Bicycling and equity: Heed the call, expand the movement

Street Fight covers the National Bike Summit and its outreach to women and minorities

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx addresses the National Bike Summit.
Jason Henderson

STREET FIGHT In the face of increased gasoline prices and congestion, more public awareness of the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and driving, and interest in physical activity, bicycling has experienced a mini-boom throughout the US. Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Pittsburgh, Portland, Seattle, Washington, DC, and many smaller university cities, such as Boulder and Madison, have seen impressive increases in utilitarian bicycling.

In San Francisco, 3.5 to 6 percent of all trips are made by bicycle, amounting to roughly 150,000 bicycle trips in the city each day, a jump from around 1 percent of trips in the 1990s. The majority of these trips are for utilitarian purposes such as shopping and commuting, not recreation. Stand on Market and 10th streets on any weekday and you'll see that bicycling has surged in San Francisco. In parts of Hayes Valley, the Mission, and Upper Market, over 10 percent of commuting is by bicycle. The city's official goal — 9 percent of all citywide trips by 2018 and 20 percent in the next decade — is important for making San Francisco more livable.

But it's also fundamental for making San Francisco more equitable. That's right, equitable.

In many respects, bicycling is among the most equitable forms of urban transportation because it is affordable and accessible to almost everyone. Bicycling is far cheaper, safer, healthier, and cleaner than driving, and when considering global equity, far saner for a national climate policy. And for many low income workers, bicycling is also an affordable conveyance that enables not just physical mobility but also financial stability.

Indeed, US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx points out that nationally, a third of all bike trips are made by adults making under $30,000 and that the bicycle can have a substantial role in reducing the overall cost of living for the working class. But unfortunately lower class, non-white cyclists are also more likely to be in fatal collisions.

Speaking at the annual National Bicycle Summit in Washington, DC, earlier this month, Foxx, an African American former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., said that the federal government needs to devote more attention to making bicycling part of everyday life for the working class. Emphasizing the need for safety and convenience, Foxx was especially enthused about cycletracks — bikeways that are fully separated from automobiles and offer space for women, children, and older Americans to safely navigate cities by bike.

Foxx's address followed a day of equity-themed panels and plenaries attended by more than 700 people. The League of American Bicyclists, focused on lobbying Congress and the White House, announced a new equity agenda to reach out to women, people of color, and to focus on reinvigorating a more progressive and egalitarian tone for bicycle advocacy.

Social justice advocates and community organizers had a strong presence at the summit, which has historically reflected a whiter, upper-middle-class male constituency. One presenter discussed bicycling and women's prison rehabilitation, sharing how women who suffered from abuse, drug addiction, and imprisonment found bicycle riding to be normalizing and helpful for personal growth and for managing depression and anxiety.

A panel session titled "Learning from Los Angeles" showed how advocacy for bicycling can also come from community-based organizations, not just bicycle groups. Social justice issues are fundamental to LA's inner city bicycle movement; over a third of South Central Los Angeles households are car free, and community organizers there have made a clearer connection between economic inequity and environmental problems.


Jym, it is not just a greater number of cyclists, but a greater number of all sorts of road users each experiencing Henderson's shitty road experience.

It is the angry added motorists combined with the novice cyclists and plentiful dangerously engineered intersections that is the problem.

Mode shift to bicycles is a good thing, bike and ped advocates urging intensification of land uses and expecting nobody new to drive is what makes cycling more dangerous.

Mode shift to bicycles is a good thing, but I have ethical issues urging people to mode shift to bicycles as intensification of land use puts more angry motorists on the roadways and enforcement continues to lag.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

The harder we make it for drivers, the more angry they will be as they drive around, leading to more risks, shortcuts and speeding.

Result? More accidents, not less.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 6:29 am

The stick of adding load to an overburdened system by building new condos and luring business here, expecting people to abandon their cars, can only be remedied by significant investment in rapid, regional and reliable transit that can effectively compete with private autos. That alone would relieve pressure on the streets and make cycling much more safer than any hard cycling infrastructure investment would, probably by an order of magnitude or more.

The MTA plans on spending millions on cycle tracks on, of all places, the Embarcadero. That caters to the SFBC and really ignores the real danger to cycling, dangerously engineered intersections where cyclists are mowed down by motor vehicles.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 7:16 am

most people would be tempted out of their cars. You cannot get people out of cars by promising a better transit system in the future, because the city government has no credibility.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 7:59 am

The MTA needs to be reconfigured such that it can command the respect of the voters by treating residents with respect before we can bestow half a billion dollars in capital bonds that we need.

We probably could do well to spend twice that beefing up transit capital infrastructure, but this agency cannot be trusted with that kind of cash. Like any good junkie, they're playing nicer now to score, but as soon as they get their fix they're back to their old ways.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 9:09 pm

can only blame ourselves if we don't like what they do.

Muni's bloated cost structure and rigid working practices need to be fixed before we invest another penny in Muni (aside from Central Subway, which isn't our money anyway)

Posted by Guest on Mar. 22, 2014 @ 4:40 am

The boosters and City Family passed Prop G a few years ago that was supposed to get a handle on labor negotiations. There were supposed to be $45m in savings per year but they never seemed to materialize come budget time 2 years ago.

What more is needed to "get a handle" on labor costs and practices, what other tools would they need?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

To avoid the Big Oil/Texas gasoline rip-off, plug your Tesla S electric car into your household, solar array.

Posted by Earl Richards on Mar. 19, 2014 @ 11:34 pm

The Dominant Culture has been taken over by people who believe in the Divine Rights of politicians, businessmen, dogs, entertainers, and cars.

Most people walk most of the time, therefore cities should be designed for people of all ages and abilities to be able to walk the streets safely. There should be dedicated paths and streets that are for human-powered vehicles only. Tesla could design a variety of vehicles to replace the ridiculous hodgepodge we have today and get rid of those ugly overhead lines once and for all. Of course, none of this will happen as long as there are 50 different NGO's, agencies, and special interest groups fighting for political power.

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 6:10 am

money come from to compensate all the residents of those streets who can no longer access their garages?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 6:58 am

Who is stopping them from accessing their garages via walking or cycling?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 8:12 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 8:41 am

You did not specify that people wanted to enter their garages with their cars, simply that access would be denied. Access would not be denied.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 8:58 am

Anyway, you can never ban cars from streets because, as well as vehicular access for residents, there is a need for emergency vehicles, deliveries, construction work, transport for the disabled, and so on.

The best you can do is try and ban thru traffic and, without constant enforcement, that doesn't work.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 9:10 am

Maybe you should take some time to organize your thoughts, you're all over the place here.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 10:02 am

It is either impossible or very expensive to ban vehicles from a street with garages.

For an example, look at Duboce between Church and Fillmore. SFMTA managed to ban cars from one side only, on just one short block. It couldn't ban cars on the other side of the street because of just one garage access.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 10:32 am

You really need to step back for a moment, read the thread, and organize your thoughts to the issues on the table so that your comments to me speak to the threat not your hallucinations of the thread.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 10:42 am

The city cannot reasonably deny vehicular access to existing garages.

Therefore the car-free streets idea is a non-starter.

If you read anything more than that in my refutation of you, then that's your problem.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 10:53 am

There are many streets in San Francisco that don't have garages; take Market for example. Automobile ownership and operation is a privilege, not an inherent civil right. Automobiles and their infrastructure occupy the majority of urban space. They are noisy, dirty, dangerous, and expensive. Soon only the rich will be able to afford to operate them.

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

emergencies, transport for the disabled, muni and local access to any driveways and garages. There aren't too many residential blocks in SF that don't have several garages and to deny vehicular access to them would be a government taking. I'd estimate the compensation required at around 500K per building which means that it would potentially cost millions to make just one block "car free".

Non starter except in highly unusual situations.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

The North side of Lincoln Blvd and the South Side of Fulton as well as JFK Drive between Stanyan and Great Highway, both JFK and MLK Drives in Golden Gate Park, West Side of the Great Highway, many of the roads in the Presidio,
North side of Marina Blvd, South side of Brotherhood Way, large parts of Skyline Blvd, Bayshore Blvd, Van Ness Ave, Columbus Ave., the Embarcadero. With all the brilliant minds around here, it shouldn't be too hard to design something that is safe and accessible to bicycles AND tricycles.

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

Van Ness is a state highway - good luck banning cars from that.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

I didn't say ALL streets.....
Auto traffic going to the Golden Gate Bridge through the City should be UNDERGROUND. Tunnels under Van Ness/Franklin and 19th Ave......

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 3:24 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 6:27 am

And the BILLIONS that it would cost for that would come from where exactly? Do you actually think before you post?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 5:44 pm


Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

"The signs of an American shift away from driving have been so well-reported as to amount to a new conventional wisdom — declining vehicle miles traveled, increasing mass transit use, the trendiness of biking. Jeffrey Ball of The New Republic examines whether the leaders of this supposed cultural movement, the millennial generation, really are affirmatively choosing not to drive. Could it be instead that most of them are merely avoiding the cost of driving? During the last decade in which driving has plateaued, gas prices have risen and the economy has been weak."

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

from our vehicular culture. The US has cheaper prices for all kinds of goods because of our efficient interstate highway system.

And do you never take a cab, car service, car share or other type of vehicle?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

Some people don't believe fat meat is greasy.....

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

The fat is why it tastes so good.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 6:27 am

I don't want to pay the upkeep and the insurance.

If the anti-car nuts tried the costs angle, instead of the morally superior angle, people might not scoff at them so much.

The only people who like to be lectured by the self righteous are co-believers.

How many progressives believed in a right wing god after being hectored by Jerry Fallwell?

Posted by guest on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 10:39 pm

One more person riding a bike means one less car on the road and more space for people driving. Additionally, better crosswalks and bike lanes end up reducing collisions between cars and bikes, cars and people and cars and cars. It looks like a win win.

Too bad so much of the messaging around bicycling is that biking is for white people. Last I checked, just about everyone road a bike as a kid.

It can be a good option for those short trips we all make often. To the drug store. The farmers market. The dry cleaner. The doctors office......most trips are within 2-3 miles, easy bike distance. And with a basket on your bike you can carry most of the surf you need to cart around.

Posted by Jame on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 4:50 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2014 @ 6:26 am

48 hills in SF

not flat like the Netherlands

streets are scaled differently in SF

most bike riders never had proper street riding training (see the video on kids bike training park in the Netherlands)

transit must be fixed first, at least in the EU train systems are working to par.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:30 pm

I used to have 2 bicycles, I gave them up long ago because of these delusional, arrogant, narrow minded, stupid, rude, selfish, conceited, ultra Marxist/Socialist "progressive" jerk-offs.
I don't want to be seen in public riding a bicycle and be ass-ociated with them.
Look, a lot of us know what your veiled agenda is, a lot of people also don't know what it is. And like every movement/agenda, a great many members of your own community don't have a clue about what you really are. That is part of the Mao tactics. You my little pedal-pushers, are good students of Mao. I myself, am a product of the Sixties, been there done that. We will expose you in due time.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 12:42 am

Oh so socialist, collaborating with the Building Owners and Managers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, those strident anti-capitalist big business interests.

Wait is this John Forester?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2014 @ 9:18 am

1. Dedicated bike lane the entire length of Market Street. This is needed to be the lynch pin in an effective bike network.
2. Mandatory bike helmet laws

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 7:53 am

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