Why I approve bike lane access
By Marissa Tucker
The city recently proposed a new protected bike lane along one of North Park’s busiest corridors, 30th Street. It has spurred countless Nextdoor debates and ruckuses at planning group meetings. The group Save 30th Street Parking is even trying to sue the project into oblivion. Fundamentally, streets are public land owned by every San Diegan, so the 30th Street project should be judged on its ability to contribute to the public good.
Nothing is more universally impactful to our region than the air we breathe and the environment we live in. Fifty-three percent of greenhouse gases (GHG) in San Diego are produced by on-road transit. Although universally loathed, work commute accounts for only 30% of Americans’ total vehicle miles traveled (VMT). If San Diego wants to get serious about reducing GHG and congestion, we have to look at the other 70% of our trips: grabbing the groceries, dropping off our kids at school and enjoying everything else in America’s Finest City.
North Park is already a dense and amenities-rich neighborhood, all accessible via walk, scooter, or bike ride. Many North Parkers are already choosing to take these alternatives, as demonstrated by the hundreds that biked at the Safe Streets for All rally in support of 30th Street bike lanes. But to reduce VMT in a meaningful way, we need many more people to use alternative forms of transit for these intra-community trips. The biggest barrier: safety.
No one should have to fear for their life taking a half-mile bike ride from their house to Barron’s, yet San Diego has the 12th most fatalities per million people in the country. Researchers from the universities of Colorado and New Mexico reviewed traffic fatalities of seven U.S. cities over the course of 12 years of data and found that “protected separated bike facilities was one of our biggest factors associated with lower fatalities and lower injuries for all road users” and substantially increased cyclist use of those streets.
As a public good, bike lanes should sell themselves: they are good for the economy, good for the environment, and increase public safety for all road users. So, what’s the draw back that has everyone up in arms? Loss of parking. According to traffic engineers, protected bike lanes on 30th Street require removal of substantial parking, a concern for many adjacent businesses. Yet, a review by CityLab of 12 U.S. cities showed that “replacing on-street parking with a bike lane has little to no impact on local business, and in some cases might even increase business.”
Are the consequences of our car-oriented choices worth continued unnecessary traffic fatalities, congestion, and climate change? Bike lanes on 30th Street is part of the slow, steady progression away from car-oriented design and toward a transit-oriented, urban future. If the choice of adding a single bike lane in one of our most dense, bike-ready neighborhoods is going to elicit so much public outcry and political second guessing – we’re going to have bigger problems than finding parking.
—Marissa Tucker is a proud resident and pedestrian of North Park, San Diego and serves on the YIMBY Democrats of San Diego.
Why I oppose bike lanes
By Susan Jester
I’m a third-generation native Californian, born and raised in Southern California. Growing up in Palm Springs in the ’50s was a great outdoor experience. Riding a bicycle was a daily experience. I love riding bikes, it’s a great recreational hobby. Riding in traffic or to volunteer work is not a realistic choice for me or for most 75-year-olds. I do not appreciate the new urbanism movement and government planners’ vision to force me out of my automobile with their messianic belief that bikes are the two-wheeled saviors sent to free us from the self-evident evils of the automobile. I do, however, understand the right and the wrong that the automobile has wrought on our country and our environment.
When I lived on the East Coast, in the most densely populated cities of New York and northern New Jersey, I learned to love and use public transportation — the bus, the subway, the ferry, the train are all great ways to commute to work or play while others still used an automobile to get from the suburbs to the city. When it comes to American transportation history, development patterns were aligned with automobile usage, but our government stopped building infrastructure for the auto in the 1970s and instead have come up with alternatives. Light rail, buses and bike lanes are the planners’ preferred methods of transportation, except there is very little that these alternatives do to change habits. People riding bikes to work represents .08% of the work force in San Diego. Bike lanes take four-lane streets and turn them into two-lane streets, removing parking spaces, creating more congestion on alternate streets and adversely affecting local businesses whose patrons rely on the convenience of parking to support small businesses.
Cyclists should be required to register their vehicle in lieu of using bike lanes to help ID them when the inevitable reckless cycling results in property damage to cars and personal injuries to pedestrians, which occur more frequently. Since driving is still the most pragmatic way for most Americans to get around, and most are driving with a license and insurance, and paying for the roads at the gas station, cyclists’ bike lanes should be governed accordingly. However, most cyclists, in my observation, are emboldened by their new rights to half the roads, to do as they please, riding three abreast, never stopping for intersection stop signs, and crossing from one side of the road to the other at will. It seems the cyclists believe that everyone who drives a car should be punished be having fewer lanes to drive on.
It is my opinion that urban planners see things as they wish rather than as they are. I spent five years working with urban planners at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, the state’s affordable housing agency. My role as community development officer was to support transit villages, light rail, housing development with transit hubs, and bicycle paths and green spaces galore. Cyclist groups and advocates of bike lanes generally represent a higher-income demographic and don’t usually “bike to work” themselves. They represent 1-2% of the population. I’m all in for those who enjoy the hobby of cycling. I support our ability to make personal choices about alternate modes and methods of transportation. I’m not in, however, for our tax and transportation dollars funding bike lanes that are a part of a vision that serves the public interest of the 2% while discounting and displacing the public interests of the other 98%. Bike lanes in congested areas are imposing an unrealistic vision of urban living on those of us who use an automobile for transportation needs and necessities.
—Susan Jester is a longtime local activists and volunteer. She also served as a development specialist at the Human Rights Campaign.
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