San Francisco has the third largest percentage of bike commuters among American cities, and comes in just behind Portland and Seattle. The city by the Bay presents challenges for riders, including: steep hills, winding roads, and weather conditions that can sometimes make it difficult for even hard-core cyclists. For those reasons, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the largest city-based organization of its kind in the country, is helping educate riders in getting to the office safely.
So far these training classes are paying off.
The accident rate in San Francisco is actually lower than surrounding counties, which also have fewer bicyclists on the road. While part of this is no doubt because of the strength in numbers, education has gone a long ways. The Bicycle Coalition has been offering its skills to local riders for more than four years, and recently added classes for families, as well as pregnant women and even adults who are new to cycling.
The class helps teach cyclists the basics of bicycle safety, including the importance of riding confidently, predictably and courteously, but it still comes back to following the rules of the road. “It's important that all road users know and follow the rules of the road,” San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director, Leah Shahum told BikeRadar. “Whether you’re biking, walking or driving, knowing and following the law is imperative. We’re proud to be the leading resource for bicycle education and resources in San Francisco. For more than five years, the SF Bicycle Coalition has been educating people who are already bicycling, and those who are considering it, about the rules of the road and how to better integrate bicycling into their daily lives.”
These classes are also there to help people pick the right bicycle and accessories for commuting, shopping, and daily errands, explained Shahum. “We also teach people their rights and responsibilities on the road, including obeying traffic laws and proper lane positioning to handle streets without any bicycle designs,” she added. “So far in 2012, we've found that over half of our attendees say they never ride a bike in the city, while another 20 percent ride regularly - more than twice a week.”
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have partnered with the city to offer commuter education courses
The City of San Francisco is also doing its part with the "Coexist Campaign," which has publicized the need for cooperation. “The Coexist campaign was a program in partnership with the city's transportation agency a few years ago,” said Shahum. “It received widespread support from everyone, and you can still find the stickers all around San Francisco on people's bicycles and car bumpers.”
The city funds the SF Bicycle Coalition's Bicycle Safety Courses, and Shahum notes that these classes have already taught over 200 people in the first three months of 2012. “The SF Bicycle Coalition also partners with the City to educate new taxi drivers and Muni operators on how to safely share the road with bike riders, as well,” said Shahum.
But the most important accomplishment is that motorists and cyclists alike are learning to coexist. “I think San Franciscans have already found common ground - the vast majority of people on the streets understand how to share the road, and respect each other's right to safely get to and from work, play, or shopping,” said Shahum. “The city is investing in more bikeways to help make everyone, regardless of their age or skill level, feel safer on a bicycle, and we've been hearing lots of support from neighbors who want to see calmer, safer streets for bicycling, walking and driving.”