San Diego’s image as one of the more bicycle friendly cities in the country was burnished with the adoption of $312 million San Diego Bicycle Master Plan update by the City Council, funding investment in new bike lanes, support facilities and other programs over the next 20 years.

The region’s main biking advocacy group, the San Diego Bicycle Coalition, said the plan’s adoption is a historic step toward a regional bicycle network of interconnected corridors that will make bicycling a viable form of transportation.

Right now, only about 1 percent of the area’s commuters bicycle to work, but the group’s focus is to get residents to take “smart trips,” or shorter neighborhood jaunts using bikes instead of cars, said Andy Hanshaw, the coalition’s executive director.

“Bicycling transforms our city and our communities, and we need safer routes to encourage more people to ride to their jobs, local business districts and for everyday travel,” Hanshaw said.

A good deal of the funding for the bike improvements will come from TransNet sales tax money, a half-cent sales tax which voters extended for 40 years in in 2004.

The new plan includes an assessment of existing roads and recommends increased bicycle parking, improved signage, bicycle safety courses, and about 878 miles of proposed bike lanes and routes throughout San Diego County.

In a related story, San Diego should soon see 1,800 bicycles for rent in and around the city as the result of contracting with Deco Bikes of Florida to operate the rental program. Similar programs have been successful in Washington, D.C., and Denver, Hanshaw said.