Meet Chris, our longest-standing intern and all-around superstar. He’s put in countless hours working on our Yerba Buena Bicycle-Friendly Business District and other related Bikes and Business projects, not to mention volunteering all over the city as a Bicycle Ambassador.
We said goodbye to him last week (sadly), but not before we caught up with him to hear what his internship experience has been like and where he’s headed next:
You put in over 550 hours of interning and volunteer time into the SF Bicycle Coalition in 2014. (Wow!) What first motivated you to apply for an internship?
There were a couple reasons, really. I had just returned from living in Beijing and was really motivated to get involved in my local community on a tangible level. The actual moment, however, was when I was living in Oakland, riding my bike down Broadway and cursing the pothole. I rode by a Bike East Bay energizer station handing out free bike lights, and after chatting with them I started thinking, “Maybe I should stop complaining about the lack of bike lanes and do something about it!” I moved to San Francisco shortly afterwards and immediately looked up opportunities at the SF Bicycle Coalition.
What kinds of projects have you worked on during your time here?
One of best parts of being an intern at the SF Bicycle Coalition is the fact that you get the opportunity to work on an astonishing variety of projects, but the main project I worked on was helping to conceptualize and implement the Yerba Buena Bicycle-Friendly Business District – a first for San Francisco. My role centered on outreach, and I spent most days pounding the pavement, talking to almost every business owner in the Yerba Buena neighborhood. Overall, I think the project was a great pilot; it launched with almost 40 participating businesses, offering everything from discounts for people who ride to requesting new sidewalk racks, and I hope to see it replicated elsewhere in the city.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned through your internship?
That’s usually a pretty difficult question to answer definitively, but in this case, I can actually point to one thing. When I started this internship, I had never worked in transportation or community organizing – it wasn’t anywhere close to what I had studied at university. However, after about a month at the SF Bicycle Coalition, I was stunned to realize that I find transportation and urban planning absolutely fascinating. This discovery has opened up a whole new industry to me, and coincidentally, the SF Bicycle Coalition has exposed me to a wealth of people and organizations to help me get started.
What has your favorite intern or volunteer moment been?
I’m going to cheat here and give you two moments. The first wasn’t directly part of the SF Bicycle Coalition, but I had a great time when a group of interns decided to go to the SF Bike Party together. Although we didn’t really follow the theme, we had some glow sticks and Bike to Work Day flags rubber banded to our bikes. The atmosphere was simply electric, and to see so many people having a great time riding around town really made me feel like I was rejoining the San Francisco community.
I also have to point to the day I picked up the window decals we had designed for the Yerba Buena Bicycle-Friendly Business District. Despite all the months of work leading up to that, the project finally felt tangible after getting my hands on that little sticker. Putting that first decal up in the window of Alexander Book Co. on 2nd street was tremendously fulfilling.
What do you do when you’re not donating your time to the SF Bicycle Coalition?
I definitely like to keep busy. Over the past year at the SF Bicycle Coalition, I’ve balanced my time with other work at the Asia Society of Northern California and helping out with the transportation newsletter at SPUR, but I also try and find time to get in some rock climbing, hiking – really anything active and outdoors.
Your internship ended this month. What’s next for you?
As much as I love San Francisco, I’ve always had a weakness for travel, and I’ve accepted a year-long position in Udaipur, India with the Foundation for Sustainable Development. Funny enough, when people ask me about it, I tend to describe it in SF Bicycle Coalition terms – it’s a mix between volunteer coordinator and community outreach manager. I leave mid-February, and I’m really excited to expand my community development work on a larger scale. Who knows – maybe I’ll start the first Udaipur Bicycle Coalition.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering or interning here?
My advice would be two-fold. First off, if you are considering volunteering, you should absolutely go for it. Not only is it very fulfilling experience, but it is also great fun, you meet a heap of interesting people and it will greatly deepen your connection to SF. Secondly, I would encourage potential volunteers to take full advantage of this experience as a chance to build your professional expertise – learning to use Salesforce, updating the website or managing tasks in Basecamp are all valuable and transferable skills regardless of industry.