East-west bicycle route finished in time for Bike to Work Day

The first complete east-west bicycle route from the Embarcadero to the ocean has been completed just in time to celebrate Bike To Work Day today.

Crews added the final piece of the route — Market Street from Eighth Street to the Embarcadero — this week. They also added markings and signs to a zigzag corridor from Duboce to Fell streets known to cyclists as “the wiggle.”

Routes have also been added along two miles of Alemany Boulevard, and newones are coming along North Point, Illinois and Howard streets, Sloat Boulevard and John Muir Drive, according to Oliver Gajda, the bicycle program manager for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

With more than 40 miles of bike lanes, San Francisco is seeing a significant boost in ridership, according to Andrew Thornley, program director with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. According to the 2000 census, 2 percent of The City's roughly 775,000 residents were commuting by bike every day; Thornley now pegs the number at twice that — closer to 30,000 — and The City aims to have roughly 75,000 by 2010.

San Francisco spends $1.8 million to $2 million on bike-related improvements annually, Gajda said. However, would-be cyclists still face many roadblocks. Road quality throughout The City — which has a $281 million backlog in road maintenance projects — makes it hard for cyclists to travel. Bike theft is also common, prompting secure bike stations at the Embarcadero BART station and Caltrain's stop at Fourth and King streets, due for completion later this year.

The City is also home to Critical Mass, the monthly commute-cum-demonstration of bicyclists down Market Street, which celebrates its 15th anniversary next year, according to longtime participant Chris Carlsson. He said Critical Mass' perseverance and visibility has contributed to the popularity of cycling in The City, but criticized San Francisco's approach to making room for bicyclists.

“Painted bike lanes are a minor improvement, but not a major one,” Carlsson said, saying European cities that have created dedicated separate bikeways have been much more successful in getting people out of their cars. “There's a chance to radically change the way The City approaches bicycling, but it hasn't happened.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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