Business districts and residents begin push to claim ‘America’s most bike-friendly city’
By Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
A new public bicycle corral was the centerpiece of a set of new bike-friendly initiatives launched Sept. 6 in North Park. The initiatives bring San Diego closer to similar commuter environments in two other large cities, both with bike-friendly policies that are a model for the nation and provide a natural fit for San Diego.
More than 50 people, many arriving on bikes themselves, attended the mid-morning ceremony, all on hand to witness the unveiling of a new bicycle corral – the first in North Park – with six new bike-shaped racks bolted to the pavement in front of the Linkery restaurant at the corner of 30th Street and North Park Way.
This latest corral, the third installed in Uptown since May, got an early boost last year when County Supervisor Ron Roberts’ staff kicked in grant money that was earmarked specifically to help North Park pursue “going green” projects.
Angela Landsberg, executive director of North Park Main Street, the business improvement district (BID) for the area, was responsible for oversight of the funds and quickly joined forces with others to expand its reach.
“One of the first things we decided to do was to put in a bike corral, and around the same time, the BID Council was working to implement the ‘bike-friendly’ business districts, so we partnered up. The city offered up their services to help with the installation, and the project has just now taken off,” Landsberg said.
Other area bike corrals exist in Hillcrest at the corner of Fifth and University avenues and along El Cajon Boulevard near the Lafayette Hotel.
The new North Park bike corral was built by Dero Bike Rack Co., an environmentally focused manufacturer in Minneapolis, Minn. The company’s website says Dero bases its design on quality materials, functionality, newer style bike locks and – something arguably more important to city planners – aesthetics.
One person pleased with the appearance of Dero’s design was Linkery owner Jay Porter, who gave up three parking spots in front of his popular restaurant to make room for the corral.
“I’m really grateful to North Park Main Street, to the various BIDs and community groups, to Todd Gloria’s office and Ron Roberts’ office for following through and making the bike corral happen,” Porter said a few days after the rack was unveiled. “It addresses a major infrastructure need in our community, and it looks really great, too.”
Porter said the neighborhood had plenty of parking spaces available, primarily due to the multi-level parking garage located across the street from his restaurant. “Giving up a couple car spaces … is great for us and for the community,” he said, adding that the corral’s location sits directly in front of his restaurant’s large, open windows, making the bicycles safer from theft or vandalism.
“The easier it is for people to use their bikes, the more they will be encouraged to do so,” he said. “And that means fewer cars taking up parking spaces, and a more fun neighborhood when you see everyone out having a great time on their bikes.”
Organizers also used the unveiling of the bike corral as an opportunity to announce a new program they call “the nation’s largest bike-friendly business district initiative.”
Modeled after a similar program in Long Beach, Calif., the first larger city to incorporate a bicycle infrastructure within its business districts, San Diego’s launch of seven pilot BIDs – with plans for 10 more by the end of the year – is much larger, said Tiffany Bromfield of San Diego’s BID District Council, who helped facilitate the project.
“The BID Council is providing each business improvement district with a bicycle, either for their own use, or to lend it out to businesses if they need it for deliveries,” Landsberg said. “I’m constantly going up and down University and up and down 30th, and now I may save some of the heels in my shoes.”
The seven pilot districts were each given a “Townie,” a beach-style, three-speed bicycle from Electra Bicycle Company. Each bike came complete with a helmet, front metal basket and rear rack, San Diego regional bike map, and a bike lock.
“We are really excited to get these bikes into the hands of the BIDs,” Bromfield said. “Soon we will have bike corrals and bike valets in every business district and be known as America’s most bike-friendly city.”
A press release from the San Diego County Bicycling Coalition (SDCBC) said the project is expected to “encourage local residents and shoppers to bicycle when making short trips to their neighborhood businesses and events. By encouraging bicycling rather than driving, the initiative will help alleviate parking problems and traffic congestion as well as help promote local shopping and economic growth.”
The SDCBC promotes bicycling as a safe and enjoyable form of transportation. The nonprofit also advocates for and protects the rights of all bicyclists.
Andy Hanshaw, spokesperson for the SDCBC, was the first to formally address the assembly, and thanked local government officials and BID leaders for “leading the way on this effort,” he said. He also emphasized the need to “bike local, shop local” in and around San Diego.
“Thank you all for your understanding of the value and importance that bicycling means for our region and for accommodating your customers who ride,” Hanshaw said in his remarks. “The SDCBC and the SD BID [Council] have partnered to get the word out that business is open and bikes are welcome all throughout our business districts.”
Hanshaw called the initiative a “model program” and said, “today’s effort is a big step forward in showcasing our region as a great bicycling destination.”
The seven business districts participating in the initiative are: Adams Ave Business Association, East Village Association, North Park Main Street, Ocean Beach Main Street, Discover Pacific Beach and El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association.
“At the county we love innovators, we love innovation, and what you are seeing here in North Park is really a good example,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, referring to the corral. “If you are going to innovate, find out what’s the state of the art. What we see here today is something very unique.”
Roberts then acknowledged Portland, Ore. as one of the top examples for innovation with biking corrals. “I’m hopeful in the not too distant future, you’re going to see San Diego on that list because of the things that are happening here. And the environmental benefits are absolutely right on target,” Roberts said.
“I’m thrilled to be here to celebrate another huge step forward,” District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria said, stepping up to the podium after Roberts.
Gloria encouraged attendees to show their appreciation for the projects and got a loud roar of applause. He then said all the business districts on the pilot list were “fun communities, where people are active and choose to spend their time.”
He also expressed his pleasure with the aesthetics of the corral, calling it “a piece of public art” and “something special.”
“We don’t do normal in North Park,” Gloria said, adding he would like to see the program implemented throughout the city.
“This is good for the economy, it will stimulate business districts, it is good for the environment, and fewer cars mean fewer potholes,” he said. “Let’s get more [corrals] here, then let’s take it out of D3 and go city-wide with it.”