One of the unexpected side effects of a decade of blogging and cycle campaigning, particularly online, is the ability to rock up at a city almost at random and ‘know’ someone there who would be up for meeting up and even better, a guided bike tour …
This is how Sam Ollinger – who once wrote the magnificently ranty Brown Girl in the Lane bike blog and now runs the slightly less ranty San Diego cycle campaign BikeSD – found herself roped into giving the other half and me our own private infrastructure safari of San Diego. We rented a couple of bike share bikes and then had a lovely time testing the patience of the local drivers by being *those people* on bike hire bikes, you know the ones that ride along oblivious three abreast talking nineteen to the dozen about cycle campaigning, wobbling around the potholes and generally cycling in the wrong lane.* Sorry about that, drivers of South California, we were impressed by your forbearance.
Unlike most bike hire schemes, they make you specify in advance how long you want to rent them for so we paid upfront for a couple of hours which was probably an hour too long given that SD basically doesn’t have any bike infrastructure. But we’re from Scotland so we made Sam give us the full tour anyway to make sure we got our money’s worth on the bikes. Bike SD certainly has its hands full making this into anything but a massively car-dominated city but there are loads of lovely sharrows, which work to increase the apparent cycling mode share by painting some pictures of bicycles on the roads and hoping that fools people (at least, I think that’s how they work because I can’t see any other point to them).
But it’s okay, because they also have the world’s biggest #signmakeitbetter sign which – brilliantly – isn’t even on the road where the drivers can see it. Clearly, just having it there outside city hall is enough. Such is the magic of a ‘share the road’ sign.
Still, as we discovered at lunch, what San Diego does have is an incredible number of craft breweries, which – if the tourists we saw on the rented cruiser bikes were anything to go by – can supply some visitors with sufficient Dutch courage to enable this sort of road look bikeable.
In all seriousness, good things *are* happening in San Diego – like a parking lot turned into a park – but it’s taking time and Sam and BikeSD have their work cut out helping the city turn commitments of cash into decent infrastructure. They’ll need it, because outside of the downtown area, it would take more than a picture of a squashed bicycle – or, indeed, a giant ‘share the road’ sign – to make me want to cycle there.
The beer, now, that might do it. Although cycling authorities take note: this is not what we mean by ‘going Dutch’
* At least we weren’t on a Segway tour though. Which is an actual thing.