By Pat Sherman
Photos By Brevin Blach
Each day in San Diego County, people make an estimated 510,000 bicycle trips-to work, to school, for exercise or just to enjoy the splendor of America's Finest at a manageable pace.
Though there are some 1,000 miles of bikeways throughout the region (mostly along streets with automobile traffic), bicycle advocates are constantly fighting for their share of funding to increase lanes and make cycling a safer and more attractive mode of transportation.
"Too many roads and intersections in Southern California seem to have been built without regard for pedestrians and bicyclists," says Jim Baross, a spokesperson for the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition and chair of the San Diego Association of Government's (SANDAG's) Bicycle-Pedestrian Working Group.
(SANDAG has roughly $8 million, generated through the Transnet sales tax and other sources, to spend on regional bicycle infrastructure this year.)
Baross says motorists need to be reminded that bicycling is a "lawful and encouraged means of transportation" on most public roads.
"Using a bike instead of a car is a good choice for so many reasons-air pollution, congestion, dependence on oil, climate change and health," he says. "We're trying to help elected officials realize the value of spending the gazillions of dollars that becomes available for something other than expanding freeways."
Partial success on that front came when State Senator Christine Kehoe and others helped convince SANDAG and Caltrans to expand a stretch of I-5 in North County by four lanes instead of six, making some of the roughly $450 million in savings available for public transportation and bike lanes.
A current project that excites Baross is the Bayshore Bikeway, which will enable cyclists to pedal 24 miles around San Diego Bay via off-road bike paths-from San Diego south to Imperial Beach and back up the Silver Strand into Coronado .
"With the use of the Coronado Ferry, someone can ride all the way around the bay," Baross says. "They just held a groundbreaking in August for a section of it in National City."
For the first time in history, city and regional planning officials in California also are required to come up with plans to reduce per-person greenhouse gas emissions. SANDAG is tasked with reducing gas emissions by 13 percent per person by the year 2020, and by about 18 percent by 2035.
"One of the approaches is to make bicycling more attractive than transit," Baross says. "All the cities have some responsibility to contribute to that effort."
ROLLING DISCOUNT: Environmentally conscious customers who ride their bikes to Station Tavern in South Park receive 10 percent off all food and drink. "Just show us a helmet, bike key or whatever you like," says owner Sam Chammas. "We'll believe you." The program (rewarding cyclists with discounts at local businesses) was started by Velo Cult, an adjacent full-service bicycle
shop. For more info and discounts at other area businesses, visit sdbikecommuter.com.