Big Kick-Off for SFBC’s “Big 56″ Campaign

big56picNP.jpgAn estimated 170 SFBC members attend the launch of the SFBC's "Big 56" campaign. Photo: Neal Patel.
About 170 people showed up last night at the First Baptist Church for the launch of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's grassroots campaign to rally support for the city's long-stalled bike plan and get it re-adopted by Bike to Work Day.

"The mission is very simple. We need to get the seven members of the MTA board of directors to say yes to all 56 network improvement projects by May 14th," said Andy Thornley, the SFBC's planning director. A statement laying out that prospect drew a thunderous applause from the audience of mostly SFBC members. Other community groups, such as CC Puede and Fix Masonic, were represented.

The city's bike plan has been locked in court since June, 2006 but there is hope an injunction that prevents improvements will be lifted sometime this spring, once the Planning Department certifies the EIR. At that point, advocates are hoping to move the entire network ahead instead of approving projects piecemeal. There is an indication from the MTA and the Mayor's office that could happen, but it's not a certainty.

The SFBC's strategy to speed the process after two-and-a-half frustrating years centers on grassroots organizing in the nine neighborhoods encompassing the bike plan's 56 projects. At the meeting, members broke into groups, with a captain named for each one, to brainstorm, strategize and talk about cultivating support for each project and identifying potential opposition in each neighborhood.

The SFBC is readying for traditional "resistance and intransigence" from some merchants and residents, particularly in neighborhoods west of Twin Peaks and the Mission. Thornley said that's why a strong educational outreach is a main component of the strategy.

"Traditionally the city hasn't done a really great job of expressing to the citizens why bicycling is a good idea and that it is a preferred transportation mode in the city. We've always had to make up some of the difference in educating the community."

Bike_Network_Projects-1_1.jpgSFBC Bicycle Route Network map.
Members who turned out for the meeting seemed energized and ready to go, and many of them were already familiar with the projects in their neighborhood, Thornley said. By the end of the week, each neighborhood group will be supplied a template for outreach material that includes timelines for action, sample support letters and information about specific projects.

Thornley said the MTA's bike staff seems excited about moving the projects forward and has created a Citizen's Guide to the Bike Plan on its website.

Even though funding for some of the projects remains unclear, and it's not certain just how soon we may be pedaling across new bike lanes, the SFBC's grassroots campaign is aimed at holding the MTA's feet to the fire to avoid any more costly delays that prevent San Francisco from becoming a true bicycle-friendly city.