Making San Francisco Safer for People On Bikes

Since 2006, the number of trips taken by bicycle in San Francisco has nearly tripled. This is good for our planet, good for our public health, and good for alleviating traffic on our streets. Some consider bicycling an “alternative” mode of transportation, but it should not be considered alternative. It should be an easy choice for getting around in our City, and we need to do more to make that a reality.

Kicking off Bike To Work Day by riding an electric bike with the SF Bicycle Coalition

Today is Bike to Work Day, which I celebrated by riding an electric bike to City Hall along the new protected bike lane on Valencia Street. Last September, I directed the SFMTA to expedite the creation of this protected lane, which like too many of our safety improvement projects, was stuck in our bureaucratic process. Today, the thousands of riders who use the Valencia Street bike lane are protected from car traffic for many of the most dangerous blocks on that stretch.

Unfortunately, too many of our streets remain dangerous for bicyclists, which leaves people who do choose to ride at-risk. It also discourages countless others from choosing to take a bike or scooter, which leads to increased car trips.

We need a more connected network of bike lanes in the City. In order to do that we need to create more bike lanes, and create them more quickly. By doubling our annual production of new bike lanes, we can create 20 new miles of protected lanes over the next two years, which will better connect our existing lanes. The increased production will be possible in part due to the steps I proposed to streamline the process of new bike lane creation, which I announced in March and will be heard by the SFMTA Board of Directors later this month.

Earlier this week, the SFMTA released an evaluation of street safety improvements, showing the benefits of improved infrastructure programs in San Francisco. Of bicyclists who were surveyed on the new Folsom Street, 83% reported increased comfort after the completion of the project. Turk Street saw a 287% increase in bike counts following a bike lane being installed. Additionally, many projects helped slow traffic, such as an observed 18% decrease in vehicle speeds on Vicente Street following the introduction of new bike lanes and speed humps. We know these improvements work and we need them implemented more quickly.

In the last six months of 2018, the SFMTA reported roughly 27,000 citations for infractions related to traffic safety. Of these citations, 3,899 were specifically related to blocked bike lanes. I’ve asked the SFMTA to increase citations specific to blocked bike lanes by 10% in the next six months based on 311 data, in order to better keep these lanes clear.* This is an important step because too often we see bicyclists forced into traffic as a result of people parked illegally in the bike lane, and we need to reinforce that this is not only against the law, it is dangerous and unacceptable.

This is in addition to my directive to the SFPD to increase traffic enforcement of behavior most likely to result in a severe or fatal collision: speeding, violating the pedestrian right-of-way in a crosswalk, running red lights, running stop signs, and failing to yield while turning. As a benchmark, I asked the SFPD to increase the number of citations and to meet the so-called “focus-on-the-five” goal of issuing at least 50% of citations to these top five traffic violations.

Improving our transportation infrastructure reduces car trips, helps us reach our carbon emission reduction goals, is healthier for our residents, and saves lives. Too often in the past we have been slow to make these common sense improvements to our streets. I am not content with business as usual. San Francisco deserves to be a great bicycling city where every day is Bike to Work Day. One step towards that reality is building more protected bike lanes and I am committed to making that happen.

*An earlier version of this post stated that citations would increase from 27,000 to 30,000 over the next six months. These totals were based on multiple violations that theoretically affect traffic safety broadly, including bicycling. To more accurately track violations that specifically address blocked bicycle lanes and ensure that progress is being made, we have asked the SFMTA to focus specifically on this category and increase these violations by ten percent over the next six months.

45th Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco