This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of our quarterly magazine, the Tube Times.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition promotes biking for everyday transportation across our beautiful city. The success of that work depends on building lasting coalitions that are responsive to our members and the needs of our neighborhoods.
As more people bike, and interest in biking explodes, we rely on this model throughout the city, including the areas where building safer streets for locals has been an afterthought for policymakers. Bayview-Hunters Point is one such area.
The last predominantly black neighborhood in the city, Bayview-Hunters Point retains that old Frisco*, working-class history that brought thousands of Black Louisianians to work at the Hunters Point Navy Shipyard around World War II. Pacific Islanders, Chinese, Latino and white San Franciscans, amongst others, have since joined them to make Bayview-Hunters Point one of our city’s most diverse neighborhoods.
For all this history, diversity and unusually sunny weather, the majority of people living in Bayview-Hunters Point continue to face tremendous challenges. Historically marginalized, the neighborhood wants for sufficient opportunities to earn a living wage, and there is a lack of dignified and affordable housing. Industrial pollution and a dearth of healthy food and open space are also pervasive.
As often happens, the silver lining of this lamentable reality is a long, strong history of community organizing and activism. In this climate, the SF Bicycle Coalition has found enthusiastic support for biking.
Bike it Forward Events: More People on Two Wheels
Our keystone campaign in Bayview-Hunters Point today places donated and City-owned bicycles in the hands of residents who want to bike but are unable to afford a bicycle. Since 2012, in close collaboration with the Bayview HEAL Zone, POWER (now merged with Causa Justa :: Just Cause) and our own SF Bicycle Coalition members, we have held a dozen Bike it Forward events with community groups like the Bayview YMCA and City of Dreams.
Making Oakdale Safer for People Biking
For people who already bike, safety is a serious concern across Bayview-Hunters Point. Oakdale Avenue is often the quickest, flattest route into the heart of the Bayview. Besides being a convenient bike route, Oakdale also has the unfortunate distinction of being a heavily-used truck route, particularly approaching the warehouses and businesses near Bayshore Boulevard.
Making this important route safer has long been a campaign of ours – one that kicked into high gear when the San Francisco Planning Department announced its Green Connections project. We saw the opportunity to make Oakdale safer by uniting with local residents and urging the City to add buffered bike lanes from Loomis to Third, as well as other safety improvements to deter dangerous speeding and reduce congestion. We share the goal with locals of reducing speeding and protecting people biking. With our members’ help, this is a real possibility over the next 18 months.
Improving Safety East of Third
We are pushing for safety improvements on Quesada Avenue and Fitzgerald Avenue, as their respective parallel streets Palou Avenue and Gilman Street are increasingly dedicated to public transit. We are working with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to identify the safest design improvements, while keeping our members and community partners informed and encouraging them to support a community vision of more comfortable, safer roads for everyone.
The Long View
Every opportunity to make our roads safer is one we will seize, and that includes the development planned for Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick. Whether it is with the City or with developers, we are committed to making sure projects respect the needs and desires of the community, while addressing existing and historical transportation and environmental disparities.
Biking in Bayview-Hunters Point is not just about getting around and having fun doing it. It is also about embracing a more active lifestyle or a more efficient one. (Unfortunately, this is particularly relevant in the Bayview, given the Muni Metro T Line’s unreliability.) The inherent affordability of biking as a form of transportation is also an important reason why residents – many overburdened by transportation expenses – are excited to get on two wheels, and the SF Bicycle Coalition is dedicated to making it easier and safer for them to do so.
*Our wonderful city has a multitude of names. Frisco is a common moniker in Bayview-Hunters Point, like ‘San Pancho’ is in the Mission, and like ‘Gum Saan’ once was in Chinatown.