Friday, December 4, 2009

Mayor, Mirkarimi, SFMTA & SFBC Paint it Green

It was a bike box love-fest Thursday afternoon
as city officials and bicycle advocates gathered around an asphalt gray patch of Scott Street at Oak. A dozen white buckets half-filled with bright green paint lined up with long-handled rollers along the center stripe -- almost as if they were on loan from a Fantasia exhibit at the Presidio's new Walt Disney Museum. The first bicycle box to be painted green in the state of California awaited the swoosh of color from dozens of happy helpers.

Mayor Gavin Newsom extolled the occasion as one of the city's first experiments with bicycle improvements that other cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and, closer to home, Portland have already implemented. "We're going to be trying some things that candidly we wished we were doing for the last three years," the mayor said, reflecting on the prohibition against new bike enhancements due to the long-standing "bike injunction." The judge for that case recently allowed several bike facilities to go forward. Since this past Tuesday, city paint crews have painted hundreds of sharrows and bike icons and new bike lanes on city streets.

District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi biked to the press conference where he joined the Mayor and Supervisors Bevan Dufty and Sophie Maxwell. Mirkarimi noted the significance of the occasion and asserted that "we are all unified in the mission statement of making San Francisco bike friendly." He also announced, "We're going to put on-street bike parking in front of Remy's Mojo Bicycle Cafe" on Divisadero to celebrate the end of the injunction and to help "signifiy what a major arterial like Divisadero means." Later that evening during the Divisadero Art Walk, Remy Nelson, owner of the always busy Mojo, smiled in surprise when he learned of the supervisor's remarks. "He really mentioned my name?"

Mirkarimi suggested that the Wiggle bike route -- of which the new bike box is an essential part -- deserves Historic Trail status similar to the Barbary Coast Trail in the city. The Wiggle follows the route of the long-paved over Sans Souci Creek and today is one of the most-used bike routes in San Francisco.

Although the press conference was festive already, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell got everyone laughing -- and had Supervisor and mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty whooping -- with the conclusion of her remarks about making our streets serve more than vehicles. "We're going to make it exciting, we're going to make it fun, and we're going to make it funky."

Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, could have easily lit up the street herself with glowing enthusiasm. While she thanked the elected officials, the city staff, and SFBC's 11,000 members, Shahum also spoke for the 130,000 San Franciscans who already bike and the more than half of city residents who said they wanted to ride bikes for transportation in the city "if streets had bike lanes and were more inviting for bicycling."

At the conclusion of remarks, everyone was drawn to those paint cans and the Chief Sorcerer and his many apprentices dutifully dipped their poles in the paint and rolled a bright, new green box for bicyclists to stop and wait for the green light to cross Oak Street.

Streetsblog beat all the print, blog, and TV media to the big stories from the press conference -- the green box, the new proposal for bike sharing, and huge increase in number of bikes to be shared. And they posted a video of the full press conference. It hasn't taken long for Streetsblog San Francisco to become essential viewing for anyone interested in more livable streets and sidewalks and transportation policies. The video clip is below and the bike sharing news is here.

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