Portrait Of A Successful Bicycle Activist

Leah Shahum, 34, is executive director of the politically powerful San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She was just appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom to fill a vacancy on the city's Municipal Transportation Agency's board of directors.
May 10, 2006, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"When she moved to San Francisco 11 years ago, Leah Shahum was an unlikely bicycle advocate in the making.

She didn't own a bike, had cycled infrequently and had no history of political activism."

"When she is sworn into the post of board member of the Municipal Transportation Agency later this month, Shahum will become the first recognized bicycle advocate to serve on the governing board responsible for the city's public transit and parking and traffic operations.

It is a post where she is expected to be a voice for environmentally sustainable modes of transportation and where she says she wants to focus on safe and efficient mass transit, safety upgrades for cyclists and pedestrians, and ways to reduce motor vehicle traffic on city streets."

"Colleagues describe Shahum as a devoted, tough organizer who has mobilized the bicycle coalition into an active, policy-driving force. She also isn't shy about speaking her mind.

Recently, she raised eyebrows around City Hall shortly after the Board of Supervisors gave initial approval April 25 to an ordinance expanding to Saturdays the Sunday closure of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park -- a measure backed by open space advocates but opposed by representatives of people with disabilities, elderly people and some Inner Sunset and Richmond District residents."

[See accompanying link for the op-ed she wrote with a former adversary.]

"As an MTA board member, Shahum said she wants to limit traffic growth by increasing downtown parking rates and limiting the amount of new parking spaces that can be built in the city's downtown core. She also supports so-called congestion charging, a nascent proposal of Supervisor Jake McGoldrick to levy a fee on motorists for the right to drive downtown, a controversial idea now being studied by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority."

Thanks to ABAG-MTC Library

Full Story:
Published on Monday, May 8, 2006 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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