It is truly alarming to realize that one of the largest obstacles to better bicycling infrastructure in San Diego County comes from organized cycling clubs who effectively dominate local bicycle advocacy groups like the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.
If we want more people to bike, this needs to change.
Recently, I publicly advocated for protected bike lanes, which are lanes that physically protect bicyclists from speeding cars. Within a few short weeks I was rejected for a board position on the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition because of it.
The gist of my speech before the Encinitas City Council was that the perspective of the “vehicular cyclist” (the notion that bikes are vehicles and should use the roads just like a car) is ineffective at attracting a substantial number of users other than the “bold and fearless” riders. Physically protected bike lanes are shown to both increase ridership and reduce serious injury. That’s not just my opinion; it’s supported by numerous traffic engineering studies.
But for a small, vocal contingent of road cyclists, mixing cars and bikes together works for them. These “roadies” don’t want to slow down for beach cruisers, kids, nearby pedestrians, dog walkers, strollers, or anyone else who may be inside of a protected bike lane. This is also the group of riders who like and support “sharrows” (painted symbols on the roadway indicating that “bikes may use full lane”).
I am (or rather, was) a member of the advocacy committee of the Bicycle Coalition. My ideas about the benefits of protected bike lanes did not sit well with several influential members of the group. When the vote came in for six new candidates to the board last Wednesday, I was the only one rejected. I’m generally a well-spoken and committed advocate for cycling with as good or better credentials than the other candidates. I was rejected because I advocated for protected bike lanes and the vehicular cyclists in the group were out to punish me for it. It was retribution for my public advocacy, pure and simple.
It saddens me that the Bike Coalition is so heavily influenced by a contingent of people with such a narrow, self-interested and shortsighted view of cycling infrastructure. Unless the forward-thinking members of the Coalition can somehow sideline the hard-core vehicular cyclists among them, they are at risk of becoming irrelevant in the emerging political and social landscape of San Diego. Groups like Circulate San Diego and the Climate Action Campaign are taking the lead by advocating for infrastructure that will actually increase the number of people biking and walking. It’s time for the Bike Coalition and road cyclists in general to embrace changes that increase the inclusivity and desirability of cycling for all types of riders, not just those in lycra.