How Mayor Lee Can Make 2012 a Landmark Year for Bicycling in SF

Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim (behind) with the SF Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum and others on a recent ride along Market Street. Photo: ## DeCoudreaux, SFBC/Flickr##

With Mayor Ed Lee inaugurated yesterday to his first full term, Streetsblog is asking leading advocates and experts to lay out their ideas for how the mayor can move San Francisco’s transportation policy forward. Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, kicks things off with today’s installment.

Before he took the city’s lead position, Mayor Ed Lee may have been virtually unknown to most San Franciscans. But this longtime city administrator and last year’s almost-accidental Mayor has proven himself to be an advocate for safer streets and more livable neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Lee was an early and vocal supporter of Sunday Streets. He championed last November’s successful ballot measure to fund smoother pavement, dedicated bikeways, and pedestrian safety improvements. He has made smart choices for key positions at the SFMTA, including appointing transit advocate Joel Ramos to the board of directors and supporting transit-first-leader Ed Reiskin as the agency’s new executive director.

And Mayor Lee lent his unwavering public support — despite pressure from some powerful interests — to the city’s first parking-protected bikeway, coming soon on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park.

This commitment from the city’s top leader could not come at a better time, as San Franciscans show a growing appetite for Connecting the City with safe, welcoming streets that help boost our local economy and make our city more accessible, affordable, and family-friendly.

We see it happening already as business owners ask for bike parking and parklets to replace on-street car parking, as neighbors and merchants call for more car-free streets so people can bike, stroll, and stimulate commercial districts during Sunday Streets, and as voters choose to invest in new, physically separated bikeways and pedestrian improvements.

Now, Mayor Lee has the opportunity — and the responsibility — to do much more.

With a sympathetic Board of Supervisors, strong SFMTA leadership, and an increasingly supportive public, Lee has unparalleled opportunities in 2012 to hasten the pace of progress for great streets.

To meet the City’s official goal of reaching 20 percent of trips by bicycle by 2020, the Mayor should provide strong leadership this year in the following ways:

  • Speed up progress on the Bay to Beach route by advancing dedicated bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Baker Streets by Bike to Work Day in May, and traffic-calm the “Wiggle” route through the Lower Haight.
  • Pilot more bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements on Market Street.
  • Host the most bike-friendly, green-transportation America’s Cup in its 34-year history by implementing widespread bikesharing and new bikeways along the Embarcadero (EmBikeadero!) and Polk Street, as well as the eastern waterfront connecting to Bayview/Hunters Point.
  • Expand Sunday Streets to a regular, weekly route in the Mission, along with sustaining the ongoing citywide routes.
  • Direct the MTA to move boldly on its recently approved Strategic Plan goal of making transit, walking, bicycling, taxi, and carsharing the preferred means of travel; and instruct the SF Police Department to prioritize enforcement of the most dangerous behaviors (including speeding) among all road users.
  • Increase funding to at least $15 million/year (from the current $2 million) for better bikeways, as well as much-needed support for maintenance, education, enforcement, and encouragement efforts.

Mayor Lee has a lot on his plate, but there is no greater bang-for-the buck to make San Francisco more accessible and livable than these kinds of quick and affordable improvements.

We urge the Mayor to make great streets a cornerstone goal of his administration in the next four years. This is a sure-fire way to leave behind an outstanding legacy and a far better city for all of us.

  • Jim Frank

    Great set of goals! The SFMTA should pursue better parking regulation as a way to create  faster trips on Muni not as a way to raise funds. Use the language that SFPark uses.

  • Michael Borden

    well said.  I hope Mayor Lee read this and acts on it–especially item #1:  Oak/Fell bike lanes and traffic calming for the Wiggle.

  • Rick

    World-class Bikeshare would be nice… Try living in Paris for a few months and then coming back. As much as I love riding my personal bike, the convenience of a high density well spread Bikeshare is truly astounding—and opens up biking to everyone.

  • Sasha

    Repave the streets marked as bike routes. Many are some of the worst maintained streets in the city (not including Mission).

  • Margaret

    Great ideas! C’mon Mayor Lee – make it happen. 

  • Anonymous

    The bikes would just get ripped off.

  • mikesonn

    @pchazzz:disqus It’s extremely popular all over the world, why would it fail only in SF?

  • • I saw Leah on her gorgeous Public bike right after this event, orange
    being the Dutch-influenced official color of the SFBC these days (and the
    Giants).  Looks like Jane Kim’s getting into the act as well.  Between all this and the vivid orange bike lanes, our fogbound city is looking a bit less grey!

    Follow the flickr stream and you’ll see the Mayor contending with a bike lane that has a big red truck parked in it.

  • mikesonn
    And if you look into the distance, you can see a tour bus parked in the lane at Hotel Whitcomb. The more things change…

  • I am noticing many more really nice-looking city bikes around town these days as well. At times I have downright bike envy. (I also envy internal hubs, disc brakes and dynamo light generators. My next bike, maybe!)

  • Aaron Bialick

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus I’m not gonna lie, having an internal hub and dynamo-generated lights is pretty sweet… 😛 Totally worth the investment. It’s heartwarming to see the greater demand and availability of more casual “city” bikes. The image of bicycling in San Francisco is definitely transforming.

  • Late to the party here, but I’d like to see San Francisco experiment with two additional items: 1) low-speed roundabouts at the Scott/Haight and the Scott/Page intersections and 2) dedicate the westernmost lane of the GG Bridge to bicycles Sunday mornings from 7am to noon.

    Four-way stops do not make sense for bicycles. Low-speed, no-stop, but-everybody-has-to-yield-to-pedestrians-and-traffic-on-the-left roundabouts will magically turn scofflaw bicyclists into law-abiding citizens.

    As to the GG Bridge, I realize the Mayor doesn’t control this entity but the city (and SFBC) could put in the request. My rationale for a car lane converted to bicycle use:  this morning my husband and I rode from the city to Rodeo Beach. (Beautiful ride, but hills, hills, hills!)  When we went north over the bridge around 8:30, bicycle traffic wasn’t too bad, although it’s always tricky maneuvering the blind corners around the pylons, and some faster cyclists were evidently annoyed at times that they had to slow their pace in order to find a gap to pass me. (Yes, I was undoubtedly the slowest bicyclist on the bridge at 8:30 this morning.)

    But coming back over the bridge at 10:30, it was a different story. There weren’t just a lot of bicyclists crossing the bridge, there were A LOT of bicyclists crossing the bridge. There were racing-type folks duded up in lycra, tourists with the little black bags attached to the handle bars, people out with their kids. It was packed, and this was on a cold, windy, overcast morning in January!!! Much of the way, both directions of bike traffic were squeezed together by construction, portapotties, various kinds of storage bins or street furniture, etc. It was not safe, comfortable or pleasant, especially with faster bicyclists constantly attempting to pass slower ones.

    And car traffic going south was very light. I’m not sure there weren’t more bicyclists than cars going south. If that traffic had had two lanes instead of three, it wouldn’t have slowed them down at all. Giving a lane of traffic Sunday mornings to bicycles would accommodate the huge (huge!) number of tourists and locals who want to cycle across the bridge. The fast riders could have the converted car lane, and the ones more content to poke along could have the usual sidewalk/bike path. Motorists on the GG bridge are already used to driving where the orange cones allow, so losing the right hand lane wouldn’t be that traumatic an adjustment for them.

    I will say, as annoying as tourists might sometimes be, everyone of them I passed had an enormous grin on his/her face, no doubt because biking across our fabulous bridge is a gorgeous, exhilarating experience, completely different from driving across it. (I advise everyone to do it at least once in their lifetime.) We have to recognize that as demographics and use patterns change, our solutions need to change, too.

  • You folks should be careful about hammering City Hall for not moving fast enough, since the city has essentially given you everything you’ve asked for. Mayor Lee’s problem: he represents all the people in SF, not just the anti-car, bike people.

    People who drive represent a much larger group than you do. According to the DMV, there are 382,167 cars and 58,641 trucks registered in San Francisco. 

    The notion that concerns about neighborhood parking are insignificant just shows how
     insular you folks are. By the way, the Oak and Fell bike lanes will require that at least 90 parking spaces be removed in a neighborhood where parking is already scarce.

  • mikesonn

    Re Fell/Oak parking:

    Use residential permits, remove the 90 [warning: inflated #] spots, parking will remain the same or get easier. Why this area isn’t permitted makes no sense. And what makes even less sense is that the project is being held up without permitting even being on the table.

  • People who drive represent a much larger group than you do. According to
    the DMV, there are 382,167 cars and 58,641 trucks registered in San

    There are more than 450,000 bikes in SF. We win!

  • jjsmack

    Some people, like myself, both drive and bike. It’s not mutually exclusive, and I’m firmly on the side of improving biking in the city and faster. It’s so nice not to have to deal with parking, and often a bike will get me to my destination much faster than jumping in the car.

    The improvements sought after by the “anti-car, bike people” make life better for everyone. They make it safer to walk and cycle, and a traffic-calmed street makes drivers drive better. And more people give up their cars (I reduced my driving by 90%) for bikes and transit, making traffic better for everyone else. What’s there not to like?

  • Peapod mom

    “You folks should be careful about hammering City Hall for not moving fast enough, since the city has essentially given you everything you’ve asked for.”

    Don’t make me laugh, Rob. Well, too late–you always do. Yes, we’ve gotten everything we’ve asked for…umm…except not a single protected thoroughfare between two useful points? We’ve been waiting how many years, now, to get a safe connection between the Wiggle and GG Park? It still fills me with anxiety biking eastbound on that route with my child in the back. 

    And then there are those spots where they installed soft-hit posts in places where nowhere gets connected to nowhere and the SFBC crows about how great and safe they are–I’m looking at you, Division St, San Jose Ave, Alemany Blvd….

    All these years, so many miles (a thousand or two?) of roadway, so much land taken up by roads–and what are we still fighting over? Free or pennies-per-day car storage for all. It’s really sickening. I’m getting really damn tired of NYC, Chicago, all these cities with shitty weather just blasting past us in progress on getting safe cycling infrastructure.

  • paul gagnon

    i just wanted to say please sombody took my bike about 8 month again can you pleaes bring it back. thank you. p.s i really do need it….. red&black gary frisher  god will forgive you &so will i thank you…


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