Bicycle Coalition Celebrates New Phase of Advocacy
At its annual "Golden Wheel" event, SFBC sees a future of quick builds. Award recipients, meanwhile, take down Supervisor Aaron Peskin for dithering on safety
The addition of protected bike lanes on 7th Street, through Mission Bay, didn’t take a year of outreach. It took “One open house which covered outreach and approval–construction began ten days later,” said SFBC’s Brian Wiedenmeier, during a speech at Thursday night’s event celebrating another year of advocacy for safer streets in San Francisco. He praised the city’s new ‘quick build’ strategy and hoped for its continuance. “We will gather next year with many, many, many more quick-build projects” in place.
The new speed is, in part, because of pressure from Mayor London Breed for the city to build more protected bike lanes. Her transportation deputy, Paul Supawanich, was at the party. He tweeted about the installed lanes earlier in the day:
Protected corner at 7th & Townsend pic.twitter.com/jwnv6Ji3t2
— Paul Supawanich 🚎 (@tweetsupa) July 25, 2019
Meanwhile, “Golden Wheel” awards were given to former D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, and the two founders of the People Protected Bike Lane project, Maureen Persico and Matt Brezina. “I asked ‘what if we did a Hands Across America in a bike lane?'” said Persico. Two years later People Protected Bike Lane protests have resulted in protected bike lane pilots or construction on Valencia, Howard, and other streets in SoMa.
“The problem is political–we have to tell politicians you’re either with us or you’re against us,” said Brezina. He called out Supervisor Aaron Peskin for being in the second category. “There are protected bike lanes in District 6,” he said, but as soon as one goes north of Market Street, into Peskin’s district, there’s nothing. “Those bike lanes have to be built or we’re going to line up 100 people.”
“I had been fighting for a protected bike lane on Folsom,” said Kim. “And then Amelie Le Moullac was killed.” That got the political will for a better bike lane on Folsom, but it’s not enough, she stressed, to build lanes only in response to a tragedy. “I don’t want death to be the only way we get a protected bike lane.”
In another dig against Peskin, who was not at the event, Persico remarked that sometimes even a death doesn’t result in a protected bike lane. She was referring to pedicab operator Kevin Manning, who died after he was hit by a motorist on the Embarcadero in June of 2018. It was in Peskin’s district, of course, but nothing was done to improve safety except for some sop stripes on adjoining streets.
Brezina followed up by saying that the entire bay side of the Embarcadero should be taken away from cars. “Turn it into a park.”
Wiedenmeier seemed to like the idea. He also said that the failings of the heavily watered-down Polk Street safety project, also in Peskin’s district, can’t be tolerated anymore. He likened building safe streets to doing a complex math equation. The key is to “break it up into smaller problems that are easier to solve … fight block by block.”
But half measures can’t be tolerated. “Leaders have to make bold commitments, even when constituents are against it,” said Wiedenmeier.