Ride Safe San Diego

Open Letter to Planning Commission

Dear Planning Commission Members:

As a resident of Little Italy along with my wife and daughter, I ask you to approve the Downtown Mobility Plan. There is a vocal opposition unhappy about the loss of parking, but I ask you to put the longterm health and safety of our citizens ahead of cheap car storage on public streets.[1] Approving the plan is a necessity for future generations, but it can help improve current local businesses by making downtown a world class destination for tourists and residents alike.

Parking in dense, urban areas is not as important as most business owners think. In fact, many tend to overestimate[2] how many customers arrive by car by as much as 32%.[3] Many of their current customers arrive by foot, bike, and transit. The addition of bike lanes attracts new riders, adding new sources of revenue.[4] Studies have shown that customers who arrive by bike spend at least as much[5] as those who arrive by car, if not more.[6]

The buffer created by the protected lanes will help calm traffic, creating a safer and more inviting sidewalk for pedestrians, leading to spin-off revenue for nearby businesses.[7] People flock to Little Italy for this exact reason, which is why the Little Italy Association is willing to close several blocks to vehicular traffic on a weekly basis for the farmer’s market and soon permanently for Piazza Famiglia.

Bicycle friendly businesses are already benefiting from nearly cost-free marketing channels thanks to programs like SD Bike Commuter Discount, SANDAG’s own iCommute, and events hosted by BikeSD, SDCBC, and others. Every business within a block of the new cycle tracks will be able to maximize this cheap promotion. San Diego is already receiving national attention for the proposed plan and tourism will inevitably increase with a safe bicycling network.

Protected bike lanes have been proven time and again to not only avoid negatively impacting businesses, but to be a net positive for the whole city. They will raise property values,[8] attract hi-tech companies and their millennial employees,[9] improve health and safety, and help the city achieve it’s Climate Action Plan and Vision Zero goals.

Please help shape the right future for San Diego and vote for the Downtown Mobility Plan.


Concerned Resident,

Jordan Kohl

  1. The $10-an-hour difference between a garage and a metered spot in Boston gives “drivers a license to hunt,” says Mark Chase, a local parking consultant,“but it’s not a guarantee of a parking place.” The result, naturally, is congestion. Studies from around the country have shown that as much as 34 percent of all traffic in downtown areas involves drivers just looking for parking spaces. Meanwhile, Boston has set aside a ton of spaces for resident-only parking in neighborhoods, and it charges nothing for the permits to use them. And what happens when it doesn’t cost anything to keep cars parked on the street? They stay there. Today more than 311,000 vehicles are registered in Boston, and more than 87,000 of them have residential parking permits. Each of those cars takes up around 160 square feet—the size of a street spot—of prime city real estate.“You have some of the most valuable land on earth, and you’re giving it away for free to cars,” says Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, and the author of The High Cost of Free Parking. “It’s preposterous.” - “Why Parking in Boston Should Be More Expensive”, Boston Magazine

  2. In a study of merchants and shoppers in Bristol, UK, researchers found that merchants guessed that 41% of their customers had arrived by car, when in fact only 22% had done so. Merchants also over-estimated how far away their customers lived, and disagreed with their customers about the impact of transit improvements. A study of Graz, Austria, found similar misconceptions among merchants. - Shoppers and how they travel, 2006

  3. Geary merchants believe that 54 percent of their customers arrive by car, though the actual number is 22 percent, according to a recent SFCTA survey of 569 businesses on Geary and 295 businesses on Clement Street. Additionally, shoppers who arrived without cars visited businesses more frequently than those who arrived by car. - “Geary BRT Plan Watered Down to Appease Parking-Obsessed Merchants”, streetsblog.org

  4. With so many people traveling by bike, enhancing bike access on Commercial Drive will allow for large numbers of people to visit Commercial Drive businesses safely and securely by bike. Many people choose to not cycle on Commercial Drive, seeking out an adjacent north-south connection (Lakewood and Woodland Dr.), simply because it’s too scary and uncomfortable to ride with traffic. - “A Better Business Case For Bike Lanes”, slowstreets.wordpress.com

  5. replacing on-street parking with a bike lane has little to no impact on local business, and in some cases might even increase business. While cyclists tend to spend less per shopping trip than drivers, they also tend to make more trips, pumping more total money into the local economy over time. - “The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes”, CityLab

  6. A Toronto study found that customers arriving by foot and bicycle visited the most often and spent the most money per month. - The Clean Air Partnership, 2010 - Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business: Year 2 Report

  7. Sixty-six percent of the merchants believe that the bike lanes have had a generally positive impact on their business and/or sales, and the same percentage would support more traffic calming on Valencia Street. Thirty-seven percent of merchants reported that the bike lanes have increased their sales. Seventy-three percent thought that the bike lanes have made the street more attractive. Surprising percentages of merchants reported that increased congestion (41%) and reduced auto speed (46%) were good conditions for business. On eleven of the nineteen variables, not one merchant reported that the bike lanes had made conditions “worse” - Economic Effects of Traffic Calming on Urban Small Businesses, 2003

  8. Homeowners are willing to pay a $9,000 premium to live within 1,000 feet of the Little Miami Scenic Trail. vom Hofe, R., and Parent, O., in University of Cincinnati, 2011 - “New Research Finds that Homeowners and City Planners Should ‘Hit the Trail’ When Considering Property Values”

  9. Of the 34,550 people living in downtown, millennials are the largest demographic group, making up a third of the total population. - “Downtown San Diego: The innovation economy’s latest frontier”, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Posted April 28, 2016

Open Letter to Councilmember Lorie Zapf

Dear Councilmember Zapf, As a resident of Little Italy with my wife and daughter, I ask you to please fully support Downtown Mobility Plan proposed by Civic San Diego to help increase safety for...

Written by Jordan Kohl who lives and works in San Diego building useful things. You should follow him on Twitter