From Leah's Desk

Your Calls Can Save Bike to Work Day!

One day each year thousands of San Franciscans decide to bike to work rather than drive or take the bus. Many hundreds of these people continue bike commuting regularly after that. Those new bicyclists, plus the thousands more of us who are already regular bike commuters, are rewarded with simple but meaningful treats like free coffee and bagels, tote bags, and encouragement from enthusiastic SFBC volunteers on street corners. The day, of course, is annual Bike to Work Day.

Why am I writing about this event months in advance? Because, believe it or not, Bike to Work Day—the biggest bike-commuting day of the year eight years running—is being threatened this year. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)—the regional government agency that is the main funder of Bike to Work Day—and RIDES for Bay Area Commuters, the group that receives this funding, have decided the event is not "cost-effective" enough to continue.

Anyone who rides on Bike to Work Day or reads the newspapers the next day, knows the impact it has: many more bicyclists fill San Francisco streets, the Mayor and a majority of San Francisco Supervisors experience the joys and woes of biking in the city firsthand by riding to City Hall with SFBC members, and bicycling gets more positive media attention than any other day of the year. If this isn't enough evidence of the success of Bike to Work Day, consider RIDES' own statistics from the 2002 regional Bike to Work Day (BTWD):

BTWD encourages first-time bike commuters: 25.6% of BTWD riders were biking to work for the first time. Of this estimated 3,341 new bicyclists, about 30% of respondents have continued to bike to work after BTWD.

BTWD reduces auto trips: Increased bicycling as a result of BTWD eliminated 1,583 single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips. The longer-term impact of the Bay Area BTWD removes an estimated 23,000 SOVs from the road a week.

BTWD saves money: We're saving $33,940 per week in the Bay Area due to commute mode changes that were a result of BTWD. The additional benefit of veteran bicyclists is $547,135 per week (includes the costs of motor vehicle use due to congestion, parking, road costs, user costs, air pollution, noise, road safety, environmental costs, and social costs).

BTWD increases bicycling: 20% of those who biked to work before BTWD increased their frequency of biking to work after BTWD. And 51% anticipated increasing their frequency of bicycling in the future.

In the face of these impressive successes, how can RIDES and MTC possibly justify cutting back—significantly—their involvement in Bike to Work Day? Because they assume that we, the ever-eager (yet overburdened and underfunded) bike advocates, will simply take on whatever they offload onto us and our similarly overburdened local government partners. Meanwhile, MTC is still funding RIDES at the same level as usual, but simply letting them switch their bike commute promotion to activities that are less time-intensive and will clearly have less impact, like improving their web site.

We eagerly partner with RIDES and the city each year by providing all of the hundreds of volunteers, dozens of Energizer Stations around town, media promotion, and other events—all without any compensation. Now RIDES and MTC tell us to keep up the good work and take on even more work, without any new resources at all. This is unacceptable and impossible for us to do without dropping some of our other priorities.

If you love BTWD, please take a minute to help save it! (See box.)

By Leah Shahum
Executive Director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

It's not too late! Help ensure BTWD continues—and hold our regional transportation agency accountable for its actions—by helping out in three ways:

Call or write the S.F. Commissioners on the MTC. Ask them to ensure the same level of resources for BTWD as last year:

Supervisor Tom Ammiano
Phone: (415) 554-5144 - tom_ammiano@ci.sf.ca.us

Jon Rubin Phone: (650) 755-5656 - bay2171@aol.com

Barbara Kaufman Fax: (415) 352-3606

Call Mayor Brown and your local Supervisor and ask them to confirm San Francisco's commitment to BTWD. The Mayor has been a strong supporter, riding in all seven of the last events—every year he's been in office. And the Supervisors have regularly taken part and passed resolutions of support for BTWD. Ask them to put at least $20,000 of San Francisco's remaining TDM (Transportation Demand Management) funding toward this year's Bike to Work Day. The SFBC can take up the regional groups' slack with enough resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE MAYOR AND SUPERVISORS is conveniently located at www.sfbike.org/cityhall.

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