San Diego OKs $2.6 million regional bicycling center at Liberty Station
Supporters call the proposed center ‘a gathering place for all things bicycle.’
San Diego’s efforts to boost bicycling as a healthy activity and an alternative way to commute got a boost Dec. 8 when the City Council unanimously approved plans for a $2.6 million regional bicycle transit center in Liberty Station.
The new center, which supporters describe as a community gathering place “for all things bicycle,” is slated to have areas for lectures, exhibits, safety seminars, group gatherings, bike repair and some limited commercial activities.
Money for the project — which will include renovating abandoned Navy Building 191 at the former Naval Training Center — will come from a fundraising campaign led by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. No city funds will be used.
The fundraising campaign may include selling naming rights to the cycling center and allowing part of it to be occupied by cycling companies and related businesses.
The center will be close to San Diego Bay, next to another former Navy building where a large joint-use aquatics center is being planned by officials from the city and the San Diego Unified School District.
The two buildings are part of NTC Park, 46 acres of the 361-acre Liberty Station that were reserved for recreational use when the city acquired the land from the Navy in 1997.
Earlier this year, federal officials gave the city permission to pursue the regional bicycling center.
It will be close to popular cycling paths along the San Diego River, Mission Bay and San Diego Bay. Cyclists on those paths may make the cycling center a regular part of their journey, said Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the bicycle coalition.
“Let’s think of it as a cultural bike hub,” Hanshaw said. “It will be sort of an iconic place for people to gather.”
The center, which could open within two years, will feature exhibits on the history of cycling in San Diego, a bike maintenance area, air pumps, lockers and possibly shower facilities.
Plans for the center come as several new bike paths have begun opening across the region, including many as part of San Diego’s downtown mobility plan.
New Mayor Todd Gloria, who helped write San Diego’s Climate Action Plan six years ago, said recently that he will accelerate city efforts to reduce reliance on cars in favor of walking and cycling.
“It’s exciting for this to be part of all the things going on right now with cycling,” Hanshaw said.
San Diego has struggled to boost bicycle commuting since the city adopted its landmark Climate Action Plan in 2015. The legally binding plan called for cycling to rise from 2 percent to 6 percent of commutes by the end of 2020, but the rate is still about 2 percent.
The plan also calls for 18 percent of commutes in urban areas to be by bicycle in 2035, which would require nine times as many people to become bicycle commuters within 15 years.
Critics say the many miles of cycling paths San Diego and the county’s regional planning agency have built in recent years get relatively little use. Proponents of the paths say completing a regional network, which is getting steadily closer, will boost usage.
U.S. Rep. Scott Peters has praised the cycling center. “Investing in bicycle infrastructure is only one step toward reducing vehicle miles traveled on our roads and highways, and the bike center is a major first step,” said Peters (D-La Jolla).
“Talented young workers in our growing innovation economy value transit flexibility and are increasingly choosing to forgo owning a car. San Diego should support policies and projects that will help attract and retain the next generation of talent.”
San Diego also recently launched a bike blog — sandiego.gov/betterbybike — featuring safe cycling routes, repair tips, updates on bike infrastructure projects, testimonials from avid bikers and interactive events like scavenger hunts.
City is falling short on its climate goals regarding cycling, despite infrastructure investments
The Naval Training Center, which opened in 1923, was recommended for closure in 1993. The Navy gave the land to the city in 1997 to create Liberty Station, a mixed-use neighborhood including housing, businesses, parks and an arts district.