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More people riding bicycles, report says

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The number of San Francisco bike riders rose by 15 percent from 2006 to 2007, according to a report by The City’s bicycle program.

In the study, which will be presented today at the Bicycle Advisory Committee, observers from the Municipal Transportation Agency’s Bicycle Program counted 6,454 cyclists on the streets during sample days in August 2007, which is 800 more than noted in 2006, the first year of the bicycle counting program.

“The report is a wonderfully encouraging sign,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a citizen advisory group that is unrelated to the study. “We always believed anecdotally that there were more riders in San Francisco, but to see hard data back that up is a very rewarding feeling.”

Oliver Gajda, the Bicycle Program Manager at the MTA, attributed the rise in cyclists to the “installation of bicycle facilities, expanded bicycle education and outreach campaigns, increased bicycle advocacy, increasing transportation costs, and greater awareness of environmental and health benefits.”

The busiest intersection proved to be 11th and Market streets, where 585 cyclists were counted from 5 to 6:30 p.m., up from 545 bikers the year before. The intersection at Alemany Boulevard and Geneva Street saw an increase from nine riders to 28, a 211 percent gain, and the block at Randall Street and San Jose Avenue had 112 cyclists, a 300 percent increase from the 28 counted at the location a year earlier.

The report compared results of single-day counts from one year to the next, with August being the chosen month because of optimal weather conditions. Bike counters were dispatched to 33 high-traffic bike locations in The City, with all but two of the observation periods taking place during evening commute hours.

The Board of Supervisors approved a policy framework plan in 2005 to continue expansion of bike lanes, but that project was put on hold in June 2006 when a San Francisco Superior Court judge, responding to a citizen’s lawsuit against The City, ordered an Environmental Impact Report on the bike plan to be completed.

According to a report by the MTA, which will also be presented today at the Bicycle Advisory Committee, an EIR of the bike plan is not expected to be finished until fall. The MTA’s report states that, “staff are working closely to ensure that the Final Bicycle Plan EIR is the most thorough and legally defensible document possible.”

With the EIR’s completion date pushed back to fall, it could be until 2010 before any bicycle services are expanded in San Francisco, according to the Bicycle Coalition’s Web site.

“We're really frustrated with the delayed schedule,” Shahum said.


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