From Leah's Desk

One of the most satisfying parts of being involved with the SFBC is to hear from people returning to San Francisco after a few years away that the city "is so much better for bikes." I think that sometimes those of us riding here every day may be too close to see the tremendous changes happening on our streets and in our communities.

There have been noticeable changes within our own bike community in the past few years as well. The numbers speak for themselves. According to U.S. Census figures, the number of people bike commuting literally doubled in San Francisco in the past 10 years. Anecdotally, I feel like I am seeing a lot more diversity among bicyclists on our streets. While we have always seen more variety in ridership than most American cities, I barely bat an eye now at seeing elderly people or kids with parents riding on city streets. It's just that common.

Politically, of course, we are in a different place too. Mayoral candidates are seeking the SFBC's blessings and requesting information on our issues. Our newsletter is read by decisionmakers throughout the city. Bicyclists are regularly mentioned in the media as a political force to be reckoned with.

The SFBC as an organization is very different than it was ten years ago, or five years ago, or even three years ago. Today, with 4,200 dues-paying members, we have more direct support than ever before, and more responsibilities. With seven employees (some part-time and some temporary through our state contract work), we have more skills and resources to draw on. But the SFBC's greatest strength is still drawn straight from its members, and particularly from those willing to be more active. Paragraph

With so many more members, how do we make sure that our mandate from membership is still on target? By the time you read this newsletter, we will have started an extensive process to update the SFBC's strategic plan. In the next issue of the newsletter, we will share the results of that member-driven planning process. But as I write this we have not yet held our first meeting, and who knows what we will decide together. I hope we will consider some of the questions that come up commonly in conversation these days:

  • Should the SFBC be paying more attention to recreational riding? Are we neglecting a segment of the bicycling community by seeming to care only for commuters?
  • Should we focus more on youth riders? We could follow Marin's successful example with a Safe Routes to School program, but is S.F. ready?
  • At what point do we feel that the Bike Network is "complete" and begin to move on to other important work?
  • How do we keep the balance of generating grassroots passion and energy, while also positioning ourselves as professionals who partner with more traditional agencies?

Hopefully many of you attended our Strategic Planning meeting in late May, but if you did not, we encourage you to get involved at any time in helping to define our future. Determining the SFBC's direction is not a one-time deal. As members, you make the ultimate decisions on what issues we focus on, how much energy we put toward specific campaigns, and, in the end, how successful we are.

By Leah Shahum
Executive Director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

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