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Friday, June 17, 2011

San Francycle: Will the New Bike Regime Get Critical Mass Under Control?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge san_francycle_copy_thumb_500x178_thumb_500x178.jpg

So long, Nat Ford!

This week, the man responsible for getting San Franciscans from point A to point B picked a Bike Coalition awards show to publicly discuss his departure. And you know, that was actually probably a good stage for him.

Five years ago, when Ford was a fresh face in town, the conversation was all about how he was going to fix Muni. So much for that! These days, we've almost given up on the buses and trains, and it's an unspoken understanding among the public and city planners that Muni is solely for suckers.

But with the descent of transit, bikes have been on the rise since Ford arrived. Think back to 2006, when there was nary a green lane or bike signal or separated anything -- even the temporary bike injunction couldn't stop the city from eventually moving in the right direction.

For all Ford's failings (and let's not even discuss the taxi situation), we're actually in a pretty good place when it comes to biking. We never thought we'd say it, but ... he hasn't been all that bad, at least for the cycling community. It's easier to get around the city by bike than it was when he arrived. It's just all the other modes of transit have gotten worse.

And now we'll be searching for his replacement at a really interesting time. The Bike Coalition is pushing for a "Connecting the City" plan, which would transform streets all over the city into safe, attractive bike routes.

In 2006, when everyone was curious about Ford (and Big Momma's House 2), a lot of people wanted to know what he could and would do for Muni. But when his replacement takes the helm, we're expecting there to be many more questions about what he or she will do for cyclists.

The opportunity to replace Ford could be a very good thing indeed. It means that we might wind up with someone even better (imagine that!) -- someone even more eager to complete the "Connecting the City" plan.

A good litmus test for applicants might be asking their opinion of the MTA's new Broadway Tunnel signal. The whole thing is absolutely mental!

Here's the background: The Broadway Tunnel would be a really great cross-town route for cyclists seeking to avoid a hill -- the only problem is that drivers speed through the tunnel at 100 miles an hour (not literally, but you know), and the SFPD is too busy breaking into SROs to crack down on those speeders.

So what to do? Well, the MTA installed a sensor in the pavement to detect when a bike is in the tunnel. If you are actually insane enough to enter the tunnel on your bike, flashing lights by the entrance will alert drivers to your presence. That ought to solve that problem, right?

The future MTA head needs to explain what he or she will do to make the Broadway tunnel truly safe for your average biker -- and a flashing light or two is not the answer. The new Muni chief will also need to talk about Connecting the City, making Sunday Streets a weekly affair, and implementing congestion pricing so that drivers start paying their fair share.

And getting Critical Mass to obey red lights. Hey, we can dream.

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Matt Baume


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