Letter to the Mayor re: Street Safety During COVID-19 Social Distancing

BikeSD sent the following letter to the Mayor of San Diego:

 


Dear Mayor Kevin Faulconer,

 

BikeSD would like to applaud your leadership and thank you for taking swift action to help flatten the curve here in SD. These are very challenging times for all, and everyday you are making decisions for the health of our residents, we thank you and want to offer our support.

 

We understand why parks, beaches and trails were closed. Trails are narrow and social distancing was difficult. People rely on walking and bicycling around their neighborhoods to stay active during the shelter-in-place order, yet typical space allocation for sidewalks and bicycles does not accommodate the minimum six feet of distance.

 

To support the safety of vulnerable road users, promote the health of our residents, and aid economic resiliency, BikeSD would like the City of San Diego to restrict vehicular traffic on selected streets to allow people to bike, walk and run safely on those streets. With fewer people driving to work, and others avoiding the cost of gasoline purchases, our streets are less crowded than normal, creating an opportunity to temporarily repurpose street space. By rapidly expanding our bicycle infrastructure we can provide/promote:

  1. A safe way for people to move about the city while maintaining proper distancing.
  2. An affordable means to access essential services for those most impacted by acute loss of income in the near to intermediate future
  3. Outdoor exercise to balance the physical and mental effects of sheltering in place.

 

New York City, Minneapolis, Denver, & Philadelphia, exemplify quick rollouts for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in adaptation to the COVID19 emergency (see here for larger discussion). We have the advantage of favorable geography, climate, and many existing streets with wide lanes with which to work towards a similar goal. With a decrease in vehicular traffic, traffic speeds are up, as noted in Los Angeles, and in San Diego, where the CHP reports freeway collisions now disproportionately require ambulance responses. At a time when our hospitals and emergency medicine responses are stretched thin, we can take proactive measures to reduce the likelihood of serious traffic injuries requiring those same scarce resources. New York experienced a 43% incident increase in bicycle collisions during the pandemic, while overall traffic collisions are down 33% relative to this time last year – motivating their emergency roll out of bike infrastructure.

 

Poorer neighborhoods are historically underserved by bicycle infrastructure, while often the most in need of affordable/free transportation in times of crisis. As our economy shifts for the uncertain, and MTS reduces its service due to lower ridership, bicycling becomes a more appealing economic imperative. For example, during the Great Recession, bicycle commuting in NYC shot up 26%. Conservative estimates of savings from foregoing a car and travelling by bike are 4,000-10,000 per year which is larger than the proposed $1,200 check being sent out to families. This savings is then spent in communities which will help stimulate local businesses.

 

Much of this could be accomplished by:

  1. Designating additional bicycle and pedestrian space for all SANDAG EAP projects (including Pac Hwy)
  2. Designating additional bicycle and pedestrian space for the entire network for the downtown mobility plan.
  3. The creation of a mechanism for communities to request opening additional streets to pedestrians/bicyclists so as to increase inclusivity of these measures.

 

We support the community, residents, and leadership to overcome the disruption that COVID19 is causing, and adapt to the changing needs. This is a critical moment where we can adopt a healthier, cleaner, and safer environment. We know you understand the joys of riding a bike and we want to support your team to create streets for people. We believe this will help SD residents adapt and build resiliency in our ever changing world.

 

Sinceramente,
BikeSD
3900 Cleveland Ave #205
San Diego CA 92103
talk@bikesd.org