Maureen Persico and Matt Brezina met on Twitter. Two avid biking advocates, they brainstormed and bonded together over a new idea to protect bike lanes where infrastructure is lacking. As they biked together down Valencia Street one day in early 2017, the idea for People Protected was born.
A few months later, people traveling on Golden Gate Avenue experienced the world’s first People Protected bike lane. Matt and 13 other activists stood in the street, forming a physical barrier to protect people on bikes from cars as they rode through the busy corridor.
With this successful first action, their movement took off. Weeks later, they organized on Valencia Street and soon after, they organized on other San Francisco streets: Townsend, Embarcadero, Howard, and more. Hundreds of people began to stand with Maureen and Matt on various streets — including former Supervisor Jane Kim, former State Senator Mark Leno, and Mayor London Breed.
People are incredibly grateful as they ride their bikes through People Protected bike lanes. “There were lots of smiles, high fives, and kids on the backs of bikes waving and ringing their bells,” Maureen said. “What surprised me is how many car drivers were supportive. Drivers honked and waved in solidarity.”
Cities around the world saw People Protected’s bold action and followed suit. “We’ve seen [People Protected] actions in over a dozen American cities, as well as internationally in Mexico City, Berlin, Dublin, Montreal, Waterloo and more,” Matt explained. As their movement has grown over the last two years, People Protected’s mission has expanded beyond bike lanes to crosswalks as well. On May 1, 2019, exactly two years after the first People Protected bike lane, activists gathered on Market and Montgomery to form a People Protected crosswalk in collaboration with SF Transit Riders Union and Walk SF.
Fueling Maureen and Matt’s advocacy over the last two years has been a hope that San Francisco would model itself after cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
For anyone who is interested in starting a similar action, People Protected has instructions on their website. As Maureen explains, all that’s required to make change is for people to join together. “You and ten friends can create a protected bike lane.”
Join Maureen and Matt in conversation as we honor People Protected on July 25 at the Golden Wheel Awards. Buy your tickets today.