Do San Francisco cyclists need a lift?

The Trampe lift in Norway helps bicyclists up the steep hills and could work in San Francisco.

The abundance of hills in San Francisco may prove to be a formidable obstacle to the city's goal of increasing the percentage of commuters who use bicycles, particularly for hilltop residents leery ending their days with steep climbs. But motorized lifts could prove to be a potential solution, one now being pondered by public officials and cycling advocates.

Bike lifts are used in several European cities, including Brussels, Belgium and Trondheim, Norway. It consists of a foot plate on a motorized track that pushes riders up the hill at a speed of about three to seven miles per hour.

At a San Francisco Transportation Authority Plans and Programs Committee meeting last month, Sup. David Chiu mentioned seeing the lifts while on his recent trip through the Netherlands, where he went to get ideas for San Francisco to expand bicycle ridership to a full 20 percent of vehicle trips by 2020, a goal set by the Board of Supervisors shortly after that discussion.

“We’re talking about the hilly terrain that can be dealt with in many different ways, but not without investment,” SFTA Director Jose Luis Moscovich said at the meeting. Using the lifts was an idea raised by Renee Rivera, acting Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Moscovich responded to the proposal by saying, “We’d probably need to invest in some of those.”

“It’s an idea we’ve shared often and the response is, 'Hey, I want one of those for my hill,'” Rivera told us. “It’s certainly something that has resonated with some folks, but we think we’ve got some more basic questions to deal with first and that really is improving our network of bike routes here in San Francisco so that they really carry people where they need to go.”

SFBC has had discussions with the Presidio Trust about installing a lift that would take people from the Fort Point parking lot up to the visitor’s center. “It would be in itself a fun attraction for people going to the Golden Gate Bridge because there’s kind of a climb getting up to the bridge,” Rivera said.

While the idea might sound a little far fetched, the flood gates have opened for bicycle-friendly projects in San Francisco. A four-year court injunction that prohibited city engineers from implementing the San Francisco Bicycle Plan was lifted in August and the Board of Supervisors voted in October to approve a resolution to increase the number of trips taken by bicycle to 20 percent of the transportation share by the year 2020. Currently, about 7 percent of the trips within the city are made by bicycle, a figure that has doubled in recent years.

Trampe is the name of the Norwegian lift and the system's website notes, “In a user survey, 41 percent of the lift users claim they are using the bicycle more often due to the installation of Trampe,” and 72 percent said they would like to see more lifts in Trondheim.

What do you say, San Franciscans, you want one on your hill as well?