If you typically bike to work, then Bike to Work Day is probably when you avoid your usual cycle-friendly commuting route because it is now clogged with clumsy inexperienced cyclists.
Or, you're one of those clumsy inexperienced cyclists who has just mustered up the courage to drag that neglected bicycle from the garage or relieve it of its coat hanger duties long enough to wobble to one of the Bike to Work free breakfast events.
While Bike to Work Day certainly promotes a good, clean, healthy, alternative to cars, does it do much beyond piss-off existing cyclists and take a few cars off the road one day a year?
There's great evidence that more people ride on Bike to Work Day than any other day:
According to SFMTA counts, 54 percent more commuters bike on that day than any
other day in the same month. And the SF Bike Coalition says that bikes make up 73 percent of total traffic on Market and Van Ness during Bike to Work Day. There is no good metric to measure whether those cyclists continue to ride to work after Bike to Work Day comes and goes. But it doesn't seem so: According to the 2012 San Francisco State of Cycling Report, total bicycle traffic clocked in at a measly 3.5 percent.
Kristin Smith, Communications Director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, says that number is growing.
"There's no set tracking of individuals who started on Bike to Work Day and whether they continue to ride, but we hear from many SF Bicycle Coalition members that they started riding on Bike to Work Day, and many people in our free bike education classes say they rode on Bike to Work Day and are coming to the class to get more encouragement to ride every day," Smith said. "Comparing bike counts year-to-year, it's clear that every year, more and more people are joining the two-wheeled movement."
Yes, one of the really great things about Bike to Work Day is it teaches recreational cyclists and novice riders everything they need to know about using their bike as everyday transportation. Still, do you really want everyone commuting to work by bike?
If the citywide cycling rate was anything like it is on Market and Van Ness on Bike to Work Day, there probably wouldn't be enough bike lanes, bike racks, or even close to enough room on BART, Muni, and Caltrain to accommodate all those budding cyclists.
Which brings us to our next point.
What Bike to Work Day does exceptionally well is demonstrate not just that biking to work is possible, but it highlights all the things that are needed to get more commuters to continue biking to work. If San Francisco really wants to lure more cyclists to the roads, it needs more bike parking, bike lanes, low speed limits, calm traffic as well as a positive political climate, and a bike sharing program (which is coming, albeit in modest fashion).
As we know, San Francisco isn't a bike paradise. The city didn't even crack the top 20 in the world on the Copenhagenize Index of bike-friendly cities. Neither did Portland. Neither did Minneapolis. No U.S. city did. But it's not impossible to dramatically improve bikeability quickly: Seville went from .5 percent cycling share of transportation to 7 percent in six years. In the same time frame, San Francisco had only a 1.4 percent increase.
So if you were one of those pissy cyclists who was crowded out of your normal parking spot yesterday or nearly run down by a bakfiets loaded with toddlers, don't take it out on your fair-weathered cyclists -- it's not their fault really. Instead channel your righteous indignation toward those who are responsible for making the streets -- and life in general -- better for cyclists: Call Mayor Ed Lee and your district Supervisor. Get educated and involved in city bike projects, and join the San Francisco or East Bay Bike Coalition.
What better time to start than the day after Bike to Work Day?
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.