Mission Beach requests that cyclists slow down
Published - 03/20/15 - 03:51 PM | 19867 views | 1 1 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bicycles lined up next to the beach and boardwalk. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Bicycles lined up next to the beach and boardwalk. / Photo by Thomas Melville
With spring break in full force and summer right around the corner, the community of Mission Beach is requesting that bicyclists slow down while riding on the boardwalk and bayside paths.

This request doesn’t come from just simple concern. Dr. Edmund Thile, a 47-year resident of Mission Beach, conducted a study recently and found that 33 percent of the bike traffic exceeded the 8 mph speed limit, and 22 percent were traveling at speeds that posed a danger to pedestrians.

Thile’s study included a specially modified radar speed feedback and recording device on loan from the Tucson, Ariz., company RU2 Systems. The mobile speed radar, while originally designed for vehicular traffic, was able to accurately measure and record the speed of moving cyclists.

This equipment was observed by city officials and the Mission Beach Town Council, and even featured on local news stations. The radar systems are a proven method for curbing vehicular motorists’ speed, though this is a first for passively monitoring and working to slow cyclists.

The study was not without risk, however. “When I would call attention to how fast people are going, those who were going 10 mph would look up and say 'Oh, I didn’t know that! Thanks for telling me!' They were fine,” Thile said.

“You reach somewhere around 11 mph, [cyclists] don’t want you to tell them they are going fast, they are angry that you’re telling them they are going too fast, and it creates animosity and a fairly retaliatory reaction,” Thile said.

While rallying funds from the city and the community for installing the radar systems permanently has been met with some skepticism, Thile, the Mission Beach Town Council, and residents are pressing on.

Calling all bicycle clubs

Local officials have also suggested that awareness within the cycling community would be a powerful tool for slowing the speeding bikes, and perhaps redirecting speed bikes to other areas. Speaking with some local cycling enthusiasts, most of them mentioned that the Mission Beach boardwalk and even Mission Boulevard is not an ideal area for race training.

“The boardwalk is made for everyone to enjoy a slow, relaxed pace, whether it be walking, running, or biking. Cycling for commuting should divert to the street, as required by law. There is a reason sidewalks and fast moving vehicles shouldn’t mix,” said Dennis Caco, a local triathlete and the founder of the annual Hammer Festival, an annual awards ceremony for San Diego’s athletes.

Urging enforcement

Thile and other regular boardwalk users discussed the issue at a recent Mission Beach Town Council meeting, and agreed that while the radar systems will be a key component in slowing down speeding cyclists, but it’s not enough.

“I think, without enforcement, whatever we do will not be significantly effective to reduce the likely harm that will occur from excessive bike speed,” Thile said, as he spoke about the ongoing conversation with local police and lifeguard officials.

Regardless of whether you are a cyclist, a skateboarder, runner, or just like to enjoy the boardwalk with your family, speed detection equipment and enforcement are only part of the solution. The community can make a significant difference by speaking and sharing with each other, residents and visitors alike, and holding each other accountable.

It could be as simple as a bell ring or a hand motion. This gives everyone a chance to breathe in the salty air, listen to the sound of breaking waves, and enjoy one of the most beautiful places on earth without having to be worried about speeding bikes colliding with people along the ocean and bay.

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March 29, 2015
I am a bicycling advocate that specializes in scenic bike rides away from traffic, accessible to anyone. I've studied bike trails all over the U.S. and Canada, and have written a book "enCYCLEpedia Southern California - The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides" that includes all the great rides of this genre in the San Diego area. I have been spending the month of March at Mission Bay RV Resort for the last few years, and ride the routes to the beach including Bayside Walk most every day.

The trails here see heavy bicycle use and it is a very valuable resource for casual bicyclists of the region. It's actually the main reason why we stay here. I’m not a fan of multi-use trails, but I assume there’s no money in the San Diego budget to construct a separate bike trail, like the heavily used scenic trails along the beaches of Los Angeles, Vancouver’s Stanley Park, Seattle’s Green Lake and Alki Beach, etc. It’s a shame because this is San Diego’s chance to really have some of the best scenic bike trails anywhere. So, assuming this is what there is to work with, here are my observations:

Cyclists have as much right to get some exercise in a scenic area as pedestrians, and should not be relegated to the dangerous roads while out for a pleasant cruise. I agree that speed racers should stick to the streets and have no place on these particular trails. However, instead of enforcing a ridiculously low speed limit along the entire Bayside Walk, there could be slower speed zones in areas of concern such as Fanuel Street Park, the blind curve under Ingraham Street, past the Catamaran Resort, near intersections, etc. There should also be a dual speed limit, like they have in other cities like Long Beach, perhaps 12 mph, except 8 or 5 mph when passing pedestrians. If there are wide-open stretches of trail in lesser-used areas, or early in the morning or other times of low trail use, and you start having speed traps and fines for exceeding 8 or 5 mph for bicyclists, it will be very contentious and unnecessary, and will ruin the valuable bicycling experience. Regulations should be practical based on use, and the process should include all types of trail users, not just peds.

No multi-use trail is perfect, but the bicyclists on Bayside Walk are some of the best behaved I’ve seen for such a busy trail. I have observed a couple of speedsters now and then, but have not witnessed them endangering pedestrians on my daily rides. Meanwhile, pedestrians should be limited to 2 abreast and keep to the right. If they did this there would be minimal problem with bike interaction. Pedestrians along Bayside Walk are generally more courteous and trail savvy than in other areas, even as compared to the trails along the east side of Mission Bay.

Parents should not be allowed to teach toddlers to ride a bike on busy trails. That is a danger to both the toddler and to others who may swerve to avoid them. I typically will come to almost a complete stop around toddlers, expecting them to do something unexpected, and sometimes they have. I’ve seen toddlers running, biking, or skateboarding uncontrolled along the trail, and a couple of times I've even encountered an unleashed dog. However, for a busy multi use trail I think Bayside Walk is working better than most as is. The biggest safety hazard is that most cyclists don’t wear helmets on this trail and in a split second a head can hit the concrete.

Ocean Front Walk is a different story. This is one of the most poorly managed trails I’ve ever seen, a real shame, as it could be a jewel, a fabulous oceanfront trail enjoyable to all. There’s nothing better than being able to cruise along, undisturbed, with the sea breeze and waves crashing. However, it is a mess. I’ll admit that a few times I’ve even seen cyclists ride irresponsibly, and some do ride too fast for the conditions. Those “sidewinder” bikes are especially hazardous. But cyclists are by far the best behaved on this trail. Many pedestrians have absolutely no regard for anyone else, walking in the middle of the trail, in groups across the entire trail, darting across the trail without looking, even playing ball on the trail. I’ve witnessed skateboarders careening into oncoming cyclists, cyclists being forced into each other, and unsupervised toddlers weaving on bikes. The situation gets worse as the day goes on; I find it perfectly rideable on weekday mornings, deteriorating to unrideable on sunny Saturday afternoons. The stretch where it narrows north of Pacific Beach Dr to Grand Ave is the most problematic. However, at least the powers that be don’t require dismounting, which would be much worse.

Perhaps if the section of this trail between Ventura Pl (roller coaster area) and Pacific Beach Dr. was separated for bikes and peds, it would improve the trail experience for all. It’s worth a shot. And of course the sections north of there need some improvement in signage and markings as well.

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