City Council Meeting Tomorrow: We Need Your Voice at City Hall

Two month’s after our first rally to City Council, a City Council Resolution is up for a vote tomorrow morning. We need your voice there to ask City Council to step up its game in ensuring that the city they govern is safe and livable for all residents. More details on showing up in person are available here including how to submit a comment to your Councilmember if you are unable to make it out in person.

To recap, here are the events leading up to this point.

Last year in March, David Ortiz was killed when riding his bicycle to work on Balboa Avenue which lies in Lori’ Zapf’s District. While the City Attorney’s office has not released any information to the public about the results of the investigation surrounding Ortiz’s death, the SDPD stated that Ortiz was to blame for his death despite the fact that he was struck from behind by a vehicle while attempting to navigate past a freeway ramp.

Late last year, we met with Councilmember Lori Zapf to talk about redesigning Balboa Avenue. Her staff then proposed a resolution at the Land Use and Housing Subcommittee (chaired by Zapf) which will now come up for a full City Council vote tomorrow. This issue took on a bit of an urgency after another resident was killed in Zapf’s district on a street designed very similar to Balboa Avenue, Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

San Diego is, embarrassingly, more dangerous to ride in than our sister to the north, Los Angeles.And Los Angeles isn’t stopping as they are going full throttle in ensuring that their city becomes bike friendly with all their wannabe elected officials committing to making L.A. more bike friendly.

When we met with Lori Zapf’s staff late last year, we provided material and solutions  from around North America on how dangerous auto-centric road designs were being redesigned to be inviting to all road users in addition to drivers. This included a guide from Caltrans on redesigning intersections. But more importantly, we tried to convey that riding in Clairemont on any of the thoroughfares was actually extremely unpleasant and dangerous. One must be able to ride a bicycle to destinations besides one’s own neighborhood.

In January we proposed temporary and the ugly solution of converting the on/off ramps to temporary construction zones with orange construction barrels which we think would force drivers to slow down and be more mindful. To date, even that temporary measure has not been implemented.

So while we’re very thankful to Councilmember Zapf to taking on this issue, we’re disappointed that the resolution that is up for a vote tomorrow lacks anything substantial or specific that would really bring real, visible, and concrete change. In fact the resolution reads very similar to another resolution passed back in 1972 when City Council declared October 25th, 1972 to be “bike day”. For comparison here are some similarities between the 1972 and the new resolution to be voted upon tomorrow:

1972 Resolution – WHEREAS, the City Council is committed to working with the citizens of San Diego in establishing a city-wide bikeways system for recreation as well as providing for increased use of bicycles as a mode of transportation;

2013 Resolution – WHEREAS, the City of San Diego commits to being a City where bicycling is a safe and viable travel choice, ideally providing citizens the ability to reach their destination points in a contiguous and reliable path using bikes as a sustainable method of transportation;

1972 Resolution – WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of San Diego on February, 1972, passed Resolution No. 204888 supporting the construction of bicycle paths in the City of San Diego and directing the City Manager to make a study of the placement and possibility of construction of a network of bicycle paths in San Diego;

2013 Resolution – WHEREAS, to help reduce bicycle-related collisions in the public right-of-way, the City should continue to explore all methods for increased safety, such as shared lane markings known as “sharrows” on narrow roadways without bike lanes, use of “cycle tracks” as protected bicycle facilities alongside the existing roadway as part of the road network, innovative pavement markings such as bright color bike lanes for better visibility by motorists, and proper maintenance of pavement surfaces;

Nearly 40 years later, San Diego has roughly 1% of her residents commuting by bicycle, and with good reason. Meanwhile, Long Beach up in L.A. County has made substantial progress in a single year on one street by increasing bike ridership by 33%, pedestrian use by nearly 15%,  and simultaneously reducing bike accidents from 5 per year to 1, vehicle accidents from over 90 per year to fewer than 50 and reduced the number of bicyclists on the sidewalk by 50% all by implementing protected bike facilities (cycletracks).

We want to see some real leadership in City Council committing to more substantial changes in San Diego. Solutions for making cities safe have been found and have been implemented all around the country in cities both large and small and the common theme has been leadership committing resources and the political will to implement projects on the ground to ensure overall public safety.

Tomorrow, we’re urging you to show up (or email with a copy to us at your City Council representative) and ask them to be bold and commit to making changes on our road network that will increase public safety and make this city truly livable. Don’t be shy about sharing your own personal experiences of what it’s like to navigate the myriad of deadly ramps that litter our city streets. We need our leaders to govern and demonstrate leadership and we need your help in asking them to step up their game.

Edit: KPBS just posted a story on tomorrow’s resolution as well.