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Bicycling Gets a Push From the City
By Loren J. Bialik
Pedaling is now easier in, around, and through Noe Valley -- thanks to two recent strides in the city's bike program.
First, the city is erecting new bike route signs to help two-wheelers navigate our many hills. (The new signs are already on Clipper Street.) Second, certain Muni buses have been fitted out with bike racks -- places to store your bike while you hop on the bus.
"We want people seeing bikes as a legitimate means of transportation," says Adam Gubser, spokesperson for the San Francisco Bicycling Program, part of the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT). "More people would use bikes if they had access to information that motorists and transit users take for granted."
In January of this year, DPT began installing route signs along 180 miles of bike routes in the city. The rectangular signs display a bicycle and route number on a green oval over a graphic of the Golden Gate Bridge rising above the fog. They were designed by DPT traffic engineer Scott Broady.
The signs direct cyclists to the most direct, safest, and least hilly routes serving major destinations. In Noe Valley, Route 60 takes riders heading west along Cesar Chavez and Clipper streets all the way to the ocean. The main north-south route, Route 49, crosses the neighborhood via Eureka, Diamond, Jersey, and Sanchez streets. Route 45 along Valencia gets you to Market and downtown.
(For a map of all 90 bike routes, see page 14 in the city section of the Yellow Pages. Odd-numbered routes run north and south; even-numbered east and west.)
On Noe Valley streets -- and on most bike routes throughout the city -- motorists and bicyclists must coexist. Gubser hopes the new signs will remind drivers that they share the road with bikers.
He also hopes the signs will inspire a few more pedallers. "More and more people recognize the advantages of bicycling," says Gubser. "It provides exercise and helps reduce the number of people in cars, which decreases traffic and lessens auto emissions."
DPT plans to install more than 3,000 signs by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Muni wants to take the ups and downs out of cycling. In May, the transit system started an 18-month pilot program installing bike racks on the front of 45 city buses. The racks have already been put on the buses on the 35-Eureka line, which runs from the Castro along Diamond Street to Glen Park. They're also on the 37-Corbett line, which heads up to Twin Peaks.
Each rack can hold two bikes. When the bus stops, the cyclist signals the driver and then goes to the front of the bus and pulls the rack down by squeezing a release handle. He or she then places the bike into a clearly marked wheel slot. Next, the cyclist raises the support arm and places it over the front tire to firmly secure the bike.
Muni expects an experienced user can complete the task in 7 to 10 seconds. Bicyclists pay only the regular $1 Muni fare; no special permit is required.
"Muni will extend the bike racks to other buses," says Gubser, "if they see that people are using them and if the bus drivers can adhere to their time schedules." Muni can take inspiration from CalTrain's successful bicycle program. The commuter train now transports 1,000 bicycles a day, serving more than four percent of its ridership.
"I think the bike racks are a terrific idea," says David Burch, who bikes to work each day from his Noe Street home. "More people would bike to work -- which is usually downhill -- if they knew they could take the bus over the hills to get home.
"The racks are really very easy to use," Burch adds. "There are instructions on the rack. I'm not very mechanical, but it took me about 10 seconds to load the bike and a few seconds less to unload it."
If you would like more information about biking in the city, call the city's bicycle hotline at 585-BIKE. The service provides safety tips as well as personalized route maps. Call 673-MUNI for a Bikes on Muni brochure.