By Hoang-Dan Nguyen
Although San Diego is boosting its efforts to expand its bicycle infrastructure network, these improvements are not coming fast enough to prevent injuries and deaths on our roads. Partially due to unsafe infrastructure, at least fourteen cyclists have been hurt or killed in collisions with motor vehicles in San Diego County over the past year. This summer two individuals—Laura Shinn and Jonathan Sepulveda—were killed by drivers while riding along the same stretch of road: Pershing Drive through Balboa Park. Although SANDAG had planned to begin construction of a two-way cycletrack along Pershing Drive in 2018, that effort had not even started by the time that these lives were lost.
In contrast to the three-year delay on the SANDAG project on Pershing Drive, Mayor Todd Gloria’s office was able to make immediate safety improvements within a month of the second death, removing a lane of traffic in each direction and installing flexible bollards to separate cyclists from cars. That response showcases a powerful strategy that cities around the country have used to make immediate infrastructure improvements: the quick-build method. This strategy uses cheap, portable materials like flexible bollards, concrete barriers, and planters to separate car lanes and cycletracks, and allows traffic engineers to expedite lengthy approval processes since these improvements can be modified throughout their lifespans. We are now proposing that the city take this same approach that it used reactively on Pershing Drive to make rapid safety improvements before the next cyclist is killed on a dangerous roadway.
In order to prevent and end traffic deaths and serious injuries—a goal stated by the city’s Vision Zero campaign—the city must extend the network of protected bikeways throughout the urban area. To reach this goal, Mayor Todd Gloria has included funding for a team of 12 experts to implement 9 miles of bike lanes per year in his $1.1 million 2021 budget.
The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition is currently working with BikeSD, the Climate Action Campaign, and SD350 to push this team to rapidly make infrastructure improvements using the quick-build method. After years of unacceptably high cyclist injuries and fatalities, a quick-build network offers a fast and effective way to make San Diego a safe cycling city. In the coming months we will submit this proposal to the office of Mayor Ted Gloria, in the hope that it will guide the construction of safer bicycle infrastructure in 2021.We encourage all San Diegans who wish for safe and livable streets to watch for updates on how support this proposal as we push it forward over the next two months.