KPBS Tackles the Issue: Should Bicyclists Adapt or Should the City Change to Accommodate Cyclists?

This morning KPBS set foot into the bike advocacy debate that has been raging around the country for nearly four decades. This is a debate that unfortunately has its roots in San Diego and seeks to answer the question – what would it take to normalize bicycling and increase the number of residents who ride and want to ride both for transportation and recreation?

How can we get more women and children riding both for fun and transport? Photo Source: Alliance for Biking and Walking

While it makes for an interesting story to frame the issue as having two sides, this issue is hardly a debate because the group of individuals claiming to adhere to the vehicular cycling philosophy don’t represent the vast majority of cyclists or non-cyclists. Vehicular Cycling, is a philosophy that subscribes to the belief that riding a bicycle like one would drive a motor vehicle is both safe and comfortable. This includes riding a bicycle in traffic and on roads where the speed limits are similar to that of freeways, especially in San Diego. Sadly, the proponents of vehicular cycling have sought to polarize the issue of bicycling even further by using racially charged terms and compare the issue of bike lanes with horrific racial tragedies from the pre-Civil Rights era by equating riding on bike lanes with segregation.

Mikael Colville-Anderson, the author behind the popular blog Copenhagenize, rightly equated the vehicular cycling proponents with “the young men who run with the bulls in Pamplona in Spain.” This Vehicular Cycling philosophy doesn’t appeal to the vast majority of residents including the elderly, the young, the inexperienced or the disabled. In order to rethink how San Diego needs to be providing transportation options to its residents in the coming decades, we need a paradigm shift in thinking and looking at our current environment and road design. University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard, Pacific Highway, Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla Village Drive and countless other streets could greatly benefit from a road diet that would accommodate all users including those users who would like to ride in San Diego.

The comments both on the KPBS site and on our Facebook page was quite revealing of the public perception of vehicular cycling and their desire to see a city that would change to accommodate more cyclists. Below are a few of those comments from our Facebook Page:

Mr Issakov does not take into consideration that there are bicylcists (sic) of all ages and abilities … everyone from children to seniors. Would he really want his 10 yr old daughter riding to school in a high traffic vehicle lane? Not everyone who bikes, or who would like to bike, has the ability to ride with traffic. Is he saying to us – you shouldn’t be riding if you can’t keep up- get off the road?! – Walt

Until bicycles get the treatment they deserve (bike only infrastructure); cycling for transportation will not be considered by American’s. American’s who drive gas guzzling SUV’s across the street in order to get a cappuccino.

Bike paths please. I’m all for bike lanes, & taking the lane, but not everyone can accelerate a bike to a speed that they would feel comfortable mixing with traffic. – Daniel

wish there were a simple answer to this dilemma. I would love to ride my bike more than I do, and maybe it’s my (middle) age, but even when there’s a bike lane it’s often in between traffic and parked cars and there are literally hazards popping out at you in all directions. Perhaps we should build a bicycle interstate! This utopian cycle-state could have some sort of device installed at giant steep hills like a people mover in airport terminals…or in san diego we could take major throughfares such as El Cajon Blvd and open one side to bike traffic only- sure the car traffic would be slower on the other side of the median, but motorist could travel on University or I-8… – Shannon

I’m a daily bicycle commuter and I am a professional school bus driver . We need better infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians. Reemphasize city streets to be neighborhood streets and thoroughfares where neighborhood shopping commerce and just walking is easier, safer and encouraged. Neighborhood streets should be made people friendly, this will also increase commerce to local small businesses.
Highways should be highways and surface streets should not be.
And while were at it how about force existing traffic laws? – Scott

I am torn about this issue. I use road lanes and I use turn lanes, but I really like my bike paths and bikeways. When I use a turn lane I get in there and wait for the light and then make my turn, but I stay to the right and merge into the bike lane (when there is one).
My main issue with bicycling with traffic is that we will always impede the flow of traffic to some degree. Yes we have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle drivers when it comes to the road but I would rather not take that risk that a driver that’s a hurry or distracted (texting) won’t see me, not to say they would calm and collected.
If riding in a bike lane eliminates some of the risk that I might be ran over from behind, then I choose the bike lane.