Promoting Walking and Biking

How might we improve safety on the street?


What can be done to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in San Diego? “There is a latent demand in the public to walk and bike more, but many people, out of a lack of safe routes, choose not to,” said Colin Parent, Circulate San Diego’s Executive Director and City Council member in La Mesa. As the city of San Diego grows in population, more residents are choosing to use walking and biking to avoid traffic congestion and parking. However, since walking and biking are not the norm they can be dangerous in a city built for cars.

In response, city leaders have adopted the Vision Zero program. Its goal is to eliminate all traffic deaths in the city by 2025, through enforcement, education and street engineering. But what does that mean in practice? How might we realistically redesign our city so that it is more safe for bicycles and pedestrians?

The Fatal 15: What makes these intersections dangerous?

busy intersection with bikes and cars
The Fatal 15 is the name given to 15 intersections in the San Diego area that have the highest number of pedestrian deaths and injuries since 2001. Is it possible that these intersections, like Mission Blvd. and Garnet Ave., have something in common that is causing this lack of safety?

Circulate San Diego, a local non-profit devoted to promoting safe neighborhoods, streets and intersections compiled the list and estimates the cost to address these dangers at approximately $200,000. Addressing these dangerous spots is important, as is understanding how a spot becomes dangerous over time. What are the early warning signs that an intersection might be deadly, before someone is actually killed in a traffic accident?

The Fatal 15 aren’t the only intersections in San Diego though, there are many intersections that are safe and provide a great experience for bikers riding through. What is the difference between these safe intersections and the dangerous ones? What kinds of intersections provide more safety for pedestrians and bikers (e.g. roundabouts and t-junctions)? It’s also imperative that we educate the public about these intersections, and pedestrian safety in general. Education is an effective tool that can be used to give pedestrians alternate routes or even alternate forms of transportation. However, providing education requires some amount of time (rather asking a person to read a pamphlet or listen to a public service announcement), and may not be applied at the appropriate time to encourage someone to alter their behaviors. How might we share information about Circulate San Diego’s research on the Fatal 15 with pedestrians, bikers and drivers as they cruise through these spaces?

The Biker Impact: How could “bike-friendly” benefit business and community?

man sittin on bike rack with a bike
Bike lanes are an essential element of safe roadways, but safety isn’t the only consideration, though they also take up space that could be used for parking, and can reduce access to certain businesses. Some of business owners contend that by taking away parking to make room for bike paths, there is a significant loss of profit because their customers don’t come by bike. Two camps have formed, one that prioritizes the safety of bicyclists on the busy roads in the city, and another that instead prioritizes the economy by encouraging business and having customers park right in front of the businesses. What might we do to make streets more “bike-friendly” while ensuring that the local businesses in our city thrive?

Raising Awareness: Is biker and walker visibility on the road really the problem?

busy road with bikes, pedestrians, cars
Everyday car-bike collisions result in injury, if not the death of a cyclist. Though is making the cyclist more visible the core design challenge? On the one hand, there are 217,000 trees adjacent to streets in the city of San Diego. This foliage may be concealing cyclists and pedestrians from the view of drivers. On the other hand, 45% of bike accidents that involve a car happen at intersections, moments when a driver needs to make a quick and complex series of decisions. It may be that drivers need different forms of assistance to account for pedestrians and bikers at various points along their drive home.