San Francisco’s streets are expected to fill with bike commuters tomorrow for the city’s 18th Bike to Work Day.
The city has more bike lanes, more people on bikes, and more political momentum for bike policy today than in years past. “We definitely expect to see more people bicycling on Bike to Work Day this year than ever before,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum, “given that the number of people of biking every year has been increasing significantly — 71 percent over the last five years, given that it’s supposed to be really lovely warm weather, and given, most importantly, that the city has added more dedicated bike space in the last year than ever before.”
In San Francisco’s most visible display of bicycling growth, SFMTA Bike to Work Day morning commute counts show that bike traffic has risen steadily over recent years on Market Street, which the SFBC now calls the busiest bicycling street west of the Mississippi. Last year at the Van Ness Avenue intersection, bikes made up 75 percent of vehicle traffic as car traffic plummeted on the corridor.
Since the bike injunction was lifted in 2010, the SFMTA has striped bike lanes in locations around the city, including some of SF’s first physically protected routes. The parking-protected bike lanes on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park are “substantially complete” as of this week (save some finishing touches), according to the SFMTA. Construction is also nearly complete on a two-way bikeway on Cargo Way.
The 23 miles of bike lanes added by the SFMTA since August 2010 “really cover very diverse neighborhoods,” said Shahum.
Bike commuters tomorrow will benefit from new curbside, post-separated bike lanes on Division, Laguna Honda, Alemany and Cesar Chavez as well as the green lanes on Market. Buffered bike lanes have also been striped on Bayshore and Sloat, and new conventional lanes can be found on 17th, Folsom, Illinois, North Point, Townsend, Kirkham, Phelan, Holloway, Ocean, Portola, and McCoppin. The SFMTA also continues installing bike racks (in corrals and on sidewalks) and sharrows throughout the city.
“When there’s more dedicated bike space, time and time again we see more people bicycling, and we see a more diverse cross-section of people biking,” said Shahum. “We see more parents riding with their kids to school, we see more older folks riding to a farmer’s market, we see more of San Francisco’s work force biking downtown rather than heading in in their cars.”
Riding into City Hall tomorrow will be a large cast of city officials, including Mayor Ed Lee and all but one member of the Board of Supervisors. (D7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he used to ride every year prior to his son’s birth, but bicycling is no longer “practically an option” as he needs to drop his wife and son off by car.)
Almost every member of the SFMTA Board of Directors (save Jerry Lee, who is out of town) will also be riding, according to Shahum, including Christina Rubke, Mayor Lee’s recent board nominee to replace Bruce Oka. Other officials expected to ride include SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, SF Environment Director Melanie Nutter, and Carla Johnson, the new director of the Mayor’s Office on Disability.
The decision makers participating in tomorrow’s event will have to raise their commitment to safe cycling throughout the rest of the year to help the city reach its bike mode-share goals. As the SF Bay Guardian pointed out yesterday, while cycling is on the rise, the current rate of improvements is far from sufficient to meet the city’s goal of getting 20 percent of commuters on bikes by 2020 (it’s currently estimated at 3.5 percent).
Despite some recent high-profile project delays, Shahum said, “It’s really exciting to see that some of the problem areas that the mayor and others experienced riding last year are getting stepped up attention and are getting improvements now.” She noted that the long-awaited protected bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets are also headed to an SFMTA hearing next Friday, May 18.
Tomorrow morning, 11 commuter convoys will head to City Hall from various neighborhoods throughout the city, and 27 energizer stations will be set up along the way, half of which will have a “bike doctor” on hand to help commuters keep their bikes in shape. The SF-to-Google (SF2G) Peninsula convoy, which Shahum noted usually carries about 40 riders on its regular rides throughout the year, is expecting to be joined by 500 people (they had 400 last year).
At City Hall, Shahum said the SFBC will be highlighting the economic benefits that bicycling brings to the city, announcing six of the city’s top bike-friendly businesses chosen from “tons and tons” of applicants who are encouraging their employees to bike with incentive programs and secure bike parking.
“We’re hearing from so many people that there are employers who are deciding to move to or stay in San Francisco because their employees love living in a city, and they want to be able to bike and take transit,” she said.