The “if you build it they will come” approach to promoting biking in San Francisco has increased such trips by more than 70 percent citywide in the past five years, yet the southeastern section in particular has reaped the short end of the benefits.
In the seven years that Bayview district resident Gustavo Pesce has biked to The Embarcadero for work, he's seen some improvements, but not enough.
Pesce's journey starts at Mendell Street then hits Cargo Way, which recently got bike lanes separated from traffic lanes but also is heavily used by large trucks. For the principal north-south route to The Embarcadero, he avoids Third Street and instead takes congested Illinois Street — because at least it has a bike lane.
But on weekends when he bikes south deeper into the Bayview, Third Street is his only option.
“The main thing is you want to have bike lanes on Third Street; there's lots of cars,” Pesce, 46, said. “I definitely don't see many bicycles for sure.”
Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods, said she's been advocating for bike infrastructure improvements for several years and gets left out more often than not, using the Bay Area Bike Share pilot launch this week as an example.
“I've written and I've asked to be included and nothing happens,” she said. “I believe there is a set of assumptions that are made when it comes to the working class, of poor neighborhoods, that they are not biking and are solely relying on public transportation. This set of assumptions is incorrect.”
The Muni T-Third Street light-rail line, the main transit option out of the Bayview area to the north, “is really not that reliable and comes at whatever time,” Pesce said.
Hunters Point resident Alex Lansberg, 41, agreed that biking on Third Street is “an absolute deathtrap” and that Evans Avenue, his principal route out of the neighborhood to the Mission district, still needs major improvements between Cesar Chavez and Third streets.
“That stretch is only about a mile, but it can freak you out because you're close to trucks and come up on potholes,” Lansberg said about biking there with his son. “We get there safe and sound, but again it's not as safe as it could be.”
Improvements planned for now include dedicated bike lanes on Mansell Street connecting San Bruno Avenue and McLaren Park, and infrastructure upgrades on the crucial east-west Oakdale Avenue route.
Given that average households in the area spend nearly a quarter of their income on transportation, “there's even greater potential for biking to help a lot of people get where they need to go,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum, who added that she continues to push for improvements.