Breaking the Cycle

Marin County has a program to protect bicyclists. In S.F., we keep killing them.

Many times when I tell somebody I get around San Francisco by bicycle they respond as if I'd just explained my facility with the trapeze, or revealed I'm from a culture that eats insects. "Oh, I could never do that," is how they usually phrase this thought. "It's just too crazy out there."

Which is why it's so important to hold Chief Lau to his word. Every time a person is discouraged from riding a bicycle, he is denied one of the greatest pleasures of human experience. There's an incomparable Zen-like peace that comes from the side-to-side, then back-in-the-saddle rhythm of climbing a hill along, say, Nicasio Valley Road, where Cecy Krone and Kirk Ross were killed. There's an intense feeling of well-being I get after a morning ride in the Marin hills, pulling my bike into our offices on Fourth Street (a block from where Robertson was killed). The sensation of speed, the feeling of sunlight, and the smell of the bay are routine parts of getting around the city for cyclists. Other people deserve this experience, too.

If Chief Lau really, really made the streets safe for cyclists, and just a tenth of the city abandoned their cars, miracles would occur. Pedestrians would be safer. City buses would move more freely, and therefore arrive on time. It would become cheaper and more politically viable to build desperately needed housing, because it would be possible to build apartments without parking spaces. If twice that many people took to bicycling, S.F. streets would cease to be the moving mass of hostility they are now, and perhaps become more like, say, Havana, where the oceanside Malecon is a rolling, bicycle-mounted chat-and-flirt salon.

San Francisco would become the great city it has the potential to be, yet isn't because there are too many cars.

So call Hallinan's office regularly, asking for updates on his handling of the Robertson case. Write letters to Chief Lau, insisting he follows through on his stated commitment to making the streets safer for cyclists. Ask your supervisor to advocate for more bike lanes in the city, and for a bike lane on the new Bay Bridge span.

Then get up, go outside, and take a bike ride.

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