Foto Friday: San Diego’s Leaders Are Committed to Implementing Protected Bike Lanes

Yesterday afternoon, we had almost a full city council session when the mayor, Councilmembers Alvarez, Gloria, Lightner, Sherman, along with staff for the Councilmembers who couldn’t attend, showed up to listen to Martha Roskowski talk about how protected bike lanes (a bike lane with some sort of protection and space between a bike rider and a vehicle driver) are a game changer in transforming cities. Representatives from the business community including Tiffany Broomfield, Jeff Motch, Jacob McKean, Tootie, Staci Ignell and Janelle Riella, Mike Olson, Robert Winston were in attendance along with Nicole Capretz from the Environmental Health Coalition and Joe LaCava, Chair of the Community Planners Committee.


City leaders discuss what it takes to make San Diego a world class bicycling city.

Cities like Chicago, New York City and Washington D.C. are moving with unprecedented speed in transforming their most valuable asset and public space – city streets – to be accommodating and welcoming to all its users. This transformation also happens to make good financial sense in that it saves municipalities money and also supports the local economy in a way that scales up extremely efficiently. Not only are these cities reallocating space on non-arterial streets, but they are making room for bikes on main thoroughfares in the hearts of the busy downtowns. This speed and transformation is a response to current and unavoidable realities – the next generation of residents don’t have much of an interest in automobile ownership or in driving, but they are interested in living in cities that are friendly and inviting to walk and bike in. Cities are the nexus of creativity and talent and cities that cultivate and nurtures that spirit winds up supporting the city’s business climate and its livability. Yesterday afternoon, there was a sense of urgency in the room to move San Diego along.

“I expect not only to take all of [Portland and Seattle’s] bikers but I also want all the jobs that come with this.”

– Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel called out Seattle, saying he wanted our bikers and our tech jobs. We’re going to work to keep them here.”

– Mayor Mike McGinn, Seattle

The Green Lane Project is a campaign to get protected bike lanes on the ground in the U.S. by helping six leading cities implement innovative bike facilities. Mayor Filner was unequivocal in his support to apply to be one of the six cities in the Green Lane Project’s campaign next year. The mayor showed up at 12 pm on the nose and stayed for over an hour listening and emphatically stating in numerous ways how he would ensure that San Diego will implement the facilities needed to make our city streets inviting to all San Diegans and thus make San Diego a more friendlier city to live in. He stated that CicloSDias would be the first step to having the city’s residents experience the city’s streets in a manner that will be more inviting and friendly and he seemed annoyed that the mayors in Seattle and Chicago were getting so many accolades for pushing through innovative bike facilities. He expressed impatience that our own city was at the bottom of the barrel in terms of our bike friendliness.

Jacob McKean, who recently successfully crowdfunded his brewery, expressed his own perspective that he didn’t think automobile traffic needed to be accommodated in any way at all – a perspective he wrote about on the Modern Times Brewery blog.

Jeff Motch stated how most of his 50 employees all bike or walk to work which makes them incredibly reliable since they aren’t late for work due to vehicle breakdowns or mechanical issues. Motch went on to state how the biggest problem was having to deal with at least one employee getting into a collision with a vehicle every year because the city hadn’t prioritized space for users not inside a vehicle.

Linda Marabian, Deputy Director for San Diego’s Transportation Department was also in attendance. Marabian stated that her department was working on numerous initiatives to implement projects on the ground. She stated that there would be announcement made on May 22nd about her department’s efforts and some projects that be ready for use and construction. She also stated that there were numerous roadblocks because her traffic engineers were hamstrung since they had to rely on standards like AASHTO and the California MUTCD.

When it comes to overcoming challenges – moving people safely isn’t as complicated as some of the visionary (and possibly more outlandish) ideas that have been attained with incredible success in this country. For example in 1961, President John Kennedy articulated a vision that seemed very bold: sending an American safely to the moon before the end of the decade. We all know now that that goal was reached and with incredible success. And that goal was implemented with computers with far less computing power than the smartphone in our pocket. It seems absurd that San Diego’s brilliant traffic engineers haven’t figured out how to move people efficiently and safely on our roadways (including across intersections) when cities in Europe and in cities around the U.S. have not only figured it out but are moving with breakneck speed to implement these innovative bicycle facilities. If the existing standards are deterring efforts to transform our streets to be safe in moving all its users, then the standards have failed in their purpose and we should be looking for other solutions to ensure that we can allow people to transport themselves through our city’s streets in a way that is safe, efficient and comfortable. Yesterday, we heard how San Diego’s business and bicycling community and the city’s leadership was eager to move along and move along quickly. Our own political leadership has already demonstrated unanimous commitment to get moving along. It’s about time that we start seeing some projects on the ground.

Later yesterday evening, the results of the afternoon discussion were presented to the community.


The audience was attentive and eager to see changes, but left with a similar question – what is taking so long?

Protected bike lanes for all. Photo: Green Lane Project

Our thanks to Councilmember David Alvarez to initiating this discussion committing to action. We look forward to all the leaders in the city ensuring that progress is made and made quickly.