Do San Francisco cyclists need a lift?

The Trampe lift in Norway helps bicyclists up the steep hills and could work in San Francisco.

The abundance of hills in San Francisco may prove to be a formidable obstacle to the city's goal of increasing the percentage of commuters who use bicycles, particularly for hilltop residents leery ending their days with steep climbs. But motorized lifts could prove to be a potential solution, one now being pondered by public officials and cycling advocates.

Bike lifts are used in several European cities, including Brussels, Belgium and Trondheim, Norway. It consists of a foot plate on a motorized track that pushes riders up the hill at a speed of about three to seven miles per hour.

At a San Francisco Transportation Authority Plans and Programs Committee meeting last month, Sup. David Chiu mentioned seeing the lifts while on his recent trip through the Netherlands, where he went to get ideas for San Francisco to expand bicycle ridership to a full 20 percent of vehicle trips by 2020, a goal set by the Board of Supervisors shortly after that discussion.

“We’re talking about the hilly terrain that can be dealt with in many different ways, but not without investment,” SFTA Director Jose Luis Moscovich said at the meeting. Using the lifts was an idea raised by Renee Rivera, acting Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Moscovich responded to the proposal by saying, “We’d probably need to invest in some of those.”

“It’s an idea we’ve shared often and the response is, 'Hey, I want one of those for my hill,'” Rivera told us. “It’s certainly something that has resonated with some folks, but we think we’ve got some more basic questions to deal with first and that really is improving our network of bike routes here in San Francisco so that they really carry people where they need to go.”

SFBC has had discussions with the Presidio Trust about installing a lift that would take people from the Fort Point parking lot up to the visitor’s center. “It would be in itself a fun attraction for people going to the Golden Gate Bridge because there’s kind of a climb getting up to the bridge,” Rivera said.

While the idea might sound a little far fetched, the flood gates have opened for bicycle-friendly projects in San Francisco. A four-year court injunction that prohibited city engineers from implementing the San Francisco Bicycle Plan was lifted in August and the Board of Supervisors voted in October to approve a resolution to increase the number of trips taken by bicycle to 20 percent of the transportation share by the year 2020. Currently, about 7 percent of the trips within the city are made by bicycle, a figure that has doubled in recent years.

Trampe is the name of the Norwegian lift and the system's website notes, “In a user survey, 41 percent of the lift users claim they are using the bicycle more often due to the installation of Trampe,” and 72 percent said they would like to see more lifts in Trondheim.

What do you say, San Franciscans, you want one on your hill as well?


This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. Get off and walk your damn bike.


Posted by Scott on Nov. 18, 2010 @ 11:15 am

build a lift up from Fort Point there will be a lawsuit because the lift casts some shade on a blade of grass.

The bike coalition people are comical, they can't get around town without a painted bike lane. I don't know how anyone managed before to get around on a bike before.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 18, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

Don't build a lift, walk your bike up the hill, at least for now...
But if you think bike lanes are ridiculous then you've never been on a bike in San Francisco. Actually, it's the oblivious and ignorant drivers who need that bike lane to be there, not the cyclists, they know how to get around safely.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 25, 2010 @ 9:24 am

As the bike riders are pay as much attention as the drivers, probably less.

I'm just sitting down from riding my bike a couple of miles this morning.

This world view of the SF's entitled is so odd.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 25, 2010 @ 10:06 am

bike lanes (i dunno about this ski lift idea, sounds scary) are not a frivolous expense, nor is it "comical" for bikers to ask for them. how did people get down the stretch of Market with the awesome protected lanes before? same as they get around the rest of the lane-less (and really, lane-endowed) streets: very carefully. i realize it's your job to be contrary, Matty, but this time just give it a break.

Posted by caitlin on Nov. 18, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

Was a messenger at one time.

Everyone is entitled for some reason.

The entitlement mindset is so strange, just because you want something doesn't mean you should get it. Just because you are "one less car" doesn't make you special.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 18, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

There's a much simpler, cheaper and healthier alternative: walk your bike up the hill. We'll save hundreds of thousands of dollars, which can be used for something far more productive, such as improving our schools.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 18, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

Save on gym membership and ride up those hills.

And get that bike lane off Fell before someone gets killed.

Posted by Tom on Nov. 18, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

seriously. entitlement aside, if it gets people onto bikes, its a win. perhaps it could be designed to still run on peddle power. you peddle, create energy that lifts you up the hill a bit more easily then not. just an extra big gear, really.

and matlock, seriously? riding in the city is a scary proposition w. drivers not paying attention and being downright hostile towards bikers for slowing them down. bike lanes are necessary as long as there are cars. in fact, why don't we put the cars into one lane, and leave the rest of the road for pedestrians and bikers.

talk about entitlement..who says we should even have cars....

Posted by leandra on Nov. 21, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

Seriously, folks, I thought the whole point of putting bicycle racks on was so that it could Muni take you from the flats up to the crests of the hill from where it is easy to bike down to your final destination.

What we've got here is flailing on the newest shiny object instead of and as a distraction to the lack of any visible kind of rational mid and long term bicycle planning at the MTA.

"We probably need to invest in a few of those" don't cut it, Jose Luis.


Posted by marcos on Nov. 22, 2010 @ 10:50 am