Leah Shahum Stepping Down from the SF Bicycle Coalition
I met Leah Shahum in the late 1990s in Sacred Grounds, a neighborhood cafe, when she overheard a team of bike activists planning the next issue of our newsletter. She introduced herself, said she was trained as a journalist, and asked if she could help. We made her editor.
That was the beginning of a long tenure at the SF Bicycle Coalition, the last twelve of which she served as its Executive Director. Yesterday she announced she’s stepping down to pursue other opportunities, including a stint in Europe studying Vision Zero campaigns. Vision Zero is a groundbreaking way to frame a traffic safety agenda that will do wonders for biking and also sound like a vital idea for everyone who uses our streets. We hope to be able to tap her expertise when she comes back to spread the Vision Zero message around the state.
When I was executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, it didn’t take long for me to recognize Ms. Shahum as a special talent. She hadn’t served long as our part-time Membership Manager before she was offered a full-time job in her chosen field of journalism. I didn’t want to let her go so I offered her a full-time job as our first ever “program director.” I didn’t have the budget for it, but I stretched and the risk paid off. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done as a bike advocate. She became a force for change in San Francisco that residents have benefited from ever since.
One of the marks of a great executive director is that they leave their organization in strong capable hands. She has done that. Many are saying that she’s irreplaceable and it’s true that nobody will ever duplicate her unique abilities. But it’s greater praise to say she has built such a strong Board of Directors, such a talented and deep staff of 17 people, and such stable finances that the organization will continue to thrive in service of bicycling in San Francisco for years to come.
Thank you, Leah Shahum, for doing such a great job for an organization and a movement that means so much to me and so many others.