While bicycles have become an increasingly mainstream — and necessary — mode of transportation in San Francisco, their presence in San Mateo County remains spotty.
A lot of that is due to county geography, say members of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, who have long advocated for reforms to make the county more bike-friendly. The solution, they decided, is to hire a bike and pedestrian coordinator who could serve as a liaison between the county's 21 jurisdictions.
The coordinator could oversee bike and pedestrian projects across jurisdictions, and ensure that everyone speaks the same language — a surprisingly daunting task, according to Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Deputy Director Colin Heyne. San Mateo is a sprawling checkerboard of varied geographical terrain, much of it dominated by rural unpaved roads. Over the past couple of years cities including Menlo Park and Redwood City have ramped up their cyclist numbers, but other areas have stayed behind the curve.
Heyne blames a lack of centralized leadership not only for the staggered adoption rates, but also for the various projects that have languished, even if they have wide popular appeal. A north-south bike route that's been in the works for years may never see the light of day, for instance, because different cities can't agree on what graphics to use for signs along the roads. They can't agree on something as simple as whether to have arrows pointing to major destinations, Heyne said.
"They can't come to any consensus about whether what the signs will look like, or if they'll have arrows ... or if they'll have estimated times to the next museum or City Hall," Heyne said. "It's such an old project at this point that we'd really like to see it completed."
Woodside resident Bob Page recently told the Board of Supervisors in the 40 years he's been traveling to work by bicycle, the roads have gotten more difficult to navigate.
"There are more cars on the road, there are more stoplights and stop signs," he said, noting that the county hasn't made bike transportation a high priority.
Heyne said he also hopes a bike coordinator would help encourage motorists and equestrians to share the roads of rural San Mateo with their two-wheeled counterparts. He cited an incident a few years back in which a horse got spooked by a large group of cyclists in the foothills and took off at a gallop, causing one of the bikers to fall.
"We'd like to come together to spread awareness and tolerance of each other," Heyne said.
The road to a bike coordinator includes securing funding, which could be easier after a $155,000 request for Measure A sales tax funds — from a measure approved by voters in November — was endorsed by the Board of Supervisors. The funds would be spread over two years and matched with money from SamTrans and the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County.
The bike groups say they will redouble their efforts as the funding request jockeys with such other causes as libraries, county parks, transit and at-risk youth.
The Board of Supervisors is to decide on Measure A funding allocations this fall.