San Francisco Will Be Governed by a Car-Free Mayor for Next 24 Hours

Photo: Bryan Goebel
David Chiu trying out an electric bike around City Hall last year. Photo: Bryan Goebel

If you see a guy in a suit pedaling up Polk Street or around City Hall in the next 24 hours on an electric bike, just know that it might be your mayor. Today at 1 p.m., as Gavin Newsom was finally sworn in as lieutenant governor, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu became the acting mayor and will remain so until City Administrator Ed Lee is confirmed as interim mayor tomorrow.

We don’t expect Acting Mayor Chiu to order green protected bike lanes throughout the city but it is cool that — at least for the next day — our mayor is setting an example and not traveling around in an SUV. Chiu is considering a run for mayor.

Update: Chiu’s aide, Judson True, says he will be leading a bike ride to City Hall tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. The ride will begin at It’s a Grind coffee house on Polk Street and Washington. The public is invited.

  • It would be great to see David make a run at it. Civilized and smart guy.

  • Nick

    Popular sentiment could be whipped up against Chiu in the general election by casting him as “anti-car.” Expect him to be less bold in the next 11 months concerning sustainability issues. He’s not a shoo-in for the job just because he’s Asian (despite what the Examiner’s headlines will lead one to believe).

  • Alex

    Hey, I didn’t know Rose could ride a bicycle!

    Nick: Yeah, Chiu’s quite the greenie. He certainly had a lot to say at the meeting today about short runs on the L and N. Oh… wait… he didn’t??? NO WAI! But he’s so PROGRESSIVE and GREEN. Make no mistake Pak will install him as mayor (or die trying) not because he’s *Asian*, but because he’s demonstratively obedient (being Chinese almost certainly didn’t hurt his chances with Pak either). All this talk of new found civility at the BoS is a bit of a facepalm moment. Of course he’s civil. He’s got a good thing going, why would he bother to express any dissension with the Brown/Pak oligarchy?

    I realize that Streetsblog is big on single-issue politics (namely bicycles), but riding a bicycle and posing for some photo ops does not nullify saddling the MTA with money wasting projects, equipment, and work rules or working against the riders’ interests. If you want to get people out of their cars, you need to ensure that the MTA won’t have distractions (financial or otherwise) standing in the way of providing effective service.

    I’d say it’s extremely unlikely Chiu will be portrayed as anti-car when his puppet masters worked very hard to defend car rights last year. Lest you forget whose puppet masters fought the Sunday metered parking proposals. Or, did you forget already that it was the man himself who fought the SFCTA’s recommendations[1] in order to look out for the rights of low-income car owners? Or did you forget who voted FOR fare hikes and service cuts to balance the budget?[2]

    He talks the talk from time to time, but he sure as heck don’t walk the walk.

    1: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/07/21/sfcta-completes-exhaustive-parking-study-supervisors-delay-action/
    2: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/05/27/board-of-supes-votes-againnot-to-reject-mta-budget/

  • MatthewF

    His helmet is on crooked. To me, that undercuts his bicycling credentials.

  • EL

    Just to clarify with fellow Streetsbloggers – Is it OK to ride an electric assist bike now? I seem to take way too much crap from bicycle purists.

  • El,

    Short answer: yes, it is okay to ride an electric-assist bike.

    Long answer: Electric-assist bike trips replace car trips! I know bicycle purists see them as “cheating” but really whenever we see one we should rejoice. Why are electric bikes good?

    1) Many people due to hills, age, and/or infirmities have trouble riding a regular bike. Electric-assist means bicycling is an option for them. 40% of all trips in this country are under 2 miles. There is no reason these trips can’t be done by bike, especially if this includes electric bikes and trikes.

    2) Electric bikes produce no nasty, smelly exhaust fumes full of particulate matter. They cause no asthma or lung cancer, reducing health care costs. And they are quiet. Having an electric bike go by you while you are at an outdoor cafe will not ruin your meal.

    3) Electric bikes take a fraction of the room, use a fraction of the electricity, and cost a fraction of the price of an electric car. In terms of lithium mined, metal used, and energy embedded in its manufacture, we would be far better off as a planet with 100 million electric bikes than 100 million electric cars. And just think of how much less public space we’d have to dedicate to parking if half of all the cars in San Francisco were replaced by electric bikes!

    4) Though electric bikes are heavier than regular bikes, they still weigh far less than cars and so do far, far less damage to the roads. This reduces road repair and maintenance costs.

    I have found I am using my electric bike less and my regular bike more just because I want the exercise. But for all the reasons bicycles are good, electric bikes are good too. They create healthier communities by reducing car traffic, car noise and car pollution; they get people out and about and exercising (though the exercise is not as vigorous as on a regular bike, it beats a car by far); and if they replace a car trip they directly reduce the amount of carbon emissions a person creates, which directly impacts the future of our entire planet.

    Remember that a person on an electric bike is just as vulnerable, and hence has just at much interest in good bicycle infrastructure, as a person on a regular bike. The more people we get on any kind of bike (except, God help us, ones with gasoline-powered motors) the better.

  • Lord, grant me an electric bike… but not yet! (Still having too much fun w/ my regular one 😉