Paul Valdez, Mega-Volunteer and Zen-Biker

Here at the SF Bicycle Coalition we are honored to highlight the work of one of our most devoted volunteers, Paul Valdez. Paul impressively logged over 58 hours last year, making him one of our most active volunteers for 2015. Motivated by a desire to make San Francisco’s streets safe for everyone, Paul invests himself in every aspect of the SF Bicycle Coalition’s work, from speaking at City Hall, to volunteering with our Valet Bicycle Parking team. It’s thanks to the dedication of members like Paul that your SF Bicycle Coalition continues to grow and thrive.

SF Bicycle Coalition: You logged over 58 volunteer hours in 2015, and are already halfway towards meeting that goal again this year. What motivates you to come out and volunteer with us regularly?

Paul: First of all, let me say that I enjoy my engagement with the SF Bicycle Coalition staff. I highly respect their hard work and dedication on behalf of our 10,000-plus members. They are all so friendly, encouraging, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, patient and so down-to-earth. Since the day I became a member, the SF Bicycle Coalition has made huge efforts in their advocacy for safety and infrastructure improvements that pertain to my daily commute – Market Street. Therefore, I felt it was important to offer my time in a variety of ways as a way to extend my gratitude for this and to support the different efforts that help keep the SF Bicycle Coalition moving forward.

Why is advocating for safe streets a priority for you?

It’s personal. In 1993, I lost a dear friend who was biking home from her bartending job, as she fell victim to poor biking infrastructure and horrible road conditions that caused her to lose control of her bike and collide with an oncoming vehicle. I also have a friend who was a survivor of a terrible collision and I, myself, have experienced many close calls with people driving, being doored, etc.

Life is precious and it’s just not fair that we continue to lose lives of those who were simply riding their bikes. SF today has become densely populated and there needs to immediate changes to our bicycle infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of people who choose to ride their bikes as a mode to get around. Being a member of the SF Bicycle Coalition has enabled me to jump start my passion in advocating and contributing to making Market Street even safer. I keenly feel that the Safer Market Street Project needs to be further enhanced and extended all the way down to at least Main Street. Even with the turn restrictions, there are still unruly people on our streets who continue to make it difficult to share Market Street safely. I do my best to bring a Zen-vibe to Market Street and my ‘fantasy-dream-wish’ is to contribute to any and all future projects that will improve the safety and enjoyability of biking Market.

What motivates you to get out and help other people who bike in SF?

I think people who ride bikes are some of the loveliest people on the planet! Riding a bike vastly improves one’s quality of life and offers an amazing connection to our city’s beautiful landscape and people. Therefore, sharing that vibe with others is the first step. Second step is to ask my friends who bike to become members of the SF Bicycle Coalition. I then encourage volunteering with me, so that they can also meet fellow members, develop new friends and be part of a great community which is kind of awesome.

We ask our volunteers to fulfill many roles — from street outreach to bag-stuffing in advance of Bike to Work Day. What is your favorite way to volunteer?

Can I say that all opportunities are my favorite? If I had to choose, I’m going to say it’s Volunteer Night. It’s a great way to help keep the SF Bicycle Coalition “pedaling” forward by actively participating in a variety of much-needed tasks. This volunteer opportunity also encourages an interconnectedness as you are able to meet fellow members, foster new bike friends, exchange bike stories at the SF Bicycle Coalition’s HQ — a place that kind of serves as a refuge for me. It’s also pretty cool to see many people on bikes pass by or stopped at the Valencia “jughandle.”

What biking improvements have you seen in your neighborhood and what would you like to see more of?

I currently reside on the District 9 part of Folsom Street – a beautiful green bike lane that now extends all the way to Cesar Chavez Street. That final completed stretch of this bike lane from 24th Street to Cesar Chavez was very welcomed.

As for my extended neighborhood, we just need to find a better solution to the abuse of the bike lanes on Valencia Street by people driving private vehicles and the working for transportation-network companies. I know this happens everywhere, but my fellow friends have formed communities and groups to take matters into their own hands by filming videos, collecting data and even approaching cars to kindly ask motorists to move out of the bike lanes. The City should be enforcing this. When fellow bicyclists have to do this, it truly does take the joy away from riding a bike. It is obvious we need the creation of protected bike lanes and improved enforcement in order to make this street (and other high-collision areas) safe and more enjoyable to share and ride.

Inspired by Paul and looking for a place to volunteer? There are so many ways to pitch in! Find the right volunteer opportunity for you and be a part of the community advocating for people who bike in San Francisco. 

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