Mayoral Candidate Carl DeMaio Releases His Vision for a Walkable, Bikeable Future

Mayoral Candidate, Carl DeMaio. Photo from CarlDeMaio.com

Yesterday, Mayoral Candidate Carl DeMaio released his vision for a bikeable and walkable future. In his press release DeMaio stated

To make San Diego a truly pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly city, we need a Mayor who has the commitment and detailed plan needed to improve our infrastructure and install walking and bicycling improvements

BikeSD believes that the metrics for what makes a city truly bike friendly is very finite and includes:

1. Investing toward protected bike infrastructure (such as buffered bike lanes y cycle tracks).

2. Temporarily opening up the streets to everyone but the automobile in order to allow residents to experience public space in a new way

3. A legal system that is supportive and not apathetic toward bicycle riders

4. Strong vision and support from elected officials and a willingness to stay the course.

On #4, Carl DeMaio is now positioning himself to be that visionary leader who will transform San Diego into the world's best bike friendly city. Yesterday, he released his vision for a bikeable and walkable future.

I didn't look very closely into the walking component of DeMaio's plan, but below are the details of the bike component of DeMaio's plan which is tied into his vision for improving San Diego's street infrastructure. Some of the details in DeMaio's plan are borrowed from former mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher's excellent vision.DeMaio's states that given San Diego's existing perfect climate and terrain, "San Diego could do much more to encourage and support cycling as a recreational opportunity and viable mode of transportation". He goes on to state,

As the City’s Bicycle master Plan very clearly and simply points out: “more people are willing to cycle more frequently if better bicycle facilities are provided.” To make San Diego the world’s most bike-friendly city, we must actively work to make bicycling a viable and preferred travel choice through planning and land-use decisions, particularly during the community plan update process. Perhaps most importantly, we must ensure that as we invest in $900 million in backlogged deferred maintenance, we use that as an opportunity to invest in bicycle-friendly infrastructure.

Part of DeMaio's vision to turn San Diego into the world's best bike friendly city includes "[c]reating a city where cycling is a viable and preferred travel choice". DeMaio cites the progress to date including the City releasing the bike plan in 2002 (updated in 2011) which was then unanimously approved by City Council in 2008. The specifics on how DeMaio intends to turn San Diego into the world's most bike friendly city includes:

i. Planning and land-use decisions - "by enabling San Diegans to live closer to the places they work, shop, dine, and enjoy entertainment and recreation opportunities, additional San Diegans can more frequently utilize bicycling to commute."
ii. Community plan updates - As many of the communities in San Diego haven't had an updated general plan in decades, DeMaio states that he "will make the update of our community plans a priority, which will identify transportation needs within each community and the required infrastructure to support it. With the adoption of the updated Bicycle Master Plan in 2011, communities are now equipped to integrate more bicycle-friendly planning in these community plan updates." The outdated existing plans are often based on a very auto-centric planning model, updating it to reflect current needs is a first step toward improving our communities to be more bike friendly.

iii. Investing in bicycle-friendly infrastructure - Here DeMaio ties his vision for making San Diego more bike friendly to his Streets Plan. He expands on this point by stating,

When it makes financial and logistical sense, Carl DeMaio wants to see bike lanes, bike paths, cycle tracks, bicycle boulevards, and other improvements.
Additionally, Carl DeMaio supports the installation of new bike racks in sensible locations throughout the city, and in some cases bike lockers and bike corrals when funding is available from SANDAG and other sources.
On streets where cycle tracks and even bike lanes aren’t feasible and shared use of cars and bicycles is necessary (referred to as bike routes), “sharrows” are an increasingly common sight in San Diego. They’re inexpensive (just painted arrows and bike emblems on the roadway). DeMaio supports the expanded use of “sharrows” throughout the city to ensure motorists are aware of the shared use of these lanes

iv. Eliminate outdated requirements for bicycle registration - Here DeMaio is referring to the bicycle registration requirement that is both unenforced and unenforceable given all the other existing city woes.

DeMaio additionally mentions the upcoming bike share program and expresses excitement at its launch:

Carl DeMaio is excited to see Mayor Sanders launching such a cutting-edge and much-needed program in San Diego, which will make cycling even more appealing and easy for residents

Perhaps DeMaio's most explicit statement, is his vision to immediately work on ensuring that San Diego gets on the list of America's most bike friendly cities. Given that the eighth largest city is not on that list, this is a good goal that will take us toward becoming the world's most bike friendly cities.

DeMaio, in releasing his vision for a more bike friendly future, has proven that bicycling is not a partisan issue despite what elected officials at the state and national level want bike advocates to believe. DeMaio is the local Tea-Party darling and the local Republican Party favorite to win the mayoral race. I commend DeMaio for explicitly committing to turn San Diego into the world's best bike friendly city.

What are your thoughts on the plan? Has DeMaio releasing this plan swayed your decision on whom to vote for mayor in November?


Why I’m voting for Nathan Fletcher to be our next Mayor

Next Tuesday, June 5, is election day and the mayor’s race is one of the most hotly contested races by most long timer’s accounts. In a city where most residents have long lost faith in the political process or in their elected officials' ability to effect change, many are very cynical about Fletcher’s messages to create the sort of city we’ve all been wanting but have been too afraid to really ask for.

But before why I detail my reasons for why I think we need to give Fletcher a shot, let’s go through the current slate of candidates from worst to best.

Bonnie DumanisThe current District Attorney states that her experience in running a city bureaucracy makes her tough enough to handle our current problems. Given how our existing law enforcement shows absolute disregard for any human being who walks, bikes or exists outside an automobile, Dumanis as our mayor means that a vision for a more livable city will never exist during her tenure. Besides going after the city’s lowlife, a tiny percentage of the population, that exists in our city, a mayor has to embody the spirit of a leader that inspire residents to becomes more engaged and passionate about making the city into a model that is attractive to businesses, residents and visitors. Dumanis’ narrow focus means that San Diego will regress into being a lowly backwater city while cities smaller and larger than ours will transform into economic hubs that we should be aspiring toward.

Carl DeMaio – DeMaio’s mayoral campaign is akin to that of a Councilmember’s campaign. His infrastructure plan addresses the same problems that current Councilmember Gloria is accomplishing through his “sexy streets” campaign. The issues he tackles lacks the sort of vision that a mayoral candidate ought to have. Despite DeMaio’s visit to Portland he failed to see the economic potential a more bike friendly San Diego would bring. Having watched how DeMaio interacts with other Councilmembers reveals a level of animosity and immaturity that would be laughable if City Council were a kindergarten classroom. If DeMaio is unable to bridge ideological divides at City Council, I’m unclear on how he can lead the eight largest city in the country out of its current woes.

Bob Filner - I see the mayoral race as akin to a job interview and the four candidates are currently putting on their best face in order to get the job. Filner’s best face to date has been exceedingly sloppy. As a congressman, Filner has voted on the issues that has garnered praise from environmental and left-leaning groups. But after listening to a recent talk about campaign finance reform, I got the impression that Filner was running for mayor because he was tired of being a fundraiser in Congress. That’s too bad because, given the slate of mostly awful San Diego based Congressional House Representatives currently in office, Filner is a valuable ally in Congress. The narrative for his lackluster mayoral campaign in his run for Mayor has been driven by his party affiliation more than any realistic vision for San Diego. If Filner, running to be the leader of the city, couldn’t be bothered to put his best face forward in a mayoral election, I’m too afraid to imagine the sort of mayor we will have if he is elected to office.

Nathan Fletcher for Mayor. Photo from nathanfletcher.com

Nathan FletcherMany people I know and have spoken to are truly on the fence about Fletcher. They’re suspicious of Fletcher’s ditch of the GOP label to run as an independent. They are unconvinced that he will implement any of his plans if elected to office. The reason I’m supporting Fletcher is because I’m willing to give him a chance. His former party affiliation is meaningless to me, because some of our strongest allies at the state and Federal level have been Republicans (Ray LaHood, Tom Petri, Rick Snyder and more). Fletcher's various endorsements cut through party lines and his endorsers all reveal a genuine admiration for a man who does seem to be the sort of leader who is willing to work for the common good. His most famous piece of legislative work at the state assembly was written based at his constituents' request. While the subject is not something I pay close attention to, I appreciate a candidate’s willingness to listen and enact change. In Sacramento, he voted to support bills that would keep bicycle riders safe. On environmental issues, San Diego’s Earth Day Founder, Carolyn Chase, wrote a strong statement of support praising Fletcher. Unrelated to transportation and land use issues, he voted to preserve and enhance our environmental resources such as water.

San Diegans long tired of promises made by candidates that have fallen flat or disappeared are justified in being suspicious of this new face in town who is promising a vision that locals are too afraid to believe in. Although I was extremely impressed when he came out with a truly outstanding bike plan policy, what has given me the confidence to vote for Fletcher is his ability to address hard questions without deflecting with a joke (like Filner often does), or redirecting them (like DeMaio always seems to). Having lived under our existing mayor who has been mostly opaque to the general public, I’d like to have someone in charge who will answer questions when he is in the hot seat. And of course, his willingness to envision a more livable city that will be inviting to existing and future residents of the city, is certainly something we should all support.

UPDATE: To find your local polling place, click here.
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Fletcher's team designed and released a masthead to titled, "Cyclists, bikers for Fletcher" with no prompting on my part. That did tickle me.


First Look at Bob Filner's Healthy San Diego Plan

Mayoral Candidate Bob Filner

Mayoral candidate and current Congressman, Bob Filner, is currently tied at second place at the polls with another mayoral candidate, Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher.

Perhaps in an attempt to break the tie and capture the vote of what KPBS is calling the "bike contingent", Filner just released his draft Healthy San Diego Plan[pdf] which was posted at the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition's website. The plan details Filner's vision for a healthier San Diego and how he, as mayor will ensure that San Diegans have access to bikeable and walkable communities.

How will Filner ensure this? In a series of bullet points, Filner first lists the city's natural assets followed by another series of bullet points on how he will tap into those assets in order make San Diego healthier. One of the bullet points lists San Diego's high fatality rate of bicycle riders in comparison with the state and, Mission Valley's over-development.

So how does the mayoral candidate intend to create bikeable communities?

Filner states that because of the Complete Streets Act, the Regional Bike Plan and the City's Bicycle Master Plan, he lists how he, as next mayor, intends to implement these plans. He will do so by,

ensuring that the following will becentral (sic) component of any new neighborhood infrastructure projects:
-­ bike lanes
-­ shared lane markings/sharrows
-­ Greenways
-­ roundabouts and other traffic calming tools
-­ bike parking facilities, like the Bike Corral opening in North Park

Filner states that the timelines stated in the bike plans should be used as conservative baselines, "San Diegans shouldn’t have to wait for forty years for a comprehensive regional bike network." Additionally, Filner intends to be an outspoken advocate for bike projects before "SANDAG, the County Board of Supervisors, the Port District, and the City Council, to ensure other regional leaders keep their commitment to increased bike transit."

One of the biggest changes Filner intends to implement, if elected mayor, is creating a new City Department, APLUS, that will replace the current Department of Development Services. APLUS stands for the "Agency for Prosperity, Livability, and Urban Sustainability"  and  this new department will be "charged with executing a citywide plan to make biking viable for all San Diegans".

How does the mayoral candidate intend to fund the creation of these bikeable communities? By using existing and new sources of state and federal revenue:

TEA-­21 (Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century)
AB 434 state funds for clean air transit projects
AB 2766 Clean air dollars from automobile registration surcharges
AB1475 Safe Routes to School state matching funds.

Two other key points of the biking component of Filner's plan include creation of a bike share system and a Ciclovia, cleverly called "CicloSDia".

Overall impression

Not unlike another plan that Filner had promised almost a year before he finally released his own, this plan comes almost nine months after he and his staff promised to address this issue in a tangible manner. The draft Healthy San Diego plan reads like a plan that was hastily put together, evidenced by all the grammar errors and other typos and reads as though parts of it were copied from Fletcher's own plan. One key difference is that Filner addresses the needs of pedestrians, although in a vague manner - but acknowledges their role in getting San Diego healthier. There was one bullet point that gave me pause. Filner's plan discusses a successful bike share program in San Francisco. This is odd considering that the program is scheduled to be launched this summer.

Overall, the ideas contained within the plan was a good start. The funding opportunities that Filner intends to pursue was original and creative as it taps into revenue streams not currently pursued. However, I was unable to overlook the general sloppiness of the plan despite it being a "draft" plan, especially as it was released by someone seeking to hold one of the most powerful positions in the city, the Office of the Mayor.

Edit: I neglected to look deeply into the funding sources that Filner sought to target. Thanks to a tip from Jessica Roberts, a bicycle and pedestrian planner from Portland, OR, I learned that TEA-21 expired in September 2003.
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To read more about the 2012 Mayoral election and where the candidates stand on other issues besides non-motorized transportation, read the Voice of San Diego's excellent coverage on the subject.


Big News in Mayoral Election: Fletcher Quits the GOP

This morning, mayoral candidate, Nathan Fletcher announced that he was leaving the Republican Party to run as an independent candidate in San Diego's mayoral election.

This is big news in light of the Republican party dilly dallying over the Transportation bill in the House. By making transportation a partisan issue, the Republican Party is alienating the next generation of voters as well has many of their long term supporters. By being the only mayoral candidate in San Diego's history to come out strongly supporting bicycling as a mode of transportation, Fletcher has demonstrated a willingness to listen to the bicycling populace that vote.

It is already turning out to be an interesting mayoral race here. Has Fletcher switching party affiliation changed how you perceive him?


First Look at Nathan Fletcher's Bike Plan Policy

Mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher sent in a copy of his bike plan policy that he released this morning. This comprehensive implementation plan is exactly the kind of forward-thinking vision cyclists all over San Diego have long been waiting for. None of the other mayoral candidates have been forthcoming with a clear vision on how they intend to implement San Diego’s Master Bicycle Plan by creating, improving and enhancing the city’s bicycle infrastructure to elevate bicycling as a feasible mode of transportation for all San Diegans.

Nathan Fletcher announcing his bike plan policy. Photo by Randy Van Vleck

As Mia Birk stated last December, the key to having a truly bike friendly city requires three ingredients,
1. A strong staff at the city level that is committed to making bicycling in San Diego better
2. The political will.
3. A strong advocacy front willing to support the government in its efforts.

San Diego has a strong core of bike advocates and, since late last year, strong staff at the city level. What San Diego is missing right now is the political will and Fletcher recognizes that missing component stating that what San Diego’s Bicycle Master Plan “doesn’t include is a plan of action or commitment from city leaders to find and allocate the resources we need to move the plan forward.”

To start, Fletcher recognizes that San Diego isn’t reaching its full potential to be one of the world’s greatest bike friendly cities.

As an avid cyclist, I want to see San Diego embrace the full potential it has to be one of the world’s great bike-friendly cities. That vision includes making biking safer, providing more recreational cycling opportunities and completing our cycling infrastructure so people can move around their neighborhoods as easily on a bike as they can in a car.

He then goes on to make the case on how bicycling can help our local economy by generating tourism dollars and supporting businesses.

Other cities have shown investing in bike infrastructure pays off. In 2008, Portland saw $90 million in bicycle-related economic activity, from retail, manufacturing, professional services and organized rides, an increase in value of 38 percent from 2006, reflecting the increase in bicycling, resulting in part from the city’s expanding network of bicycling facilities.

What are Fletcher’s goals for making San Diego one of the world’s best bicycling cities? He has a list of proven good ideas where he raised the bar, set in the bike plan, by ensuring we meet the goals earlier rather than later:
1. Increasing the bicycling mode share which would result in reducing the air pollution and meet California’s greenhouse gas emission targets.
2. Reducing the number of bicyclist collisions
3. Adopting best practices such as the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. This would bring in some of the world’s best bike infrastructure design that has shown to work effectively. Since AB 819 was watered down this would enable San Diego to take a lead and use the guide to become one of the world’s most bicycle friendly cities.
4. Ensuring that all of the city’s 40 community plans are updated and reflect the current wishes of the individual community residents.
5. Implementing the Complete Streets Act.
6. Partnering with law enforcement to expand the bicycle patrol division, educating the public on the traffic laws and issues revolving around sharing road space where there are no bicycle facilities.
7. Implementing a bicycle share program. This has been called a “game-changer” in increasing the bicycle mode share in other cities around the world.
8. Using sharrows and other innovative lane markings such as colored bike lanes.
9. Implementing a “Promenade for a Day” program. In other words, a Ciclovia: a temporary closure of streets that bring neighborhoods together and something that San Diego should have had for many years.
10. Creating a Mayor’s Cycling Task Force comprised of senior members of the mayor’s administration and the members in the cycling community. The purpose of the Cycling Task Force will be to oversee the mayor’s “efforts to identify and apply for federal and state funding opportunities.”
11. Measuring the results from implementing the above programs.
12. Publishing a Regional Bike Map and a Mobile Application to outline existing bike paths, trails and routes as well as “information related to bike infrastructure such as bike share programs, lockers and other amenities.”

This plan is an excellent start. Adopting the best practices detailed in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Guide will go a long way to implementing some of the bicycle facilities that have shown to work very effectively in the most bike friendly cities. A bike share program made a significant dent in increasing the bicycle mode share in Barcelona – a city that San Diego has a lot in common with. There has been a group of San Diegans who have been running into repeated roadblocks in their attempt to implement a Ciclovia here in San Diego, a problem that could be easily solved with a little push from the mayor’s office. Leadership from the mayor’s office to push us to the next level is exactly what San Diegans have been waiting for all along. And Fletcher has proven that he supports bicyclist in his tenure to date at the California Assembly where Fletcher has voted to improve things for bicyclists by voting in favor of AB 819 and voting to support the three foot passing bill last year, until it got vetoed by Governor Brown.

A bike plan policy means nothing without understanding the psychology of riding. As an avid cyclist and pedestrian (when in Sacramento), Fletcher intuitively grasps the challenges that the non-motorized contingent around the city face on a daily basis. If there is any one complaint I have about Fletcher’s bike plan it would be that he doesn’t envision San Diego being the world’s most bike friendly city. But I can settle for being one of the world’s most bike friendly cities, for the time being. And I’m willing to give Fletcher a shot as mayor to see if he can be the political will at City Hall we’ve all been waiting for. I hope you will consider doing the same.