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You Can Ride Your Bike to Work? Really?? WTF!

May 13, 2011

Our Earth

You Can Ride Your Bike to Work? Really?? WTF!

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.

  • JanF

    Great article! I love the new bike lanes. No plausible deniability for running over a bicyclist in those lanes and saying “I did not see them”. I hope you guys can get more.

    The stuff from Grist is very good stuff to share with employers:

    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.

    Maybe they will be happy enough to provide showers for those who have a very rigorous ride!

    Thanks for posting this, citisven.

    • Yes, I really enjoyed that grist article and all its links. Some very good ammunition to have against naysayers. Yes, showers would be an amazing perk by employers for their cycling employees. I think companies like Google or Apple could send a really big message. Who knows, maybe they’re already doing it, I’ll have to check with my friend who works for Apple.

      More important than the green color are the poles on either side of these new bike lanes. That’s what’s really providing the true separation. A driver would really mess up his/her car by hitting those.

      Great to see you tonight Jan!

      • JanF

        Thanks for the crosspost link on the Great Orange Satan and a realtime crosspost.

        • I’m really glad I finally made that happen. I firmly believe the Great Orange Satan should always be milked for all its worth. 😉

      • NCrissieB

        I agree the poles matter more than the green color. Painted roads are slipperier than unpainted roads when wet, so while the green makes the bike lane more visible, it’s also more dangerous for cyclists. The poles both make the bike lane stand out visually and also deter drivers who might move over into the bike lane anyway. If the poles were standard, cyclists wouldn’t need the paint.

  • JanF

    And because I am a Madison snob, here is our Bike to Work week information:

    Bike to Work Week : Madison Events
    June 6 -10, 2011

    Morning Commuter Stations
    Monday – Friday, 7:00am – 9:00am

    Free coffee, bakery & minor bike repair

    Downtown Station: Capital City Trail at South Broom Street. Sponsored by Planet Bike, Williamson Bicycle Works, Saris Cycling Group and Centurion Cycling.

    Note: Tuesday, June 7 this station will be sponsored by The Isthmus and move to the corner of King Street and South Pickney Street (in front of the Isthmus).

    Eastside Station: Capital City Trail (aka East Isthmus Bike Path) at South Ingersoll Street. Sponsored by Just Coffee.

    Westside Station: Southwest Commuter Path at Regent Street. Sponsored by Dream Bikes.

    Note: Mechanics will only be available at this station on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

    Ours is in June because we still have the potential for winter weather until white shoe day.

    Looks like we do a lot of the things that SF does except our snacks are probably not as healthy. Coffee and bakery … a Wisconsin tradition!

    • Yay, Go Madison! I love how spread out these events are across the country, that we it can really gather steam and build excitement as people start sharing their experiences. I hope you’ll be able to document and share, I’d love to read about Madison Bike to Work Day.

      • JanF

        I can’t bike to work because I can’t get my bicycle up the stairs easily. Ha!! (I work in an office over my garage). But I will watch for the news accounts of the ride and report back. Maybe I will do a HEMMED In on it and tie it back to this.

  • That would be great. (the HEMMED In piece) Hehe, carrying your bike up and down the stairs every morning would be a good workout, no?

  • NCrissieB

    I work at home, but I have a stationary bike. Does that count? 😉

  • winterbanyan

    This is a cool idea. But definitely the poles are needed to separate the bike lanes. Here ours are very narrow, and although clearly marked, a study has found that most drivers consider a bike lane to be an extension of their driving lane.

    It’s good SF is making an effort to be more bike friendly. Where I live only the smallest effort has been made, and biking is still dangerous in too many places. It’s even worse when people feel bicyclists are a nuisance and shouldn’t be there.

    Thanks for a great look at what we should be doing everywhere, citisven. I thoroughly enjoyed it!