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Victory for Biking in Underserved San Francisco Neighborhoods


Orphaned bicycles in San Francisco are about to find new homes where they are most needed.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee approved an ordinance on March 14 that provides bicycles and safe streets for low income residents living in the City by the Bay.  The ordinance — which received unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors and will go into effect on April 14 — directs the San Francisco Police Department to turn over recovered bicycles to the city’s Department of Human Services. It provides funding to support a community bike build, where community members will refurbish those recovered bicycles for low-income residents.

In addition, the policy urges the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority to make streetscape improvements and add bicycle lanes in underserved neighborhoods, including Bayview Hunters Point, which has been identified as the area most in need.

The changes come after a coalition of grassroots organizations worked with government officials to amend the police code to mandate the police department make city-owned recovered bicycles available to underserved communities.  Following the implementation of this policy, allies will continue to work to increase city investment in bike safety and maintenance, as well as investments on improvements to the built environment that support safe bike routes in the lowest income neighborhoods of the San Francisco.

Members of the coalition also partnered with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition over the past year to distribute more than 800 bicycles to low-income youth from communities of color through community bike builds and bike safety trainings. 

Successful bike builds were held with a wide variety of community-based organizations, and over the next three months, three additional bike builds are planned in Bayview Hunters Point, training 150 underserved youth in communities with the highest rates of childhood obesity and limited access to health and recreation activities.

Like many cities, there is a definite economic divide in San Francisco in both the infrastructure to support safe routes for bike riding and in actual access to bicycles.

Access to a bicycle rises with household income. According to a government survey of nearly 10,000 Americans, only 29 percent of those with household incomes of less than $15,000 had regular bicycle access, while 65 percent of people with incomes of $75,000 or more did.