Farewell to our Advocacy Director Janice Li

After eight incredible years with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, we are sharing the departure of our Advocacy Director Janice Li.

Janice was hired in 2013 and first started as our community organizer covering the western half of San Francisco. She was promoted to Advocacy Director in 2015, where she has led the team to countless campaign victories over the years to win more protected bike lanes, billions of dollars for transit-first improvements, and better policies for biking, walking, and public transit.

We are so grateful for the many years that Janice has dedicated to advancing our mission of promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation, imbuing our advocacy through member-driven community organizing. We took a moment to ask Janice a few questions and have her share where she’s off to next.

What are you the most proud of during your time on staff?
When I started in 2013, protected bike lanes were still a foreign concept for most, and we were getting maybe one new protected bike lane installed per year versus the miles and miles we win and construct annually today. I’m proud of how much we’ve advanced, where anything short of a protected bike lane is insufficient and that we’ll hear it from our members. But it’s taken a long time to get here. It took winning ballot measures to bring in more revenue for bicycle and pedestrian projects, streamlining City processes, pushing for real concrete improvements that aren’t just paint and posts, and so much more.

I’m also really proud of how we do the work. We know the only way that our campaigns will remain relevant is to make sure our organizing is inclusive and representative of the community. I’m confident in our team of community organizers to continue this work as led by Claire Amable and Malcolm Jaramillo, two BIPOC community leaders who were born and raised in San Francisco.

How do you see the SF Bicycle Coalition growing in the coming years?
We know that the SF Bicycle Coalition can’t just go it alone when it comes to building a better San Francisco and advancing our mission of promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation. We need to build power with others, alongside others, and sometimes, that means taking a step back and letting others lead — especially when it comes to communities of color and people who know their communities best. This also means that to make our movement relevant and undeniable, our advocacy must be based on people’s lived experiences, especially those of the most marginalized.

Lastly, we need to elect better leaders. The politics of the day unnecessarily drive what progress we do and don’t make to be a more bike-friendly, walkable, transit-first city. Community organizing is all about moving people who make decisions; I quickly learned one of the most powerful things I could do then was to run for office and become the decision maker, which also meant I had to understand transportation and land use issues from beyond just the seat of a bicycle. We need to hold our decision makers accountable and elect people who will be transportation champions.

Eight years is a long time! How has being at the SF Bicycle Coalition impacted you?
I’ve grown so much in these eight years. San Francisco has become my home, and I’ve gotten to know the city through sidewalks and bike lanes, by looking out the window of a Muni bus, by attending neighborhood group meetings and community events. Through this job, I’ve met so many incredible people, made so many friends, and deepened my love for this community, our struggles, and the deep desire to fight for a better and more just future.

I’ve spent cold evenings with amazing volunteers to distribute bike lights to people biking by without them. I’ve hosted rallies on City Hall steps with those most impacted by our city’s traffic violence. I’ve turned out hundreds to hearings, packed rooms for community meetings, and flooded inboxes with emails on the eve of a major decision. But I could only do all this with our membership, and I am forever grateful for everything I’ve learned from each and every one of you.

Can you share where you’re off to next?
I’m thrilled and honored to work for Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) to become the first director of the Coalition of Community Safety and Justice. This new coalition formed between CAA, Chinese Progressive Association, Chinatown Community Development Center, and CYC — four organizational stalwarts of the Asian American community in San Francisco — to address the long-standing hate, violence, and racism against the Asian community.

I will be at the SF Bicycle Coalition until the end of December before I transition to my new role at CAA. I’ll be at Winterfest this Sunday, December 12 and hope to be able to see all our members there to thank them for their tireless advocacy. Buy your tickets today at sfbike.org/winterfest.

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