Unprecedented Opportunities Ahead by Dave Snyder, Executive Director

Though I've been preparing for this for a long time, it's still hard to write this column, my last as executive director of the SFBC. On September 1, I'll be moving over to Transportation for a Livable City (TLC) as the organization's first full-time director. TLC's overall goal is the same as the SFBC's--a better city--but its means are a little different: TLC will seek broad transportation reform, promoting bicycling, transit, walking, and car-sharing, as well as connecting land use with transportation. (See the update for details). And while I'll enjoy working on broader, and in some senses more important reforms, I'll remain an ardent bicycle advocate. Bicycling remains the most overlooked transportation option, and yet it's the transportation mode that brings us closest to those inalienable rights of live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The SFBC, meanwhile, is poised to make its biggest strides ever. (I know, I've been saying that for ten years, and I've meant it every time, but this time we really are talking about a quantum leap!) With our own $226,000 grant to do community-based planning for the Bicycle Network--combined with similar planning efforts by the Department of Parking & Traffic, the Transportation Authority's Market Street study, the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority's park planning, the Bay Trail, and the National Park Service--we are part of a $1 million effort to plan a network of streets where any cyclist from age 8 to 80 will be safe and feel comfortable.

The S.F. plan will address new and improved standards for bicycle facilities as well as traffic changes necessary to accommodate new bike lanes on already crowded streets. The articles on page 1 discusses the critical importance--and awesome opportunity--that the revision of standards provides.

This project is the first opportunity in my ten years as executive director to achieve our goal of getting the Bicycle Network approved. There may not be another opportunity like it for another ten years. I am going to stay involved! So for the rest of this column I get to issue my last "call to arms" to SFBC members!

For the first time ever, what's on the agenda is not just a single bike lane in one neighborhood, but the whole citywide network. There are sufficient resources to address the concerns our opponents will bring up: mainly, taffic and parking impacts and fear about innovative designs. We also have sufficient time to marshal these resources and bring an irrefutable demand to City Hall when the plan comes up for approval in about 16 months. Most importantly, we have the political power, the public support, a supportive Board, and every justification to accept nothing short of what the plan is supposed to accomplish.

This draws on the most important lessons I've learned in my ten years as director. My biggest mistakes have been my compromises. Battle-hardened, I will not let that happen again. Already, members of the Bicycle Program at the DPT are telling us to lower our expectations about this plan. To the contrary, our expectations simly match exactly what the plan is supposed to accomplish. We will surely be asked to accept 80% of what we're asking for as a "good start."

But 80% is a B-minus where I went to school, and San Franciscans deserve nothing less than an A-plus Bicycle Network. The consultants working on the plan will surely recommend that some of the things we're asking for be implemented on a limited "trial basis" to see if they'll work. For example, they'll probably suggest we try out the specially paved and colored bike lanes on just one street to see how it works before adopting it as a citywide standard. To the contrary, there are plenty of cities (in Europe especially) where such treatment for bike lanes is standard; they've done the testing for us.

The public supports a citywide Bicycle Network of the highest standard, but there is guaranteed to be local opposition to various pieces of the plan. Columnist Ken Garcia and Supervisor Tony Hall (on 7th Ave.) have already made it clear they don't support the Bicycle Network if it jeopardizes motorist convenience in any way. We will need your help to reach out to your neighborhood associations, area merchants, and politicians to make sure the Board and Mayor Brown support the network, including the pieces of it that have oppositions. The Board and the Mayor supported the Polk Street lanes over merchant opposition, and since then that improvement has garnered the support of a majority of merchants on that street.

Despite the position of the SFBC as one of the strongest bicycle advocacy groups in the country, our city is not a leader when it comes to bicycle accommodations. This plan could change all that, and with our land use and climate (and little known ability to pedal around instead of over the hills) we could easily become known as the bicycling capital of the U.S.