone who sent in your emails and phone calls and showed up in person of support for the resolution. We encourage you to send in your thanks to City Council members and get involved in whatever way you can. Because we’re certainly not going to be the world’s best city for bicycling if only a tiny handful of people keep showing up to speak up for a livable San Diego.