Pedal Power Plan Touts Downtown SD Mobility

San Diego's downtown can be a walk on the wild side -- and even scarier for riding a bike.

So right now there's a plan in the works to make it safer to get around on two wheels, because more downtown residents and workers see that as the way to go.

They say they shouldn’t have to be extreme risk-takers to get on a bike in downtown San Diego.

But that's how it is, much more so than the rest of the city.

With this in mind, urban planners at Civic San Diego have some big and bold ideas for changing that.

"If the city implements this plan, it's going to transform downtown San Diego,” says Samantha Ollinger, executive director of Bike San Diego. “It's going to be incredible. I truly believe it. The way they've laid it out, the visionary vision behind the plan is absolutely outstanding. I'm not usually very impressed, but this plan totally impressed me."

Enhancing "downtown mobility" is the objective behind Civic San Diego’s push to give cyclists and pedestrians safe space on urban streets crowded with cars, trucks, buses and trolleys.

The agency is proposing 9 miles of protected bike lanes, 5 miles of widened sidewalks, and numerous shortened street crossings.

The cost: $64 million dollars in federal and state grants.

Officials say motorists won't wind up losing too much of the space they're used to.

To get the lay of the land on this issue, NBC 7 dropped by the San Diego Bike Shop on "C" Street.

It has hundreds of customers who hail from downtown and neighborhoods far beyond, and a busy clientele of renters -- both local and visitors.

"And the advice to them is stay away from downtown city streets because there's no facilities for bike riders,” says the shop’s owner, Mo Karimi. “There's no exclusive lanes until you get to the harbor and go around the harbor and Point Loma and other places.

“But downtown, they have to contend with traffic getting alongside. So I advise them to be very, very careful."

For all the good intentions here, there may be pushback from community groups like the one suing the city over a special bike lane that was opened in2014 on Fifth Avenue from Bankers Hill to Hillcrest.

The objection?

It was installed without an environmental study or public notice.

Given that litigation on top of all they endure on San Diego’s mean streets, a lot of cyclists can't help but feel like second-class travelers in this town.

"You know, we just have to structurally get away from our society built around cars, “ downtown resident and cyclist Dion Markgraaff told NBC 7 during a break from a noontime spin on C Street.

“They've manipulated our society,” he said, “and we need to make it sort of more people-friendly, and I think everyone will benefit."

With downtown's residential and employment populations projected to keep expanding, bike activists point out that more cycling and walking will reduce traffic congestion, gas consumption, vehicle exhaust, parking space demands -- and last but not least, prevent accidents.

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