A Vision for Texas Street

By Nevo Magnezi, BikeSD Board Secretary

On August 18, 2019, Tom Morris, a man with a walker, was killed due to traffic violence while trying to cross Texas St in North Park. On November 17 of the same year, a 33-year old man was killed, also trying to cross Texas St, this time by a big rig truck. They join 6,590 other Americans who were killed in 2019, doing something that comes naturally to all of us: getting around on foot. Indeed, 2019 saw the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the United States since 1988.

Other cities in developed countries don’t seem to have this issue. Oslo and Helsinki saw zero pedestrian deaths in 2019. This success is not because our Nordic friends are less likely to jaywalk. Rather, it is because urban planners in those places design their built environment to be safer and more forgiving to human error. The tired excuses that San Diego is so distinct from other places that we must simply accept the killing of our community members cannot be tolerated. We can and must do better to make our entire transportation system safer.

So what makes Texas Street so deadly? Between wide streets, heavy traffic, insufficient pedestrian crossings, and a complete lack of any biking infrastructure, Texas Street is not designed for humans in mind.

 

What Texas Street looks like today between University Ave and Madison Ave.

 

As city planners know well, speed kills. The National Association of City Transportation Officials, or NACTO, recommends that lane widths be 10 feet in urban areas to reinforce a 25mph speed limit, or 11 feet for designated bus and truck routes such as Texas St. The current distance from the edge of the street parked cars and the line delineating the center turn lane is 14 feet. The city must reinforce a design that truly limits vehicle speeds to 25mph, and that means ensuring lanes are only as wide as their intended use.

The relationship between speed and fatality risk. Provided by NACTO.

With two 11 foot vehicle lanes, the pedestrian crossing distance, should naturally be no more than 22 feet. By implementing mini-roundabouts, as done on Meade Ave, in conjunction with pedestrian refuge islands and curb extensions, the pedestrian crossing distance can be reduced to 11 feet at intersections. Furthermore, raised continental crosswalks implemented at every intersection could further increase the visibility of pedestrians and provide much needed mobility to disabled folks who currently cannot cross at many of the intersections.

 

Intersections on Texas Street could someday look something like this (though with a more compact roundabout design). Provided by Bike East Bay.

With each vehicle lane width of 11 feet and 7-8 feet for street parking, that leaves 16 feet left on this 52 foot wide street. We believe that the best use of the remainder of the street width would be for two 8 foot wide cycletracks, including buffer, adjacent to the curb. Similar designs of sandwiching cycletracks between the sidewalk and street parking have successfully been implemented in many other cities as well as downtown. We note that the North Park Community plan calls for a class II bike lane facility, which makes sense, as in addition to being a bus, truck, vehicle, and pedestrian route between North Park and Mission Valley, Texas Street is also a bike route and has class II bike lanes north of Madison Avenue.  That being said, we believe a class IV cycletrack is more appropriate for Texas street between Madison Avenue & University Ave because of the NACTO recommendation that streets with a speed of 25mph and an average daily traffic volume of greater than 6,000 vehicles be equipped with protected bike lanes, in order to become a facility suitable for all ages and abilities.

 

 

Finally, we would like to note that we think it would be great to keep the approximately 98 public street parking spaces, according to our count, on Texas St between Madison Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, as well as points south. Parked cars can further provide protection and limit speeds by making the lane feel even narrower to drivers, and offer convenience to those who drive in the neighborhood. However, our top priorities must be satisfying our vision zero and climate action plan goals. Ultimately, we defer to the expertise of our city planners in determining how much street parking can be maintained.

No doubt, building roundabouts, protected bike lanes, and extending curbs will be costly. While BikeSD is not qualified in estimating the total cost, it is worth noting that in 2013, the state of California determined the economic loss associated with each traffic violence death to be 1.32 million dollars. With two deaths and twenty five reported injuries since the beginning of 2018, building a safer Texas Street will be a steal in comparison to doing nothing. The state provides funding for jurisdictions to build complete streets through SB-1, however so far the city has not used any of that money explicitly for that purpose. We ask that the City of San Diego use all available funding sources, including SB-1, in order to ensure that Texas Street becomes safe for users of all ages and abilities.


Adam's cargo bike with a keg strapped to the rear.

Local Cargo by Adam Deutsch

These are days where I think about how many post-apocalyptic narratives neglect the bicycle. We’re not at the end of world, but my motivation to bike came from the sense that driving made other activities almost impossible. How many times have we wanted to be sitting with friends over food and beer in the neighborhood, but can’t get there because there isn’t any place to park? When I lived in North Park, I figured I’d just stop off at Urbn for a little work-gathering, and circled for so long that I looked up to see I was two blocks away from my place at Texas and Lincoln. After that, it became clear to me that the only way to get around San Diego was by bike. It’s an idea I’ve kept with me for almost a decade, mostly riding if I didn’t have to crank up hills north of the 8.

Earlier this year, I decided to expand that geographical limit, riding from Normal Heights down El Cajon Blvd to either 70th or Baltimore, then heading north to my job at Grossmont College. A cargo bike (a Boda Boda by Yuba) makes this possible. I can ride 10ish miles in under an hour, and not be pouring sweat from the 276 ft. climb. I’ve been doing this about 4 times a week since January; the cargo also helped me accommodate biking with a growing toddler, and as he gets heavier, so does my imagination about what can be done with a bike in San Diego. A basket or paneer easily fit a bit of beer, but what about a 5 gallon keg?

Another factor, beyond a rebellion against parking frustration, has always been the awareness that the venture has been ecologically friendly, and I think about that in terms of beer, too. Getting beer in a keg (if one has the privilege of space and time to tinker with a carbonation system) is the most cost effective and ecologically friendly way to have beer—if you don’t mind pouring the same thing for 40 pints. Two weeks into the pandemic, the keg kicked. I hadn’t been this excited since the last time I was able to order a pizza at BLAH. I decided to bike the empty back up to a brewery in Miramar, and return with a full one. It did not happen that way.

If it’s not on social media, it doesn’t happen (right?) so I put up a quick post that I was excited to bike 15 miles with an empty keg (about 16.5 lbs) and come back with a full one (weighing in at just under 60). I wanted the adventure of trying it for the first time, and the bragging rights to say “Yeah, I bike 30 miles with kegs,” and thought of that while I aired up the fat double-wall tires, and got replies from friends: “Why did I have to go that far?” “There are like 50 breweries between Normal Heights and Miramar,” and “Why not something local?” I was going up there because that’s where I’d always gone. There’s lots of beer in between, but not all those places make kegs available to people (much less in 5 gallons). And, really, I just didn’t know that there were local options.

Also, I started to wonder (as I bungied the empty shell to the aluminum sideloaders) what does local mean to me?

Part of the resolve to ride a bike means reevaluating how we look at our city. It means thinking of new terms for how we understand distance and terrain. A drive all the way downtown becomes a 3 mile ride, mostly downhill on the way there; the freeway to OB is more of a quiet ride through Mission Hills to the path (when the paths and trails are open, that is). If I can commute to work 20 miles, surely I could also move my beer 30, in the smooth shoulder bike lane of Kearny Villa Rd. But this question of local raised some points I couldn’t ignore.

First, even a leisurely ride on a bike that weights 20 lbs instead of 60 cuts about two hours out of a day, and it’s a tall order to ask a partner to stay at home with a small child while I go out and ride my bike; it’s also possible to carry the kid along for the ride, but what’s great exercise for us is really just sitting in a chair for them. I couldn’t make this a habit, taking a ride like this every month or two (depending on how much we’re sipping at home). Another point is that Miramar, though possible and a really beautiful ride at parts, simply isn’t local. Also, I need to be honest about my own abilities and ignorance: riding with a full 5 gallon keg is a lot of weight, even on a bike designed to carry it. Bungie cords and tow straps give confidence, but I wasn’t sure it was

really wise to take on a challenge like 15 miles when I never even rode that far with my much-lighter child. Again, we stay local. That means maybe 5-10 miles, and that high end is pushing it.

I ran all this by my father in-law, who loves a long ride up to places like Torrey Pines or out to Santee. Marty’s the ideal riding partner: he’s not trying to break any records, is excited for the challenging new route, and is always happy to cheers when we arrive! He came with me, and we decided that if something went wrong, he didn’t want a torpedo making som

ething like a roadside flat repair more complicated (we attempted a ride up to Mira Mesa a couple of years ago, and popping a spoke on Black Mountain Rd. really killed that whole flow).

I also got some tips on local options I’d never known about, so the plan changed. A car is not necessary to get around the region, and we had a blast bringing the empty back up, but decided to return home with a few crowler cans instead of the full 1/6 barrel. But we didn’t head straight home; instead, we made it back to Uptown (via Texas, which is no longer impressive once the pedal assist is engaged), and went to a new spot on El Cajon Blvd. Just 1.3 miles from my place, I figured the ride was over.

Cargo bike with beer keg
Turns out a full 5 gallon keg on the sideloader isn’t a good idea.

It was not.

Turns out a full 5 gallon keg on the sideloader isn’t a good idea. I thought the lower position would make it easier, but it was a precarious few blocks. A keg is not a bag of groceries (which have also thrown me off, especially if you’re loading up and unlocked on a hill in a parking lot). No big deal. We repositioned it on the middle rack, and a couple walking their dog gasped, “He’s got a keg!” when I crossed Oregon on Madison.

I’ll do this again. If the ride is local, anything’s possible.

The next plan: a bag of chicken feed…

Adam Deutsch is the publisher at Cooper Dillon Books, and has work recently or forthcoming in Poetry International, Thrush, The Cossack Review, Ping Pong, and Typo, and has a chapbook called Carry On (Elegies). He is an English professor at Grossmont College and lives in San Diego, CA.


Girl riding bike with her younger brother on sidewalk riding a scooter. Both smiling and having a blast.

10 Years Riding the Bus = $84,000 Saved

Girl riding bike with her younger brother on sidewalk riding a scooter. Both smiling and having a blast.

 

Sitting on the couch last night was chatting with the spousal equivalent (“SE”) about how NextDoor is awful. Cue a recent bus rider shaming post that really bothered me:

NextDoor somehow is worse than both Facebook and Twitter. Please @ me.
NextDoor somehow is worse than both Facebook and Twitter. Please @ me.

We talked a bit and then realized SE has been riding the bus to work, or biking, for the last 10 years. Wow, time flies. Somehow, neither lice nor French whore encounters have been a problem. #praise

There are a number of reasons that transit SE likes to support and use transit:

  • Traffic congestion reduction (buses move far more people than the typically single occupant cars common in the US)
  • Cost savings
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Social unity / exposure
  • Etc

On the cost savings front we estimated that over the last 10 years we saw approximately $84,000 of savings for our family.

  • $200 per month parking x 10 years = $24,000 (Comparison from co-workers)
  • $6000 per year vehicle cost x 10 = $60,000 (About 1/3 less than the average cost per year from AAA since Cali is hella expensive but we’re cheap. Results may vary.)

SE bus cost is covered by employer so if paying the $72 monthly out of pocket would reduce the savings by $8,640 for a total 10 year savings of roughly $75,360.

We took the savings and went on a fat family trip to Vegas and Hawaii which was awesome. Just kidding. We put most of it into index fund investments to grow and throw off dividends until the end of our days.

Wanted to share our public transit savings story in case you’re also interested in saving the better part of $100k every 10 years and putting it to work for you instead of sending it out the exhaust pipe.


This photo represents the latest success story for a recent trail connection within Chollas Creek Regional Park.

Prioritizing Chollas Creek Bikeway

This photo represents the latest success story for a recent trail connection within Chollas Creek Regional Park.
This photo represents the latest success story for a recent trail connection within Chollas Creek Regional Park.

The vision and goal to establish a safe and comfortable bikeway with community parks from La Mesa and Lemon Grove through City Heights, Oak Park, Encanto, Mid City, Barrio Logan to the San Diego Waterfront should be a top priority for mobility, sustainability, waterways, and health. In my opinion, this would be the most equitable active transportation bike project in San Diego County that protects our valuable Chollas Creek watershed, bringing economic, environmental, and health benefits to the community and city, while providing our residents with safe and comfortable access from the urban neighborhoods to the waterfront and downtown San Diego.

The proposed bikeway is just part of the larger plan for the Chollas Creek Regional Park that has visions of establishing sustainable eco-villages, along with healthy parks and waterways, while connecting schools and residents to the natural environments for health and happiness, in a place that has been neglected and overrun with freeways and pollution for far too long.

I've personally tried to explore riding along or near the creek to find myself stuck among freeways and no way to cross. The creek was nonexistent in some areas and filled with debris and pollution in other areas. Under the old neglected concrete water way, there is the light of potential and the creek is seeking our attention. It has the potential to become something amazing, capturing and reclaiming our water in an ecosystem that the locals can become engaged in, be proud of, and be active in protecting. This pathway would greatly benefit the local communities, the region, and our most valuable resource, our water.

It is critical we begin to protect and support the existing watersheds in San Diego. By creating pathways along waterways, connecting South-of-the-8 communities of concern to beautiful natural spaces in their own backyard and letting the residents engage and appreciate the water and the natural environments and the history the area when it was taken care of by the Kumeyaay before the industrial colonization.

A big shout out for the leadership at Groundwork and Board Member Vicki Estrada, for creating a coalition to collaborate and support the prioritization and funding for this incredibly valuable resource. Over the years the coalition members continue to engage in clean-ups, urban hikes, and visioning sessions to help communities adjacent to creek reclaim the watershed, and are ready to work with the city to pursue grants and funding to rehabilitate and activate the Chollas Creek Watershed and create a Chollas Creek Regional Park for the residents of San Diego. More information about specifics of this important connection can be found at https://docs.sandiego.gov/councilcomm_agendas_attach/2015/enviro_150408_3.pdf

This map shows the Chollas Creek Watershed and a proposed pathway connecting schools, parks, neighborhoods, and businesses. The other photo shows the benefits of creating healthy sustainable community projects while protecting our waterways and providing a safe place to walk, bike, travel, commute, and enjoy nature while in our city.

Chollas Creek trail status

value slide


Nicole Burgess and friends in San Diego

Sharing bike love while I venture to Croatia, the Adriatic, and beyond

Nicole Burgess and friends in San Diego

I'm excited as I depart for Croatia for my fourth Climate Ride and thank all my friends for the continued support as I learn, explore, and engage with unfamiliar territories. I'm making the best of my long flight and will continue onto Munich and take a solo adventure down the Danube to Austria. From there, I will indulge in an all inclusive tour through Italy and Slovenia. I'll plan a pitstop in Utrecht to admire the beautiful infrastructure that makes me proud to have Dutch blood. I imagine the weather will bring me back to paradise in Point Loma, but who knows maybe I will just head south to Sevilla where they have been prioritizing safe bike infrastructure, in a city similar to San Diego.

As I am excited for my adventures, I'm also excited to leave some bike love in San Diego and have found beautiful riders for the many bikes in my garage that like to be ridden.

I've become a big fan of electric bikes as they have proven to become an efficient mode of travel. Just the other day, I left a meeting with Mayor Faulconer in Downtown San Diego to an event with Hasan from SANDAG at Mid-City Community Action Network (CAN). My ebike commute took approximately 25 minutes, which was the same amount of time that it took SANDAG staff to get to the event in a car, and was quite faster than transit (the bus).  It was fun, healthy, and powerful.

Since I understand the values and joys of commuting by bike, with both electric or human powered bikes, I'm excited to share these joys with others.

Kim Heinle from Linda Vista CDC was the first to jump in on a bike challenge. Her commute is from PB to Linda Vista Community Center, a nice commute in SD, but Linda Vista is a challenging hill to go up everyday on a regular bike. Kim rides on occasion but opts to walk her bike up Ulrich as LV is too challenging on a regular bike, hence an ebike made perfect sense. As ebikes are heavy, we were also challenged with how to carry the bike up a flight of stairs.  Therefore, we decided the foldable ebike, the Vika Blix, would be the best option.

Kim got the bike on a Sunday and I was thrilled to get at 7:30 AM text from Kim that she'd already arrived at work and loved the ride. I look forward to hearing more about her experiences as she tries to put more miles on the bike than on her car.

Sophie Wolfram was also interested in the challenge but also needs to carry bike up a flight of stairs. She'll be next in line to try the foldable bike when I get home.

Our next friend to get rolling on a bike is Ryan Beal, a volunteer for CAC. I met Ryan at the recent event at Mid City Can and briefly chatted about his desires to try to be multimodal from Escondido to Kearny Mesa. I had the perfect bike, a Surly, that was just waiting for a rider. Ryan did use bike/transit in LA and had good intentions for trying it out in San Diego. “Baby steps” for becoming an active commuter is important.  No pressure, no judgement. What are the obstacles, challenges, joys, and benefits that Ryan will encounter. I can’t wait to hear about his journeys when I return. I honestly think he will be hooked and will be traveling by bike for his next overnight vacation.

Then there’s Rosa Olascoaga, a beautiful young leader for Mid-City Can advocating for safe streets and better mobility options for the residents of City Heights. Rosa is a new rider and borrowed the electric Blix Avanti for a ride to Tijuana with Los Cruzadores last weekend.  This was a fabulous ride, joined by more than 125 riders, exploring the communities from Barrio Logan, National City, Chula Vista, San Ysidro, and into Tijuana for a night of fun. The first day was a 30 mile ride for Rosa and she rocked it.  She was excited to experience riding the electric bike and mentioned that she would like to try an electric bike to commute from Paradise Valley to City Heights. It was perfect timing, and she would become the next rider to explore the opportunities and joys of riding through San Diego on a bike. I'd have liked to have been in town to show her how to navigate properly in traffic, but hoping some of our friends will help her with this skill and lead her to safe and blissful riding. We must be patient and take time to feel comfortable riding in traffic. For me, I grew riding up as a kid, but my daily commutes as an adult was a simple 1.5 miles to the neighborhood school twice a day for six years. That is what really transformed my tansportation choices and  why I now use my bike for transportation.

As our region indulges in the conversations of transportation with SANDAG, MTS, cities in the county, and locally within our communities, I do believe it is important for our leaders to become active commuters and to ride a bike to have better understanding and perspective for the benefits of bikes.

If you're interested in the challenge and want to try to change your commute, please feel free to reach out to me (nicole23ob@gmail.com). Nothing makes me happier than seeing new friends experience the freedom of riding a bike and escaping a car for local commutes.

Although I'm on the opposite side of the world, I send good vibes to these new riders and all of you that have been blessed with the beauty of riding a bike.

Ride on friends and may we all shine together for health and happiness.

Nicole Burgess
BikeSD Board President