Today we spotlight SVBC member Emily Beach. Emily was elected to the Burlingame City Council in 2015. She also serves on the task force of the Grand Boulevard Initiative, a project that seeks to reinvent El Camino Real “as a place for residents to work, live, shop and play, creating links between communities that promote walking and transit and an improved and meaningful quality of life.”
- How did you get introduced to Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition?
I think Bike to Work Day was likely my first introduction to SVBC. Since my election to Burlingame City Council, I’ve grown to understand and respect what an important advocacy role SVBC plays throughout our region. We need thoughtful and engaged cyclists to help advocate for progress, and SVBC leads the way.
- What kinds of activities/trips do you use your bike for?
You can spot me cycling around Burlingame all the time! I commute to most of my work meetings at City Hall and around town on my road bike. For me, cycling is a faster, more fun form of transportation — without any parking hassles. My favorite aerobic work-out is cycling up through Burlingame to Skyline Boulevard and Sawyer Camp Trail, since I find cycling much easier on my joints than jogging. My husband Duff and I also share a mountain bike we nicknamed “the beast” for errands around town– fully equipped with front and back racks for carrying groceries, library books, or other items that don’t fit comfortably in our backpacks. Since we are a busy one-car family of four, our bikes are an important form of transportation. Duff commutes to San Francisco daily on his bicycle and rides Caltrain or BART home. Our children walk or bike to school, and we often bike to their soccer and baseball games. Simply put, cycling is a way of life for our family.
- What should people know about riding a bike in Burlingame?
I’d like people to know that the future is bright for cycling in Burlingame. We’re fortunate that our geography, weather, vibrant downtown areas, and safe residential neighborhoods make cycling a natural fit for our residents. We’re breaking ground this summer on a Complete Streets project which includes Class II dedicated bicycle lanes on Carolan Avenue. California Drive between Broadway and Millbrae’s Caltrain Station is next, and we’re queuing up other streets for improvements as well. Although new infrastructure takes time, thoughtful planning, community engagement, and financial resources, our City Council and staff are committed to Complete Streets safety improvements. We’re headed in the right direction
- How can the Grand Boulevard Initiative make it safer and/or easier to ride a bike on the Peninsula?
Regional efforts like this foster connectivity. Cyclists appreciate traveling between and through cities on connected routes where they feel safe and welcome. Even more importantly, the Grand Boulevard Initiative promotes a vision for people-centric, vibrant communities. When Task Force members internalize this vision and implement it with local sensitivity, pedestrian and cycling improvements will happen organically.
- What would it take to get your friends and family riding a bike, or riding more often?
I know more of my friends and neighbors would try cycling if protected bicycle lanes connected our region’s downtown shopping areas and Caltrain stations. Although my family doesn’t hesitate to ride, not everyone shares this level of comfort or commitment to cycling. If we can make cycling feel safer, easier, and accessible to riders of all ages and abilities, more people will try it. Once they do, I’m confident the benefits will win them over.
- SVBC has an overarching goal of 10% of trips in our area taken by bike by 2025. In your opinion, what policy, funding, or infrastructure decisions need to be made to achieve that vision?
Unfortunately, American streets typically prioritize the convenience of automobiles over the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. We need to shift our mindset and prioritize investment in public transit systems and streets that accommodate all modes of transportation. Infrastructure improvements, particularly protected bike lanes, require significant financial investment and political will, so we need more regional funding and community support. If protected bicycle routes connected our residential areas to community gathering spaces like schools, parks, downtowns, libraries, and transit hubs, more people would try cycling for short trips around town. I’m optimistic, so I believe once people experience how easy, convenient, and fun it is to leave your car behind, our region will exceed SVBC’s 10% goal.