“I Bike SF” Campaign Encourages Shopping Locally by Bicycle

In honor of Bike Month this year, Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and local businesses have teamed up with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) to promote shopping by bicycle in various neighborhoods across the city. As part of the I Bike SF campaign, participating businesses in Hayes Valley are offering discounts throughout the month of May to cyclists who bring in their bicycle helmets or bike lock keys when they shop or eat out.

According to Mari Hunter, an intern who organized the campaign for the Mayor’s Climate Protection Initiative, I Bike SF is modeled on a national program called Bicycle Benefits.

"The idea simply is to encourage cycling and support local businesses," said Hunter, who added that the focus for the Mayor’s Office was to make the program as easy as possible for businesses and to have them benefit through a boost in sales.

Tim Papandreou, the SFMTA’s Deputy Director for Planning, said beyond meeting the city’s goal of encouraging cycling, I Bike SF would help reduce congestion in business corridors where parking is at a premium. Papandreou said Hayes Valley was a perfect pilot location because it is relatively flat, close to Market Street and similar bicycle corridors, and because the neighborhood is congested with cars looking for parking.

For Elizabeth Leu, who owns the children’s store Fiddlesticks on Hayes Street, the idea of promoting bicycles makes sense for San Francisco, along with starting the pilot in Hayes Valley, a strongly proud neighborhood that has voted to forbid chain stores.

"I think it’s spot on to be
rewarding bikes and people who bicycle," said Leu, who’s offering a 15 percent discount on non-sale items to bicycle riding customers. She was doubtful, however, about the impact it would have on business. "I don’t know about the
The jury is still out
on whether bikers will be taking advantage of the program."

Leu was also concerned that the city hadn’t done enough publicity around the program to create a buzz. "It needs more legs, it needs more viral marketing, but we haven’t seen
it," she said.

Hunter acknowledged that the Mayor’s Office was working on a quick turnaround to get the program started for Bike Month, but she expected the campaign would get more attention as Bike to Work day approaches. With the thousands of fliers in Bike to Work Day totes the SFBC will hand out on Thursday and an increasing focus in the media and bicycle newsletters, the program should be much better known by the time it expands to other commercial areas, including Lower Divisadero for June and Upper Market/Castro for July.

While the city expects the program will be popular with locals who already frequent familiar small businesses, the SFMTA’s Papandreou said the city was working with bicycle rental companies like Blazing Saddles and Bike and Roll to let tourists know about the I Bike SF campaign and get them to explore areas of San Francisco that are not along the usual Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf routes.

"We’re noticing the bicycle renters
at Bike and Roll and other facilities are riding the Embarcadero and the
Marina and taking their money to Sausalito," said Papandreou. The organizers of I Bike SF hoped to "engage people who come to the City of
San Francisco to start riding to and exploring other

In addition to the individual bicycle rental companies and local businesses, I Bike SF has partnered with the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and the Small Business Commission to promote the campaign and get their input.

Laurie Armstrong, Vice President for Public Affairs at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said they had organized similar programs like Show Your Zip during the holidays, which gave discounts to anyone who lived in a zip within the 9-county Bay Area, or Show Your Badge, which gave discounts to convention participants.

Armstrong said a campaign that supported bicycles for shopping locally dovetailed with the current efforts to market San Francisco as a leading green city. She also echoed the SFMTA’s concern that tourists weren’t necessarily exploring many of the neighborhoods in San Francisco that weren’t among the traditional destinations.

"As it expands from neighborhood to neighborhood, it encourages people to explore the city, see all the neighborhoods," said Armstrong. "It really suits San Francisco well, so we’re happy to see it rolling."

  • Jim

    One thing that could be done to encourage those that rent bikes to explore other parts of the city is to equip them with better maps. The maps that Blazing Saddles gives out are rudimentary at best. Having had the experience of helping several of the few (invariably European) tourists that actually do venture into the city, they need more guidance! A map with a few suggested routes with attractions (sponsored by featured businesses, perhaps?) would make a big difference in helping out-of-towners explore the city by bike!

  • cool!!
    i notice this of course while getting coffee in the hayes valley 🙂

    great stuff, cant wait to see which neighborhood will be next
    cheers <3 m.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    One way to encourage tourists to bike to Hayes Valley would be to give them any decent way of getting there. Probably the “nicest” way would be down the Embarcadero, all the way down Market, and up the local side of Octavia but that’s hardly direct and there’s pretty much nothing to see anywhere on Market. You could bring it all the way down Polk, which has sharrows, but then what? Turk to Laguna to Hayes? That’s the way I would go but I’m not a tourist. Past City Hall to Grove?

    The real problem would be the total lack of wayfinding for bicyclists and pedestrians, and the hostility to the non-automobiled of Hayes Street from Market to Gough. Personally I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.

  • Peter Smith

    i’ve already noticed a few more tourist bikers in the city this year — i attribute that directly to the better bicycle infrastructure in the city. once Market Street starts to resemble something that can actually be biked by mere mortals, we’ll see tons more tourists rolling thru.

    wayfinding is a plus, of course, but infrastructure is most important. and slowing traffic, and getting rid of stupid one-way streets.

    i’ve also been seeing this cute mom and daughter pair (not the folks in the picture above) ride around on two bikes — doing grocery shopping — mom on a trike filled with groceries. this, too, i attribute directly to better bicycle infrastructure — even measly sharrows are making a difference.

    i’m totally psyched for tourist invasion. we still need to reel in the tourist commission folks and get them with the biking program. Portland and Oregon are all over that stuff — we need to be, too.

    and Hayes Valley is a great place in a great location, but there’s no realistic way for normal tourist humans to get there — shops in Hayes Valley can help change that by calling their Supe and the Mayor today. say, “Look — you know that highway pouring thru Hayes Valley? Yeah, well, eff that — cars aren’t spending money at my shop — they’re just dropping off a big dose of poison on their way through my hood — make some more room for walking and biking, stat.”

  • Great lead photo. Looks like she can get more groceries on that thing than I can even on my Xtracycle.

    I’ve been trying lately to make a point of letting businesses know when I’ve walked or bike there. I praise them when there’s a bike rack out front, and if they need a rack, I suggest they contact the city to get one. I think businesses just assume their customers all drive to get there.

    As to enticing tourists to neighborhoods on bikes–I agree, good maps, good signage, and good infrastructure are all needed. It should be a simple thing to bicycle all around San Francisco on a safe bicycle network. Last time I was in Paris I took a bicycle tour that was fabulous. Seeing a city by bicycle is a great way to go.

  • Nick

    The pic Meli posted would make a great reflective sticker, anyone?

    I never felt that Hayes Valley was really a bikeable neighborhood. It has lots of cut-thru streets and steep hills. I remember it pre-earthquake… it’s still quite a shock to see how much it’s changed.

  • Schtu

    All for this program! Unfortunately Hayes Valley is very bike route un-friendly. The Fulton bike lane dumps you into sharrows (which are frankly useless) The “local” lanes on Octavia Blvd are the worst part of my commute. Drivers think that “local” means “I am not getting on the freeway”. There is not room for drivers to pass me on my bike except at a driveway cut out. I have had a Sheriff clip me with his rear view mirror as he tried to squeeze past me, a guy follow me an entire block laying on his horn telling me to move over (to where I don’t know) and another threaten to drive over my bike at a stop sign. Octavia Blvd is by far the most dangerous place I have ever ridden my bike.

  • hi

    Biking is good for single or child free people.

  • Biking is great for people with children. For children under 10, check out the Xtracyle, the Bakfiets, or tag along bicycles.


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