Bike to Work Day's 20th anniversary shows how far we've come, but funding shortfalls show how far we have to go to create safe streets
"We hear them all talk about investing money in bike infrastructure," Shahum told us, "but now the decision makers need to do it."
A report released in December by the Budget and Legislative Analyst's Office shows that San Francisco spends less per capita on bike infrastructure, at just over $9 annually, than other bike-friendly US cities such as Portland, Minneapolis, and Seattle. And it found the city would need to spend about $580 million to reach its official goal of 20 percent bike mode-share by 2020.
Even meeting the SFMTA's more moderate Strategic Plan Scenario — which aims to reach 8-10 percent mode-share by 2018 by creating 12 miles of new bike lanes and upgrading 50 existing miles and 50 intersections — would require $191 million. That's $142 million more than the SFMTA now has budgeted for the work.
At the May 2 event on Polk Street, city officials used the new project to call on voters to approve a pair of transportation funding measure proposed by Mayor Ed Lee for the November ballot — an increase in the vehicle license fee and a $500 million general obligation bond — which the Board of Supervisors will consider later this month.
"Do you guys like what you see here?" SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin told the crowd, eliciting a rousing response. "Would you like to see more of this kind of work all over San Francisco?"
Then Reiskin connected that goal to the fall ballot measures, the lion's share of which will go to Muni improvements.
"With the funds we have, there's only so much of this we can do and we know the need is so great to make biking and walking a safer and more attractive means of getting around the city. If we want to do more of this, we're going to need more support in November," Reiskin said.
The city has make significant progress on new bike infrastructure in recent years, after a legal challenge of the city's Bicycle Plan stalled projects for four years. Ben Jose, a spokesperson for the SFMTA, told us the Polk project is the 52nd of 60 bike improvement projects from the Bike Plan.
"And those that are left are signature projects like this one," Jose said at the event, referring to high-profile bike lanes along Bayshore and Masonic boulevards, on upper Polk Street, and along Second Street that are among the bike projects now in the pipeline. But the city hasn't yet devoted the resources to completing the city's bike network.
"We want to do more projects like this with money from the fall ballot measure," Rachel Gordon, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Works, told us. "We don't have enough money in our general fund to do these projects and we hear loud and clear the streets need to be safer for bicyclists and pedestrians."
LITTLE PROJECT, BIG GAIN
The new bikes lanes on Polk are only a few blocks, but it is those kinds of small but critical connections that determine whether cycling in the city is safe or scary.
"I want to know that I can bike safety going north and south on Polk Street, which is why I strongly, strongly support our protected bike lanes on Polk Street, so this is super exciting. As a beginning cyclist, these are the kinds of routes I need to see to get out of my car and onto a bike, so I'm really excited this is the direction our city is moving in," Sup. Jane Kim said at the event.
Reiskin noted how awkward and unsafe it has been to get from Market Street to City Hall or up Polk Street: "Physically, it's a pretty small project, but it's so critically important for those of us who do get around by bike."