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.

  • It is truly sad to see the SFBC focusing on a bicycle network which is essentially unchanged since 1997 rather than assessing existing condition risks and dangers and proposing that we meet the most critical needs first.

    The MTA Bicycle Program fell into this trap as well, seeing their alpha and omega as getting the EIR out the door rather than learning from our experiences over the past decade or more to figure out what the top priorities are in the real world.

    There are no plans for 10th/Market/Polk. There are no plans for 13th/South Van Ness/Howard. No plans for Van Ness between Market and City Hall. There are no plans for Market Street, as this plan has only been around for 12 years and there simply has not been sufficient time to do that work. These are existing dangerous locations where cyclists take our lives into our own hands daily.

    Just because a project has been your top priority for many years now is no excuse for failing to adapt a plan to changing reality. This is the same strategic trap that Healthy Saturdays fell into with disastrous ancillary political and transit/bike impact consequences for development the east side of San Francisco.

    I’d wager that the injunction is still in place by BTWD.


  • marcos you must be a hit at parties…

  • Pardon my poor table manners, because this is at the end of the day only an academic discussion that has no real life bearings on people’s life and limb.

    After all, the feelings of advocates and City Staff are much more important than any objective analysis of what projects should be fast tracked based on critical analysis, what projects are NOT included in the list that are now more important than those included 12 years ago, or considerations of the like.

    There are probably like 15,000 new housing units in the area centered around SOMA that have gone in since the last project was added to the bike lane network plan in 1997. Are you seriously making the case that although the land use context has changed that the transportation network, in this case bicycle facilities, should remain static? Should those issues have been looked into over the past few years while the EIR was incubating?

    In software, we are seeing the behavior of a very simplistic queueing algorithm, as it relies solely on FIFO, first in, first out, for ordering projects, rather than prioritizing a work plan based on a richer set of attributes. It is another case of advocates and staff focusing on the project they’ve been nursing rather than what the community really needs.

    Whenever i hear the line “we’ve been working on this project for X years and HAVE to move it forward now as conceived,” I reach for my political equivalent of a revolver. Constant reevaluation is required for ongoing accuracy of advocacy and policy in a changing environment.

    As far as parties go, Ross Mirkarimi’s monthly art party is on the third Friday of each month, which my calendar indicates is tomorrow. Room 282, City Hall, 5:30 – 8:30 or so. I believe that my party skills are sufficiently honed, there is always room for improvement through more parties, but you’re free to judge for yourself.



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