Bike Reporter

You Can Ride Your Bike to Work? Really?? WTF!

Written by Sven Eberlein

Yesterday, as part of National Bike Month, the 17th annual Bike to Work Day was observed and put into action all over the Bay Area. In San Francisco, an unprecedented number of local political and business leaders joined tens of thousands of commuters flocking from all corners of the city to participate in SF’s biggest BTWD yet.

Never have so many people been so eager to get to work!


First some fun and instructive facts from a recent Grist article entitled How employers can encourage happy, healthy bike commuters:

A Dutch study last year found that cycle commuters provide their employers with an economic advantage by requiring fewer sick days each year and enjoying better overall health.

Other research has shown that bike commuters are happier and less stressed than those who drive or take transit. At rush hour, your bicycling employees may get to work faster and with fewer unexpected delays.

Perhaps most quantifiably, bike commuting employees don’t require nearly the same amount of investment in parking—even when employers invest in deluxe, secure bike parking facilities.


I got up earlier than usual to catch the morning vibe and document this occasion that most employers usually only dream of: employees ahead of traffic, pumped up on fresh air, ready to use that energy at the office.


I started out on Valencia Street where the proportion of bike to car commuters was pretty good, thanks to the closure of two car lanes in favor of wider bike lanes over the past few years.


It wasn’t long until I got to the first SF Bike Coalition Energizer Station…


where volunteers lovingly prepared peanut butter and banana power snacks (and gave out free BTWD canvas bags)…


And for those who just can’t do without their morning jolt, there was help on the way…


When I turned onto Market Street I was greeted by the newly dedicated green bike lanes between Gough and 12th Street.


San Francisco has some of the highest rates of biking in the nation, with seven out of ten people riding a bike in 2009, according to a recent poll. The City is boosting bicycling even further with a record-number of improvements, including more than a dozen miles of new bike lanes, hundreds of new bike parking spaces, and these long stretches of green, separated bikeway on Market Street, all of which have been added since last year’s Bike to Work Day.

Having the bike lane clearly marked and separated from car traffic has been a huge boost to bike commuters on this main artery going downtown. For cyclists, this is like bees to pollen, like birds to the nest…


But three blocks is just not enough. As Mayor Ed Lee, who, along with 10 out of 11 members of the SF Board of Supervisors rode to work from their respective districts, said: “We’ve been working on how we can fund more of these green lanes. I am definitely in favor of expanding [dedicated bike lanes] all the way from Octavia to the Ferry Building. We should have dedicated bike lanes there.”

After taking another pit stop break (yes, I framed the photo like that on purpose : )


including free bike tune-up service…


the working class got back in their saddles…


The next stretch of Market Street is a testament of how much work still needs to be done to make biking to work a safe every day routine for riders of all levels. As long as you have the green separated lane it’s okay even if you’re routed into the middle of the street:


But the next thing you know the lane ends and you’re funneled back into the auto ocean…


it can make you feel pretty damn small…


and wondering where that bike lane is supposed to be…


Ultimately though there is so much strength in numbers…


not just because it makes riding safer and you become more visible to drivers, but because we cyclists have become so much more visible to our political leaders and decision makers that all of a sudden the paradigm is shifting and everybody is getting on board with creating a bike infrastructure that reflects the will of the entire community.


At this point in the game, bicycling is still a political act, trying to shift not only perception but space and resources of a once completely auto-centric city and country toward more parity, and organizations like the 12,000-member San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the lead organizer of San Francisco’s Bike to Work Day, are making sure that every pedaling voice is heard…


“San Franciscans love bicycling,” says Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the SF Bike Coalition. “Now we need to keep up with the growing demand for better streets by Connecting the City and creating crosstown bikeways that are inviting and comfortable for people of all ages.”


As Mayor Lee noted after yesterday’s huge turnout: “Today’s Bike to Work Day was a tremendous success. As I heard from the business leaders who joined me on my ride, and the people we met biking to work along the way, bicycling is good for business, good for workers, and good for the City as a whole. I look forward to making it even easier and safer to ride a bike in the City.”

In other words, biking needs to become just another day at the office. With your pant leg rolled up, of course!



The good news is that this year San Francisco was a little bit ahead of everyone else during national Bike to Work Week. Official Bike to Work Week is May 16-20 and Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20, so you haven’t missed it yet. To check for events and activity in your area, go the the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Month page.

More photos here.

About the author

Sven Eberlein

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  • Let s use a bicycle to remain more healthy and performing for the well functioning of capitalism?

    Now, let s see what this “business leaders” are providing to society?
    Any examples of their social and ecological use of resources? What are they truly contributing to the sanity of humanity?

    I still think that capitalism is very unhealthy to the planet and humans.
    Instead of following the aims of “business leaders”(what an absurd hierarchical vision of society!), I use my bicycle to go to the next demonstration against a sick system who has since decades used …not joined…each alternative concept for the own profit, till the idea was left behind like a shallow memory of herself.

  • I agree with you, antiphonsgarden, that many of the problems in the world are so much bigger than solving them by riding a bike to work. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to abolish capitalism. I mean, I try to live my personal life very modestly and I don’t like consumption one bit, but I’m not sure how I could get 6 billion people on the planet to stop consuming or not wanting to consume. So, I focus on the little things, on things that I can affect. In this case, I feel like it’s better for people to ride a bike to work than to drive a car. Also, not all of these people work for big corporations, many here in SF work for non-profits that at least try to bring about the structural and bigger changes we envision. As far as business leaders, well, I can either wish they didn’t exist or I can try to make them become more aware of the problems in this world and perhaps become part of the solution. I guess I’m an idealist at heart and a realist in action.

  • The choice of therms has a meaning. “business leaders” does not mean…perhaps a better society through me leading other, but announce clearly the ideology, even an idealist can not oversee, specially when associate to the reduction of working time.
    What might be a non-profit business leader?
    Over here it mostly means, someone who has succeed to make other work , even pretending to help them or society during he gets the subventions , but I don’t know how such things works over there that some end as primus inter pares.
    I don’t know what a boss of an egalitarian enterprise might mean?
    you tell me!
    Each of us has to figure out if he/she is a contributing to real changes or to increase a friendly image of an abusive system who is neither moving in slow steps, nor demanding the possible from our earth or humanity.

  • Each of us has to figure out if he/she is a contributing to real changes

    That’s the best we can do. Obviously, “contributing to real changes” means different things to different people. Someone in a position of power or leadership (business or not) would probably tell you that they’re contributing to real changes by reducing their company’s or organization’s ecological footprint, even though you or I may not agree. Another good word for “a friendly image of an abusive system” in the ecological sense is “greenwashing.” It’s important to call it out when we see it.

    However, what I was trying to point out in this report was more about how a grassroots organization like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition can bring about important changes in how we view transportation and through sheer people power change the entire infrastructure of a city. This whole movement was started by regular people and has grown from the bottom up. As they say, if the people lead, the leaders will follow.