What would it really take to meet the city's ambitious cycling goal -- and do leaders have the political will to get there?
"We need a more detailed and comprehensive strategy that says this is where we need to be in five years and this is how we get there," Sup. David Campos, who chairs the San Francisco Transportation Authority, told us. "I feel like the commitment is there, but it's a question of what resources you have to devote to that goal."
But it's also a question of how those resources are being used, and whether political leaders are grabbing at low-hanging fruit rather than making the tough choices to complete the city's bike network and weather criticisms like those offered by Anderson.
It often seems as if SFMTA is still prioritizing political projects or experimenting in ways that waste time and money. For example, the most visible improvement to the bike network in the last year, and the one most often cited by Mayor Lee, is the new cycletracks on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. But they do little to make cycling more attractive and they may even exacerbate tensions between cyclists and drivers.
It was one of two major bike projects that Mayor Lee announced on Bike to Work Day last year, and it seemed to have more to do with politicians announcing more bike lane mileage that with actually improving the bike network.
The other project Lee announced, just a few blocks of bike lanes on Fell and Oak streets, really was a significant bike safety advance that SFBC has been seeking for several years. But Lee failed to live up to his pledge to install them by the end of 2011 after neighbors complained about the lost parking spots, and the project was pushed back to next year at the earliest.
"We're talking about three blocks. It's relatively small in scope but huge in impacts," Shahum said of the project. "If the pace of change on these three blocks is replicated through the city, it'll take hundreds of years to meet the [20 percent] goal." But Lee Press Secretary Christine Falvey said: "The mayor is very much committed to the aggressive goals set to get to 20 percent by 2020 and the city is moving in the right direction. He has also always supported the Oak Fell project and we're seeing progress." Yes, but not the kind of progress the city would need to make to meet its own goal. "Chicago is really the leader right now," Shahum said, noting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's commitment to building 25 miles a year of new cycletracks and the city's advocacy for getting more federal transportation money devoted to urban cycling improvements. "Where does San Francisco fit in this? Do we want to be at that level or not?"