Cyclists seek ‘safe space’ for alternative transportation

About 30 bikers and scooter riders lined the bicycle lane on Howard between Seventh and Eighth streets Wednesday evening, calling for a protected bike lane to be placed along the hazardous SoMa roadway.

Organizer Matt Brezina said bike lanes:

“… are separated either by cars or by cement, that separate bicyclists from moving traffic … and the reason we advocate for those is they’re safer, you’re not going to get hit by a car, and, because they’re safer and people actually choose to bicycle or use scooters if they feel safe on the streets.”

The demonstrators, donning yellow “Protected Bike Lanes” t-shirts and cheering on bicyclists as they flew through the SoMa bike lane, called for San Francisco to protect alternate transit riders, as scooters and electric vehicles have dominated headlines and city streets.

Felicia Chan, an operations manager for Spin, an electric scooter company – who herself arrived to the protest on a scooter – said that she wanted to have a “safe space” for alternative transit vehicles so that they “don’t have to go on sidewalks.”

Brezina said that creating the protected bike lane will not just help with safety, but also with protecting the environment:

“We all know more people using bikes and scooters is better for our air and better for everyone that needs to use a car in the City.”

Brezina added:

“The bad air quality days are driven by car traffic, and so by reducing the amount of cars that people are using and getting more people to use zero-emission vehicles – like scooters and bicycles – we make our air cleaner and improve peoples’ health.”

The protesters commemorated two years since biker Kate Slattery was killed in a hit-and-run in the same intersection.

Sonja Trauss, executive director for the non-profit organization California Renter Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, said that she used to ride her bicycle when she lived in the East Bay, but since she moved to San Francisco, she has been afraid to ride.

She lives half a block from the intersection of Howard and Seventh streets, and calls it a “walkers and transit riders paradise.” Trauss said that she has seen news reports of bicyclists being hurt or killed by drivers, adding:

“Cars are really dangerous.”

The San Francisco Fire Department has noted protected bike lanes would make it more difficult for their engines to reach burning buildings, but Brezina says Muni light rail lines are the problem, as they block ladders from reaching fire victims.

He added that having bike lanes could also be instrumental for emergency vehicles, as they could potentially more easily reach situations speedily instead of being stuck in burdensome traffic.

Brezina, who has ridden bikes his whole life, said that he is happy riding his bicycle:

“Instead of regretting or not enjoying a commute stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I actually have a smile [during] my commute,” he said, “and not being stuck inside a cage, I much more engage in my community.”

Brezina continued:

“You can’t be on a bicycle and not smile.”