San Diego’s Road Portion Distortion: Our Roads Need to go on a Diet

UT San Diego readers want our roads to all go on a diet.
UT San Diego readers want our roads to all go on a diet.

San Diego’s first road diets have been well received and UT San Diego’s readers also showed incredible support for the road diets that were recently implemented on Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Does San Diego need more road diets? I say, we most definitely do!

Nearly all of San Diego’s roads need to go on a diet. I like the idea of drawing an analogy between San Diego’s roads and the U.S. overconsumption patterns, especially to food. Not unlike the U.S. obesity crisis caused by a lack of physical activity and excessive driving, our roads are subjected to, what food researcher Brian Wansink calls, “portion distortion”.

Wansink’s research specifically address how our eating habits have a strong relationship to how food is served.

We find portion distortions in supermarkets, where the number of larger sizes has increased 10-fold between 1970 and 2000. We find portion distortions in restaurants, where the jumbo-sized portions are consistently 250% larger than the regular portion. We even find portion distortions in our homes, where the sizes of our bowls and glasses have steadily increased and where the surface area of the average dinner plate has increased 36% since 1960. And if our bowls, glasses, and plates do not distort us, our recipes will. In the 2006 edition of the Joy of Cooking, the serving size of some entrées has increased by as much as 62% from some recipes in the first edition of 1920.

So if you’re wondering what disproportionate sizes of food servings have to do with a need to put San Diego’s roads on a diet, we have some data put out by the Equinox Center that shows that thanks to our portion distortion on our roads, San Diegans drive far more than the entire state of California, on average. In other words, we drive a lot because we have a lot of wide roads that make any other way of getting around a pain or just scary.

San Diegans drive a lot. Source: Equinox Center


Making bicycling comfortable, feasible and realistic for the vast majority of San Diegans is going to educational effort. What better way to educate San Diegans than by putting our roads on a diet? It would be the best advertisement to show a commitment to cycling and have a far longer lasting impact that single day events like Bike to Work Day can ever do.

What do you think?