SAN DIEGO–In a historic move that will make biking safer, easier, and more attractive for San Diegans throughout the region, the SANDAG Board of Directors Friday approved the Regional Bike Plan Early Action Program (EAP) – a $200 million initiative to expand the bike network countywide and finish high-priority projects within a decade.
“This is the first time in the history of the San Diego region where a financial commitment of this magnitude has been made to dramatically expand bike infrastructure,” SANDAG Chair and Santee Councilmember Jack Dale said. “Our goal is to create a comfortable riding environment for people of all ages and abilities so biking can become a viable form of transportation. Getting more people on bikes is not just good for the environment, it’s also good for public health, the economy, and the overall mobility of the region.”
Studies have shown that regions that have invested in bicycling have seen significant economic and health benefits. For example, a 2010 study estimated the annual economic impact of bicycle recreation and tourism in Wisconsin to be $924 million and the potential value of health benefits from reducing short car trips and increasing bicycle trips to total nearly $410 million. Another study, published in 2011, found that commuter and recreational cycling in Iowa generates more than $400 million in economic activity in the state and $87 million in health savings.
The Bike EAP comprises 42 projects totaling about 77 miles of new bikeways that would make it much easier for people to ride their bike to school, work, transit stations, and other major destinations. These projects are spread throughout San Diego County, from San Ysidro and Imperial Beach to Vista and Oceanside, from inland urban cores to scenic coastal communities. They include completing large segments of bike corridors that have been on the drawing board for years, such as the Coastal Rail Trail that would run 44 miles from Oceanside to San Diego; the Inland Rail Trail that would extend 21 miles from Oceanside to Escondido; the Bayshore Bikeway that would span 24 miles around San Diego Bay; and the San Diego River Trail that would parallel the river channel for 19 miles from eastern Santee to Mission Valley. See the attached report with a list of projects that will be funded by the EAP.
Many of the projects call for Class I bike paths, which are separate from vehicle traffic. Today, half of the bikeways are already under construction or well into the planning, design, and engineering phases.
The Bike EAP will be funded by TransNet, the regional half-cent sales tax for transportation approved by San Diego County voters. TransNet funding will be leveraged to bring in state and federal dollars so the region can complete more bike projects and reap even greater economic, health, and mobility benefits. By dedicating local funds for bike projects, the region will be well-positioned to compete for outside funding. SANDAG will maximize funding opportunities from other sources by moving all the bike projects toward construction on a rolling timeline, so at any given time there would be shovel-ready projects.
The Bike EAP is the culmination of many years of planning efforts and the result of extensive public outreach. It builds on Riding to 2050: The San Diego Regional Bike Plan adopted in 2010 to provide a regional strategy for making the bicycle a useful form of transportation for every day travel. The EAP also helps to fulfill the vision laid out in the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce congestion by promoting alternative transportation. In addition, the program will become an important component of San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan, which is currently under development.
The bike projects are prioritized based on several key criteria. One factor is proximity to smart growth areas, taking into account the fact that bikeways would be used more often if they connect high-density activity hubs within a short distance of each other. Another factor is whether projects would fill key gaps in regional bike networks. Also considered is the feasibility and efficiency of grouping certain projects together geographically and whether projects can capitalize on other regional efforts.