Foto Friday - Inexpensive Design Solutions with Big Visual Impact

I often get many emails with specific examples on how other cities and regions around the country and world are designing solutions that ensure that traffic moves efficiently in a system that treats bicycle riders with dignity.I thought Fridays would be a good day to highlight some of these design solutions in order to give you an idea on how we can begin to visualize what San Diego could look like in the future.

One of the big problems in San Diego is the freeway-style ramps that have been designed to allow maximum efficiency to motor vehicles at the cost of bicycle, pedestrian and other vulnerable user's lives. For example, trying to ride on Friars Road with the multiple on-ramps and off-ramps can feel humiliating given how little consideration has been made for the non-motorized populace. But the sort of changes needed to be made in order to transform our transportation network can come in a variety of different ways and the example below is an example of how paint can make a visually arresting difference.

This is what Stevens Creek Boulevard at I-280 in San Jose used to look like from aerial perspective.

Below is a street level view of how this on-ramp section used to look like.

Below is a street level view of how this on-ramp section used to look like.

Stevens Creek Boulevard at I-280. Image from Google Maps

While Hans Wangbichler was up in San Jose, he sent in the photo below of how paint can clearly demarcate where a rider should be expected. The paint also visually indicates to drivers to expect a rider riding across the on-ramp to continue on Stevens Creek Boulevard and the bright green color is arresting enough to alert drivers.

Stevens Creek Boulevard at I-280. Photo: Hans Wangbichler

Design solutions such as the working implementation above are an example of what is presented in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Guide. This treatment could be implemented on Pershing Drive where it crosses the ramp for I-5 and many other places around San Diego. This is the sort of solutions that San Diego should be working to implement in order to ensure that all residents can move around in a manner that is not simply efficient, but respectful of their choice.

SANDAG to host a presentation on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide presentation by Joe Gilpin of Alta Planning + Design
When: May 8th at noon (through 2pm)
Where: SANDAG Board Room - 7th Floor, 401 B Street, San Diego
Who: City, County and Caltrans staff have been invited along with bike advocates and other related stakeholders. You are also invited.
What: Joe Gilpin, Alta Planning + Design’s expert on innovative bikeway treatments and primary author of the NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, will be at SANDAG to give a 90 minute overview presentation on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

After the recent deaths of two bicycle riders, there has been a lot of attention highlighting the dangerous design of San Diego's streets - an environment that encourages speeding and is uninviting to anyone both outside a car and inside, given how many drivers die or cause injury or death on a weekly basis.

Joe Gilpin, a planner with the bicycle and pedestrian design firm, Alta Planning & Design, will be in San Diego next Tuesday to give an overview on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

Released in the 2011, the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide  provides the first comprehensive design guidance for the American context on a wide-range of innovative and increasingly popular bicycle treatments (e.g., cycle tracks, bike boxes, bike signals).
As cities across the United States work to expand the appeal and safety of cycling in urban areas, they are successfully using a new toolbox of innovative design and engineering strategies. The NACTO Guide draws on the experiences of these pioneer cities and adapts internationally recognized best practices to the American context.

Cycle Tracks in Long Beach, CA. Photo:

What is the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide?

NACTO is an association of 15 major U.S. cities formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues.

The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide is a set of design standards for bikeways and was released with much fanfare last March. Janette Sadik-Khan, the current Commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation is responsible for much of the positive transformation of New York City - all made with acknowledging the reality that New York City has to accommodate a continually growing population, unveiled the guide last year. Below is a video of the official announcement.

As Mia Birk, from Alta Planning & Design, states "NACTO undertook the project because many of its members found existing design manuals inadequate for their efforts to promote bicycle transportation."

In California, planners and engineers are compelled to follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets (the “Green Book”), the California Highway Design Manual, and other highway-centric design guidelines when designing facilities that are used by all users traveling in a variety of transportation modes besides an automobile.

The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide allows for additional flexibility when transportation engineers, planners and the like are re-designing our roads to be more inviting to all its users. Giving Gilpin an opportunity to talk about the Urban Bikeway Guide is an excellent first step that SANDAG is taking to acknowledge the glaring deficiencies in our transportation network. I hope the presentation compels all cities in the county to sign on to be member of NACTO and implement the best practices that can have tremendous economic and health impacts on a community.


For more on Alta Planning & Design, read this interview profiling Sam Corbett, the Senior Associate at San Diego's Alta Planning & Design branch.

Remembering David Ortiz and Chuck Gilbreth

David Ortiz (June 25, 1982 - March 22, 2012). via

It's been an entire month since David Ortiz was struck by three different vehicles and killed on Balboa Avenue - a road that is designed to encourage speeding.

Nearly two weeks after Ortiz was killed, friends, family and strangers came together to honor Ortiz's life and ask the City of San Diego for changes to be implemented to ensure such a tragic event wouldn't happen again. Specifically, the community asked for:

1) A public apology from the police department to the victim’s family & the cycling community for jumping to conclusions and immediately blaming the cyclist before fully completing the investigation.
2) A stronger commitment (from City) to safer infrastructure and roadway design.
3) A stronger commitment from PD to enforce traffic laws that have an adverse impact on cyclists/pedestrians (failure to stop/yield, distracted driving, etc.)
4) The City immediately become a NACTO affiliate.

Less than a month later, another rider, Chuck Gilbreth was killed. This time the collision occurred on another high speed road, Montezuma Road.

Montezuma Road with the I-8 (in blue) to the North.

This was the same location where KPBS’ Tom Fudge, was struck five years ago. In the five years since, the City's engineers made zero improvements to reduce drivers' tendencies to treat Montezuma Road as a highway despite running parallel to an actual freeway (the I-8) located less than 4,000 feet to the north - less than a mile away.

Like Balboa Avenue, Montezuma Road serves as a critical link connecting neighborhoods and thus as a feasible route for someone riding their bicycle. But these connector routes are dangerous. To quote Stephan Vance, a senior regional planner for SANDAG,

Our city streets are dangerous because they are built to accommodate high speeds that are lethal. This creates an expectation by drivers that they should be going fast, and leads to frustration when they can't.

In the five years since Fudge was struck, the City's engineers could have reduced a travel lane on Montezuma Road and created a protected bikeway to ensure the safety and comfort for any one who wanted to traverse Montezuma on a bicycle. But instead, Montezuma Road was neglected. Fudge's experience was forgotten. And now we have another needless death on our hands.

Gilbreth worked at Hamilton Sundstrand Power System(HSPS). He was 63 years old when he was killed last Wednesday. According to one of his co-workers and close friends, Phillip Young, Gilbreth was looking forward to retirement and rode his bike to and from work most days. Young goes on to say that Gilbreth was,

a great guy that mentored many folks at HSPS. He will be greatly missed.

David Ortiz Memorial Ride this Wednesday 4/4 at 4pm

David Ortiz (June 25, 1982 - March 22, 2012)


San Diego, CA- Local San Diego cyclists are organizing an advocacy ride in memory of David Ortiz, a local cyclist who was killed while lawfully riding his bike on his way to work last week.

The death of David Ortiz highlights the quintessential problems faced by San Diego cyclists on a daily basis: inattentive drivers, poorly designed roadway infrastructure, and a societal mindset that cyclists always ride recklessly.

Contrary to initial information provided by the San Diego Police Department, Mr. Ortiz was riding in the same direction of traffic, was properly positioned on the roadway, was wearing a helmet, and one of the motorists appears to have fled the scene prior to police arrival.

The ride will take place Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 4pm. The ride will begin at the fountain in Balboa Park and conclude at 202 C Street. in front of the City Administration Building. At the conclusion of the ride, cyclists will lay down on the ground with their bikes to represent the thousands of cyclists and pedestrians struck by motor vehicles every year in San Diego.

The latest statistics from San Diego County’s health and human services agency and emergency medical services indicate that 997 cyclists were either killed or injured while riding their bikes and 1,054 pedestrians were either killed or injured while walking the streets of San Diego in 2009. These numbers are quite high compared to other cities around the world. Paris, France, for example, did not have a single cycling death in the year 2011.

San Diegans deserve significantly better bicycle infrastructure. Too often cyclists are left to ride in narrow, poorly designed bike lanes filled with debris, potholes, and other hazards. A police department that lacks both the will and the resources to make traffic enforcement a stronger priority further complicates these issues. Those who choose to commute to work or school by bicycle should not have to risk their life for their commitment to healthy lives, a sustainable city, and a more livable urban environment.

Today America faces a significant number of issues: an obesity epidemic, a clean air problem, increasing deaths from motor vehicle collisions, crumbling roadway infrastructure, a diabetes epidemic, dependence on foreign oil, and climate change. All of these issues can be seriously mitigated by a stronger commitment to safer bicycle infrastructure in San Diego and other US cities.

We are calling on the city to immediately adopt guidelines developed by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). These progressive bicycle infrastructure designs strongly contribute to both perceived and actual safety for the cyclists using them.

It is our hope that publicity about this event will remind motorists that cyclists are your neighbors, co-workers, doctors, teachers, firefighters, programmers, and dentists. Most importantly, cyclists are humans, not an object on two-wheels.

RSVP here


For more information contact:
Timur Ender



For more on the story, read Ted Roger's post on this.

UPDATE (4/3/2012): Michael H. Ortiz, David Ortiz's brother, will be flying in from NY tomorrow to participate in the David Ortiz Memorial Ride. Michael said the following statement via email to Timur Ender and me,

Hi Timur, I wanted to contact you and Sam Ollinger and tell you know that I really appreciate what you are doing. David was my brother. In many ways, his passing makes me feel helpless, but the event you are organizing makes it so that his passing is not in vain. I live in New York, but I would like to participate in your event.

Michael is looking to borrow a bicycle to take part in the ride, please leave a comment or contact Michael via email at:

UPDATE: This is what we want from the City and the SDPD:

1) A public apology from the police department to the victim's family & the cycling community for jumping to conclusions and immediately blaming the cyclist before fully completing the investigation.
2) A stronger commitment (from City) to safer infrastructure and roadway design.
3) A stronger commitment from PD to enforce traffic laws that have an adverse impact on cyclists/pedestrians (failure to stop/yield, distracted driving, etc.)
4) The City immediately become a NACTO affiliate.

First Look at Nathan Fletcher's Bike Plan Policy

Mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher sent in a copy of his bike plan policy that he released this morning. This comprehensive implementation plan is exactly the kind of forward-thinking vision cyclists all over San Diego have long been waiting for. None of the other mayoral candidates have been forthcoming with a clear vision on how they intend to implement San Diego’s Master Bicycle Plan by creating, improving and enhancing the city’s bicycle infrastructure to elevate bicycling as a feasible mode of transportation for all San Diegans.

Nathan Fletcher announcing his bike plan policy. Photo by Randy Van Vleck

As Mia Birk stated last December, the key to having a truly bike friendly city requires three ingredients,
1. A strong staff at the city level that is committed to making bicycling in San Diego better
2. The political will.
3. A strong advocacy front willing to support the government in its efforts.

San Diego has a strong core of bike advocates and, since late last year, strong staff at the city level. What San Diego is missing right now is the political will and Fletcher recognizes that missing component stating that what San Diego’s Bicycle Master Plan “doesn’t include is a plan of action or commitment from city leaders to find and allocate the resources we need to move the plan forward.”

To start, Fletcher recognizes that San Diego isn’t reaching its full potential to be one of the world’s greatest bike friendly cities.

As an avid cyclist, I want to see San Diego embrace the full potential it has to be one of the world’s great bike-friendly cities. That vision includes making biking safer, providing more recreational cycling opportunities and completing our cycling infrastructure so people can move around their neighborhoods as easily on a bike as they can in a car.

He then goes on to make the case on how bicycling can help our local economy by generating tourism dollars and supporting businesses.

Other cities have shown investing in bike infrastructure pays off. In 2008, Portland saw $90 million in bicycle-related economic activity, from retail, manufacturing, professional services and organized rides, an increase in value of 38 percent from 2006, reflecting the increase in bicycling, resulting in part from the city’s expanding network of bicycling facilities.

What are Fletcher’s goals for making San Diego one of the world’s best bicycling cities? He has a list of proven good ideas where he raised the bar, set in the bike plan, by ensuring we meet the goals earlier rather than later:
1. Increasing the bicycling mode share which would result in reducing the air pollution and meet California’s greenhouse gas emission targets.
2. Reducing the number of bicyclist collisions
3. Adopting best practices such as the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. This would bring in some of the world’s best bike infrastructure design that has shown to work effectively. Since AB 819 was watered down this would enable San Diego to take a lead and use the guide to become one of the world’s most bicycle friendly cities.
4. Ensuring that all of the city’s 40 community plans are updated and reflect the current wishes of the individual community residents.
5. Implementing the Complete Streets Act.
6. Partnering with law enforcement to expand the bicycle patrol division, educating the public on the traffic laws and issues revolving around sharing road space where there are no bicycle facilities.
7. Implementing a bicycle share program. This has been called a “game-changer” in increasing the bicycle mode share in other cities around the world.
8. Using sharrows and other innovative lane markings such as colored bike lanes.
9. Implementing a “Promenade for a Day” program. In other words, a Ciclovia: a temporary closure of streets that bring neighborhoods together and something that San Diego should have had for many years.
10. Creating a Mayor’s Cycling Task Force comprised of senior members of the mayor’s administration and the members in the cycling community. The purpose of the Cycling Task Force will be to oversee the mayor’s “efforts to identify and apply for federal and state funding opportunities.”
11. Measuring the results from implementing the above programs.
12. Publishing a Regional Bike Map and a Mobile Application to outline existing bike paths, trails and routes as well as “information related to bike infrastructure such as bike share programs, lockers and other amenities.”

This plan is an excellent start. Adopting the best practices detailed in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Guide will go a long way to implementing some of the bicycle facilities that have shown to work very effectively in the most bike friendly cities. A bike share program made a significant dent in increasing the bicycle mode share in Barcelona – a city that San Diego has a lot in common with. There has been a group of San Diegans who have been running into repeated roadblocks in their attempt to implement a Ciclovia here in San Diego, a problem that could be easily solved with a little push from the mayor’s office. Leadership from the mayor’s office to push us to the next level is exactly what San Diegans have been waiting for all along. And Fletcher has proven that he supports bicyclist in his tenure to date at the California Assembly where Fletcher has voted to improve things for bicyclists by voting in favor of AB 819 and voting to support the three foot passing bill last year, until it got vetoed by Governor Brown.

A bike plan policy means nothing without understanding the psychology of riding. As an avid cyclist and pedestrian (when in Sacramento), Fletcher intuitively grasps the challenges that the non-motorized contingent around the city face on a daily basis. If there is any one complaint I have about Fletcher’s bike plan it would be that he doesn’t envision San Diego being the world’s most bike friendly city. But I can settle for being one of the world’s most bike friendly cities, for the time being. And I’m willing to give Fletcher a shot as mayor to see if he can be the political will at City Hall we’ve all been waiting for. I hope you will consider doing the same.