Tomorrow: Speak Up for Lower Speed Limits on Montezuma Road To Improve Safety for All

Tomorrow's the College Area Community Council Meeting will begin with a feature presentation by Brian Genovese, Senior Traffic Engineer, Multiple Modal Program, Transportation Engineering Operations Division, City of San Diego.

Our main ask is to ask the city to reduce the speed limit on Montezuma Road in order to make the road safe for all users, by building protected bicycle facilities such as cycle tracks to tame the traffic on Montezuma Road.

When: Tomorrow (November 14th, 2012) at 7pm
Where: College Rolando Library
How to get there: If you want to ride to the meeting location, meet us after work at Blind Lady Ale House and we will ride to College Rolando Library doing our best to avoid high speed Montezuma Road to get to the meeting location. We leave Blind Lady at 6pm. RSVP here.
If you want to get there on your own, plan on being at the library and seated by 7pm as the presentation is scheduled to begin at the very beginning.

The area that the Community Council oversees can be seen in this map which covers Montezuma Road between Fairmount Avenue and the road slightly east of 70th Street.

View College Area Map in a larger map

As of today the speed limit on Montezuma ranges from 50 mph at Fairmount Avenue to 35 mph as one heads east. Given that there is a speedy thoroughfare designed for drivers exclusively (I-8) that already exists less than a mile north of Montezuma Road - there is absolutely no reason for Montezuma Road to also serve as a high speed thoroughfare for drivers.

Montezuma Road with the I-8 (in blue) to the North.

The speeding issue is also substantiated by the San Diego Police Department who handed out over a tenth of the speeding tickets at College Avenue between El Cajon Boulevard and Montezuma Road.

We are calling for protected bicycle facilities that are physically separated from vehicular traffic. Additional protection will result in not only narrowing the vehicular travel lane, but also offer additional protection to bicycle riders. When we last discussed this issue, we quoted Genovese who stated,

As you may have heard, we are working on a corridor study that will include recommended low-cost-low-effort early action treatments. Separated cycle tracks or raised bike lanes will be considered but will likely fall into the category of higher-cost-higher-effort treatments.

In Voice of San Diego's analysis of low income communities, Montezuma Road also lies in the section of the city that has a high percentage of low income residents. Given our review of where protected bicycle facilities have been implemented in the city of San Diego over the last decade, this community is long over due not only for safety improvements but also for protected bicycle facilities that benefit the community.

If you cannot make it to the meeting, please send an email to the Chair of the College Area Community Council, Doug Case: stating the following:

As a bicycle rider who wants safe thoroughfares for all road users, I respectfully ask that the Council vote to support protected bicycle facilities such as cycle tracks  on Montezuma Road.



Your Name

Update: A reader pointed out that San Diego already has a precedence for adding protection for bicycle riders in order to lower speed limits and traffic calm high speed roadways. The main reason we are requesting protected bicycle facilities is to further narrow the travel lane and thus trigger a speed survey that we hope will result in a lower speed limit along Montezuma Road.

City to Present Bicycle Recommendations to Further Improve Safety on Montezuma Road on 11/14

On November 14th, the City will be making a presentation at the College Area Community Council on how they intend to further improve bicycle safety along Montezuma Road.  The agenda [pdf] states that the presentation will happen pretty early in the meeting and Brian Genovese the Senior Engineer at the newly formed Multi-Modal Program at the City will be making that presentation. Genovese is the City Bike Coordinator's, Tom Landre, supervisor.

College Area Community Council Meeting
When: November 14th at 7pm
Where: College-Rolando Branch Library, 6600 Montezuma Road, San Diego 92115

The College Area Community Council is formally recognized by the City of San Diego and is the governing body that provides input on land use decisions that encompass the following area:

View College Area Map in a larger map

I emailed Brian Genovese to ask about reducing the speed limits on Montezuma. Cities are required by statute to conduct speed surveys periodically. While the high speed roads are a problem for safe riding in San Diego, simply reducing the speed limit by changing the numbers on a speed limit sign can create a speed trap for drivers which is something cities are loathe to do. What can be done instead is a redesign of a road to narrow the travel lane which then leads to slower driving speeds and thus safety (and noise reduction), not to mention more pleasant riding conditions. Speedy roads aren't simply a public nuisance, but they reduce reaction time for drivers and are deadly:

High Speed Roads are Deadly. Image from:

I wanted to know when the last speed survey on Montezuma Road was done and proposed installing protected bicycle facilities along Montezuma Road which would in turn reduce the width of the vehicular travel lane. Genovese responded back as follows and provided the following speed survey data:

As of this year, a new California law allows jurisdictions to round down the speed limits after conducting a speed survey.

Montezuma Road, despite being a major east west thoroughfare connecting La Mesa to points east in the City of San Diego, was not listed in the SANDAG regional bike plan. It is however, listed in both the 2002 City Bike Plan and the 2011 Plan Update as a thoroughfare needing improvements.

Back in 1993, Montezuma Road used to be a Class III Facility which is a shared roadway usually with a sign stating "bike route":

Description of Class III Facility. Source: SANDAG 2050 Bike Plan
Description of Class II Facility. Source: SANDAG 2050 Bike Plan

The 2002 Plan called for upgrading the Class III Facilities to a Class II Facilities, a standard bike lane which typically offer riders a designated space to ride in:

When the 2002 was presented to the public for feedback, suggestions on improving the corridor were offered (Items with asterisks next to them indicate that this issue was identified more than once.):

**Fairmount-Montezuma-Camino del Rio North connections made easier

In the 2011 Bike Plan Update, the Montezuma Corridor was ranked #8 in the list of Highest Priority Projects:


What is interesting about our proposal to reduce the vehicular travel lane by adding protected bike facilities is that this will reverse the City's repeated habit of widening the road to accommodate vehicles without any consideration for the safety or quality of city life.

From 1987 - 1997, bicycle traffic along Montezuma fell dramatically:

Source: 2002 City of San Diego Bike Plan

At the same time, the City was busy widening roads all along the College Area Community to accommodate vehicular traffic instead of providing residents with additional transportation options. The cycle of widening roads, and then conducting speed surveys that noted increased vehicular speeds created the perfectly bike unfriendly Montezuma Road that exists today. San Diego State University certainly didn't help matters by banning bicycling on campus (which they've since tried to rectify).

Genovese responded to our request to conduct a new speed survey and installing protected bicycle facilities as follows:

I checked into getting new speed surveys on Montezuma but the existing surveys have been signed-off until they expire, i.e. they are good until 2014. However, we may be able to get new surveys after we implement any bicycle facility improvements that could trigger a change of conditions. As you may have heard, we are working on a corridor study that will include recommended low-cost-low-effort early action treatments. Separated cycle tracks or raised bike lanes will be considered but will likely fall into the category of higher-cost-higher-effort treatments.

In the absence of maintaining the status quo of doing nothing or very little at all, building separated and protected bicycle facilities such as cycle tracks are certainly expensive treatments. Bike facilities are only expensive when viewed in a vacuum and not in light of the fact that they are a mitigative measure against maintaining an incredibly expensive automotive-based transportation network. In light of rising gas prices and the continuing economic recession, not providing residents and visitors with increased options to move around is not an effective way of ensuring the city's success or relevance in the coming years. Stating that the bike facilities are higher cost or higher effort treatments ignores the incredible return on investment that bike facilities provide cities. If San Diego wants to stay relevant as a city in the years ahead, its about time that the City's decision makers cast aside the belief system that is not only false but also harmful to our city's future.


This was written by Sam Ollinger

Changes are finally coming to Montezuma Road

It has taken one serious injury, one death and then one memorial ride to finally get some changes implemented on Montezuma Road.

Sara Kazemi posted this earlier this afternoon,

Changes are coming to Montezuma Road. No protective barriers, but visually arresting paint and a sign to yield to bikes. Photo: SDCBC

Back on August 1st, we learned about the Montezuma Road Restructuring which would make Montezuma Road a safer and bike-friendly road by making bike lanes more visible by standardizing and widening their width and painting them green, indicating where bikes will merge with traffic, and creating protected lanes closer to San Diego State University. The plan was drafted up by KTU+A and presented to SANDAG in late July. As of today, this plan is becoming a reality.

I contacted Tim Taylor from Councilmember Marti Emerald's office earlier this week about an update to make Montezuma Road safer and he stated the following,

A draft has been drawn up and will be shared with the public soon.  The plan is to seek input at the Oct. 10 meeting of the College Area Planning Group.  I think the draft will be made available ahead of the meeting.

College Area Community Planning Group and College Area Community Council

Meets the 2nd Wednesday every month at 7 pm
College-Rolando Branch Library, Community Room,  6600 Montezuma Rd.
Chair: Doug Case, (619) 594-2939,

Have you had a chance to ride on these newly painted lanes? What was your experience like?


Update on Chuck Gilbreth's Ghost Bike

Chuck Gilbreth's Ghost Bike originally placed on an unwalkable area not blocking anyone's access to any place. Photo: Sara Kazemi

Despite the message from Councilmember Marti Emerald's office to not have Chuck Gilbreth's ghost bike removed, the City of San Diego did so anyway. The Storm Water Department Spokesperson, Bill Harris, chose to instead make up facts about where Gilbreth's ghost bike was placed insinuating that Gilbreth's ghost bike was blocking wheelchair access or right-of-way regulations - when the ghost bike wasn't blocking any sort of access except serving as a grim reminder that our city streets aren't safe for bicycle riders.

A couple of local advocates including Penelope Robles then tracked the ghost bike down and reported back that the ghost bike was now located downtown and that after chatting with with Harris, Robles learned that the Storm Water Department would return the bike if someone went down to the City Administration Building to pick it up.

I contacted Forrest Brodsky who is one of the many volunteers at SDSU's Bike Cooperative, The Bike Stand, to learn whether his organization intended to pick up the ghost bike to return it to its original location. The Bike Stand was the group that originally placed the ghost bike to honor Gilbreth's life. Brodsky said that he would first contact Gilbreth's family to ensure that replacing the ghost bike would be in line with and respectful of the Gilbreth family's wishes.

This morning Brodsky informed me that Chuck Gilbreth's widow, Ginny, was more than willing for the ghost bike to be replaced at its original location on Montezuma Road - a road that has yet to see any road design improvements that would make it a safe corridor to ride on.

Venuto and Gilbreth Ghost Bikes Removed

Last week Shane Schaetz emailed us to let us know that that the Nick Venuto Ghost Bike has indeed been removed by Caltrans.

Venuto Ghost Bike - Gone. Photo: Shane Schaetz

Over the weekend, I learned that the Gilbreth Ghost Bike has also been removed, despite the message from Councilmember Emerald's office over a week ago. Penelope Robles has learned that the Stormwater Division (which includes the Transportation Engineering Operations) has removed the Gilbreth ghost bike. The spokesperson for the Stormwater Division is Bill Harris who can be reached at 858-541-4354.

I will follow up on this tomorrow. If you learn anything beforehand, please feel free to leave a comment.