Yesterday, as part of National Bike Month, the 17th annual Bike to Work Day was observed and put into action all over the Bay Area. In San Francisco, an unprecedented number of local political and business leaders joined tens of thousands of commuters flocking from all corners of the city to participate in SF’s biggest BTWD yet.

Never have so many people been so eager to get to work!


First some fun and instructive facts from a recent Grist article entitled How employers can encourage happy, healthy bike commuters:

A Dutch study last year found that cycle commuters provide their employers with an economic advantage by requiring fewer sick days each year and enjoying better overall health.

Other research has shown that bike commuters are happier and less stressed than those who drive or take transit. At rush hour, your bicycling employees may get to work faster and with fewer unexpected delays.

Perhaps most quantifiably, bike commuting employees don’t require nearly the same amount of investment in parking—even when employers invest in deluxe, secure bike parking facilities.


I got up earlier than usual to catch the morning vibe and document this occasion that most employers usually only dream of: employees ahead of traffic, pumped up on fresh air, ready to use that energy at the office.


I started out on Valencia Street where the proportion of bike to car commuters was pretty good, thanks to the closure of two car lanes in favor of wider bike lanes over the past few years.


It wasn’t long until I got to the first SF Bike Coalition Energizer Station…


where volunteers lovingly prepared peanut butter and banana power snacks (and gave out free BTWD canvas bags)…


And for those who just can’t do without their morning jolt, there was help on the way…


When I turned onto Market Street I was greeted by the newly dedicated green bike lanes between Gough and 12th Street.


San Francisco has some of the highest rates of biking in the nation, with seven out of ten people riding a bike in 2009, according to a recent poll. The City is boosting bicycling even further with a record-number of improvements, including more than a dozen miles of new bike lanes, hundreds of new bike parking spaces, and these long stretches of green, separated bikeway on Market Street, all of which have been added since last year’s Bike to Work Day.

Having the bike lane clearly marked and separated from car traffic has been a huge boost to bike commuters on this main artery going downtown. For cyclists, this is like bees to pollen, like birds to the nest…


But three blocks is just not enough. As Mayor Ed Lee, who, along with 10 out of 11 members of the SF Board of Supervisors rode to work from their respective districts, said: “We’ve been working on how we can fund more of these green lanes. I am definitely in favor of expanding [dedicated bike lanes] all the way from Octavia to the Ferry Building. We should have dedicated bike lanes there.”

After taking another pit stop break (yes, I framed the photo like that on purpose : )


including free bike tune-up service…


the working class got back in their saddles…


The next stretch of Market Street is a testament of how much work still needs to be done to make biking to work a safe every day routine for riders of all levels. As long as you have the green separated lane it’s okay even if you’re routed into the middle of the street:


But the next thing you know the lane ends and you’re funneled back into the auto ocean…


it can make you feel pretty damn small…


and wondering where that bike lane is supposed to be…


Ultimately though there is so much strength in numbers…


not just because it makes riding safer and you become more visible to drivers, but because we cyclists have become so much more visible to our political leaders and decision makers that all of a sudden the paradigm is shifting and everybody is getting on board with creating a bike infrastructure that reflects the will of the entire community.


At this point in the game, bicycling is still a political act, trying to shift not only perception but space and resources of a once completely auto-centric city and country toward more parity, and organizations like the 12,000-member San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the lead organizer of San Francisco’s Bike to Work Day, are making sure that every pedaling voice is heard…


“San Franciscans love bicycling,” says Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the SF Bike Coalition. “Now we need to keep up with the growing demand for better streets by Connecting the City and creating crosstown bikeways that are inviting and comfortable for people of all ages.”


As Mayor Lee noted after yesterday’s huge turnout: “Today’s Bike to Work Day was a tremendous success. As I heard from the business leaders who joined me on my ride, and the people we met biking to work along the way, bicycling is good for business, good for workers, and good for the City as a whole. I look forward to making it even easier and safer to ride a bike in the City.”

In other words, biking needs to become just another day at the office. With your pant leg rolled up, of course!



crossposted at Daily Kos and A World of Words

The good news is that this year San Francisco was a little bit ahead of everyone else during national Bike to Work Week. Official Bike to Work Week is May 16-20 and Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20, so you haven’t missed it yet. To check for events and activity in your area, go the the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Month page.

More photos here.