Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

More bikes than cars in San Francisco

Posted by on May 18th, 2007 at 12:13 pm


San Francisco Mayor Gavin
Newsom on Bike to Work Day.

San Francisco is making a serious run at Portland to become the most bike-friendly big city in America.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) reports that according to their municipal transit agency, there were more bikes than cars during yesterday’s commute into the city. Here’s the blurb from the SFBC website:

“The number of people bicycling on Bike to Work Day this year on Market St. increased 27% over last year, according to counts taken by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency today…

Bikes made up 54% of the overall eastbound traffic during this hour on Market St., while personal automobiles made up 42% of traffic.

Also yesterday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom unveiled an ambitious list of milestones to improve bicycling in the city. Dubbed the “Bike SF 2010 Milestones”, the announcement marks the city’s,

“…first-ever comprehensive roadmap of goals and target dates to measure San Francisco’s progress in making bicycling a routine transportation choice for residents and visitors.”


Leah Shahum at the
National Bike Summit.
File photo

Leah Shahum is the leader of the SF Bike Coalition. She says,

“When we meet these goals, San Francisco will be the most bike-friendly big city in the country,”

I met Leah at the National Bike Summit and I wouldn’t bet against her.

Now the question is, where will Portland be in 2010?

[Hat tip to Cyclelicious]

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  • Matt Picio May 18, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    “Now the question is, where will Portland be in 2010?”

    That’s a really good question. One we should all ask our “bike-friendly” mayor.

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  • bArbaroo May 18, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    SF – my ol’ hometown- is indeed a fun place to bicycle. I rented a bike on my last visit and found that they are also already addressing the needs of visitors pretty well – bike rentals and information for out-of-towners are easy to access and makes exploring “The City” a blast. If you like hills you’ll love it; if you don’t like hills there are plenty of less-hilly, well-marked options for getting around.

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  • mmann May 18, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Dang! I mean, I know we’re not in competition with anyone or anything, and more bikes anywhere is a good thing. But am I the only one who feels a little bike-culture envy? SF – that’s inspiring! Picture downtown Portland on a weekday with more cars than bikes. Pretty picture, isn’t it?

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  • Prettybikelover May 18, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Perhaps it’s that time of year to start (wishfully) thinking once again of converting one lane of the Hawthorne Bridge into a bikes only travel lane!

    Can you even begin to imagine the awful ped/bike conflicts on the sidewalks of tghe Hawthorne Bridge if *52%* of trips were made by bike? Eek!

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  • Ian S. May 18, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Counting bikes vs cars on Market St. is kinda like counting bikes vs cars on the PDX transit mall if it had bike lanes. Seems like they put the fish in the barrel if you ask me…

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  • Sasha May 18, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    I second Ian’s comment. Market street is perhaps one of the less car traveled streets in SFO. And “coming in and out of the city” is a little bit of a misnomer as it completely ignores, oh, the Bay Bridge for starters.


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  • To be clear:

    There were more bikes than cars…

    During a one-hour period…

    On one block…

    Of Market Street.

    Which, normally, doesn’t have all that many cars to begin with.

    Not to diminish San Francisco’s triumph — it is indeed impressive — but I think we need to be realistic about what was accomplished.

    There was no city-wide bicycle count, nor would such a count have been physically possible.

    It’s entirely possible that Portland could achieve the same thing — find a stretch of busy roadway (say, the Hawthorne Bridge, or more appropriately, the Bus Mall after it is re-opened), and counting more bicycles than cars on that one particular stretch.

    The SFBC is now embarking on a petition drive to re-pave the city’s bicycle network. Since all work on the bicycle network has been at a halt for nearly two years, due to an injunction brought on by a lawsuit against the city’s Bicycle Master Plan implementation related to an Environmental Impact Report (or the lack thereof), it’s a bit unclear whether this is possible in the near-term.

    Regardless, I’ll take Portland’s smooth(er) bike lanes and boulevards over SF’s any day.

    ouch — that’s what I have to say about biking in San Francisco. Those bike lanes need re-paving in a really, really bad way.

    But yes, it could become the most bike-friendly city in the country, if there is political will, if there is funding, if they implement their bicycle-rental contract that spreads free/cheap bikes at pods across the city, if the bike plan is built out, and if the West Span of the Bay Bridge gets its own bike path, so that bicycling between San Francisco and the East Bay becomes possible.

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  • Michael May 18, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Wow! I lived in SF 30+ years ago and tried to be a regular cyclist. It was harrowing! I guess the traffic has changed, but those hills? They are some steep mo-fo’s.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis May 18, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    It seems like the SF community has allies in City Hall. We have a guy who sends the cops out to sting commuters with $242 tickets for yielding at stop signs and who has to “find” extra revenue to fund the bike plan. At least it’s a nice point of contrast for how much political work *we* have to do.

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  • AO-

    Very good point.

    To my knowledge, bicyclists really don’t receive tickets in San Francisco, unless they do something *really egregious*.

    But for just running a stop sign at a low speed — give me a break. The cops have much better things to do. (Not sure exactly what, but that’s the attitude that they take.)

    In fact, for all their faults, I would say that the San Francisco Police Department makes Portland’s Po-Po look like, well, German Nazis, when it comes to bicycle enforcement.

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  • Disco D May 18, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Yea, the sad thing is the cops here DO have better things to do…they just seem to be using their limited time/resources on some questionable things.

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  • Agent Bunny G May 18, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    I don’t know if SF can be more bike friendly than Portland until they flatten the city out!

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  • Martha S. May 18, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    Neat. ^_^ And yeah, I do feel a little bike culture envy, but that makes me happy. just makes me care that much more about pushing portland forward.

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  • mykle May 19, 2007 at 8:35 am

    indeed. when i lived there, the cops were too busy busting junkies, the homeless, drunk tourists and prostitutes to ever enforce any traffic laws at all. cars blasted through red lights at all hours, sped everywhere, and were generally a menace. not a bike-friendly situation at all.

    (though it *was* fun on a motorcycle …)

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  • Doug May 19, 2007 at 11:37 am

    1) As someone who has a family member that died in a concentration camp I’d really appreciate you not comparing the PPD to Nazis.

    2) Removing a lane in each direction on the Hawthorne Bridge is unnecessary. Currently there are 6 lanes of about equal size on Hawthorne. The outer two lanes are shared bike/ped lanes, the inner four lanes are car lanes. That means 33% of capacity has been set aside for bikes and peds. Do we really need 66% of the bridge’s capacity for bikes?

    TriMet is planning on building a bridge that crosses the river somewhere near Riverplace and landing near OMSI. It’s going to be a transit only bridge with room for peds and bikes. If you want to add additional bike capacity to bridges downtown that would be a good place to start. Go to TriMet planning meetings for the Milwaukie line and make sure that the amount of capacity set aside for bikers on that bridge is sufficient.

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  • Marc May 20, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Yeah, whatever. I used to live in the Bay Area and they got nunthin on Portland. The day they put bike lanes on the Bay Bridge we can start comparing.

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  • Jacque May 20, 2007 at 10:38 am

    How about Hawthorne having one lane for peds, one for bikes, and one for cars? You know, “equitable access”, “be the change you want to see”, and all that rot.

    (yippie! Jonathan got us a preview button. Thanks!)

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  • Though this thread is dead, let me just post the numbers that somehow never managed to make it into this discussion:

    According to the San Francisco Bike Coalition, “City bike counts on Bike to Work Day showed that bikes exceeded cars and other traffic on Market Street during the morning commute with 677 bikes compared to 477 cars, 35 buses and 14 taxis.” The count was conducted between 8 and 9am, on Market between Valencia and Van Ness.

    So… are there any places in Portland that get more than 677 bikes in an hour? If so, it’s more bike-friendly than San Francisco, IMHO. 🙂


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  • Matt Picio May 22, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Well, since the Hawthorne Bridge gets over 4,000 crossings per day, I’d imagine it’s pretty close (since much of that is during commuting hours) – and that’s *every* workday, not just on “Bike to Work” day.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis May 22, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    San Francisco has a much bigger metro area than Portland, and so more commuters, so it would probably be more meaningful to focus on the car-bike ratio rather than on absolute numbers.

    Last week I was attempting to cross Hawthorne when it was up at about 7am and there were definitely more bikes lined up waiting than cars.

    It’s so simple, but if anyone had time to stand on the bridge and count westbound cars and bikes from 7-8 a few mornings each week it would be invaluable data for bike advocacy.

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  • AO & Matt Picio-

    My point exactly. I think that the Hawthorne Bridge probably has Market Street beat in terms of bike volume, any day of the week.

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