San Francisco’s Goal to Increase Bicyclists by 2020
San Franciscans have done it again.
The city has done well to maintain its place in the vanguard of the environmental movement and is home to some of the world’s most innovative environmental legislation and initiatives. This time, the San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors President, David Chiu, is proposing that by 2010, 20% percent of trips taken in San Francisco should be done by bike, which is more than double the current rate.
Chiu’s inspiration for a bike-friendly San Francisco transpired from a recent trip to the Netherlands, where alternative transportation policies are successfully promoted. While there is a huge fraction of the Dutch population who own automobiles, they don’t drive their cars each and every time they leave home.
Are San Franciscans ready to exchange their four-wheels for two? Perhaps we should address the fact that there are certain advantages in the Netherlands, (notably a flat landscape), that are contrary to the many undulating hills covering San Francisco. Chiu and the team from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have thought this through, however, and are proposing a campaign called “Connecting the City.” The plan envisions building a series of separated bike ways that create physical barriers between vehicles and bicycles. In addressing the hills, the plan also talks of creating automated ”bike lifts” to help cyclists up steep hills and of building an over-water bike bridge to connect Fort Mason and the Marina Green.
Clearly, implementing this project would require some serious funding and dramatic changes to major traffic passages. While the cost of the project has not yet been determined, the city already has plans to spend about $25 million over the next five years, to build new bike lanes and add more on-street bike parking. The benefits of the 20% goal would be improved health for our city dwellers and major decrease in emissions from traffic congestion. With this new plan, urban cycling would not only become safer and easier, but would be absolutely mainstream. The morning and evening rush hour of cyclists would start to replicate what can be seen in the Netherlands- not only the young, ultra-fit athletes in spandex we are accustomed to seeing today, but people of all ages using bicycles for everyday transportation.
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