Bicyclist, Supes Prez David Chiu Announces Bid for San Francisco Mayor

David Chiu surrounded by supporters on the steps of City Hall. Some were waving "Bicyclists for David Chiu" signs. Photo: Bryan Goebel.

David Chiu, the car-free President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, declared his candidacy for mayor on the steps of City Hall this morning, promising to make sustainable transportation one of the cornerstones of his campaign.

“We’re the city that invented the cable car, but while we call ourselves a Transit-First city, we are sick of gridlock, we are sick of potholes and we’re sick of Muni,” Chiu told a crowd of more than 100 supporters. “As your candidate for mayor who doesn’t own a car, who gets to City Hall either on the number 49 or on my bicycle, I think we can do better.”

Chiu’s entry into the mayor’s race is expected to substantially raise the profile of sustainable transportation. Although many of the other major candidates have transportation listed as an issue of importance on their websites, Chiu is the only candidate (that we know of) who doesn’t own a car and gets around mostly on his electric bicycle.

Cheryl Brinkman, a transit advocate who sits on the SFMTA Board of Directors, gave a rousing endorsement for Chiu at today’s campaign kick-off, along with Supervisor Eric Mar.

“David’s a true leader on transit issues, and he understands that San Francisco must be a world-class transit city,” Brinkman said. “He’s really willing to take bold moves to make sure that Muni continues to improve, and that the city is more accessible not only to transit users, but for pedestrians and cyclists as well.”

Chiu joins a crowded field of mayoral candidates, including State Senator Leland Yee, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, former Supervisors Bevan Dufty and Michela Alioto-Pier and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting.

Streetsblog plans coverage of the race leading up to the November election and we hope to have an opportunity to quiz all the major candidates on sustainable transportation.

Chiu files papers with the clerk's office. Photos: Bryan Goebel
Cheryl Brinkman, a transit advocate and member of the SFMTA Board of Directors, endorses Chiu.
  • G. Parker

    I am happy to see David Chiu running. The guy is serious about improving the city for bikers, public transit, and getting rid of the gridlock on the streets. Having the mayor of SF be a car-free biker would be exciting!

  • EL

    I really hate to say this, but David Chiu has almost no chance of winning. The reality is that he and Leland Yee, and to a much lesser extent, Phil Ting, will split the Asian support and dollars. The only way either of the three will win is through the inheritence of ranked-choice votes (like Jean Quan).

    If you think I’m wrong, just look at the District 4 race in 2006 where Jaynry Mak and Ed Jew split the Asian vote, and Ron Dudum took the majority of first-choice votes. Since that lesson in 2006, there hasn’t been two Asian candidates in the same district.

  • Splitting the dollars is one thing, but if one candidate got a majority of first-round first-rank votes, vote splitting had nothing to do with that. He would have won head-to-head against any of the other two, assuming the addition of choices didn’t convince anyone to switch to Dudum.

    Look at D20 this year: Malia Cohen won despite considerable vote splitting in the first round. Mark Kelly, from Potrero Hill, had less competition among his demographic, and led after the first round, but instant-runoff helped Malia pick up more votes she had lost due to splitting.

  • Walter


    The sad thing about ranked-choice is that it causes everyone to be focused on tactics and gaming the system, rather than the policies and the issues.

    For this election, there is an 8,000 pound gorilla in the room, and that’s the deficit. It’s the key issue and, in a sense, the only issue, as folks in Wisconsin are learning.

    So it’s cute and adorable that Chui rides a bike. It’s also totally irrelevant. What is his plan for finding hundreds of millions of dollars? Or cutting thousands of jobs and lots of services?

    Absent that, he’s just a pretty face with a bike but no hope.

  • I hope Mr. Chiu wins the race or at the very least does very well. His candidacy has the potential to raise the profile of mass transit as a campaign issue throughout the state of California. If he were to win, that would be amazing. That he doesn’t own a car just shows how real he is, and that he practices what he preaches.

  • taomom

    David Chiu is an interesting candidate who has some powerful demographics behind him–his youth, his race, and his transportation/lifestyle choices. I know when I went to vote for my district supervisor this year it was part of my decision-making process to choose between a bicyclist and a Muni rider. It is highly unlikely that someone who routinely drives a car (or has someone drive him/her around in a car) will have enough basic knowledge of non-car transportation issues to tackle the imperative problem of providing mobility for 800,000 people in world of expensive and declining oil supplies.

    Though San Francisco has certainly made some advances the past five years, we lag behind the innovations of New York City largely due to issues of leadership. (I won’t even mention the decades we are behind Europe.) But as the press-driven backlash in New York City shows, change is difficult everywhere, especially when people realize that the change being asked of them is the vanguard of a crumbling empire and a reduction in the wealth and privilege that go with that empire. We can expect that many will go to their grave denying that any change is requisite at all. (Not unlike Dmitry Orlov’s description of old Soviet bureaucrats so unable to fathom the dissolution of their authority as they sank into irrelevance that they practically had to be carted out with the office furniture.)

    Does Chiu have a chance? The ugly truth of politics is that money counts, although Whitman’s defeat for governor gives me some small hope that this truth is not entirely universal. Regardless of Brown’s successful shoestring campaign, I don’t think anyone will deny that fund raising will enormously affect this mayoral race, as will union endorsements. Unfortunately, in my observation, both unions and people with money tend to be as short-term focused as everyone else, requiring any candidate they back to protect their power, wealth and privilege in the near term rather than manage a city to be prosperous in the medium to long term–even though the latter would ultimately profit them much more.

    In a short hierarchy of importance to keep a city healthy and functioning we need a mayor to worry about: 1)potable water, 2)sanitation, 3)food, and 4) transportation. Providing all four with any kind of fairness in the face of oil shortages, declining energy, and more meager economic circumstances is going to be trickier than one might think. Everyone in this city, rich and poor alike, will be better off if these four measures are adequately satisfied. Everyone, rich and poor alike, will suffer if they are not.

    As people are priced out of driving private cars, if they have other viable options such as walking and bicycling in safety or pleasant public transit, they are likely to take the change in stride. Perhaps they may even be pleased at the resulting improvement in their health and neighborhoods. If they have no viable options, especially since car driving is so deeply embedded in the American psyche and–even worse–in our common projection of masculinity, people are likely to become deeply and profoundly angry. I am no fan of anarchy–I believe women and children always suffer disproportionately in such circumstances. I very much want social order and believe that bicycling and public transit are two extremely important instruments for maintaining tranquility, harmony, and prosperity in San Francisco in the decade to come.

    We have a bumpy ride of ahead of us that will require a level of innovation and adaptation uncomfortable enough to induce serious social unrest. We need a leader who is willing to look ahead at the rapids and pick the best course, one who can help people see that the entire boat must get down the river, not just one particular side or another. This is not done through compromise or caving in to whoever causes the most political pain. Many people will be screaming at the top of their lungs to stand still or go backwards even though this is simply not possible. I hope our next mayor has a great deal of courage, integrity, vision, thick skin, and common sense. We’re going to need it.

  • Mario Tanev

    It is really hard for a transit, bike or pedestrian advocate to not support David Chiu for mayor.

    However, remember that like most progressives, he shunned proposition G. He made a deal with Newsom to kill a revenue proposition to the voters in exchange for Muni service restoration by the end of 2010 that hasn’t materialized. Due to his allegiance to Rose Pak and Chinatown, he’s a relentless supporter of the Central Subway, and as such is unlikely to prioritize the Stockton corridor for transit. He didn’t support Sunday and evening parking meters in his district (which was pretty much the only way to get a trial on). He was in favor of de-funding the proof of payment program which would enable all-door-boarding on transit, due to the short-sighted observation that it doesn’t bring in enough direct revenue. When the horrendous SFMTA budgets of the last few years were presented to the board of supervisors, he was always the one to switch sides at the end and vote for the bad budget.

    That said, his vision for bicycling in the city is unmatched by anyone else in the running. But that doesn’t mean he has any vision for transit, walkability or livability, even though he is also a Muni rider. Livability advocates tend to conflate support for one tenet of livability with support for all, and I am afraid that’s a mistake. Chiu has so far been weak on transit and weak on parking policy.

    I can’t see myself supporting anyone other than Chiu, but my support is very cautious due to the facts I have outlined. I hope that in this campaign Chiu will outline in strong terms his support for livability in the city. But I highly doubt he would campaign on evening and Sunday parking meters, since that would destroy his campaign (but a great candidate might be able to pull it off, by educating the voters of the benefits for all). In the end, the majority of this city’s residents are car drivers and he would have to pander to them as well.

  • A San Francisco mayoral race wouldn’t be a San Francisco mayoral race without a fringe candidate or seven. Witness Mayor Gavin Newsom’s challengers in 2007: a nudist, a showman named Chicken John and a homeless taxi driver named Grasshopper.

    Well, the 2011 race to replace Newsom is no different. Sure, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Supervisor Bevan Dufty and venture capitalist Joanna Rees have thrown their hats in the ring. But so too have underdogs, including Harold Miller.

    A 49-year-old Big Dog taxi driver Harold Miller lives alone in the Sunnydale projects in Visitacion Valley where he is the president of the tenants’ association. He’s always been a driver of some sort, including for UPS trucks, buses and limos. He decided to run for mayor — and has already filed the necessary paperwork to do so — after learning a couple of years ago that Newsom wanted to auction off taxi medallions.

    He wants to reform the cab system, opposes the sit/lie ban and supports same-sex marriage and neighborhood schools. OK, that all sounds reasonable enough. Here’s where it gets fun, and we’ll quote directly from 415-2


Car-Free District 3 Supervisor David Chiu Reelected Board President

Supervisor David Chiu, a key player in the city’s sustainable transportation movement who gets around on his electric bicycle, was reelected president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this afternoon on an 8-3 vote.  The 40-year-old District 3 supervisor called on his colleagues to “move beyond the past oppositional politics of personality” and build […]

Bike Commuter David Chiu Will Preside Over the Board of Supes

David Chiu, accepting the presidency of the Board of Supervisors, with Mayor Newsom looking on. After seven rounds of voting and nearly an hour of exasperating political theater, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors chose newly elected District 3 Supervisor David Chiu as its president.  A voluble cheer erupted in the North Light Court at […]

SF Mayoral Candidates Need to Tackle Transportation Funding

Monday night’s first major mayoral debate contained more political theater than substance, and it’s too bad, because the very first question posed to some of the candidates — who gave no real answers to it — was a critically important one. The moderator, with a list of questions compiled by the Castro/Eureka Valley and Duboce […]

David Chiu: Bike Network Expansion Is Transportation Priority #1

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who for the past 24 hours has served as Acting Mayor of San Francisco, said expanding the city’s bike network will be his number one transportation priority in the coming year, along with pedestrian safety and improving Muni’s reliability and performance. “First and foremost, as someone who bikes every […]