San Francisco’s State of Cycling: Is It Falling Behind?

An increasing number of women are riding bikes in San Francisco, but bike advocates say the city still has a long way to go to make the streets inviting for less intrepid riders. Photos: Aaron Bialick

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency released its four-year State of Cycling Report [PDF] this week. While the findings in the report may not be new to those keeping an eye on the growth of bicycling in San Francisco — which has jumped 71 percent from 2006 to 2011 — bike advocates say it highlights the city’s faltering plans to roll out bike infrastructure in comparison to other cities.

San Francisco’s bicycling rate, at 3.5 percent of work trips, ties for second among major American cities with Seattle, lagging only behind Portland’s at 6 percent. The city was also recently ranked the second-most “bikeable” city in the country by Walk Score, tying with Portland behind Minneapolis in first. And, no doubt, it has seen an unprecedented roll-out of bike improvements since the bike injunction was lifted two years ago.

But the success of San Francisco’s low-cost investments in improvements is all the more reason for the city to catch up to cities like Chicago and New York, which are setting the bar for rolling out protected bike lanes, said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

“The state of bicycling in San Francisco is indeed strong,” Shahum said in a statement, “but it can and should be much stronger by connecting our city more quickly with great bikeways and welcoming more people to biking with a robust bike-share program and great bike parking options. Making San Francisco a more bike-friendly place will help our city be even more successful in reaching our goals of growing jobs locally and improving our overall accessibility, sustainability and public health.”

The SFMTA is working on a strategy to reach the city’s goal of increasing bicycling to 20 percent of all trips by the year 2020, but its release seems to have been delayed for months. That goal, set by the Board of Supervisors in October 2010, has been criticized as lofty — as the SF Bay Guardian pointed out, it would require a 571 percent increase in ridership over the next seven years.

The expectations set in the SFMTA’s five-year Strategic Plan [PDF], approved in January, were more tempered, however. The agency’s goal is to increase all non-private automobile trips to 50 percent by 2018. Currently, that number is at 38 percent. While that “mode shift” would also come from walking, transit, car-share, and taxi use, “We think half of that can come from bicycle growth,” said Tim Papandreou, Deputy Director of Transportation Planning for the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division.

“We’re at [3.5 percent trips by bike] now, we could get to 8.5, 9.5 percent, which would make us the biggest bicycling mode share in North America,” he told Streetsblog. Still, that target would only meet the city’s “20 percent by 2020” goal by roughly half.

The Panhandle, one of the city's most heavily-used bicycle routes, is expected to be connected to the long-awaited protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets early next year.

The “Bicycle Strategy” being developed by the SFMTA, said Papendrou, would lay out how the agency can meet the Strategic Plan’s goals over the next six years.

Protected bike lanes and traffic-calmed streets are by far the most effective tool for increasing bicycle ridership, Shahum told the SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday. “There’s a lot we can do — education, enforcement, marketing or promotion,” she said. “But the leading cause of behavior change, when it comes to encouraging more people to bike, and encouraging more people to bike safely and respectfully, is infrastructure. It is making safer streets.”

An estimated 60 percent of San Francisco residents are interested in biking more but “concerned” about their safety, said Seleta Reynolds, a planner with the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Subdivision.

“These are largely women, they’re families, they’re younger children, they’re older adults,” said Reynolds, in a presentation [PDF] to the board. “We know from research done in Portland that where they will ride is in separated facilities or on low-volume, low-speed streets.”

“If we build it, they will come, but we’re not really building it,” she said.

Attitudes toward cycling among residents. Image: SFMTA

Joél Ramos, an SFMTA board member who visited Copenhagen with agency staff to explore bicycle planning practices, urged the agency to move forward with implementing protected bike lanes. Copenhagen has been building physically separated bike lanes and calming car traffic on its streets for decades, with its bicycling rate now at 35 percent — a number the city still strives to increase. “So many people regularly bike [in Copenhagen], that it’s not even seen as a thing — it’s a utility, it’s like putting on your shoes,” said Ramos.

Unlike a few comparable cities, San Francisco has set ridership goals, but made few commitments in the way of bike lane miles, aside from a few projects in planning and the SF Bike Plan’s 34 miles currently being rolled out, almost none of which are physically separated.

The SFMTA did implement its first 1.5-mile parking protected bike lane on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, build a two-way bikeway on Cargo Way, and improve the post-protected green bike lane on part of Market Street (which could become car-free and get raised bike lanes in 2016), among other projects. Protected bike lanes are also set to be implemented on Masonic Avenue in a few years and on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets early next year (that project is set to go to the SFMTA Board for approval in October).

By comparison, Chicago, with just over three times SF’s population, plans to have built 22 miles of protected bike lanes this year, bringing the city’s overall total to 33. The city’s Department of Transportation installed a protected bike lane on Kinzie Street in six weeks. And that’s just part of the city’s commitment to building 100 miles over the next four years.

New York City, at ten times SF’s population, is set to implement 10 miles of protected bike lanes this year and plans to build 1,800 miles of bike lanes by 2030. Los Angeles County plans to build over 800 miles of new bike lanes in the next 20 years.

The SFBC also pointed out in a news release that San Francisco ranks 18th in per capita funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects among American cities, with $2.55 spent per person. Washington, D.C. spends $9.82 per person, Minneapolis $9.47, Sacramento $8.45, and Oakland $4.95, according to a report from the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

McAllister Street (also seen at top) is popular among bike commuters, despite the slow climb up a steep hill squeezed next to parked cars while cars and buses maneuver around them.

By early next year, SF is set to launch a bike-share system, along with four other cities south to San Jose. Reynolds called bike-share one of the most cost-effective ways to increase bike ridership, typically bringing on a 10-to-15 percent increase in areas where the systems are launched. But the 500 bikes SF will receive (out of the Bay Area’s 1,000-bike system) are “not nearly enough,” she said.

The SFMTA hopes to double the city’s bike-share system in a second phase, and increase it to 2,700 bikes in a third, but there’s currently no schedule for expansion. The system is managed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which has said the difficulty of launching a system in multiple cities has curtailed its size and delayed its launch.

The Bicycle Strategy being developed by the SFMTA is promising, albeit delayed. As part of the plan, Papendreou said the agency would likely select three to four “priority bicycle corridors” as well as “connecting neighborhood corridors” next year. Improvements would then be focused over the next six years on closing gaps along those routes, before moving on to others. The goal is to “really bolster up that issue of [having] a connected system,” he said.

Papandreou likened the strategy to the SFMTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project, in which planners are developing plans for transit improvements along eight selected Muni “rapid” routes before moving on to another set.

“It’s not a Bicycle Plan, it’s a Bicycle Strategy for our Strategic Plan,” said Panandreou, though he did note it’s possible a new Bicycle Plan could emerge from it.

A double-parked car sits on Post Street, looking from Fillmore. The bike lane ends at Steiner Street.

Aside from bike lane improvements, the Bicycle Strategy would look at installing bike racks and easing bike-transit trips, with amenities like bike-share stations, secure bike parking at transit hubs, and wayfinding signage for bicycle routes. Many transit commuters are potential bike riders, said Papandreou. Ramos agreed: “I’m on a crammed N-Judah at rush hour, and I’m looking at people, and thinking, ‘Why aren’t you on a bike?'” he said. “For every bike, there are more parking spaces out there, and more seats on transit.”

SFMTA staff expects to present an update on the plan to the Board of Directors in January, though its release was originally expected in the spring. When asked what issues are causing the delay, Papandreou said in an email that agency staff has “been gathering data and developing analysis, framework and prioritization criteria to better link our decision making with the capital improvement planning efforts which are all happening in real time.”

Since the Board approved the goals in the Strategic Plan in January, he said, “We have developed a list of key actions for the next two years and determining the level of effort and the funding needed (staffing and capital and operations). Now we’re able to develop the accompanying work plans.”

As part of the Bicycle Strategy, SFMTA staff is also compiling a report estimating the costs of the improvements needed and identifying potential funding sources, including current revenue and, potentially, new fees. The budget plan would be integrated into the agency’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

The State of Cycling Report notes that “the current trends in transportation require a rethinking of city priorities and investments if the city is to be successful in creating more active transportation options. Decreasing transportation funding, rising fuel and transportation costs, and concerns about quality of life provide a clear challenge for San Francisco. Recognizing these trends, investing in bicycling presents an opportunity to rethink the city’s transportation investments.”

Shahum stressed to the SFMTA Board that quality bicycle infrastructure, like that found in cities like Copenhagen, is one of the most worthwhile investments the agency could make. “We want you to be wildly successful in your Strategic Plan goals,” she said. “The end goal is a safer, healthier, more accessible San Francisco.”

Preliminary stripings on the 17th Street buffered bike lane made in July replaced car parking lanes -- one of few projects in the city to do so (the bike lanes have since been completed).
  • BK

    Yes, it has.

  • BK


  • If San Francisco were serious about increasing bicycling mode share for all trips to 20%, they could more closely the follow the example of European cities years ahead of us on this measure. What are the key items?
    1) First off, make driving more costly, less convenient. Increase the price of parking by charging for *all* street parking either through residential parking permits or meters. Residential Parking Permits should be at least equal to the cost of two months of a transit pass. (Paris, Munich, Vienna)  If this requires changing state law, then start pressuring to change state law.
    2) Make it more difficult or impossible to drive through residential areas or congested city centers, but keep roads porous to bikes and pedestrians so that walking and biking are the shortest, most direct ways to reach a destination. (Amsterdam, Vienna)
    3) Create parking supply caps–if a development creates off street parking, then reduce that number of on-street spots in that neighborhood. (Zurich, Hamburg, Budapest) Eliminate parking minimums in new developments or reduce parking minimums in new developments in transit-rich areas. (Paris, Dutch cities, Antwerp, Zurich)
    4)  Re-purpose space for private car storage into physically-separated bike lanes and wider pedestrian walkways (Copehagen, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin)
    5) Re-purpose streets in congested areas (such as Grant Street in Chinatown) into pedestrian-only malls. (Vienna, Berlin) Make biking, walking, and transit the most convenient way to get to these places.
    6) Create contraflow bike lanes on all one-way streets (or convert one-way streets to two-way streets.) (VIenna, Paris)
    7) Create connected network of physically-separated bicycle infrastructure. (Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin) Create physically-separated bike lanes on all roadways with speed over 25 mph (unless such a bikeway already exists going in same direction within two blocks).  Reduce speed on all non-arterial roads to 20 mph. Add speed bumps (with gaps for bicycles) and other road calming measures to enforce 20 mph.  Ensure every public school has safe bicycle routes to school for a radius of at least one mile from the school.
    8) Create *lots* of bike parking.

    This would be a start, anyway.

  • voltairesmistress

    Normally, Karen, I think you are right on the money about most things you analyze and advocate for.  But on this issue, I think you are jumping to a conclusion that is almost entirely unsupported by the SFMTA’s report.

    In that report it was found that many persons want to ride their bikes — for errands, for fun, for commuting.  But the key reason they don’t is that they don’t feel it is safe.  And how would they feel safe enough to start riding in an urban environment?  By riding along physically separated, dedicated bike lanes.

    All further conclusions you draw about banning cars, upping parking rates, etc., etc. are not in that report and are not supported by what current non-riders are saying.

  • ervadoce

    Karen, you are dead on. Thanks so much for these practical, champion examples.

    We need to follow these tactics to successfully get people out of their fucking 8-seat, single-passenger cars. It is wasteful. Shameful. They should pay for their pollution, and use of the streets/oil, in time, and money. I love it when I see people circling time and time again for parking spaces in my hood!!

    The City of San Francisco MUST make clear incentives for biking and walking. until this happens, cars use will rule (and kill us all). Death Monsters!

  • voltaire – the problem is that we are in a catch-22 of sorts. In order to get the projects to happen more quickly, we need more people demanding them. And the measures Karen discusses gets more people riding and thus more demand.

    The sorts of delays and waffling we are seeing on Masonic and Fell/Oak are huge relative to the small projects they actually are – when you look at how quickly they are getting after Doyle Drive which is a big dollar project.

    As the years go by I am slowly beginning to believe that by the time we finally build all the bike lanes, we won’t need them. By the time we would build a bike lane on the West span of the Bay Bridge, we would decide to just repurpose one of the car lanes. The shift is that seismic. The haters are primarly old and see a small mode shift, without recognizing that the majority of that mode shift is happening amongst the younger population who will carry that mode shift for a lot longer than older people will carry their lack of mode shift.

  • luc

    The city of San Francisco does not do change.  The entire city bureaucracy is designed to frustrate, slow and block any kind of change to the cityscape.  This city is incredibly conservative when it comes to land-use, transportation or any aspect of city government.  Everyone knows what kind of infrastructure (and incredibly cheap too! think of the $1 billion alone to rebuild Doyle drive) is needed to increase bicycling but the political system is not designed to implement any change whatsoever.  Just look at the Transit Effectiveness Project.  Those recommendations, which involved nothing but trivial infrastructure changes will take at minimum a decade to implement for the test routes!!  If San Francisco wants to change and significantly increase non-auto transit modeshare, increase transit oriented development and move this city into the forefront of 21st century best practices, it will need a significant reform in the political system to allow change to occur.  And if not, there will always be a steady stream of reports documenting with much hand-wringing the glacial pace of change and asking why we can’t do more.

  • Gneiss

    Not to mention the culture of obstruction in our city which permits a single citizen the ability to tie up any change to the streetscape in courts for years.  It forces the SFMTA to conduct exhaustive numbers of studies and outreach to try and forestall any potential litigation.  In a city where the loss of a single parking space potentially generates lawsuits, it’s no surprise that the city bureaucrates move so slowly.

  • Richard

    The JFK drive bike layout is not saft for people in wheel chairs or Ped. needs to be changed

  • Voltaire, I am not looking at the report, I am looking at the physical reality in Europe where they have been successful in getting people to bicycle. Reducing the stress and unpleasantness of bicycling amidst cars (by creating physically separate infrastructure) is certainly key, but often the only way to do this is to take space away from car infrastructure, especially on-street parking. (And one of the reasons we have had difficulty doing this in San Francisco is that in certain neighborhoods, the city lets people park as many cars as they want for free.) But in addition a big part of the success of bicycling in European cities is that gas is expensive, parking is generally expensive and scarce, and cities have been restructured so that bicycling is often the fastest, most direct way to get somewhere. So people bicycle not for exercise, not for the environment, but because it is very, very cheap and convenient. With San Francisco’s car-centric  design, cheap/free parking, and low US gasoline taxes, car driving is the most convenient and relatively inexpensive form of transportation for many trips, so it’s no wonder that’s what people choose. (The exception to this is the Financial District where parking is quite expensive. Lo and behold, most people don’t drive there.) So the two go hand in hand: bicycling needs to become more attractive and owning/storing/driving a car much less.

    But I write this not so much because I think San Franciscans will be happier/healthier/more prosperous/enjoy a higher quality of life with fewer cars and less traffic. (Though this would indeed be the case.) Though we may want to ignore this summer’s record droughts and Arctic sea-ice melt, our planet is heating up. Climate change is accelerating faster than anyone anticipated even a few years ago. Our biosphere is extremely close to a non-recoverable tipping point. Through our foolishness, the human race is facing an extinction event in the next fifty years, not only for our species, but for all large mammals and, longer term, approximately half of all species on the planet. Some believe we are already past the tipping point, done, toast. The Arctic permafrost will melt, dumping previously frozen methane into the air, heating the Arctic further, melting more permafrost, releasing more methane, etc. Once this self-reinforcing cycle begins (and some believe it already has) the genie will not go back in the bottle. The oceans will become acidified, dead, and most of the land area will become desert. It will take the planet a million years to recover its current biodiversity and we will not be a part of it.

    We simply have to stop putting carbon and methane into the atmosphere. We need to cut carbon emissions by 50% in three years, 90% in five years. And we need to start pulling carbon out of the atmosphere (through reforestation and possibly biochar) as fast as we can.

    We could actually do this. We have the technology and the resources. It is simply a matter of desire and will. (Our quality of life wouldn’t even necessarily drop; it might, in fact, improve.)  We need to stop burning coal immediately and impose import tariffs on the goods of any country that burns coal or exports it. We need to cut our current consumption of energy in half, largely through efficiency and people and goods traveling less distance. We need to convert all mechanized transportation and freight to electricity, but we don’t have near enough electrical capacity to do this, so we need to reduce our need for mechanized transportation by living in walkable/bikable communities. We need to insulate our homes and heat them with heat pumps or biofuel. We need to produce electricity through non-carbon means–largely hydroelectric, wind and solar. And we need to tax carbon in a serious way to give enormous financial incentive not to spew it into the atmosphere. (I think a tax on carbon, 90% of which is returned in the form of a dividend equally to everyone who files a US tax return, is the most equitable and effective way to go. The remaining 10% should be put towards beefing up our decaying, inadequate electrical grid.)

    So the lowly bicycle and ostensibly petty parking measures are actually important tactics on the frontline for avoiding utter calamity. We are out of time to cajole people out of their cars. Because we human beings discount the future so heavily in favor of present pleasure and convenience, I admit it is unlikely we will act in time. But there is a difference between the improbable and the impossible. In the past, when we felt our very survival as a nation was at stake, we were able to accomplish feats more difficult than what I’ve outlined above. This time, however, the stakes are much, much higher.

  • mikesonn

    Why is it not safe? Because you don’t like the way it looks?

  • Anonymous

    It’d feel a lot better biking (and I’d do it more often) if I didn’t always feel like I’m risking my life hopping on a bike in this city.

  • Even more embarrassing – you’re not only falling behind Chicago and New York, but even Los Angeles! LA is getting a mile and a half of new protected bike lanes this very weekend, and appears to be on track to get over 30 miles of lines every year for the next few decades.

  • Jakewegmann

     I totally agree. I’m expecting much more dramatic results from places like Chicago that have very different political cultures. (And that lack CEQA.)

  • Mike_sallaberry

    Hopefully not all readers and cyclists (current and future) are as cynical as many commenters here. Fact is, many of the types of projects mentioned as desirable in SF are happening, despite the negative slant Streetsblog biases towards. Cities like LA may seem to be doing more, but it’s primarily because they have a huge number of streets and are catching up with other cities who have been doing this for a while. NYC had a huge amount of catching up to do and have spent the past 5 years doing so, and very admirably not only caught up but ran ahead and started setting new standards.

    There has been A LOT of work done for cycling in SF, and now with most of the low-hanging fruit having been picked, the projects being faced are naturally the more challenging/expensive ones on the table. It’s one thing to challenge a city to do more – SF can and will continue to get better – but let’s not be blind to the good that has been happening in this city over the past 15 years since the 1997 Bike Plan in spite of the many technical, social, and legal/policy challenges.

  • Not to mention that LA has a departmental blog dedicated to bike plan implementation

  • Andy Chow

    About 11 years ago I traveled to southwestern China in the Sichuan region. A lot of Chinese cities had and still do have separated bike ways on wide boulevards. Chongqing, a large city that I visited along the Yangtze River, had no bike ways whatsoever, while Changdu, also a large city a few hours away, had separated bike ways. I was told that Chongqing had no bike facilities because the city is on mountainous region (much more so than SF) while Chengdu is on a flat ground.

    The pictures shown above are hilly streets. I believe one of the biggest deterrents to more bicycling is the poor terrain and the climate. The street grid isn’t very helpful either.

  • mikesonn

    Was that last comment about SF or China?

  • San Francisco – has a bad climate for cycling? Compared to what, Honolulu?

  • chairs missing

    Agreed, I’ve lived both places and I can assure you Los Angeles is still leap years behind San Francisco when it comes to transportation. Sure we’re painting buffered lanes downtown, but it’s still scary as hell riding around the other 90% of the basin.

    For starters, nearly all of our streets have a speed limit of 35mph (read 40 by the average LA driver). And our DOT has been painting bike lanes and even sharrows on arterial highways and heavy bus routes (imagine if your best options were playing leap frog with the 38 every other bus stop, or riding sharrows on Divisadero).

    Heck, even being a pedestrian is a challenge with all the curb cuts and cars
    that right hook you in the middle of a crosswalk (many of which are unmarked or have been removed by the city over the years).

    SF may not be Amsterdam, but it has a pretty decent network to get around the city, whereas LA lacks even the most basic connectivity in our network. Our ambitious bike plan hopes to change all that (and I really hope it does), but much of the vital connections will require removing parking and/or lanes from heavily traveled commuter corridors (which is heresy to most Angelenos).

  • Solar

    I think cycling advocacy should be blamed here, it’s not strong enough. We need advocacy that can light a fire under SFMTA. Northern SF + the Broadway tunnel are a disaster. Hardly any bike lanes. Put bike lanes in the tunnel, you got yourself a 5% in ridership.

  • mikesonn

    This is what SFBC & SFMTA thinks will help w/ the Broadway tunnel. 

    Asking for someone to get hurt or killed.

  • Solar

    @mikesonn That’s is exactly my problem with SFBC. They got cushy jobs in a non-profit. They just get excited about gathering and cheering. SFBC should be rallying people to demand faster project completions. The Masonic project is going to take 5 years. Very sad indeed. Cycling in SF would be so much better if there were a whole-sale replacement of  the current SFBC big cheese.

  • @37fdb9cdcb083ca5e1cee2a12269cae2:disqus  – rallying who? It’s still only 13,000 dues paying members, mostly loosely connected. Rose Pak would go nuts if we tried to put bike lanes in the tunnel, and she is more connected and has a firmer hand on probably more than 13,000 votes.
    Compared to 10 years ago things are moving a lot faster. And as we grow the SFBC gets more pushy.

  • People talking about Chicago like it’s some kind of bicycle haven.

    Newsflash: Chicago is a s******e for biking. Press release Mayor, Emanuel, is picking off some nearly-worthless low hanging fruit, just like most other major cities. They, like Minneapolis, can build all the crime-ridden edge bike/walk paths they want.

    NYC is still an abomination, but they at least tried to do something before they gave up.

    Pretty soon I expect we’ll be hearing ‘advocates’ carp about how NYC can do bike share only because it’s so dense.

    The advocacy community needs to pull its collective head out of its collective *** and start advocating for what is actually required. BRT instead of bikes on all SF’s major corridors is a recipe for Bogota-like transportation bus dystopia, not Amsterdam-like bike utopia.

  • mikesonn

    Rose Pak got $1.7B to put a transit tunnel under a transit tunnel now used for private autos. There is NO WAY a lane of Broadway tunnel would lose a traffic lane. We get our sooty walled narrow sidewalk.

  • The Broadway tunnel would not ‘lose’ a traffic lane as much as it would gain two protected bike lanes. And I’m guessing that, to start, it’s be pretty easy to carve out a few feet for bike lanes and keep the existing car lanes, just narrowed.

    But really, the unnel is empty most of the time anyways, and the speeding is ridiculous. So let’s get the protected bike lanes in there.

    The protected bike lanes through the tunnel are inevitable. If we don’t have BRT people try to force thru bus-only lanes.I do wish we could have an annual city-wide or bay-wide Walk+Bike to-do affair — maybe even just one day, a saturday, initially. It’s not a ‘celebration’ or other pat ourselves on the back for being only 30 years behind Europe affair — it’s a working day, a listening day, a chance for the SFBCs of the world to tell its critics, “Hey experts, it’s not so easy as you make it sound — here’s how the world _actually_ works where the rubber meets the road.” There could be ‘un-conference’ elements. etc. 

    We’re def lacking something, and you can’t put it all, or even mostly, on the SFBC. Usually it’s a look in the mirror-type situation.

  • Anonymous

    The weather for cycling hardly gets any more perfect than SF (excepting maybe LA and San Diego), so no excuses there. As for terrain, as I always tell people, unless where you are going or where you are starting from is at the top of a hill, you can avoid most hills quite easily.

  • mikesonn

    “The Broadway tunnel would not ‘lose’ a traffic lane as much as it would gain two protected bike lanes”

    I know that, the city and those who fund such projects don’t.

  • DanaPointer

    Mike and chairs missing, I have ridden quite a bit around LA and around Bay area, which I think are more valid to compare than downtoan LA to SF, popular perception of LA includes most of soCal. I’d say they are about even as a whole, SF is good and so is westside of LA, especially Santa Monica, but as a whole, both regions have huge black holes in connectivity and too many high speed arterials. This is all thanks to statewide standards. 

    We need uniform arterial design standard in CA that requires protected bike lanes in every city and every town on every major road, especially if speed limit is over 30mph.

  • Sprague

    You raise many good points, Aaron.  Certainly more and better bicycle infrastructure is needed for San Francisco to continue to grow its bicycle mode share (especially if the “20%” goal is intended to be met).  It seems like there is plenty of low hanging fruit still out there, like parking protected bike lanes on Upper Market (at least west of Church Street – if not as of Octavia) as well as parking protected bike lanes on wide, multi-lane South of Market streets.  Unless I am missing something, the costs of such projects should be modest (no street reconstruction is needed – just restriping to reverse the location of the bike lane and row of parking and installation of some new signage) and on Market and 8th streets no traffic lane need be removed.  Except for possibly a fear of deviating from the status quo, I don’t see why the SFMTA isn’t pursuing more of such bike infrastructure.  All these trips to Amsterdam and Copenhagen on the part of local transportation movers and shakers should yield more than what we have now.  (I’m not an anti-tax cynic, but it seems like a fair number of local officials and supervisors have travelled to Europe, possibly at public expense, and they supposedly learned from the places they visited.  Let’s see more of that newfound knowledge put to use.)

  • Yes, and as you said on the radio a few years ago, it’s okay if the Bicycle Plan slows down Muni lines, right? “Challenging” means that the city has to take away traffic lanes and parking spaces to make bike lanes on busy SF streets. The city’s bike people are already an unpopular special interest group. The more you screw up traffic for everyone else, the less popular you’ll be. Go for it!

  • You “can’t do more” and do it faster in SF because most of our streets have only two lanes with street parking on each side, which means you can’t take away a traffic lane and taking away a lot of street parking in SF generates a lot of negative feedback for City Hall. Your special interest group, led by the Bicycle Coalition, already dominates City Hall, but MTA has to deal with the reality of limited space on city streets. And elected officials are more aware than you folks are that the city’s bike people aren’t universally popular in SF.

  • Kat Rosa

    Hey. Your caption under the first photo is sexist. It wrongly, though tacitly, associates female cyclists with “less intrepid riders.” Not cool.

    “An increasing number of women are riding bikes in San Francisco, but bike advocates say the city still has a long way to go to make the streets inviting for less intrepid riders.”

  • More women biking is a sign of progress in making the streets feel safer, as women typically tend to have less tolerance for hostile conditions than men do. There are plenty of studies showing this. Ignoring real differences that exist between the sexes (generally, not with every single person, of course) is arguably the sexist approach.

  • More women biking is a sign of progress in making the streets feel safer, as women typically tend to have less tolerance for hostile conditions than do men. There are plenty of studies showing this. Ignoring real differences that exist between the sexes (generally, not with every single person, of course) is arguably the sexist approach.

  • Coincidentally, our newest Streetfilm covers the first National Women’s Bicycle Summit, where folks came together on closing the gender gap in bicycling:

  • Depends on if you think “intrepid” is a compliment or an insult….

  • The “women are as suicidal as men” meme is the new vehicular cycling. 

  • Anonymous

    @ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus – “most of our streets have only two lanes with street parking on each side, which means you can’t take away a traffic lane”  

    First of all, that’s frequently not true: the average lane width in San Francisco is actually over 13 feet. For low-speed urban traffic, reducing lane widths to 10 feet can add 6 feet to the road width, a 5-foot minimum needed for a bike lane width. This can be a 4 foot one-way bike lane with a 2 foot separated buffer. Alternating blocks for bike lane directions can even improve this further.

    Second, I actually think it’s wildly important to consider the use of our streets for which purposes. For example, on Duboce Street beside Duboce Park, there are three times as many bikes per day as cars, and 50 times as many transit passengers. And yet the trains still have to stop for bikes and cars, and closing Duboce to car traffic wasn’t even considered: for just *two* blocks, which has the potential to vastly improve transit.

    Similarly, it’s important to understand that with 1,000 miles of road in San Francisco, car drivers have plenty of options. Looking at low traffic streets to decrease speed limits drastically, narrow lanes, or shift streets to one-ways, all have the potential benefits of improving biking opportunities while having minimal effect on vehicular traffic (which concentrates primarily on arteries.)

    I’d love to see us focus less on 30+mph traffic with traffic lights and stop signs at every block, and more on a cohesive flow through the city at low speeds. The average speed of a car, including stopping, is 10.4mph. I would love to see us move to a citywide 15mph speed limit, no-stops model where we could try to optimize for minimal complete stops, and maximize for multi-use traffic.

    The number of fatal pedestrian, bike, scooter, etc. traffic accidents would plummet, and we could share the roads easily and without the rage.  Europe is trying some really interesting approaches to this, Shared Space being the primary model approach. ( )

  • Queergirltube

    SF has wasted a lot of money in these bike lanes projects. So many bike lanes created but you barely see anyone using them. Instead you see some of these sucidal cyclists riding on car for only roads. Slowing down traffic for cars in general and just adding to the road rage. Most of them do not stop on red and riding at 40mph on streets. I think the city should start enforcing  and applying the same rules and regulations to these people. Just like car drivers/passengers get tickets for not wearing seat belts or signaling they should get tickets for not wearing helmets, etc. And tell me who does this bike lane in reality benefit not me or someone who lives too far away to bike from home to work. Lets keep it real. You don’t see poor working class folks trodding their cool 2000 dollar bikes to the factory or home depot.

  • Caren

    i want to see kids in the bike lanes too and right now they are suicide lanes….with the new panhandle bike lanes with a barrier the MUST use some green paint in the lane where the gas station is, remove the parking for a great distance so cars and see on oncoming traffic down the hill easily without idling in the left hand bike lane. I have see regular unreported near death accidents and rage going when cars do not anticipate bikes in left lane. Also there needs to be loads more public education the green bike boxes because bikers are getting angry when people are unaware (more often than not in this tourist city)


Bike to Work Day Draws Record Crowds of Cyclists

Leah Shahum addresses hundreds in the crowd at City Hall San Francisco’s annual Bike to Work Day drew a record 200,000 bicyclists this morning, according to early estimates, making it the most successful bike to work day since it began 15 years ago. Crowds of cyclists took advantage of the SFBC Energizer Stations to get […]