Skip to content

Posts from the Bicycle Design Category


Cargo, Electric-Assist Bikes Gain Traction Among SF Families

This post supported by

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.

Read more…


Think Bike Workshops Offer a “Dutch Touch” on Three Key Corridors

The Think Bike rendering for Polk Street envisions curbside green bikeways with bus-bulbs and other improvements for Muni riders.

The delegation of Dutch experts who were in San Francisco this week for a series of Think Bike workshops with city officials, bike advocates, transportation planners and others honed in on three critical corridors: Market Street between 5th and 9th, Polk Street between Broadway and Union streets, and The Wiggle.

What resulted from the day-long workshops, survey rides and discussions was a series of recommendations based on feedback from the Dutch experts and workshop participants. The ideas were presented at the final session Tuesday night, which was hosted by SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin and ended with a speech from Supervisor David Chiu.

On Market Street, the vision was a green carpet of “continuous, safe, attractive” bike lanes that separate cyclists and motor vehicles while reducing the speed and volume of private autos. The recommendations could be incorporated into the Better Market Street planning process, said Kit Hodge, the deputy director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The SFBC has been pushing for a continuous ribbon of bikeways on Market for awhile now. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Chiu’s resolution calling on the SFMTA to implement more immediate pilot projects on Market Street to make it car-free ahead of a 2015 makeover.

The suggestion for Polk Street was curbside protected bike lanes, bus bulbs and other enhancements that “improves the pedestrian experience and enhances transit access.” Polk Street, a major north-south connection for cyclists, is in dire need of improved bike facilities. The ideas could be implemented in 2013 as part of a planned repaving.

Read more…


Bike Advocates Seek to Reform Obscure Caltrans Committee

Green bike lanes are not yet an officially approved traffic control device in California. Photo: Bryan Goebel

For decades, a little known Caltrans advisory committee dominated by highway and automobile interests has been setting the design standards for signs, signals and pavement markings for California’s urban streets. If a city wants a green bike lane, it has to be approved by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC), which also develops the state’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

The problem, say advocates and city transportation planners, is the committee, which only meets three times a year, doesn’t include representation from all road users, and requires such an arduous process to do something innovative that many cities don’t even bother. It’s chaired by a manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA).

“Essentially what you have are no road user groups participating in decisions about traffic control devices that are meant to control the behavior of all road users,” said Jim Brown, the communications director for the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC).

An agency can get around the state process by getting approval for an experiment from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which sets federal standards, but it still has to get CTCDC backing to make a treatment permanent. Green bike lanes that have been installed in cities like San Francisco and Long Beach are considered trials, and have not gotten the state’s official blessing.

“We need to open up this idea of a state highway function dictating the design standards and the traffic control devices for urban streets,” said Timothy Papandreou, the deputy director of transportation planning for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). “There are unique differences on urban streets.”

Read more…


In Ideal Weather, SFMTA Crews Install Bike Boxes on Market and Van Ness

Photos: Bryan Goebel

Working in 80 degree weather, smiling SFMTA crews installed two green bike boxes in both directions of Market Street at Van Ness Avenue today, the latest pieces of innovative infrastructure to grace the city’s main thoroughfare, which continues to become a much friendlier street for people who bike, walk and take transit.

In addition to providing bicyclists an opportunity to queue up in front of waiting autos, the bike boxes are designed to prevent bike riders from entering the crosswalks on Market Street. Recent surveys have shown that in addition to growing numbers of bicyclists, pedestrian volumes have also risen on Market Street, thanks to a number of improvements the SFMTA began implementing in 2009.

It took SFMTA crews nearly 5 hours to install the two bike boxes on eastbound and westbound Market at Van Ness Avenue today. The preformed themoplastic is designed so that “both skid resistance and retroreflectivity are maximized,” according to the manufacturer,” Flint Trading Inc of Thomasville, North Carolina.

In addition to the green bike boxes, the SFMTA is expected to fill in the gaps on Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and 8th Street before Bike to Work Day May 12. Crews will color in the remaining standard bike lanes with green paint, and add soft-hit posts on some sections. In addition, the sharrows across Market at Van Ness will be enhanced. A combination of green pavement and white sharrows will guide bike riders through the intersection.

A fifth green bike box will be installed sometime this week or next on westbound Market Street at Gough, but it will likely be done in the early morning hours because daytime work would affect somel Muni lines. See more photos after the break and on my Flickr page.

Read more…


Commentary: Why Are We Building Bikes Lanes That Are Hurting People?

Photos by Joshua Hart

Photo: Joshua Hart

As one of the certified bicycle safety instructors working with San Francisco’s Bike Ed program, the most important safety concept we try to get across to our students is that cyclists should never ride closer than 4 feet from any parked car. The reason is that getting ‘doored’ is the single most common cause of injury by motor vehicle users to people riding bikes in San Francisco.

People have been injured and even killed by riding in what is ostensibly a ‘safe’ space. Suddenly a door opens in front of them and they either have to swerve into motor traffic or hit the door itself.

Inevitably a student asks us, “But what about the bike lanes I see all over the city? A lot of them are totally within the ‘door zone.’ Where am I supposed to ride if the bike lane isn’t even safe?”

It’s a good question. Many of the city’s bike lanes have been built so that there is no clearance whatsoever between an open door and a passing cyclist. In the worst case scenario, a person with an older American car (Cadillacs have the longest doors) parks lazily, 2-3 feet from the curb. When they open their door, it can block the entire bike lane.

You might ask, isn’t it the responsibility of the driver to look over the shoulder before opening their door? And you would be right. CVC code 22517 requires that a vehicle occupant check for traffic before opening a door. Yet in the real world, people open their doors without checking all the time. And a person on a bicycle cannot reasonably be expected to look into every car to check whether there is someone inside. Under state law, cyclists have the right to ride where it is safe, which courts have affirmed is outside the dangerous door zone (CVC 21202).

Read more…


SFPD Increases Enforcement on Wiggle as SFMTA Ponders Signal Priority

IMG_1370.jpgA bicyclist waits to turn left onto Fell from Scott, where SFPD officers have been ticketing cyclists for running the red light. Photos: Bryan Goebel.
It's no secret that many bicyclists pedaling through one of San Francisco's most popular bicycling corridors, The Wiggle, often run the red light turning onto Fell Street from Scott. Whether you agree it's a dangerous move to do so, considering the speeding traffic that thunders down Fell, the intersection has not been designed to give left-turn bicyclists signal priority, even though the SFMTA earlier this year installed a left-turn bike lane and green bike box on Scott. As it stands, bicyclists have 30 seconds to turn left on the green, but only if there's no southbound automobile traffic.

The fact that the intersection hasn't been updated to accommodate the dramatic rise in bicyclists, the most vulnerable users of the road along with pedestrians, apparently doesn't matter to the San Francisco Police Department. According to reports from Streetsblog readers, the SFPD has upped its enforcement along The Wiggle, where increasing numbers of bicyclists are getting ticketed not only for running the red light on Scott, but for rolling through stop signs.

"I've lived here my whole life and I never expected to get a ticket on my bike," said Nate Miller, who was slapped with a ticket one evening last month as he was commuting from his job in the Mission District to his home in the Inner Richmond. "He (the officer) was standing in the bike lane (on Fell) so as soon as you hit it he stopped you and you had to pull over."

Miller said he recognized the officer as being one of about a dozen cops who were on hand recently at an Arco station protest. "He could only ticket so many people at a time so he grabbed one and wrote us a ticket and then three minutes after he was done he'd get another person, and he was just doing this rapid fire."


San Francisco Company Brings Good Design to City Bikes

James_Orange2_small.jpgOrange Public Bike in Golden Gate Park. Photo: Public Bikes
With a burgeoning market for bicycles made for practical urban commuting, a new company based in San Francisco has a vision for bridging the divide between the cruiser market and high-end racing models and possibly change the perspective about the role bicycles can play in American cities.

Public Bikes, founded by designer Rob Forbes, has positioned itself as a manufacturer of bicycles that are more practical and durable than the carbon-fiber rockets used solely for recreational riding and more stylish and functional than beach cruisers. The target rider, according to the company, is the everyday urbanite who might be inspired to ride a bicycle for most trips if it met their city mobility needs and had a stylish flair. 

"I think a lot of biking culture has been built around that idea that bikes are first for recreation and they get the most visibility in the media from performance athletes," said Forbes. "If you go to a bike store and look at large manufacturers and you look at what's next, it's always lighter materials, from steel frame to carbon, you just always follow this path to lighter, lighter, lighter."

Forbes argued that the growing number of city dwellers who use bicycles as a primary mode of transport need their bicycles to fill a more useful role and come from a wholly new taxonomy than recreational rides. Forbes recounted several stories about the difficulty of finding well-made bicycles that aren't meant solely for speed, including one about a friend of his from Marin, "a pretty athletic guy," who went to a bike shop and was about to spend $1800 on a new road bike, when he asked the shop manager to put a kickstand on it.

"The guy looked at him like, 'you loser,'" said Forbes, and refused to put a kickstand on the bike. His friend walked out without buying anything.



Hopenhagen or Carbonhagen, We’ll Still be Cycling Regardless

chic_cyclist_brown_3792.jpgCycling chic in Copenhagen, and this is a cold day in December!

I caught Mikael Colville-Andersen's inspiring talk on urban cycling from the Copenhagen context at San Francisco's SPUR on the last Friday of October. I suggested we could do an interview when I came to Copenhagen in December and he graciously agreed, stepping outside into the drizzling snow at a December 10 awards ceremony he was hosting. (The title of this post is a quote from him when he was on stage at the ceremony, and is a new tag line on his blog too.) They were handing out prizes for the best new designs for the next generation of Copenhagen's bikeshare program. He is well known for his blogging at Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycling Chic. The photos throughout were taken by me in Copenhagen during the last couple of weeks there.

Chris Carlsson: What was your experience in San Francisco? Did you have a good time there?

Mikael Colville-Andersen: I had a brilliant time. I just blogged a film with three of my friends, about Critical Mass.

C: Did you get in to the Halloween Critical Mass?

M: Oh yeah, all the way!

C: I saw you wrote some vaguely critical comments about Critical Mass in general.

M: I have done… it’s just that marketing thing. You’re not selling it if you’re pissing people off. Riding around… I didn’t see any bad behavior. There were so many people at that Critical Mass that it was more tame?


SF Transportation Authority Bicycle Tracker Available for Android


As we reported last month, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (TA) released an innovative new application for mobile devices that allows users to track their bicycle commuting patterns with a GPS-enabled iPhone or iPod and share those trips with the agency responsible for improving bicycle networks around the city.

Now CycleTracks is compatible on the Android platform, including the Verizon Droid and several models from Sprint and T-Mobile, which means every major mobile carrier has phones that can run the application.

"The iPhone app has been a great success so far," said Billy Charlton, Deputy Director for Technology Services at the TA, in an email. "We now have more than 1,500 bike trips logged by almost 400 users. That's great, especially since it's been raining a lot the past couple weeks."

Charleton said the TA hadn't run thorough analysis yet of the data, but confirmed that they would like more diverse users.

"I can already tell that we need more women using it, and more infrequent cyclists too," said Charleton. "Those may be hard to find but we're doing what we can."

So now that all you Android users can help, get out there and log some trips, dear readers, and pass this along to your friends!


Everyday “City Bikes” Need a Stimulus

dutch_bike_pic.jpgThis Oma-fiets (or, Grandma-bicycle, in Dutch) sits for sale at the Market Street storefront of "My Dutch Bike" while a typical "American" bike is pedaled by outside. Photo by Frank Chan.
Like so many people, when Soraya Nasirian saw Dutch people on bicycles, she had an epiphany. "Why aren't more Americans riding bicycles like this?" she wondered. "Why do Americans ride hunched over, on bikes with no racks, carrying their stuff in all kinds of bags and riding so fast and aggressively?"

Seeing an opportunity, Nasirian teamed up with Dutch husband Oscar Mulder to open up a new business to peddle Dutch pedals: My Dutch Bike on Market Street just east of Second Street. Their shop sells a few high-end Dutch city bikes, as well as the bakfiets, the Dutch answer to cargo bikes. Their sales are good enough to keep them in business, she says, although most of their business is online, and they will be moving soon to another location.

My Dutch Bike is just one manifestation of a veritable frenzy of marketing to the fastest-growing segment in the bicycle market: everyday, utilitarian bicycles. It sparks some interesting questions: What can we do to encourage the trend? What will the quintessential American, or San Franciscan, city bike look like?

In every country where bicycles are commonplace transportation, almost every single bike comes equipped with lights, fenders, a rack, and chainguard. In Germany, those items, plus a bell and a kickstand, are mandatory on any bike not sold as a stripped-down "sports bike."