SFMTA Tries New Bike Lane Treatments to Keep Cyclists Clear of Door Zone

In a five foot standard bike lane, bicyclists really only have about one to two feet, if you consider the door zone. Animation/graphics by Carly Clark. Photo of Polk Street between O'Farrell and Geary by Bryan Goebel.

The door zone is one of the biggest urban threats to bicyclists. Conventional bike lanes that squeeze bicyclists between the door zone and automobile traffic leave little room for error, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is piloting a series of projects designed to encourage bicyclists to steer clear of the door zone.

On sections of Polk Street, pictured above (and yes, we added the green but do hope to see green bike lanes on Polk Street some day soon!), the SFMTA has painted in a batch of T’s in the bike lanes that are supposed to guide bicyclists away from the door zone. While the treatment seems to be an improvement over typical door zone lanes, it also highlights how little street width is available for cyclists to ride safely.

I asked our graphics designer Carly Clark to do a little photoshopping to illustrate how much real space bicyclists have if you consider the door zone. If you take a standard five foot bike lane, like the one above, and factor in the door zone, you realize bicyclists are only given a sliver of a space that is about one to two feet wide, depending on the width of the lane, and the size of a car door.

According to the SFMTA, dooring is the second most common form of injury collision involving cyclists, behind unsafe speed, though the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) points out that dooring is the highest injury collision type caused by motorists or their passengers.

A "T" on Howard Street. Photo: SFMTA

The SFMTA has installed the T treatments on Polk between Post and Golden Gate and in the bike lanes on Howard Street between 5th and 7th. So far, according to the agency, they seem to be effective:

We’ve done before/after studies on both Polk and Howard where we were able to reduce the number of cyclists riding in the door zone. On Howard Street (study conducted 2006) the average distance from the curb where cyclists rode increased from 10.3 feet to 10.9 feet, with 24% riding in the door zone before and 10% after.  On Polk Street (study conducted 2009-10) the average distance from the curb where cyclists rode increased from 10 feet to 10.4 feet, with 41% riding in the door zone before and 30% after.

The SFMTA is also experimenting with a cross-hatch design to keep bicyclists out of the door zone on 17th Street between Dolores and Guerrero streets.

The T treatment is becoming common in more cities, and is also highlighted in the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, said David Vega-Barachowitz, the sustainable initiatives program manager for the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Designing Better Bike Lanes

“I think that cities are really embracing the general principle that you shouldn’t put a bike lane right in the door zone,” he said.

NACTO’s recently released Urban Bikeway Design Guide encourages left-side bike lanes on one-way streets and buffered bike lanes to “provide greater shy distance between motor vehicles and bicycles.” The minimum requirements are outlined in the guide, said Vega-Barachowitz, but creating a buffer zone between moving and parked cars is what’s recommended.

When placing a bike lane next to a parking lane, the guide also encourages a 4-inch solid line between both lanes, with a 14.5-foot distance between the edge of the bike lane and the curb. A 2006 study by the SFMTA found that placing the right stripe of the bike lane farther from the curb was more effective at keeping bicyclists out of the door zone than it was at keeping cars closer to the curb.

Some cities have opted for sharrows on some streets instead of bike lanes to keep bicyclists out of the door zone, but Vega-Barachowitz noted that a bike lane has a greater calming effect on a street than just shared lane markings. A street with sharrows may also not meet the 8 to 80-year-old standard being pushed by bike advocates. More cities are now recognizing, however, that door zone bike lanes are not good engineering.

Long Beach and Salt Lake City recently began experimenting with hybrid sharrow lanes. Green paint and sharrows demarcate the space for bicyclists while improving their lateral position in a lane that is also shared with auto traffic.

“Those kinds of solutions are going to emerge in a more sophisticated way over the next five years as people use color more frequently and understand riders’ habits when they’re in consistent streams,” said Vega-Barachowitz.

The cross-hatch marks on 17th Street. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Education

Of course, staying out of the door zone is not only about design, but about educating bicyclists “to make sure that their lateral positioning in the bike lane is outside the door zone,” said Vega-Barachowitz.

“In general, the designer should design it so that bicyclists will use it that way, but you know, in a street in Boston where there’s really not that much right of way to begin with, you’re going to have people that aren’t necessarily that comfortable riding in the road that are going to be riding in the door zone because they’re trying to move as far away from cars as possible.”

Bert Hill, a certified cycling instructor who teaches the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s popular Urban Cycling Workshops, advocates staying four feet away from car doors and said most students are not aware of the door zone.

“What they do understand after a little while is the biggest danger in the door zone is not hitting the door with your bike. It’s actually being on the outer edge and having your handlebar encounter the door edge,” he said. “What happens is it pulls your front wheel hard to the right and when you do that your bike frame moves to the left and so you’re almost always thrown into traffic.”

And that, according to Hill, is what has lead to many dooring fatalities.  “That’s why we advocate the full four feet, because you can be outside of the door itself, but if just the edge of your handlebar catches it, that does it.”

Hill said if he had a choice between door zone bike lanes and sharrows, he would prefer sharrows. And while he’s supportive of the SFMTA’s door zone treatments, he’s not sure that bicyclists understand what they are.

“I think it’s a really good idea where you don’t have sharrows,” said Hill. “But I think the only problem with it is that nobody understands that very well. I think it’s a good thing to know if you’re a bicyclist, but in my opinion it’s not as good as sharrows at telling motorists that the bicyclist is expected to be there.”

  • Doored just a couple of weeks ago. By a guy carrying several bikes in a rack on the back of his pickup. He was speechless, not believing that he had doored a fellow biker.

    What was described here happened exactly: My handlebars contacted the door frame on the RH side, and my right shoulder contacted the frame as well before I was ejected into the traffic lane. 

    It’s nice that traffic engineers are going to all these efforts to mitigate the problem, but is much gained by altering the lanes so we have to ride even closer to traffic? 

    Bike lanes should be separated, next to the curb. Even though passengers are just as capable of dooring as a driver, there is always a driver for every car, but often there are no passengers. This would reduce the possibility for doorings significantly, and reduce the possibility for getting struck from behind to zero.

  • Um. What about the drivers who are illegally opening the doors? Um. What about the mandatory retrofit of detection and door-immobilizing equipment which prevents this? (OK, that is not on the market, I guess). What about the NACTO “state of the art” being a protectionist, make work program for USA-based traffic engineers and their old skool techniques?

    “Sharrows” clearly do not fulfil “8 to 80” — they mainly create advantages for relatively experienced cyclists. There are bike lanes in places in the Netherlands, but “dooring” is very rare as among other things drivers are trained to reach over to open a door with their right hand, which turns their body to the left. Given the casual attitude towards anything approaching a 10% mode share for all age, gender and ethnic groups from the SFMTA and their too-often apologist friends at the Everything is Good Committee, it might be better for drivers in SF to all use right-side drive cars for when they park on the right, and left-side for the left. OK, not feasible, so about VERY high fines, or something serious? This is serious.

  • Len Conly

    According to this NY Times article of July 30, 2011 (The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread), Dutch drivers are required to open their door with their right hand: this forces them to swivel their head and shoulders before opening the door.”Len Conly”Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/opinion/sunday/the-dutch-way-bicycles-and-fresh-bread.html

  • Knoote

    as an avid biker myself, I cant help but say, “seriously? What ever happened to common sense?” Next sfmta will paint dotted.lines on the ground leading bikers to particular attraction. What a waste of money. Just use common sense people. When riding, beware of your surroundings. Crossing intersections? Take a millisecond and check.

  • Knoote, 8 to 80. Look it up.

  • icarus12

    Great photo display.  I think it is criminal that the SFMTA is creating dangerous bike lanes.  Painting them green will help.  Training drivers to open the door with the right hand would help (but will take decades to get done).  But why don’t we just eliminate a parking lane and put green bikelanes there?  Or protected cycle tracks?  All the rest is just a recipe for more injuries as more people take to the streets on bikes.

  • I thought it was cool in NY how they created the bike lanes right next to the sidewalk, and made cars bump out into the lane of traffic. Why not do that?

  • True. I’m always just super careful when I’m riding next to parked cars. 

  • Mtngoat

    I just want to point out that passengers open doors too… and are maybe even less likely to look before doing so.

  • I agree with others–far better to eliminate a lane of parking and create a physically-separated bike lane. This will prevent:
    1. Dooring
    2. Cars darting across bike lane to park without regard to bicyclists
    3. Cars darting across bike lane to leave parking spots without regard to bicyclists
    4. Cars/vans/trucks/buses/every-motorized-vehicle-on-the-planet double-parking in the bike lane

    In Europe cities such as Copenhagen and Paris are gradually reducing on-street parking so as to encourage non-car modes of transportation in general.

  • Please see also https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2136495543319.115964.1574017310&l=94f920f5d9 for more design details.

  • Roy Crisman

     Ah, an “avid biker”…that really has become a codeword, hasn’t it?

    You can control a lot, but sometimes cars run stoplights at night, run over bikers, turn off their lights and flee the scene. 

    As the article states, you have cars in the lane on the left that you can’t control the distance and timing of.  And then you have parked cars, many with darkened rear/side windows, headrests, etc. that make it very hard to see even if someone’s in the car, let alone about to spring the door open.  No matter how observant you are, there ARE times when you can’t watch everything…so you either in the 2 feet of space that is very unlikely to be doored, or you hope you’re seeing everything.

    I’ve seen explaining to a child about how to ride in the bike lane both as far away from the traffic on the left as well as far away from the parked cars on the right as a First Lesson in Cognitive Dissonance.

    But hey, maybe you’re right….only you avid bikers have the keen perception to keep you away from danger at all times.  As just a regular daily bike commuter I really don’t think I can be THAT aware…but I’m deaf in one ear so I probably should have my license to ride revoked, too.

    roymeo

  • Brock

    Those look like parking spaces!

  • The Greasybear

    Of the two designs being tested, I found the cross-hatch on 17th is more clear in its intent to remind cyclists to ride a little farther to the left than we might normally. The “T” design is perhaps too similar to what many cities use to delineate individual curbside parking spaces. 

  • Zoopz

    The proper lane order is: cars, parked cars, curb, bike lane, sidewalk. Like Europe has been doing forever. Why is this so hard to understand?

  • Geoffhazel

    why in the world would you put a bike lane in a door zone?  Just leave it out entirely, and don’t give cyclists “false security” of a bike lane.

  • Mtngoat – Buffer zones can take care of that problem.

  • Mizshan

    One word: Driveways.

  • Anonymous

    @0d4220c8cf327d4a3cb45d1d8c4bc323:disqus In addition to having bike lanes on the other side of parked cars, there should be space between the edge of the car and the bike lane. Ideally it is a curbed area with grass, planters, or something else immovable, but even painted cross-hatching is okay. The point is that there is a good 2-4 ft space between the edge of the car and the bike lane. That is the only real solution. Everything else involves cyclists letting their safety be dictated by drivers or passengers remembering to do the obvious, ie, look before you open your damn door.

  • Anonymous

    @63708e88e8af3b8f0d8929c995ded3a8:disqus Nobody is saying that any design of any bike line excludes one from using commonsense and being aware of your surroundings. Just like as a car driver, just because you have a green light doesn’t mean you should go if there is car running the red light in the cross-traffic. The point here is to take car of the low-hanging fruit (not putting bike lanes in the door zone) to *decrease* the chances of a cyclist getting doored. And as @google-ba1c1c6493446cd4f3dba0b7b09830a0:disqus  said, sometimes you have no choice but to ride in the door zone (say, dodging an obstacle in the bike lane and there is a car in the lane so you can’t take the lane) and you may not be able to see if anybody is in the parked cars because your busying dodging the obstacle and not trying to get run over by the car, so there’s no way you can pay attention and tell if somebody is about to open a door. It just makes sense to design bike lanes – like anything – to minimize the chances for accidents. Nobody said the design should replace commonsense and awareness.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty sure they have driveways in Europe.

  • Anonymous

    I love this goal. However, we have to remember that pretty much every city in Europe has public transit that’s more reliable, more frequent, and larger capacity than almost any city in the U.S.–unfortunately including SF. Once MUNI’s main lines are running every 3 minutes and there’s space on every bus for any passenger who wants to get on, then it makes sense to start reducing on-street parking and encouraging people to shift trips from cars to bikes, walking, and/or transit. For the moment, though, we need to keep building bike, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure and funding to get to the point where cars are largely superfluous to getting around our city.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Well geez, I mean if they can’t prevent doorings then maybe instead of presenting cyclists with a lane that only provides a false sense of security we should just do a trial run of no bike lanes where ever cars are parked, or maybe just no bike lanes all together. Its not like that has been tried in the past. Who knows maybe all these new bike lanes everywhere are just superfluous. I mean really if the SFMTA has to now add T markings to better show where the door zone is, where will it stop? It is obvious this is an engineering flaw and you can’t expect enforcement to compensate for driver’s doing what drivers do.

    Besides its not like opening a door into oncoming traffic including bicycles is illegal, oh wait.

    California Vehicle Code 22517: “No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”

    Well no matter, I say forget the past two decades, and lets try my new idea of not having these old outdated bike lanes.

    Geoffhazel, SFGate misses your bike lane hate posts.

  • Guest

    As ‘Shamelessly’ has said, it would be great. AND MUNI would be BETTER if it were properly funded and if given priority over private autos.  ADDITIONALLY, if MUNI were better and more reliable, more people would use it, but without more demand it wont be done.. What came first, the pedestrian or the bike?  The bus? or the Car?

    Let’s make it happen!  We can do better!

  • Argh, can’t stand this generalizations about Europe. But to be clear, much of it is worse than you imagine, and a lot of it is better than you can imagine.

  • Andy Chow

    Well first of all drivers should never willy-nilly to open the door on road without looking. This is not just about bikes as the door could hit coming cars and trucks, especially on narrow roads.

    There are defensive measures cyclists could take to prevent dooring. For example, try to check the back window to see whether someone is inside a vehicle. Second, look ahead and be aware of cars that just parked. If you see one, either slow down, or if there’s room to the left then move over. If you have a bell on the bike, use it.

  • icarus12

    I agree with Shamelessly.  Without the transit infrastructure already in place, it is unfair to eliminate parking and make driving hellish.  Having just returned from  Helsinki I can tell you how painless it was to take trams and ride bikes safely everywhere. Same is true for Nuremberg and Munich — some other cities I’ve lived in or visited long term.   In SF the bus system cannot get one quickly or comfortably around the city.  I tried for 3 months to use it but grew too frustrated.  Don’t frustrate drivers any further when they have no viable alternative.

  • Anonymous

    @Green_Idea_Factory:disqus It’s not meant to generalize at all, only to point out that there are parts of Europe that have figured out how to do it, and we should be learning from them.

  • Yes, I agree, we should never frustrate or inconvenience drivers of private cars in any way.  After all, car drivers are more important than everyone else! Their needs are preeminent. People who don’t drive cars don’t shop or work or do anything consequential in our economy and so should be discouraged from leaving their homes altogether. By making walking, biking and taking transit as miserable and dangerous as possible, that will teach them they really should be in a car. And by encouraging everyone one to drive, this will eventually make public transit perfect. Only by never inconveniencing or frustrating drivers will we transform into a city of walkers, bikers and public transit riders.

    So until public transportation is perfect, we need to provide cheap and plentiful parking since we all know there is no better use of public space than private car storage. As the city gains in population density, this will make our entire city more and more delightful!  Since nothing’s more pleasant than traffic congestion, it’s lucky that lots of parking is a fabulous way to entice it. People should be able to pop in their car for a quart of milk or drive to the coffee shop across town blissfully unaware of the external impacts of their trip. Our health will improve because our air will grow more filthy, more noisy traffic on our streets will will make our neighborhoods more pleasant to live in, our children will grow more attractively obese and diabetic because they are carted everywhere by car, and our economy will strengthen because so many of our local dollars will be sent overseas to buy oil.

    Even better, as peak oil and a declining economy make private car ownership a province of the wealthy, apportioning public space to benefit car owners at the expense of everyone else will create great social harmony and eliminate any sense of class resentment. It sure makes sense that people who probably won’t own a car in a year or two should fight valiantly to protect car privileges at all costs. Indeed, any infrastructure in our city that is currently allocated to cars should be forever allocated to cars no matter what economic, demographic or environmental changes might occur. Anything else would be extremely unfair because if people grow up in a car-dependent culture they have the right to be car-dependent the rest of their natural born days. And last but not least, parked cars are just so down-right good looking we should make sure people see as many in their vision as possible at all moments of the day.

  • Eliminate parking?  Good point, I don’t understand why long term storage of private property (cars) on scarce public road space is wise use of the public property.

  • Eliminate parking?  Good point, I don’t understand why long term storage of private property (cars) on scarce public road space is wise use of the public property.

  • mikesonn

    Really though, if we just enforced bus only lanes, stopped “blocking the box”, got cars off Market and ticketed double parkers, Muni would see marked improvements.

    Karen is right though. Saying we need perfect public transport before we can touch anything that benefits cars is putting the cart [WAY] before the horse.

    EDIT: Forgot to mention signal-prioritization for the LRVs (and buses for that matter). We have the technology already on the vehicles, let’s use it!

  • mikesonn

    Sadly, free (or at least cheap) parking is considered a birth right, or at least a right associated with car ownership. Not only that, there should be ample amounts of it. Sadly, this isn’t a joke as it is the root of nearly all drivers’ concerns about parking.

    The law of economics be damned when it comes to road space and especially parking space. Limited resources demand higher prices, but we have been conditioned to think the opposite in this case.

  • Anonymous

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus very well said. I can’t stand how we run our society by making sure the *inconveniences* of the motorist (traffic, lack of parking, etc) trump the *safety* of other (more environmentally and friendly, nonetheless) methods of transit. Never should putting a proper bike lane in get trumped by motorists worried about slightly more traffic. That’s the sign of a dysfunctional society.

    @shamelessly:disqus @4a82edafb0a7618838944f89d266ea0f:disqus @584227ca05467fc2d9886fc204569db7:disqus There’s no doubt that we need to make public transit, bicycling, etc better. I *almost* agree that you can’t tell motorists to get out of their cars if they have no other alternatives … except I don’t agree.

    Why? Because we as a society have chosen this path. We have chosen a path (car-centric) that is unsustainable, and now we need to pay the price. We can’t sit here and except motorists to get any more free handouts when cars and our car-centric urban design are literally killing us (obesity, accidents, pollution, etc.) and the planet. It sucks, but motorists need to get over their self-entitled feelings that their convenience means everybody’s health and that of the planet can go to hell. We have made some poor choices in the past 50 years, and we are now paying the price. We need to get over it, suck it up, and move to the next step of livable and healthy cities.

    And as a corollary, if suddenly tomorrow everybody was forced out of their cars, I can guarantee you that in record time (a few years), we would have some of the best public transit in the US! Our problems with public transit are mostly due to a lack of collective willpower to improve it (which in turn is due to the fact that it’s so easy to get around in a car) and not due to any lack of infrastructure or technology, so if people suddenly demanded top-notch public transit, we would have it. So it doesn’t make sense to let cars continue their destruction just because we can’t change our mindset.

  • Odm2

    The choice shouldn’t be between door zone bike lanes and sharrows. The policy should be to only provide car parking where there is ample room for it not to be a hazard for people riding bikes. Why is bike safety the “option” while car parking is the “default”?

  • john

    The angled stripes on 17th St. might prove helpful to riders.  The markings on Polk St. make you wonder what the SFMTA was thinking.  Perhaps if the T’s in the bike lane were placed in the general vicinity of the parked cars’ doors, riders might be better alerted to the dangers of getting doored. As now painted, they look like parking space markers and will, I’m sure, be treated as such. 

  • icarus12

    This is for Karen Lynn Allen.  Your insufferable sarcasm misses my point entirely.  Transit need not be perfect to be used.  But public transit has to be a realistic alternative to driving.  Rather than continually punishing drivers on the one hand (unreliable parking conditions, avoidable congestion, stop signs at every corner) and coddling them on the other (low gas prices, free parking, little enforcement of anti-aggressive driving laws), it would be much better to do two things: make transit quick, reliable, and comfortable while simultaneously making driving a reliable experience but an expensive one.  That will take education, activism, and eventually, a whole lot of investment in infrastructure.  We have to change minds so that we redirect taxes or increase taxes to build that future for ourselves.  On that much, you and I probably agree.

    As it stands, Bay Area activists (such as you style yourself to be), want to make driving so painful that somehow that makes drivers into users of still sub-standard transit.  Then, miraculously, these drivers-turned muni or ac transit users will pressure their local officials for tax monies and other investments in transit.  Lo and behold, presto and we’ll have our Paris subway, our Copenhagen bike infrastructure, our English round-abouts.  It’s not going to happen that way.  Look at Los Angeles — those poor suckers mostly keep trying to figure out how to beat traffic, make their cars more like living rooms, etc. They, like a lot of us in the Bay Area can’t ensure that they can live in a place near their ever-changing place of work.  But do they/we take that pain and turn it into activism for transit, much less use the lousy transit available?  Mostly no.  It surely shows that it is going to take a simultaneous approach — building transit and making driving more expensive.

    Karen Lynn Allen, the sooner you get off your high horse with that hard head, the sooner we’ll actually have a discussion that matters to changing the streets into a better place for all.

  • Odm2

    Icarus, hazardous car parking lanes are very often the barrier to making cycling an accessible option so that more people can give up their cars. The reality is if there isn’t room on a street to provide both a safe bike lane and a car parking lane, then one or the other has to go, and for too long have we chosen convenient car parking over safe bike access.

  • I think the cross-hatch is more intuitive in what it means

  • Masonic will be the death…

    The angled stripes on 17th work well. One pass through there with a door open and no additional explanation of the markings is needed.

    They also function to remind all road users, just how small the function portion of our bike lanes really are, as they actually line up quite nicely with where an open door ends.

  • mikesonn
  • Icarus,  I can see why my post made you angry, but you’ll note it wasn’t directed at you nor did I attack you personally.

    You believe that people drive private cars because they must. I believe people drive private cars because they can.

    SF Muni currently has a ridership of 707,000 people a day.  BART has a ridership of 341,000 per day.  Caltrain serves another 44,000 people per day. Muni stops within 2 blocks of 90% of all San Francisco residences.  While none of the systems is perfect (we would both agree they’re not nearly at the level of pleasant, frequent, and reliable performance any urban area needs), for hundreds of thousands of people public transit is a realistic alternative to driving.

    In San Francisco, 30% of all household do not own cars.  For these roughly 250,000 people, not driving a car is evidently a realistic alternative.

    From the 2010 San Francisco Transportation Fact Sheet, in 2009, 31.8% of San Franciscans took public transportation to work. Another 3% biked. Another 10.3% walked. Another 6.8% worked at home. So the number of people who found an option other than driving a car encompassed more than half of all San Franciscans who work. Only 38.9% drove a private car alone.

    I drive approximately 40% of the trips I make. Lack of parking in an area definitely motivates me to arrive by bike, foot or Muni. When we moved to the city long ago, we chose a transit-rich, walkable neighborhood. In general I prefer to bike rather than take Muni because it is faster and provides better exercise.  I did not choose my children’s schools based on their accessibility by Muni, which I now regret and won’t make the mistake again. I profoundly wish we had Dutch-style bicycle infrastructure in San Francisco that would allow my children to ride across town safely by themselves.

    It sounds like you live where public transit is not convenient, at least not as convenient as you would like, and for some reason bicycling is not an option. This is no doubt true for many people. I would guess most people in this predicament will either 1) move to a more transit-rich, bikeable, walkable area, or 2) help to make their community become transit-rich, bikeable and walkable or 3) become self-sufficient enough that little travel is required for their day-to-day activities.  I know that this seems unimaginable given the current American way of life, but given the lower energy future that awaits us, it will happen.

    I love San Francisco. I want it to survive and even prosper in the coming decades. There is simply no way to achieve this by continuing to prioritize energy-intensive  modes of transportation such as private cars over more efficient ones. The health, community, and environmental costs of car traffic are also largely unrecognized and fundamentally unjust as to who ends up paying them. This is why I write the things I do.
     

  • icarus12

    In reply (second time) to Karen Lynn Allen: You wrote, “You believe that people drive private cars because they must. I believe people drive private cars because they can.”

    Cannot both statements be true?  I mean, where does one draw the line with oneself or anyone else in distinguishing need from desire?  Perhaps an example or two will illustrate what I mean.

    Three years ago when I was valiantly trying to use Muni, Golden Gate Transit, and Bart for duties and pleasure, I found myself unable to visit my then 80 year old father in Marin without spending about four hours in transit round trip.  I would devote a whole day to the enterprise of spending time with him and spending time on various forms of transit.  So I started taking the car (my wife and I share one) and spending an hour in driving and many more hours with my dad.  A choice, yes.  But how much choice is there when taking public transit is so inferior an option?

    Basically, a lot of people take transit not because they want to, but because they have no other option.  They feel pretty lousy doing it, wasting precious hours waiting, getting passed up by packed buses, missing cross-town transfers by minutes or seconds, etc.  So they don’t see that friend across town, or attend that movie that requires a bus transfer.  Sure, they get to work.  But Life contracts. Again, is that a choice, or a lack of choice?

    It reminds of the anti-choice folks who tell women, “Oh yeah, you can have an abortion, but we’ve made sure there’s no provider within 250 miles of your home and you’re going to have to come up with $1000 on your own to pay for that procedure, baby killer.”  Sometimes, such women decide to have the baby, and to keep it.  Was that choice? Or was that a lack of choice?

    I want to get a real transit network built, just as you do.  But calling Muni a realistic option is like Reagan calling ketchup a vegetable. (I date myself, I know.)

  • Anonymous

    @4a82edafb0a7618838944f89d266ea0f:disqus I feel inclined to step in here because I respect your opinions and Karen Lynn Allen’s … but I definitely don’t think she said anything that was a personal attack on you (or anybody else) and there’s no need for you to take it there. She’s passionate about these issues, so are you, so am I, so is this website, so is just everybody else commenting here. Don’t mistake people expressing themselves passionately (and articulately nonetheless, whether with sarcasm or otherwise) with personal attacks.

    But I think you mistake what Karen Lynn Allen (and many other people here) are saying, which isn’t that motorists should be punished or in some way treated unfairly just because they are motorists, but that they simply need to accept responsibility for the problems they have created. They need to realize that it’s not okay to make public transit users, cyclists, and pedestrians shoulder their burdens and problems, which is the way it currently works in our society with the true costs of cars being externalized. This is not punishment for motorists, but the realization that they have been getting *rewarded* for too long and now all people are asking is for them to be treated as they should, which means dealing with their own problems and not dumping it off onto users of other more efficient, healthy, and livable forms of transit.

    There was this discussion about Critical Mass once on a blog I was reading, and one guy’s argument was the usually motorist stance: that these cyclists are jerks, they get in the way of drivers who are just trying to get home, and otherwise make life less convenient for a lot of drivers. A bicyclist responded with: that’s exactly the point, since the rest of the days it goes the other way around. How does it feel to have to deal with that (and you still don’t even have to worry about your safety)? I actually don’t support the methods used by Critical Mass (at least not now … I think it once had its place), but the point (if you listen neutrally and open-mindedly, which I know is hard for most people) is profound: car drivers get pissed when they have *one* *day* (actually, one evening) interrupted, yet bicyclists have to tolerate it all the other days. Somehow, it’s okay for bicyclists to put up with all the shit drivers put them through, with crappy infrastructure, with the pollution, noise, and danger caused by cars 99% of the time, but the car drivers absolutely flip out when they just have to wait a little longer to get home that one evening every month.

    So this is the problem: the playing-field is not level. Bicyclists are held to a higher standard: cars can screw things up all the time for everybody, but if a group of bicyclists tries to make this point by doing it themselves once a month, somehow that completely discredits an entire form of transportation which is inherently efficient, safe, and healthy. I don’t want to talk anymore about Critical Mass (good god I know that conversation will go nowhere), but simply want to use it to make the point that Karen (and others like myself) are trying to make, which is that this isn’t about “punishing” cars but simply making them take ownership of the problems they have created, through no choice but that of their own. However, instead of doing it by riding our bikes and blocking traffic, we choose to make the point through discussion.

  • Adrienne

    Andy, The one time I was doored I saw the person in the car, I saw she was going to open her door (she saw me, too), there was a car to my left and two cyclists behind me. There was no way to stop and she didn’t think she would hit me, so all I could do was speed up so she would hit the back of my bike as I passed.

    The only solution is to STOP PUTTING BIKE LANES IN HE DOOR ZONE. Newer riders can not compensate for the careless behavior of others, neither can children and yet, we insist on putting in these horrid excuses for bicycle lanes and then say “We are building an inviting, safe network for cyclists”.

    Despite it being illegal to open a door into moving traffic, cyclists are the ones who are
    supposed to take responsibility for other people’s dangerous and ILLEGAL actions.

    Can we please get beyond the “Take the Lane” crap and start demanding, and getting real bicycle infrastructure so that there are fewer people needing to park their cars in SF?

  • Adrienne

    Can’t live near work? Most of the people I know who do not live near work do so by choice. In all the years I worked in the East Bay, I was always able to use BART to get there. I would never have worked there otherwise.

    As to LA, if I am not mistaken, they are putting more money into their public transit system then any other major metropolitan area in the country. My Mother lives on the opposite side of the Valley from where she works and she can get to work by public transportation everyday. Her train and bus are full to capacity everyday and the riders are willing to do almost anything to expand the service.

    European cities fought this fight in the early 70’s. Some of them lost the fight, but most did not. They prioritize public transportation and reduced oil usage. We do not, so we do not even see that the fight that is being waged now is the one they already battled through.

    San Francisco used to be a pedestrian paradise, I grew up here, I remember. We used to have much slower, less crowded streets. We used to have more frequent buses and trains. We can have it again, If we chose to make the difficult changes now before SF becomes even more impacted by high density housing and more workers coming from outside the City for higher wages we will be in much better shape.

  • Wayne Pein

    “San Francisco’s Shared Lane Pavement Markings: Improving Bicycle Safety” is a 2004 report that I critiqued as junk science here: 
    http://bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com/critiques/san-franciscos-shared-marking/

    Apparently in the ensuing years the poorly placed Shared Lane Markings on Polk Street were replaced with even more strongly ill-advised Door Zone Bike Lanes. Then, as a response to this extra bad design extended Parking T’s were placed (a good concept that as far as I know I came up with in 2003 in this paper: http://bicyclingmatters.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/dzbl_critique.pdf). 

    The Parking T’s demonstrate the extent of the Door Zone, but in the Polk Street application also reveal the way bicyclists are marginalized with bike lanes that have less than 2′ of clear space from suddenly appearing fixed objects (car doors), and place bicyclists too close to passing motor vehicles which are in too narrow of a lane. There simply isn’t sufficient space for side-by-side use. 

    Now, the bad idea of coloring the bike lane is put forth, along with other “innovative” treatments. When will the silliness end? The 5′ bike lane is the area bicyclists (and motorists) should avoid! 

    Quit trying to micro-manage bicyclist (and motorist) position. Get rid of the bike lane stencils and fill the 5′ bike lane with MUTCD compliant diagonal cross hatches to communicate to all road users that the Door Zone is an area to be avoided. That is real education to all.

  • TN

    In reply to Adrienne re: “choice.”

    I agree that there are elements of individual choice in choosing housing in relationship to the location of one’s job. But individuals’ choices are very circumscribed particularly in San Francisco where there are significantly more jobs than employable adults. Even if everyone who worked in the city wanted to live close by in the boundaries of the city, there wouldn’t be housing for a third to a half of them. There is a major imbalance between the number of jobs and the amount of housing available within the city. So San Francisco is set up to require a high proportion of job holders to commute long distances.

    I have difficulties with the using “personal choice” as both an explanation and moral gauge for the problem of long distance commutes.

    As always, people with higher incomes always have more room to make choices. People with lower incomes always have fewer. If one makes a comfortable living, yes you can choose to pay more for housing and live closer to work. If one makes a more modest income, one’s choices are much more limited. Attributing all individual decisions to commute longer distances to individual choice without factoring housing availability and income distribution leads to a very incomplete explanation.

    San Francisco and other parts of the Bay area are becoming more like European and Asian cities where the wealthier live close in to the city center and where the poorer live on the outskirts and commute longer distances.

  • icarus12

    Good point.  It seems evermore clear to me that Polk Street needs to lose a parking lane, probably where traffic moves south towards city hall.  And Larkin Street needs to lose another, so that we can put another bike lane going north.  Polk is getting increasing numbers of bikers, and we need to keep them safe.  Currently, Polk is not safe, especially for inexperienced or younger riders.

  • Kevin C

    I agree, infrastructure plays a huge part in determining how we act and what choices we make. For example, a lot of people of color are increasingly driving and a lot of communities of color in the bay area are car-centric. The reason? Because PoCs are being pushed out of the cities via gentrification into the suburbs, so they need to drive to keep their jobs in the cities because public transport is expensive or just unreliable to travel back into the city.

    I’ve been a biker in SF for a year. I’m pretty happy that my travel doesn’t pollute the communities I travel through, contribute to global climate change, or endanger other people. However, I’ll say right now I would NOT bike in the city if there weren’t any bike lanes at all, it wouldn’t be hospitable on a practical level despite my ideals.

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