by Alissa de Vogel

The San Francisco Bike Coalition's annual Bike to Work Day happens tomorrow, Thursday May 10th. With a 71% increase in commuter cycling in San Francisco over the last five years, tomorrow's Bike to Work Day promises to be the biggest one yet. In honor of this annual celebration of cycling, the SFBC has prepared a record 27 energizer stations along commuter bike routes. Between 7:30 am and 9:30 am tomorrow, cyclists can stop at any of their locations to fuel up with coffee and a bagel, and grab a free Bike to Work Day reusable tote bag. And in the evening you can celebrate all things cycling at Public Works' Bike From Work party.

In honor of these upcoming festivities, we spoke with SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum to
gather some tips for newbie cyclists planning to ride tomorrow. Last year on Bike to Work Day cyclists made up 75% of all traffic on Market street, so we thought it would be helpful to gather some tips for motorists on how to deal with increased bike traffic on Thursday. Behold:

For Cyclists:
1. Ride predictably. Be conscious of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists around you when you turn or slow down. Ride in a straight line when possible. Use hand signals when you can. If you're going to pass someone, pass on the left and don't be afraid to use your bell or your voice to announce it.
2. Prioritize bike lanes, but don't be afraid to go outside the designated bike lane if you feel it's safer. San Francisco has added 23 miles of new bike lanes in the last 18 months, but coverage is still far from comprehensive. You can plan your ride prioritizing bike lanes by using this map.
3. Stay out of the door zone! Riding close to parked cars can be even more dangerous than taking the lane, as “getting doored” is the number one cause of cycling injuries in San Francisco. Where bike lanes are striped with the bike arrow stencil, the middle point on the arrow is always solidly out of the door zone, so use those as a guide.
4. You don't need to dress like a cyclist to bike in San Francisco. It's easier to avoid hills than you may think (the Wiggle is a great example) and it's totally possible to make it to work without even breaking a sweat. If you work in a more formal office or prefer to wear heels at work, Shahum suggests packing a change of clothes or shoes for work.
5. Buy a solid lock and be smart about parking your bike. If you're leaving your bike outside for 8 hours, be sure to use a u-lock to lock both the wheels and the frame. Many large office buildings downtown have secure indoor bike parking available, so check ahead of time to see if your building will let you bring your bike inside. Even if you can park your bike in the basement, be sure to use a good lock!

For Motorists:
1. Drive predictably. Use turn signals far in advance to apprise those around you of your intentions.
2. Watch your speed. Injuries resulting from accidents between cyclists and motorists are often exacerbated by excessive speed on the part of the motorist. Using caution and staying around the speed limit will also help with driving predictably and prevent sudden slamming on the brakes.
3. When parked on the street, look before opening your door. Check and double check to make sure the road is clear of cyclists - there will be more of them on the road tomorrow than you're used to seeing.
4. Be patient. After a stop light or sign, it takes cyclists a few seconds to build up speed again since they can't just step on the accelerator to get going. Give them a minute before getting frustrated and honking.
5. If you do get frustrated, remember that the growing number of cyclists in SF benefits everyone, not just those biking. Shahum pointed out that “even if [a driver] doesn't bike, every person who bikes is opening up another parking space and more room on the road for them, or one more seat on a crowded bus.”

For more information, visit the SFBC's Bike to Work Day page. Be safe and have fun out there tomorrow!