Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Memorial Bike: What's Happened So Far

To this day, November 18, Atip’s original Memorial Bike has remained at the north-east corner of Park & University since July 20, 2008, but not without a fight.

The bike was nearly removed by Street Divisions twice, after a homeowners association, who has yet to hear who supports the Memorial Bike, complained about the presence of the bike and the surrounding flowers and candles.

As of today, Street Divisions is determined to remove the items this Friday, November 21.

At the end of September, Street Divisions posted a sign in front of the Memorial Bike which stated the bike and surrounding items would be removed one week from that date. After an uproar within the bicycling community and Atip’s friend network, a series of calls and emails were made.

The Deputy Director of Street Divisions was kind enough to extend the removal date by one month, until Oct. 25, so that Atip’s family members could visit the memorial.

I talked to the Deputy Director the day he decided to extend the date, before I heard that the Union Tribune reported that the bike’s removal date had been extended. When I talked to him, I informed him that the bike has a positive traffic calming effect and that it improves awareness and safety in the area and that I would be working towards a permanent solution.

When he told me that the bike’s removal date would be extended by one month for Atip’s family, I politely thanked him for his compassion. I then asked him what would be the next step for a permanent solution.

Here’s where it gets bureaucratic:

The Deputy Director told me that I would need to contact Development Services (another City entity) to apply for an Encroachment Removal Permit, which would allow something to remain in the public-right-of-way; similar to the way a statue does.

When I talked to Development Services, they told me that I would need to apply for a Public Improvement Project, not for an Encroachment Removal permit. They said that Engineering, and not Development Services, would issue or approve/disapprove of the Public Improvement Project.

I liked the sound of the Public Improvement Project. When I talked to a representative (names withheld) at Engineering, that representative told me that I would need to create a Site Plan of the Memorial Bike which should include pictures of the site and a description of it’s location.

Luckily, I have experience writing up some bike-centric site plans. But to do a complete Site Plan I wanted to find out more about how the accident happened. So I tried and eventually got a hold of the Investigator of the collision, and with the Police Officer who first appeared at the scene on that sad evening of July 18. This helped a little, but we’re still unsure how fast the motorist was going and obtaining the police report has been difficult. The common consensus is that Atip ran the left-turn red light. He did so into west-bound University traffic which he, presumably, did not notice. (This is one of the reasons why the Memorial Bike is useful; it reminds cyclists to be careful out there).

After I wrote up the Site Plan, I emailed it to the Executive Director of San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. She made a few edits to the length, and stamped her seal of approval on it and backed it. I dropped off the 11-page (w/ 11 pictures) Site Plan, in person to an Engineering representative.

Days later, the representative at Engineering I had been in contact with, ran it by his Senior Planners, and told me that they wouldn’t approve of the proposed Public Improvement Project. Their logic was that the Memorial Bike would cause people to slow down below normal automobile traffic speed and that if people slowed down then “accidents” would happen. My response was that slower automobile traffic speed is a good thing and that motorists should expect to slow down when entering an intersection, w/ high pedestrian traffic. Slower automobile speed not only burns less gas, but allows for a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists, I pointed out.

When I asked “Well, what’s next?” that representative told me to contact the North Park Planning Committee and maybe they’d support it. I called the phone number he gave me and the representative I talked to was also a UCSD-alumni and she seemed sympathetic and interested in the cause. But she told me that first I would have to contact the North Park Planning SUB-committee. By the way, all this run-around is actually exciting to me. Imagine that!

So I called the N.P.P. Subcommittee and the representative there put me on the Nov. 6 agenda so that I could make a formal presentation before the Subcommittee as to why I believe the Memorial Bike improves the area and should remain.

I called Street Divisions back and informed the Deputy Director that I was on the official agenda, and that there was a chance that the Subcommittee would motion to support a permanent solution. I kindly asked for an extension on the previous Oct. 25 removal date, and the Deputy Director extended the date until the DAY AFTER the Nov. 6 presentation to await the results…

This Nov. 6 Subcommittee presentation is where the breakthrough comes in! So keep reading! The next “chapter” of this blog is dedicated to that presentation and the discussion, thereafter.

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