San Diego bike advocate makes bicycling a mayoral campaign issue


Bicycling has become an issue in the San Diego mayor's race, thanks to the efforts of a singleminded San Diego bike advocate. The city has a vibrant bicycling scene, and none of the four candidates was talking about it before Samantha Ollinger got busy.

Late last summer Ollinger, who writes a widely read blog and also serves on the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition board, challenged candidate Nathan Fletcher, an Assemblymember representing San Diego, to substantiate his stated support for bicycling issues. Fletcher responded last month with a detailed outline for implementing San Diego's bike master plan.

“As an avid cyclist, I want to see San Diego embrace the full potential it has to be one of the world's great bike friendly cities,” Fletcher said in his plan. “That vision includes making biking safer, providing more recreational cycling opportunities and completing our cycling infrastructure so people can move around their neighborhoods as easily on a bike as they can in a car.”

“When I started asking the mayoral candidates to make bicycling a political issue in the race, I had no idea how successful I’d be,” said Ollinger. “I have no money, no connections. But I was very persistent and very proactive. I strongly encourage advocates to do this in their communities elsewhere in the state.”

So far Fletcher's three rivals have resisted Ollinger. During the National Bike Summit in March, Congressman Bob Filner, another mayoral candidate, pledged his support for federal funding for bicycling and walking. And in a recent debate, frontrunner candidate Carl DeMaio said increasingly population density in San Diego required better access for bicycling as transportation.