Happy New Year! And quite a year it's been for bicycles. Between all the new stripes and racks and parklets, we've suddenly catapulted into the future of cycling. Well, maybe not the future, since Europe is several decades ahead of us. Maybe just less of the past.
But there's still plenty of work to be done. What are your year-end cycling resolutions? I asked Renee Rivera of the SF Bike Coalition to reflect on the 2010 that was, and the 2011 to come.
"It was a big year -- there's so much to be proud of," she said. Of course, the big news was the lifting of the bike injunction, which has been embarrassing the city for years.
Since then, we've had about a dozen new miles of bike lanes installed (estimates vary somewhat), with lots more planned for 2011. Those new lanes are a big deal, despite just being a few stripes on the pavement. When bike lanes went on on Valencia, the street's bike use increased by 114 percent, Rivera said. On Howard, the bike lane increased ridership by 300 percent.
But there were new innovations, too: the green separated lanes on Market. And in a lesser-known experiment, mandatory back-in parking on Townsend Street.
Townsend is a serious problem area: Running alongside the Caltrain tracks and intersecting the notoriously un-navigable Showplace Square, the area is a deathtrap for cyclists. In fact, Google Street View shows a cyclist riding improperly on the sidewalk, since the road is too dangerous.
The new back-in spaces will hopefully address that, by forcing cars to face out into traffic. The hope is that drivers won't back into cyclists, as was previously a risk.
And then there's the new bike corrals on Valencia, which are utterly delightful. Five went in this year, and the city plans to install five more soon. Then there's the 700 new U-racks (still not nearly enough, as anyone who's recently had to chain their bike to a tree will tell you).
"The way that we're using the streets is transforming the city," said Rivera. "It's the a-ha moment. This is what it takes to feel safe and comfortable."
The Bike Coalition, for its part, had a very good year. It topped 12,000 members, possibly the highest membership of any local nonprofit in the city.
It'll need that clout for some highly ambitious projects in 2011. A top priority is improving Market by extending the green separated bike lanes from Embarcadero to Octavia. And the coalition has something even bigger up its sleeve: a plan called "Connecting the City" that would create a network of user-friendly bike lines across the entire city, rather than the on-again-off-again dotted lines that we have today. That could potentially include a re-think of the traffic sewers of Fell and Oak, moving the bike lanes from the Panhandle down onto the street.
The SFBC is in talks with the city about incorporating "Connecting the City" into the long-range bike plan.
But what, exactly, is the city's long-range bike plan? We spoke to some SFMTA staffers about their own bike resolutions for 2011. Their predictions for the next year will appear in next week's column.