The Coronado City Council unanimously voted last week to reconsider its allocation of $100,000 to study the possibility of a multi-use bike path along Coronado’s Ocean Boulevard.
More than 100 people packed City Hall for the August 18 meeting, the vast majority attending to voice their displeasure at the possibility of adding a bike path to the beachside street. When mayor Casey Tanaka asked members of the crowd to raise their hands if they opposed the study, an estimated 80 hands shot up; only 3 people publicly supported funding the study.
Since the city council voted unanimously in June to spend $100,000 on a study and environmental impact report to determine the feasibility of a bike path along the beach, residents have protested on social media and written dozens of letters to the Coronado Eagle & Journal. One group of locals even printed and distributed blue yard signs reading “save our beach” and “no beach bike path.”
“I want to point out that the vote was unanimous because the council was not saying ‘Build it!’, the council was saying ‘study what is possible,’” said Tanaka at the meeting. “In the intervening months of July and now August, I think I can speak for the rest of the council when I say we received at least 100 emails. I would say the vote tally is something like 95 to 5, against.”
In response to the measures taken by Coronado residents, councilmembers Richard Bailey and Carrie Downey proposed that that the council reconsider the allocation of funds at their next meeting.
“It’s not a normal occurrence for this council room to be as full as it is, and it’s not a normal occurrence for something that was voted on in June to already have yard signs being displayed around town,” said Tanaka. “Today, if three or more of us vote to reconsider this item, we will vote on whether to spend the money on the study at our September 1 meeting.”
The Coronado residents who spoke at the meeting were primarily concerned with relieving the congestion along Ocean Boulevard and reducing the possibility of accidents while keeping the beach pristine and able to be enjoyed by future generations.
While Bob Lindsay opposes the bike path, he believes that something must be done about the volume of people and cars on Ocean Boulevard. “Every year, there are more cars, bikes, and people, and is there any doubt that the congestion will increase in the future? It’s bound to,” he said. “I travel along Ocean Boulevard almost daily and in the summertime, weekends and holidays, Central Beach is jammed and traffic violations are abundant. The time is now to plan for a more a crowded future.”
Coronado resident Kelly Sarber has spoken to both older and younger groups of Coronado residents in opposition to the bike path. “We really treasure the natural beauty and I think that most of us would say that’s why we’re here — we think that’s unique to our island,” she said. “I think that we’re all willing to share it with the masses of people that are pouring in and I don’t really think we need to do anything to attract more people here…. There’s only a finite commercial aspect that we should be promoting.” She urged the council to vote to protect the island’s natural resources in order to avoid the resort-like atmosphere of Manhattan Beach and Venice Beach.
Another major concern of the residents was the legal implication of a new bike path. Sarber, an environmental project developer, spoke to the council from both a personal and legal standpoint.
“I’ve done an analysis of some of these bike paths, and I can say that you’d probably be in a very ironic position if you did proceed with the bike path,” said Sarber, who says he has developed about $2 billion worth of projects. “The city would have to legally defend itself with taxpayers’ money against a good piece of the citizenry that are opposed to this process.”
Other citizens brought up the possibility of cyclists injuring themselves by skidding on a sand-covered cement path and suing the city for negligence.
Resident Jean Gowsel explained that the bike path along the beach is an element of the Coronado Bicycle Master Plan developed by the Bicycle Advisory Committee and adopted by the council without the community’s understanding of its full impact.
“The Bicycle Master Plan is a game-changing proposal which will deeply affect the quality of life for Coronadoans into the foreseeable future,” she said. “With ever-increasing hordes of tourists and population growth, Coronado will desperately need unpaved, open space. Already, Andy Hanshaw of the San Diego Bicycle Coalition is advertising the Coronado Bayshore Bikeway as ‘San Diego’s Premier Bike Attraction’ with ‘the potential to become the quintessential place to ride a bike nationwide.’” Gowsel implored the council to “vote to keep the beach pristine for our children and grandchildren.”
Morgan Miller, a local cyclist and father, said that he felt the bike path would be a move in the right direction.
“When [my family] first moved here, we used to ride a lot along Ocean Boulevard, but now it’s one of my least favorite areas in Coronado because of all the traffic and all the tourists,” he said. “You don’t want to be on the street and close to cars, and you don’t want to risk hitting people on the street. There’s really no good place to be as a cyclist.” He said that getting cyclists off of Ocean Boulevard would make the whole area safer and encouraged the council to move forward with the study.
Coronado resident Nate Shike said that the pedestrian and car traffic along Ocean Boulevard was extremely unsafe and voiced his support for the study.
“I think a lot of people are really worried that a bike path is going to be a racetrack for cyclists or bring people here in cars from out of town to ride their bikes,” Shike said. “I don’t really see any of that happening…. I think that the current situation is a huge safety issue for the area. I definitely support moving forward with the bike path.”
After hearing the opinions and concerns of Coronado residents, the council voted unanimously to reconsider the allocation of funds at its September 1 meeting.
“Obviously, the five of us are stunned that we voted on something in June that has had this much backlash,” said Tanaka. “If you care about this issue, my advice is to stay involved. Keep talking…. In less than two years, myself and Mike Woiwode will be gone and two new councilmembers will be representing you. Make sure that they care about this issue as much as you do.”