Evelyn Stevens hopped on a bike in 2008 for the first time since she was a kid. Soon after, she quit her job in the New York finance world, dedicated herself to racing bikes, and found herself competing in the London Olympics just four years later. Now a World Champion and one of the greatest professional female cyclists in the world, she is also living and biking in San Francisco.
Stevens, like many local road racers, is also a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. We sat down with her to hear more about what she thinks about biking in San Francisco, and why supporting bicycle advocacy and 8 to 80 bikeways is important — even if you’re a pro rider.
Why do you think bicycle advocacy is important in San Francisco?
San Francisco is such a great city to get around on by bike. Whether for riding as recreation or for riding to get to and from work, it is important that the roads are safe. The better the cycling infrastructure is in a city, the more people will get out on bikes, which means less cars and more people with smiles on their faces because they are outside getting fresh air!
As a new member of the SF Bicycle Coalition, what aspect of our work is most exciting to you?
Gosh, that is tough. The SF Bicycle Coalition is doing so many important things for the cycling community in San Francisco. I found the bike relatively later in my life and it was through an Intro to Women’s Cycling clinic in NYC that I found bike racing and my life took such a wonderful and dramatic turn, so I love seeing the intro in biking workshops that the SF Bicycle Coalition offers.
Cycling at first can seem intimidating, but classes on basics of how to change a flat and how to get out and ride are often what people need to get over that initial hurdle. Also, I LOVE the bike lanes – it makes riding in the city great. A city can never have too many bike lanes, so I love the work SFBC is continuously doing in advocating and pushing for bike lanes.
As a person new to biking in San Francisco, what do you see as the best part of bicycling in the Bay Area? What about the biggest challenges?
I love riding my bike in the Bay Area because, as a full time cyclist, I have an endless amounts of beautiful rides I can conquer on my road bike within the city or by crossing the bridges. I love being able to start in San Francisco, ride over the Golden Gate bridge, climb up Mount Tam and then ride back home in a couple of hours. I don’t think there are that many places in the world where you can so quickly be in a bustling city and then up a beautiful mountain.
I don’t just use my bike for training; I also rely heavily on my town bike for getting around the city, so I love the bike lanes and great infrastructure the city has for commuting. I get such a kick of riding down Market Street in that beautiful bike lane at rush hour. The biggest challenge I have found in the city is learning how to avoid the hills when I am on my town bike.
How would you compare biking in New York to biking in San Francisco?
Well, the biggest difference is the hills in SF! I have found that riding a bike in San Francisco is the best way to get around since there is no subway and I am not very patient with Muni. Additionally, the weather is often nice here, so you can ride outside year round.
What connections do you see between the racing, recreation riding and transportation cycling communities?
The biggest connection is the bike. It doesn’t matter if you are in matching spandex or tight black jeans, we are all on bikes and we all want a safe environment for riding. I feel like I am able to be a member of all the cycling communities, I ride fixies (although I am a believer in brakes on your fixie unless on a track!), my road bike, my town bike, my mountain bike, my time trial bike, etc. No matter what bike I am on, I follow the rules of the road and have respect for drivers, other cyclists and pedestrians.
Here at the SF Bicycle Coalition, we’re proud to have such a diverse membership base. Not a member of the SF Bicycle Coalition? Become a member today, and join Evelyn Stevens and thousands of other people in working to make SF streets safer and more comfortable for everyone.