Margaret McCarthy will begin her term as interim director of the Bike Coalition today. (courtesy sfbike.org)

New interim bike coalition director starts today

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s new interim director starts today.

Margaret McCarthy is the new temporary leader of The City’s bike advocacy organization, and she already has an eye to 2016’s priorities.

The new leader said holding the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to key bike lane construction timelines on Second Street and Masonic Avenue — two dangerous streets for cyclists — is a key priority.

Also bike share expansion “will be huge for San Francisco” in 2016, she said.

McCarthy was tapped to lead in late December. Meanwhile, the 11,000-member bike coalition Board of Directors — which also recently changed hands in an election — will search for a new permanent director.

The search is expected to last six months. McCarthy joined the bike coalition’s staff in 2012 as a volunteer coordinator and program director. The group is seen as responsible for spurring the creation of bike lanes across The City.

McCarthy said the Bike Coalition has a key role to play in engaging its members and city residents to select new stations for bike share expansion.

As of now, 400 of Bay Area Bike Share’s baby-blue painted bikes glide down San Francisco streets, but that number is due to soon expand — to 4,500 bikes by 2018.

“It’ll be a game changer,” McCarthy said. “The number of bikes will increase so significantly that it’ll be San Francisco’s first new transportation system in a long time.”

Anyone can vote at suggest.bayareabikeshare.com by tagging a location in The City where they’d like a new bikeshare station to be. New neighborhoods planned for the expansion include the Castro, Noe Valley, South of Market, the Tenderloin, Mission Bay and the Mission.

The Bike Coalition was recently awarded a $100,000 Google Impact grant to help ensure low-income communities are served by bikeshare expansion.

McCarthy majored in English literature and theater at San Francisco State University. “People used to say to me, ‘what’d you think you’ll do with a theater degree?’” she said.

She often answered, “Anything I want.”

The 31-year-old McCarthy performs with an ensemble at SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts. She describes her work as experimental.

“It has a lot to do with audience engagement, interaction,” she said of her performances. “It’s less designed for passive viewing and popcorn, but to interact and engage with people.”

A city resident since 2002, she started commuting by bike from the Lower Haight to a barista job on Geary Boulevard. It was 4 a.m. when she’d leave home, and the nighttime streets were empty. This made them easier to ride than daytime streets, she said.

McCarthy then moved to Munich, Germany, and was stunned at the ease of biking.

“Biking in Munich is a dream. Everyone does it. It’s safe, gorgeous, and you do it everywhere,” she said.

When she got back to San Francisco in 2009 she was again surprised. More — and safer — bike lanes had sprouted across The City.

“I said, ‘What is going on? There are so many more bike lanes, so many more people biking.’ And my friend said, ‘Oh, have you heard of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition?’ And he signed me up,” she said.

Six years later, she’s in the top spot. But will she apply to keep the job?

“I still need to figure out if I’m interested in the long-term position,” she said. “I’m focusing on my role here.”

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