San Francisco's Take On Safe City Riding
Happy winter to all of you cyclists and readers out there! I just got back from a quick trip out to San Francisco to soak up some warm west coast sun to hold me over through the next few months of wind, snow, sleet, and frigid cold riding Cleveland is going to offer up. Although the trip was recreational in nature, I had a significant opportunity to take notes on how a bigger city handles its growing cycling population. My discoveries were exciting and motivating, and gave me many new ideas for pushing Lakewood in that same direction.
First of all, as I’m sure you’re aware, San Francisco has a slightly different terrain than Lakewood does. If you’ve ever ridden up any of the hills coming out of the valley, just imagine half of your commute made up of that steep of an incline. The other half, of course, is a terrifying coast down incredibly steep hills with busy intersections every 500 feet or so. Now that’s not to say all of San Francisco is like that, but it’s definitely part of the equation.
What’s so great about that city, and so inspiring, is the sheer amount of people on bikes. And they’re doing it safely...partly because they’re being mindful as a group, and partly because the city's infrastructure has allowed for that to happen. Drivers and cyclists are respectful to one another, and there seems to be a peacefulness to travel that we don’t often enjoy back at home.
For instance, after a long day of walking basically the length of the city, we opted for a pedicab ride back to our hotel, to alleviate the aching of our tired legs and to get a closer look at the biking experience. Not only did Bill, our pedicab rider, respect all traffic laws, but the cyclists around him did too, passing with courtesy and moving safely along a very busy and very wide street. What really put it over the top were a few quick interactions between Bill and a city bus driver. Both vehicles transporting clients and in need of the same space had a respectful conversation of hand signals that ended with a smile and everyone moving along in a coordinated fashion that left us all safe and happy. No honked horns, no middle fingers, no yelling or attempts to drive us off the road. Imagine that...bus drivers and cyclists getting along... The possibilities for improvement are seemingly endless now!
San Francisco also has a bike coalition that is 20,000 members strong, and they make their presence visible in many ways. Obviously riding their bikes is one way they show themselves, but they’re also active in the city's planning commissions, and have a strong voice that is listened to and respected. Because of their efforts, there are bike lanes and/or sharrows on almost every street, there are yellow signs reading either “SHARE THE ROAD,” or, my personal favorite, “BIKES ALLOWED USE OF FULL LANE.” Also, on one of their most heavily-traveled roads for auto commuters, all intersections where the bike lane temporarily merges with traffic are marked clearly, and the speed limit is dropped to 10 MPH. And people are paying attention on both sides of the equation.
I also don’t recall seeing any cyclists without lights on their bikes for night riding. If anything, some displays seemed almost over the top, but I guess it never hurts to be overly cautious. The city was overflowing with bike parking as well, with many different designs of racks, some on sidewalks, some taking up former automobile street parking, and one memorable rack that had bikes locked standing straight up on their back wheels-- one solution to the issue of blocked sidewalks.
There were negatives visible throughout the city too, many bike wheels and seats (oddly enough) had been stolen off of bikes parked on various streets, and the cycling community still faces issues with major thoroughfares in order to make them safer for bike and auto commuters alike. I realize San Francisco is not perfect, but I think we can learn a lot from the progress they have made, and apply that to Lakewood’s continuous improvement.
And speaking of Lakewood's cycling future, the time has about come for us Lakewood Bikers to make our voices heard! The community meeting for the BikeLakewood re-launch and discussion of Lakewood’s new Bike Master Plan is taking place on Wednesday, December 14th at the Lakewood Public Library at 7:00PM. Come and give your two (or ten) cents for improvement in our great city.
I am a 26 year old woman who drinks coffee and beer, rides some bikes, reads, takes pictures, makes stuff, and runs long distances.