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Eyes on the Street: Folsom Buffered Bike Lane Goes Green

Photo: SFMTA Livable Streets/Facebook

The new, wider buffered bike lane on Folsom Street in SoMa is getting finishing touches this week as the SFMTA adds green paint where drivers are expected to merge with people on bikes.

“We pushed for green paint at the intersections, and we’re thrilled to see that safety element being added today,” the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in its newsletter. “We’ll continue to monitor this pilot to see how the design works.”

Folsom commuters: How has your experience been? Does it feel safer? Are drivers using the bike lane, as has been often reported with the similar bike lane on Eighth Street? Let us know in the comments.

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SFMTA Crews Installing Buffered Bike Lane on Folsom Street

Photo: SFMTA Livable Streets via Facebook

SFMTA crews are currently installing a widened, buffered bike lane on Folsom Street between 11th and Fourth Streets.

The SFMTA got to work quickly on this bike lane expansion — crews hit the street as early as Friday, just a few days after the project was approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors. It should be finished next week, according to the agency’s Livable Streets Facebook page.

As we reported, the pilot project was well-received when it was presented at a community meeting a month ago. With the space for moving motor vehicles narrowed by one lane, the project is expected to result in a safer, calmer street for everyone using it.

The project is also an example of how quickly the city can implement street safety upgrades when it comes down to it. The death of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac and the shocking response from the SFPD resulted in a surge in public pressure on the SFMTA to take immediate safety measures in SoMa.

“The Folsom pilot is the result of thousands of San Franciscans, fed up with the tragedies caused by poorly designed streets, emphatically demanding a safer South of Market for people biking from city leaders over the past months,” the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in its member newsletter today. ”Our next goal is to persuade the city to expand the pilot beyond Fourth Street to the waterfront and to duplicate the effort on Howard Street, another dangerous SoMa corridor.”

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How a Poll Showing SF’s Pro-Bike Attitudes Can Change the Conversation

People ride in a temporary protected bike lane on the Embarcadero during America's Cup this July. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

If you listen to the public discourse about re-allocating street space to make bicycling safer in San Francisco, a pattern in the naysayers’ message quickly emerges. “Only a small margin of people ride bicycles, and those people don’t deserve space for safer travel,” goes the refrain. “Traffic lanes and parking for cars are too important to give up — trading them for bike lanes won’t get San Franciscans to ride bikes more, it’ll only result in carmageddon.”

Too often, city planners and political leaders give in to these assertions and try to appease the vocal minority of residents who espouse them, scaling back their efforts to make streets safer and more bike-friendly.

Image: David Binder Research

But the results of a new poll released yesterday indicate that a significant majority of San Francisco voters think the expansion of protected bike lanes, bike-share, and other efforts to make bicycling more attractive should be a high priority for the city. This kind of public opinion data can be extremely useful for city officials, planners, and bicycling advocates to bolster the case for such efforts, rather than allowing the conversation to be framed by the pre-conceived views of a few curmudgeons.

The poll, conducted by David Binder Research and commissioned by the SF Bicycle Coalition, surveyed 400 San Francisco voters in October. Because voters tend to skew older than the general population, Binder Research noted in a memo [PDF], pro-bike “support would be even higher if these questions were asked of all city residents and not voters.”

The SFBC summed up the findings in a blog post yesterday:

  • About three-fourths of voters believe bicycling is good for San Francisco and that bicycling in the City should be comfortable and attractive to people of all ages, from small children to seniors.

  • And voters are not just generally supporting the idea of bicycle riding, but are already out there riding a bike regularly. 43% of voters are already riding a bike, with 25% of voters in San Francisco riding regularly, meaning a few times a month or more.

  • Two thirds of voters support expanding the bike sharing program to 3,000 bikes to serve San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

  • More than two-thirds of voters support the City adding physically separated bikeways to improve safety and traffic flow and to create clearly delineated space for road users.

Read more…

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SFMTA Shops Folsom Buffered Bike Lane at Crowded Community Meeting

The SFMTA’s proposal to widen the Folsom Street bike lane with a buffer zone and remove a general traffic lane drew significant turnout at a community meeting in SoMa yesterday evening. The project, set to be installed by the end of the year, seems to have strong support from residents and livable streets advocates as a short-term measure to make Folsom safer.

Supervisor Jane Kim speaks at yesterday's community meeting on the Folsom bike lane pilot. Photo: Patrick Valentino/Twitter

Angelica Cabande, executive director of the South of Market Community Action Network, helped bring its members out to the meeting. The organization hasn’t taken a stance on the project yet, but she said the neighborhood has a dire need to make streets safer for families and elderly residents to walk on.

“A lot of cars, after they exit the freeway, they’re flying through Seventh Street,” said Cabande, who noted the danger is especially apparent outside Bessie Carmichael Elementary, located at Seventh and Folsom. “The school had put a crossing guard there, but a lot of drivers are not adhering to them. If anything, they actually cuss at the crossing guard and yell at families and honk at them to hurry up so they can make that turn right away.”

The SFMTA announced the pilot project on October 1 as a way to expedite safety improvements after 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac was killed on her bike by a truck driver who police determined made an illegal right turn at Folsom and Sixth Streets. The city has also proposed redesigning the one-way SoMa stretch of Folsom for two-way traffic with a parking-protected, two-way bikeway, but that plan may not be built for several years.

“We’re really pleased to see that the city acted quickly, though unfortunately, ideas of reforming Folsom Street have been in the works for more than a decade,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Kristin Smith.

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BART Lifts Bike Bans Permanently

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BART has finally dropped its outdated policy of banning bicycles aboard trains during rush hours. After an uneventful four-month trial, the BART Board of Directors voted unanimously this morning to lift the bans permanently.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition tweeted that Robert Raburn, its former executive director and a current BART board member, was “pinching himself of course.”

“By making full access for bikes on BART a permanent policy change, East Bay residents will have a new healthy and convenient commute option,” said EBBC Executive Director Renee Rivera in a statement. “This particularly benefits those who commute within the East Bay on BART lines where there is ample room for bikes, but who are restricted from bringing bikes on board by the current rules.”

The policy change was long overdue, but the BART Board was apparently convinced after three different trial periods spanning more than a year resulted in no noticeable problems, as bike-toting commuters avoided cramming on to crowded train cars. By now, 79 percent of commuters surveyed by BART approve of lifting bike blackouts, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. ”With each bike pilot, the level of bike acceptance grew,” he said.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum called the vote “a momentous occasion.”

“For years, people on both sides of the Bay have had to contort their lives simply because they needed to take a bike on BART but couldn’t during critical times,” she said.

Bike advocates from both sides of the Bay celebrate their victory. Photo: EBBC/Twitter

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Victims Share Tales of SFPD Anti-Bike Bias and Hostility at City Hall

At the scene of this 2009 crash where a driver made an illegal turn and hit a woman on a bicycle, an SFPD officer told Streetsblog’s Bryan Goebel that he thought all San Franciscans who ride bikes should be moved to Treasure Island. Photo: Bryan Goebel

When Sarah Harling was hospitalized by a minivan driver who made a left turn into her at a stop sign intersection, she says the SFPD officer who filed the police report included a fabricated statement from her claiming that she “approached the stop sign without stopping.”

Sarah Harling. Image: SFGovTV

Harling said she tried to submit a response to the numerous “factual errors” in the police report, but an officer at SFPD’s Richmond Station “raised his voice to lecture me about how traffic laws apply to cyclists too, how he’d never let his children ride bikes in the city, and then told me repeatedly, ‘I’m not telling you you can’t leave this here, but you just need to understand that sometimes things get lost.’”

“I left the station in tears,” she said.

Harling later hired an attorney, who collected witness statements and a photo, which showed the driver to be at fault and led the driver’s insurance company to settle for his or her maximum amount of coverage available.

“To say that the San Francisco Police Department failed to investigate my crash is not quite accurate. Rather, they refused to. Repeatedly,” said Harling. “I got the message, again and again, that because I had been riding my bicycle, it was my fault.”

Harling was one of dozens of bicycle riders who shared stories of hostile encounters with San Francisco police at a hearing held by a Board of Supervisors committee last week, testifying to what appears to be an anti-bike bias among many officers when it comes to investigating conflicts and crashes between people driving and biking.

“It’s not everyone in the force, but there is a systemic problem among police department officers when it comes to treating people fairly and equally who are biking and walking,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “We have regular accounts of people who are treated, at best, unprofessionally, and at worst, unjustly.”

The hearing comes after the fumbled investigation of the death of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, who was run over by a truck driver at Folsom and Sixth Streets in August. SFPD investigators apparently didn’t bother to ask nearby businesses if they had surveillance footage of the crash, though an SFBC staffer found it within 10 minutes. After seeing the  footage, SFPD found the truck driver at fault. Although the SFPD has said it submitted the case to the district attorney to examine for charges, the current status of the case is unclear.

At the memorial and rally held for Le Moullac, immediately after which the SFBC found the footage, SFPD Sergeant Richard Ernst parked his cruiser in the Folsom bike lane to make a point that the onus is on bicycle riders to pass to the left of right-turning cars. Ernst declared all three victims who have been killed this year to be at fault, including 48-year-old Diana Sullivan, who was sitting stopped at a red light at King and Third Streets in March when a trucker ran her over.

Such stories are reported regularly by victims who say officers have automatically assumed they were at fault in crashes, made false claims about bicycling and traffic laws, and even made threats. In one such story reported by Streetsblog in March 2012, a couple bicycling on Oak Street along the Wiggle (before the existing bike lane was installed) was harassed by a driver who injured one of the victims. The officer who responded at the scene threatened to throw the bleeding victim in jail for “vandalizing the vehicle.”

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Temporary Bikeway Provides Glimpse of Bike-Friendly Embarcadero

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KTVU: “So far, it seems to be working, and that has critics concerned.”

A temporary, two-way bikeway put in place on a short stretch of the Embarcadero last week provided a brief glimpse of what a permanent, safe bike route along the waterfront could look like.

Bicycle traffic signals were temporarily installed for the bikeway. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The bikeway was a measure to encourage attendees of the America’s Cup races to bike to the event, repurposing a north-side traffic lane and car parking lane for bicycling space separated from motor traffic using metal barricades. SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said agency staff “will be evaluating how this temporary bikeway changed travel behavior along the Embarcadero and how it minimized conflict.”

The SFMTA also installed bicycle traffic signals “to ensure safety and to control traffic,” Jose said, though they will be removed. Traffic signals normally seem to require a significant amount of time, funding, and engineering to install, and it’s unclear why the SFMTA was apparently able to implement and remove these ones so swiftly.

While the protected two-way lane was in place, biking on the Embarcadero seemed to be more popular than ever. ”Last week’s pilot of the Embarcadero on-street bikeway showed how well-used this space would be by the growing number of people biking along our waterfront,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “This was a win-all-around, with more bike space, more dedicated space for people walking along the promenade, and more people visiting the businesses and attractions along the waterfront.”

Of course, the installation wasn’t a perfect, complete model for a protected bikeway along the length of the Embarcadero. It ran less than half a mile, from Washington to Green Streets, outside of which people on bikes were dumped back into the Embarcadero’s regular configuration with green-painted bike lanes on opposite sides of the street, which are frequently blocked by drivers. Most southbound bicycle riders continued to use the regular south-side bike lane, rather than the temporary bikeway, as crossing over to the opposite side of the street to use the temporary bikeway was, for many people, counterintuitive and inconvenient.

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SFMTA Still Fleshing Out Details of Pilot Bike Lane Upgrades on Folsom

Folsom near Sixth Street, where the SFBC rallied for a safer Folsom after the death of Amelie Le Moullac last month. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The SFMTA isn’t quite ready to declare that it will expedite protected bike lanes on Folsom Street with a pilot project, but planners say they’re fleshing out the details of what near-term safety upgrades on the street could look like.

Although the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post Friday that city officials promised them a “separated bikeway” pilot, SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose told us that the agency “has not yet committed to any specific measures at this point in time.”

“The SFMTA is exploring the technical feasibility of design options for a proposed Folsom Street pilot project,” he wrote in an email.

As we’ve reported, a conceptual plan for a two-way, parking protected bikeway on Folsom is included in the Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study (EN TRIPS), but it’s undergoing environmental review, and construction is likely years off. Mayor Ed Lee said at the Bay Area Bike Share launch that he wanted to explore ways to expedite near-term safety improvements.

Jose said he’ll keep us posted on the details as they develop.

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SFBC: City Commits to Pilot Redesign of Folsom With Separated Bikeways

Hi everyone, greetings from New York. Aaron is currently away on a well-deserved break from running Streetsblog SF. He’ll be back next week delivering the livable streets news. In the meantime, consider this post an open thread about this development:

 

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SFPD Faults Trucker in Le Moullac’s Death, Apologizes for Ernst’s Behavior

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr gives a thumbs up at a stop light on Seventh Street on yesterday's bike-share celebration ride to City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

San Francisco police have determined that the truck driver who killed Amelie Le Moullac on her bike this month was at fault for the crash, after footage of the incident was found by the SF Bicycle Coalition. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr has also apologized in statements to the press for the behavior of Sergeant Richard Ernst, who stopped by at a rally and memorial held in Le Moullac’s honor to harass bicycle advocates and blame victims killed on bicycles this year for their own deaths.

The determination of fault in the crash at Folsom in Sixth Streets, first reported by the SF Chronicle’s Chuck Nevius, apparently confirms that the driver made an illegal right turn in front of Le Moullac, failing to yield and merge into the bike lane. The SFPD, which had initially indicated that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the driver, says that it will submit the case to District Attorney George Gascón’s office, who will decide whether or not to press criminal charges, according to the SF Examiner. The DA’s office has reportedly not received the case yet.

“We’re satisfied with the conclusion because we believe it comports with the evidence that Ms. Le Moullac did nothing to contribute to this collision,” said Micha Star Liberty, an attorney representing Le Moullac’s family. Liberty said that while the family “looks forward to a decision being made” by the DA, “it really doesn’t impact the civil rights of the family, which is geared towards ways to compensate victims.”

When I asked Chief Suhr why surveillance video footage of the crash wasn’t found by SFPD investigators — bicycle advocate Marc Caswell tracked it down instead — he said that “there’s often times when there’s an investigation and, very fortunately, citizens make us aware of things that we might not have found on our first pass. We make mistakes. Obviously, we’re super, super happy we have this video now. I’ve seen it myself, and I think it demonstrates clearly what happened with the accident.”

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