The SF Municipal Transportation Agency has mapped out a course that could make San Francisco the most bike-friendly city in the nation. All it needs now, it seems, is the political leadership to step up and fund what SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin has called the “most cost-effective investment we can make in moving people.”
The SFMTA’s Draft Bicycle Strategy [PDF], presented to the agency’s board yesterday, lays out three rough scenarios for improvements to the city’s bicycle infrastructure, based on the amount of funding the city provides. While it doesn’t lay out a specific plan for bike improvements, the strategy serves as a compass to guide implementation of a connected network of protected bike lanes, bike boulevards, bike parking, a robust bike-share system, and campaigns to promote bicycling as a regular means of transportation.
To reach the city’s official goal of 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020, the SFMTA estimates it would have to implement the most ambitious of its three proposed scenarios, called the “System Build-Out.” It calls for the construction of 35 miles of new bicycle facilities, upgrading 200 miles of the existing bike network to “premium bicycle facilities,” bike improvements at 200 intersections, 50,000 new bike parking spaces, and a bike-share program with more than 300 stations.
The cost of investment — an estimated $500 million for infrastructure, plus $14 million annually for other programs — would require a steep increase in bicycle funding compared to the dismal levels under the status quo. According to the SF Bicycle Coalition, the SFMTA currently only allocates 0.46 percent of its capital spending to bicycling, and under the “System Build-Out” scenario, that number would still be less than 8 percent.
“Even those levels are amazingly reasonable,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “Funding has not kept pace with the tremendous growth of bicycling in San Francisco. This doesn’t sync up with the city’s ambitious and rightful goals to grow bicycling and make it a better transportation option for more people.”
“There has been an historic under-funding of bicycling in this city,” she added. “I think there’s clear political and public interest to increase those levels.”
There is significant backing for an aggressive increase in funding for bicycling improvements. In a press release, the SFBC shared statements of support from sf.citi — the SF Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, a tech industry group — and SF Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Michael Theriault, who said he’s “convinced that the bicycle should become a common everyday way for San Franciscans and visitors to move around the city, as jobs and housing opportunities grow, and I support a comprehensive strategy to create more and better bicycling options.”
Several members of the Board of Supervisors also voiced support for significant increases funding to realize the goals in the Bicycle Strategy. “It is time to step up to commit to becoming a great bicycling city,” said Board President David Chiu. “San Francisco has already proven that a large and growing number of people want to bike for transportation. Looking ahead, we need to invest appropriately to support these and far more trips by bike because it is a smart investment in a healthier, greener, more accessible city.”