By Dave Rice
The four-day-long National Bicycle Tourism Conference kicked off in San Diego on Wednesday, November 5, with conference organizers hoping to highlight the region as an increasingly bike-friendly locale for residents and visitors alike. This is the first in the conference’s 25 years of operation that San Diego was selected to host.
Prior to the start of the conference, the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition staged a five-mile tour encompassing portions of downtown and Coronado, meant to highlight the nearly-complete Bayshore Bikeway, a 24-mile loop around the bay that’s been under development since 1976, as well as various other improvements that resulted in Coronado being named in 2013 to a nationwide list of certified “bike friendly” city.
The tour kicked off in front of the county administration building, where Supervisor Greg Cox greeted a handful of cycling activists, local media, and national cycling press, offering encouragement for completion of the Bikeway and adoption of more cyclist-friendly policies countywide.
“What you’re hearing throughout the entire region in San Diego is that we’re really becoming more and more of a bicycling community,” said Cox.
A short ride delivered participants at the San Diego-Coronado Ferry dock where, once on board, Bicycle Coalition executive director Andy Hanshaw and Stephan Vance, a transportation and land use planner with the San Diego Association of Governments, delivered an update on the state of cycling in San Diego.
“We’re focused on getting people out and taking short trips, using their bike for commuting, making communities accessible for everyday riding,” explained Hanshaw. “We think going by bike makes a lot of sense.”
CicloSDias, an event in which a section of public street is closed to vehicle traffic and overtaken by cyclists and pedestrians, is growing in popularity. The third incarnation happened Sunday, November 9, following the conclusion of the bike tourism conference. This time, the route passed through the Hillcrest and Bankers Hill neighborhoods, running along Sixth Avenue from Laurel north to University Avenue, and then east along University to Park Boulevard.
Bike-sharing service Decobike, which was selected in 2013 to provide 1800 bikes at 180 locations around San Diego, was set to launch sometime during the conference, though a visit to the company’s site Tuesday evening indicated there were still no bikes on the street. The city’s program rollout will be the first of its kind in the region.
After nearly four decades, Vance said that funding has been identified for the final legs of the Bikeway, and that a full dedicated route should be available within the next five years.
The overall SANDAG plan calls for 250 miles of additional bicycle facilities (including both dedicated bike paths and bike lanes along roadways) over the next 40 years.
“In recent years we’ve really picked up a lot of momentum,” said Vance, crediting SANDAG’s regional transit plan, which is contested by some advocates of car alternatives for not going far enough.
The overall SANDAG plan calls for 250 miles of additional bicycle facilities (including both dedicated bike paths and bike lanes along roadways) over the next 40 years. Still, just two percent of the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2004 is earmarked for pedestrian and cyclist improvements.
Coronado city councilman Mike Woiwode was also in attendance, and said that local residents were already largely adopting cycling as a means of transportation. Several hundred locals take advantage of free early morning trips on the ferry to get to and from work, and as many as 70 percent of the city’s children ride to school on a daily basis.
“If you go by the middle school, you’ll see three or four hundred bikes in the racks right now,” said Woiwode. “We’re still trying to catch up with the demand.”
Docking in Coronado, city transportation planner Mariah VanZerr joined the ride, pointing out several features including a traffic-calming roundabout, bike parking corrals installed in the downtown shopping district, and similar improvements that contributed to the city’s cycling-friendly designation.
Coronado is home to a nine-mile dedicated bike path along the Silver Strand connecting the city to Imperial Beach, which is currently the longest contiguous section of Bikeway. A sensor near the beginning of that path, VanZerr said, registers between 700 and 1300 daily bike trips on weekdays, with as many as 3000 bikes per day passing by along the edge of the city golf course on weekends.
Hanshaw was optimistic the ride and other events associated with the convention would continue to enhance San Diego’s image in the cyclist community.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to show off, not just the weather but the improvements that are going on all across the region, including our gem in the Bayshore Bikeway.”