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SFPD Chief Sees Streets of San Francisco by Bike

Back in September 2009, when Streetsblog San Francisco editor Bryan Goebel interviewed newly arrived SFPD Chief George Gascón, he invited him out for a bike ride. Gascón accepted. Sixth months later, we're pleased to report that the chief made good on his promise.

With Andy Thornley of the San Francisco Bike Coalition serving as a trusty guide, Gascón embarked on a short, breezy excursion from the Marina, exploring the local streets for a couple of miles.  The chief's message isn't complicated. "We all need to co-exist," and motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists need to respect each other's rights and safety, he says.  He's working toward fostering that goal through education and establishing a liaison to the cycling community.

Though the ride was a historic first in San Francisco and a step forward for mutual understanding, it was also seen as more of a starter ride. Advocates hope to take the chief on a grittier bike trip -- perhaps down bustling Market Street -- in a few months.

Andy Thornley: [0:01] We are about to make history in San Francisco. We're down in the Marina, and we're about to take a bike ride with San Francisco Police Department Chief George Gascon. We've never had a Chief of Police on a bike rolling around the city, so this should be fun.
Bryan Goebel: [0:14] We did an interview with the Police Chief last year, and we said, "Hey, Chief! We'd love it if you go on a bike ride with us." He agreed, and today is that day. Chief George Gascon: [0:22] It's a great low-impact sport and so a great way to get your cardiovascular going. It's a tremendous contributor to a healthy lifestyle.
Bryan Goebel: [0:31] Chief, it was a short bike ride. But what was your impression? George: [0:34] Well, you know first of all it's a beautiful day, so that made it fun. It raises obviously the level of awareness of some of the things that we can do it in order to make cycling a safer endeavor in the city. Obviously, the conditions of our streets in some areas could use some improvement.

[0:50] I think it's really good that we're beginning to mark some of the streets in order to facilitate riders. We want to make sure so we keep everybody safe, and we want to keep the cyclists safe. We want to provide for a safe environment for motorists. We want to make sure the traffic is moving, and the education piece is very critical.

[1:10] The more that we educate people as to how do you coexist, whether it's pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists--the better that we're all going to be. The more bike riding that we do, obviously the more health that we promote. And that's a good thing not only for the individual, but it's good public policy.

[1:27] I think also riding a bike we avoid having to burn fossil fuels, and it goes without saying that that is a good thing for us to do. And we reduce congestion.

Bryan Goebel: [1:37] The last time we talked, Chief, you had indicated a willingness to appoint a liaison to the bicycle community. George: [1:44] Right.
Bryan Goebel: [1:44] What's the update on that? George: [1:45] We're having discussions. I think the issue of appointing a liaison is a no brainer. I think that the question is we're building up our community relations office, and the cycling liaison will come out of that office. We're also looking, as I said, how do we improve the public education campaign for everyone?
Bryan Goebel: [2:02] Now that I've got you here on camera could I ask you, would you commit to going on another ride with us this summer? George: [2:07] Oh, absolutely! As a matter of fact, one of the things that my wife and I are planning to do is buy a bike. We live in an area here that we're very fortunate, a lot of good places to ride a bike. We're looking forward to doing so. I'm generally a runner, but I've also cycled before. There's so many triathlons here, so also I enjoy riding a bike.
Bryan Goebel: [2:27] Well, Chief, we appreciate your willingness to come out and talk to us today. George: [2:30] My pleasure.
Andy Thornley: [2:30] We got out and rode around his neighborhood, which I think is very powerful. Showed him his streets. We got a little bit of a motor vehicle interaction in a few places, but no egregious behavior. Too bad! I was really kind of hoping for a bread truck to cut us off or something. [2:45] But everybody played nice. The Chief had a good ride. I think he already gets it. I'm very pleased with his interaction and the things he's saying. So I think it was a good ride all around.


Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Tyler (LA)

    SMUG ALERT!

    What a hippie-fest.  Bikes don't make you happy.  Its a subculture.Biking will never be cool.Biking is over rated especially by hippies.Riding a bike won't make everything better.I live in Long Beach and love to ride a bike.