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Mobility report shows bike trips on the decline in SF

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Bicyclists ride up Market Street on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Franciscans may be spurning two-wheeled trips.

Nearly 20,000 fewer daily bicycle trips were taken in 2017 compared to 2016, data revealed Monday by The City’s newest “Mobility Trends” report shows.

The dwindling bike numbers look even worse when compared to The City’s record-setting year for bike trips, 2015, which reached a height of 126,000 average bicycle trips per day.

By 2016 those average daily trips dropped to 115,000, then down to 95,000 by 2017.

But those numbers may be a bit muddied, bike advocates warn, as the count doesn’t include commutes over multiple modes of transit, like a bike trip to a Muni bus, or a bike trip to a Caltrain ride. The report only counts trips where a bike was the sole mode of transportation.

At the same time, bicycle use in areas where The City built protected bike lanes is booming, according to city data.

“It only underscores the need to build protected bike lanes and make Vision Zero improvements across The City,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Vision Zero is The City’s stated mandate to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2024.

Even gentrification may play a role in bicycle commutes dropping, Wiedenmeier said.

In the bike coalition’s surveys “it’s no surprise the number one reason people have left the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is because they’ve left San Francisco,” Wiedenmeier
said. “They move all over the country to where it’s more affordable.”

While solo bike trips in The City continue to fall, more people are hopping into cars and causing record-level traffic congestion, according to the mobility report. Muni ridership remains relatively stable.

And new-fangled transit modes like rentable e-scooters, e-mopeds and commuter shuttles represent a mere blip in total commute counts.

In the report, the SFMTA made some informed guesses why surveyed bike trips may be dropping in San Francisco.

The data is based off the American Community Survey combined with findings from SFMTA’s own surveys, and only show the predominant commute mode — at the same time, Caltrain use has tripled in the last decade, for instance, and bike trips to BART stations have also “grown substantially” in the last decade.

So bike-to-train trips, which may be growing, only show up as train rides in the survey.

And San Francisco’s drop in cyclists mirrors national trends, which have seen bicycle commute numbers drop continuously since 2015.

On The City’s most popular bike corridors, like Valencia Street, where bicycle counts have declined by 10 percent in the last two years, congestion from ride-hails like Uber and Lyft may be to blame, SFMTA surmised.

“We have a flood of ride-hail vehicles coming in to San Francisco every day, Uber and Lyft, and they’re creating dangerous conditions for people who bike,” Wiedenmeier said. “The number of vehicles increasing so dramatically over time makes people feel unsafe.”


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