Bicyclists packed San Francisco’s streets this morning for Bike to Work Day and many of them gathered outside City Hall for the annual celebration of the two-wheeled mode of transportation.
“We have more to celebrate than ever,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which put on today’s event.
Shahum said the city has seen a 58 percent increase in the number of people biking in the past four years.
People took diverse routes from around San Francisco to get to this morning’s celebration–Mayor Ed Lee rode with a group from Golden Gate Park, while others rode from places as far west as the Richmond District and as far south as the Bayview District.
The types of bikes were diverse too–Supervisor Carmen Chu rode on the back of a tandem bicycle while wearing a furry white helmet, while several people at the event had child seats on the backs of their bikes with sons and daughters strapped in.
Lee, whose busy schedule requires him to take a car around the city, said, “I wish my day could be without so many different meetings in different places because I think I’d be one of those very easily converted people riding to work.”
The mayor announced that by the end of the year, the city will have a new separated, green-painted bike lane on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, and will look at “how we can fund more of these green lanes.”
Many of the supervisors stressed the importance of safe conditions for the city’s bicyclists.
Supervisor Jane Kim said she has only biked twice in her life, and her route to today’s event showed her the need for more bike lanes and other infrastructure in the city.
Kim said she “got to ride in some of the areas where there weren’t bike lanes, and got to feel how unsafe it was to have trucks and cars kind of trying to jostle around you.”
She said she wants “to make it feel safe for someone like me to ride to work.”
Some of the other bicyclists riding around the Civic Center area marveled at the crowded bike lanes.
“There’s a lot of people, there’s usually not this many,” said Charlie Millioen, a University of San Francisco law school student who was riding on Market Street.
Barry Hooper, an employee with the city’s Department of the Environment, attended the event at City Hall and said bike lanes have been more crowded in general recently, particularly in areas where new lanes were installed after a four-year court injunction on the city’s bike plan was lifted last year.
“Market Street regular commuting looks like Critical Mass used to,” Hooper said.
He said, “This is still a city designed for a car but there’s a safe way to get to work on a bike now.”
The city has installed 9.7 miles of new bike lanes since last August, putting it at a total of 14.5 miles citywide, according to the mayor’s office.
6:40 PM: The above paragraph includes misleading information that was provided by the Mayor’s Office of Communications. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has provided more accurate information, in the following two paragraphs:
The city has installed 9.7 miles of new bike lanes since last August, for a total of 14.5 miles striped citywide as part of the most recent bike plan, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose said.
The city had 45 miles of existing bicycle lanes when the bike plan was adopted in May 2005, and 34 miles of new lanes are to be installed as part of the bike plan.
San Francisco has also recently installed nearly 14 miles of “sharrows,” shared bike lane markings on streets, and more than 350 sidewalk bike racks.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition organized energizer stations for bicyclists for today’s morning and evening commutes.
The stations provide free snacks and beverages and a reusable tote bag, with select locations also providing free basic bike maintenance.
For a list of the locations of the stations that will be open for the commute from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., visit the bicycle coalition’s website at www.sfbike.org.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News