Bay Area Cyclists: An Afterthought

By Dominic Lucchesi

Disclaimer:  The following is an admittedly emotional and reactionary rant.  Sorry for all the doom and gloom, but I had to vent.  I swear, I’ll be back to my usual, chipper self in the morning.  Continue reading at your own peril.

The news that a cyclist was struck and killed by a truck at 6th and Folsom in San Francisco this morning really hit me in the gut.

I have been working on my bicycle in the Bay Area for roughly six years now (yes, I get paid to ride my bike).  Four of those years was spent riding primarily in San Francisco.  I’ve spent the last two as a worker-owner at Pedal Express, a small bicycle courier company operating in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.

I do not own a car.  This means that even when I’m not working, I am riding my bike.  To the store to pick up groceries; to the bar to grab drinks with the homies; even riding to visit my family in East Oakland and San Leandro.  What this experience has provided me with is a unique, street-level view of life in the Bay Area.

I notice little changes in the streetscape that others may not see.  I can tell when I’m leaving Emeryville and entering Oakland by the drop in quality of the street pavement.  For years and months I waited in agony while construction crews worked to complete a short section of the Bay Trail at the Berkeley Marina.  I’ve seen potholes come and go and then come back again…

At the same time, I’ve watched the bicycle infrastructure grow in San Francisco, greatly exceeding anything that we have in the East Bay (colored pavement, protected bike lanes, bike traffic signals, etc).

And if San Francisco represents the most bike-friendly city in the Bay, what does that make Berkeley or Oakland?  While SF is busy transforming Market Street, efforts to add safe bike lanes on Tunnel Rd are in serious jeopardy because the neighbors don’t want to give up a few on-street parking spots.  On 40th St, attempts to add bike lanes were nixed in favor of adding little sharrows and a green strip of paint DOWN THE MIDDLE OF A TRAVEL LANE.  And nobody really seems to know about it.

Despite all the hype and political sweet talk, I can’t help but feel that cyclists are a complete afterthought both locally and nationally.  Me and all of my bike-riding friends are one right turn away from being struck from existence.   And if that happens, regardless of the circumstances, the internet will be buzzing with comments like this:

From my experience commuting to work on a bike is that many riders I see need a basic bike safety course. They appear to create hazards where one shouldn’t exist usually out of impatience.

Ugh.  I swear, it’s almost enough to make a guy give up the bike messenger biz in favor of a desk job and a nice, safe, gas-guzzling Hummer.


5 thoughts on “Bay Area Cyclists: An Afterthought

  1. While I don’t get paid to ride my bike (I WISH), I’m right there with you. I know it’s rough out there, but the East Bay is coming around and those who realize the potential are working as hard as they can to make these changes happen. Hang in there. It’ll get better. And when it does, you’ll be glad you didn’t trade in your bike for the Hummer. 🙂

    1. Yes, it’s true, some good people are working to improve conditions for cyclists in the East Bay. Still, it’s at a snail’s pace, especially in Oakland. How can we get more people on bikes when the streets are crumbling, bike lanes are few and far between, and our local bike advocacy orgs lack political clout?

  2. Nice article. I’d like to comment on what I believe to be your misuse of the word “reactionary,” which you use here to mean “reacting to,” or perhaps “reactive.” In fact, this word means something quite different. “Reactionary” is the word given to the extreme political movements that arise in *reaction* against progressive social change. So we say things like “Hitler and Mussolini were reactionary leaders,” or “Newt Gingrich is the most reactionary member of Congress.” But your views are the opposite or reactionary, since you are espousing positive social change. (My 2 cents.)

    1. Huh. I thought my post was “reactionary” in the sense that I didn’t know all the facts of the fatal crash yesterday. My natural inclination is to side with the cyclist. But yes, a look at the dictionary shows that you are correct 🙂

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