San Francisco Celebrates Bike To Work Day's 20th Birthday

The new green bike lanes on Polk Street in front of San Francisco City Hall served as a red carpet of sorts for the hundreds of cyclists and elected officials who turned out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bike to Work Day on May 8. The mood at the morning event was lively and festive, with participants affixing floral bouquets to the fronts of their bikes, sporting fur-covered helmets and chatting with their bike buddies over coffee and bagels from the Energizer Station.

Others took the opportunity to reflect on the immense progress made by bike advocates in the 20 years since the inaugural Bike to Work Day, and to encourage leaders to make the Bay Area even more bikeable and safe.

“I personally remember biking here 20 years ago and it was downright lonely. I was one of the few women out there,” recalled SF Bike Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. Now “our city leaders know that growing biking is essential to keeping San Francisco accessible, safe, affordable and healthy.” Cyclists now make up two thirds of the traffic on Market Street, she said.

Several San Francisco officials, including MTC Commissioner and SF Supervisor Scott Wiener, talked about the change they’ve witnessed in bike culture and bike friendliness.

“Gosh, 20 years ago we were struggling with some of the first lanes and what that would cause and how that would be received,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “Here we are now. This morning was an incredible ride.”

Others took a more somber note, emphasizing the long road ahead to total safety for cyclists. “As much as we’ve come very far in 20 years, I think it’s sad that we still have the number of fatalities that we’ve had,” said SF Supervisor and MTC Commissioner David Campos. He and others spoke about the importance of safety initiatives like Vision Zero, which would aim for zero traffic deaths, and a vehicle licensing fee in San Francisco.

New and seasoned riders alike — including 300 San Francisco volunteers — celebrated Bike to Work Day’s two-decade run all over the nine-county Bay Area. Meghan Arnold, communications manager at FontShop in SOMA, stopped by the Civic Center Energizer Station on her bike before catching a flight.

“I absolutely couldn’t miss Bike to Work Day,” said Arnold, who was decked out in a bike-pattern skirt and shirt and showed off temporary bike tattoos on her forearms. “I bike to work every day and I dressed up because it’s a special day.”

The party began to die down shortly after 9 a.m.

“The unfortunate part of Bike to Work Day is we do eventually need to go to work!” Shahum said. But she encouraged everyone to do it again tomorrow. “We want to make sure that the great experience you had riding in this morning is not an anomaly — it’s the standard.”

MTC is a funder and sponsor of Bike to Work Day.