By Margie M. Palmer
Biking to work just got easier for residents of Uptown and Mid-City.
On Dec. 2, the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association launched a free bike valet parking program for residents in the vicinity of “The Boulevard” and Interstate 15.
The pilot program takes place every Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at PopUp15, adjacent to the El Cajon Boulevard Transit Plaza at the northeast corner of El Cajon Boulevard and I-15. The experiment will continue for the next couple of months, although the site will be closed for the holidays from Dec. 18 to Jan. 3.
The association obtained a lease from the city of San Diego this year with the goal of transforming the lot into a space that engages the community, said Beryl Forman, the group’s marketing and mobility coordinator.
“The idea [for the bike valet] has been in the works since we got the lease in May. I had remembered this cool project in Long Beach, where there is a bike station and a building that supports bike storage,” she said. “I was realizing the success of other cities that have bike storage next to the transit facilities and we realized that PopUp15 was a great place to test this model.”
The bike valet program includes the participation of Bikes del Pueblo, a nonprofit, educational bike collective that provides tools and knowledge for basic bike repairs and maintenance. The organization doesn’t charge for its services but accepts donations to stay operational. No one is ever turned away for lack of money, Forman said.
“Bikes del Pueblo was setting up once a week at the City Heights Farmers Market and when we got the lease, we knew they could grow to PopUp15. Now they have a container there; they have bike parts and a service station,” Forman said. “They’re there three days a week and with that, they are providing the bike valet service.
“They’re a notable group of young people who have a vision for the biking community. It feels like a friendly environment. There’s even a coffee cart there that’s on the back of a bicycle. It’s creating a culture where you can drop your bike off, grab coffee, and get your bike serviced while you’re at your job.”
Although some may question the need for a bike valet service, those who bike and bus throughout the city understand how difficult it is to do so during peak travel times.
“I personally used to commute by bike and bus to San Diego State University and there have been many times when I was waiting on a transit deck with my bike, and when the bus comes there are already two bikes on it, which is frustrating,” Forman said. “MTS doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate more than two bikes at a time. In other cities, people are able to ride their bikes to the transit, leave them there and get onto the transit. This provides that alternative.”
If the pilot program is successful, it could be extended. The association will also evaluate whether to expand the bike valet to other days.
“Extending to other days could definitely be an option,” she said. “We started with Friday because Bike to Work Day is on Friday. We don’t expect that people will be on board with stopping driving, but that they might consider a multi-modal model of transportation. A lot of people in the Mid-City live close to the Boulevard Bridge Deck and [the bike valet] an help people make that connection.”
—Margie M. Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.