City officials and advocates rode in to City Hall today alongside thousands of commuters for San Francisco’s 18th annual Bike to Work Day. According to the SFMTA, 1,031 eastbound bicycles traveled through the Market and Van Ness intersection between 8 and 9 a.m. this morning, making up 73 percent of vehicles on Market and averaging 17 bikes per minute.
While the city’s recent cycling boom and expansion of bike infrastructure were widely celebrated, some leaders said SF could do much more to catch up with cities like New York, Minneapolis, and Davis and make cycling on its streets safe and accessible for riders of all abilities.
“Does anyone think we can do better in San Francisco?” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “San Jose just decided to segregate bike lanes in their downtown area. In Davis, California, they bike at four times the rate of what we do here in San Francisco. Can we do better than Davis and San Jose?”
“Right now, we are spending about a quarter of a percent of our MTA budget on cycling improvements,” said Chiu, who spearheaded the 2010 legislation that led the city to adopt the goal of increasing cycling to 20 percent of all trips by 2020. “We need to do better.”
D6 Supervisor Jane Kim said that while she enjoyed riding with a convoy on Bike to Work Day, she would only feel comfortable biking regularly on her own with protected bike lanes on streets like SoMa’s high-speed motorways — a sentiment shared by many San Franciscans. “I want to keep working make sure we have that type of infrastructure in San Francisco,” she said.
Mayor Ed Lee, who rode in from the new parking-protected bike lanes in Golden Gate Park with SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum and city officials, didn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency for expanding bikeways as other proponents, but did speak about how they could improve his would-be commute. “I think there’s something we can do at the turn onto Van Ness so that I can come to work very easily,” he said.
The broad show of support from city leaders, said Shahum, was encouraging. “It’s not often we get so much political support for an issue.”
The turnout for Bike to Work Day this morning appeared to be SF’s biggest yet. Along the Panhandle, one of the city’s busiest bike corridors, a rush-hour platoon of roughly three dozen bike commuters were seen lined up waiting for the light to change at Masonic Avenue. Bike to Work Day counts have increased 66 percent over the last five years, according to the SFMTA. The agency also says 54 percent more people were biking on compared to a regular day one month ago.
D5 Supervisor Christina Olague, who rode in along the Wiggle, said she’s “very committed” to seeing the Fell and Oak Street protected bike lanes implemented by this fall. Although her eastbound ride in was “pretty smooth,” she said, the lack of a protected lane on Fell means she might “have to worry about getting back.”
After the pageantry of Bike to Work Day is over, the question remains whether leaders will make good on the commitment to making the city’s streets safer and more accessible for people to bike to work every day.