Remembering Dan Schneider, 1964-2021

Few people have had a greater impact on off road cycling in San Francisco than Dan Schneider. We were shocked to learn of his passing last month. I met Dan some time not too long after I moved to San Francisco. He was immediately memorable for his enthusiasm, his vision, his passion, his trail building skills, his ability to inspire and mentor others. He was a core part of the vision and execution of the restoration of miles of trails and habitat at Laguna Honda and elsewhere in the city, and will be missed.

SF Urban Riders and the Sutro Stewards are planning a public memorial later this year. As a way to remember all of the people whose lives Dan touched, we are collecting stories. Please submit your story of how you met Dan or another (shareable!) story by email. The collection will be posted online and the memories shared with all the people and communities he touched.

Please email your story about Dan to:

-Matthew Blain, Chair, SF Urban Riders

From Craig Dawson of the Sutro Stewards:

I first met Dan Schneider on a trail in 2004. We were digging side-by-side on a warm morning, building what would soon become the lower North Ridge Trail on Mount Sutro. We made some small talk as the morning progressed and I shared imagining the day when Mount Sutro could have trails for mountain bikes. Dan had the same idea, it turns out, and we had something more in common too, he was a cyclist and home brewer.

In 2005 Dan worked alongside a few friends including Ben Pease and myself to explore an old trail recently discovered on Mount Sutro. The difficult task took almost a year of brushing and tunneling through 15-foot high blackberry covering the steep hillsides. What we uncovered was a very old trail of substantial construction which we would later call the “Historic Trail”. We asked UCSF for permission to restore the trail with volunteer labor, and formed the Mount Sutro Stewards to aid in that effort. The program launched in September of 2006 with dozens of volunteers coming out to help at our first event.

Dan was an instrumental part of the Sutro Stewards from the beginning and it wasn’t long before the Historic Trail became the first legal single track for mountain biking in San Francisco. Dan wrangled favors from his diverse contacts in the early years including the Hop Union who would ship care packages of hops for the IPA beer we brewed for volunteers to consume after a morning of hard work. As the program grew in popularity Dan was soon receiving kegs of beer from many local brewer friends since the volunteer turnouts eventually surpassed our ability to keep brewing volumes of beer for volunteers. The back of our 3rd Anniversary t-shirt reads:
Contributed 15,000 Volunteer Hours
Restored and Improved 8,700 Feet of Trail
Reclaimed 172,000 Sq. Ft. of Habitat
Consumed 1,680 Pints of Beer with 540 Pizzas
And Had Fun Doing It!

Dan was a visionary and often leaps ahead of the projects already lined up. Together with Dan our core group received permission to restore trails on the East Ridge, North Ridge, Edgewood and in the Interior Greenbelt with Rec & Park. Dan envisioned youth educational programming on Mount Sutro and was an early advocate for a Youth In Nature program (funded 2021). He thought a nursery could help supply native plants for habitat restoration (constructed 2011) and that Crew Leader Training could keep a constant supply of well trained supervisors for our volunteers (began 2008). All of these things have become part of the Sutro Stewards program, though not as quickly as Dan would have hoped. Dan brought in kids from the YMCA summer camp mountain biking program to learn trail-riding skills on the trails he helped lovingly construct by hand.

By 2009 Dan had founded the SF Urban Riders in hopes of expanding off-road bicycle access in other City parks and open spaces. While he remained active on Mount Sutro he sought to open other bike-friendly venues in McLaren Park, at Sutro Tower, and finally saw his vision come true in the Laguna Honda open space where he developed multi-use trails for the public to explore.

It would be true to say that most people who adventure out on Mount Sutro, Laguna Honda, around Sutro Tower have no idea how those trails became a part of their enjoyable adventure. Those of us who do, owe a debt of gratitude to the tenacious, restless, visionary who gave his time and sweat to create the wildest single-track experiences in San Francisco…thank you, Dan.

Dan Schneider passed away July 2021. He was doing what he loved most at the time, riding through the countryside of Sonoma where he and his wife Nicole had relocated last year.

Craig Dawson
Senior Program Advisor, Sutro Stewards