Without an implementation strategy, the city’s Bicycle Master Plan is merely a wish

The Introduction of the 2011 San Diego Bicycle Master Plan starts as follows:

The San Diego Bicycle Master Plan (Plan) serves as a policy document to guide the development and maintenance of San Diego’s bicycle network, including all roadways that bicyclists have the legal right to use, support facilities, and non-infrastructure programs over the next 20 years.

This plan is an update to the 2002 Bicycle Master Plan and is scheduled to be adopted by the City Council some time this fall.

On July 25th, the city’s Planning Commissioners got to weigh in on the Bicycle Master Plan.

Kathleen Ferrier, Policy Manager at Walk San Diego, offered public comment and stated:

We have many great plans in the City of San Diego. We want to see it implemented. We know that staff is working hard to take advantage of the repaving to do some experimental, innovative bike facilities but we want to see more. What I would ask of you, from the Planning Commission, is: how can we [be assured] that this plan is implemented?

Ferrier’s point about an implementation strategy cannot be overstated; without a roadmap we won’t know the way to reach our destination. In other words, in ten years we will still have the sorry state of bike facilities that we do today, as seen in the videos below.

In 2002, the City Council unanimously approved the city’s first bicycle master plan. The 2002 plan had a list of 233 projects. A few highlights:

  • SR-15 bike path from Mission Valley to Normal Heights. This was promised in a Memorandum of Understanding by Caltrans and the City of San Diego in 1992 to the Mid-City Community to accommodate non-motorized travelers impacted by the building of I-15.
  • Bike lane on Park Boulevard from I-5 to Upas Street
  • Bike lane on Bachman Place
  • Intersection improvements at Pacific Highway and Barnett Street
  • Bike path from Imperial Avenue to Jamacha Road

In the ten years since the Council adopted the 2002 bike plan, only nine of the 233 projects were implemented (4% of the listed projects), which accounts for 19.45 miles of facilities implemented since the plan was adopted. Of those 19.45 miles, only 4.25 miles were bike lanes built on existing roads. The city of San Diego has 2,960 miles of roadways and it is really worrisome to consider how few projects were implemented between the 2002 and 2011 versions of the bike plan. One of the 233 listed projects was a bicycle/pedestrian bridge across Lake Hodges, which cost $10.5 million. How many road facilities could have been built with $10.5 million? The projects implemented from the 2002 bike plan are listed below (from the 2011 bike plan update):


Lake Hodges pedestrian bridge
A very nice $10.5 million bike/ped bridge was built in the northern part of the city which certainly adds to a source of community pride. How many roadway facilities could have been built with $10.5 million? Image: flickr/@scottyhoffo

All members of our current City Council have made incredibly supportive comments and gestures about building better bike facilities and increasing the number of transportation options available to San Diegans. They’ve done great things to demonstrate their support: passed resolutions, gotten involved with photo-ops with bike riders and advocates, and even joined in on rides to discuss bike issues. However, without an implementation strategy that has defined metrics and measurable objectives, the money and energy spent on the 2002 plan and the 2011 plan will be for naught, thus encouraging civic disengagement in our populace.

Before adopting the 2011 Bicycle Master Plan Update, the City Council must see that the plan has built-in accountability. The update needs to strongly follow the goals of the plan by having a measurable objective such as a bike mode share goal of 10% by 2020*. Accountability and transparency can easily be created from short monthly staff reports given at Council meetings. These reports would describe the projects being worked on, the amount of funding being secured for project implementation and what issues are creating a bottle-neck to successful implementation. These frequent monthly reports should build on a larger annual work plan to ensure the plan’s ultimate success. Furthermore, monthly reports should also involve the community at large so no stakeholder is caught by surprise when a bike facility suddenly appears on their street.

To further emphasize Ferrier’s points, the way to acknowledge the good work being done by staff and to further cement the Council’s commitment is to ensure that an implementation strategy is adopted. We hope that our bike-friendly City Council only adopts the 2011 Bicycle Master Plan Update if it includes an accountable Implementation Strategy.

* The 2011 plan removed one of the four goals from the 2002 plan that included a specific objective of attaining a 10% bike mode share by 2020. This goal should be reinstated into the plan prior to adoption.