10 Key San Francisco Bike Improvements in Last 20 Years

This Thursday, May 8, is the 20th Anniversary of Bike to Work Day in the Bay Area. The anniversary is a chance to look back at how far San Francisco has come in the last twenty years, and how our streets and culture have shifted to embrace bicycling.

“San Francisco’s biking environment — both physically and politically — would barely be recognizable to someone today compared to twenty years ago. We have moved light years ahead from being a place that viewed people on bikes as second-class citizens to one today in which bicycling is recognized as being essential for an active, healthy, affordable city that offers great transportation choices.”
– Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Then versus Now: See How Far We’ve Come:

  1. Increase in Ridership: The City began their annual bike counts in 2006. Since then, the number of people biking has increased 96%! People of all ages are biking in our city, including more than 3,500 youth and families who participated in April’s Bike and Roll to School Week, the largest youth biking event in the country.
  2. Market Street Counts: Twenty years ago, it was mostly bike messengers on Market Street. Today, bikes account for 67% of weekday morning traffic, with an average of 3,000 inbound bike trips per day. On Bike to Work Day last year, bikes accounted for 76% of morning traffic.
  3. Bikes on Transit: Twenty years ago you needed a permit to bring your bike on BART. Today, you can bring your bike on BART at all times of day. This year is the first Bike to Work Day without the bike blackout. In 1995, Caltrain retrofitted their cars to allow bikes. Today, there is so much demand for bike space that bicyclists are sometimes bumped.
  4. Protected Bike Lanes: Twenty years ago, bike lanes were nothing more than paint on the ground. Today, we have physically-protected bike lanes on Market Street, Fell and Oak Streets, Cargo Way, and just this week—Polk Street. 
  5. Better Bike Parking: Twenty years ago, you were hard pressed to find a bike rack. Today, there are thousands of racks, and 55 on-street bike corrals. San Francisco planning code now requires new buildings to have bike parking, and the building owners are now required to provide bike parking for employees or allow them to bring bikes into the office.
  6. Streets for People: Twenty years ago, there was no people-prioritized streets. Today, we have Sunday Streets in every neighborhood, parklets on business corridors and people-friendly plazas.
  7. Bike-Timed Lights: In 2011, the City installed the first “green wave” on Valencia Street. Green waves are lights timed at bike speed (12-20 mph). Green Waves are now on Folsom Street, 14th Street, 11th Street, Arguello Boulevard, Fulton Street, and North Point Street.
  8. City Officials Riding: Tom Ammiano was the first sitting Supervisor to ride in Bike to Work Day. Today, nearly every Supervisor, the Mayor and Department leaders all join in on Bike to Work Day. The Heads of the Board of Supervisors and MTA both regularly bike.
  9. Bike Share: Bay Area Bike Share launched in 2013, with 350 bike share bikes in San Francisco. The program is set to expand to expand to 500 later this year. City studies have shown San Francisco can have a network of 3,000 bikes, in line with other major cities.
  10. Businesses Embracing Bicycling: Businesses across the city are encouraging their employees to bike to work. Business corridors are thriving, as studies shows that people on bikes spend more at local businesses than those driving. Bike corrals, parklets and bike lanes are being added on important business corridors throughout the city.

For historic and current photos of San Francisco bicycling, visit flickr.com/sfbike. Credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

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