Bike Network Coming Soon by Dave Snyder

Bike to Work - or even Bike and Work - if you're as proficient as Tony Nozero. Photo by Sam Laser
Go to Valencia Street any moment of any day of the week, and you'll probably see somebody, or lots of somebodies, bicycling by. Two long miles of wide bike lanes and nicely timed lights have attracted thousands of bicyclists from adjacent streets and transformed Valencia Street into a veritable bike freeway.

What if those people could turn right on Market Street and just as easily ride all the way to the Embarcadero? What if Valencia and Market Streets linked to a broad network of bike lanes that led all over town: to Golden Gate Park, San Francisco State University, the Excelsior, Bayview, SoMa, North Beach, and the Marina? Even a bare bones network of comfortably bikeable streets could transform this city.

"If you build them, we will come," Frankie Lee, President of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), told the Board of Supervisors at the recent hearing to permanently establish the bike lanes on Valencia Street.

Building the citywide bike network within five years has been the number one goal of the SFBC since 1999, the beginning of our first five-year strategic plan. Almost exactly halfway into our five year plan, creation of the city's bike network has barely begun.

"We need to build the whole network," said Supervisor Mark Leno at the Valencia Street hearing. His comments are an opening salvo in the SFBC's campaign to increase the sense of urgency around the bike network.

The message is impressing Supervisor Jake McGoldrick as well. His comment at that same hearing was, "Can't we get these bike lanes approved faster?" Yes, we can, Supervisor.

The SFBC will present the Board of Supervisors with one bike lane proposal each month, on average, for the rest of the year in 2001. In most cases, an SFBC committee is organizing to craft and gain support for specific proposals that the district's Supervisor has pledged to introduce. The SFBC will also identify six streets where bicycle-oriented traffic calming should be initiated.

For the rest of the network, we will rely on an update to the Bicycle Plan being prepared by the Department of Parking and Traffic. The scope of the plan is still being formulated. In draft form, it calls for a network of bikeable streets that links every neighborhood and commercial district, where each street provides "a clearly designated right of way for bicycle traffic...that either segregates bicycle traffic from other traffic or slows motor vehicle traffic to a speed compatible with shared bicycle-motor vehicle use...whose intersections are striped so that bicycle traffic on the bicycle route network should not expect to wait behind lines of cars at intersections."

The Bike Plan process will also develop new standards for bike facilities. Bike lanes should be paved with a smooth layer of colored asphalt to make them more distinctive, more respected, and more comfortable. Lines separating bike lanes from traffic lanes should be bolder, always reflective. Physical separation should be used more commonly. The SFBC will advocate these reforms and more as the plan is being developed.

The success of the Bike Plan is key to the SFBC's success in the next two years. The SFBC will hire a full-time staffer to press the planners to recommend the most far-reaching reforms and to build community support for the plan's specific proposals.

Simultaneously, the SFBC intends to build public support for our vision of a citywide bike network. Seventy-six percent of voters say the "city should build more bike lanes," according to a 1997 poll by David Binder Research. Hopefully, citywide public support for a network of bikeable streets will overwhelm the local opposition to specific proposals that might require a slight reduction in neighborhood parking.

What Can You Do to Support the Network?