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In wake of cycling deaths, San Diego ramps up biking infrastructure

 October 15, 2021 at 3:15 PM PDT

Speaker 1: (00:00)

The latest effort to put safe bike lanes across San Diego,

Speaker 2: (00:04)

The cycling advocates would say that you need to build these lanes now make cycling safer and then more and more people will use it.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS mid-day edition. We explore how public banking could work in San Diego.

Speaker 3: (00:28)

And we know that it's easier to get access to capital if you already have capital. So we're really stuck in a pretty vicious cycle of inequality. And we, you know, I think we should need to be looking every tool in toolbox to break that cycle.

Speaker 1: (00:40)

And we talk about the art exhibitions on display and the weekend preview that's ahead on midday edition, The city of San Diego has taken bold measures to greatly expand the number of bike lanes on its streets. A move partly in response to a number of traffic deaths that have occurred in recent months. One of those deaths was of Matt Keenan, a 42 year old cyclist who was struck and killed while riding his bike on Camino Del Rio south in mission valley last month, here's his widow, Laura Keenan.

Speaker 4: (01:27)

So excited to see Evan grow up and do all this stuff with Evan. Like I mentioned, he was going to take his first step soon and not wanted to teach him music and play sports with him. And he's never going to be able to do that. You know, he'd ride to work. Um, he works in LA Jolla, so he drives from north park to LA Jolla. He would ride his bike to go to the grocery store or just run different errands. It was just if he, if a day went by without biking, it was not a complete day for him.

Speaker 1: (01:58)

Advocates of bike safety, hope to make the streets safer for bicycle, a slight Keenan they're encouraged by the addition of new lanes and increased safety protocols. Still others in the community are concerned about the impact that more bike friendly streets could have on traffic and parking in the city's already congested roads. Joining me now with more is San Diego union Tribune, reporter David Garrick. David, welcome back to the program. Thanks for having me. So how has the city attempted to prioritize bike safety in recent months,

Speaker 2: (02:29)

The recent months with the fatalities that happen, they kind of came up with this new idea that maybe some are calling a model where instead of when you see a street as dangerous let's plan for two years, how to fix it, they immediately went out and put bollards on Pershing drive in Balboa park and did some striping as a sort of a temporary slash permanent measure until a more firmly permanent measure can be put in place.

Speaker 1: (02:53)

Uh, what role do a number of recent traffic fatalities actually play in the city's aggressive development of bike lanes? Uh,

Speaker 2: (02:59)

I mean, I think there's been a constant call from environmentalists and advocacy groups for cyclists to have better bike lanes. Uh, and the city has done a generally a good job. Obviously the folks who want them would love to see it go faster. But with these fatalities, that's just increased sort of the sense of urgency at city hall. And we do have a new mayor who's I would say, arguably more focused on this issue than his predecessor.

Speaker 1: (03:24)

Right. I was going to ask, you know, has mayor Todd Gloria's approach to this issue been different to that of mayors past?

Speaker 2: (03:31)

Certainly Todd Todd would tell you that. I mean, I think if Kevin Faulkner were here, he'd say he did a good job and he focused on it, but I think Todd has Todd Gloria, the new mayor's put greater emphasis on it. Being included in the budget, a million dollars for a 12 person team. Uh, that's going to be dedicated to planning and building bike ways across the city, which is something Faulkner hadn't done. I do think that the environmental groups are waiting to see what mayor Gloria does sort of on the mood share goals. That's a fancy term for more people, commuting by bike and less people commuting by car. Uh, the city has some ambitious goals in that area. And I think the environmental groups want to make sure that the mayor puts in place a plan to get to those goals.

Speaker 1: (04:07)

You write that establishing a bike lane can often be a drawn out process. How was the city's effort to build a lane after a pair of deadly crashes that occurred on purging drive in Balboa park different.

Speaker 2: (04:19)

It's just a new way of looking at it instead of the normal city process, which is lots of bureaucracy and lots of red tape and lots of approvals. And the old days, if somebody died on the street, they would say, oh, that's a dangerous area. Let's study the intersection, let's put a consultant on it. Let's figure out what to do. And then maybe six months, a year later, we'll propose something, we'll run it up the flagpole and then maybe we'll have a change a year and a half later. This was a situation where I don't know, four or 5, 6, 7 days later, they went out and they did something immediately. That's an immediate reaction sort of cutting through the bankruptcy and the red tape.

Speaker 1: (04:51)

And the city has established hundreds of miles of bike lanes in recent years. But you write that much of that. Doesn't offer cyclist that much protection in the first place. Why is that?

Speaker 2: (05:00)

Yeah, there are four different levels of bike lane, at least a class 1, 2, 3, and four, the common ones and the safer bike lanes as a class one where it's actually like, there's a medium blocking it. So it's a bike path and it's protected on both sides. And then you go down to the lower level where you have those Sheros those arrows in the street where it just reminds cars, please be nice to the bicyclist. And then in between that you have the striped lanes, which they don't offer protection, but at least it's a Stripe that shows the cars exactly where they can and cannot go. And, uh, one of the critics that cycling advocate pointed out at the meeting that I covered that 410 out of the 450 miles that the city has created since 2013 have been the less protected kind, which means that you're still vulnerable on a bicycle. If somebody swerves or somebody is a reckless driver, you're going to get hit. Whereas when you're in one of those protected lanes, you're much safer

Speaker 1: (05:49)

From the lanes themselves. The city is taking a number of steps to improve the overall quality of biking in the city. What can you tell us about that?

Speaker 2: (05:57)

Well, I mean, they're, they're doing a lot of different things to try to make it better. I mean, it's, it's a multi-front war. Um, they've had a cycle tracks in downtown. Those are the special, uh, areas where it's a bike lane in between parked cars and the curb, uh, to try to encourage people to bike in downtown. Again, the overall goal here is that an urban areas of the city. They want folks to be commuting by bike more often, uh, it reduces traffic congestion and it will help the city meet its greenhouse gas emission goals in the climate action plan.

Speaker 1: (06:24)

What are people from the community saying about the establishment of new lanes? Is there a split consensus?

Speaker 2: (06:30)

Uh, yeah, certainly divisive. I mean, a lot of the cycling advocates and tend to be maybe younger folks tend to be more positive about them. And then some of the single family homeowners who have been in their neighborhood for a long time, they are losing a lane of traffic or they're losing parking. And in some cases they're losing bowls and they may be happy to do that if they saw the lanes filled with bicyclists. But right now, you know, they often look at the bike lanes and they're mostly empty. They'll see one bicyclist pass by every two or three hours. And that kind of frustrates them feeling like, why are we spending this money to do this? Take away traffic lanes, take away parking spots for something that isn't going to happen, or they feel like it's, maybe it's a pie in the sky idea. I think the cycling advocates would say that if you build it, they will come and you need to build these lanes now make safe, cycling safer, and then more and more people will use it as an option has

Speaker 1: (07:17)

Cycling in general, seen a boost during the pandemic.

Speaker 2: (07:20)

It has, uh, and you know, that's another controversial issue. Some folks will say, look at all these numbers, they're so great during the pandemic. And I think a naysayer will say what 2020 was the weirdest year we've ever had. So any statistic that relies on 2020 is kind of a dubious one. So we'll see how that turns out. But during the pandemic, more people were biking maybe because they were working from home. And so they didn't have to get in their fancy clothes, which is awkward to, to ride a bicycle on. And the sales of electronic bikes were sharply up, which is another sort of encouraging sign. So for folks who are older or maybe you can't pump up a hill, they're still choosing the bike, but they're using an electronic bike to solve the problem.

Speaker 1: (07:55)

I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter David Garrick. David, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: (08:01)


Speaker 5: (08:03)


Speaker 1: (08:13)

California will now study how to set up its own zero fee public bank accounts. The latest step in the state's exploration of public banking, KPBS, race and equity reporter. Christina Kim says some local leaders now want to explore how a public bank might work in San Diego.

Speaker 6: (08:31)

California is taking the first steps to create a statewide public banking option that could help it's estimated 1 million households that don't have bank accounts. Most of these households are black or Latino.

Speaker 7: (08:42)

I grew up in a household where they kept money at home because financial institutions were foreign. And so you take a look at what I now know, and it makes sense that we should tackle one of the biggest barriers in this fight against income inequality is being banks to take

Speaker 6: (08:56)

People's money. That's Los Angeles assembly member, Miguel Santiago. He authored the new law, AB 1177, along with San Diego assemblywoman, Lorena Gonzalez. It will set up a commission to study how to create a public banking option. He hopes that will lead to the creation to what he's calling Calla counts.

Speaker 7: (09:15)

This will allow consumers in the state of California to get a zero fees, zero costs, zero penalty, savings account checking account bank, and account that's currently not available. Uh, and then one that they can trust.

Speaker 6: (09:27)

So what does public banking really mean? It includes public facing banks that individuals can use for normal banking business. That's what the new law is exploring. It could also be government owned banks that cities or state agencies could use to deposit their funds. And then finance public projects like bike lanes, housing, or other public goods here in San Diego county, supervisor Terra Lawson reamer says public banking options could address income inequality.

Speaker 3: (09:55)

It's easier to get access to capital if you already have capital. So we're really stuck in a pretty vicious cycle of inequality. And we, you know, I think we should need to be looking every tool in toolbox to break that cycle.

Speaker 6: (10:06)

She still has a lot of questions about how public banking would work in practice, but she likes the idea of a government bank funding, public projects, instead of the county going through private bank.

Speaker 3: (10:16)

I think there's a real need as well to look at, uh, creating access to capital, um, to, to do those kinds of investments and make those kinds of investments that we need at a larger scale to serve our community

Speaker 6: (10:29)

Nationwide. There are only two public banks, one in North Dakota and the other in the territory of American Samoa in 2019, a California law paved the way for up to 10 local governments to charter public banks. This month, the Los Angeles city council passed a motion to start drafting a business plan for a public bank. And San Francisco is also not far behind San Diego could be one of the state's 10 pilot programs, but Jeff Olson, a local public bank advocate is worried. San Diego will miss out on the opportunity. Sandy,

Speaker 8: (11:00)

You go has famously procrastinated so long on some things that we've lost out big time. You know, I mean, I don't have to remind anybody that we waited so long to build a stadium that we no longer have a foot

Speaker 6: (11:11)

In the last round of budget proposals, six San Diego council members said they were interested in exploring a public bank option, but it's not in the city or county budget yet. Joel day is running for city council in district six, he included public banking as part of his housing platform.

Speaker 9: (11:27)

I need an all hands on deck to deal with infrastructure, crisis and housing. We can do that by putting public money into it public bank to then work with those public assets to address the big crises of our time. Like building affordable housing. A public bank allows us to do that much more efficiently than asking wall street to hold them,

Speaker 6: (11:48)

But not everyone in San Diego likes the idea in a 2020 San Diego union Tribune article economists from SANDAG and several professors from major local universities said they were against the idea private sector leaders like Michael Lee, a principal at heart of consulting services agrees with their concerns,

Speaker 10: (12:06)

Lend to activities and individuals and entities that you know, the private sector isn't lending to now, while there's a reason why the private sector doesn't lend there. And it's oftentimes that there's more risks associated with that.

Speaker 6: (12:21)

While local leaders debate setting up a public bank, California is pressing ahead. The statewide study has to be done by 2024, but he seen I Kim KPBS news.

Speaker 1: (12:42)

You're listening to KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman this weekend and the arch checkout a performance from the tuck hatch quartet, a solo exhibition from Perry Vasquez, San Diego Xen fast and a sugar Sculpin yatta workshop at the men gay joining me with all the details is KPBS arts, producer and editor, Julia Dickson Evans. Welcome

Speaker 11: (13:03)

Julia. Hi Jane. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (13:06)

Let's start with Perry Vasquez who opens a new solo exhibition at sparks gallery this weekend,

Speaker 11: (13:13)

Right? Uh, Perry Vasquez is actually one of the winners of the 2021 San Diego art prize. So you can check out his work in two places right now. First is the art prize exhibition, which is a bread and salt, and that opened last weekend. But beginning this Sunday sparks gallery downtown is opening a solo show and that's called Oasis that's guy's is known for his, his recent series of these huge paintings of Palm trees, which interestingly are, are so prevalent here, but there's only one variety that is native. And most of the ones you see are ornamental. They don't provide fruit or oils or even much shade. I asked him about these Palm trees and he said that it's all a part of the darker side to the myth of the region. And here's what he said.

Speaker 12: (14:03)

The early mythology of California was that it was, uh, you know, it's sort of the last chance place for a lot of people. I saw, uh, a video I've never actually seen a burning Palm tree, but I saw a video of a burning Palm tree. And I couldn't get it out of my mind. You know, looking back, I think like, wow, I wonder if that's what Moses felt like when he saw the burning Bush or, you know, saw on the road to Tarsus when he was struck blind, it just completely changed my frame. And so I thought, well, this is a really meaningful image. So let me dig into this. You know, you never really notice something until it goes wrong.

Speaker 11: (14:39)

He also has works from other series in this exhibition and cleaning some new text-based works that are like these minimalists little poems on canvases and they're equal parts quirky and insightful

Speaker 1: (14:53)

That San Diego artists, Perry Vasquez who's solo exhibition opens at sparks gallery with a reception Sunday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Now we also have the second and final weekend of San Diego ezine Fest. Tell us where we can find this and what we can expect

Speaker 11: (15:09)

Right. Last year, San Diego's infest was all virtual. So, so this year they're bringing it back. It'll be in-person but outdoors in the parking lot of side yard in Barrio Logan, and it will be Saturday and Sunday afternoon from noon to four and masks are required and there's going to be a ton of vendors, dozens of different artists, writers, small presses shops and Xen makers they'll have live music as well as live screen printing and highlight for me is San Diego writer, Adam Gennady, who has a brand new book out it's called after tonight. Everything will be different. And I've read this book and it is such a great snapshot of this region in particular, this region's food. When he told me about it, he pitched it as a book about eating in San Diego. And you can catch Adam Gennady reading with Justin Pearson at the Xen Fest on Saturday at TPM PM saying

Speaker 1: (16:08)

Diego ezine Fest takes place at side yard, Saturday and Sunday from noon to four. There's a string quartet performing at the LA Jolla music societies, baker bomb concert hall tonight. Tell us about the tuck hatch quartet.

Speaker 11: (16:22)

[inaudible] quartet is originally from Budapest, but they've since relocated to the states and they're based in Boulder and here at the Conrad's baker bomb stage, they're going to perform a set of three classical string quartets, and these are all such great picks. And it's going to be a really fantastic venue to hear the sort of music they're performing, a Haydn quartet, Schubert's magnificent death and the maiden piece, which to me somehow sounds like a full orchestra when it's only played by just four instruments. And they're also playing work by the British black composer. Colleridge Taylor, his five fantasy Stookey that we're listening to right now. And that's a collection of character-driven fantasy sketches, and that's a traditional format for compositions.

Speaker 5: (17:12)


Speaker 1: (17:36)

The, to catch quartet performs tonight, Friday at 8:00 PM. And finally, the men gay is hosting some family sugar Sculpin yatta workshops. Tell us about this,

Speaker 11: (17:46)

Right? They're bringing in piñata artists, Diana Benevidez, who is known for the way she makes these political and kind of disruptive pinata installations, but she's also an educator and she will help you and your family build your own miniature pinata shaped like a sugar skull and all the materials are provided. And she'll also walk you through the history and the folklore and how she uses the pinata in her own artistic practice. And these workshops are free and open to the public. They're held every hour on the hour, uh, on Sunday from noon through 4:00 PM, but you will need to sign up in person in advance. You can go to the Mingei beginning at 10:00 AM on Sunday to get your name on the list.

Speaker 1: (18:29)

The Mingei is family. Sunday series is this Sunday at noon, 1, 2, 3, and 4:00 PM. For details on these and more arts events or to sign up for Julia's weekly KPBS arts newsletter, go to I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer, Julia Dixon Evans. Julia. Thanks. Thank

Speaker 11: (18:50)

You so much, Jade.