REGION — Since Douglas Alden was a young kid, he pedaled his bike around Solana Beach and the surrounding areas to get where he needed to go.
“It’s always been a part of my DNA,” Alden said. “I biked to school when I was in elementary and junior high. I went to UCSD and lived at home and rode my bike to the university.”
Four decades later, Alden still holds this same passion for cycling, riding to work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography down in La Jolla several days a week. He also chairs BikeWalk Solana, an organization that helps the city establish cycling and pedestrian guidelines in Solana Beach by educating the community and raising awareness.
This weekend, Alden will join up to 150 other cyclists in the county at the first annual San Diego Regional Bike Summit, a three-day conference hosted by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition and held in Balboa Park. He said the summit will help cycling communities around the county learn how other cities are improving.
“The county’s so huge, so we need something like the regional summit,” Alden said. “There’s a lot of differences between what’s happening downtown and what’s happening up in North County.”
From June 21 to June 23, Regional Bike Summit attendees will hear from keynotes, attend workshops and participate in group bike rides, wrapping up the event with a huge “Velobration” party. Content will focus on infrastructure and policy improvements, as well as bicycling’s intersection with major issues like race, gender and sexuality.
Andy Hanshaw, an event organizer and executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, said the summit is also designed to connect the cycling community on a regional level.
“We want to learn from others in our region,” Hanshaw said. “We want to highlight what things are happening in all parts of the county and share best practices.”
On Alden’s turf in Solana Beach, a 2015 report showed that about 2.3 percent of people in the city commute by bicycle. This rate is high compared to the county, state and national biking averages, which come in at 1 percent and below. In May 2018, Solana Beach was recognized as a Bicycle Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists.
Alden said he recognizes that far distances or inconvenient trips can be intimidating, but he reminds the public that cycling is not an all or nothing activity.
“For certain trips you’re not going to be able to ride a bike,” Alden said. “But can you do this once a week or once a day?”
Safety also plays a role in keeping people off bikes. Alden said parents often worry about sending their children on the roads, where they may encounter distracted or dangerous drivers. The concern led groups like BikeWalk Solana and the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition to organize bike safety and education workshops.
“A lot of adults don’t ride correctly or safely, so it’s all about teaching the youth how to ride safely and what to look out for,” Alden said.
In North County, Alden said organizations like his work with legislators to keep improving infrastructure — like developing the Coastal Rail Trail and widening bike lanes when roads are repaved. Today especially, Alden said, local governments have an increased awareness of cycling culture and needs.
“If you look at cities like Carlsbad, every time they reseal the street and they have an opportunity to redo the lanes, they’re narrowing the traffic lanes … and putting in bigger bike lanes often with painted buffers,” Alden said.
For Alden and Hanshaw, The San Diego County Regional Bike Summit will provide space for cycling advocates to learn from each other and continue the conversation on how to spread awareness. More information about this event is available online www.sdbikecoalition.org.