One of two 2016 Golden Wheel Awards goes to Assemblymember Phil Ting. Assemblymember Ting’s legislative accomplishments mark him as one of the premier champions in Sacramento for people who bike.
We caught up with Assemblymember Ting recently to talk about what motivates his work to improve biking in San Francisco, what he sees as next steps and where he enjoyed his first taste of urban cycling (on the entirely other side of the globe.)
SF Bicycle Coalition: What inspires your commitment to working towards safer, more bikeable streets?
Assemblymember Ting: San Francisco’s population is growing. We need to improve how we move everybody in the city around, including those of us who live here as well as those who come into the city to work and play. The only way to do that is to increase opportunities to walk, bike or ride public transit. If we don’t build the infrastructure for more active transportation, gridlock will only get worse. In addition, investing in active transportation improves everyone’s health by making it easier for people to get out and get exercise by traveling around San Francisco on their bikes while also reducing pollution from vehicles.
How often do you bike and where are some of your favorite places to bike in and around SF?
I only get to bike occasionally, but my two favorite spots in San Francisco are Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway. Additionally, I have a bike in Sacramento, because as a legislator, I work part time in the State Capitol. I enjoy biking around downtown Sacramento because it’s much flatter than San Francisco!
What’s your number one policy priority when it comes to biking? What do our streets look like after you’ve achieved that goal?
My number one goal is to get more funding for active transportation. If we fund active transportation at 1 percent of what we fund all other transportation priorities, it would be a huge boost to the state’s infrastructure. With that money, we could install more bike lanes and make biking in San Francisco significantly safer. The state budget just passed by the Legislature includes funding for active transportation, which we hope to augment with funds from the state’s cap and trade program. Active transportation has long been a priority for the Assembly and will remain so while I’m Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.
As a result of our efforts to build out our bicycling infrastructure, ridership will increase significantly, and more people will have alternatives to move around San Francisco and California.
What’s something that fellow SF Bicycle Coalition members would be surprised to learn about you?
I spent my last year of college in Beijing, China, where my bike was my primary mode of transportation. I got to bike to the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace to name a few sites. I saw a city where cars and bikes shared the road and the streets were built with cycletracks everywhere. Back then, 80 percent of people got around by bike. It was a sight to see millions of people transport themselves, their families and their stuff by bike. I perfected my urban bicycling skills in Beijing riding around vehicles, people and any obstacle you can think of.
What’s the number one goal you have for San Francisco’s streets in the next five years?
My top goal is to make roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. We’re on our way. San Francisco continues to add bike lanes, including a new one in front of my San Francisco office on Golden Gate Avenue that opened last week. I proudly authored AB 1193 which authorized the cycletrack around the state. I was happy to see the first cycletrack go in on Polk Street a few years ago and look forward to seeing more of them in San Francisco.
You’re being honored for your leadership on bike policy, including the passage of AB 40, banning tolls for people biking and walking the Golden Gate Bridge. What are the necessary steps to improving the experience of biking in and around San Francisco?
We need to invest in funding bike lanes and other infrastructure for non-drivers with the same sense of urgency that we invest in building roads and filling potholes. Making it easier for people to get out of their cars reduces congestion for people who must drive, reduces fossil fuel consumption, improves air quality, and helps people to be active and healthy. It’s a great return on our investment.
One of my favorite projects has been working with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Presidio YBike on bike safety fairs at various schools around San Francisco. I’m so proud that my seven-year old daughter learned how to ride a bike at one of these fairs. It demonstrates the benefit for so many families and kids around the City, including my own.
Join us Wednesday, July 13 and thank Assemblymember Ting in person at the 24th Annual Golden Wheel Awards. Attendees will enjoy hearing directly from Assemblymember Ting and fellow awardee Nicole Ferrara of Walk SF, along with special remarks by Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, who are both vying to represent San Francisco in the State Senate. Reserve your seat today for an elegant night honoring champions of people biking.