To the members of the SF Bicycle Coalition:
It has been an immense privilege working to transform San Francisco’s streets and neighborhoods into safe, just, and livable places over the past seven years as a staff member at the SF Bicycle Coalition. The urgency of this work can be measured in the lives at stake on our streets, the health and wellbeing of our communities, and the need for dramatic reductions in carbon emissions due to automobiles. As an organization — members, staff and board — we have much to be proud of when it comes to the change we’ve brought to our streets.
I know I am leaving this work in the very capable hands of the SF Bicycle Coalition staff. I have been able to watch them work magic up close, and they have inspired me daily. Get to know them better if you already don’t! Our volunteer Board of Directors is also hard at work searching for our next Executive Director. The passion and commitment of these folks gives me total confidence in finding a new a leader who can elevate our mission and values to the next level of impact. And of course you, our members, have continually buoyed my faith in our ability to come together and collectively solve big problems that would overwhelm any of us individually. Membership matters. Convince a friend who bikes in SF to join or renew today.
As I leave this role for my next professional adventure as Executive Director at Friends of the Urban Forest, I have some parting thoughts I’d like to share:
- Car-free streets must be made permanent. San Francisco’s pandemic response, including a car-free JFK Drive, Great Highway, and Shelley Drive in McLaren Park have helped us reimagine how our streets function. We have seen the benefits for families, neighborhoods, and businesses. As we emerge from the emergency health order that transformed these streets, a necessary process will take place that can make them permanent. We will need leadership from Mayor Breed and Board of Supervisors as well as the grassroots support of our members and a broader coalition of stakeholders for that to happen. There are communities that have legitimate claims to being left out of the conversation when it comes to transportation planning. Their voices must be heard, and I believe their concerns can be addressed while preserving the many benefits of keeping car-free streets.
- The fight won’t be won on social media, though. Twitter, Facebook, et. al. are great for many things. Sharing information widely and quickly (if not always accurately), for instance. Especially in our isolation, we have relied on them more than ever to stay connected to one another. I have learned time and again, however, that they are not how real and lasting change happens. It can feel good to Tweet a hot take, but it doesn’t win a protected bike lane or keep JFK Drive car-free. Write a letter, show up to a meeting and make public comment, and attend events in your neighborhood to make a difference
- Organizing matters. The way we win change on our streets and in our communities is by organizing and showing up. Building a broad coalition of stakeholders in support of car-free spaces and other street transformations is hard work. It means listening to voices who may not agree with our point of view. It also means showing up in solidarity for other movements and causes that are aligned with our value of transportation justice.
- We need to keep talking about race. The historic and continued whiteness of our organization and the broader bicycle advocacy movement means that past decisions and positions have caused unaddressed harm, particularly to Black and brown communities in SF and beyond. If the loudest voices in the room when we talk about car-free JFK Drive, for example, are still mostly white and cis male, we will continue to perpetuate that history. To other white folks in this movement: please consider listening before speaking. Try to build awareness about how you are showing up in a discussion. Educate yourself on the structures of white supremacy within transportation planning. Do the work of listening to an opposing perspective and engaging in real dialogue. Recognize your privilege and uplift the voices of others. Our movement for a safe, just, and livable San Francisco must prioritize racial justice and equity.
I leave this role incredibly hopeful about bicycling in San Francisco. It may not always make the headlines, but the SF Bicycle Coalition is making a real difference in the lives of San Franciscans every day through our free adult bicycle education, our work with young people and their families, and our Bike it Forward Program. Promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation means breaking down the barriers that people face when choosing to bike. Safety through better infrastructure is key, but we also are working to address the gaps in knowledge and access to bicycles.
The bicycle is a machine, and our streets are merely concrete and paint. Our work means nothing if it does not improve people’s daily lives. The joy on a child’s face when they learn to bike is as important as winning a car-free JFK Drive, and one is dependent upon the other. Show up, listen, and then speak out. The future is bright, and I remain proud to be a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.