Cycling to City Hall

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

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Bike to Work Day is May 8.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY TIM DAW

steve@sfbg.com

When the first Bike to Work Day was held in San Francisco 20 years ago, cyclists had little support in City Hall. But on May 8, almost every one of the city's top political leaders will take part in Bike to Work Day, pledging their support to an increasingly popular and important transportation option.

In fact, Bike to Work Day has become such an anticipated event in San Francisco that city officials and cycling advocates in recent years have used it as the deadline to unveil the latest high-profile bike project to demonstrate the city's commitment to cycling.

This year, it's the new contraflow bike lanes on lower Polk Street, an important connection from Market Street to City Hall that helps cyclists avoid dangerous, car-centric Van Ness Avenue or Larkin Street — without having to illegally cut up the one-way section of Polk.

When that $2.5 million bike and pedestrian project — with its attractive landscaping, pedestrian bulb-outs, pretty green lanes, and trio of special bike-only signal lights — was officially opened on May 2, bike activists kept circling the new lanes as if they were doing victory laps.

"I cannot think of a better way to kick off Bike Month in the Bay Area and the 20th anniversary of Bike to Work Day, coming up May 8, than to celebrate what I think is the most beautiful, functional, well-designed, and what is probably going to be the best used piece of bike infrastructure in our city," San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Director Leah Shahum said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

She and the others who spoke at the event praised the city officials who moved quickly to complete this project, calling it a testament to the growing political will to make streets safer and more welcoming for cyclists.

"I will be honest, we put a lot of pressure on to get this done by Bike to Work Day," Shahum said. "We really wanted to make sure you all and the folks throughout this city could, this year, for the first time in San Francisco's history, make a safe and comfortable and direct link from Market Street...to City Hall."

Building high-profile, separated cycletracks to the steps of City Hall seems to symbolically mark the arrival of cyclists into the political mainstream.

 

TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Twenty years ago, California Bicycle Coalition Director Dave Snyder was the head of SFBC, and he was able to persuade only one member of the Board of Supervisors to participate in that first Bike to Work Day.

"I should give a shout-out to Tom Ammiano because he was the first supervisor to care enough to ride on Bike to Work Day, back when the Board of Supervisors didn't really care about cycling," Snyder told us. "These days, it's not uncommon for supervisors to ride for transportation, but back then none did."

Shahum remembers it as well, back before the SFBC was one of the city's largest member-based political advocacy organizations.

"Twenty years ago, Bike to Work Day was a fun but sort of lonely event," Shahum told us, noting how the number of cyclists on the road has exploded in recent years. "Riding on a regular Thursday during rush hour feels like Bike to Work Day used to feel 20 years ago."

But both Snyder and Shahum said the universal statements of support for cycling that emanate from City Hall these days are only half the battle.

"It's a good idea to promote bicycling as a mainstream activity, and we won that battle," Snyder said. "Now, we have to get them to put their money where their mouth is."

With cycling projects receiving less than 1 percent of the city's transportation funding, and city officials so far unwilling to pay for the projects that would allow the city to meet its official goal of 20 percent of all vehicle trips being by bike by the year 2020, Snyder said, "We haven't accomplished that second goal yet."

Comments

We're seeing a serious backlash against the anti-car rhetoric, and as a result some meter projects have been rolled back and Sunday paid parking has thankfully been abolished.

There is a danger that if driving becomes too fraught and dangerous, there will be more accidents, not less, and more incidents of road rage against cyclists, particularly if they insist on ignoring traffic laws and pay nothing towards infrastructure.

A true transit first police does not favor any private forms of transport, including cycling.

Posted by Guest on May. 06, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

There were numerous benefits to Sunday meters. Some were seen by people finding parking (took less time finding them) and the businesses enjoyed more turnover and people went to their shops and spent more money.

Curious if that makes any difference in spending some money to secure a spot in SF on Sundays?

Posted by Jesse on May. 07, 2014 @ 8:25 am

"Sunday paid parking has thankfully been abolished."

Based on the theory that this would help pass the bond measures, which are currently polling in the mid 20's. That doesn't bode well for them staying abolished.

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 8:26 am

want to pay more for parking. There is a third alternative - stop the gravy train for Muni operators who earn 2-3 times as much as private sector drivers

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 10:03 am

Note the Orwellian "doublethink" that has the movement for safer streets making driving more dangerous, fraught with stress, and creating road rage. It's drivers like this that pose a threat to us all. Full of anger and resentment at the loss of their privilege. The "transit first police" cracking down on deviants...

From 1984 - " to repudiate morality while laying claim to it...to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed

as in causing anxiety and stress;

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

traffic has the exact opposite effect on drivers. They get enraged at the lack of progress,

Then they take risks to make up time and we end up with a dead pedestrian or cyclist.

It's called the law of unintended consequences

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:46 am

Yes there are some impatient and self-centered drivers who react to traffic calming infrastructure with anger and violence. Thankfully, they are a small minority. Most people accept it more or less gracefully. As a result, even with the extremely modest changes that have been made so far in SF, collisions are down 8% and collisions with bicycles are down 16%. By your argument, the Vision Zero project, aiming to reduce traffic deaths to zero in ten years, as is now the goal in New York City and San Francisco, will instead usher in a massive increase in such deaths. Luckily for us, this Orwellian logic doesn't seem to be playing out. Traffic calming does calm traffic and reduce fatal collisions. Where, besides your imagination and perhaps personal experience behind the wheel, do you find evidence of the unintended consequence of "calming causes rage?"

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 11:34 am

My point is that you cannot continually attack one class of people without some kind of pushback.

And there will be people who die because of the frustration caused by endless, mindless, kneejerk "calming".

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

Drivers are not a class of people. Like many, I sometimes drive a car, ride a bike, take public transit, and/or walk to where I am going. A pedestrian bulb-out or an island in a crosswalk may slow you down and seem like a nuisance when you're driving a car, but you will appreciate them when you're crossing the street on foot. Isn't this obvious? Please, put yourself in others' shoes.

Traffic calming is neither mindless, or knee-jerk. It is a measured response to mayhem, injury, and death. And far from being endless, it's just beginning.

Meanwhile, your last "people will die" post is borderline reportable threatening speech. People will not die if people like you calm down. I suggest you go for a walk.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

Professor Henderson correctly points out that the road use experience is poor for all road users. Adding more residents and jobs to the fixed infrastructure only makes the road use experience worse. When peds and cyclists have a poor road use experience, the damage they can do is minimal. When motorists have a poor road use experience, for those few who take out their rage physically, cyclists and peds bear the full brunt of that public health threat.

Incremental changes to complicated built out systems can have consequences disproportionate to the magnitude of the original change. Careful study of complicated systems such as via CEQA is one way to ensure that this does not happen. Comprehensive land use and transit planning is another. Fat chance we'll see that around here, so cyclists and peds will continue to exist under threat, a comprehensive violation of our civil rights.

Posted by marcos on May. 08, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

@Guest - Technically, traffic-calming is an approach that changes the feel of a street so that slower speeds flow naturally. Sometimes a city will take items from the traffic-calming toolbox but not really succeed at (or even attempt) that approach, and call the result "traffic-calming." This is unfortunate, but traffic-calming itself is not to blame.

Probably the most memorable example is the traffic circles on Page Street. To calm traffic with this device, put a nice tree with a generous canopy in the middle, so the line of sight is both pleasant and not a mile away (there are examples of these treatment all over Portland). Instead we got tiny round obstacles.

Posted by Jym on May. 08, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

Agree there is a huge backlash. I think drivers and transit riders will vote down the new bonds as a message to SFMTA. Some transit riders just see the bad service, others would prefer real tranist (like New York), fast subways not "busing". Drivers who voted for Transit First and past bonds are now seeing SFMTA's lack of focus on transit and street paving while trying to beautify every project they touch. We thought we were funding transit not landscaping. The bicycle lanes are dangerous and half-a**ed. Major bicycle routes should not be mixed with cars, trucks, and buses. Bicycle's should be given their own streets, reserved for just bicycles and local residents access. I would like to fund Muni vehicle replacement and some major new LRV or subway systems and routes, but not with this agency's incompetence and lack of vision. Hopefully rejecting the bonds will send a strong message to wake up city hall to restructure and focus SFMTA. Then we can fund real transit next year. The one year delay would be well worth it. Maybe we can call it Transit First Time

Posted by Guest on May. 13, 2014 @ 11:45 pm

"A true transit first police does not favor any private forms of transport, including cycling."

What does that mean? San Francisco is the only place with an established transit first policy. We can define it however we want to define it - it's not like there is some established time honored standard for what a transit first policy is. You don't like how it's implemented, but that doesn't make it an "untrue" transit first policy.

Posted by murphstahoe on May. 07, 2014 @ 8:30 am

Define words any way you like, but public options are more important than private options

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 10:05 am

SF's voter-approved Transit-First Policy specifically mentions prioritizing bikes over cars, mostly because every person on a bike is someone not in a car, bus, or taxi, all of which use valuable transportation resources.

Posted by steven on May. 07, 2014 @ 11:26 am
Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 11:32 am

And even if it were true, a couple of the bikeys would be on the sidewalk where cars are forbidden!

And now for a happy song!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgCqz3l33kU

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 07, 2014 @ 12:32 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:47 am

You guys are idiots: Even if that were true that a car with four people takes less space than four bikes (are we talking about a hummer or a honda?) the fact is that the vast majority of cars on SF streets have only one or two people in them.

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Most-Bay-Area-commuters-drive-to-w...

There will always be some people who prefer cars, even if they are slower and more expensive to get around the city in. But we'll all be better off if you stop using lazy excuses and help us move towards a more sustainable future - take a bus, bike, or walk to your destination. Otherwise, move to Marin.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 10:32 am

But any transit plan without cars is doomed.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 10:42 am

And even if it were true, a couple of the bikeys would be on the sidewalk where cars are forbidden!

And now for a happy song!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgCqz3l33kU

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 07, 2014 @ 12:32 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 10:06 am

many dozen idiotic policy statements.

Why this one is caste in stone is a mystery. Simple minds repeating simple dogma?

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

@Guest - Not "[cast] in stone," but mandated by voters.

Posted by Jym on May. 08, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

Where does all the money City Hall raises from property taxes and preying on motorists go?

The crushing weight of San Francisco City employees' salaries and benefits is one reason the City keeps pushing expenses onto city residents. Mayor Lee's proposed $7.9 billion City budget for Fiscal Year 2013–2014 indicates that the City will increase spending by $710 million, adding 866 more City government employees, bringing the total to 27,722 full-time equivalent employees. [The City actually had 36,761 full- and part-time employees at the end of calendar year 2012.] Over one-half of the Mayor's budget — $3.9 billion — will be dedicated to City employee salaries and benefits. The average City employee makes $99,000 with benefits, while the average citizen makes about $73,000 with few or no benefits.

The SFMTA alone has more than 5,000 employees.

It's good that the Restoring Transportation Balance initiative will be on the November ballot with the $500 million bond and the vehicle license fee, since it will mean the Fall political campaign will include for the first time a discussion of both the transportation money the city is squandering and its anti-car policies.

http://sfgov2.org/ftp/uploadedfiles/elections/candidates/Nov2014/Nov2014...

Posted by sfparkripoff on May. 07, 2014 @ 8:36 am

Where does all the money City Hall raises from property taxes and preying on motorists go?

The crushing weight of San Francisco City employees' salaries and benefits is one reason the City keeps pushing expenses onto city residents. Mayor Lee's proposed $7.9 billion City budget for Fiscal Year 2013–2014 indicates that the City will increase spending by $710 million, adding 866 more City government employees, bringing the total to 27,722 full-time equivalent employees. [The City actually had 36,761 full- and part-time employees at the end of calendar year 2012.] Over one-half of the Mayor's budget — $3.9 billion — will be dedicated to City employee salaries and benefits. The average City employee makes $99,000 with benefits, while the average citizen makes about $73,000 with few or no benefits.

The SFMTA alone has more than 5,000 employees.

It's good that the Restoring Transportation Balance initiative will be on the November ballot with the $500 million bond and the vehicle license fee, since it will mean the Fall political campaign will include for the first time a discussion of both the transportation money the city is squandering and its anti-car policies.

http://sfgov2.org/ftp/uploadedfiles/elections/candidates/Nov2014/Nov2014...

Posted by sfparkripoff on May. 07, 2014 @ 8:37 am

How are you planning on gathering 10,000 signatures? I am sure you don't have an army of volunteers, because your ideas are very unpopular, except with a fringe group.

Do you have a billionaire backing you, so you can get paid signature gatherers?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on May. 07, 2014 @ 9:51 am

city workers are overpaid? I cannot think of a person I know who doesn't believe that

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 10:07 am

I'm not a city worker, but I have worked beside many of them on civic projects, and their dedication both during and after business hours to the betterment of our city is remarkable. Saw it last night when dozens of them came to North Beach to help us understand the changes that could be coming to Columbus Ave.

They are not overpaid.

Posted by North Beach Fellow on May. 07, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

Base pay and OT is way up there too, given that most of them are unskilled

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:48 am

Why do you think we have potholes everywhere with an $8 billion budget.

City's budget is larger than San Jose and Santa Clara COMBINED - three times the population and five times the land area....?

People are very naïve.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 7:34 am

I just checked on the SFBC website since it didn't seem absolutely clear from the story. I'd better get crackin'!

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 07, 2014 @ 10:42 am
Posted by steven on May. 07, 2014 @ 11:28 am

Its still time for many folks to plan for it then. I'm so glad we cleared that up, Ste! It is a good idea to focus on the Who, What, When of things, isn't it!

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 07, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

on Folsom St on my bike tomorrow.

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

I might take BART to work or just get a City CarShare and drive around aimlessly.

Posted by marcos on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:04 am

Without a large, dedicated bike lane the entire length of Market Street, there will never be an effective bike lane network in the city. Blowing big bucks on stupid projects (Cargo lane) doesn't help anyone.

Posted by Richmondman on May. 08, 2014 @ 5:01 am

What time does the bike-seat-sniffing contest start?

Posted by Chromefields on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:20 am

It amazes me how every new improvement that shares the streets of San Francisco in a more equitable way results in so many more people using bicycles for their everyday transportation needs. If only my IRA would increase ths fast!

Sharing resources in a fair way that results in a quiter and healthier SF makes me relaxed and happy. Thank you SFMTA.

Posted by Dbarchitect on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:40 am
Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:52 am

Biking to work today, on Bike To Work Day, I come up Second Street to Market and prepare to turn right to head into the Financial District. Hitting the green, a pedestrian is crossing towards the south, so I point my bike behind him and take the turn. He stops, backs up and hits me!

We call the cops, he utters the words "like a typical cyclist," and that appears to do it. The cops give me a form for a citizens arrest on assault, I go free and he has to deal with the consequences of his misconduct!

The strangest part was that the cop had "Dickies" and "Social Distortion" stickers on his ticket book, so I actually bonded with a cop over punk rock. Bonding with a cop over punk who has just cited a pedestrian for assaulting me while I'm cycling, It's the end of the world as we know it.

Posted by marcos on May. 08, 2014 @ 7:15 am

There were also Rush and King Crimson stickers on the rape kit I used. I'm a little sore, but it was a great ride!

Posted by marcos on May. 08, 2014 @ 10:00 am

Oh, Michael, to quote one assassin, nobody likes a fat old fag.

Posted by marcos on May. 08, 2014 @ 10:09 am
Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 10:40 am

Maybe Michael Ege will try to sit on me?

Posted by marcos on May. 08, 2014 @ 11:01 am

Only if I can sit on your face.

Posted by Michael Ege on May. 08, 2014 @ 11:29 am

Who wants to wait in line for that long?

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

I just don't understand why these idiot peasant pedestrians keep hitting my bike.

They should have learned by now that they should get the hell out of my way when I'm riding - after all, I'm not going to slow down or alter my course to avoid them. Avoiding collisions with me is their problem.

Posted by marcos on May. 08, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

@Phony marcos - Reading comprehension failure, the real @marcos did alter his course. Pathetic trolling.

Posted by Jym on May. 08, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

Satire - learn what it is!

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

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