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SF bike group director heads to Amsterdam

The San Francisco Business Times: SF bike group director heads to Amsterdam

San Francisco Business Times - by Steven E.F. Brown

The executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Leah Shahum, will spend eight months living and cycling in Amsterdam this year, on an unpaid sabbatical.

Shahum, who started working for the organization in 1997, became its executive director in 2003. At that time it had 4,200 members, while today that number has risen to 11,000. Members pay about $35 a year, and those fees plus other donations make up some 60 percent of the bike coalition’s $1 million annual budget.

The group also gets money from teaching classes and from contracts for work done on Bike to Work Day.

While Shahum is on this sabbatical in Amsterdam, which starts in May, Renee Rivera, a former chair of the organization’s board of directors, will fill in as acting executive director.

When Shahum returns to San Francisco, she hopes to bring “plenty of fresh ideas and renewed inspiration” from Amsterdam, where, she said, “half of all trips are made by bicycles and where biking is as commonplace as walking.”

She plans to attend the Velo-City Global Conference, a bicycle symposium and exposition in Copenhagen in late June.

Shahum added: “I’m so excited by this opportunity to step away from the day-to-day for a while to think deeply about where we take our movement next.”

The coalition has 11 full-time employees and several part-time workers.

In San Francisco, Shahum bikes to work from the Mission to Civic Center each day, and said cycling along her route has become more popular and pleasant since traffic changes were made along busy Market Street to protect riders.

“Now, as I ride in every morning, I’m usually surrounded by about a dozen other cyclists at every light,” she said.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says cycling trips increased by 53.5 percent in San Francisco from 2006 to 2009.