Community Connections Beyond the Bike Network by Leah Shahum, Executive Director

This September I was lucky enough to be among hundreds of bicycle and pedestrian professionals from around the country at a conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. We shared ideas, successes, and some war stories.

The most stirring part of the week for me was realizing how strong and effective we are becoming as a movement nationwide. As one speaker--the Mayor of Minneapolis--put it: "We are coming in from the margins." Nowhere is this truer than in San Francisco. As bicycling advocates we are successfully working not merely to improve people's weekend recreational options, but to change people's lives.

Our work at the SFBC is changing our city, changing our communities within the city, and changing the people within those communities. Not only are we doing the obvious work of making the city safer and easier to get around, giving people more healthy commute options, and loosening our dependence on foreign oil, but we are also giving people the chance to reconnect with their communities.

I felt the joy of that chance encounter when I returned to San Francisco and ran into several friends while riding my bike. Every time I meet someone on my bike, I feel a part of this city, more invested in my community. In today's climate, when many of us barely know our next-door neighbors and are hesitant to smile at a stranger on the bus, this connection is more important than ever. And, for me, it's thanks to biking, plain and simple.

As we embark on one of the most important projects yet for the SFBC--building support for the citywide Bicycle Network--it dawns on me that we are accomplishing more than just our goal of completing the Bike Network. We are also building an impressive network of committed, effective members of our community. We are challenging bicyclists to stake a claim in our city to make it better, more livable for everyone.

We do that every time we ride our bikes to work. Every time we write a letter or send an email to an elected official reminding them that we're bicyclists and we're watching. Every time we stop by the SFBC to help with a mailing. Every time we attend a public hearing to speak up for bikes. (Which reminds me of a great quote I heard at the conference from a bicycle advocate in Washington D.C.: "The most important thing we do is to show up and say the word 'bicycle.'")

No one has done this more effectively and consistently than SFBC Executive Director Dave Snyder, who, after 11 years of leading the SFBC to great things, has moved over to the SFBC's sister organization Transportation for a Livable City (TLC). When Dave joined the SFBC in the early '90s, it was a passionate but small group of people with big ideas. Today, the SFBC is without a doubt one of the most effective advocacy groups in the city. Dave has certainly helped to bring bicycling in from the margins.

Through Dave's leadership we have become a movement to be reckoned with in San Francisco. I could fill this entire newsletter with a list of his accomplishments, but I'd rather highlight what I consider the most important one. Dave recognizes the power of the bicycle as a tool to reconnect people to each other and to their communities and has leveraged that effectively to help build a community of advocates many times stronger than his individual talents and passion for the cause (which are very strong, indeed).

I'm sure it wasn't always easy, and 11 years is a long time for anything. We are lucky he was willing to dedicate more than a decade to our shared cause. And I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be moving on unless he knew the SFBC was set up for even bigger and better things--which we are. Stay tuned and keep riding.