There has never been a better time to try bicycling in San Francisco. And I’m not just referring to this delightfully warm weather.
Thursday is the Bay Area’s 18th annual Bike to Work Day — a day to celebrate the joys of bicycling and help those new to two wheels give it a whirl.
The first thing you may notice on this year’s Bike to Work Day is more people bicycling than ever before. A whopping 71 percent more people are riding in San Francisco today compared with five years ago, according to counts by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Why are so many more people choosing to pedal in San Francisco?
Mainly, it is because biking has never been easier or more convenient. The top reasons most people tell me they commute by bike are because biking saves them time, stress and money. They don’t need to search or pay for car parking, and their rides are predictable, unlike being at the whim of transit schedules or traffic backups. Not to mention that it’s an easy way to squeeze exercise into a busy schedule.
Thanks to the addition of 23 miles of new bikeways in the past year and a half, you can travel more safely and comfortably throughout The City in clearly marked bike space.
This dedicated bike space makes a big difference, as we can see more parents pedaling with their kids to school and day care; more older folks riding to the farmers market with baskets of vegetables; and more of San Francisco’s workforce enjoying a 30-minute, healthy start to the day rather than an hourlong, traffic-clogged commute.
And more people biking is a boost to our local economy. Companies are choosing to be in San Francisco in part so that their increasingly urban-loving workforce can pedal to work, and they are investing in high-quality, secure employee bike parking to make it even more attractive.
With the arrival of a new bike-sharing program this summer, even more people will be able to jump onto bikes for short, easy trips for work, errands or fun.
It is important to note that all San Franciscans — even those who never get on a bike — benefit as biking grows, because each new bicyclist means another available parking spot for those who need to drive or a seat on a crowded bus line for those on transit.
If you are thinking about trying biking, check out the resources offered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, including free Urban Cycling Workshops, family biking classes, online maps showing the best bike routes, information about taking your bike on transit and important rules of the road — all at sfbike.org/resources. And you can learn tips and tricks for getting started commuting by bike at facebook.com/sfbike and twitter.com/sfbike (#BikeBuddy).
Whether you have been biking for years or are trying it for the first time Thursday, I invite you to celebrate Bike to Work Day by stopping by one of our morning or afternoon Energizer Stations to pick up some free goodies and learn more about how San Francisco is becoming one of the best bicycling cities in the country.
Leah Shahum is the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a 12,000-member nonprofit promoting bicycling for everyday transportation.