July 24, 2018 – San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick reports – San Diego adopted a long-awaited plan this week to accelerate construction of bike lanes, reduce cycling injuries, encourage more people to commute by bike and crack down on reckless cyclists.
The plan, which has been debated at City Hall for more than three years, requires the city to appoint a bicycle czar, increase bicycle parking and create a new version of “traffic school” for bicycle-related incidents.
It also requests that the San Diego Unified School District include bicycle education in its fourth-grade curriculum and that the city urge local businesses to give workers incentives for commuting by bicycle.
The plan, which the City Council unanimously approved on Monday, comes as motorists and residents are complaining about spending taxpayer dollars on bike lanes that get little usage and require narrower streets and removal of parking spots.
But city officials, environmentalists and cycling advocates say it’s only fair for cars to share the streets more evenly with bikes because cycling boosts air quality, helps fight climate change and reduces parking scarcity and traffic congestion.
They predict use of cycling lanes will sharply increase as the network grows, traffic congestion for cars increases and education and outreach they’re recommending hits full stride.
Supporters also say the popularity of colorful app-based rental bikes since they arrived in San Diego this winter shows the potential cycling has in the city.
The plan was praised for its ambition and complexity on Monday, but also criticized for its lack of deadlines — or even estimates of completion timelines — for many of the goals and tasks it includes.
Critics said timelines are needed to coordinate funding for the plan’s projects, which are part of a bicycle master plan the city adopted in 2013. The cost of that plan is $312 million, including 40 high-priority projects that would cost $35 million.
Supporters acknowledged the lack of timelines, which were included in previous versions of the plan before being removed by city officials. But they focused more on the plan’s many initiatives, which include 30 specific tasks aimed at achieving a long list of objectives.
“It really is a road map for the future,” said Andy Hanshaw, chairman of the city’s bicycle advisory board and leader of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. “This is about getting everybody the ability to get out on a bike by creating a safe, comfortable bike lane network.”
Councilman David Alvarez also praised the plan.
“This is thoughtful, gives us guidance and keeps us moving forward,” he said.
A key element of the plan is evaluating its own success so adjustments can be made if needed, which environmental leaders have praised.
San Diego’s climate action plan requires the number of people bicycling to work in the city’s densely populated neighborhoods to increase from about 2 percent to 6 percent by 2020, and then to 18 percent by 2035.
“The city needs to be counting bikes so we can track mode share,” said Sophie Wolfram, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign. “We need that data to guide infrastructure investment.”
The plan adopted on Monday, essentially an implementation framework for the bike master plan, doesn’t specifically recommend any particular projects get built. Instead, it lays out criteria for choosing projects and sets policies that will accelerate construction.
The plan also requires the city to appoint a “mobility champion,” or cycling czar, to spearhead bicycle-related improvements.
In conjunction with the plan, city traffic engineer Duncan Hughes said city officials plan to revise the five-year-old bicycle master plan during the next six to nine months to account for things that have changed since 2013.
City officials say they have painted hundreds of miles of bike lanes in the last few years, a process that’s been accelerated by coordinating lane-painting with Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s campaign to pave 1,000 miles of streets in five years.
Concerns about adequate funding for cycling infrastructure prompted cycling advocates to lobby city officials last year to devote 6 percent of transportation money to cycling — a ratio based on the climate plan goal of 6 percent of commutes being by bike.
City officials, however, said it was difficult to justify a relationship between ridership and funding allocation.
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