How Mayor Lee Can Make 2012 a Landmark Year for Bicycling in SF

Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim (behind) with the SF Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum and others on a recent ride along Market Street. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux, SFBC/Flickr

With Mayor Ed Lee inaugurated yesterday to his first full term, Streetsblog is asking leading advocates and experts to lay out their ideas for how the mayor can move San Francisco’s transportation policy forward. Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, kicks things off with today’s installment.

Before he took the city’s lead position, Mayor Ed Lee may have been virtually unknown to most San Franciscans. But this longtime city administrator and last year’s almost-accidental Mayor has proven himself to be an advocate for safer streets and more livable neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Lee was an early and vocal supporter of Sunday Streets. He championed last November’s successful ballot measure to fund smoother pavement, dedicated bikeways, and pedestrian safety improvements. He has made smart choices for key positions at the SFMTA, including appointing transit advocate Joel Ramos to the board of directors and supporting transit-first-leader Ed Reiskin as the agency’s new executive director.

And Mayor Lee lent his unwavering public support — despite pressure from some powerful interests — to the city’s first parking-protected bikeway, coming soon on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park.

This commitment from the city’s top leader could not come at a better time, as San Franciscans show a growing appetite for Connecting the City with safe, welcoming streets that help boost our local economy and make our city more accessible, affordable, and family-friendly.

We see it happening already as business owners ask for bike parking and parklets to replace on-street car parking, as neighbors and merchants call for more car-free streets so people can bike, stroll, and stimulate commercial districts during Sunday Streets, and as voters choose to invest in new, physically separated bikeways and pedestrian improvements.

Now, Mayor Lee has the opportunity — and the responsibility — to do much more.

With a sympathetic Board of Supervisors, strong SFMTA leadership, and an increasingly supportive public, Lee has unparalleled opportunities in 2012 to hasten the pace of progress for great streets.

To meet the City’s official goal of reaching 20 percent of trips by bicycle by 2020, the Mayor should provide strong leadership this year in the following ways:

  • Speed up progress on the Bay to Beach route by advancing dedicated bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Baker Streets by Bike to Work Day in May, and traffic-calm the “Wiggle” route through the Lower Haight.
  • Pilot more bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements on Market Street.
  • Host the most bike-friendly, green-transportation America’s Cup in its 34-year history by implementing widespread bikesharing and new bikeways along the Embarcadero (EmBikeadero!) and Polk Street, as well as the eastern waterfront connecting to Bayview/Hunters Point.
  • Expand Sunday Streets to a regular, weekly route in the Mission, along with sustaining the ongoing citywide routes.
  • Direct the MTA to move boldly on its recently approved Strategic Plan goal of making transit, walking, bicycling, taxi, and carsharing the preferred means of travel; and instruct the SF Police Department to prioritize enforcement of the most dangerous behaviors (including speeding) among all road users.
  • Increase funding to at least $15 million/year (from the current $2 million) for better bikeways, as well as much-needed support for maintenance, education, enforcement, and encouragement efforts.

Mayor Lee has a lot on his plate, but there is no greater bang-for-the buck to make San Francisco more accessible and livable than these kinds of quick and affordable improvements.

We urge the Mayor to make great streets a cornerstone goal of his administration in the next four years. This is a sure-fire way to leave behind an outstanding legacy and a far better city for all of us.