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Pedal MuralPedal mural.
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Pedal Revolution and AnnabelPedal Revolution and Annabel.
By Sara Young
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - I started my project, 25 Days, with the contention that bicycle commuting contributes to the over-all quality of life in any given city. I have been bike commuting in San Francisco for almost three weeks now, and have been impressed with the extensive infrastructure that exists to encourage people to get on their bikes and ride. One piece of that support system is Pedal Revolution, a shop located in the Mission district which repairs and sells new and used bikes and gives much needed support to some of the city’s at-risk youth.
I stopped by the shop and spoke with General Manager Steve Fiduccia, who has been with Pedal Revolution for seven years and has seen the impact the program has made with the youth that the program serves. He began by talking about what the program aims to do.
During the course of their internship we’re always working with them to look at the next step. Maybe looking into getting into school, a trade program, applying for jobs, and learning how to interview. In conjunction with that we have a full team of social case workers that work in the building right next door. They get support in finding stable housing, working toward a GED or High School diploma, and get help on any number of things they might be dealing with.
I asked Steve about how the kids in the program are introduced to cycling, and how that plays out in the program’s completion.
The kids who come to the program are all bicycle riders when they leave, not necessarily when they come in. A lot of these kids are dealing with some pretty challenging life circumstances. They haven’t had the opportunity to have a bike. I think all of them come here excited about the idea of getting involved in bikes. They get to work with their hands, try a bunch of bikes, and see how that culture works. The fantasy is that they really get into bikes and continue that as part of their life. It’s not a goal, necessarily. We love it when it happens. The real goal is to get them a more stable situation and if that happens to include bikes, that’s great.
Steve talks a bit about the evolution and growth of the bike culture in San Francisco over the years, which he attributes to several factors.
San Francisco and the West Coast in general, has the more self-sustaining, “I want to be in charge of my commute” vibe. It’s also a terrible city to own a car in. Economics are a big part of it. In the last few years we have seen a big spike in people riding bikes. I think The Bicycle Coalition could definitely attest to that. It’s also great to see the injunction finally lifted on a number of bike programs that have been pending for years.
He also talks briefly about the perceived conflict between bike and car, and how the limited space in the city contributes to that.
It’s going to be a continuous battle for San Francisco because it’s a situation of limited space. Any time you gain more space for cyclists, obviously, someone else has to give it up, but I think people are generally pretty supportive.
Steve has a valid point. It feels like car commuters have to give something up in order to provide bike commuters the ability to be safe and efficient on the roads. However, there is not near as much written about a conflict existing between rapid transit commuters and bicycle commuters, or rapid transit commuters and car commuters. These are not separate groups. We are all commuters, just as we are all humans.
It is time to re-frame this dialogue. This discussion is not one of conflict, but of negotiation. The best we can do toward this end is to listen as well as express our views. Pedal Revolution does a great service for the community by helping at-risk youth. This shop serves as a model of what can happen when a business is truly committed to improving the community it exists in. If all commuters could step back and look at what works best for the people in the community as a whole, if this “conflict” can be turned into a constructive discussion, it will not only improve transportation all over the country, it will improve the lives of everyone who goes anywhere by any means they choose.
Sara Young is a writer, artist, cyclist, amateur yogi and avid poetry appreciator. Originally from Chicago, IL, and most recently from Portland, OR, Sara is presently traveling the US, working on her project, 25 Days, in which she travels to 15 cities around the US, talking to people about their favorite places and bicycle commuting. She hopes to create a more bike-friendly society through advocacy, and a more peaceful world through listening.