SF Bicycle Coalition Recharges and Looks to the Future at Winterfest
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Until recently, Nalena Santiago was afraid to ride her bike. “So many people say that it’s just too scary to ride in this city.” But her husband is a bike commuter, and he talked her into trying it out on Bike to Work Day. “The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition was there…. they cheered me along on Market Street.”
Finding a community of bikers helped Santiago overcome her fears, and she now cycles regularly. It’s also what brought her to Sunday evening’s Winterfest, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s annual holiday party and fund raiser, attended by over 1,100 members and friends.
The event, which took up three floors at “The Village,” an events space on Market Street, featured fund-raising auctions of everything from tickets to yoga classes to art prints and, of course, some 20 bicycles plus accessories–all donated to the SFBC by business owners and artists dedicated to making San Francisco a safer, more bikeable city.
Many, no doubt, were motivated to help by the sentiments expressed in a speech by Brian Wiedenmeier, the SFBC’s Executive Director. “As I look back at 2017 … there are a lot of things that are discouraging,” he said, referring to national politics, and some of the shortcomings of San Francisco’s own government. “But we have to take small steps for change.” He called the fight for safer streets an important local way to fight climate change and other global issues. “We must win a better, more just, more livable city for everybody.”
And many of the people who have joined that fight, including Supervisor Jane Kim, State Senator Scott Wiener, and BART Director and District 2 candidate Nick Josefowitz, were on hand to strategize and make connections at Winterfest. So were Devon Warner and Paul Valdez, who help organize and participate in the “Ride of Silence” to commemorate those killed while riding in San Francisco–a potent reminder that SFBC’s advocacy work is about life and death.
Also present: grass-roots advocates and fighters such as Matt Brezina and Maureen Persico, who organize the People Protected Bike Lane protests in San Francisco (the next one is tonight at Market and Octavia, starting at 5 p.m.) Brezina, in the photo below, is talking with Wanxin Chen of OFo, a Chinese bike-share company looking to launch in San Francisco. Both were amazed at how quickly Chinese cities made things safer for cyclists. “I was just in Shanghai where they put in police barricades to create protected bike lanes,” said Brezina. Both wondered why it’s so complicated to make such simple improvements in the Bay Area.
Many contributed their unique talents to helping the SFBC in its mission. Anthony Ryan, a graphic artist and cycling advocate, helped convince local arts to contribute their art to the auction. “I try to ask artists who ride bikes, because they come back to donate again and again.” The art work was on display, and up for auction, on the Village’s third floor.
There was also a holiday card-making station and a table where Christoper White, a bike educator with the SFBC, answered questions about cycling–such as whether it’s legal for an adult to ride on the sidewalk in San Francisco (answer: generally ‘no,’ but generally ‘yes’ in the rest of the State of California, albeit with stipulations).
In addition to all things bikey, there was plenty of beer and food, and a chance for livable streets advocates to enjoy each other’s company.
But chief on everyone’s mind was making San Francisco safe for vulnerable users. Although Santiago is now a seasoned urban bike commuter, she still worries about our streets–especially since her husband Jon was right-hooked two weeks ago by an inattentive truck driver in a minor collision in San Mateo. “It’s so important that we have protected bike lanes,” she said. “We have to convince the city.”
Don’t forget, Monday/tonight is the next People Protected Bike Lane Protest, this one at Market and Octavia, starting at 5 p.m. and continuing through rush hour.