Biking by the Numbers

There are many, many commas in the spending numbers of San Francisco’s transportation projects. That can make it hard to figure out how costs of bike projects (such as new bikeways) compare to costs of other kinds of projects (such as signals and transit lines). Here’s the basic jist: relatively speaking, bike projects are dirt cheap. Check out our quick comparison, from most expensive to least:

1 mile of Bay Bridge eastern span:

1 year of the SFMTA budget:

1 mile of Central Subway:

1 mile of Doyle Drive:

1 mile of basic protected bikeway:

1 new traffic signal:

1 curb extension:

Percentage of MTA budget spent on biking:
Less than 1%


MYTH: The City must be spending a fortune on biking to implement all those new bike lanes! There’s no way we can keep spending so much on bike lanes with so many other pressing needs in San Francisco.

REALITY: Bike projects are the lentils of the transportation world: high impact, extremely affordable and great paired with other transportation networks (or other food items, if we’re talking lentils). According to the SFMTA’s own analysis, the agency has historically only spent just 0.46% of its capital budget (and even less of its operational budget!) on bike projects. As a reference point, 8% of SFMTA’s budget would support building protected bikeways across the city. Lest you think there are other sources of funding for bike projects across the city, think again. The SFMTA is responsible for all but a tiny number of dollars that go toward improving biking in San Francisco.

Despite this paltry investment in biking, however, our new lanes and racks have spurred a drastic 96% increase in biking over the last seven years. No other mode of transportation is growing as fast or has as high of a return on investment, even though much more funding is being put toward improving other transportation networks.

Furthermore, biking is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to improve transportation even if you never get on a bike. Think about it: for every person biking, one more seat opens up on public transit or one more parking spot becomes available on our congested streets. It’s not a bad trade-off.

If you support more efficient spending of City money and freeing up our crowded streets, join our movement to shift the allocation of transportation funds. To plug into this important campaign, e-mail and learn about important upcoming meetings and opportunities to take action.

Become a member and you'll improve your commute and get discounts at shops across the city.