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Posts from the "Sausalito" Category

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Sausalito Council to Add Bike Parking, But Doesn’t Discuss Rental Fee

Sausalito remains a free city today, at least when it comes to parking for tourist rental bikes. Instead of adding fees for tourist bike parking, the city will add racks to accommodate 300 more bikes for the expected crush of two-wheeled summer tourists.

bike_and_roll_pic_small.jpgBicycle tourists visiting Sausalito on rental bikes. Photo: Bike and Roll.
The public outcry that followed published reports on Streetsblog and in other news outlets that some on the city council were pondering a parking fee on rental bikes prompted Mayor Jonathan Leone to announce to a crowd at the council meeting April 6 that "bike fees… are not on the agenda. They have not even gone before a committee of the council."

This picturesque city north of the Golden Gate Bridge has been jammed each summer season by a growing number of tourists who rent bicycles in San Francisco, ride across the bridge to shop and eat, then return to San Francisco by ferry. The numbers are estimated to run as high as 2,500 a day during the peak season, causing lines at the ferries, riding on sidewalks and clogging areas with bikes leaned against meters or left in parks while visitors meander the shops and restaurants.

"Bike rentals doubled a few years ago and caught us unaware and that was the year we hit a 10-year high in bike accidents,” said city Police Chief Scott Paulin.  The city has responded by increasing bike parking for the tourists - many of the racks donated by private bike rental companies - and adding controversial directional signs.   

Instead of adding fees, the 2010 bike parking plan calls for 400 bike parking spots, up from the current 105, which will require the removal five auto parking spaces near the ferry dock. The city will also reconfigure bike racks to move them away from the pedestrian promenade at the water’s edge.

The plan is temporary and could be changed if it isn’t working, Chief Paulin said. The added racks and traffic reconfiguration will cost the city about $8,000 and will be completed by May.

"If we are adding enough racks for 300 more bikes, can we reduce racks in other areas?" asked Linda Pfeifer, a councilwoman who expressed concerns about encouraging more bike parking downtown.

"Where are we going with this,” she asked of parking numbers. "We had 50 one year, then 100 and now 400. Where is this going, to 1,000?"

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Sausalito Installs Bicycle Signs That Contradict California Vehicle Code

Single_file_bike_lane_small.jpgA sign in Sausalito that contradicts state law. Photos: Joshua Hart.

While Marin County has been designated a "national model" for bicycling and walking, one of four counties that have received a $25 million grant from the Federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP), Sausalito has been notably hostile to the influx of cyclists who come over the Golden Gate Bridge, particularly tourists who rent bicycles in San Francisco.

According to David Hoffman, Director of Planning for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC), "over the last several months, some elements -- coming from both citizens and city leadership -- have suggested removing all bicycle parking racks in the town, proposed to 'truck cyclists out of town' and are opposing planned future improvements to cycling facilities."

What's worse, the city of Sausalito recently installed a number of signs along Bridgeway that contradict California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21202 and tell cyclists that they "must ride single file in bike lane" and ride "single file on roadway" when passing through the town. In fact, the CVC allows cyclists to ride in the middle of a narrow lane, does not explicitly prohibit riding side by side, and allows cyclists to leave the bike lane under a number of circumstances.

According to Dan Gutierrez, Policy Chair of the Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee, this is a case of improper, non-standard signage. "The CVC does not require that bicyclists must only ride in bike lanes, since a bicyclist moving at the speed of traffic or faster may use a travel lane, and even those moving slower may still leave the lane when passing other drivers, preparing for a left turn, avoiding hazards (such as the door zone), and when approaching places where right turns are authorized [like driveways and intersections]."

So is Sausalito making up its own traffic laws?

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Council Debate Over Sausalito Bicycle Tax Postponed to April

Growing tension over how, or even whether, Sausalito can accommodate the flood of summer tourists riding rented bicycles into the village spawned a plan by one city councilman to convert four auto parking spots to bike parking. Subsequently, there has been talk of a one-dollar tax on rental bikes to defray costs. But as the Tuesday Sausalito City Council session dragged late into the night, bikes were punted to the April 6 meeting.

The council will take up the potential conversion of four parking spots to bike parking near the ferry dock in April, said Councilman Mike Kelly.

Sausalito has seen the number of bike-riding tourists soar in recent years, most riding from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge and returning by ferry with their bikes in tow to San Francisco. The number of riders is expected to grow to 2,500 on peak days this summer, up from 1,500 daily last year.

As for the potential one-dollar tax to be imposed at the point of bike rental, that discussion "is still in the infant stage," according to Sausalito City Manager Adam Politzer. There has only been one meeting and "this is a negotiated activity. The council is not talking about imposing a fee."

To put the potential tax on rental bikes in perspective, the typical parking space might generate about $3,500 a year in fees and fines; the tax on rented bikes would generate that amount in two days. The charge would come at the point of rental, not at the parking site.

The proposed tax has pleased city merchants, but locals frustrated by bicycle traffic complain that rental bikes clog sidewalks and add to commute times for ferry riders camped out for hour-long waits as the bikes are off-loaded from the boats.

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Sausalito To Install Donated Bike Racks for Tourists

touristbikes.jpgA group of tourists visiting from Venezuela. Photo by Pam MacLean.
What do you do when hundreds of cyclotourists descend on your bucolic village, clogging sidewalks with rented bikes? The Sausalito City Council is trying to quell a virulent public debate with a tried-and-true solution: install a lot of bike racks.

The council voted 4-1 last night for a plan that provides racks - lots and lots of racks - in three strategic locations so that cash-bearing cyclists can park-and-spend their way through the scenic city on the shore of Richardson Bay.

The city won't even have to pay for the $8,000 in racks; they're being provided by companies that rent the bikes to tourists, including Blazing Saddles, Bike and Roll, and Bay City Bike Rentals. Together, the racks will add about 360 new bike parking spaces to the 120 slots now available.

The council's action follows heated complaints from residents and merchants, who say the vacationers cause more problems than they're worth. About a quarter-million rental bikes rolled into Sausalito last summer, drawing comparisons to a swarm of locusts from many critics. Even some cyclists crossing the Golden Gate Bridge have complained about inexperienced bike renters who clog the narrow bike paths, stopping unpredictably to snap a picture or wait for a friend.

Although the city benefits economically from cyclists, bicyclists are a frequent target of complaints from city residents. Beyond the issue with the tourists, many complain about scofflaws from the city who soar through stop lights, drawing fines that run into the hundreds of dollars. Many local cyclists say the city is overreacting and should do more to restrict automobile traffic and better-educate drivers on how to share the road with the two-wheelers.

Separately, as reported here March 2nd, the city is currently studying new routes to get cyclists through town safely, and with less controversy.

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Sausalito Bike Tourists a Boon, Not a “Plague of Locusts”

_7.jpgBicyclists disembark from the Sausalito ferry. Photo by Tom Murphy

Amalia Pittier of Caracas, Venezuela spent a sunny day riding a rented bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito with her two traveling companions, stopping to buy lunch and spend money shopping for gifts they will take home to family and friends. Little does this tourist know she's at the center of a local controversy because she and her friends are among the estimated 250,000 visitors annually who rent bikes to ride over the bridge for a day of sight-seeing before they climb on an evening ferry for the return trip.

Pittier said she and her friends Manuela and Herman had no trouble on the ride, though they found the bridge a "little crowded."

Recent us-versus-them toned newspaper reporting ridiculed visiting cyclists as "a plague of locusts" in the San Francisco Chronicle and Marin Independent Journal.  The stories whipped up heated responses from readers, both pro and con, but didn't shed much light on the issues.

The basic grievances are the bike tourists park bikes in doorways, scatter them in the parks and even ride on the sidewalks.  In addition,  scores of tourists overwhelm the Golden Gate Transit ferry service during rush hour while commuters cool their heels in San Francisco waiting up to 40 minutes for a boatload of bikers to disembark one by one. Riders have to haul their bikes up a set of narrow stairs, single file, and then roll them down the gangway.

But Sausalito garners benefits from the dollar-flashing foreigners. Sausalito, the primary destination of bike renters, was the only town in Marin County to have an increase in sales tax revenue in 2008, according to Daryll White of Bike & Roll, a San Francisco rental shop.

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Sausalito to Study Improving Bike Path

sausalitobikelanes_2.jpg
Any cyclist who has dodged cars on the main drag of Sausalito lately will be glad to hear the city has approved a $100,000 to study the safest bike route to the north end of town.

The city has hired Alta Planning and Design to recommend options to keep bikes rolling along the two-mile stretch between its downtown ferry landing and the start of the bike path next to US 101. The money comes from a $25 million federal grant Marin County received through the Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Project, which is aimed at encouraging people to walk and bike more.

The current bike route along Bridgeway was widened and repainted last year, but neither cyclists or motorists are happy with it. The study will look at alternate routes, including a circuitous path along the waterfront or a route over an old railroad right-of-way. It also may simply recommend upgrades to the current bike lanes, such as new pavement, landscaping, signs and bike sensors at traffic lights. City officials will use the study, which is expected to be completed this year, to apply for $300,000 to $1 million in additional funding from the pilot project.

"The relationship between the cars and the cyclists is becoming increasingly worse," said Sausalito Police Sgt. Stacie Gregory. "Both are getting frustrated they're not given their fair share of the road." 

There have already been two crashes in 2009 that resulted in police reports, and Gregory said the bicyclists were to blame for both.  The latest came Thursday when a bicyclist "injured her face" by crashing into the back of a car that stopped suddenly. Police said she was "following too closely." The other came when a cyclist crashed into a car it was "illegally passing on the right," Gregory said.

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