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Bike To Work Day’ Highlights San Diego’s Infrastructure Needs

SANDAG and community groups set up pit stops throughout the city this morning for the region's annual Bike to Work Day. The idea is to get more people thinking about alternative modes of transportation.

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)

Photo by Megan Burks

Jose Ornelas bikes each day from his home in La Mesa to his job at Caltrans in Old Town. He brought his 11-year-old son Peter to work with him so he could share the benefits of commuting by bike.

Organizers at the pit stop on University Avenue and 54th Street were impressed by 11-year-old Peter's electric bike.

"Whoa, look at that bike! That bike's crazy! Dang," said Randy Van Vleck, the active transportation manager of the City Heights Community Development Corporation.

Peter's father Jose Ornelas already bikes each day from his home in La Mesa to his job at Caltrans in Old Town. He said he brought Peter along to show him the benefits of commuting by bike.

"It's a challenge, it's fun," Ornelas said. "It's an opportunity to meet other people that are doing the same thing. I can burn some calories along the way. I really enjoy the quiet time."

Ornelas and his son said they're not too worried about safety. They're outfitted with helmets and shirts so bright they seem to have borrowed them from Ornelas's Caltrans office.

But not everyone feels safe on two wheels. Van Vleck said choosing the intersection at 54th Street and University Avenue for the pit stop was strategic.

"Basically, we're doing outreach right now to expand the coalition of folks who support safety improvements here," said Van Vleck, who asked Bike to Work participants to sign a petition in support of a redesign of the intersection.

It's one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, with 77 accidents documented between 2000 and 2010.

The CDC and other community groups are trying to remove free right turns from the intersection. They're like mini freeway onramps taking north- and south-bound drivers onto east- and west-bound lanes without stopping.

"It creates a problem for cyclists who are trying to go straight because motorists can turn right at a high speed," Van Vleck said. "That's one of the most common crash types; a right hook."

Photo by Courtesy of Randy Van Vleck

The city painted the bike lane along 54th Street at University Avenue green last week to help remind drivers turning right that cyclists may be going straight.

The city began making safety improvements last week. It painted the bike lanes bright green. It also gave the lane at Montezuma Road and Collwood Boulevard a fresh coat of green paint and pylons to separate cyclists from cars.

But Van Vleck and others say there's still work to be done. The group wants to do away with those free right turns in City Heights altogether. And there's a good chance they'll be gone soon. Van Vleck said the project has already gone through the design phase and there's already partial funding in the pipeline.

But will there be enough bike commuters to make the project worthwhile?

When asked if he'll ride to work when he's old enough for a job, Peter gave an emphatic "yes."

"Because it saves money and it's fun," Peter added.

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