2018 County Supervisor District 4 Questionnaire: Lori Saldaña

Do you have memorable experiences or memories while riding a bike?

Yes – Bikes have been a part of my life for commuting, exercise, and travel. We had “bike rodeos” in elementary school that taught students safe riding techniques and improved our skills. I have memorable moments that helped me appreciate both the benefits and the risks of bike riding, including:

Multimodal/Commuting: As a student at SDSU, I would carpool to campus, and transport a bike for the return trip. This included riding down Fairmont Avenue into Mission Valley, and catching a bus in Fashion Valley. Traffic was lighter compared then, but it was often hazardous: There were fewer dedicated bike lanes or other separations, which discouraged many other people from biking. I rarely saw other bike riders, and one day, as a school bus drove past, a student threw an object at me and knocked off my sunglasses, bruising my face.

I also commuted from Azalea Park to North Park while working at REI. The store sold many bicycles, and I arranged for educational classes, clinics and hands-on workshops, to encourage safe riding & bike repair. Due to the lack of bicycle lanes, I often encountered heavy traffic and other hazards, and identified safer routes through residential areas. I learned more about the diverse communities and residents of Mid City and City Heights while avoiding congestion and traffic.

On the positive side of these commutes: using a bike was relatively inexpensive. Partnering with carpool and bus connections made it more efficient. As a student and part time employee, I saved money on parking fees, fuel costs, etc. But it also carried physical risks.

Tourism/Travel: Years ago I rode a touring bike with panniers around the Big Island of Hawaii, and camped along the way. While the island traffic was light, the infrastructure was not supportive of cycling: there were narrow or non-existent shoulders, steep drop-offs, and no bike lanes along the one main road around the island.

In contrast, in 2016 I visited Amsterdam, and was impressed with their commitment to bike- only paths and intermodal transit: carrying folding bikes onto trains was a common way for people to commute over long distances. Taxes are very high on cars operated in cities, so people choose transit and bicycles. Ferries and other transit provided space only for bicyclists, separate from motor vehicles, making the cycling experience safe, inexpensive and efficient.

These trips helped me realize attitudes toward bicyclists account for many of the negative interactions and accidents that occur in San Diego, that discourage people from riding bikes for daily commutes. We need to improve attitudes about bicycling, as well as infrastructure.

SANDAG’s failed Measure A and its reform under AB805 have put transportation issues at the forefront of San Diego politics. What is your vision for transportation in San Diego County, and how does active transportation fit into it?

As former Chair of Housing & Community Development, my committee supported legislation that encouraged “transit oriented development,” to get people out of cars and into other transportation choices.

My vision for San Diego includes continuing with this approach to housing developments, supporting public transit and active transportation options, linking the use of bikes with transit, and increasing safety for San Diegans who choose these options over motorized vehicles. Bicycling, walking, transit and even boating as a means to move around the region has significant benefits: it reduces traffic congestion, improves air quality, reduces traffic noise in neighborhoods, and helps meet GHG reduction goals of Climate Action Plans (CAPs) by reducing vehicle miles travelled.

District 4 is in the geographic center of San Diego County, and includes some the region’s most densely built neighborhoods, close to public transit options. It has some of the most “walkable” communities- and also some of the most dangerous intersections for cyclists and pedestrians. Along with encouraging and supporting active transportation options, we need to increase public information and educational efforts, to make non-motorized travel safer for everyone.

Active transportation is good for public health- one of the County’s main responsibilities. It helps people be more active in their daily lives, and can help prevents obesity, heart disease, and other health risks. San Diego commuters are encountering an increasingly grid-locked highway system during peak drive times, adding to stress- a known contributor to hypertension and other illnesses.

The County needs to encourage, and seek state funds, for development of “Safe Pathways to Schools” throughout the region. As a career Community College educator, I will explore ways the County can also partner with regional colleges and universities, to support programs for students and employees who seek alternatives to driving to campus.

We need to encourage employers to have a supportive role. They can provide showers for “active commuters” at the work place, offer storage lockers for bikes, and/or create partnerships with nearby fitness centers who may offer these amenities.

Finally, since San Diego County is still working on a CAP, it would benefit by producing an update of its Bicycle Transportation Plan. Since SANDAG projects a significant funding shortfall, it becomes even more important for the County to step up to provide support for the updates to a regional plan.

There are funds available for this, thanks to the California Transportation Commission, and their support of the state’s Active Transportation Program. As County Supervisor, I will take the following steps to fund the research needed to develop a plan, and have a better understanding of what’s contributing to safety and other issues that discourage more bicycle ridership:

  1. Reviewtheresultsofapplicationsalreadysubmittedtothestate’sActiveTransportation Program, to engage in ongoing research, and fund activities based on the results.
  2. Seekadditionalfundsforbikeroutestudies,toexpandtheworkdonebySDSU,to identify where people are currently riding bikes countywide, evaluate how safe those routes are, and determine if they are the most efficient from an infrastructure and multi- modal perspective.
  3. Evaluate other county programs in California and other states, to learn from models that would be applicable to San Diego.

As county supervisor, you may have the opportunity to serve on the boards of MTS or SANDAG. (How) would you advocate for SANDAG’s bicycle early action program, which has experienced significant delays? Would you support MTS ballot measures that include funding for bicycle infrastructure?

Early action program: Regarding concerns about delays, and the time and costs of conducting pubic reviews and hearings but few infrastructure improvements: Effective planning requires accurate and current information, as well as public input. But since so few miles of bike paths have been created, after the expenditures of $60 million, I would ask for a report and audit of the program to date, to determine why results are so slow to be realized and what needs to change to create firm timelines for projects to be identified and completed. Bike lanes and bike paths are part of this, but we also could benefit from improved lighting, and repairs to streets, bike lanes and paths (see: Rose Canyon bike path improvements).

Ballot measure & Active Transportation fund requests for bicycling: I would support the inclusion of funding bicycle infrastructure in a ballot measure.

Unfortunately, improved safety conditions for bicyclists have been opposed by segments of the community. Politicians often seek a “consensus” solution, but these are not always possible. How would you work with all sides to ensure safety improvements occur?

It may be difficult to reach consensus and advocate for cyclists, partly because only an estimated 6% of the residents in the city of San Diego are bicycling, and partly because of attitudes towards bicyclists in car-centric California. We need to engage more cyclists in effective advocacy to create meaningful change. This encouragement could be via sponsoring educational events at bike shops, installing bike facilities at transit centers and engaging with users at these locations, and partnering with bike shops to promote safe bicycling via in-store kiosks and activities.

I recently read a social media post that described the risks bicyclists often face this way:

I have this theory that cycling is as close as a middle-class straight white guy can get to understanding Being Female. People have a reckless disregard for your safety, you have to treat everyone like they might hurt you, and if you do get hurt people will blame you for existing

A broad public education campaign could bring attention to the dangers bicyclists often face during rides. The public needs to hear that bike-car accident fatalities have increased in San Diego in recent years, as a percentage of overall vehicle crashes. But policy proposals to address safety issues need to be based on results of research- so until we know if these increased fatalities are due to lack of education, behavioral issues, facilities/infrastructure, or some combination of these things- it is difficult to determine a course of action.

In the meantime: I support closing streets to cars on certain days, to encourage broader participation in events like CycloDias. I’d like to and expand these activities into more communities. These events help people enjoy safe cycling, and develop a better understanding of the benefits of safely riding bicycles in San Diego.

Also, as traffic congestion increases, and people use biking as a commute option, more attention needs to be placed on structures that improve cycling safety, and educating drivers about ways to safely share the roads with cyclists during their daily commutes. So I support:

  1. Installing protective barriers to ensure safe separation of bicycles from parking and motorized vehicles, and
  2. Providing more education in schools & the community at large, to create safer bike riders, and address the attitudes of drivers.