The Bicycle Coalition's new director
With executive director Leah Shahum’s departure our local bicycle coalition had an opportunity to reform itself and staunch the outflow of its members (they used to boast publicly of having 12,000 members but have been silent about their membership for some time; their 2013 annual reports contains no membership figures, although it does disclose statistics about volunteers and newsletter subscribers.
Alas, instead of picking a new executive director who could direct the Coalition’s efforts on behalf of those who already ride bicycles, they are handing the post over to another human-powered-transit evangelist who appears to be just the guy to continue the faith-based crusade for the great mode-shift rapture in which all the sinful motorists eventually see the error of their ways and, through the miracle of cityscape re-engineering, become daily utility cyclists.
Among my circle of bike-riding friends, all of whose annual mileage is in the mid 4 figures, you will find no current members of the SFBC although some of us (including me) used to be members as recently as 2012. We are all adults; we all ride transit and walk; we are all licensed drivers and car owners. None of us sees the Coalition as representing our interests as committed cyclists or as San Franciscans. Oh, I suppose the Coalition’s efforts to school cyclists and taxi drivers in the rules of the road are a nice idea (although I see little evidence of this schooling on the streets).
But its emphasis on screwing up roadways like JFK Drive and Masonic Avenue to fulfill its religious commitment to segregation of bikes and cars over more simple, inexpensive streetscape improvements (such as dedicated right-turn lanes to the right of bike lanes, helping to keep motor traffic running smoothly while guiding it and bicycles out of each other’s way) is at variance, to say the least, with what my friends and I view as what would be most valuable to our bike-riding experience and most harmonious with other traffic modes. We really don’t like being resented and despised.
Not all major bike coalitions choose this path. The coalition in Silicon Valley, perhaps influenced by all the rational, facts-based engineers down there, is a good example. Instead of ignoring valuable academic research (as the SFBC does with the UC bicycle injuries study) the Silicon Valley coalition actually co-sponsors academic research with their local teaching hospital to assist them with discovering what really works and what doesn’t. Sponsoring and underwriting research is something I recommended to the San Francisco coalition when I was a member and participated in their strategic planning brainstorm meeting. You can see how eager they were to embrace THAT suggestion.