by Photo by Sarah Berjan

The San Diego County Bike Coalition kicked off the first event of the Love to Ride SD series that will run every Saturday through February to highlight safety on wheels, biking infrastructure, and connectivity. 

The event was held on Feb.5 at Mountian Hawk Park near Otay Lakes, featuring free bike helmets, safety gear, a guided family bike ride, bike, scooter rodeo, e-bike test rides for people of all ages. Professional BMX rider Shawn White demonstrated BMX tricks and shared encouraging messages of safety, perseverance, and anti-bullying. 

According to Will Rhatigan, an advocacy manager for the bike coalition, holding these even is to show people that biking is a great option to get around the community. In light of Heart Health awareness month, Rhatigan said biking is one of the best things one can do for their health.  

“For almost every health condition, heart disease, diabetes, cycling is tremendously beneficial as a form of exercise, and it is great for your mental health. There's almost nothing more freeing than getting outside on your bike and in the fresh air, and it's a good way to connect with the community,” Rhatigan said. 

Alex Oleta with Mountian Bike Hopper, a portable ramp and mountain bike accessory company, said “getting more people on bikes is a slippery slope of positivity” due to physical, mental, and societal wellness benefits, 

“Today is a great example of the progression that the city can make,” Oleta said. “We should have an infrastructure that works better for bikes, promotes alternate modes of transportation, and get kids using it at a young age. If we can make it safe, accessible, and get people motivated to ride bikes, it creates a better society.” 

In December 2021, San Diego’s Regional Transportation Agency (SANDAG) opened new bikeways county-wide through its Regional Transportation Plan, the first active transportation and public transit centered plan in the region's history. Through that,  SANDAG recommitted to the Early Action Program (EAP), a planned network of over 77 miles of bikeways that will link the region together. 

According to Rhatigan, there are a few bikeways that are planned for Chula Vista that are funded by the plan. One is the completion of the Bayshore Bikeway that stretches 24 miles starting in Downtown San Diego, across San Diego Bay, through Coronado, Silver Strand, through the communities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, circling back into Downtown San Diego.

In Chula Vista, a path will connect Otay Mesa, Otay Ranch, and East Lake, according to Rhatigan. Additionally, there are plans for bike paths to go through western Chula Vista, but construction may not begin until 2030. 

“We face some push back recently because people don't like seeing change on their streets. We want people to know that bikeways are there for public safety,” Rhatigan said, citing 16 bicyclist fatalities in San Diego County. “We know that bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes are nine times safer and they are gonna save people's lives.” 

Paige Colburn Hargis, who works at Scripps, La Jolla said there is an increase in bike crashes, many being traffic-related. Lorrie Lynn, injury prevention manager for Rady Children’s Hospital said about 25 percent of children who come into the hospital after biking accidents weren't wearing a helmet. 

“We encourage people to come out and learn skills about how to handle a bike and how to ride a bike. Bike riding isn't just for kids, adults can benefit from learning skills on how to safely ride in traffic as well,” Hargis said. 

According to Rhatigan, there are many ways to stay safe on bikes. One is learning the rules of the road, which are offered completely free on the bike coalition’s webpage, along with classes on classes on bike safety for kids, skills lessons, and maps that highlight routes throughout San Diego County. 

Events continue from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 12 at Gompers Preparatory Academy, 1005 47th St.; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at Linda Vista Library, 2160 Ulric St.; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 26 at The Island at Carlsbad, 5806 Van Allen Way.

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