September 15, 2014

Which is better for cycling: Madison, Wisconsin, or San Diego, California?

Jill Richardson in Nation of Change:

 I actually kind of hate biking. The seat hurts my rear end, my muscles aren’t adapted to biking up hills, and I’m always running late in the morning, making it extra inconvenient that I need to allot enough time to get somewhere car-free.
Also, my bike doesn’t have anywhere to stash my morning coffee.
Even with my bad attitude, I’m still biking. Because, you see, Madison built bike trails but didn’t build ample parking. The city and the University of Wisconsin campus have bike bridges to cross over or under busy roads and plenty of bike racks everywhere you go. The bike routes are even well-marked with road signs, making it easy to find your way around even if you’re new.
If cities wish to encourage citizens to be more active and cut down on driving, they must remember that if they build it, we will come.

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And the reverse is true: Don’t build it, and it doesn’t matter about the good weather …

In San Diego, my bike sat in my backyard for so long that both tires went flat, the pedals rusted, and a few spiders decided it was a fine place to build their webs.
San Diego is a city of freeways. Parking downtown is tough, but for the most part, Southern California is built so that its residents must drive wherever they need to go. Certain neighborhoods are walkable if you aren’t going far, and you might choose to take the trolley instead of attempting to park if you go to a Padres game.

I thought about commuting by bike on occasion, but there are so many freeways that I had no idea how to do it.
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Had there been better bike trails, I realize now that I’m back in Madison, San Diego would have been ideal for biking. The weather there is perfect every day — unlike in Wisconsin.

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  1. I used to take the train down to San Diego regularly, stay at the 500 West downtown and hire from a place on C St. Biking there isn’t easy.
    There is a CoSD map of ‘San Diego bike paths'(also on Google here https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=215611903328390102803.000448f4a8f961c7a3330). Both indicate that ‘Orange Lines – Bike Paths, separate areas for bikes’. You’ll notice that San Diego Freeway is one of these!
    My experience of biking this route – the ‘separate area’ is the hard shoulder, covered in broken glass and overgrown by thorn bushes, forcing you into the car traffic constantly. At the car on/off ramps, you have to take your chances crossing the constant stream of speeding cars. Lots of this kind of stuff on the map – bike routes designated as such by some City engineer from their desk under greenwash pressure from above.