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Just a Reminder: There Are a Ton of Bikes on Market Street

Photo: Janice Li

San Franciscans may take it for granted, but to most Americans, the volume of bike traffic on Market Street resembles a Critical Mass ride more than a weekday rush hour. SF’s main thoroughfare regularly sees more than 3,000 people ride by the bike counter on weekdays at Market and Eighth Streets — and that’s just in one direction. It may still be a ways away from matching Copenhagen’s busiest streets, and it doesn’t have raised bike lanes yet, but it’s definitely one of the highest concentrations of bike commuters you can find in this country.

Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson, Jr. was awe-struck by the two-wheeled torrent when he visited from New York last summer.

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Can VTA’s Bus Route Changes Keep Up With Suburban Office Park Growth?

Sunnyvale’s Moffett Park office park, where office development is attracting thousands of new commuters while transit service remains unchanged. Image: Jay Paul Company

Office development is booming in Santa Clara County. As the number of jobs increases, will the Valley Transportation Authority ramp up bus service to keep pace, or will streets become overrun with traffic?

VTA hosted a public meeting last week to present a set of proposed changes to its bus service that the agency calls its North Central County Bus Improvement Plan, designed to adapt to commuting patterns created by the recent growth of large office parks in areas that lack transit. About 70 people, mostly seniors and residents of Sunnyvale, attended the meeting at Sunnyvale’s City Hall.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in land use in these four cities,” said VTA Transportation Planner Adam Burger, who pointed to major office developments that are expected to bring several thousand more commuters through the region in coming years. Campuses are growing for Google and Intuit in Mountain View, Apple in Cupertino, Moffett Towers and LinkedIn in Sunnyvale, and the Levi’s Stadium area in Santa Clara.

“All these land use changes create new travel demand,” said Burger. “So we have to adapt our bus system to match the new travel patterns that people use.” VTA aims to provide major office developments with better transit and connect them to the bus rapid transit routes coming to El Camino Real in 2018 and Stevens Creek Boulevard in 2019.

But VTA only proposes improvements on a single north-south route that would help a significant number of passengers transfer to and from buses on the BRT routes. A new Bus 354 would supplement the existing Bus 54 with limited-stop service along a similar route on Mathilda and Hollenbeck Avenues between the Lockheed Martin Transit Center in Moffett Park and De Anza Community College in Cupertino. Despite large and growing concentrations of jobs in Moffett Park, along Mathilda Avenue, and in downtown Sunnyvale, Bus 54 still only runs every 30 minutes on weekdays and every 45 minutes on weekends.

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American Driver’s Ed Is a Joke

Want a driver’s license? It’s easy. Fill out some paperwork and pop on over to the DMV to take a 20-question test for your learner’s permit. Then, get in some practice with a licensed driver. (But if you’re over 18, you can just ignore that part!) Then sit through a five-hour course before taking a quick road test, like these people. Total cost: about $50 and a few hours. Once your license expires, you can renew it with a few clicks online.

No wonder the United States has such a high traffic fatality rate.

Compare this to Germany, where people are less than half as likely to be killed in traffic. In a new video, CNET’s Brian Cooley explains German requirements for learning to operate a high-speed, multi-ton piece of heavy machinery.

The process starts with 14 to 20 hours of technical training, sometimes more, Cooley says, including a test with 30 multiple-choice questions that determines whether you know how to react to any conceivable situation in traffic. That’s followed by at least twelve 90-minute training sessions behind the wheel, including four on the Auotbahn and three at night. If your instructor isn’t satisfied, you could be sent back for additional training sessions.

Then there’s another written exam that plumbs the depths of German traffic law. Three wrong answers is an automatic failure. Fail it three times, and you have to go back to the technical training sessions. And if you learn on an automatic transmission instead of standard, your license prohibits you from driving anything but an automatic. The entire process takes three to six months and can cost about $2,500.

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”Bikelash!” The Streetfilm

Six months ago, Dr. Doug Gordon and Dr. Aaron Naparstek charmed audiences at the 2014 National Bike Summit with a great routine called “Moving Beyond the Bikelash,” sharing what they’ve learned from the pushback to New York City’s bike network expansion.

So last week, while at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference, I thought it would be interesting to ask advocates from across the country about the state of bikelash in their cities and how they combat it. Here’s what they told me.

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How to Improve 3-Foot Passing Laws

After a couple of vetoes by Governor Jerry Brown, California finally has a 3-foot passing law.

As of June, 24 states plus the District of Columbia have such a law, which requires drivers to give cyclists a minimum buffer of 3 feet when passing from behind. With California’s law in effect as of today, Rick Bernardi of Bob Mionske’s bike law blog says 3-foot laws are good for cycling, but could be improved.

There’s room to improve 3-foot passing laws, like the one that took effect in California today. Photo: SF Bike Coalition/Flickr

Bernardo points out that some laws, including California’s, provide exceptions for drivers that weaken cyclist protections. Minimum passing distances should be commensurate with motorist speed, he says, and intentional “buzzing” should be criminalized.

The law should also make collisions prima facie evidence of an illegal pass, Bernardi writes.

When drivers collide with a cyclist while passing, they will often attempt to shift the blame to the cyclist: “The cyclist came out of nowhere” is one common explanation for a crash. “The cyclist suddenly swerved into my path” is another commonly heard explanation. If the cyclist is seriously injured or killed, the driver’s explanation may be the only explanation we hear. More often than not, when a driver says that the pass was “safe” but the cyclist did something that doesn’t make any sense, it really means that the driver wasn’t paying attention, or was passing too close. But under the law, injured cyclists must prove that the driver’s pass was unsafe. 3 foot laws can be strengthened by making collisions prima facie evidence of an illegal pass. This means that when a driver is passing a cyclist and a collision results, the law would presume that the pass was too close. The driver could still rebut this presumption with evidence to show that the pass was not too close, but now the burden of proof would be where it properly belongs — on the driver who has the responsibility to pass at a safe distance.

Also on the Network today: Streets.MN says investing in transit for “millennials” and “millennials” alone is a bad idea, and the Wash Cycle takes a tour of the Capital Bikeshare warehouse.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Crashes Into Saloon at Columbus and Pacific, Injuring Two; Arrested for Possession (ABC, Appeal)
  • Man Injured, Possibly by Driver, on Park Presidio (Exam); Driver Hits Pole at 19th and J. Serra (Xpress)
  • SFMTA Launches New Survey on Revised Proposals for Irving Street Transit Bulb-Outs
  • SFMTA: Taxi Use Drops as “Ride-Share” Grows (SF Examiner); State Says Carpools Illegal (Biz Times)
  • Sup. Tang’s “Sunset Blueprint,” Community Transpo and Development Plan, is First of Its Kind (Examiner)
  • School Board Meeting Draws Mixed Views on 351-Unit Development at 16th Street BART (SF Examiner)
  • Chronicle Columnist Carl Nolte: Fillmore Street, a Cross-Section of SF, is Best Experienced on Foot
  • More SF Kids Using “Balance Bikes” (KALW); Marin-Based Org Takes City Kids Out for Rides (SFGate)
  • GG Bridge District Union Strikes; Bus/Ferry Service Unaffected (Exam); GG Transit Service Changes (GM)
  • CA’s 3-Ft Bike Passing Law In Effect Today (SFGateMerc); Mercury Roadshow Accused of “Cyclist Bias”
  • 49ers May “Slow Down Train Service” to Let More Cars Leave Levi’s Stadium After Games (Mercury News)
  • When Driverless Cars Hit CA Streets, How Will Insurance Work? (NBC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Wiener Moves to Make NACTO Street Design Guides Official Policy for SF

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Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced a bill that would make the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ guides for Urban Streets and Urban Bikeways official city policy. The SFMTA Board of Directors already adopted the NACTO guides in January, but Wiener’s legislation would establish them as official guidelines for other agencies to use, including the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, and the SF Fire Department.

Supervisor Scott Wiener riding on Bike to Work Day with Ed Reiskin, SFMTA chief and NACTO president. Photo: SFBC

“The MTA is not the only agency that’s designing streets,” said Andres Power, an aide for Wiener and previously the Planning Department’s manager of the parklet program. “The idea is to have a sense of what it is that is our collective city policy.”

The NACTO guides provide the latest American engineering standards for city planners to use in building people-friendly streets. Notably, Caltrans recently endorsed the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, clearing the way for established standards for protected bike lanes in California.

Wiener hopes to have the legislation in place in time for the NACTO Designing Cities Conference, which will be hosted in San Francisco from October 22 to 25. It will be the first time the national event is held in SF, one year after SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin was named president of the organization.

Power said the NACTO guides will help complement SF’s Better Streets Plan, which was adopted citywide in 2010. Whether the BSP has been consistently implemented is an open question, but it mainly provides design guidelines for sidewalks, not roadways.

The NACTO guide adoption could provide more leverage for city officials to counter protests from the Fire Department against narrow roadways that create a safer, slower street environment. SFFD has fought projects that include roadways narrower than the minimums set in national fire code recommendations designed for suburbs.

Wiener plans to introduce further legislation to continue his efforts to reform the city’s street design and fire codes, Power said.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Park(ing) Day and a Fundraiser to Fight Prop L

Lots of good stuff this week, including a fundraiser for the campaign against Prop L tomorrow and the return of Park(ing) Day at the end of the week.

Here are all of this week’s highlights from the Streetsblog calendar:

  • Monday: SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin will join a Middle Polk Neighborhood Association meeting to discuss the transit funding initiatives on the November ballot, including the $500 million transportation bond (Prop A) and Supervisor Scott Wiener’s measure to tie transit funds to population growth (Prop B). 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: The “No on Gridlock, No on Prop L” campaign holds a fundraising event at PUBLIC Bikes. Swing by to support efforts to make the city safer, more walkable, and less congested. 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday: Supervisor Katy Tang and staff from SF Public Utilities Commission, SPUR, and the National Park Service hold a town hall meeting to discuss changes envisioned in the Ocean Beach Master Plan, including the Great Highway road diet that was shelved. 6 p.m.
  • Thursday: Wonder why women make up only a third of bicyclists on SF’s streets? Come to SFBC’s Women + Bikes Night for some short films and discussion about the issues that prevent more women from riding. 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday: Time again for Park(ing) Day, the SF-born annual event that has spread to cities around the world and inspired the parklet program, now an SF institution. Hang out in a reclaimed parking space in your neighborhood, or create one of your own. All day.

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

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Talking Headways: Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Redux

podcast icon logoAfter a week at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place Conference in Pittsburgh, it was all I could talk about — and luckily, Jeff was an eager audience.

In this podcast, Jeff and I talk about the relative utility of a character like Isabella, the new character People for Bikes created to make the case for safe, low-stress bikeways. We dig into the announcement that U.S. DOT is going to take on bike and pedestrian safety as one of its top issues. And we debate the pros and cons of holding the next Pro-Walk Pro-Bike in Vancouver.

There were hundreds of workshops, panels, presentations, and tours — not to mention countless side conversations, power lunches, and informal caucuses that were probably at least as energizing as the formal sessions — so my impressions are just one tiny slice of the pie. If you attended this year, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the conference, the host city, and your experience in the comments.

Keep up with us (if you can) at our RSS feed or subscribe on Stitcher or iTunes.

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With Permit Parking, John Cranley Could Help Cincinnati Despite Himself

Chalk this one up as a worthwhile proposal offered in bad faith.

Streetsblog readers may remember Mayor John Cranley as the pol who wasted a ton of taxpayer money trying to kill the Cincinnati streetcar. But lately Cranley has come out as a would-be parking reformer, proposing a $300 annual fee for on-street parking in Over-the-Rhine, a historic neighborhood on the streetcar route.

Mayor John Cranley’s proposal to charge for curbside parking could help Cincinnati neighborhoods more than he realizes. Photo: Travis Estell/Flickr

Not surprisingly, Cranley is getting blowback from some quarters. But Randy A. Simes at UrbanCincy says the plan is right on the merits.

To better understand how this proposed permit fee stacks up, let’s consider that it averages out to approximately $25 per month. According to the most recent State of Downtown report, the average monthly parking rate in the Central Business District, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton is $89. This average accounts for approximately 36,400 monthly parking spaces available in 2013.

While this average monthly parking rate is skewed by much higher rates in the Central Business District, many lots and garages reserved for residential parking in Over-the-Rhine charge between $40 and $110 per month. This means that Mayor Cranley’s proposal would put the city’s on-street parking spaces nearly in-line with their private counterparts.

This is a smart move. We should stop subsidizing parking as much as possible. Therefore, such a proposal should not only be examined in greater depth for Over-the-Rhine, but all of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.

All well and good. The thing is, Cranley makes no bones about the fact that he considers the fee as retribution against streetcar supporters. “They should be asked to pay a much higher fee for cars they still have on the street,” Cranley said on a local radio show. “[It] is consistent with the philosophy of the folks who are pushing the streetcar, which is this will reduce the need for cars, so those who want to bring cars into Over-the-Rhine … should pay for the amenity that they so desperately wanted.”

Cranley’s motives may be suspect, but ironically, by placing a value on curbside parking he may end up helping constituents he holds in contempt.

Elsewhere on the Network: Bike PGH welcomes Pittsburgh’s new bike and pedestrian coordinator, and Rights of Way celebrates the arrival of the first bike corral in Portland, Maine.