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Head of SF Bicycle Coalition steps down after 8-month tenure

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Noah Budnick, the new head of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, had a stretch of a New York highway named after him following a crash he had and his push for safety barriers. Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner

He’s only been on the job for a little over eight months, but now San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick is stepping down.

The New Yorker made the move to San Francisco in February, when he took over the post from long-time director of the bike coalition, Leah Shahum.

“It was a very tough decision,” Budnick wrote, in a goodbye letter to the bike coalition’s members.

“But,” he wrote, “I know that what’s right for me and my family right now is to take a break, step back and explore the next set of opportunities for how I can make cities more liveable, safe and happy places.”

Budnick’s move comes at a time of many political wins for the people-powered organization, which at 10,000-plus members is recognized as a political tour-de-force in San Francisco.

From the recent tussle with the SFPD over bicycle enforcement, going toe-to-toe with Mayor Ed Lee’s perceived sluggishness to enact Vision Zero safety improvements, and the recently approved safety enhancements along The City’s east-west bike route known as “The Wiggle,” Budnick oversaw a period of much political controversy in San Francisco.

It’s also a time of controversy within the bike coalition itself.

The coalition’s board is amid a heated election, as two slates of candidates duke it out with two opposing points of view. One slate is advocating for the coalition’s 10,000 or so members to retain voting power at the nonprofit, and the other slate says that’s part of the coalition’s past.

Voting began Nov. 15 and will run until Dec. 30, this year.

The coalition also recently moved to Market and Valencia streets as its rent was set to quadruple at its Powell Street location, according spokesman Chris Cassidy. Its policy director, Tyler Frisbee, also recently left the organization.

Jeremy Pollock, a City Hall staffer who is running for the bike coalition’s board, said “Coming from New York, Noah jumped into the deep end of San Francisco politics…I was impressed by how quickly and calmly he adjusted during a tumultuous period for the bike coalition.”

Coalition board member Jean Fraser will now serve as acting executive director. She was formerly the chief of the San Mateo County Health System.

Though Budnick has appeared publicly to advocate at many events, she said her role will be more limited.

“My main duty will be working on finding a longer term interim director for the organization,” she said. As for on-the-ground advocacy work, “depending on what the situation is, we’ll have the right staff for the event.”

Though working with the bike coalition staff is “a pleasure,” she said, “this is just temporary for me.”

“I’m glad to be here,” she said, “and I’m glad the bike coalition is going strong.”

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