Bike Town

Velo Cult, one of the coolest bike shops I've ever seen is leaving San Diego in favor of Portland, Oregon.

Yes, you read it right - the store is changing their city of residence from San Diego to Portland. A pretty radical move, on the face of it. Moreover, they're taking the whole staff (4 employees) with them. (Insert tasteless "kool-aid" joke here...)

In some ways, I sympathise with their decision. The owners are new parents, cycling advocates and social activists; I'm imagine that one reason for the decision could be to assure that their child(ren) is/are raised in the most bike-positive environment possible, and arguably, in the US, that place is (from all reports) Portland.

As a happy "cycling-positive" resident of San Diego, I have been encouraged by the social awareness that Velo Cult seemed to represent. There's a program started by VC that fosters bike commuting by encouraging area retailers to offer discounts to customers that arrive by bike. There's a San Diego Bike Union that fosters cycling for transportation. There are a few neighborhoods in San Diego that seem to be quite bike friendly. And of course our climate is a huge plus.

But San Diego is primarily defined culturally by it's lack of being a 'this-' or 'that-' town. We're a town of transplants, vagabonds, students and generally a feel-good do-little sort of town.

Geographically, we're a large, spread-out suburban sprawl of beaches and canyons navigated by serpentine, narrow roads or high-speed freeways. And San Diego's freeway traffic is becoming legendary - some of the fastest average speeds in the US (subjectively about 85MPH average speed) are found on our freeways. When car drivers leave a freeway where they've been going that fast, their psychological inertia seems to push them to drive 20MPH over the surface street posted limits, too. And the impatient, mean-spirited Los Angeles driving style is migrating south to San Diego as well.

Everyone here seems to drive. Even though we've been upgrading our public transportation, putting in light rail systems all over the county, the main effect of those seems to be enabling our homeless population more mobility. Most of the day sees the 'Trolley' (as it's called) running far below capacity. About the only time it's full is when the Padres are playing a Home game.

I wouldn't want to live anywhere else (although the theoretical idea of an American Copenhagen or Amsterdam is appealing). I understand why a Cycling-centric business would prefer to thrive in a Cycling-centric community.

Sure seems as though their move is going to set San Diego back a few steps on the path to becoming the cycling community I wish we were.

Farewell, Velo Cult. I'll be watching from here, hoping you prosper and flourish in your new home.

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