San Diego – the new bicycling mecca?

BikeSD reader, Everett, sent in the latest newsletter [pdf link] from the City Planning and Community Investment Department.

I have to admit surprise at the message from Director Bill Anderson who writes (in part),

Certain European cities have a strong tradition of supporting the bicyclist. Paris has public bikes for anyone to use. Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the leaders, with dedicated bike streets, bridges, lanes, and intersection priorities to bicyclists to avoid conflicts with cars and reduce travel times. According to Copenhagen’s Director of Engineering, who visited us last year, almost 40 percent of their daily commute trips are by bicycle.

In these cities, bikes are not just for the avid, they’re for the average person, old and young, rich, poor, and middle income, factory workers and office workers. What do these cities have in common? One, they’re relatively flat. Two, they’re relatively cold. Three, they’ve invested in bicycle circulation infrastructure.

While San Diego overall has lots of varied topography that can deter many casual bicyclists, we have many mesas, river valleys, and coastal areas that are relatively flat, including areas that have residential development, job centers, and transit. Bicycle circulation systems can work in these communities. Obviously, we have the weather that is conductive to biking, especially when compared to the large cities in the United States and Europe that are most famous for encouraging biking. Finally, we are preparing plans that will enable more investment in the bicycling infrastructure.

One reason why this message from Director Anderson really surprised me is because looking at some of the bike infrastructure that San Diego has invested in, makes me scratch my head. The main thoroughfares going east west (and north south) have absolutely nothing for bicyclists either downtown or uptown in the mesa. The routes to head down into Mission Valley are in every sense of the word, terrible. The task of riding around San Diego as a newbie cyclist is very daunting and intimidating.

So to read that the City actually wants to increase the percentage of utility cyclists in San Diego was nothing short of surprising.

The newsletter also has a short article by the City’s Project Manager, Shahriar Ammi. Mr. Ammi has written about the city’s plans to increase the current 511 miles of bicycle network to 1,044 miles.

I, for one, am extraordinarily pleased to read this and can’t wait to see all these plans put into action.