This request doesn’t come from just simple concern. Dr. Edmund Thile, a 47-year resident of Mission Beach, conducted a study recently and found that 33 percent of the bike traffic exceeded the 8 mph speed limit, and 22 percent were traveling at speeds that posed a danger to pedestrians.
Thile’s study included a specially modified radar speed feedback and recording device on loan from the Tucson, Ariz., company RU2 Systems. The mobile speed radar, while originally designed for vehicular traffic, was able to accurately measure and record the speed of moving cyclists.
This equipment was observed by city officials and the Mission Beach Town Council, and even featured on local news stations. The radar systems are a proven method for curbing vehicular motorists’ speed, though this is a first for passively monitoring and working to slow cyclists.
The study was not without risk, however. “When I would call attention to how fast people are going, those who were going 10 mph would look up and say 'Oh, I didn’t know that! Thanks for telling me!' They were fine,” Thile said.
“You reach somewhere around 11 mph, [cyclists] don’t want you to tell them they are going fast, they are angry that you’re telling them they are going too fast, and it creates animosity and a fairly retaliatory reaction,” Thile said.
While rallying funds from the city and the community for installing the radar systems permanently has been met with some skepticism, Thile, the Mission Beach Town Council, and residents are pressing on.
Calling all bicycle clubs
Local officials have also suggested that awareness within the cycling community would be a powerful tool for slowing the speeding bikes, and perhaps redirecting speed bikes to other areas. Speaking with some local cycling enthusiasts, most of them mentioned that the Mission Beach boardwalk and even Mission Boulevard is not an ideal area for race training.
“The boardwalk is made for everyone to enjoy a slow, relaxed pace, whether it be walking, running, or biking. Cycling for commuting should divert to the street, as required by law. There is a reason sidewalks and fast moving vehicles shouldn’t mix,” said Dennis Caco, a local triathlete and the founder of the annual Hammer Festival, an annual awards ceremony for San Diego’s athletes.
Thile and other regular boardwalk users discussed the issue at a recent Mission Beach Town Council meeting, and agreed that while the radar systems will be a key component in slowing down speeding cyclists, but it’s not enough.
“I think, without enforcement, whatever we do will not be significantly effective to reduce the likely harm that will occur from excessive bike speed,” Thile said, as he spoke about the ongoing conversation with local police and lifeguard officials.
Regardless of whether you are a cyclist, a skateboarder, runner, or just like to enjoy the boardwalk with your family, speed detection equipment and enforcement are only part of the solution. The community can make a significant difference by speaking and sharing with each other, residents and visitors alike, and holding each other accountable.
It could be as simple as a bell ring or a hand motion. This gives everyone a chance to breathe in the salty air, listen to the sound of breaking waves, and enjoy one of the most beautiful places on earth without having to be worried about speeding bikes colliding with people along the ocean and bay.