Get Ready for Bike to Work Day 2011

Photo: Neal Patel

One of my favorite things about Bike to Work Day as an everyday bicyclist is picking my free tote bag at one of the convenient energizer stations. In San Francisco, 6,000 bags are ready to be handed out tomorrow by SFBC volunteers, 50 of whom spent a recent day stuffing them with all those resourceful goodies.

For a comprehensive rundown of Bike to Work Day activities all over the Bay Area, check out Streetsblog reporter Aaron Bialick’s post from yesterday. And, of course, wherever you are in the Bay Area, we’d love to hear your stories and publish the best photos of all those beautiful people heading to work. Please add your photos to our Flickr pool, Tweet ’em, or send them to tips@sf.streetsblog.org. We’ll have full coverage tomorrow.  Happy (almost) Bike to Work Day!

  • Masonic will be the death…

    I will be the first to say it. After this morning’s commute I am officially Anti Bike To Work Day. I ride a bike in this city 365 days a year and this morning was seriously one of the most dangerous commutes I have had in years.

    The panhandle heading east was chock full of four and five wide blobs of cyclists with no comprehension of the concept of two way traffic, ie someone actually heading west on the same path. What makes this worse is that those in the blobs lacked the requisite skills to while maintaining control of their bikes move to their side of the path. The same goes for the blob heading east from 6th on Hugo. These cyclists directly, and indirectly put us at risk as they seem unable to handle a bike, pick a side of the road to ride on, and wrongfully block cars that should have some room on a shared road. There really is nothing better than being swerved at, and yelled at on a bike out of retribution by a driver who is pissed at the big group of bikes that for no reason but shear ignorance refused to share the road.

    Bike to Work Day has somehow morphed into this holiday where all that matters is getting as many folks on bikes for their commute for one day. SFBC seems to care not about an actual education campaign leading up to BTWD in which new cyclists are brought up to speed on bike handling and road safety. No instead it is assumed that the sheer numbers will keep all involved safe. As a result what are the real gains for the community from the bike holiday?

    Over the years I have had my fair share of incidents with oblivious drivers. I am glad and grateful the cycling community in this city is continuing to grow and gain the acceptance it has, but that being said there is nothing that upsets me more as a cyclist than having my health put at risk by another or multiple oblivious cyclists.

    If BTWD is to be more than a one day a year publicity stunt it needs to include a more proactive education campaign by properly preparing new or infrequent riders not just of their rights, but also their obligations. Maybe SFBC can for one day a year place signs with safety reminders and rules of the road in visible areas along the most heavily traveled routes.

    I think I will spending an extra hour at the office to avoid the junk show on my daily bike commute back home.

  • Prinzrob

    Fair comment, but isn’t that kind of the case every day? I know that I put way more thought into riding safely and legally than most cyclists, and have learned to not expect much from the folks around me, even the experienced ones. These days I spend just as much time looking out for car drivers as other cyclists, and when I see someone doing something blatantly ridiculous I just shrug it off and hope that they don’t get themselves killed. If they do something which puts me in immediate danger I might give them a shout, but at least it is better than them being just as stupid but in a car.

    It’s been a while, but when I first started bike commuting I probably made a lot of newbie mistakes too, so I can’t hold others to a much higher standard. If you are really concerned maybe you should carry some SFBC bike safety course postcards with you and hand them out to the worst offenders (in a non confrontational way, of course).

  • Anonymous

    You’re looking at this all wrong.

    Today at 24th/Mission there were 250+ assembled for the SF2G ride, most of whom were first timers. They were led by people, many of whom did it for their first time on a BTWD and are now experienced, proficient cyclists. BTWD was the entry drug that brought more cyclists in, if the retention rate is greater than a few percent it is an overwhelming success. This works on the big scale of people riding from SF to Mountain View, as well as people riding from the Castro to downtown.

    Yes, at Market and (whatever) the spillover from the energizer station went into our “protected bike lane”, making things a bit tenuous for “People just trying to get to work like always”. But after they got to work, the Mayor, leaders of several very large businesses, and 10 of the 11 Supervisors got up and pretty much begged for the cyclists to love them and very clearly stated explicit goals. Ed Lee saying he wants the JFK project done *this year*. Mirkarimi saying that Masonic MUST BE FIXED and Fell/Oak MUST BE FIXED. But those guys are already on the bandwagon. Carmen Chu is not a bike rider but in order to be in the mix she hopped a ride on a tandem. Jane Kim took lessons.

    I rode in with Scott Wiener. After we turned off (ugh) 17th onto Valencia he said “You know, I’m not a cyclist, but I’m a big fan of street resurfacing, and the SFBC is a big ally in that regard, and now I know why, it makes a big difference”. I responded that 17th is a disaster for pavement and the worst is Market, and I hear there is a big repavement plan coming and they need to get it right.

    On Market, a rider crashed in the tracks. I weaved my way back to Scott and said “Someone just crashed back there on the tracks. Happens a lot, that’s the sort of thing that needs to be a primary consideration on a Market Street re-do” Then we got to the hotels where the tour buses always park in the “Protected bike lane”. In fact they were buses in the bike lane and double parked outside. So we had to cross the tracks to go around them. I looked at him and said “Why do we paint these bike lanes and get all excited about them if tour buses just block them and we have to ride in the tracks”. He asked if this happened a lot, and I said “Every day, at rush hour.” He said “Has anyone told them” and I said “Yes, but nobody who is a City Supervisor”

    Add that up. Is it worth it?

  • Look at it this way, Bike to Work Day is the one day a year you have to share the road with a high number of newbies. Like Prinzrob below, I, too, made mistakes when I first started urban bike riding, no doubt annoying veteran riders who whizzed past me muttering expletives. Luckily most other riders were pleasant and accommodating and willing to show me what to do by setting me an example.

    Statistics show that the more bicyclists on the road, the safer bicycling is for all of us. So yes, tolerating the newbie’s mistakes so that they go on to become competent urban riders benefits us all. I think SFBC could do a campaign on courteous bicycle riding, but I don’t necessarily think it’s their job to ensure no bicycle rider anywhere makes any mistakes or is an inconsiderate jerk. If that were their mission, they wouldn’t have much time to do anything else.

    I would even argue that our current lack of bicycle infrastructure is often the source of newbie mistakes, and that if we want people from 8 to 80, tourists and newbies to ride in safety we’ve got to make the whole system much more robust. (I won’t say idiot-proof, but how about newbie-proof and tourist-proof.)

    For example, I agree that it should be obvious to anyone with two eyes the path in the Panhandle is for two-way traffic and to block the whole thing with one tight blob of bikers is highly inconsiderate. (It’s also inconsiderate when blobs of walkers do the same thing.) But the fact is that the Panhandle path is now very poorly designed for the use it currently receives. With so many multiple users at so many different speeds in such a tight space, frustrations and near misses and even collisions are bound to happen. And then there’s the lack of any signage–how about simple “Keep to the Right” signs with pictures of both walkers and bicyclists? Thoughtful, well-designed infrastructure can promote good behavior faster and more consistently than PR campaigns or even licensing requirements. (Though perhaps giving school children basic bicycle training in school like they do in Holland and Denmark isn’t a bad idea.)

  • peternatural

    Another newbie mistake is to bother getting mad at anyone encountered on the road (whether you’re on foot, in a car, or on a bike/scooter/motorcycle).

    Too many people on the panhandle path? You could change routes (Hayes and Page are both nice), or just go slower than normal. No biggie.

    Crowds of cyclists “forcing” a driver to swerve at you and honk? A slightly sad, world-weary smirk should suffice.

    I didn’t have any issues on my ride today (as usual)… but I tend to leave early before things get too busy.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    I actually really enjoyed reading the responses below. All are well thought out and intelligent. Admittedly my earlier post was infused with a bit of at the moment frustration. My complaint still comes down to BTWD being incomplete in its execution. It seems like a buy, beg, borrow or steal a bike and have at it for a day and see how you like it. If you like it we might get around to educating you on courtesy and safety, but mostly we figure you can just learn from everyone else.

    Like many have noted we all started out at some time. Including myself, and my gripes about newbies are less at the newbies but more about how we keep the newbie behaviors from becoming entrenched acceptable practice. Years ago there was not the infrastructure now to allow for a long learning curve or accommodate those who choose not to accept that riding a bike like driving a car includes responsibility with a lot more risk. Without the infrastructure of today you were responsible and accountable for your own safety.

    The lack of a reminder of that responsibility during these events is my complaint. While I don’t expect SFBC to handhold everyone I do think that in their drive to sign up every new rider and non riders they could be more proactive, dare I say aggressive in reminding new members, prospective members, and current members that they do have very real responsibilities while riding. Both to themselves and others, be they bikers, peds, or autos on shared roadways.

    To the comments of congestion and choosing different routes you are correct. I should have chosen a different route today, but that doesn’t change the behavioral trend. This trend of bikers not sharing the road is also seen on Market where if the green way is running slow you will have folks two, three, and four wide in the auto lane. Probably unaware or not concerned with the animosity this fuels. It simply reflects poorly on our community, and hands every anti-bike infrastructure type all the ammunition they need.

    Perceived safety often results in complacency and a lack of focus. I feel as our community grows and benefits from the safest, and largest infrastructure for bikes we have ever had that we need to figure out a way to proactively infuse a sense of responsible safety mindedness into the our growing community.

    I never thought the day would come when my “Share the Road” shirt could also be interpreted as a reminder to a cyclist. In an awkward way that is actually something to celebrate.

  • Anonymous

    This trend of bikers not sharing the road is also seen on Market where
    if the green way is running slow you will have folks two, three, and
    four wide in the auto lane. Probably unaware or not concerned with the
    animosity this fuels.

    It’s not really an “auto only lane” now is it? You are allowed to leave the bike lane to overtake. If the bike lane is overflowing with bikes such that there are more bikes in the ‘primary travel lane’ then that’s just what we call “traffic”. If there are 4 cyclists outside the bike lane and 3 in the bike lane, that’s 7 bikes. There aren’t many blocks of Market that can accommodate 7 cars at all along the entire length of the block. Even if the max speed of those 7 cyclists is “slow”, the throughput of the entire roadway is much higher than if they were in cars. As such, their presence on a bike instead of a car means the car gets wherever *faster*, not slower. Wishing those cyclists weren’t in front of you has to equal wishing that their car was in front of you instead.

    At least those cyclists are moving. My interactions with double parkers in the bike lane is that they could not care less if they fuel any animosity. I’ve never interacted with a cyclist who *wanted* to inconvenience a motorist or pedestrian.

    Good message thread, this.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    @murphstahoe:disqus

    You have the bikes vs. car argument down pat and in that context your statements are 100 percent accurate. However I haven’t owned a car or driven a car in years so I am well aware of the benefits of cycling, and use a bike as my only mode of transportation. So it doesn’t really apply.

    My anamorphic argument is about how we as cyclists can best make sure that new cyclists are brought into the mix with some understanding of how, for themselves and for others,  to safely ride about.

    If cyclists have increased in the city by 58% from 06 to 09 that means one in three cyclists in 09 had been riding less than three years. If the 28 percent increase number from 09 to 10 thrown around is to be true that means more than half of the bikers riding today have been doing so less for less than 3 years and one in four for less than a year. And the numbers keep growing.

    These numbers are great on a whole, but make a word of mouth education campaign based on the experienced teaching the inexperienced less than wholly reliable. as less than half of all riders could be truly referred to as experienced. I am not talking licenses or bike reg., and would be the first to fight them. I just feel that maybe there needs to be a bit more proactive education. This is where my earlier posts lied on this issue.

    Now specifically dealing with the example of multiples in the auto lane. There are legitimate reasons to take a lane, overflow, double parked cars, cabs, buses, wandering crack heads, other oblivious cyclists, and even non cracked out oblivious peds to name a few. My point and example referenced unfortunately doesn’t fit with any of those. My point deals with the takeover mentality specifically. As we demanded autos share, which they do too little of, we as cyclists also need to remind ourselves of the need to share non bike lane road space. Cruising down the middle of Market from Octavio in chatting away four wide isn’t exactly sharing. Barking at a fellow cyclist who comments on it seems even less appropriate.

    I don’t think as cyclists we should live under a microscope, but we should be at least willing to look at ourselves and our community with a bit of a critical eye and enjoy our successes but also figure out what can we do better.

    If we don’t they will.

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