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Posts from the "Bike to Work Day" Category

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Bike to Work Day at City Hall: Who Really Gets the Need for Safer Streets?

Another year, another Bike to Work Day press conference at City Hall. As city officials ride to the podium, the event serves as a bellwether of the city’s political commitment to making city streets safe enough for everyone to bicycle, regardless of age or experience.

Supervisor Scott Wiener led in calling for safer streets for bicycling at City Hall today. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The mayor, most of the supervisors, and the heads of SFMTA, SFPD, and the Department of Public Works generally stuck to the usual pro-bike rallying calls, endorsements of Vision Zero, and talking up the importance of the transportation funding measures headed to the ballot. But Supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim stood out with some more concrete and thoughtful remarks on the state of cycling.

Wiener gave the most frank assessment of the sorry state of many San Francisco streets, city officials’ role in fixing them, and the press conference ritual itself:

We gather here once a year, all of us elected officials and department heads, we get up here and we talk about what’s gonna happen and how we need to make this city safer, the streets safer, better for biking and walking and uses by everyone. But you know, it’s not about the words everyone says. It’s about the actions. And the actions are really, really hard sometimes. And it’s up to you, the residents of this city, to hold all of us elected leaders and our departments accountable to make sure that we’re not just saying things at press conferences, but actually doing the hard things.

D6 Supervisor Kim elicited applause when she called for protected bike lanes on dangerous street in her district: the length of Polk, Second, Sixth, Folsom, Howard, and Turk Streets, and Golden Gate Avenue. Kim said she wants to see them within the next ten years.

Supervisor Jane Kim riding to City Hall with an SFBC staffer on Howard Street in SoMa today. Photo: Jane Kim/Twitter

“Folks like me are not gonna get on their bike unless they know they’re going to be able to do that safely,” Kim said, recounting her recent experience of learning to bike in her district. “As we think about what urban planning means, as we think about what it means to grow smart-growth neighborhoods, we have to figure out how to get people out of their cars and onto their bike. For me, that is my commitment to my city and my district, to be one less vehicle on the road.”

Compared to 20 years ago, when Bike to Work Day started, bike advocates have come a long way in winning political support. Last week, city officials unveiled the new contra-flow protected bike lane on two blocks of Polk Street, connecting Market Street to City Hall — arguably the highest-quality piece of bike infrastructure in the city, despite its short length. As the Bay Guardian’s Steve Jones wrote this week, “Building high-profile, separated cycletracks to the steps of City Hall seems to symbolically mark the arrival of cyclists into the political mainstream.”

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Polk Street Contra-Flow Bike Lane Opens to the Public

Cheryl Brinkman, Vice Chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors, rides the new Polk bikeway to City Hall for the first time. Photo: Stan Parkford.

City planners, politicians, and bicycle advocates gathered this morning for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the contra-flow bike lane on Polk Street, a two-block protected cycle track from Market to Grove Streets. Just in time for next week’s Bike to Work Day, the opening ceremony came after a decade of delays and a great deal of pressure from advocates like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who were excited to see the critical connection opened to the public.

In attendance for the ceremony were District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, SFMTA’s Ed Reiskin and Cheryl Brinkman, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum, and a large crowd of supporters. “The new Polk contraflow bikeway is a hallmark of complete streets that prioritizes comfort, connectivity and design,” Shahum said in a statement. “Though only a few blocks, this gorgeous bikeway offers a crucial connector between the business corridors of Market and Polk Streets, making it easier for people to get to work and shop at local businesses by bike.”

Shannon Dodge, who works in affordable housing development, echoed that this “small but mighty” project is a step toward San Francisco’s goal to design complete streets that are safe and convenient for the city’s most vulnerable street users.

The critical two-block connection comes with a wide planted median fully separating bicyclists from motor traffic, the first of its kind in San Francisco. The project also adds bulb-outs for pedestrians crossing Grove Street, green-painted bike lanes in front of City Hall and running south on Polk, bike signal lights at three intersections, and left-turn queue boxes on Market Street, directing bike traffic to and from the contra-flow lane.

The project, which was originally proposed a decade ago and was included in the SF Bike Plan, suffered various delays due to poor coordination and missed contract deadlines. Nuru of DPW, who oversaw the project, ensured that it was fast-tracked back in January, just in time for the twentieth anniversary of Bike to Work Day.

Excited advocates use the new left-turn queue boxes, which direct bicyclists to and from the Polk Street bike lanes. Photo: Stan Parkford.

Trying out the new left-turn queue boxes, which direct bicyclists to and from the Polk Street bike lanes. Photos: Stan Parkford.

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Silicon Valley’s First “Bike to Shop Day” Set for May 17

Bike Trailer at Trader Joes

It’s rare for cities in Silicon Valley to accommodate cycling shoppers with adequate parking. Photo: Janet Lafleur

Planning to build on the wave of enthusiasm for bike commuting generated each May by Bike to Work Day, transportation and health advocates in Silicon Valley are promoting a spin-off called Bike to Shop Day on Saturday, May 17, to encourage people to shop by bike at local businesses.

Retail businesses offering discounts to bicycling customers are shown on a smartphone-friendly map on the event’s website. organizers expect many more to sign up in the three weeks remaining before the event. Any retail business located in San Mateo County or Santa Clara County that can offer some type of discount to customers who arrive by bicycle is eligible to participate. Shoppers are encouraged to upload photos of their bikes in action – carrying groceries or other items — to win gift certificates and other prizes.

“For the past 20 years, Bike to Work Day has achieved huge success motivating people to hop on bikes for their work commutes, including me,” said bicycle lifestyle blogger Janet Lafleur, who created Bike to Shop Day in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC). “Now it’s time to do the same for their shopping and errand trips that are shorter and easier for most people than commuting to work.”

Lafleur, a marketing professional who writes two urban cycling blogs, Bike Fun and One Woman, Many Bicycles, called for a National Bike to Shop Day last month to promote shopping by bicycle. She came up with the idea after it became clear that Mountain View was simply disregarding the need to improve access and parking for bicycles as part of expansion plans for the San Antonio Shopping Center.

“I can’t see people biking to shop here,” said a planning commissioner at a city meeting on the project. ”Shopping is all about driving your SUV to the store and filling it up.”

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Watch: Time Lapse of Market Street Bike Traffic on Bike to Work Day

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The SF Bicycle Coalition has released an awesome time lapse video of over 1,000 people on bikes rolling by the Market Street bicycle counter on the morning of Bike to Work Day.

The SFBC’s volunteer photographer Volker Neumann took photos every five seconds with a camera mounted to a nearby telephone pole.

Photos and statistics are great, but nothing shows the potential to grow bicycling in San Francisco quite like the sight of serious bike traffic in action.

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As Bike to Work Day Booms, Some San Mateo County Cities Lead the Way

Commuting to work on Gateway Boulevard in South San Francisco. Photo: Andrew Boone

Among the record-breaking 9,000 bike commuters celebrating Bike to Work Day in San Mateo County on Thursday, County Supervisor Dave Pine led a convoy from downtown Redwood City to the Oracle energizer station, crossing Highway 101 using the Ralston Avenue bike-pedestrian bridge in Belmont.

Dave Pine and Diane Howard - Bike To Work Day 2013

San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and Redwood City Council candidate Diane Howard at the Oracle energizer station. Photo: Andrew Boone

“We really have to look at bicycling as a viable and important part of the transportation network and not just a recreational pursuit,” Pine said. “The county needs to take more of a leadership role to publicize bike routes and get cities to work together to construct practical bicycle infrastructure so that people can get to work more easily.”

Bike to Work Day is booming throughout San Mateo County, with ridership increasing 33 percent since last year, and more than doubling since 2011, according to the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance.

Commuters were greeted with 37 energizer stations along popular bike commuting routes, where volunteers from the PTCRA and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition helped them fuel up with coffee and snacks. Nearly 1,000 cyclists enjoyed an outdoor breakfast at Oracle’s energizer station at the company’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, which lies along the Bay Trail, a route favored by many bike commuters for its long sections of off-street bicycle and pedestrian paths and beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay.

Each year, more Silicon Valley employers — from tech giants like Genentech, Facebook, and Google, to other major businesses like Kaiser Permanente (which partnered with Whole Foods) and Food Service Providers — are holding their own events to encourage participation in Bike to Work Day as a way to promote employee health and reduce traffic congestion.

“Bike to Work Day provides an opportunity for people who are considering biking to work to try it along with thousands of others, while being cheered on at the energizer stations along the way,” said PTCRA Executive Director John Ford. “Once people try cycling to work, many of them make it part of their regular commute.”

While improvements to make bicycling in San Mateo County safer and more convenient have been hampered by a lack of bureaucratic coordination between cities, a few are starting to take the lead. The city of San Mateo is currently planning safer crossings over and under Highway 101: a bike-ped bridge at Hillsdale Boulevard, and a bike-ped path along the 16th Avenue canal under the freeway.

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Market Bike Counter: 3,231 Cyclists in a Day — And That’s an Underestimate

The Market Street bicycle counter, seen here at about 10 a.m. on Bike to Work Day. Photo: Aaron Bialick

San Francisco’s first digital bicycle counter was activated on Bike to Work Day yesterday, and the day’s official total was 3,231 cyclists on Market Street. But that’s probably a significant underestimate, since many bike riders on that block choose to ride outside the bike lane where the ground sensors were installed. Many riders seem to prefer to ride in the adjacent traffic lane, which was closed to cars in 2009.

The SF Bicycle Coalition says Market is the busiest bike street west of the Mississippi. Meanwhile, Copenhagen claims the busiest bicycling street in the western world — Nørrebrogade, which sees over 36,000 bicyclists a day. So, can San Francisco catch up?

You don’t have to head to Market Street to keep track of the bicycle count — the SFMTA has a regularly-updated tracker online.

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Bike to Work Day at City Hall: Lots of Pro-Bike Talk, Few Real Commitments

Elected officials and thousands of commuters took to two wheels for the 19th annual Bike to Work Day, welcomed by the new protected bike lane on Oak Street and the city’s first bicycle counter on Market Street. As in the past few years, the mayor and city supervisors gathered on the steps of City Hall to give speeches cheering bicycling, with some calling for the implementation of more bike lanes.

Supervisor David Chiu neglected to mention Polk Street in his Bike to Work Day speech. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The event saw record-breaking bike traffic counts, according to manual counts by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, which found that bikes accounted for 76 percent of eastbound vehicle traffic on Market at Van Ness Avenue between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. — a three percent increase in bike traffic over last year, and a nearly 30 percent increase since 2009.

By 9 a.m., the new digital bike counter on eastbound Market between Ninth and Tenth Streets displayed a total of 1,300 bicycle commuters. (That may be an underestimate, as riders who didn’t run over sensors in the bike lane appeared to not be counted.)

While city leaders had a few recent improvements to point to, important issues went unaddressed. At the podium, Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy, which he has so far refused to fund.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors’ supposed bike champion, David Chiu, said nothing about Polk Street – the vital bicycling corridor on which the rally was held, where the SFMTA has ruled out plans for protected bike lanes on all but six blocks. His omission didn’t seem to sit well with several rally attendees, who, after Chiu’s speech, shouted “Polk Street!”

Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the need to increase funding for bicycle infrastructure on the 19th annual Bike to Work Day. Meanwhile, Morgan Fitzgibbons (out of the frame) holds a sign in the back reading, "19th Annual Photo Op & Empty Promises Day.” Photo: Aaron Bialick

After the rally, when Chiu was asked if he planned to take a stand for protected bike lanes on Polk, he declined to do so, instead characterizing himself as a mediator between street safety advocates and parking-obsessed merchants. “I think there has not been enough dialogue between the various sides of this perspective,” he said. “On the one hand, we’ve had significant safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists on a thoroughfare that is used every single day by thousands of folks. On the other hand, the plight of our small businesses is very, very real.”

“I do hope we will have more protected bikeways around the city,” he said. “The question is if that should be for all of Polk Street.”

Chiu, along with Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos — who represent San Francisco on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission – did call for an increase in the city’s abysmal level of investment in bicycling, currently 0.46 percent of the capital budget.

“We’ve got to get real here,” said Wiener. “If we don’t put our money where our mouth is and start investing in bike infrastructure, in Muni, it’s not going to happen as fast as we need it to happen. I want to move fast, and I want us to invest and transform our city into a city where we can get around in all sorts of different ways, including biking.”

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SFMTA Aiming to Install Oak Bike Lane By Bike to Work Day

The SFMTA laid down preliminary markings for the Oak Street protected bike lane yesterday, and says it aims to have it ready by Bike to Work Day next Thursday. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Crews erected the bicycle counter on Market Street earlier this week. Photo: SFMTA

The SFMTA expects to have the protected bike lane on Oak Street and the Market Street bicycle counter ready on Bike to Work Day — next Thursday, May 9 — according to agency staff.

As we reported Wednesday, construction on the three-block Oak bike lane has been held up by renovation work at the Kelly-Moore paint shop. However, the agency apparently found a way to work around it, and yesterday laid down the first markings for the bike lane buffer zone on Oak between Baker and Broderick Streets. “Crews are trying to get the work completed by Bike to Work Day,” said Ben Jose, public information officer for the agency’s Livable Streets subdivision. “But at this point we are not certain that given all the work to be done, it will be totally completed.”

Meanwhile, the bicycle counter has been erected on Market between Ninth and Tenth Streets, and is being calibrated. SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said it will start counting bicycle traffic at its official unveiling on Bike to Work Day.

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East Bay’s Record-Breaking Bike to Work Day: Ten Mayors, 17,000 People

In Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente arrive to work by bike. Photos: Ruth Miller

Bike to Work Day in the East Bay broke records once again yesterday, with ten mayors, dozens of council members, and over 17,000 participants riding — an overall 22 percent increase across the East Bay. The record-breaking number of elected officials riding in included the mayors of Albany, Berkeley, Piedmont, Dublin, Fremont, Emeryville, Hayward, Richmond, and Union City.

Piedmont Mayor John Chaing and Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka at the festivities in Oakland.

“It’s great to see so many of our local elected officials out riding on Bike to Work Day and setting an example,” said Renee Rivera, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). “They understand the benefits of bike commuting, and they’ve directed city resources to help make bicycling viable as an everyday means of transportation.”

The largest ridership increase was seen in Pleasanton at 40 percent more than last year, followed by Alameda at 29 percent and Emeryville at 17 percent. In Berkeley, more bicycles than cars passed by lower Sproul Plaza for the first time yesterday morning, according to the EBBC. “This a doubling of bike mode share at Cal,” the EBBC wrote on its website, noting that Berkeley has the country’s fourth-highest bike mode share at 8 percent, according to the American Commute Survey.

Oakland has the eighth-largest Bike to Work Day in the United States, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking. The free pancake breakfast in front of Oakland City Hall yesterday drew over 600 people who were greeted with free valet bicycle parking and tote bags before mingling and enjoying breakfast in the sunshine.

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On Bike to Work Day, City Leaders Call on SF to Step Up Bikeway Expansion

Supervisor David Chiu: "Does anyone think we can do better in San Francisco?” Photo: Volker Neumann/SFBC

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.”

Supervisor Jane Kim, seen here on her ride through District 6 today, said she'll only feel safe riding regularly on her own with protected bike lanes. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

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.

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