The Seemingly Endless Conversation on the Need for San Francisco Street Safety and Improvements

Recently, friends from Europe stayed with me and my family. During their time here they spent their days touring San Francisco by bicycle. I asked them if they felt San Francisco was as bike friendly city as most European cities. They said that they felt drivers were really aware of bicyclists and looked out for them. But they felt that bus drivers were not very considerate, if not hostile, toward bicyclists. I explained how cyclists have fought hard, with the help of the San Francisco Bike Coalition (SFBC), educating motorists as well as buses on being both cautious and vigilant as they share the road with cyclists. At the same time, I also explained how some bicyclists seem to have less interest in following the vehicle rules of the road and believe that red lights and stop signs are meant only for motorists. My friends agreed with me when I pointed out that there is a victim attitude among some bicyclists who feel –because buses are bigger, and can kill bicyclist, and most streets are not designed for bikes– that they are at a disadvantage on the road and should make their own rules. Bus drivers who encounter bicyclists with the victim attitude usually end up developing the same victim mentality and, as a consequence, ignore the safety of all cyclists. One might think there may never be a middle ground for bus drivers and bicyclists. Every story has at least two sides, though. The bottom line is this: If either bicyclists or bus drivers make their own rules on the road, that can, and usually does, lead to dangerous situations. But buses and bicyclists can coexist as long as bus drivers and motorists act professionally and bicyclists follow the rules of the road. Each year there are more bicyclists on the road, and everyone on the roads would follow the laws of the road, as well as use a little courtesy, our streets will be far less dangerous.
Since cyclists will be increasingly populating the roads and asking for more space in the years to come, we need, now, more than ever, the creation education campaigns that foster safety and respect among cyclists as well as bike network improvement projects that keep our city streets a safe place for all. There is good news. The SFBC has spent years planning and appearing at public hearings in an effort to get the city to implement improvements for cyclists and motorists on the road called the SF Bike Plan. This summer, 3 years after a lawsuit and injunction that barred any improvements and the city’s Bike Plan, the SFBC is celebrating their biggest victory: on June 26th, 2009 the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted to adopt their bicycle plan. Once the injunction is lifted, the vote gives a green light for 45 new bike lanes throughout the city. The plan also includes the implementation of on-street bike parking corrals, experimental colored pavement treatments and thousands of new bike racks. Another bit a good news for the SFBC is Mayor Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement that he will implementing a package of trial improvements to market street beginning September 29th, modeled on Projects for Public Spaces –which is in partnership San Francisco Great Streets Project and SFBC. As we collectively move forward during these planned changes, go safely and considerately out there, people!