Who Gets Counted?

When it comes to figuring out the number of people biking in San Francisco, how bike counts are done determines who gets counted.

Using the term “invisible” to describe people who bike is nothing new, but it was perhaps at The Untokening last November that brought the term to the forefront. Subtitled “a convening for just streets and communities,” this conference is described by LA Streetsblog editor and ethnographic researcher Sahra Sulaiman as “a national gathering on equity in mobility aimed at decentering the white male upper middle-class culture.”

One of the fundamental issues is being able to make visible people who bike at the margins. In San Francisco, this means people who bike outside of morning and evening peak commute hours or outside the City-established bike network to get to where they need to go. Sulaiman continues:

The absence of so-called “invisible” cyclists from organized mobility and urbanist circles coupled with non-contextualized data has made it too easy for mainstream advocates to make misguided assumptions about what such communities were or were not doing and why. […] The best way forward was to host a convening that would move to the fore the people and perspectives they saw consistently relegated to the margins.

This is why we’re excited that the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) began using automated counters and rapidly expanding the number of bike count locations throughout San Francisco. This is just a first step, but being able to have around-the-clock bike counts at 44 locations around the city, from popular bike routes like Market Street to Holloway Avenue in Ingleside and Bayshore Boulevard near the Hairball, means that more and more invisible riders are being seen and counted.

This led to the astonishing announcement by the SFMTA that they estimate 82,000 bike trips are taken by San Franciscans every single day. This data is also now viewable online now at sfmta.com/bikecounts.

This data only further bolsters the need for citywide advocacy, whether it’s continuing to push for protected bike lanes on Market Street or doing locally-driven, block-by-block grassroots organizing to meet the needs of people who are biking in the outer neighborhoods. Your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition continues to advocate for better biking in every community, and we hope to see you in our ranks as a member to continue this momentum forward.

Want to connect or learn more about our advocacy work? Email our Advocacy Director at janice@sfbike.org.

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