Biking communities thrive in San Francisco and Santa Cruz
We moved offices earlier this year, and are now a little off the beaten track. To deal with the increased distance, and because I broke my colleague Gwen’s foldable bike, I brought in a couple of bikes for the office: a pink Stumpjumper of ’80s vintage at a garage sale in Lee Vining, and a more recently minted Hardrock bequeathed by good friend and noted environmental economist Michael Greenstone.
This is all to say that I’ve been biking around San Francisco quite a bit recently, and I am struck by how much better things are. The lane striping, for one, makes a big difference. It creates a margin of safety that borders on acceptable. The city, with prodding by the super-effective SF Bike Coalition, has done a fantastic job of laying out lane-striped bike routes through popular corridors. For example: to get from downtown to the Haight, you take the Wiggle. Most people have to wait until they get to the Haight before they start wiggling, but not bike riders. They get their wiggle in early, on the way.
In the mornings, you’ll find packs of bikes on the commute routes — safety in numbers, which begets more bikers, which begets more safety. And they are all dressed the same. Even the bikes share an aesthetic. Top of the hip pecking order are old steel frames converted into single-speeds, with dropped or chopped bars — all the better to slip through traffic.
The New York Times recently published an article about Portland’s bike culture, and by “bike culture” the Times seems to mean bike-related moneymaking endeavors. Nothing wrong with making money, but when I think culture, I think community and shared values … and, well, the Bike Church covers it better. I was in Santa Cruz a couple of weekends ago, and the place was packed.
If you build it, they will come.