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Posts from the Bicycle Commuting Category

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Better Bike Parking Options Can Alleviate Crowding On-Board Caltrain

Caltrain bike cars frequently fill up on rush hour trains, bumping passengers wishing to board with bikes to the next train.

Facing a continuing surge of nearly 5,000 additional weekday passengers each year, Caltrain is looking into better bike parking to alleviate overcrowding on the trains while improving access to its stations. The agency was awarded a $150,000 state grant in early April to write a bicycle parking management plan that aims to prioritize the next phase of bike improvements at stations.

Current bike parking facilities include standard bike racks at 29 stations, bike lockers that can only be rented out by a single person at 26 stations, shared bike lockers at 10 stations, and indoor bike parking areas at three stations, including attended bike parking at San Francisco’s Fourth and King Station. The addition of more bike parking has lagged behind demand, with the number of passengers with bikes more than doubling from 2010 to 2015. Caltrain now logs over 6,000 bike boardings on an average weekday, accounting for between 11 and 13 percent of the agency’s total weekday ridership, which has grown by 60 percent in the same five-year period.

In a survey Caltrain conducted last year [PDF], 49 percent of passengers who bring a bike on-board said they would consider using “secure bike parking in a self-serve locker,” 39 percent would consider “convenient bike sharing kiosks,” and 47 percent would consider “a shuttle or other means of transit.”

Last December, Caltrain’s Bike Plan Implementation Strategy [PDF] reported “mixed progress” on bike parking improvements since 2008, citing inadequate funds and the ad-hoc nature of the many small city-led projects that are completed only as grant money and staff time become available. The new plan recommends investing $2 million in 500 new electronic bike lockers at Caltrain’s nine busiest stations, and $1 million on various access improvements, including new ramps and stairs at a few stations.

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“Vie Bikes” Looks to Make Cargo Biking Accessible for SF Families

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Photo: Vie Bikes

More San Francisco parents are discovering that cargo bikes are the new family minivan. But while it’s increasingly common in SF to spot a parent pedaling their helmeted offspring around, cargo bikes and motorized bikes remain off the radar of most families looking for better ways to get around the city.

In leading bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cargo bikes are no secret — they’re ubiquitous. Now, utilitarian biking in SF could get a leg up with the impending public launch of Vie Bikes, a company that will let families test out cargo bikes and bikes with electric motors.

Vie is currently testing out its services before the big public reveal next month, providing access to family-friendly bikes without the expense and hassle of having them shipped overseas. Vie staff will also offer consultation and maintenance services to customers.

“We’re trying to knock down barriers,” said Kit Hodge, one of Vie’s three co-founders, who was previously the SF Bicycle Coalition’s deputy director.

Vie will deliver bikes to the customer’s door and offer on-street consultation on how to use the bikes. The bikes can also be rented for trial periods, and the company will accept trade-ins for “when your life changes.”

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Cargo, Electric-Assist Bikes Gain Traction Among SF Families

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Dorie Appolonio (left) chats with a fellow cargo bike owner at Sunday Streets in the Mission. Photo: Hum of the City

At Rosa Parks Elementary School in the Western Addition, the bike racks are filling up. Even with San Francisco’s hills and often far-flung school assignments, Dorie Apollonio thinks she and her family have helped start a trend at the school ever since they started dropping the kids off by bicycle from their home in Parnassus Heights.

“There are so many biking families at Rosa Parks now that we are, I’ve recently learned, sort of our own gravitational force,” Apollonio wrote on her blog, Hum of the City. “We attract a few more families away from their cars every year.”

Apollonio writes: “Every morning is a cargo bike roll call at Rosa Parks.”

Pedaling two children a few miles across San Francisco need not be an exhausting effort, as more families are finding. Bikes with electric assist motors can replace the family minivan, as Apollonio and her husband did in 2012. Since her family went car-free, Apollonio brags that they are saving loads of money and never have to worry about traffic.

“San Francisco is the kind of city that is made for assisted bikes. There are, famously, a lot of hills,” Apollonio wrote in a post from last September. She says she correctly predicted “that 2013 would be the year of the electric assist bicycle,” saying she’s noticed a boom in their use.

“I, and everyone else riding one, can testify that an assisted bike will make driving in the city seem ridiculous,” she wrote.

Families relying upon cargo and electric bikes seem more numerous this Bike and Roll to School Week than in previous years, as San Francisco starts to resemble cities like AmsterdamCopenhagen, or Tokyo, where cargo bikes hauling children are just a normal part of the streetscape.

To meet the rising demand, Kit Hodge is leaving her position this month as deputy director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to start a company called Vie, which will lease out family-friendly bikes with features like cargo racks, electric assist motors, and passenger seats.

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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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Folsom Truck Victim Identified as 24-Year-Old Amelie Le Moullac

Amelie Le Moullac. Photo: Voce Communications

The woman killed on her bike by a truck driver at Sixth and Folsom Streets yesterday morning has been identified as 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, SF Weekly reported this morning. Le Moullac was run over by a truck driver making a right turn from Folsom on to Sixth at about 7:07 a.m., and although SFPD says it’s still investigating the crash, officers have already said they have no plans to submit case to the district attorney to investigate the case for potential charges, according to KTVU.

Photo: Voce

Le Moullac, a graduate of Menlo High School in Atherton and the University of Southern California, worked as a client executive at Voce Communications, a public relations firm located on Third Street near Brannan. She may have been riding to work when she was killed.

In a blog post, Voce called Le Moullac “one of our beloved family members.”

“We miss you dearly,” the company said. “We will miss your smile, your humor, your wit and your friendship. You are irreplaceable and unforgettable.”

Le Moullac is the third resident to be killed on a bike in San Francisco streets this year, and each victim was killed by a heavy truck driver, none of whom have been cited or charged. In February, 48-year-old Diana Sullivan was run over and killed while reportedly stopped at a red light at Third and King Streets.

“I’ve had a few close calls when it seemed like the driver didn’t notice me in broad daylight,” said Kristina Varshavskaya, 19, who bikes from her home in the Mission to her office on Townsend Street near Third. “I definitely worry about it in the back of my mind.”

Varshavskaya said she tends to commute on streets with safer bike lanes and calmer traffic, like Townsend and Division Street, which has curbside bike lanes separated by plastic posts.

“Almost all SoMa streets, specifically Folsom, Mission, and Third, from my experience, are always really busy and cars can be pretty aggressive and indifferent to bikers,” she said. The lingering plan for protected bike lanes on Folsom “seems like the safest possible solution.”

Varshavskaya said she was also hit by a driver while walking near Second and Market Streets about two years ago, suffering a broken leg in four places. “I’m pretty alert while biking and definitely more cautious than most people I know.”

Seen on Sixth at Folsom. Photo: ionfeldman/Instagram

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Video: How to Transport Corgies and Crockpots by Bike in San Francisco

Lugging around groceries, heavy equipment, and even pets on a bicycle might be easier than you think. In the latest edition of her video series of tips for getting around San Francisco by bike, producer Laura Lukitsch featured some regular riders sharing their takes on “the art of carrying things.” It’s a refreshing way to get introduced to the surprising convenience of pedaling around for your everyday needs.

Check out Laura’s Youtube channel for more from her “Urban Biking” video series.

Note: I’ve never been much of a spotlight hound, but yes, I do happen to appear in this video.

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SFMTA Board Backs Full Bike Strategy Build-Out, Though Funding Still Missing

The four levels of "traffic stress" experienced by people on bikes, as defined by the SFMTA.

The SFMTA Board of Directors voiced strong support yesterday for pursuing the most ambitious vision laid out in the agency’s draft Bicycle Strategy, which calls for a system of safe, comfortable bikeways that could elevate the level of cycling in San Francisco to levels seen in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Where the funding to implement that vision will come from, however, remains to be seen.

The Bicycle Strategy currently lays out [PDF] two primary scenarios to make bicycling accessible to a broader segment of San Francisco’s population.

The “Strategic Plan” scenario, which the SFMTA estimates would increase bicycling to an estimated 8 to 9 percent of all trips, would require $200 million over six years. The “System Build-Out” scenario, which is projected to meet the city’s goal of 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020, is budgeted at $600 million.

Though the board didn’t take any action on the Bike Strategy, there seemed to be a strong consensus favoring the boldest option — and not only among vocal bicycle advocates like Cheryl Brinkman and Joél Ramos.

After reviewing the SFMTA’s “needs assessment” map, which marks the most stressful parts of the bike network in red, board member Malcolm Heinicke pointed out that many of the streets deemed too intimidating for anyone but the “strong and fearless” to bike on — such as most of Market Street — are also some of the city’s most important routes and destinations. Less than 10 percent of streets on the bike network are deemed comfortable for most people.

SFMTA board members (left to right) Cheryl Brinkman, Joél Ramos, Cristina Rubke, and Malcolm Heinicke. Photos: The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back

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BART Board Votes to Lift Bike Bans for Another Five-Month Trial

The BART Board of Directors last night voted to lift bike blackout periods for another five-month trial starting in July. At the end of November, the board will once again consider changing the policy permanently.

Photo: SFBC

The trial was approved with a 6-3 vote, with directors Tom Radulovich, Robert Raburn, and James Fang voting against it, instead favoring a permanent removal of the bans.

“What I keep hearing from staff is we’re there, we’re ready to do this,” said Radulovich. “So let’s do it tonight.”

Despite the board’s hesitance to fully commit, bike advocates lauded the move toward a change in policy, which BART surveys show is supported by 76 percent of riders. According to KQED, “an overwhelming 95 percent of the roughly 400 people who sent letters or emails prior to the meeting urged that the ban be lifted.”

“Today’s BART decision is a momentous occasion,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum in a statement. “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 commute times. We commend BART for taking the smart steps toward opening up regional travel by bike.”

BART board member Joel Keller of Brentwood, who said he initiated the board’s 1997 vote to remove the permit requirement for bikes brought aboard trains, was confident the policy would be successful but still favored limiting it to a trial period to err on the side of caution. “I’m prepared to support this on November 30, assuming that the facts don’t change,” he said, “and there’s no reason for me to believe the facts will change.”

See more coverage of the two-hour hearing from the SF Chronicle and KTVU.

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Will the BART Board Take the Sensible Step of Lifting Bike Bans?

After a second uneventful trial, it’s as clear as ever that BART is due to lift the ban on bikes during rush hours.

A commuter takes a bike aboard BART during the March trial period, and the sky doesn't fall. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The BART Board of Directors, which is set to vote on the policy change next week, held a hearing last week on the results of a one-week trial in March, during which the agency surveyed passengers about the effect of allowing bikes on trains during rush hours. The trial followed an initial experiment in August that lifted bike bans on four Fridays.

The results of the March trial were similar to those of the August trial, with 75 percent of survey respondents reporting that the change had “little or no effect on their trip.” More promising is the finding that the number of respondents who favored retaining the bike blackout periods dropped from 37 percent in August to 23 percent in March.

“The bottom line is it was a non-event,” said Alan Smith, vice chair of the BART Accessibility Task Force, who observed behavior on BART during the March trial.

Shirley Johnson, who conducted research for the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Bikes ONboard campaign, pointed out that out of 36 major transit systems in the U.S., 75 percent allow bikes on board during rush hours, including the New York City subway.

BART board member Gail Murray is one of the strongest critics of lifting bike bans. “They talk back to you, they don’t listen to you,” she said of "rude" bike-toting customers. Image: BART Board TV

Johnson also pointed out that “cyclists are already avoiding crowded trains” on BART during the periods when they are allowed on board, since not all of the most crowded trains run during the current blackout periods.

As a condition of lifting the bike blackouts, BART staff propose keeping bikes off only the first three cars of trains during rush hours — a provision that was included the March trial. BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo said the agency is also taking measures to better accommodate bikes, including expanding designated on-board areas for bikes and wheelchairs, as well as adding bike parking at stations. BART plans to launch a “bike etiquette” campaign to remind bike-carrying riders not to board crowded trains and to follow other rules, like the prohibition against bringing bikes on escalators.

“Our ultimate goal is not large numbers of bikes on trains, but a higher percentage of riders using bikes to access BART,” said Beroldo.

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Bicycle Traffic Counter Could Come to Market Street by Bike to Work Day

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An SFBC rendering of the bike counter coming to Market Street's eastbound approach to Ninth Street.

San Francisco will get its first bicycle traffic counter within the next month. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors sealed the deal yesterday on a bike counter for Market Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets.

The Market Street bicycle counter. Image: SFMTA

Bike counters, which have been installed on major cycling streets in cities like Copenhagen, Portland, Seattle, and Montreal, help the city get an accurate count of bike traffic and promote bicycling by showing that number on a digital display. Every time someone bikes by, the number ticks up. SF’s bike counter will show daily and annual counts of how many people have biked on eastbound Market approaching Ninth.

“The installation of this innovative bicycle barometer comes at a critical moment in San Francisco,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin in a statement. “As more and more San Franciscans are using a bicycle as part of their everyday commute, this visual bike counter will raise awareness of the positive impact bicycling has on traffic congestion, air quality and personal health.”

“I think this will go a long way to make the case for why significant improvements are needed on Market Street,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

The SFBC is hoping the SFMTA will install the counter by Bike to Work Day on May 9 to showcase the growing bike traffic on Market, which is one of the busiest bicycling streets in the nation, said Shahum. Manual bike traffic counts from the SFMTA have shown a 98 percent increase from 2006 and 2011, with 750 eastbound bike riders traveling along Market at Fifth Street in one hour on an average weekday morning, she said.

Come Bike to Work Day, said Shahum, “I think we’ll see some pretty astronomical numbers.”

The counter is partially funded by a $20,000 grant from Kongregate, a locally-based online gaming company. The other $50,000 will come from SFMTA operating funds, according to an agency document [PDF], and the Central Market Community Benefit District will maintain the counter.

“This will be a fun opportunity to measure ourselves against the other great biking cities in America,” noted Shahum. “I have a hunch that San Francisco’s going to hold it down.”

Evening commute traffic on Market approaching Valencia Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick