We were on Valencia St. the other day and noticed a few skateboarders and families riding their bikes on the bike lanes. It is more common to see them in this neighborhood than in other parts of the city.
As you know, Valencia St. is the first in the city to have Green Wave bike lanes. Green Wave bike lanes are those which have traffic lights timed so that cyclists riding at 13 mph (21 km/h) will hit a steady wave of green traffic lights. This makes it easier for cyclists because then there is less stop and go for them. The Green Wave also reduces the speed of auto traffic.
Also, there is a BART public transit station in the area and that enhances bicycle commuting because people can use their bikes to get to the station, bring them onto the trains, and use them when they get off to go the last mile to their final destinations.
Because of this, 15-20% of all trips are made by bicycle in this neighborhood, making it the most bike-friendly in the city (see photos below). Citywide, it is 3.5%.
But much more needs to be improved to get more people to ride. Besides calming streets, a protected and continuous network of cycle tracks needs to be implemented rather than keeping with the wimpy striped lanes and confusing bike sharrows. By having high quality, protected bike ways, the city will better be able to encourage all age groups to ride.
The ADA (Americans with Disability Act) is one group that is not keen on bike improvements in our city. Their constant argument against cycle paths is the elimination of parking spaces because they think riding in a car is the only good way they can get around. I am certain that if they watch the video below, they would change their tune.
A big concern of the disabled and elderly is that they need to rely on others to take care of them and can at times feel a loss of dignity from this. So if an elderly or handicapped person can at least have the flexibility of going out without having to depend on someone to drive him/her to places, they would feel less disabled and more free and independent.
Also, if the very elderly do still drive themselves around, they could be endangering other road users due to their lack of quick reflexes, alertness, and fast reaction time. This is especially the case in a dense and busy city like SF.
The video below is taken from Bicycle Dutch and is a great illustration of how cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands benefits everyone.