Bike to Worship Week: SF Zen Center

Bike to Worship Week is an interfaith community event led by SF Bicycle Coalition member-volunteers of all different faiths in partnership with the San Francisco Interfaith Council. From May 25-June 1, various congregations will raise visibility of biking to worship (and elsewhere!) while making our communities safer and more pleasant places to live.

One of the local Bike to Worship Week promoters, Shundo David Haye, has been an avid urban bicyclist and SF Bicycle Coalition Member for years. He moved from England in 2000, and he now lives and works at the San Francisco Zen Center.

What inspired you to organize a Bike to Worship event in your community?
I have been an urban cyclist all my adult life and a Bike Coalition member since 1999. I feel cycling is very much in alignment with our life and practice here at Zen Center. Since I both live and work at Zen Center, I don’t get to participate in Bike to Work day, so when I heard about this initiative, I wanted to offer it to my community.

What kind of turnout are you expecting for this event?
I really have no idea what to expect. We have quite a few people who come by bike anyway, and I hope they will all be present. My wish is that some more people will feel encouraged to give it a try.

How are you encouraging your members to bike?
We have been making announcements after our main public event, the Saturday dharma talk, and we put the word out in our email newsletter. It also appears on our website. Many of our residents ride their bikes around, and some of them will be on hand to offer refreshments and encouragement to our community members.

How does Biking to Worship this week tie in with bikes in other aspects of your members’ daily lives, religious and otherwise?
I would say that many people come to Zen Center as an urban refuge, to have a time of mindfulness and quiet in their busy lives. Meditation practice is supposed to help you be more focused on the present moment, and it ties in with people wanting to lead a healthy and positive life in a way that people who choose to ride bike are also often wishing to do. While city cycling can be stressful, I think it is often less so than driving or taking Muni. I also think being on a bike helps in being present and focused.

In what ways will more people biking impact your community?
Traffic and parking is a real issue on our neighborhood, and more so in the last few years. We are fairly central in the city, so it is possible to use public transport. Many people live close enough to walk, but every person who comes by bike rather than by car will have an impact on the congestion and the limited amount of parking in the area. Any improvement in that will have contribute to peoples’ sense of spaciousness rather than their sense of busyness.

Why do you support the SF Bicycle Coalition?
I would never have come to live in San Francisco had I not met someone, whom I subsequently married, at the annual members’ party (now Winterfest) in 1999 when I was visiting the city, so of course I will always be grateful for that. Beyond that, I have never owned a car, and have relied on my bike as my primary transportation both in London and San Francisco. As an individual cyclist I often feel powerless both in the moment and in the larger scheme of things; an effective advocacy organization makes all the difference.

What is your favorite SF Bicycle Coalition initiative?
Hard to single out one – I love green bike lanes wherever they appear, but I also love pothole fixes, valet parking, bike corrals and Sunday Streets.

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