City to Present Bicycle Recommendations to Further Improve Safety on Montezuma Road on 11/14

On November 14th, the City will be making a presentation at the College Area Community Council on how they intend to further improve bicycle safety along Montezuma Road.  The agenda [pdf] states that the presentation will happen pretty early in the meeting and Brian Genovese the Senior Engineer at the newly formed Multi-Modal Program at the City will be making that presentation. Genovese is the City Bike Coordinator’s, Tom Landre, supervisor.

College Area Community Council Meeting
When: November 14th at 7pm
Where: College-Rolando Branch Library, 6600 Montezuma Road, San Diego 92115

The College Area Community Council is formally recognized by the City of San Diego and is the governing body that provides input on land use decisions that encompass the following area:

View College Area Map in a larger map

I emailed Brian Genovese to ask about reducing the speed limits on Montezuma. Cities are required by statute to conduct speed surveys periodically. While the high speed roads are a problem for safe riding in San Diego, simply reducing the speed limit by changing the numbers on a speed limit sign can create a speed trap for drivers which is something cities are loathe to do. What can be done instead is a redesign of a road to narrow the travel lane which then leads to slower driving speeds and thus safety (and noise reduction), not to mention more pleasant riding conditions. Speedy roads aren’t simply a public nuisance, but they reduce reaction time for drivers and are deadly:

High Speed Roads are Deadly. Image from:

I wanted to know when the last speed survey on Montezuma Road was done and proposed installing protected bicycle facilities along Montezuma Road which would in turn reduce the width of the vehicular travel lane. Genovese responded back as follows and provided the following speed survey data:

As of this year, a new California law allows jurisdictions to round down the speed limits after conducting a speed survey.

Montezuma Road, despite being a major east west thoroughfare connecting La Mesa to points east in the City of San Diego, was not listed in the SANDAG regional bike plan. It is however, listed in both the 2002 City Bike Plan and the 2011 Plan Update as a thoroughfare needing improvements.

Back in 1993, Montezuma Road used to be a Class III Facility which is a shared roadway usually with a sign stating “bike route”:

Description of Class III Facility. Source: SANDAG 2050 Bike Plan
Description of Class II Facility. Source: SANDAG 2050 Bike Plan

The 2002 Plan called for upgrading the Class III Facilities to a Class II Facilities, a standard bike lane which typically offer riders a designated space to ride in:

When the 2002 was presented to the public for feedback, suggestions on improving the corridor were offered (Items with asterisks next to them indicate that this issue was identified more than once.):

**Fairmount-Montezuma-Camino del Rio North connections made easier

In the 2011 Bike Plan Update, the Montezuma Corridor was ranked #8 in the list of Highest Priority Projects:


What is interesting about our proposal to reduce the vehicular travel lane by adding protected bike facilities is that this will reverse the City’s repeated habit of widening the road to accommodate vehicles without any consideration for the safety or quality of city life.

From 1987 – 1997, bicycle traffic along Montezuma fell dramatically:

Source: 2002 City of San Diego Bike Plan

At the same time, the City was busy widening roads all along the College Area Community to accommodate vehicular traffic instead of providing residents with additional transportation options. The cycle of widening roads, and then conducting speed surveys that noted increased vehicular speeds created the perfectly bike unfriendly Montezuma Road that exists today. San Diego State University certainly didn’t help matters by banning bicycling on campus (which they’ve since tried to rectify).

Genovese responded to our request to conduct a new speed survey and installing protected bicycle facilities as follows:

I checked into getting new speed surveys on Montezuma but the existing surveys have been signed-off until they expire, i.e. they are good until 2014. However, we may be able to get new surveys after we implement any bicycle facility improvements that could trigger a change of conditions. As you may have heard, we are working on a corridor study that will include recommended low-cost-low-effort early action treatments. Separated cycle tracks or raised bike lanes will be considered but will likely fall into the category of higher-cost-higher-effort treatments.

In the absence of maintaining the status quo of doing nothing or very little at all, building separated and protected bicycle facilities such as cycle tracks are certainly expensive treatments. Bike facilities are only expensive when viewed in a vacuum and not in light of the fact that they are a mitigative measure against maintaining an incredibly expensive automotive-based transportation network. In light of rising gas prices and the continuing economic recession, not providing residents and visitors with increased options to move around is not an effective way of ensuring the city’s success or relevance in the coming years. Stating that the bike facilities are higher cost or higher effort treatments ignores the incredible return on investment that bike facilities provide cities. If San Diego wants to stay relevant as a city in the years ahead, its about time that the City’s decision makers cast aside the belief system that is not only false but also harmful to our city’s future.

This was written by Sam Ollinger