By Steven Thomas
You’ve got to finish among the top 10 winners in the Tour de France and win an Olympic medal to get a breakfast burrito named after you at Velo Rouge Café in Supervisor Eric Mar’s Richmond district. Thankfully, you only need a bicycle to ride to City Hall with the Supervisor Mar on one of his monthly bike-to-work morning tours of Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle.
“I’ve been trying to do this ride at least once a month during the summer and fall,” says Supervisor Mar, who began his monthly district bike-to-work rides last year. “We took a hiatus during the rain, but I want to get back into taking this ride a couple times a month.”
After chomping down on one of Velo Rouge’s Levi Leipheimer Breakfast Burritos we take off at 8:15 am from the Café and bicycle in the bike lane on Arguello Boulevard and into Golden Gate Park, where we are greeted with songs of birds and visuals of morning flecks of bright yellow filtering through green prisms of leaves.
Mar’s district encompasses all of Golden Gate Park, and some of the discussion on this morning’s ride, revolves around the smooth new pavement and new bike lanes and sharrows (shared lane arrows) on JFK Drive. These markings help distinguish the space for bicycle riders and keep the roads safer for all users. Just the thrill of riding in peaceful co-existence on this newly resurfaced asphalt for short stretches is satisfying.
But these new bikes lanes and signage and even San Francisco’s first fully separated, green bikeway on Market Street are just the beginning according to Mar. So what’s the legislative update?
“The pace of progress has been extremely frustrating because of the Bike Plan injunction,” says Mar. A nearly four-year injunction has prevented the city from adding bicycle improvements to city streets while its Bike Plan underwent an environmental review. A partial lifting was granted in November which paved the way for the bike lanes that are sprouting up around the City. The final court hearing on the injunction is next month and it’s expected that the injunction will be lifted and the city will be experiencing a new era of freedom later this summer. “Once it’s completely lifted, I as one of the 11 supervisors [want to] implement the rest of the Bike Plan immediately. We need to double the number of bike lanes and try to catch up with other cities like New York, that are making their public spaces livable so that bicycles, pedestrians and cars can safely share that space.
“Improvements will cost money, but most of the funds have been anticipated in prior budgets, so implementing ASAP will be a high priority. I think there’s near unanimous support among the Supervisors, and the Board President is supportive too,” says Mar.
One of the great pleasures of living and working in San Francisco is enjoying the many landscapes like the Panhandle daily. Our group whisks through the great green and leafy eight blocks from JFK Drive to Baker Street in mere minutes.
As we stop to turn down Fulton Street and marvel at the view, Andy Thornley of the SF Bicycle Coalition says, ”People from all over the world spend money on their vacations to come here and ride a bicycle. I’m just bicycling to work; it’s something I’m lucky enough to do every day.”
With the proposed improvements that are afoot on San Francisco streets, we expect that more people will be able to enjoy bicycling and test out San Francisco’s newest innovations that are making streets safer for all people.