In 1999, your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition marched with members of Walk San Francisco and Senior Action Network to demand a safer Fell Street in the Lower Haight area. It took years of advocacy just to convince the City to designate Fell Street as the official bicycle route.
Our then much smaller organization — led by impassioned members who lived and biked through this area — would not take “no” for an answer. We organized for years and eventually won a basic painted bike lane on Fell Street. At that time, Oak Street was not even on the table, because it seemed like such a stretch politically. Frankly, it would make your head spin to think about the massive time and energy it took to win the most basic of improvements.
After moving at this snail’s pace – not to mention a four-year hold on all bike improvements between 2006-2010 because of the Bike Plan injunction – today’s progress of a new separated bikeway on Fell Street (and soon on Oak Street too!) and elsewhere around the city must seem like lightening-fast speed. But these improvements are a long time coming.
Aiming to jump-start progress and fill in the gaps, we launched Connecting the City: a vision for 100 miles of safe, crosstown bikeways. For many members, this vision of separated bikeways throughout the city seemed huge and ambitious. After all, we had all labored so hard for so many years just to win the most basic of improvements: painted bike lanes on Townsend Street and sharrows on McAllister Street.
But we knew that it was time to finally put the dreams that you had shared with us over the years at Treehouse Talks, Winterfests, Bike to Work Days, volunteer nights, rec rides, Love on Wheels and countless streetside outreach stations into a compelling vision for fundamentally changing our city.
So you began to hear about and get involved with Connecting the City: sending over 300 letters of support for Fell and Oak Street, filling out hundreds of surveys for potential Polk Street changes, attending dozens of community meetings for projects on JFK Drive, Cesar Chavez, Holloway and more.
But as you have gotten a taste — really, just a tiny taste — of what a San Francisco that truly welcomes biking feels like, you’ve let us know through emails, calls, conversations on rides, and signing petitions at our iconic orange tent that Connecting the City for you means thinking even bigger.
We’ve heard from you that you want even more major crosstown bikeways as well as better pavement on neighborhood streets, closing gaps, making better links to Caltrain and BART and keeping the bikeways clear of obstructions.
At Winterfest this year, we hung up a huge map of San Francisco and asked our members to share what improvements they’d like to see to make their commute safe and comfortable. The comments ranged from repaving blocks in SoMa to added separated bikeways in Bayview to re-timing lights in the Castro, and everything in between. It was great to solicit so much feedback from the experts — those who bike in our city — and to use this feedback to bring you better biking conditions.
Your Streets, Your Vision
In 2013 we’re continuing our Love Your Lanes neighborhood bike rides and mingles in every District in the city. We want to bike your neighborhood with you and your neighbors. You can help us evaluate how effective recent improvements have been and identify what work we still need to do. Which streets in the Richmond and Sunset are ripe for traffic-calmed neighborhood greenways to provide easier access to local stores and Golden Gate Park? Which intersections in the Excelsior and the Tenderloin need safer bike access to get you safely across? Where should we focus the City’s repaving dollars in the Mission and SoMa to ensure smooth riding for the skyrocketing number of you biking on streets here?
As the people who ride these streets everyday, you know them best. We know you have ideas about what would make your commute better, so let’s hit the streets together and talk about these areas. And we’ll raise a glass at the end to working together to make our city a terrific place to live, work and bike.
We’ve organized three rides in the first three months of 2013 to survey our existing bikeways and find out problem areas to tackle next. To join an existing Love Your Lanes ride or start your own, visit sfbike.org/ConnectingTheCity.
The Fight is Getting Harder
We are also asking for your commitment to step up your involvement in helping us win major new bikeways throughout the city. We can’t emphasize enough that the fight ahead will be harder than ever. This is now the time to push for bikeways on the major streets that have been intimidating for years: Polk Street, 2nd Street, the Embarcadero, Market Street, San Jose Avenue and many more.
The bikeways of tomorrow won’t just be simple paint on the ground; they’ll transform our streets into more beautiful and safe spaces for people biking and walking. Imagine more greenery, separated bikeways, sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, parklets and quieter, calmer streets. What a city!
But transforming our streets won’t come easy. The 300+ letters of support and thousands of fliers dropped at local businesses and people’s front doors for the three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets won’t be enough to win us bikeways on these new streets. If you want to see these projects in the ground, we need you to sign up to get involved in a campaign at sfbike.org/connectingthecity — particularly if you live, work or play near these streets.
If you can’t volunteer, then please ask at least one friend in the next week to join the SF Bicycle Coalition. We are our membership. And the more members, the more we are able to win support for the projects you care about. Give them this newsletter, invite them over for a meal and ask them to sign up.
Green waves, green sharrows, and green separated bikeways start with you. Whether it is at community meetings for 2nd Street, Polk Street or Market Street or on a Love Your Lanes ride in your neighborhood, we’re excited to see you in 2013 and work together to Connect Our City.
For more information about how to get involved in making your neighborhood and commute routes better by bike visit: sfbike.org/connectingthecity.
Or visit sfbike.org/link for information on some of the bikeways that the SF Bicycle Coalition has worked to get in the ground in the last few years.