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Safe Streets Advocate Mike Chen Nominated for SFMTA Board

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Advocate Mike Chen was nominated to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors Thursday to replace Lydia So, who moved over to the Planning Commission.

“I am honored to be appointed by Mayor London Breed to the SMFTA Board of Directors. Transportation is deeply linked to public health, quality of life, economic opportunity, and the future of our planet,” said Chen in a prepared statement. "I am grateful for the chance to contribute my energy and talents to the challenges and opportunities facing the SFMTA.”

"Mike walks the walk—riding a bike and taking public transportation to get around our city—and could serve a critical role in helping our city transform our streets and reach the city's goals on non-automobile mode share, sustainable transportation, roadway safety, and climate action," said safe-streets advocate Luke Bornheimer.

Chen joined the SFMTA Citizens' Advisory Council in January 2020 and served as its Chair from July 2021 through July 2023. He is a frequent rider of MUNI lines 1, 38 and 49, and uses both his own e-bike and bikeshare to get around the city, according to the mayor's announcement. "An advocate for housing, transportation, and urbanist causes, Mike has been an organizer in his neighborhood and a volunteer lead for YIMBY Action, a housing advocacy organization," added the mayor's office.

Readers may recall that Chen is also a Streetsblog contributor. His post, "We Need a Dedicated Political Action Committee for Safe Streets," ran in 2022. In it, he laid out a road map for building a strong political base for safe streets. "The infrastructure that's been created to fight for J.F.K., slow streets, and other battles can evolve into a durable, powerful, umbrella group: a Streets Advocacy Nonprofit and a Streets PAC. It should be big-tent and focused on a core of safe streets issues. It must become a force for winning elections everywhere," he argued.

Chen, who lives in Lower Pacific Heights, works as a Data Engineer at Coda, a software company, where he "organizes information to help people make better decisions using data, tables, and dashboards." He has both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania.

From Streetsblog's view, Chen is clearly on the side of the safe-and-livable streets community. However, if confirmed, the real test will be whether he's got the necessary moxie to challenge SFMTA staff, introduce resolutions, and lead. Readers will recall in 2023 when SFMTA's directors, under pressure from Jeffrey Tumlin, approved the Valencia center-running bike lane despite their strong misgivings. SFMTA is now preparing to rip it out.

The board is failing to lead, yet again, this time on West Portal, where a plan to make the street safe was delayed by Supervisor Myrna Melgar and the merchants association. It's disgraceful that even after an entire family was killed, Amanda Eaken and the rest of the board still can't muster the courage to legislate the SFMTA safety plan into action. It's as if they don't understand that they are in charge of the streets.

In Chen's words from his Streetsblog op-ed: "When city government proposes more protected bike lanes, bus lanes, and safer streets, they are tied up in delays and opposition—often from elected officials at the behest of angry constituents" and "given the array of professional and volunteer groups and their visibility, energy, and enthusiasm, streets advocates should be consistently winning."

But safe-streets advocates are not winning. If confirmed by the Board of Supervisors, it will be Chen's opportunity to help change that.

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