University Heights Pizza Delivery By Bike

DSCN5724On a ride through University Heights a few weeks ago, I noticed what looked like two delivery bikes parked outside a small pizza restaurant on Park Boulevard right under the neighborhood sign. I made a mental note to investigate further, and when I finally emailed the owner of Pizza Gourmet Express to ask for an interview, I was pleased to find James Tuckwell to be extremely congenial and willing to submit to my battery of poorly-conceived questions.

Open for almost a year now, Pizza Gourmet Express inaugurated its free bicycle delivery program in May of this year. Two delivery riders handle about ten percent of the restaurant's business on single-speed cruiser-style bikes, outfitted with oversize delivery baskets mounted on front. The free bicycle delivery zone is limited to University Heights, but the restaurant also offers auto-driven delivery outside of this zone through Expressly Gourmet.

When I asked James about his decision to offer neighborhood bicycle delivery, I was pleased to learn that neither he nor his riders consider themselves “bike people,” per se, but that bicycles were the most cost-effective, convenient, and efficient way to deliver within the neighborhood. They are also a unique and attention-grabbing feature of the business. “After all,” said James during our interview, “I wouldn’t be talking to you now if it weren’t for the bikes.” He was right, of course.

One of Pizza Gourmet Express’s goals is to be University Heights’s neighborhood pizza place, and this means building on the already-strong bonds of community in the area. A fleet of cars emblazoned with the Pizza Gourmet Express logo didn’t seem like the right way to go in this compact and historic neighborhood, where parking is at a premium and many residents choose to travel by foot or bicycle.

To mesh with this atmosphere, James chose bicycles as both a low-impact and high-visibility means of delivery. James’s friendly and law-abiding riders are easily identifiable on their red and white delivery cruisers, and they present a visible reminder of Pizza Gourmet Express’s commitment to the community and its character every time they go out.

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My wife and I visited Pizza Gourmet Express this past weekend, since any good reporter has to know what he’s writing about, right? The atmosphere is cozy, comfortable, and friendly, and the pizza is quite good. The menu is simple: one side has more traditional fare, the other side has fancier concoctions, but nothing outlandish or terribly expensive. We chose the pesto pizza with chicken on a thin crust, which was tremendous. I went with the on-tap root beer, while my wife had a bottle of mango soda. The panna cotta for dessert was, uh, I don’t really have words, actually. It was darn good, anyway, and made locally.

After dinner, we took a walk around the neighborhood, and wouldn’t you know, we saw one of James’s delivery riders coming back from a delivery. It was one of those moments, which are becoming more common in San Diego, when you begin to appreciate what a truly bike-friendly city could be like.

Pizza Gourmet Express is located on Park Boulevard in the heart of University Heights, right by the sign. They are open for lunch and dinner, and the free neighborhood bicycle delivery runs from 5pm to 9pm daily.

Special deal for Bike San Diego readers who made it all the way to the end of this article: mention Bike San Diego when you place your order at Pizza Gourmet Express through November 2009, and receive 20% off your pizza order.


Report Finds Holes in City's Street Repair Priorities

What? Problems with street repair? Here, in San Diego? We're shocked, just shocked.

SignOnSanDiego reports that the city auditor's office has submitted a report to the mayor and city council detailing failures in the city's prioritization of streets that need resurfacing and repair. Among the problems, a database that is not accurately updated, leading to redundant projects and neglecting streets that have worsened between surveys, particularly residential streets. Says the report:

The condition of streets is an integral component to the quality of life within the City of San Diego. Due to the scale and diversity of the streets maintained by the City, effective management of City streets requires significant and consistent dedication of public resources. Street conditions within the City are considered to be in less than acceptable condition.

So, in other words, throwing some temporary soft money at the issue doesn't actually solve the larger endemic problems within the system. This is the first of three reports that will be submitted by the auditor's office on this subject, and they do provide some recommendations for reforming the system. Perhaps something will come of it. Also, there are some colorful graphs.

Read the full document, "Performance Audit of the City's Street Maintenance Functions" hosted at SignOnSanDiego.


Tour of California Not Returning to San Diego, Organizers Cite Difficulties with Local Officials

The Tour of California will not return to San Diego County in 2010, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The bicycling race, which, earlier this year, attracted nearly 300,000 spectators, 16 pro teams, and 150 racers--including Lance Armstrong--will bypass the city of Escondido and San Diego County next year.

Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, whose parent company owns Tour of California, cited San Diego County's bureaucratic inefficiency and difficulties as the reason why AEG decided to bypass San Diego next year.

Messick went on to say that, “With the exception of the city of San Francisco, we struggle more in San Diego County than anywhere else. Just with the day-to-day of getting stuff done. Permits, city services. What we call plumbing.”

Photos by Charlie Neuman from The San Diego Union-Tribune

The article in its entirety can be read below:

By Don Norcross
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
8:07 p.m. October 21, 2009

The Amgen Tour of California cycling race will not return to San Diego County next year.

Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, whose parent company owns the event, confirmed via e-mail Wednesday that the stage race is bypassing San Diego.

Robin Bettin, Escondido's assistant director of community services, also said the race will not be back.

"It's unfortunate for the city," Bettin said. "It was a great event."

Race organizers have scheduled news conferences throughout the state Thursday to announce the 2010 course.

Started in 2006, the Tour of California has developed into the most popular stage race in the United States. Featuring a starting field of 16 pro teams and nearly 150 cyclists, the race came to San Diego County for the first time in February.

Lance Armstrong (left) and tour winner (and teammate) Levi Leipheimer share the podium and a bottle of bubbly in Escondido last winter.
Lance Armstrong (left) and tour winner (and teammate) Levi Leipheimer share the podium and a bottle of bubbly in Escondido last winter.

Buoyed by Lance Armstrong's presence after a 3½-year retirement, plus a taxing, scenic climb up Palomar Mountain, the 96.8-mile stage that started in Rancho Bernardo and finished in downtown Escondido attracted tremendous spectator turnouts. One source estimated the stage drew nearly 300,000 fans, although some believed the figure was inflated.

"This is the largest crowd I've ever seen on American soil in the last 25 years," race director Jim Birrell said.

Australian pro cyclist Michael Rogers referred to the atmosphere along Palomar Mountain as "Tour de France stuff."

But while he was encouraged with the fan support, Messick said organizing an event in San Diego County was difficult.

"With the exception of the city of San Francisco, we struggle more in San Diego County than anywhere else," Messick said in March. “Just with the day-to-day of getting stuff done. Permits, city services. What we call plumbing."

Messick would not comment further Wednesday other than to confirm the event was not returning.

Qualcomm CEO Jeff Jacobs and David Vigil, Qualcomm's vice president of business development, were instrumental in bringing the race here. Both donated money to cover expenses for the city of Escondido.

Between Jacobs and Vigil's contributions, plus money from race organizers, Bettin said there "wasn't a net loss" for the city.

Bettin said that on June 26, Escondido made a $200,000 "letter of commitment" to race organizers to host a 2010 stage.

Regarding the race now skipping Escondido, Bettin said, "It's kind of good news, bad news. It's bad news because we lost an event with a lot of visibility. To a much smaller degree, (it's good news because) we don't have to worry about raising that kind of money."

Jacobs, an avid cyclist who had raced at Ironman Hawaii three times, said he would have been willing to financially support the race again next year.

A San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau spokesperson said the event accounted for 2,000 booked hotel room nights.

It was a huge economic boost for the whole community," said Debra Rosen, president and CEO of the San Diego North Chamber of Commerce. "It put Escondido on the map. There was just no negative to it. It was all positive."

Said Lisa Grumel, co-owner of Vincent's restaurant in Escondido, "I'm disappointed it won't be returning. It brought so much energy to Escondido."

Robin Bettin, Escondido's assistant director of community services, offers a rather conservative synopsis of what will be lost while offering an overly-"rosey" and questionable synopsis of what will be gained by Tour de California's decision to bypass San Diego in 2010.

Bettin tells UT reporter that, “It's kind of good news, bad news. It's bad news because we lost an event with a lot of visibility. To a much smaller degree, (it's good news because) we don't have to worry about raising that kind of money.”

'Visibility'? It seems that a lot more than just 'visibility' will be lost.

What will be lost is the opportunity for nearly 300,000 people to come together, to do something active at an exceptional "Tour de France"-like pro-bike social event in our very own San Diego county. In addition, what will also be lost is a significant degree of local economic generation; 2,000 people booked hotel rooms in Escondido for Tour de California earlier this year. The room fees that would have generated economic stimulation, including the money those visitors would have been spent on food and other goods, will be lost.

Actually, the visibility is increasing in one way--it's visible to San Diego, California, and U.S. cyclists and cycling enthusiasts that San Diego officials dropped the ball on the Tour of California bicycle race.

San Diego should be a mainstay of the Tour of California race and local officials should work harder and negotiate more firmly to make sure that it is.

Mr. Messick's statements shed new light on the inefficiencies of San Diego's historically troubled bureaucracy.

This synopsis was originally posted at Bic Control.

Some SDUT commenters, are calling for an investigation into who exactly dropped the ball on this issue.


Report from North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Project

Kate, our reader in Encinitas attended the most recent North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Project and sent us this update:

This presentation was a really tight, succinct presentation that gave great detail along the entire 2 mile stretch between La Costa and Encinitas Boulevard. The presentation compared the new Alternate 5 with the Alternate 4A (newly modified from 4) big picture items:

  • 3 versus 4 lanes
  • Roundabout
  • Reverse angle parking

The goals for all have always been a balance of use in the right of way - an approximate width of 90 feet - for a walkable stretch with slower traffic. Additional parking plus the community demands for tree canopy, sustainable design, fixed drainage in a walkable and bike friendly streetscape. The 4A was the best balance of all users and 5 placed the emphasis on motor vehicles. The Leucadia Blog has some good summary points on the streetscape project, though again I caution that this is an unmediated blog with anonymous comments veering often into personal attack, rude and uninformed opinions.

I made a point to seek out people and conversations regarding biking. The 7-8' wide bike lanes of 4A were clearly superior to 5' widths of alternate 5. I spoke to one biker who had a leg injury, I introduced myself and let him now I was a beginner wanting safety to re-learn my bike riding skills. We had a brief but good chat and he told me that Kathy Keehan of San Diego Bike Coalition was present, but I didn't find her in the crowd. I was pleased when this man, Randy Roberts stood up during the Q and A portion and talked about getting doored recently and hearing in the emergency room that this was the number one injury for bikers in the emergency room. He stressed that this Streetscape project is vitally important for the bikers in shadows, afraid to bike through our community. He was talking about me and I was pleased he stressed this. And, today I had the proof. Leucadia isn't safe and maybe what I heard at last week's workshop is true; Leucadia is the worst stretch of highway for San Diego County bikers.

Thank you Kate for sending us this update.

Once approved, construction work for Phase 1 of the Streetscape project is scheduled to begin within the next two years. From what we've learned so far, the goals of the organizers promoting walkable, people-centric design in Leucadia will also benefit bicyclists. An excerpt from the FAQ follows (emphasis is ours):

How do you create a “walkable” community?
1. Reduce the highway design speed to 25 to 30 mph. At the present time, the North Coast highway 101 is a raceway for drivers. The excessive speed encourages cut through commuter traffic diverting from Interstate 5. It is not safe for drivers, persons parking their cars, bicycle riders or pedestrians. 25 to 30 miles an hour is the same speed as downtown Encinitas’ new streetscape area.
2. Reduce the drive lane widths to 10 feet. Traffic studies demonstrate that reducing lane widths slows traffic down. Narrower driving means will also add right of way to provide for wider bike lanes and space for diagonal parking, street popouts for increased landscaping and sitting areas, and sidewalk widening.
3. Wider sidewalks. This will lead to more sidewalk oriented retail and outside dining. It also will increase the distance between pedestrians walking on the sidewalks and the traffic drive lanes, as well as permitting enhanced landscaping, more outside public seating and the display of public art.
4. Diagonal parking. The separation of this type of parking enhances walkability. The pedestrians feel safe and more secure. The diagonal parking also increases the number of parking spaces that are available. Providing sufficient public parking will be a major challenge in planning our streetscape. Wide bicycle lanes will also offer additional space for diagonal parking maneuvering.
5. Creating safer pedestrian crossings. Lane width reduction results in shorter distances for pedestrians crossing the highway.
6. The addition of street lights. Negotiating the Highway 101 corridor at night, even in the areas where sidewalks have recently been added, is still a daunting adventure because of the lack of street lighting. Once lighting of the sidewalks has been installed, more pedestrian traffic will be encouraged to walk through the corridor at night to enjoy the corridor’s outstanding restaurants, art galleries and retail shops.


Search for Hit-and-Run Driver in El Cajon

We are posting this story in order to disseminate the information to as large an audience as possible. San Diego News Network is reporting a hit-and-run of a bicyclist in El Cajon late last night:

A hit-and-run driver who struck and critically injured a 47-year-old man on a bicycle was at large Thursday, a police lieutenant said.

The bicyclist was struck shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday on East Madison, near Lindsey Street, said El Cajon police Lt. Jeff Davis. The driver fled before police and paramedics arrived, he said.

Paramedics took the cyclist to a hospital in critical condition, he said. Witnesses described the driver’s car as a dark-colored, 90s-model GM vehicle, similar to a Pontiac Grand Am or Buick.

The vehicle most likely has some front end and windshield damage, and may be maroon in color, according to Davis. Anyone with information about the motorist was asked to call El Cajon police at (619) 441-5559.