Our Recommendations to Councilmember Kersey to Improve the City’s Infrastructure for Bicycling

Kearny Villa Road. Photo by Robert Leone
Kearny Villa Road’s bike lane three years ago. Photo by Robert Leone

Last December, our City Council created a new committee to address the city’s backlog of pothole-ridden streets alongside other infrastructure problems. This new Infrastructure Committee is chaired by District 5 Councilmember, Mark Kersey.

One of the first things Kersey did was release a work plan to assess the scope of what this new committee was tasked with handling.

Voice of San Diego’s Liam Dillon wrote that the plan addresses the key issue of figuring out what actually is the state of our city’s infrastructure:

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey’s new plan to deal with streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure is an admission of failure. This is a good thing.

For years, basic questions about the city’s nuts and bolts have been left unanswered. How bad are the city’s sidewalks? What buildings need to be fixed the most? What’s more important to people: a new fire station in Mission Valley or a new drainage system in the same neighborhood? The result has been a clunky system for building and fixing city facilities with little to show for these efforts.


The plan Kersey developed for the first year of the council’s new infrastructure committee doesn’t aim to build new things or even fix broken ones. Instead, it tries to answer these kinds of simple questions. The theory is that City Hall can’t repair anything outside its walls until it deals with the legacy of its own broken processes.

After reviewing Kersey’s work plan, I invited Kathleen Ferrier, Policy Manager at Walk San Diego, to join me in a meeting with Kersey to present our analysis and suggestions for Kersey to incorporate into his plan so that the task of handling our massive infrastructure backlog could be dealt with proactively and consistently.

At our meeting earlier this afternoon, I presented a letter to Councilmember Kersey on behalf of BikeSD which stated the following:


Dear Council Member Kersey,

Thank you for taking on the challenge of maintaining and managing one of our city’s most valuable assets, our infrastructure. Managing our city’s infrastructure is essential and long overdue. We read the Infrastructure Committee Work Plan and consider is pretty ambitious while still being realistic. To further strengthen your plan, BikeSD would like to offer the following recommendations in light of your recommendations to expedite projects through streamlining.

The City’s Traffic Impact Study (TIS) Manual needs to be overhauled. It was last updated in 1998.

Bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects constitute a significant portion of the backlog of infrastructure projects for the City of San Diego. As the TIS is currently written, any bicycle, pedestrian or transit project that would result in a reduced automobile level of service (LOS) has the potential to delay or even preclude the project. These projects, by virtue of providing a congestion-relieving alternative, should be exempt from LOS standards. If these projects are delayed or prevented, the City will have wasted huge sums of money and worked against its own goal of creating a more vibrant, livable San Diego.

Save taxpayer dollars by re-evaluating street widths.

Future work on the streets and roads presents a great opportunity to re-think the right-of-way (ROW) width. Many of the City’s streets are vastly overbuilt and all of that pavement means a lot of expense. The City may consider the following creative uses for excess ROW:

  • Add bike infrastructure
  • Widen sidewalks
  • Turn the periphery into linear parks, with low maintenance landscaping. This would provide an added benefit for park-deficient San Diego.
  • Gift the excess ROW to adjacent property owners (anything would be more attractive and consistent with the City’s aim to elevate its Urban Design (San Diego General Plan, 2008).

The Infrastructure Plan calls for a prioritization process for the huge backlog of projects so prioritization of projections should be made in a way that is consistent with the aims of the General Plan (2008)

    • Coordinate with Land Use and Housing Subcommittee to invest in infrastructure in areas which are identified in the plan for infill or smart growth; the sprawling nature of San Diego is one of the reasons its infrastructure bill is so high.
    • Invest in the type of infrastructure that is consistent with the multi-modal goals of the General Plan (bicycle, pedestrian, transit); these modes have long been ignored and therefor deserve to be prioritized.

Thank you for tackling on this much needed yet much neglected issue.

I thank Councilmember Kersey for taking the time along with his staff to meet with us and listen. The tough job lies ahead and BikeSD will be there to ensure that infrastructure implementation projects includes the needs of bicycle riders along with other road users.

I’ll let Kathleen discuss the issues she raised on pedestrian issues with the Councilmember. Watch the Walk San Diego blog for an update.

This was written by Sam Ollinger