Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear joined several other elected leaders for a panel discussion on efforts to promote biking and other alternative modes of transportation during a three-day Regional Bike Summit hosted by the San Diego County Bike Coalition Feb. 6-8.
“The biggest problem we have here is a fundamental commitment to the status quo,” said Blakespear, participating in the summit for the first time.
In Encinitas, Blakespear and the City Council voted last fall to approve widened bicycle lanes along Pacific Coast Highway, among other improvements for local cyclists that the city has adopted in recent years. She said her “pie in the sky” dream is to install protected bike lines throughout the city, but “every single project is a full-out fight.”
Throughout the region, top concerns about shifting away from a car-centric society include loss of parking spaces, increased traffic congestion from eliminating lanes and stats that show bicycling is still not a popular mode of transportation for commuters.
San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward said he’s more acutely aware of the safety risks of bicycling now that he rides with his 5-year-old daughter.
“What does that say if you can’t ride a bike to the ice cream store?” Ward said. “How liveable is that community?”
National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis added that through incremental progress, San Diego’s communities can be more “walkable, rideable and rollable.”
The San Diego County Bike Coalition held the summit once before in 2018. Some of the highlights at the second summit last week included group discussions on current trends, policies and projects to advance bicycling throughout the county, with topics such as the growing number of e-bikes, open street events and community-based campaigns to make changes to local infrastructure. The summit also hosted a San Diego mayoral candidate forum on Feb. 7 and a few bicycle rides on Feb. 8.
Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, said there will be a presentation to the SANDAG board of directors in March about the future of public transportation for the region.
“I hope one day we’ll have a connected transportation system for every part of San Diego,” he said, adding that a comprehensive public transportation system that reaches all corners of San Diego County will be time consuming and expensive.
But, Ikhrata said, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is among the most important reasons why the region should develop a robust public transportation infrastructure.
“I believe the cost of not doing it is much higher for this region and every region,” he said.