When I was working on my travel plans for the National Bicycle Tourism Conference for November 5th to November 8th, I was reminded by someone in my social network that November 9th was the day of San Diego’s very own open street event, CicloSDias, a very clever name. I was curious to see how this event compared to my hometown’s CicLAvia. I decided to extend my stay in San Diego at a local hostel to experience it for myself.
Before I begin talking about the actual event, I want to talk about my experience and mindset prior to coming down to San Diego. I’ve ridden to and through San Diego a few times in the past and have grown more familiar with the bicycling infrastructure. Cities, like Oceanside, are using their bike lanes to funnel tourists through major thoroughfares.
This time down, I was fully loaded on my Salsa Vaya as I needed to pack bike clothes for the conference. This would be the first time traveling to San Diego on a completely loaded down bicycle.
Bike-Friendly San Diego
According to this article on USA Today, in July 2014, San Diego was listed as one of the 10 bike-friendly cities in the country. I was able to confirm this fact as I had the opportunity to ride through Mission Bay on separated bicycle paths, which led me to the Bahia Resort, while taking me along the bay and past the world-famous Sea World.
The plethora of bike lanes were a welcoming sight as I traveled along the coast into La Jolla, Claremont, and Old Town. On the other hand, the downtown area needed more bicycling infrastructure – at least in the streets I traveled on to get to my hostel.
Close Call in La Jolla
Despite this fact, I almost got hit from behind by a driver in La Jolla. Although I was exhausted from a dirt road detour, I clearly signaled left, and she must have missed that signal. I was lucky she stopped from plowing straight into me and chirped her wheels. She laid on the horn to express her displeasure of me turning in front of her and not signalling. I’m not going to jump to the conclusion that drivers don’t know how to act around cyclists as this incident may be my fault, but as a defensive driver, I would always err on the side of caution when approaching a cyclist and never assume. Is it really that hard to ask?
In case you missed it, check out my vlog about CicloSDias.
CicloSDias vs. CicLAvia
Like Los Angeles’ CicLAvia, CicloSDias was San Diego’s open street event held twice a year which opens up the street for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The event was on November 9, 2014 in the Hillcrest area stretching across 2.5 miles on University and 6th Street. This was the 3rd event put on by the city with the help of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.
Similar to CicLAvia, there were intersections or areas where organizers put on special activities to engage the passer-bys. They had a giant scrabble board, as well as a giant twister mat for people to jump in and play. They even had a drag race on Tern folding bikes where 2 contestants on 2 relay teams put on silly costumes and carried an umbrella while racing against the other team for prizes. CicLAvia also had intersections where people danced or played dodgeball in the street. This is where the similarities end.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I had high expectations coming in, so when I asked 2 of my good friends if they heard about it, both did not. This was disappointing. I just thought this was merely an anomaly, but received confirmation from the SDCBC representative that they hadn’t really advertised the event as much as they should have to draw the crowds in.
This was evident as I was riding the route. My estimated number was about 5,000 people? Of course, take my perception with a grain a salt as I don’t have or can not find estimates on the attendance on any publication or website. It was a far stretch from CicLAvia’s whopping 130,000 attendees for their 3rd event back in 2011.
CicLAvia also offered more mileage as the route stretched out to 10 miles. It was also evident that San Diego expected a low turnout as there were only 1 or 2 traffic officers manning intersections where they allowed cars to drive through.
Taking It To The Next Level
Despite all these glaring issues, there are opportunities to make this event even more popular. Here are 5 suggestions that I think would help blow this event out more.
1. Think Big
There’s probably a reason for this but I felt the event was not as big as it could have been. It would have been great to see the path snake through major parts of San Diego where you normally wouldn’t see cyclists. Who knows, perhaps businesses complained about removal of car parking or it was budgetary constraints. Whatever it is, it needs to start from the top believing in a bigger picture.
2. More Food Options
Yes, there were several restaurants to explore and a huge farmer’s market in Hillcrest providing food options. It would have been nice to see food trucks in areas, like where the drag race took place on 6th street or even at the corner of University and 6th. If you bring out the food trucks, people will flock to them.
3. More Vendor Engagement
This is probably a sensitive topic to some, and I don’t know the entire picture during the planning and organization of this event, but I can provide insight from my last CicLAvia in September 2014. People from various local establishments set up tables and offered free water and snacks to passersby. I did not see any of this in CicloSDias. Vendors and shops seemed to keep to themselves with the exception of the crossfit studio on 6th street, who had many of their work out equipment laid out for people to see. Missed opportunities for those who didn’t do that.
4. More Outreach / Marketing
CicloSDias can benefit from an injection of some good ole’ guerilla marketing techniques. Again, not privy to what goes on in the background, I like to suggest possible ideas to help get the word out. Having some contests or partnerships with neighboring cities to promote and cross promote this event may be beneficial to increase awareness. Even partnerships with local businesses like REI. This was what CicLAvia did the first few times as they put themselves in REI stores to tell people about their events. How about local bike shops? Did they ALL know about it?
5. Longer Route
The initial ride through the entire route was great, but after rounding both ends 4 times, I became restless and uninterested. Again, I wish that the route was slightly longer so that we got to explore neighborhoods. The great part of CicLAvia was that at each major city hub, there was something to do and see so you can technically stay at one hub the entire day and not run out of things to do. Let’s stretch out the route so that we can see more of the city. I mean even stretching this out to a 5K or 10K can appeal to runners and you can market to runners that the streets are open for running, too.
I look back to my notes and the presentation given by both the Chief of Police and Mayor of San Diego during the National Bicycle Tourism Conference. I heard both brag and assured us that San Diego is an ideal city for people to bike in. I remember the picture of the Chief on her bicycle and wonder if she was able to make it out there and ride this event. I know both Los Angeles Mayors took the streets in past CicLAvia which was helpful in promoting future events. I think we need to see this happening in San Diego as well.
Once again, I have to remind the readers that I don’t have background information or even interviewed anybody about the organization of CicloSDias. I’m here writing in my vacuum and analyzing as a rider who had a great time despite some shortfalls. I can only hope CicloSDias continues to flourish. Hopefully, one of the suggestions in this article can be implemented to help strengthen the event further. Good luck San Diegans! I’m pulling for you. I’ll be back in a few years to check out CicloSDias again.
Did you go to this CicloSDias event or one in the past? Let me know what you think. Am I missing something? Is there anything that needs to be corrected? I would love to hear back from anybody on this great event.