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The San Francisco Bicycle Plan

The San Francisco Bicycle Plan ("Bicycle Plan") presents a guideline for the City to provide the safe and attractive environment needed to promote bicycling as a transportation mode.

Bicycling is a pollution-free, economical and healthy alternative transportation mode for many work, shopping and recreational trips in San Francisco and between San Francisco and other Bay Area locations. Bicycles have been used for transportation in San Francisco since the turn of the century. The City has an almost ideal climate for bicycling: temperate, without ice or snow and with a long dry season. It is home to a large and active bicycle population with a Bicycle Advisory Committee (SFBAC) appointed by the Board of Supervisors and a Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), an advocacy group. The limited supply and high cost of parking as well as traffic congestion and the City's compactness make bicycling an attractive option for many.

The City's topography, level of development, and high traffic volumes provide the greatest challenge to providing a safe environment for bicyclists. There are a limited number of flat or even relatively flat through routes in the City and bicycles must compete for space on these streets with automobiles and the City's extensive transit system.

The complete Bike Plan is located at:

ETS programs to assist in enforcing bicycle theft law.



There is an urgent need to improve bicycle safety conditions in the City. Between 1989 and 1993, there were 35,239 reported total vehicle accidents, of which 2,353 involved a bicyclist. The number of bicycle accidents per year appears to have remained relatively steady, with between 424 and 496 reported bicycle accidents per year. Since the number of reported motor vehicle accidents has decreased slightly, the proportion of bicycle accidents to total accidents has increased from 3.4 percent to almost 4 percent. Since many bicycle accidents are not reported to the Police Department, these figures understate the actual number of bicycle accidents. Reports of non-injury or minor accidents should be taken by SFPD where there is property damage to a bicycle.

The party at fault was listed as the bicyclist in 49 percent of these reported accidents involving a bicyclist. The driver or parked vehicle was listed as the party at fault in 37 percent of the cases, the pedestrian was listed at fault in two percent of the cases, and no party at fault was identified in 11 percent of the cases. These statistics indicate that both bicyclists and motorists need to improve their driving behavior in order to improve the safety of bicyclists on San Francisco streets.

The five most common Vehicle Code violations resulting in a bicycle accident caused by an automobile driver are:


* Opening car door when unsafe

* Unsafe Speed

* Failure to yield when turning left

* Failure to stop at red light

* Unsafe turn and/or without signaling


The five most common vehicle code violations resulting in a bicycle accident caused by a bicyclist are:


* Unsafe Speed

* Failure to stop a red light

* Failure to yield to approaching traffic

* Wrong-way riding

* Passing on right when unsafe


A combination of education and enforcement (in addition to design and maintenance features cited previously) are recommended to improve bicyclist safety in the City.

While the SFPD's database for accidents is useful, some changes are recommended: In a car-bike collision, a bicycle should be treated as a second vehicle. The database should also include the following items: party at fault, age of victim, and the CVC section violated.


The recommended Education Plan is divided into programs for two distinct audiences:

* Children's Education Program: To provide school-age children with a strong foundation for safe bicycling,

* Motorist/Cyclist Education Program: To promote the safe sharing of roadways between motorists and cyclists.

Children's Education Program

After researching and assessing existing educational programs geared towards children, three components are needed to make the proposed plan successful:

* An Action-Oriented Teaching Approach - Learning must take place on a bicycle rather than in a classroom-like setting. When each child is on his/her own bicycle, it will allow them to learn safe/riding techniques more readily than by a classroom presentation alone.

* A Repetitive-Practice Teaching Process - Sessions will emphasize a short list of concepts at each session and will repeat them for reinforcement. Riding a bicycle under the supervision of an instructor on numerous occasions will increase the students' level of comprehension and retention.

* A Sense of Accomplishment for Completing the Program - Rewards in the form of discounts for bicycle-related goods and certificates of completion will be handed out at the end of the program. Incentives for completing the program will not only boost the initial interest in the plan but it will also help to keep children interested throughout the four-week course.

Recommendations for Children's Bicycle Safety Education

A four week program of three two-hour weekly learning sessions and one bicycle rodeo is proposed to give participants hands-on knowledge of how to travel safely throughout the City of San Francisco on a bicycle. The program is also designed to promote bicycling as a fun activity for youths, who in the future could choose bicycling as a transportation alternative. It is timed to coincide with the conclusion of the proposed "San Francisco Bicycle Safety Week" (see Motorist/Cyclist Plan) in June.

The Children's Program will target elementary school age children in San Francisco. This age range *third through sixth grades*will reach children who are still in the formative years of bicycle riding. Even within this limited age span, a fairly wide range of bicycle ability among the participants will exist; the children will probably need to be broken into two groups due to the difference of aptitude. Staff will need to work with the San Francisco Unified School District to promote the program in the elementary schools.

The plan calls for a four-week program that will meet on Saturday mornings. The first three weeks will be two-hour educational sessions, with the fourth week being a city-wide bicycle rodeo for graduates of the Children's Program.

Since a four-week program is a serious time commitment, an incentive is required for the children to complete the program. This incentive comes in the form of a bicycle rodeo for only the children who have completed the three-week education sessions. The bike rodeo is not only the culminating event for the participants, but it is the event where the Children's Program's sponsors will get the most exposure. With a media sponsor on board, the rodeo and its sponsors will most likely receive some media coverage. The rodeo also provides all of the sponsors a forum to reach their target audience*bicycle riders and their parents*with their products.

Aside from the bicycle rodeo, perhaps the biggest incentive for the children to complete the Children's Program is the opportunity to buy bicycling equipment at discounted prices through the help of the sponsors. All rodeo participants will receive coupons for discounted items at the local bicycle store sponsor, while the other sponsors can donate prizes for winners of the bicycle rodeo.

It is acknowledged that this safety education program will reach only a small fraction of San Francisco's school children. A more intensive program to reach all school children would require the commitment of the San Francisco Unified School District or the State of California. However, providing safety education for children and their parents who want it should be considered a public service and be given high priority.

Motorist/Cyclist Education

The goal of the Motorist/Cyclist Program is to educate cyclists about their responsibilities for safe operation of a bicycle and to teach motorists about bicyclists' rights and responsibilities and appropriate methods for sharing the road with bicyclists. The program has a number of components:

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) - Working with the DMV will allow the campaign to reach drivers*a key target audience for this campaign. It is proposed that an add-in brochure be enclosed in the annual renewal notice for automobile registration to the owners of cars registered in San Francisco. There is precedent for DMV mailer add-ins, since they already include items on insurance and alcohol consumption limits.

In addition, it is recommended that the DMV work with the California Bicycle Advisory Committee to revise the Driver's Manual to include more information for motorists regarding bicycles on the roadway*what to expect and how to respect their travel space.

Finally, it is recommended that the City request that the DMV review questions developed by the League of American Bicyclists and revise as appropriate their written questions for the driver's exam relating to bicycle issues.

Media Campaign/Public Service Announcements (PSAs) - The PSA component will be a key element in the success of the Motorist/Cyclist Program. Whether the PSAs are broadcast on television or radio, the message of safe road sharing will reach a mass audience, and support the mailer portion of the campaign. An on-air media person, local celebrity, actor, politician or athlete could be used to deliver the message of safe road sharing.

Awareness/Outreach Events - Another way to promote the Motorist/Cyclist Program will be the proclamation of "Bicycle Safety Week" by the Mayor. It is proposed that "Bicycle Safety Week" include a series of events leading up to the American Youth Hostel Great San Francisco Bicycle Adventure, an annual bicycle fun ride which is held on the second Sunday of June.

The week of activities would include:

* Mayor's Press Conference
* Bicycle Safety Demonstrations
* Employer Outreach Event (a bicycle ride through the Financial District for the ten participating companies)
* Children's Program Bicycle Rodeo

American Youth Hostel Great San Francisco Bicycle Adventure - This event is an excellent opportunity to distribute bicycle safety and road-sharing pamphlets. Information will be distributed prior to the ride.

Critical Mass Ride - Distribute safety materials at Critical Mass, a gathering of bicycle enthusiasts which begins at Justin Herman Plaza, across from the Ferry Building, at 5:30 PM on the last non-holiday Friday of each month.


Enforcement of traffic laws should be composed of several strategies: citations, training for police officers, traffic school, fix-it tickets, verbal warnings, notes to parents (for juveniles), as well as positive reinforcement techniques such as rewards for proper or exemplary behavior. The public should be informed in advance before any new enforcement measures are implemented.

Citations - The San Francisco Police Department issued 630 citations to bicyclists in 1991-1993. It is unknown how many citations were issued to motorists for failing to yield the right-of-way to a bicyclist or otherwise causing or almost causing a bicycle accident. A review of the most severe car-bicycle crashes*those that resulted in a fatality*revealed that motorists did not receive a citation when the motorist was deemed at fault.

In a city with many other serious enforcement priorities, it is important to get across the message to the police that bicyclist and motorist violations are a significant problem (see following section).

Training for Police Officers - Training for officers can take place through existing channels such as inter-office memos and correspondence, and also through peer education using the officers that patrol on bicycles. Support from higher up in the administration will be essential if an increased enforcement program is to succeed.

Reduction in Bail for Bicyclists - State law AB669 (passed in 1994) allows cities the discretion to reduce fines for infractions of the vehicle code incurred by bicyclists. The assumption behind the legislation was that some police departments are hesitant to enforce certain bicycle violations, particularly when no threat to public safety is involved, due to the extreme fines involved: up to and exceeding $200. This authority that is being relinquished to localities should be embraced by the City of San Francisco. It is recommended that the City of San Francisco reduce fines for most bicyclist infractions.

Traffic School - Once a bicyclist or motorist has received a citation, it should be viewed by the City as an opportunity to educate him/her. It may be very helpful to combine both bicyclists and motorists in the same class so a dialogue can ensue and they can learn from each other. As an alternative to the fine, violators should be given the option of enrolling in such a traffic school. Traffic school curriculum should be developed that focuses primarily on bicycle issues from both the bicyclist's and the motorist's perspectives. Motorists cited for bicycle infractions and opting for traffic school would be required to enroll in the bicycle-issue oriented school if they opt for a traffic school. Traffic school for bicycle offenders and motorist offenders would, of course, not go on their record.


TDM Programs

Bicycling is an ideal commute alternative in San Francisco, a city seven miles wide, where 80.4 percent of the employed residents also work in the City. Unfortunately, only one percent of the employees in San Francisco chose a bicycle as their form of transportation in 1993. This percentage ranked sixth among the eight counties in the Bay Area Region, ahead of only Solano and Contra Costa Counties.

Many San Francisco companies and institutions are mandated by law to have a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program to promote alternative modes of transportation to single occupant vehicles. These programs have focussed on education, information and incentives to get people to stop driving alone to work. Carpools, vanpools, and transit are the most popular alternative modes. Bicycle commuting is often an overlooked or underutilized opportunity for attaining these trip reduction goals.

An effective bicycle commuting encouragement program must include the following:

* The TDM program must identify bicycle commuting as an option;
* The TDM program must provide an incentive to use bicycle commuting; and
* The TDM program must support and applaud bicycle commuting.

Identify Bicycle Commuting as an Option - An extensive advertising campaign should include information about monetary, environmental and health benefits of bicycle commuting. It should also address and attempt to dispel many of the perceived obstacles. Many of the TDM programs currently in effect use newsletters, special events, and workshops to educate potential bicycle commuters. A bicyclist information network can be used by the potential bicycle commuter to learn what the best commute routes are for their personal needs, to locate experienced bicycle commuters in their area who are willing to advise and escort during the first bicycle commutes, and to learn of upcoming events and activities.

Provide an Incentive For Bicycle Commuting - The most effective incentives for bicycle commuting currently being used are:

* The provision of secure, protected, convenient and free bicycle parking.

* Cash Incentives, which have taken a number of forms:

* A cash dividend for bicycle commuters for each day that they commute by bicycle.
* Reimbursing the employee $0.07/mile for company business travel made on a bicycle; and
* Assisting the employee in the purchase of a bicycle.

* Convenience Incentives;

* Guaranteed ride home;
* Fleet bicycles for the use of the employee during business hours which are often also available for the employee to use for his/her commute on a trial basis;
* On-site bicycle repair kits;
* On-call repair services with a local bicycle shop;
* Flex hours so the employee can avoid rush hour or darkness;
* Showers and locker rooms for clean-up and changing after the commute;
* Closet space for storage of clean clothes; and
* Relaxed dress codes for bicycle commuters.

Support and Applaud Bicycle Commuting - Endorsement of bicycle commuting by those in charge is a significant aspect of a promotion program. Prospective bicycle commuters are more apt to try out this unconventional mode if it is acceptable to their supervisors. Organized and advertised rides such as "Ride with the CEO" or "Ride with the Mayor" clearly demonstrate their support and enthusiasm. Advertising campaigns aimed at informing commuters on the merits of bicycling should include endorsements by key officials as well as interviews with peers who currently commute by bicycle. Programs by a city or company to promote bicycle commuting should be as comprehensive as the programs established to encourage transit use. If cash subsidies are offered for transit use but not for bicycling, the message that bicycles are not as acceptable as transit is clearly being given.

Recommended Employer Outreach Campaign

A pilot program to introduce San Francisco companies to bicycling as a viable commute alternative and to encourage their employees to consider using a bicycle is proposed. The pilot program is targeted at 10 of San Francisco's largest employers and has been designed to encourage them to include bicycling in their Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs. The Pilot Employer Outreach Campaign will strongly encourage and support inclusion of bicycling as one of the alternatives to driving alone that these companies can offer their employees. Details of a proposed strategy are contained in Chapter 10.

Existing San Francisco Bicycle Events

During the year there are many sporting and other theme events held in San Francisco. These events can attract regional and even national attention and offer the City and other organizations an opportunity to reach many people while providing a good time.

The most well known and well attended bicycle events in San Francisco are the Macy's/AYH Great San Francisco Bicycle Adventure, the Tour de San France-isco, and the Different Spokes AIDS bike-a-thon. These events are charity fund raisers and attract bicyclists of all ages and abilities. Promotion efforts could be directed towards safety education and the advantages of bicycle commuting. Event directors could use the opportunity to teach participants the rules of bicycling courtesy.

Another opportunity for bicycle commuting promotion and education are those events which are directed at changing our commute habits. Bike-to-Work Day, Beat-the-Backup, and Earth Day are existing events which could be expanded to encourage more participation. Instead of having only an annual Bike-to-Work Day, it might be preferable to have Bike-to-Work Week or a monthly Bike-to-Work Day.

Other events in San Francisco such as street fairs, Festival d'Italia, Cherry Blossom Festival, and July 4th fireworks should provide good bicycle access with free and secure bicycle parking. As part of the event advertising, the best bicycle route to the event should be published along with the location of the bicycle parking.


1 () The establishment and signing of routes will not in any way preclude or discourage the maintenance or improvement of other streets.

2 () Speed humps, or pavement undulations are twelve feet long raised asphalt surfaces over which cars can comfortably travel at 25 mph. They are much different from speed bumps which are often used in parking lots and which force cars to slow to 5 mph. See Chapter 6 for more discussion of speed humps.

3 () Otherwise known as the wiggle.

4 () Since this plan was written, San Francisco has adopted an ordinance requiring bicycle parking in all City-owned and leased buildings.

Last updated: 7/1/2011 3:50:16 PM