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Street Talk

San Francisco’s Surge in Biking Continues

Friday, April 15, 2016

Perhaps you’ve noticed the growing platoon of commuters biking down Market Street.

The streams of people riding on popular biking corridors like the Embarcadero and Fell, Oak and Valencia streets look larger as well.

Well, it isn’t just a feeling. It’s a fact.

Now we have the numbers to go with those observations. Biking in San Francisco is growing.

As part of an ongoing initiative to understand the role and growth of bicycling in the city, today we published our annual San Francisco Bicycle Count Report for the year 2015. 

San Francisco's 2015 Annual Bike Count Report

The annual bike count report has been produced by the SFMTA since 2006. It highlights where bike traffic is the highest, where there are opportunities for improvement, and how our programs and projects are affecting travel behavior.

You can read the report in detail online, but here are some of the key facts I took away this year:

  • 2015 was the first year San Francisco’s bike counter on Market Street reached 1 million bike trips logged, representing a 25 percent increase over 2014.
  • There are an estimated 82,000 bike trips in San Francisco per day. (Just imagine what our streets would look like if all of those people were driving alone in cars.)
  • Biking increased by 184 percent from 2006 to 2015 at the same 19 intersections.
  • 15 automated bike counters found that weekday bike trips in San Francisco increased by 8.5 percent from 2014 to 2015 (an increase of 200,000 bike trips, from 2.438 million to 2.644 million)
  • In 2015, October had the highest daily bike ridership with approximately 322,000 bikes logged at the 15 locations monitored by automated bike counters, with events like the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival contributing to the month's spike.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, bikes made up 4.4 percent of all commute trips made within San Francisco in 2014, up from 2.3 percent in 2006.
  • 85 percent of bike improvements made from 2010 to 2014 are located in neighborhoods that now have more than the citywide 4.4 percent bike commute mode share.  In other words – and maybe it’s a coincidence – but even more people are biking in areas where we’ve put in bike lanes and other safety improvements.

Biking is San Francisco’s fastest growing means of transportation because the SFMTA is making it easier, safer and more convenient to get around town by bike. And it’s imperative that we continue to improve our streets for biking.

Today, San Francisco has 434 miles of bikeways, including:

  • 125 miles of total bike lanes
  • 14 miles of buffered bike lanes (using paint or plastic posts for separation)
  • 13 miles of protected bike lanes (using barriers like parking or concrete medians)
  • 69 miles of off-street paths and trails
  • More than 5,000 bike racks, which can park more than 10,000 bikes

San Francisco’s bike share system is also expanding, which will make biking more accessible and convenient for more of our city’s residents, workers and visitors. After a successful two-year pilot in San Francisco and the Peninsula, the Bay Area has committed to bike share as a new, affordable way to get around. Over the course of a two-year roll out in San Francisco, San Jose, and the East Bay, the Bay Area Bike Share system will grow from 700 bikes to 7,000 bikes, with 4,500 bikes coming to San Francisco. We’ll have one of the largest and densest bike-share systems in North America!

With more people, housing and jobs coming to San Francisco, we need more sustainable ways to get around town. We’ll have gridlock if everyone arrives with a car. Increasing bicycle ridership not only eases congestion on our streets, it also ties into our city’s Climate Action Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After all, bikes are the original zero-emission vehicle, and they’re a pretty darn fun way to get around. 

In everyday terms, each person on a bike is one less person in your traffic jam or fighting for a parking spot.

I think we can all agree that’s a pedal in the right direction.

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Street Talk is a new SFMTA blog series by Sustainable Streets Director, Tom Maguire. Here we’ll be sharing our thinking on the big picture questions and concerns facing our streets today.

About Tom Maguire

Tom Maguire is the director of the SFMTA's Sustainable Streets Division. He joined the agency in 2014 after serving as Assistant Commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation, where he oversaw New York’s Bus Rapid Transit, Freight Mobility, Peak Rate Parking (PARK Smart), and Alternative Fuels programs, and directed the effort to implement congestion pricing in Manhattan in 2007-2008.  Tom has also worked in the private sector at the engineering and design firm Arup. He holds a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. from Rutgers.