City Leaders Take to Two Wheels: Record Numbers Ride to City Hall

Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval celebrates his ride to City Hall on Bike to Work Day 2001. Photo by Ken Kelton
Bicyclists packed the steps of City Hall on a sunny May morning, with bells ringing and helmets dangling. This was not a rally of disgruntled cyclists, nor the start of a bike tour. These bicyclists were not just visiting City Hall, they were heading to work there. A record number of elected leaders and other city officials pedaled to work on Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 17.

Mayor Brown. Photo by John Klima
The bike commuters included Mayor Willie Brown and eight members of the SF Board of Supervisors: Chris Daly, Matt Gonzalez, Mark Leno, Sophie Maxwell, Jake McGoldrick, Gavin Newsom, Aaron Peskin, and Gerardo Sandoval (that's a veto-proof majority of the Board, in case anyone's counting).

Not only did they ride, but they rode all the way from home, many on their own bicycles. All of the elected officials - some dressed in suits, others in shorts or sweat pants - took the treks from their own neighborhoods, as far as the Excelsior and Bayview and Richmond districts. Each elected official was accompanied by a small group of SFBC members from their neighborhoods who helped chart out the routes. The rides ended with a well-attended press conference at City Hall, where Mayor Brown pledged to make building the bike network a priority for his administration.

Proof that this Board of Supervisors is the most bike-friendly ever reached beyond the symbolic: In just the previous weeks before Bike to Work Day, Daly introduced bike lanes for Howard St.; McGoldrick introduced making permanent the bike lanes on Arguello Blvd.; and Leno, Peskin, and Daly called for hearings to improve Market St. bike, pedestrian, and transit travel. We expect their rides to City Hall may give them a few more ideas for improvements.

Following are interviews conducted with the Supervisors after the Bike to Work Day ride.

Gerardo Sandoval
Interview by Ken Kelton, SFBC member, District 11
What was the best part of your ride?
SANDOVAL: Seeing all of our fellow bike riders out there — the comraderie, followed by all the smiles and general happiness. And realizing how easy it would be to lessen our dependence on the automobile. Thanks to the Bicycle Coalition!
And the worst part?
SANDOVAL: Not seeing more people from the Excelsior riding. It's an area that needs desperately to be organized.
What surprised you most about biking to work?
SANDOVAL: It was how fast we got there. As a commute, I was surprised at how practical it can be, even from the Excelsior. We weren't threatened by any buses or cars.
Will you be biking to work again?
SANDOVAL: Most definitely. In fact, I have decided this Monday to bike to work via Ocean Beach. I think I will go from the Excelsior down to the ocean, then into Golden Gate Park thru the Panhandle and to the Civic Center. That way I not only commute to work, but I get my exercise in for the day.

Sup. Newsom. Photo by Scott Durcanin
Gavin Newsom
Interview by Maureen Burke, SFBC member, District 2
Did you enjoy the ride today?
NEWSOM: Yes! It was much easier than I thought it would be. I like how the bike routes enable you to avoid the hills. On those streets with bike lanes, the presence of the bike lane definitely gives you a sense of security, a barrier between you and traffic. I see the importance of having a continuous bike network in place, instead of having routes stop abruptly.
Yes, now do you see the importance of the Polk Street bike improvements?
NEWSOM: Yes. I think that the [Polk St.] merchants should get out there [on bikes] so that they know what it's like. Same for the Board [of Supervisors]. When bike-related legislation comes up for a vote, Board members would be better-informed if they actually bicycled on the subject streets.
Would you bike to work again?
NEWSOM: Absolutely!

Sup. Gonzalez. Photo by Nicole McMorrow
Matt Gonzalez
Interview by Nicole McMorrow, SFBC member, District 5
What was the best part of your ride?
GONZALEZ: The socialness of riding with other people, as opposed to the alienation of driving alone in a car.
What was the worst part?
GONZALEZ: Competing with the cars on Market Street.
v Will you bike again?
GONZALEZ: Yes. I hardly use my car - only for long distance trips.

Sup. Leno. Photo by Scott Durcanin.
Mark Leno
Interview by Ted Tilles, SFBC member, District 8
What was your favorite part of the ride today?
LENO: The free bagels at the Market and 12th station!
What was your least favorite?
LENO: Well, navigating 22nd St. towards Valencia St. was like playing a video game — avoiding two double-parked trucks.
What do you see as being the most important improvement we can do in the city to get more folks on bikes?
LENO: It was clear from riding on Valencia St. that we need bike lanes all around. We need to complete the bike network.

Sup. Daly. Photo by Justin Smith
Chris Daly
Interview by Jennifer Worley, SFBC member, District 6
What was the best part of the ride?
DALY: I used to be a bike commuter but haven't ridden since I was doored two years ago, so just getting on a bike again was the best part for me. It was great to be out there!
And the worst part?
DALY: The traffic. Traffic in San Francisco has just increased so much in the past few years — it's a big problem. I think that's what's key about the push for more bike lanes and bike paths — it addresses the traffic problem by creating an alternative to driving.
Will you ride to work again in the future?
DALY: Well, I live four blocks from my job, so it's easier to walk. But for just getting around town, I might. My bike is still messed up from when I got doored, but maybe it's time to get it fixed.

Sup. Maxwell. Photo by Terri Hunter Davis
Sophie Maxwell
Interview by Rufus Davis, SFBC member, District 10
What was the best part of your ride?
MAXWELL: I had the chance to get a very good physical workout, and I took the opportunity to say "good morning" to pedestrians.
What was the worst part of your ride?
MAXWELL: Because I live within six miles of City Hall the ride was too short; however I enjoyed every moment of it.
What most surprised you about biking to work?
MAXWELL: I was very surprised about how fast I arrived at City Hall. Our riding party made it to the City Hall press conference in less than 25 minutes.
Was it easier or harder than you imagined it would be?
MAXWELL: It was neither easier nor harder than I had imagined. I regularly ride my bicycle for fitness and recreation purposes.
Will you bike to work again in the future?
MAXWELL: Yes, I will bike to work again. I also will make every effort to ride my bike with fellow residents of District 10.

Sup. McGoldrick. Phto by Peter Buetiner
Jake McGoldrick
Interview by Cherie Chan, SFBC member, District 1
What was the best part of your ride today?
MCGOLDRICK: Meeting all of you. It's good to know who my neighbors are in the Richmond, spend time with them, and get some exercise.
What was the worst part of your ride today?
MCGOLDRICK: Discovering that we had to zig-zag back and forth to get from here to City Hall. There was no clear, safe, and easy path to stay on the flatter and quiet streets.
What most surprised you about biking into work?
MCGOLDRICK: Seeing the other bikers today was like a prelude to the past. A whole bunch of people are fixing today's problem of overcrowded streets by using bicycles, technology from yesterday.
Was it easier or harder than you imagined it would be?
MCGOLDRICK: I thought that there would be more bikeways than there actually were. However, I'm pleased that biking to work wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I have an old back injury that's kept me off a bike for the past 10 years. But the funny thing is, I'm not really that sore right now.
Will you bike into work again in the near future?
MCGOLDRICK: I think so. I would have to leave the house a little earlier next time. It helps to know that there are other bicyclists out there.

Sup. Peskin. Photo by Leah Shahum
Aaron Peskin
Interview by Leah Shahum, SFBC Program Director
What was the best part of the ride?
PESKIN: Trucking up Russian Hill with a suit and tie on.
What was the worst part of your ride?
PESKIN: Having to wait for the Mayor and his entourage.
What improvements can you imagine to improve bike commuting in the city and to encourage more people to ride?
PESKIN: Simple - more dedicated bike lanes.
Do you think you'll bike to work again?
PESKIN: Oh yeah!