Geoff Potter and Phoebe Douglass: By Bike and By Sea By Stephanie Alting-Mees

Names Geoff Potter and Phoebe Douglass
Ages 65; 59
Occupations Retired Coast Guard officer and part-time ferry captain; consumer advocate and community volunteer
Neighborhood Russian Hill
Member since 1996
You live in Russian Hill, a very hilly neighborhood. Does that affect your decisions about where and when you ride?

Geoff: No, it doesn't, because generally from here we're going downhill everywhere we go! If we're going downtown we'll go through the Broadway tunnel, so it's been nice to get those hydrants out of there. Coming back home, Phoebe will often ride a slightly different route so she can ride the whole way and I take a shorter route and walk the last steep blocks.

What do you use your bikes for mostly?

Geoff: We do very little recreational riding. Otherwise, we basically use our bikes everywhere for everything. We only use our car about once a week, so we do all our shopping, errands, and get to work by bike. I commute to Fisherman's Wharf-a 4-minute bike commute to get there, but 15 minutes to get back! Also, for going out in the evening, volunteer functions.

Phoebe: We use them so much for transportation that when friends say, "It's such a nice day, let's go biking" we say, "Let's rest!"

Have you always been avid cyclists?

Phoebe: No, actually. We first got bicycles when we lived on a sailboat and didn't have a car. We had fold-up bikes to get us places that were just that bit too far to get on foot. Then we moved back to San Francisco. I grew up here and at that time you used to be able to park day or night exactly in front of your house.

I can't imagine there ever being a time when you could do that!

Phoebe: Well, it's no longer the case. So we got bicycles really because of traffic and parking. They're good for the neighborhoods-especially Polk Street, because when you're bicycling along and see something in a store, you can stop, whereas in a car you cannot-you have to circle the block two or three times. So for impulse shopping it's good!

How long have you been a ferry captain, Geoff? About 5 years.

Have you noticed any major shifts in attitudes towards bicyclists during that time?

I think bikes are being more accepted on the ferries. At first people used to just complain about "these bikes are in the way and we have to walk around them" but I think they're realizing now that bikes are here to stay as a commute mode.

You're also on the San Francisco Water Transportation Authority's Citizens Advisory Committee.

Yes, I'm representing San Francisco Bay Keepers and the SFBC on the committee. The primary purpose of it is to come up with a plan to vastly increase ferry service. I'm looking to ensure that the expansion accommodates the SFBC's and Bay Keepers' goals.

What do you think the SFBC can do to get more people on bikes?

Geoff: I think the SFBC is doing a great job.

Phoebe: Yes, and I think it will just happen as traffic continue to gets worse. I think it's not going to be as much the older people like us who take up biking, it's going to be the younger people who see it as a viable mode of transportation. I think San Francisco is becoming more like New York where having a car is a luxury. I mean, people don't have cars there. San Francisco will become more that way, and if it's bicycle-friendly, people will want to bicycle.