A Letter from our Executive Director: The Bicycle as a Tool for the Present and Future

This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of our quarterly newsletter, the Tube Times. Some edits have been made in response to new developments. For this story and more, download the Spring 2020 PDF.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has always been dedicated to imagining a better future for our city and its people, then organizing and fighting for it. As we grapple with the growing human toll of the pandemic, that imaginative capacity and determination has never been more crucial. Coming together for mutual aid and survival in times of crisis is a defining characteristic of our humanity, and I am inspired by the many examples of that spirit that we have seen here in San Francisco and around the world.

While the fundamentals of our work have not shifted, we have had to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. As always, members continue to power our work, and this Bike Month we need your support more than ever. Please join or renew so that we can stay strong during this crucial period.

I want to share with you a few examples of how the members and staff of the SF Bicycle Coalition are coming together to help each other and how we are continuing to imagine and fight for a better future during this time of uncertainty.

Bicycle repair is an essential service: Within days of San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order (the first in the nation), the SF Bicycle Coalition worked with elected officials to clarify that bicycle repair is an essential service and local bike shops are allowed to stay open. We are keeping an updated list on our website of bike shops in San Francisco that remain open for repair and maintenance. 

The bicycle as a tool to connect vulnerable community members and first responders: Our organizing staff is working to connect seniors and others with limited mobility in the Tenderloin,SoMa and beyond with telephone calls to check in on their needs and deliver food and other necessities by bicycle. We have also launched a Bike Match program to connect those in need of a bicycle with others who may have an extra bike they are not using. 

Serving as a trusted resource for bicycling information: As thousands of San Franciscans adapt their commutes to deal with transit service cuts, many are looking to alternatives for making essential trips. As the city’s leading source for information on how to bike safely and responsibly, we continue to make our educational resources freely available to all. 

Open Streets are necessary for healthy cities: The shelter-in-place order has shown that San Franciscans, and especially families with children, do not have equal access to car-free space to safely enjoy fresh air and exercise. While our public health officials have limited the expansion of those spaces during the order, we will not give up fighting for that space across our city once the order is lifted. 

Clean air and fewer automobile trips are the silver linings we cannot ignore: We will learn many lessons from this pandemic, but one silver lining is the dramatic improvement in air quality and the reduction in carbon emissions from transportation. The public health threat of climate change will remain once COVID-19 abates, and we have a singular opportunity to examine how our city is designed and to promote other modes of transportation over cars. The urgency to change our behavior and dramatically reduce emissions has never been greater. 

We have a vision that San Francisco will be a city that emerges from the pandemic with a more equitable, safe and sustainable transportation system. Our organizational values — transportation justice, joy, sustainability and people power — will continue to guide our work fighting for better policies and infrastructure while supporting our community with resources, information and digital platforms for connection.

It will take us many months to beat the dire threat of COVID-19 and work our way back to a semblance of normalcy in San Francisco and beyond. I have faith that we will continue to show up to support those in our community who are sick, working on the front lines as health care workers and first responders, or are impacted economically. I also have more faith than ever that the bicycle is a tool well-suited for our present moment and our future. 

What we choose to do with it will make all of the difference. 

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