Letter to the SFMTA

Today Her Bike Lane sent a letter to the SFMTA officially registering our concern. Below is our text. To get involved with our effort, please request to join our Facebook group.


Her Bike Lane

P.O. Box 225090

San Francisco, CA 94122




Ed Reiskin

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

1 South Van Ness Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94103


Mr. Reiskin:


We are writing to protest gender discrimination arising from the actions of your agency’s work. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has used and continues to use public monies to build a bike network that directly contradicts the known needs of women. As a result, people who identify as women are only less than one third of the population of people who use the system. Her Bike Lane speaks on behalf of the many thousands of women of all ages, ethnicities and sexual orientations who are being designed out of using the city’s publicly-funded bike network and bike parking facilities, and thus our basic rights to safe and free movement on our city’s public streets.


Here are the facts:


The freedom to use a bicycle has been powerful symbol in the push for human rights for women in the United States and around the world for many decades. Famous suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are credited with declaring that “woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle.” The bicycle was the symbol of women’s freedom of body and mind. That tradition has continued as many women in around the world, from Afghanistan to Turkey, have protested harsh restrictions on women by the simple act of riding a bicycle.


The new president-elect of our own country has made it clear through his rhetoric and appointments that women’s rights to our own bodies will soon be under vigorous attack. Women around the country are bracing ourselves for an assault on our basic rights as humans. Never has it been more important to affirm and support the rights of people who identify as women — and particularly women of color and/or LGBTQ — to the right to free, unimpeded use of our bodies in public places, to feel safe and welcome on our city’s streets.


For a huge and growing number of women in San Francisco, this means lifting the de facto ban on bicycling for women in many parts of our city.


Bicycling infrastructure in San Francisco and around the world is generally classified as one of the following categories:


  • Class 1 bike path: Provides a completely separated right of way for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians with crossflow by motorists minimized
  • Class 2 bike lane: Provides a striped lane for one-way bike travel on a street or highway.
  • Class 3 bike route: Provides for shared use with pedestrian or motor vehicle traffic.
  • Class 4 bikeway (protected bikeway): A bikeway for the exclusive use of bicycles and includes a separation required between the separated bikeway and the through vehicular traffic.


Women bike more than men in cities and countries with high quality infrastructure, particularly full networks of Class 4 bike lanes and protected intersections. For example,


  • Denmark – 55% women riders
  • Holland – 55% women riders
  • Germany – 49% women riders


The rise in bicycling in these cities and countries was not a forgone conclusion. Rather it has been an intentional development led by government policy changes and focus on specific infrastructure development, particularly the widespread installation of protected bike lanes and intersections (“Class 4 bike lanes”) and Class 1 bike paths and deliberately gender-inclusive standards governing bike lane and bike parking development.


It is the stated goal of the San Francisco to grow bicycling trips, as part of its Transit First policy and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s 2013-2018 Bicycling Strategy.


Research shows that it is possible to increase bicycling levels but not close gender and racial gaps. This is not a legally or ethically acceptable path for San Francisco.


In San Francisco, women are less than one third of the population of people riding bikes. This number has not changed significantly over the last decade.


  • 2006: 25%
  • 2007: 24%
  • 2008: 27%
  • 2009: 29%
  • 2010: 28%
  • 2011: 27%
  • 2012: 28%
  • 2013+: No statistically significant data collected.


The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has noted this discrepancy and called for a focus on closing the gender gap.


“While people of all ages, races and genders bicycle in San Francisco, frequent bicyclists are more likely to be male, Caucasian and between the ages of 26 and 35 (Figure 7 and Table 3). This suggests that San Francisco should customize outreach efforts to address the bicycling needs of those who are less likely to be bicyclists, i.e., women, minority groups and older people.


Specific findings from the survey include:

    • Women make up 49 percent of San Franciscans, but only 23 percent of frequent cyclists.
    • Asians make up 32 percent of San Franciscans, but only 12 percent of frequent cyclists.
    • African Americans make up seven percent of San Franciscans but only two percent of frequent cyclists.
    • Hispanics make up 14 percent of San Franciscans but only 10 percent of frequent cyclists.”


  • 2008 San Francisco State of Cycling Report



Our bike network is extensive but very low quality, comprised almost exclusively of class 2 bike lanes and class 3 bike routes. The SFMTA has reported that less than 10% of its bike network is comfortable for most people.


The SFMTA Board, SFCTA Board, BART Board of Directors and SF Planning Board of Directors are the primary deciders of what type of biking infrastructure gets built, if any.


Funding for the San Francisco bike projects comes from a mix of public funds, including federal, state and local funds.


Similarly, almost all of our on- and off-street public bicycle parking is designed for people who can lift their bikes, which generally excludes bikes that carry bags, baskets and/or children.


According to research, women are less comfortable bicycling overall than men.


According to research, women are more concerned for their safety while bicycling than men.


Actual bicycling crash rates between men and women track about equally to their rate of bicycling.


Streets with protected bike lanes saw 90 percent fewer injuries per mile than those with no bike infrastructure.


When protected bike lanes are installed in New York City, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists) typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations.


Protected bike lanes reduce bike-related intersection injuries by about 75 percent compared to comparable crossings without infrastructure.


According to research, both men and women overwhelmingly feel that class 4 bike lanes increased their safety while riding in them. And on several measures of safety and comfort, women bicyclists using the class 4 lanes had significantly more positive associations with the protected lanes than men.


Women bike more often when cities install Class 4 bike lanes, with a much bigger increase than men.


These findings hold doubly true for women of color, who carry additional safety concerns with them to the street. According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, Latinos are 23% more likely to be killed while biking than white people, and African-Americans are 30% more likely to be killed while biking. These numbers are unconscionable.


Decisions about the design of San Francisco’s streets are governed by a mix of local, state and Federal laws. These codes specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender in the design and provision of public works projects.


Federal Relevant Statutes:




U.S. Code § 324 – Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex


No person shall on the ground of sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal assistance under this title or carried on under this title. This provision will be enforced through agency provisions and rules similar to those already established, with respect to racial and other discrimination, under title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, this remedy is not exclusive and will not prejudice or cut off any other legal remedies available to a discriminatee.


California Relevant Code & Policies:






The California Department of Transportation, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes, ensures that no person in the State of California shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity it administers.




(a) This section shall be known, and may be cited, as the Unruh Civil Rights Act.


(b) All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.


San Francisco Relevant Code & Policies:






The population of this City and County is composed of people of various racial, religious and ethnic groups. In this City and County the practice of discrimination on the actual or perceived grounds of race, religion, color, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, weight, height or place of birth and the exploitation of prejudice related thereto adversely affects members of minority groups.




It is hereby declared:


That the policy of the City and County of San Francisco is to act to give effect to the rights of every inhabitant of the City and County to equal economic, political and educational opportunity, to equal accommodations in all business establishments in the City and County and to equal service and protection by public agencies;




It shall be the goal of the City to implement the principles underlying CEDAW, listed in Section 12K.6 by addressing discrimination against women and girls in areas including economic development, violence against women and girls and health care. In implementing CEDAW, the City recognizes the connection between racial discrimination, as articulated in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and discrimination against women. The City shall ensure that the City does not discriminate against women in areas including employment practices, allocation of funding and delivery of direct and indirect services.




(b) Violence Against Women and Girls. […]


(1) The City shall take and diligently pursue all appropriate measures to prevent and redress sexual and domestic violence against women and girls, including, but not limited to:


(4) The City shall ensure that all public works projects include measures, such as adequate lighting, to protect the safety of women and girls.



(a) The following principles shall constitute the City and County’s transit-first policy and shall be incorporated into the General Plan of the City and County. All officers, boards, commissions, and departments shall implement
these principles in conducting the City and County’s affairs:
          1. To ensure quality of life and economic health in San Francisco, the primary objective of the transportation system must be the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.
          2. Public transit, including taxis and vanpools, is an economically and environmentally sound alternative to transportation by individual automobiles. Within San Francisco, travel by public transit, by bicycle and on
foot must be an attractive alternative to travel by private automobile.

  1. Decisions regarding the use of limited public street and sidewalk space shall encourage the use of public rights of way by pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, and shall strive to reduce traffic and improve public health and safety.
              4. Transit priority improvements, such as designated transit lanes and streets and improved signalization, shall be made to expedite the movement of public transit vehicles (including taxis and vanpools) and to improve pedestrian safety.
              5. Pedestrian areas shall be enhanced wherever possible to improve the safety and comfort of pedestrians and to encourage travel by foot.
              6. Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking.
              7. Parking policies for areas well served by public transit shall be designed to encourage travel by public transit and alternative transportation.


San Francisco’s transportation agencies are violating these codes and policies by building public facilities that disproportionately exclude women. We as a city have stood up many times to fight against discrimination in our public facilities. For example, according to your own data, there is no gender gap on our MUNI system in San Francisco, a transportation program similarly supported by public monies. Deliberate embrace of women as customers of this system has led to specific design and operational decisions (e.g., lighting placement, emergency help options, kneeling buses, recommended priority seating for pregnant women, strollers on board, etc) that support the equal use of women — even when those design decisions cost additional funds and/or require behavior change by other users. For example, asking other customers to give up their seat for pregnant women. But no such considerations have been given to women who want to ride bikes on our publicly-funded bike network.


In fact, the City has a long history of offering and approving street designs that are known as discriminatory to people who identify as women, and particularly women of color. See the full list, detailed by year and public funding source, enclosed. Only a small fraction of these publicly-funded projects are not discriminatory.


We are calling on the SFMTA to cease its practice of discrimination. Specifically:


  • Going forward, only offer design alternatives for publicly-funded projects that impact the transportation infrastructure that do not disproportionately discriminate against women.
  • Renovate its bike network to close the gender gap over three years, with targets to meet every year.
  • Immediately revise its public bike parking standards to be fully inclusive of women using all manner of bicycles, including pregnant and disabled women.
  • Renovate its existing bike parking to conform to these standards over three years, with targets to meet every year.
  • Update and reaffirm its commitment to the principles developed at the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, currently enshrined in our city code, by updating the code to reflect new, aggressive goals for eliminating discrimination against people who identify as women, and particularly women of color, in San Francisco.


To be clear, we are not calling for a stop work order on projects currently underway. While we strongly encourage the City to include monitoring the impact of its work on people who identify as women, people of color and other underrepresented groups as part of its project development and assessment, there is absolutely no need to start from scratch on determining what is needed to end this pattern of discrimination. The research is extensive enough and crystal clear on the main driver of the current gender gap: the lack of physical protection for women who want to use our bike network, and lack of bike parking that considers our bodies and bikes.


To date, the City has largely relied on education and enforcement to address safety concerns for people biking. But education and enforcement alone have been shown repeatedly to have little impact on people’s perception of street safety, and overall biking rates. Infrastructure is absolutely essential to behavior change. After all, no matter how well educated, people by nature make mistakes, particularly kids. But any reasonable person should be able to agree that the price of those mistakes should never be death or serious injury. Hence the need for protected space for biking, separated as much as possible from people driving cars.

Moreover, enforcement in particular is complicated by the overwhelmingly white, male gaze it tends to bring, which has resulted in too much bias, and, too often, outright danger to people caught in its net. The recent Department of Justice report on the racially discriminatory practices of the SFPD make it especially important that the City not rely on its enforcement officers to keep our streets safe from traffic violence.

San Francisco has the legal authority to design and build these facilities, and has a long history of leading the state and country in its designs. It is simply choosing not to. Citizen groups, including the San Francisco Bicycle Advisory Committee, are purely advisory. They may have an impact on occasional impacts. But additional female representation on these committees, or better involvement in government outreach meetings on specific projects alone is unlikely to yield a substantially different outcome. As most women and people of color have experienced first hand, it is very hard to feel comfortable speaking up in those environments as we are often silenced or ignored. Moreover, even the boldest among us will not be heard if the City is not actively listening for our voice.


San Francisco currently spends at most around 2% of its multi-billion dollar transportation budget on bicycling. Bicycling infrastructure is extremely cheap and high impact. The City has the money to invest in righting the discrimination it has exercised over the last decade or so. It has simply chosen not to do so. The City has traditionally funded most bicycling projects from our local sales tax. Voters recently rejected a renewal of that sales tax, making it even more likely that the SFMTA and other agencies will put few resources towards fixing its long-standing pattern of discrimination. We are asking for your help to reaffirm our rights as a woman to safe, free use of our city’s public streets.


We ask that, in the next two months, your staff present a comprehensive plan and budget to rectify and eliminate the discriminatory use of public funds.



Her Bike Lane



We are a group of ordinary women — mostly moms — who are fed up with San Francisco’s disregard for the needs of women on our streets. We just want to ride our bikes to get around town, with confidence and smiles.



SFTMA Board of Directors

Tilly Chang, Director of the SFCTA

SFCTA Board of Directors

Grace Crunican, General Manager of BART

BART Board of Directors

Brian Weiderman, Executive Director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Gabriel Metcalf, President and CEO, SPUR

Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco City and County


Neighborhood Greenways: The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind the neighborhood greenway is transforming networks of quieter residential streets into low speed, low car traffic places where women and people of all ages feel comfortable biking, walking, running, etc. As with protected bike lanes, there are many ways to create neighborhood greenways; they are distinctive and beautiful.

Neighborhood greenways have been common throughout the U.S. and Europe for decades, including places as close as Berkeley and Portland. Neighborhood greenways are researched and endorsed by national transportation officials.




  • Friendlier, safer neighborhood streets for residents and visitors
  • Slow, low speed traffic opens up comfortable, safe areas to bike, walk, run, play and socialize with neighbors
  • Greening and water conservation features create beautiful, park-like atmosphere

Tour Neighborhood Greenways Around the West Coast

Neighborhood Greenways in San Francisco

San Francisco currently has no plans to build neighborhood greenways despite having many clear neighborhood candidates. Nor has the City made a concerted effort to incorporate these design elements into obvious locations like the many neighborhood “wiggles” and west side avenue crosstown bike routes.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s excellent (but inactive?) Connecting the City campaign began to reimagine at least one location as a neighborhood greenway. Unfortunately, the City did not incorporate any elements of a neighborhood greenway in the design it ended up building.


The Wiggle as Neighborhood Greenway


Photo Credits
  • Payton Chung on Flickr.com (header and top images)
  • San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (bottom image)


Connect with other women who want woman-friendly, neighborhood greenways throughout San Francisco’s bike network.

Protected Intersections: The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind the design is that it protects people biking, walking and driving from each other. As with protected bike lanes, there are many ways to create protected spaces, including concrete, bollards, plastic posts and more.

Protected bike intersections have been common throughout Europe for decades, and have finally become recommended practice in the U.S., researched and endorsed by state transportation agencies.



Check out this excellent, brief video, which clearly explains the concept.


  • Easy sight lines for everyone, making turns safer and less stressful for all
  • Easier, safer right and left turns for people on bikes
  • Shorter crossing distances for people on foot
  • More predictable, less stressful navigation for people driving cars and trucks

Tour Examples Around the World

Protected Intersections in San Francisco

To date, the City is planning to build its first protected intersection for part of 9th Street & Division. There is a clear need for protected intersections throughout the city. Glaring examples include the intersection of the Panhandle and Stanyan Street, most streets in SOMA and downtown and Polk & Market.


Image Credits
  • John Greenfield (header image)
  • MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide


Connect with other women who want woman-friendly, protected intersections throughout San Francisco’s bike network.


Protected Bike Lanes: The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind the bike lane is that it is protected from car traffic. There are many ways to create protection, from plastic bollards, planters, parked cars and much more.

Protected bike lanes have been common throughout Asia and Europe for decades, and have finally become the go-to design option in the U.S. over the last decade, researched and endorsed by national and local transportation boards.



Tour Bike Networks Around the World


Protected Bike Lanes in San Francisco

San Francisco already has low quality protected bike lanes on small parts of Polk Street, JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park and Market Street. And a few other projects are in planning or construction.

What would high-quality protected bike lanes look like in San Francisco? The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has published renderings of protected bike lanes on key streets in San Francisco as part of its excellent (but inactive?) Connecting the City campaign.


Central Market Street


Polk Street




Photo Credits:
  • San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
  • NACTO Urban Bikeway Guide


Connect with other women who want woman-friendly, protected bike lanes throughout San Francisco’s bike network.