City officials pedal and praise on Bike to Work Day


photos by Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

Almost every top city official pedaled up to City Hall this morning for the 17th annual Bike to Work Day, all pledging their support for expanding safe cycling opportunities in San Francisco and declaring the bike to be a vital part of the city's transportation infrastructure that will only grow in importance in the coming years.

“We should all feel proud that we have more to celebrate than ever in the history of Bike to Work Day,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which sponsored the event and facilitated the rides by city officials, including riding Sups. Jane Kim and Carmen Chu to work on tandem bikes. Shahum praised the city for rapidly expanding the network of bike lanes and facilities over the last year.

Shahum accompanied Mayor Ed Lee on a ride along JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park (which Lee announced will soon get the city's next separated green bikeway), along car-clogged Fell and Oak streets, through the Wiggle, and along Market Street toward City Hall.

Lee told us, “I feel good, exhilarated,” as he neared City Hall, where he and officials gave speeches praising bikes and calling for improvements to the system. “I want to experiment with ways to have detached bike lanes on Fell and Oak,” Lee said to the applause of cyclists familiar with competing with cars on those fast-moving streets.

Lee also declared his support for the goals of SFBC's Connecting the City initiative, which calls for a system of safe, crosstown bikeways, connecting the bay to the ocean and the northern waterfront to the south side of the city. He also called for continuing the green bike lanes on Market Street all the way to the Ferry Building and said, “I'm dedicated to it.”

Board President David Chiu, who sponsored the legislation that set the goal of achieving 20 percent of all vehicle trips by bicycle by the year 2020, said he was proud to see so many bikes on the streets today. “Thank you for showing the world how we roll,” he told the crowd, also voicing his support for the crosstown bike route plan. “We have to imagine safe enough conditions for 8- and 80-year-olds to bike.”

“It makes us a healthier, happier, and more vibrant city when we bike together,” Sup. Eric Mar told the gathering.

Sup. Sean Elsbernd was the only member of the board not to bike today, but his fellow fiscal conservative Sup. Mark Farrell biked in from District 2 and told the gathering that improving the city's bicycling infrastructure “is critical to our future.”

Chu doesn't ride a bike, but she hoped on a tandem bike with SFBC board member Amandeep Jawa and told him, “Thanks for helping me see San Francisco in a new way,” noting her new appreciation for the sights, smells, and small details that opened up along a route to work that she usually drives.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi called his District 5 the “epicenter” for cycling in the city and declared, “It's time that we take back Masonic make sure it's safe for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Sup. Jane Kim told the crowd, “I grew up a city girl and I never learned how to ride a bike,” but said that former SFBC director Dave Snyder and others have been trying to teach her recently. In her ride in on the back of a tandem bike, “I got to feel how unsafe it is to have cars and buses jostle around you.”

Sup. Scott Wiener told the gathering, “This was my first Bike to Work Day and it's not going to be my last.”

Sup. David Campos told us he really enjoyed his ride up Valencia Street, where the stoplights are timed to the pace of bicyclists. “It's the best ride in the city. If we can make more streets like Valencia we'd be in better shape,” Campos told us.

In his speech, Campos said, “We have so much happening around bicycling, bu we also have a long way to go.”

Sup. Malia Cohen said she biked the longest way in to City Hall, all the way from 3rd Street and Thomas, and that she was happy about both the bike infrastructure improvements and carfree events like Sunday Streets. “I want to encourage you all to come out to the Bayview for Sunday Streets [on June 12],” she said.

For all the celebration and improvements to the system, Sup. John Avalos said it's important to continue establishing respect on the roads for bicyclists. “We have to change many minds about biking in San Francisco,” he said.

To illustrate the increasingly important role that bicycling is playing in San Francisco, SFMTA Commissioner Cheryl Brinkman cited city studies showing a 58 percent increasing in the number of cyclists on the streets of San Francisco over the last four years, noting a comparable increase in Muni ridership or in motorists on the roads would have resulted in gridlock in those systems.

“It's a good lesson for us,” Brinkman said, voicing support for the goal to creating 100 miles of dedicated bikeways throughout the city in order to promote safe cycling.