While San Francisco can lay claim to the crookedest street in the world (no, not that one), we cannot, sadly, say that we are the bike friendliest. That honor goes to a noted city in the midwest. We are however, according to Bicycling magazine’s biennial 50 Best Bike Cities ranking, the second most friendly this year, making us the Michelle Kwan of cycling cordiality.
The 2016 ranking shows that, worts and all, San Francisco, who beset New York City, has made bikes a priority. This includes the city’s Vision Zero policy, new bikes corridors, and a popular bike-sharing program.
Over the last four years, San Francisco has added miles of new and high quality cycling facilities, and seen a resulting surge in ridership. According to the most recent Census data, the number of people commuting by bike in San Francisco increased by 16 percent between 2012 and 2014. On the busy Market Street bike lane, a bike counter that records the number of trips taken annually hit one million for the first time in 2015. And this year, the city broke ground on a number of transformative projects, including raised and protected bike lanes on Second Street, which connects to a main transit hub. The Second Street improvements will turn the corridor from a “traffic sewer, into a dream,” says Chris Cassidy, communications director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
The city’s 2014 commitment to a Vision Zero policy (the goal of which is to eliminate all traffic fatalities), brought statistical analysis of the most dangerous streets, and pointed improvements. For example, planners recently retrofitted a high-injury corridor on 13th Street with a parking-protected bike lane (in which cyclists are separated from automobile traffic by a row of parked cars). However, many local advocates remain frustrated with the police department’s misguided enforcement efforts. A crackdown along the popular “Wiggle” bike route in 2015 saw police ticket hundreds of cyclists who failed to put their feet down at stop signs. Riders responded by staging a mass protest and call for meaningful enforcement, as statistically, bike riders rarely cause traffic deaths.
Bicycling goes on to note that San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed the first stop-as-yield law, a first for a major American city, only to be vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee. The publication also points to our popular Bay Area Bike Share—which will see a huge expansion in 2017—as well as the installation of 800 new racks.
But that, it seems, was nothing compared to Chicago, this year’s top-ranking champion. Coming in second in 2014, Chicagoist explains why the windy city took gold:
We've come a long way; Chicago ranked 10th in 2010 and 5th in 2012, and we moved on up to 2nd place in 2014 ... the city has built over 100 miles of new protected bike lanes, pledged to build yet more lanes, experimented with extra-safe curb-protected lanes and installed hundreds of Divvy bike share bicycles around the city.
There’s always 2018, SF. Until then, keep up the good work.