As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been cheating on my first love, Minneapolis. I recently spent a week in San Diego vacationing, biking, and unfortunately driving – a lot. I thought I’d take a minute to adress some of the pros and cons of biking in a new and less bike-friend city.
Being from Minneapolis I often find myself in between taking our awesome bike infrastructure for granted and snobbishly judging other cities by their lack of awesome bike infrastructure. I tried very hard to keep an open mind while still remembering that San Diego is not a city that is known as a “biking city” like our own. This was my second trip to San Diego in three months. This time around I knew a little more about what I wanted to do and I was positive that renting a bike would be part my time there. I only had five days and also needed to rent a car as a I had some obligations that required it. I rented my bike from a shop downtown, The Bike Revolution, because it was close to the airport. The guys at the shop were great, but no women worked there as far as I saw. They were perfectly nice and we had some lovely banter about Minneapolis having no hills and San Diego having no winter. We rented Jamis road bikes which worked just fine, but the seat post was too short for me with my long legs and I never quite had a comfortable ride. Nonetheless, if you’re going to be in downtown San Diego it’s a great place to rent bikes and definitely the most affordable I found.
In terms of biking the city, it definitely will never compare to my true love, Minneapolis. Our system of trails, bike lanes, and bike highways is unlike any other city I’ve visited and I definitely could feel the lack in San Diego. Not to mention the flatness and compactness that we so often take for granted. There are a good amount of bike lanes but they can sometimes be fragmented. There are paved paths along the waterfront in the city but if it’s a weekend day or afternoon they are filled with pedestrians and beach cruisers, which were not ideal conditions for the type of riding I wanted to do. Along popular beaches up the coast I often found the same conditions on all the paved paths and boardwalks, especially since it was the very beginning of summer and students were out in full force at all times of the day. What I did fall in love with was biking up highway 101 along the coast of Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Encinitas. The highway has great bike lanes and the views are absolutely unbelievable. I also noticed great bike lanes throughout Carlsbad.
I love San Diego for many reasons and some of my best friends in the world live there, but in terms of biking, I would need to do more exploring before determining how I’d feel about biking there on a regular basis. As I was staying near Vista – about 40 miles away from downtown San Diego – I did WAY more driving than I had anticipated (I put 700 miles on the rental car!). I realistically only used the bike maybe 2 or 3 days out of the five I was there. I’m sure like any city that as I got used to the ins and outs of traffic and bicycling in San Diego, things would feel much more comfortable. I would also have to train to build up some some hill legs in order to keep up in California.
I believe that biking is essential to getting to learn any new city. This time around I learned some lessons and I learned not to take my own city’s beautiful regional trails for granted. Most importantly I realized that I would have been far happier and more comfortable with my own Bridgestone RB-1. Next time, that’s the bike I’ll choose to take me up and down the hills of the California coast.