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San Diego’s Growing Bike Contingent: What the Candidates For District 9 Say

San Diego’s growing bike contingent is becoming a game-changer in local politics. A group many may have expected to hold liberal views is being courted by independent mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher. And cyclists are softening to his charms.

A cyclist himself and the only candidate to lay out a detailed bikes plan, Fletcher has caught on to something here: the San Diego cyclist vote just might rest as much on fresh pavement as it does on social politics.

Special Feature What Do You Know About City Heights?

Do you live in City Heights? KPBS wants to learn more about the issues that are most important to you. Your stories and insights will help inform our coverage.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Cyclists here are anxious for updated routes. And they’re anxious for some consideration. Car-centric funding policies give bike projects just a sliver of the transportation pie. And car-centric street design puts bike-riders at risk.

Both complaints are especially relevant in Mid-City, where many residents rely on alternative modes of transportation due to affordability issues and diverse cultures and lifestyles. But cyclists are more likely to be injured in City Heights, according to Health Equity by Design. Between 2002 and 2007, there were 2.45 collisions involving cyclists per 1,000 residents there, compared to 1.99 crashes per 1,000 residents citywide.

So this week, we asked the candidates vying to represent the neighborhood on City Council to join Fletcher’s conversation with cyclists. We asked Mateo Camarillo and Councilwoman Marti Emerald: City Heights is becoming homebase for San Diego’s bike contingent, with many of its residents relying on alternative modes of transportation and advocates like Sam Ollinger (www.bikesd.org) and bike collective Bikes del Pueblo situated within its boundaries. If elected, how would you prioritize cyclists and what bike-related projects, if any, would you take on?

Mateo Camarillo, Businessman and activist

Residents of District 9 have significantly less access to vehicles or public transportation than any other district in the city. There is no reliable mass transit. Bus transportation is limited, especially for north-south routes.

The use of bikes for transportation, recreation and promoting healthy lifestyles should be encouraged and supported by diverse groups, including the City of San Diego. City actions I would take if elected include developing bike-friendly streets like those that exist in Kensington (bike lanes painted on street surfaces, international signage, reduced speeds with bike lanes for more bike-friendly and safer co-existence of bike and vehicle traffic). I would also advocate for more bike parking (racks, etc.) at government facilities (libraries, parks, schools, as well as businesses). I would work on developing a co-op gym/exercise facility with nutritional foods within the district to promote alternative, healthy lifestyles including increased use of bikes.

Marti Emerald, District 7 Councilwoman

San Diego is one of the few regions where the weather allows us to ride our bicycles just about every day of the year. And a growing number of San Diegans are now riding their bikes for exercise and enjoyment, or as an alternative form of transportation. But many of these hearty souls put themselves at risk when they pedal our crumbling streets.

My City Council colleagues and I have just approved an extension of the most ambitious street repair program in San Diego’s history. As part of this repair program, my staff and I will make sure bike lanes are improved as we repair roads and sidewalks. We also have major streets through City Heights like Fairmount, University and El Cajon Boulevard, which are prime candidates for wider and visibly designated bike lanes. Let’s explore our options and create a network of streets that allow cyclists to ride safely and enjoyably from one end of the city to the other.

One of the goals of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition is to create a strategy for San Diego’s biking future. The public is invited to a two-day regional planning event March 31 and April 1, at the downtown Omni Hotel. Here’s an opportunity to make a difference to improve biking for the future generations. For more information go to www.bikesd.org.

We also need more “parking” spots for bicycles in our Mid-City neighborhoods to encourage people to ride their bikes, knowing there will be a place they can safely and securely leave their bikes while in the store, the library or coffee shop.

I look forward to your ideas for a more bike friendly City Heights. And don’t forget: May 19th is Bike the Boulevard Day! sponsored by the El Cajon Blvd Business Improvement Association. See you there.

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