As our Communications Director for over three years, Chris Cassidy helped produce thousands of emails, blog posts, Tube Times, ads and social media posts in order to connect members with the work of the SF Bicycle Coalition. While still a committed member, he recently left staff for a move to Mexico City with his family, where he’s freelancing during the week and enjoying ciclovias every Sunday. As we seek an External Affairs Director to join the team, we caught up with Chris to share an inside perspective of what it’s like helping to lead communications for the SF Bicycle Coalition and our 10,000-plus members.
SF Bicycle Coalition: What’s one of your biggest takeaways from over three years of connecting members with the work of the SF Bicycle Coalition?
Chris Cassidy: When I first heard about the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition job opening I ended up filling, I reached out to a friend of mine with a long history of working in San Francisco politics to get their perspective on the organization. I knew that the SF Bicycle Coalition was a serious vehicle for change on San Francisco’s streets, but my friend’s feedback caught me off guard: “The SF Bicycle Coalition is hands-down the most effective advocacy organization in the city.”
It’s been such an honor and a treat connecting members with the SF Bicycle Coalition’s work over the past few years. I can point to so many times where members went toe-to-toe against forces with more money, more staff and more political connections, but we came out on top. And the streets and communities of San Francisco are better for it.
What’s one of your favorite street campaign memories from your time on staff?
In three years on staff, I saw SF Bicycle Coalition members win so many victories that it’s honestly hard to pick just one. We won protected bike lanes on San Jose Avenue, Upper Market Street, Folsom, Division, Second, Seventh, Eighth, Mansell Street …. The list goes on and on.
But one campaign that really stands out in my memory is the push for protected bike lanes on Turk Street. We had high hopes for the buffered, paint-only bike lane on Golden Gate Avenue, which runs parallel to Turk. People driving quickly demonstrated that paint wasn’t enough to protect people biking on that high-injury corridor, however, filling the bike lane with motor vehicles daily. So when the City announced plans to replicate that failed design on Turk Street, which was also a high-injury corridor, we were aghast at their unwillingness to learn from recent mistakes.
The SF Bicycle Coalition opposed plans for a paint-only, buffered bike lane on Turk, making it the first and — as of yet — only bike lane ever opposed by the organization since our founding in 1971. Together with powerful advocacy by Supervisor Jane Kim, our members spoke up to tell the City that sacrificing safety on San Francisco’s streets was a nonstarter. We sent planners back to the drawing board, where they came up with designs for the protected bike lane that people enjoy on Turk today.
What continues to surprise you about SF Bicycle Coalition members?
I do not know of an organization with more engaged members than the SF Bicycle Coalition. Time after time, including on Townsend recently, members turn out, speak up and provide the crucial support that makes the staff’s work possible.
Members help fix bikes for distribution to folks who could not otherwise afford bikes. Members conduct streetside outreach, connecting even more people with the SF Bicycle Coalition and our work. Members generously fund the organization’s work. Members organize the biggest Bike & Roll to School Week in the country every year at nearly 100 schools across the city.
Members are the secret sauce behind every single victory the SF Bicycle Coalition celebrates. Having had the opportunity to connect members with opportunities to improve their streets and communities these past few years has been an honor and a privilege that I’ll always look back on fondly.
Are you a messaging, media and development leader eager to provide our 10,000-plus members with ways to transform San Francisco? We’re hiring an External Affairs Director to manage all of our marketing and communications channels to promote the bicycle for everyday transportation and fulfill the goals and objectives of our new strategic plan. See the job description and apply here.