Click on each bulleted item below for more information
Strengthen the Core Work of the SFBC
- Increase pressure on the City to make our streets saferThe San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has done great work advancing the goal of safer streets and we will support this process to ensure that our streets are no longer dangerous for the most vulnerable users, particularly bike riders and pedestrians. Rapid implementation of data-driven safety designs in the most dangerous corridors is especially important.We commend the Bicycle Coalition for its work in pressuring Mayor Lee to issue an executive directive on Vision Zero with the goal of eliminating all deaths and serious injuries from traffic collisions by 2024. Based on the City’s history of slow progress on safety reforms, however, we will need to keep the pressure on and hold the city accountable to ensure safety improvements on our streets.
- Work for policy changes that make our city truly bicycle-friendlyWe need to push beyond slogans and “safe” initiatives to challenge the dominance of cars in our city and claim space and rights for bicyclists. The goal of city policy should be to make it easier to get to one’s destination by bicycle than by car. This goal would dramatically affect street design resulting in a network of bike routes to enable anyone, particularly youth, seniors and new bike riders, to crisscross our city comfortably and safely. Protected bike lanes and other infrastructure improvements would encourage more people to bike as their primary mode of transportation.
- Support police reform to promote respect for bicycle ridersWe can improve communication between bicycle riders and the police force to increase understanding and promote positive interactions. Open communication would help officers better understand the experience of people biking in our city. We need the police to respect and protect our rights to use the streets. Enforcement should be proportionate to the behaviors and their impacts on people in our city.
- Seek broader input to update the strategic planThe Bicycle Coalition’s advocacy power is limited when we are seen as being solely focused on bicycling related issues. Forming alliances is a powerful way to bring the larger message to the community and decision makers. Public transit riders, pedestrians, and bicycle riders have much in common – all are forms of transportation that promote sustainability as a highly effective antidote to societal ills including pollution, traffic congestion, and fossil fuel consumption. Sustainable transportation is especially important for the transit-dependent and low-income communities of color most at risk for injury on San Francisco’s streets. The case for sustainable transportation is the same as the case for a healthy public, economy, and future. The Bicycle Coalition’s strategic planning process should make a concerted effort to include the voices of our allies and align our goals with theirs wherever possible.
Build the SFBC’s Political Power by Expanding and Diversifying
- Rebuild membership, which has declined 18% since 2011Since 2011, biking in San Francisco has increased over 30% (according to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency citywide bike counts), while the Bicycle Coalition’s membership has declined 18%. If membership had increased at the same rate as bicycling in San Francisco, the Bicycle Coalition would have 16,000 members today instead of 10,000. The Bicycle Coalition needs creative ways to recruit new members and retain existing members. We must listen to why people don’t join and why members decide to leave, and act on what we learn. A growing member base is critical to increase our political influence.
- Empower member advocates by cultivating and supporting member-led initiativesMember-led groups of volunteer advocates are dedicated and passionate, because the biking improvements they are working on usually affect them personally. Member-led groups are responsible for many of the Bicycle Coalition’s victories, such as increased bicycle space onboard Caltrain and ending the bike ban onboard BART during commute periods. Member meetings in which members present ideas and get feedback from other members is a great way to kickstart member initiatives. We believe the Bicycle Coalition should encourage, support and guide members in effective advocacy that aligns with the coalition’s values. In the end, everyone will benefit.
- Broaden outreach to San Francisco's diverse population and invest more in underrepresented communitiesThere is a common misconception that bike riders in our city are all young, able-bodied, professional, white males. In reality, San Franciscans of all backgrounds bike, but none more so than the poor and communities of color, the same groups under threat of displacement to suburbs burdened by streets far deadlier than San Francisco’s and terrible to non-existent transit. The image of bicyclists needs to be expanded to be more inclusive. Meaningful attention must be paid to low-income and communities of color. The Bicycle Coalition must commit to long-term coalition building with communities that do not have the luxury of making bike advocacy their top priority.
- Expand fundraising opportunities with new board membersFundraising is an important part of board service. By involving more board members from different areas of the city and with different networks, fundraising opportunities can be expanded and diversified to support a financially healthy organization.
Improve Board Accountability and Transparency
- Follow SFBC bylaws and state lawThe board has a fiduciary duty to follow the organization’s bylaws and state law. It is troubling that the board does not take greater care to follow the law. For example:
- In 2015, the board ratified a vote for a bylaw change to abolish member voting rights, but the bylaw referendum did not follow state law. The board did not provide sufficient notice to members, nor did it clearly explain the effect of the bylaw change on member voting rights. Save SF Bike tried numerous ways (detailed here) to preserve member rights, but it ultimately took the threat of legal action to compel the board to rescind the flawed bylaw vote and restore member voting rights, which is the only reason members can still vote for the board.
- In January 2016, the board seated (not appointed) three candidates to three vacancies on the board. These three candidates did not receive a sufficient number of votes to be elected according to the bylaws. The bylaws permit appointment of up to three candidates per calendar year, but there is no provision for simply ‘seating’ candidates.
- A board member announced his resignation in April 2016, but changed his mind in June – after pressure from members to fill the vacancy with the next highest vote-getter (a Save SF Bike candidate) from the last election. The bylaws do not have a provision for reversing a resignation.
We believe the board should follow state law and the SFBC bylaws on its own volition; outside pressure and potential legal action should not be necessary.
- Members are important: listen, honor, and respect usMembers are the SFBC’s most important asset. The board should connect with members and listen to members to make sure the organization is representative of the diversity of the membership and its needs. Members are the on-the-ground experts for identifying ways to improve bicycling infrastructure and safety. Here are a few suggestions for improving member engagement and trust:
- Board members should regularly engage with members and with different segments of the bike community to learn from their perspectives.
- The SFBC should conduct a member survey dedicated to internal, organizational issues such a privacy, board elections, and possible bylaw changes.
- Keep the Bike Coalition democratic with member rights intactSFBC grew as a member-based, grassroots organization. The SFBC should remain accountable to its members, who should have ultimate control of the organization’s leadership through their vote. We are strongly against changing the bylaws to remove member voting rights.Last year’s temporary abolition of member voting rights left some members feeling like SFBC leadership did not value their input. To ensure that members’ voices are heard – and that a small fraction of members cannot disenfranchise the 10,000+ members – the number of members required to vote (the quorum requirement) on eliminating member voting rights should be increased from its current 5% to at least 25%. This sends a clear message that member voices matter. It will ensure that any vote to make such a significant change in the organization’s governance would involve a rigorous debate and substantial engagement with members.
- Improve the board meeting processSave SF Bike recommends the following improvements to make SFBC board meetings more welcoming, transparent and accountable:
- Members should be allowed to comment on items before the board takes action on them. At most recent board meetings, members are allowed to comment only at the end of meetings.
- Board meeting minutes should record board members’ names with how they voted on items. They currently do not.
- Avoid indiscriminate use of closed session at board meetings. The SFBC board overuses closed session at board meetings to exclude members from relevant discussions. Closed session should be limited to only those items that require confidentiality such as potential litigation or discussion about SFBC personnel issues or salaries.
Ensure Fair Board Elections
- Implement ranked choice votingCompared with winner-take-all elections, ranked choice voting (RCV) in multi-winner contests allows more diverse groups of voters to elect candidates of their choice. This promotes diversity of viewpoint as well as diversity of candidate backgrounds and demographics. RCV helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters. We are disappointed by the board’s rejection of RCV for 2016 and see it as a lost opportunity to learn lessons from last year’s election.
- End board recommendations of board candidatesThe fact that the SFBC board recommends or endorses candidates limits diversity on the board. When candidates don’t get board recommendation/endorsement, they sometimes withdraw their candidacy, resulting in less diversity and lower member engagement in board elections. While we appreciate the need for a well-rounded board, a better approach is to advertise what skill sets are needed to encourage members to come forward and run for the board.
- Implement term limits for board membersTerm limits could be implemented as three consecutive two-year terms, after which a one-year pause must be taken before being eligible to serve on the board again. The IRS favors term limits for nonprofits and 70% of nonprofits have term limits according to BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index 2010. To keep an organization nimble and attentive to changing needs, it’s important to have new directors join the board by creating vacancies through term limits. Term limits prevent a concentration of power within a small group, which can lead to a disconnect between the board and membership as a whole.
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