The Time to Choose is Upon Us

It is written and heard a lot these days that San Diegans want walkable, livable streets and neighborhoods. It’s almost PC to say it. But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, it appears what we really want are walkable, livable neighborhoods — as long as it doesn’t interfere with driving and parking our cars.

Can’t we have both? Why can’t pedestrians and bicycles share the road equally with cars. Why can’t we have it all?

There are many reasons why we can’t have it all, but the main reason is that there just isn’t enough space. If every automobile, pedestrian, bicycle, and transit advocate got their way, all of our streets would be over 100 feet wide, which by the way, is already not good for pedestrians. 

The fact is, we have limited space, limited choices and limited funds, So we have to prioritize our choices and make tough decisions. To date all of our choices have favored private automobiles. Street design policies, mandatory parking requirements, environmental policies, etc, all put the car as the number one priority on our streets.

Streets designed primarily for cars seem "normal" these days.

We’ve gotten pretty use to that … so much so that it seems “normal”. Now, when we talk about reclaiming some of the public realm for people and bicycles by employing road diets and traffic calming, suddenly there are outcries about “the war on cars” and complaints about parking.

The cold, hard fact is that we have run out of room. For the first time ever we need to make hard choices about how to use limited space. The East Coast got to this point years ago, and subsequently is way ahead of us on issues of transportation and livable streets and neighborhoods. But California always seemed like a place where the land extended forever – that we would never run out of room.

How serious are we in San Diego about being a walkable, livable, bike-friendly city? Decision time has come. The State is suing SANDAG over its 2050 Plan; Climate Change is upon us; Bicycle advocates are breathing down our necks; and for some reason the younger generation doesn’t seem to want to drive that much.

Putting pedestrians and people first over cars is going to mean giving up the ability to jump in the car anytime we want and always finding free parking at our destination. But what we gain could be enormous: Safer streets with fewer injuries and fatalities; better and more social neighborhoods; more innovative, creative and productive workers; and more economically vital and vibrant neighborhoods.

The choice is ours: prioritize pedestrians, or prioritize cars. I’m sorry we can’t have both as our first priority. I once read that cars are happiest when there are no other cars around, and people are happiest when there are lots of other people around. Unfortunately, cars are not happy when there are lots of people around, and people are not happy when there are lots of cars around. 

It’s time to choose. Which do you choose for your future, your children’s future, and for future generations to come?  Which do you choose for yourself and San Diego? The time has come to make the choice.

I choose people.

Walter Chambers


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One Response to The Time to Choose is Upon Us

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