Response to SDNN's The Great Bike Experiment

We've responded to Chris Nixon's summary of his first week living car-free in San Diego. Below is a copy of our response.

I applaud you and your wife's attempt in going car-lite in September. As one of Bike San Diego's authors, my husband and I are car free and live happily year round without an automobile. In fact throughout our 10 year relationship, we've never owned an automobile.

Both my husband and I shop at farmers markets and at the Ocean Beach Coop. Living in North Park, the ride to the coop is about one hour one way. But the ride is very pleasant and we stock up on a month's worth of staples using panniers. Panniers are your friend if you plan on ditching the car. Additionally do not forget that there are also options like trailers made by Burley.

For example, this past weekend we hauled over 50 lbs of fruits and vegetables with no problem from the farmers market to our home. It is true that biking to purchase food requires planning, but it is no different than driving. Prior to driving you have to ensure that you have enough gas, that your tags haven't expired that you have your car keys and that your feet are not numb.

I'm glad you and your wife have such short commutes. Since you don't have access to a shower at work, you can try what I do: keep a nice supply of perfumed lotions at work along with wet wipes or wash clothes.

While public transportation is a nice fall back option, you may eventually find that biking is actually a quicker way to get to your destination. If SDSU's policy doesn't favor bicycles, perhaps Lisa could use this experiment as an opportunity to ask for better facilities to encourage bicycling on SDSU's campus.

As for emergencies, I recently had to be admitted to an emergency room in a hospital. How did we deal with this from a car-free perspective? By utlilzing one of the many services available to urbanites: taxi services. My husband called one, and we had a taxi at our doorstep in less than 5 minutes. We were at the hospital and my husband didn't have to worry about parking, but instead could focus on comforting me while I got treated. Also remember, ambulances are available for really drastic situations. Emotionally unstable people shouldn't be on the roadways anyway.

Again, I applaud your attempt to go car free. Feel free to contact me or check in with to see how others live, work and enjoy their lives on a bike in San Diego.

Readers, do you have suggestions or words of encouragement for Chris Nixon? If you do, please let Chris know.

Where do bicycles belong? At the back of the trolley

San Diegan cyclist FO wrote to us describing an encounter he had with a self-described off-duty "federal officer." FO described himself as a fairly new resident to San Diego and still learning how to get around San Diego by bicycle. His destination this morning required him to use both his bicycle and the San Diego MTS trolley.

FO stated that he was considerably flummoxed when he got accosted by a trolley passenger. The passenger stated that "bicycles belong at the back of the trolley." Fred responded by thanking the passenger for his advice. The passenger wearing a knit shirt, a baseball cap holding a small child responded, "that's not advice, that's the law!" FO responded again by thanking him for his concern. Getting more visibly agitated, the passenger stated, "it is not my concern, it is a fact." He went on to say, "I'm a federal officer and it is the law that your bicycle goes in the back." FO said, "I always follow the rules, but I didn't know where to put it." The passenger said "it is posted everywhere." FO said he appreciated it but didn't see the signs and that he would put his bicycle in the back from henceforth. Before leaving the trolley, the passenger stated that the law was there to protect passengers, not bicyclists.

While it is difficult for us to assess whether this passenger was indeed an off-duty law officer of some sort, this type of interaction with members of the community is neither positive nor fruitful. Here at Bike San Diego, we have begun to reach out to various governmental and law agencies in an attempt to create a meaningful relationship that all bicyclists can benefit from. San Diego can be a perfect bicycling mecca, and having positive interactions with all members of society will certainly ensure that it remains as such.

Image via noway

California Bicycling Street Smarts

CAStreetsSmartsCalifornia finally has a booklet for bicyclists on safe bicycling techniques on public roads and streets. Produced by the San Diego Bicycle Coalition, the book is modeled after the Florida Bicycling Street Smarts booklet.

The original guide written by John S. Allen was used as the model, but the California booklet contains the laws that are specific to California riders.

The guide is available to all San Diegans at the Bicycle Coalition offices at 740 13th Street, Suite 220 or at any of their events, such as the upcoming Bike the Bay ride.

Editorial: Don't Be a Mass-Hole This Friday

The last Friday of every month is Critical Mass, an event in which thousands of bicyclists in cities around the world demonstrate their right to the roads. San Diego's Mass has grown substantially within the last year or so, typically topping 1,000 riders each month. With so many riders, there are bound to be a few who go off-message, or who show up to do something other than advocate for equal rights to the road. Unfortunately, a small subset of the riders who attend each month have temporarily succeeded in turning our local Critical Mass away from its positive agenda, and into something more like a raucous fratboy booze-cruise.

Perhaps this situation has evolved because there has not been a clear, positive concept of bicycle culture in San Diego to help shape the atmosphere of the ride. Some riders seem to arrive with a chip on their shoulders, angry at cars and drivers, and determined to "fuck things up" for everyone. This is not the goal of Critical Mass. Instead of yelling or laughing at drivers who have been stopped by the Mass, we should be smiling and waving. Instead of trying to intimidate drivers, we should be thanking them for their patience and assuring them that they will be on their way again soon. It's not yielding the important message of bicyclists' rights to be polite to drivers, it's just common decency.

Thuggery by bicyclists is not a valid response to thuggery by drivers. Sure, we all have our laundry list of wrongs done to us by inconsiderate motorists. We've been doored, turned into, pushed over, yelled at, honked at, and flipped off, but if we turn around and repeat these behaviors on the last Friday of every month, we do nothing to increase the positive perception of bicycling in our community. Indeed, acting like a Mass-hole increases the danger for every San Diego bicyclist, who may become the victims of an irate driver's misplaced, Mass-induced rage the next day or the next week. Critical Mass is about activism and advocacy, not animosity and anger. So, be an ambassador for bicycling in San Diego this Friday, and don't be a Mass-hole.

Bicycle Funding

Have you ever wondered how bicycling projects get funded in the San Diego area? Most of the funding for bicycling projects in San Diego come from the TransNet program.

The TransNet program is a state program created by a one-half cent sales tax which funds transportation improvement programs in California. Between 2008-2048, about $14 billion is expected to be distributed among highway, transit, and local road projects to reduce traffic congestion in San Diego County. In San Diego County, SANDAG (comprised of 18 area cities) administers these funds generated by the TransNet program. The program is set to expire in 2048. During the period 2008-2048, $0.28 billion will be spent on Bike and Pedestrian programs. In comparison, major highway & transit projects will get $4.67 billion.

For Fiscal Year 2010, $8.0 million is available for allocation toward non-motorized transportation projects in the San Diego area. Besides various studies that will be conducted to evaluate the feasibility of constructing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, some of the funding will go toward the installation of bicycle loop detectors in Districts 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8.