Council hits the brakes on parking elimination
VISTA — City Council and community members alike recognized that cycling conditions in Vista are currently unsafe, underutilized, and in need of upgrades.
The city supported proposed improvements to bicycle conditions and amenities with the approval of a new bicycle master plan at the Tuesday night City Council meeting. Yet concerns were raised about how the city could feasibly promote safe cycling and avoid eliminating parking.
“Vista is not bike-friendly in a lot of areas,” said Deputy Mayor John Aguilera.
“I don’t feel safe here to bike,” said Mayor Judy Ritter.
Vista developed a new bicycle master plan, a planning document that will guide the city’s efforts to promote cycling, utilizing a recent grant from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
Nearly half of residents surveyed for the plan consider the biking environment in Vista to be “poor” or “very poor.”
Residents at public meetings expressed that the main cycling issues in Vista include a lack of bike lanes and facilities as well as unsafe riding conditions due to speeding cars.
The bicycle master plan as a whole endorses cycling as a means of transportation and recreation, as well as a creator of potential economic and environmental benefits for the city.
The document recommends adding nearly 20 miles of new bike lanes and pathways as well as installing new bicycle facilities, including restrooms and locked bike storage, throughout Vista when funding becomes available. Currently there are 28.1 miles of bike lanes in the city.
While no one opposed enhancing cycling conditions, many residents strongly objected to the plan’s proposal of removing on-street parking to accommodate new bike lanes.
Numerous public speakers on Tuesday spoke against getting rid of parking along North Melrose Drive specifically.
“This isn’t going to encourage us to ride our bicycles but it will just cause disaster,” said one Vista resident who mentioned that he parks along Melrose Drive for work.
Taking away parking would “deeply affect our quality of life,” said a resident of Melrose Park Condominiums.
She said the condos lacked parking as is and that street parking was essential.
“I’m not satisfied this exact moment in time with the removal of street parking,” responded Councilmember John Franklin. “With the information I have, I tend to agree with the residents who spoke tonight.”
Hearing speakers’ complaints, city council agreed that the master plan should be approved without the provision allowing for the removal of parking. They instead suggested that city staff consider redirecting bike lanes to avoid removing street parking.
Councilmember Amanda Rigby also advocated for required bicycle education to increase bicycle safety.
“I think it’s important that before we let (bicyclists) out on the road willy-nilly that they are educated,” she said. “They also need to understand the rules of the road.”
While other councilmembers supported bicycle education, they stated that there was no realistic way to implement mandatory cycling education in the city.
“It’s going to be very difficult and expensive for us to enforce,” said Aguilera.
The City Council approved the bicycle master plan with four votes. Rigby opposed the plan without a clear direction on increasing education.