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Posts from the "Best Practices" Category

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BART Survey: Promising Findings for Lifting the Rush-Hour Bike Ban

BART released results Friday from its survey of riders’ attitudes toward the pilot program that lifted the rush-hour ban on bikes each Friday in August. Although BART and media reports have called the findings “split” and “varied,” the responses in some key areas look promising.

The vast majority of the more than 7,500 respondents felt that lifting the ban had little or no impact on their commute. As BART board member Robert Raburn put it to the Chronicle: “Many of the passengers just shrugged it off and said, ‘What’s the difference?’”

Here are the survey highlights, as summed up in a statement from BART:

Findings tending to support eliminating the blackouts included:

  • 90% of respondents aware of the pilot who rode during the commute reported they did not personally experience any problems related to it. (Of the 10% who did experience problems, the most commonly cited problems were bikes blocking aisles, doorways and seats; bikes entering crowded trains; and bikes running into or brushing up against people.)
  • When asked if lifting the blackout would impact their likelihood to ride BART, 25% said they would be more likely to ride. (10% would be less likely to ride and 66% would be equally as likely to ride.) “Interestingly, almost half the respondents skipped this question, which could mean that they were not sure of the answer (unable to anticipate if they would change their behavior or simply thought allowing bikes would have no impact on their likelihood to ride BART)” the survey states.

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SFMTA Drafting Design Standards to Streamline Innovative Bike Treatments

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A sample diagram of parking-protected bike lane guidelines.

The SFMTA is developing a new engineering guide for bike infrastructure that should help bring street designs like protected bike lanes to more San Francisco streets. Known as the Innovative Bicycle Treatment Toolbox, the guide promises to accelerate the city’s adoption of high-quality bikeway design treatments.

Intersection guidance markings also known as "green-backed" or "super" sharrows.

“The Innovative Bicycle Treatment Toolbox creates standardized guidance for the city of San Francisco in the use of new bicycle treatments being implemented throughout the U.S.,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.

The guide is based on proven designs for bike infrastructure that more American cities (including SF) are implementing to make bicycling safer and more accessible to a wider range of people. While these treatments are becoming more common in the U.S., they have yet to be established in “official traffic engineering regulations such as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) or the Highway Design Manual,” said Rose.

The treatments included in the toolbox: protected and buffered bike lanes, door-zone bike lane treatments, green paint on bike lanes and intersection guide markingsbike boxes“safe-hit” posts (a.k.a. “traffic channelizers”), back-in angled parking, “green wave” signal timing for bike speeds, “two-stage left turn” markings, and “neighborhood greenways” (a.k.a. bike boulevards).

“These are smart, innovative designs that, once implemented in the right places, will make San Francisco’s streets safer and easier to bicycle on,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “We commend the SFMTA’s work in thinking out of the box and urge them to move forward with implementation on our many city streets that need improvement.”

Though the SFMTA has already implemented most of the treatments in the toolbox, they aren’t widespread. The most recent examples are the city’s first parking-protected bike lane in Golden Gate Park and the green-backed sharrow markings guiding riders through the Wiggle.

A two-stage left-turn treatment.

The SFMTA plans to use these treatments more frequently to reach its goal of 20 percent bike mode share by 2020. By establishing its own guidelines, the agency can “ensure consistency and predictability of these new treatments within our jurisdiction, while providing discussion of how these new treatments are addressed in existing regulations,” said Rose. ”This toolbox will help planners and engineers decide whether an innovative treatment is appropriate at a given location that is slated for bicycle improvements. It will also make it faster and more efficient for engineers to design the innovative facilities.”

Streamlining this process is critical to the widespread adoption of cycling in the city. The current rate at which the SFMTA is rolling out improvements is widely seen as insufficient to meet its ambitious mode share goals.

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How Bikes Make Portland Cool

A mini-documentary out of Portland, Oregon showcases the vibrant bicycle culture the city enjoys, from “bike trains” of kids riding to school on traffic-calmed bike boulevards to a range of everyday people getting around by bike simply because it’s “accessible.”

As San Francisco strives to be the most bike-friendly city on the west coast, we can only hope it won’t be long before we see as many two-wheeling families on our streets.

H/T Ron Richings for the video, filmed by Kona Productions.

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Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Good Cities for Bicycling

Bicyclists on their way through the city are part of city life. They can, with ease, switch between being bicyclists and pedestrians. Photos by Jan Gehl.

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in our series this week featuring Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the book, courtesy of Island Press.

Bicyclists represent a different and somewhat rapid form of foot traffic, but in terms of sensory experiences, life and movement, they are part of the rest of city life. Naturally, bicyclists are welcome in support of the goal to promote lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities. The following is about planning good cities for bicyclists, and is handled relatively narrowly and in direct relation to a discussion on the human dimension in city planning.

Around the world there are numerous cities where bicycles and bicycle traffic would be unrealistic. It is too cold and icy for bicycles in some areas, too hot in others. In some places the topography is too mountainous and steep for bicycles. Bicycle traffic is simply not a realistic option in those situations. Then there are surprises like San Francisco, where you might think bicycling would be impractical due to all the hills. However, the city has a strong and dedicated bicycle culture. Bicycling is also popular in many of the coldest and warmest cities, because, all things considered, even they have a great number of good bicycling days throughout the year.

The fact remains that a considerable number of cities worldwide have a structure, terrain and climate well suited for bicycle traffic. Over the years, many of these cities have thrown their lot in with traffic policies that prioritized car traffic and made bicycle traffic dangerous or completely impossible. In some places extensive car traffic has kept bicycle traffic from even getting started.

In many cities, bicycle traffic continues to be not much more than political sweet talk, and bicycle infrastructure typically consists of unconnected stretches of paths here and there rather than the object of a genuine, wholehearted and useful approach. The invitation to bicycle is far from convincing. Typically in these cities only one or two percent of daily trips to the city are by bicycle, and bicycle traffic is dominated by young, athletic men on racing bikes. There is a yawning gap from that situation to a dedicated bicycle city like Copenhagen, where 37 percent of traffic to and from work or school is by bicycle. Here bicycle traffic is more sedate, bicycles are more comfortable, the majority of cyclists are women, and bicycle traffic includes all age groups from school children to senior citizens.

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Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Cities for People: The Safe City

Sibelius Park, a housing complex in Copenhagen, has cooperated with the Danish Crime Prevention Council to carefully define private, semiprivate, semipublic and public territories in the complex. Subsequent studies have shown that there is less crime and greater security than in other similar developments. Photos: Jan Gehl

Editor’s note: Streetsblog San Francisco is thrilled to launch a three-part series today by renowned Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts are from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the book, courtesy of Island Press. Visit the Island Press website to find many more great titles by the nation’s leading publisher of books on environmental issues.

Feeling safe is crucial if we hope to have people embrace city space. In general, life and people themselves make the city more inviting and safe in terms of both experienced and perceived security.

In this section we deal with the safe city issue with the goal of ensuring good cities by inviting walking, biking and staying. Our discussion will focus on two important sectors where targeted efforts can satisfy the requirement for safety in city space: traffic safety and crime prevention.

Throughout the entire period of car encroachment, cities have tried to remove bicycle traffic from their streets. The risk of accident to pedestrians and bicyclists has been great throughout the rise in car traffic, and the fear of accident even greater.

Many European countries and North America experienced the car invasion early on and have watched city quality deteriorate year by year. There have been numerous counter reactions and an incipient development of new traffic planning principles in response. In other countries whose economies have developed more slowly and modestly, cars have only begun to invade cities more recently. In every case the result is a dramatic worsening of conditions for pedestrians and bicycle traffic.

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The Political and Economic Implications of Bicycling Tourists

A Bike-and-Roll rental station in front of the Hyatt Regency at Market and Spear.

I’ve been bicycling in San Francisco since the late 1970s so I vividly remember when almost all bicyclists could recognize each other on the streets of the city. There really weren’t that many of us even as recently as the beginning of the 1990s, just two decades ago. We’ve come a long way, and one of the less recognized aspects of this bicycling boom has been the incredible expansion of bike rentals and bicycling tourism.

I wrote a flyer back in 1986 calling for a “City of Panhandles” and one of the arguments I made in that largely unnoticed document was that a systematic effort to provide safe, separate bikeways crisscrossing the City would itself lead to a tourism boom. As it turns out, we’re experiencing a dramatic increase in tourists cycling even before we provide adequate infrastructure. San Francisco is just an incredibly beautiful place, and people come from all over the world to experience its beauty. Growing numbers of those visitors aren’t much interested in seeing it through windshields and are opting instead (or in addition) to rent bicycles.

There are three “big” companies doing bike rentals in SF: Bike and Roll, Blazing Saddles, and Bay City Bikes (a number of smaller places, like the BikeHut at Pier 40, also rent bikes). I recently spoke with Darryll White, owner of Bike and Roll, and he gave me some impressive aggregate numbers. Since 1995 the local bicycle rental business has grown from about $500,000 a year to over $10 million! The remarkable thing about this huge increase in tourist cycling is that about 90 percent of the rentals are heading to the Golden Gate Bridge and to Sausalito, where the City Council has erupted into battles over bike parking vs. car parking, even pondering charging fees to touring bicyclists. The Golden Gate Ferry service keeps at least four of its ferry runs going to accommodate the cycling tourists, which have hit peaks of 2,500 per day during recent summer months.

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San Francisco Police Chief to Review Bicycle, Pedestrian Policies

San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón vowed last week to implement significant crime reducing strategies through his Compstat system and restructured enforcement based on best practices from inside and outside of his department, including two measures that have pedestrian and bicycle advocates astir.

At a press conference with Mayor Gavin Newsom Friday, Gascón said he would reduce overall crime in San Francisco by 20 percent in one year, including a 10 percent reduction in Muni-related crime and a 10 percent reduction in collisions between cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.

When asked for more details about how the SFPD would reduce bicycle and pedestrian injury collisions, SFPD spokesperson Lt. Lynn Tomioka said Compstat would be a start, enabling the department to better analyze data collected about infractions so enforcement could be targeted to dangerous behavior. She also noted that Compstat alone would not be sufficient and that the department is in the process of restructuring its reporting and enforcement policies for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

"It's an area that’s evolving," she said. "The whole report-managing system is being very closely scrutinized, because we track everything by our reporting system. There are a lot of changes that [Chief Gascón] has implemented and a lot more systems that he will change."

Tomioka said the department will look to various station captains for best practices, such as the crosswalk stings conducted by Ingleside Station Captain David Lazar. "Chief Gascón wants to see more visibility for programs that Captain Lazar has found effective and worthwhile," she said, adding that crosswalk stings are good at educating drivers about danger to pedestrians. She said they wanted to see "all stations, not just the pilot station" being more active with innovative enforcement.

"I appreciate Chief Gascon's initiative to reduce vehicle-pedestrian collisions," said Walk SF's Manish Champsee, noting that crosswalk stings were very effective. "By far and away the most common reason for a pedestrian-auto crash is when the driver does not yield the way to the pedestrian."

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Great Streets Project Hires Director, Hits the Streets Running

Market_rail.jpgFlickr photo: JaimeAndreu
Yesterday marked an important day for livable streets in San Francisco. In coordination with the Castro Street CBD, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and the Mayor's Office of Greening, the nascent Great Streets Project (GSP) co-hosted a roundtable discussion about how to start and manage successful public spaces, with particular emphasis on the proposed street closure and public plaza at 17th Street and Market Street. 

Only weeks after hiring Kit Hodge to direct the GSP, this event marked the first step toward building a constituency that clamors for turning over more street space to people and improving the quality of the public realm.  According to Hodge, agency heads sat down with community organizers and all discussed ways to improve streets, to effectively manage new public spaces, and to locate areas throughout San Francisco that are ripe for transformation.

Hodge explained the GSP as "a catalytic and short-term effort to enhance the livable streets projects in San Francisco and institutionalize them in city government."  She said she will create an online database of best practice examples and tools intended for professional planners, engineers and agency personnel so they can easily reference the work of their counterparts in other cities.

Currently, the GSP is a collaboration between the SFBC, Project for Public Spaces (PPS), and the Livable Streets Initiative (produced by Streetsblog SF's parent company, The Open Planning Project), and Hodge expects many more groups to sign on in short order. 

"I have tremendous respect for the many groups that have been working on this for many years, but we want to broaden the conversation by talking to other organizations that don't focus on transportation issues," said Hodge.

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What Effect Will World’s Smallest Car Have on Global Warming?

jams.jpgTraffic in Delhi and Atlanta. Notice which scene also includes bikes. Photos: Ri Co Fo To and silvrayn via Flickr

Environmentally-conscious citizens of India aren’t alone in their concern about the rollout of the Tata Nano, the "world’s cheapest car." But in an op-ed piece for Forbes, Projjal Dutta, the director of sustainability initiatives for the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, writes that American critics should look to their own example if they expect developing nations to follow a more sustainable path.

As
with many other issues, the world will expect America’s "talk" — say,
urging China and India not to become auto-centric — to be accompanied
by "walk," at home. That, unfortunately, despite early glimmers of
hope, is not happening. The stimulus bill has allocated about 8 billion
dollars to transit, compared with 30 billion to highways. This is
roughly in keeping with the traditional 80/20 split of federal
transportation funds that have been enshrined since the Eisenhower
days. If we are to get serious about halting climate-change, this split
will also have to change.

Dutta cites
Japanese and European models — "Make cars, buy cars, just don’t drive
them all the time." — as potential templates for India and other
developing economies, so long as they, too, make adequate investments
in public transportation.

The same could be said of the
U.S., where the average citizen consumes 25 times as much energy as the
average Indian. Dutta suggests America will need to commit to a
long-term, "multi-generational" approach to transit development if it
wants the kind of results already evident in its most urbanized cities.

The average Texan consumes approximately 500 million BTU per year,
about six to seven times that consumed by a resident of New York City
or San Francisco. The difference largely results from level of dependence on
the automobile. Metropolitan regions where many people travel by public
transportation (or by bicycles or on foot) are inherently more
carbon-efficient than places that rely almost exclusively on
automobiles, which is to say, most of the United States.

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Transforming NYC Streets: A Conversation with Janette Sadik-Khan

With San Francisco about to embark on its first pilot street closure, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this conversation with the Open Planning Project's Executive Director, Mark Gorton, and New York City's Commissioner of the Department of TransportationJanette Sadik-Khan, who has taken on the challenge of transforming NYC streets in a series of groundbreaking pilot projects. 

As Clarence Eckerson Jr. noted in the original post last October, she and her staff have done the projects quickly with innovative concepts, thinking outside the box and drawing on successful street designs from around the world to come up with a NYC model that looks like it may catch on in San Francisco.

In this Streetfilms interview, she highlights what her department has achieved in a very short period of time, including a physically-separated bike lane on Ninth Avenue, multiple pedestrian plazas (including Madison Square and Broadway Boulevard), new efforts to boost efficiency and speeds on some bus routes, and the city's phenomenally successful, Ciclovia-style street closure "Summer Streets."