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Posts from the "Bicycle Infrastructure" Category

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Sidewalk Cycling Ban Again Proposed for Downtown San Jose

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A bicyclist navigates between pedestrians on a downtown San Jose sidewalk. Residents have complained of reckless behavior by cyclists on sidewalks for years. Photo: City of San Jose

San Jose Department of Transportation (SJDOT) officials announced at a community meeting Wednesday evening that a downtown sidewalk cycling ban is again under consideration, explaining that the “Walk Your Bike” signs and banners installed in December 2013 had largely failed to convince bicyclists to ride in the streets rather than on sidewalks.

Three members of the city’s Senior Citizens Commission spoke in support of a ban, describing the serious safety hazards that some bicyclists riding on downtown sidewalks have posed to pedestrians.

“I’ve been hit twice on Santa Clara Street,” said Commissioner Martha O’Connell. “If I get hit by a bike, it’s a serious thing for me and a lot of other seniors. Bikers come so close to [pedestrians] that they actually touch their jackets when they pass them.”

O’Connell and other commissioners have diligently documented with photos and written statements the hazard posed by cyclists riding too fast and swerving on downtown sidewalks. ”Adult bicyclists continue to ride recklessly on the downtown sidewalks while the bike lanes remain largely empty,” O’Connell wrote in March 2013, in support of a ban on sidewalk cycling.

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One of 140 “Walk Your Bike” signs installed on sidewalks in downtown San Jose in June 2014. Photo: City of San Jose

In an effort to shift bicyclists from the sidewalks, SJDOT blanketed downtown with “Walk Your Bike” signs: 140 green signs and 170 blue pavement markers. No city ordinance was passed requiring cyclists to walk bikes on sidewalks, though. Educational banners installed downtown also encouraged cyclists to walk on sidewalks and ride in the streets. But SJDOT counts taken at three locations showed no significant shift in sidewalk cycling between December 2013 and August 2014.

“At this point we really haven’t accomplished enough behavior change to say it’s successful,” summarized Active Transportation Manager John Brazil. “Now we’re looking at recommending some type of ordinance to the City Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee.” Under the proposed ordinance described by Mr. Brazil, anyone 13 years and older could be ticketed by the police for cycling on any sidewalk in San Jose’s “Downtown Pedestrian Priority Zone”, a high pedestrian traffic area bounded by Almaden Boulevard, 4th Street, St John Street, and San Salvador Street.

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Eyes on the Street: New Curbs Coming to Market/Valencia Bike Turn

Photo: Aaron Bialick

In case you’re wondering why the left-turn “jug handle” connecting bike commuters on Market to Valencia Street suddenly disappeared behind construction barricades, we’ve got the answer. The “bike bay” is being re-built with granite curbs, replacing the original concrete curbs with materials that better match the rest of Market Street.

That’s according to SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. Jose said the re-construction is part of the ongoing work around the intersection of Market, Haight, and Gough Streets, which will create a contra-flow Muni lane and build pedestrian bulb-outs. Even though many have complained that the bike waiting zone and thru traffic lane are uncomfortably narrow, Jose did said the bike bay is not being widened, but that it could be in the Better Market Street project.

When I stumbled upon the construction site last Friday, there was no apparent alternate accommodation for people on bikes waiting for the bike signal to turn left off Market. It wouldn’t be the first time that construction crews have closed a bike lane on that stretch of Market without providing a safe detour.

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SFMTA to Add Bike Lane Buffer on Howard, Fix at Folsom On-Ramp

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Howard Street’s bike lane will be widened with a three-foot buffer zone this year. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The SFMTA plans make upgrades to the Howard and Folsom Street bike lanes, a couplet of one-way bike routes that run through SoMa. A section of Howard will get a three-foot buffer zone added to its bike lane, as well as painted sidewalk bulb-outs. On Folsom, an intersection with the Bay Bridge on-ramp at Essex Street will be re-configured with a new bike traffic signal.

On Howard, the three-foot-wide bike lane buffer will come from narrowing the street’s three traffic lanes, one of which is about 15 feet wide, down to roughly 11 feet, SFMTA staff said at a community meeting yesterday. That differs from last year’s pilot project on parallel Folsom, in which one traffic lane was re-purposed to expand the skinny bike lane to 10 feet, including a buffer zone.

The Howard project can be implemented this year, much more quickly than most bike lane projects because the SFMTA won’t remove traffic lanes and thus incur a lengthy environmental review, said SFMTA Livable Streets Section Leader Darby Watson. The inner section of Howard east of Sixth Street, however, is narrower, and traffic lane removal would be necessary. Watson said that the SFMTA plans to look at improving that section next year.

A handful of painted sidewalk bulb-outs, similar to those installed on Sixth Street, will also be added at corners on Howard at Sixth and Tenth Streets, to slow drivers’ turns. SFMTA staff noted that they won’t include fixtures within the painted bulb-outs, like the boulders and concrete planters that were placed in the painted bulb-outs along Sixth Street in November. In fact, those fixtures will be removed, since they’ve been trashed and are too costly to maintain.

The Howard improvements are branded as one of the 24 Vision Zero projects the SFMTA pledged to implement over 24 months. “These are targeted improvements to help safety where we know there are a lot of collisions,” said Neal Patel of SFMTA Livable Streets.
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SFMTA Adds Two Left Turn Bike Boxes in SoMa

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New left-turn bike boxes at Eighth and Folsom Streets (top) and 11th and Howard Streets (bottom). Photo: SFMTA

The SFMTA installed left turn bike boxes at two SoMa intersections this week. This type of bike infrastructure, new to SF, debuted at Market and Polk Streets last month with the new contra-flow Polk bike lane.

The new green-backed bike boxes were placed at two intersections where bike commuters often make ”two-stage” left turns between bike lanes: Eighth Street for turns on to Folsom Street, and Howard Street for turns on to 11th Street. They provide guidance and visibility, to show where people on bikes should stop and wait for traffic signals to change.

“Making a left turn across several lanes of traffic isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially for people who are less confident on their bike,” said SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. The turn boxes should make two-stage turns “more easy, safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.”

The SFMTA said the boxes were funded by a grant from People for Bikes, a national bike advocacy organization. Left-turn bike boxes are featured in the SFMTA’s “Innovative Bicycle Treatment Toolbox,” drafted two years ago, and largely based on the National Association of City and Transportation Officials’ Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

Jose said the SFMTA “will be evaluating the measures on the ground, and observations will guide future implementation.”

A left turn at Eighth and Folsom in action. Photo: SFMTA

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Eyes on the Street: Easier Bike Navigation at Market and Buchanan

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A man uses a new waiting zone set up for bike commuters where the Duboce bikeway ends, at Market and Buchanan Streets. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

Doing the Wiggle should be a little easier, thanks to new green-backed sharrows and plastic posts installed by the SFMTA last week. These help bike commuters navigate the entrance to the Duboce bikeway, at Market and Buchanan Streets.

The sharrows are intended to establish a clearer path for bike traffic heading both to and from the bikeway, navigating around pedestrians in Market’s northern crosswalk across Buchanan. The paths mostly follow patterns long followed by bike commuters, but also set aside a new zone for eastbound riders to wait in without getting in the way of westbound riders.

Previously, the junction lacked any markings to direct bicyclists, who had little to go by other than the crosswalks. Riders heading in opposite directions often waited for the light on the same small spot of corner curb space. An added benefit of the sharrows is that they direct people to cross streetcar tracks at a safe, perpendicular angle.

The three plastic posts installed appear to help solve that problem in two ways: One post separates the two directions of bike traffic, while the other two mark the separation between waiting bike riders and car traffic on Buchanan.

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Mission Boasts USA’s Largest Bike Corral; 55 Across SF Park 668 Bikes

The new bike corral at Mission Cliffs, six car spaces long, is the “largest bike corral in a U.S. urban environment,” according to the SFMTA. Photo: Jessica Kuo

Four years after the SFMTA started converting curbside car parking into bike parking with bike corrals, the city now has 55 corrals that can lock 668 bikes — and still more are on the way.

Most bike corrals replace one car space with about five bike racks, each parking two bikes, and are requested by merchants who want to efficiently re-purpose street space to serve more customers. As the corrals proliferate, they’ve started to vary a bit in configuration to serve more purposes.

The Mission Cliffs corral uses a different type of rack to squeeze in more bikes. Photo: SFMTA

One of the newest corrals, installed in front of the Mission Cliffs indoor climbing gym at Harrison and 19th Streets, has replaced six car parking spaces with parking for 54 bikes. It’s “the largest bike corral in a U.S. urban environment,” according to an SFMTA report [PDF]. This corral uses a novel type of bike rack, purchased by Mission Cliffs, that fits more bikes into the space by vertically staggering them.

Other bike corrals have been placed strategically to open up visibility at street corners, or “daylight” them, and to help keep Muni trains moving. At Carl and Cole Streets, drivers often used to park in a red curb zone intended to provide turning room for N-Judah trains entering the Sunset Tunnel, thereby blocking Muni’s busiest line. The curb space has been filled with five bike racks placed parallel to the curb, making it impossible to leave a car there (well, without running over the racks) while still leaving space for passing trains.

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Silicon Valley’s First “Bike to Shop Day” Set for May 17

Bike Trailer at Trader Joes

It’s rare for cities in Silicon Valley to accommodate cycling shoppers with adequate parking. Photo: Janet Lafleur

Planning to build on the wave of enthusiasm for bike commuting generated each May by Bike to Work Day, transportation and health advocates in Silicon Valley are promoting a spin-off called Bike to Shop Day on Saturday, May 17, to encourage people to shop by bike at local businesses.

Retail businesses offering discounts to bicycling customers are shown on a smartphone-friendly map on the event’s website. organizers expect many more to sign up in the three weeks remaining before the event. Any retail business located in San Mateo County or Santa Clara County that can offer some type of discount to customers who arrive by bicycle is eligible to participate. Shoppers are encouraged to upload photos of their bikes in action – carrying groceries or other items — to win gift certificates and other prizes.

“For the past 20 years, Bike to Work Day has achieved huge success motivating people to hop on bikes for their work commutes, including me,” said bicycle lifestyle blogger Janet Lafleur, who created Bike to Shop Day in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC). “Now it’s time to do the same for their shopping and errand trips that are shorter and easier for most people than commuting to work.”

Lafleur, a marketing professional who writes two urban cycling blogs, Bike Fun and One Woman, Many Bicycles, called for a National Bike to Shop Day last month to promote shopping by bicycle. She came up with the idea after it became clear that Mountain View was simply disregarding the need to improve access and parking for bicycles as part of expansion plans for the San Antonio Shopping Center.

“I can’t see people biking to shop here,” said a planning commissioner at a city meeting on the project. ”Shopping is all about driving your SUV to the store and filling it up.”

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Tonight and Next Week: Open Houses on Oakland’s Telegraph Bike Lanes

The City of Oakland’s proposal for parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph between 20th and 48th Streets, one of three segments of the corridor.

Oaklanders won’t want to forget about the city’s open house meetings, starting tonight, on proposals for parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue. Show up, learn about the proposed design options, and let city staff know what you think will make this vital commercial corridor safer and more efficient, and livable. There will even be food trucks outside each meeting, in case you get hungry.

Here are the open houses:

  • Tonight, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph.
  • Saturday, April 26, 10am – 12pm, at Faith Presbyterian Church, 430 49th Street.
  • Next Thursday, May 1, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., at Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street (accessible entrance at 411 28th Street).
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Eyes on the Street: Polk Contra-Flow Bike Lane Nearly Ready to Ride

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Here’s a little change of pace from the bad news this week. The Polk Street contra-flow protected bike lane, connecting Market Street northbound to Grove Street and City Hall, appears almost ready to go. A Department of Public Works spokesperson said the agency is shooting for a tentative opening date of May 2 or 5 and plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Officials at the SFMTA and DPW seem proud of the project — and rightly so. Photos of the bikeway and median planted with native succulents were tweeted by DPW Director Mohammed Nuru and Tim Papandreou, the SFMTA’s director of strategic planning and policy. DPW surprisingly jumpstarted construction on the bike lane in late January after years of delay, promising completion by Bike to Work Day on May 8.

The project also comes with a couple of bonuses. DPW is installing bulb-outs at the wide intersection of Grove and Polk, and completed one at the northwest corner last week. The pedestrian island and “bike chute” on the north side of Market at Polk were also reconfigured for more practical maneuvering for southbound bike riders. See photos after the break.

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Caltrans Endorses the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide

It wasn’t a total surprise, but exciting nevertheless for bicycle advocates gathered at the NACTO “Cities for Cycling” Road Show in Oakland last nightCaltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty announced that the agency will endorse the use of the National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street Design Guide, giving California cities the state DOT’s blessing to install modern infrastructure like protected bike lanes.

Received with enthusiastic applause from the crowd of bike advocates, city officials, and planners, Dougherty said:

We’re trying to change the mentality of the department of transportation, of our engineers, and of those that are doing work in and around the state highway system. Many cities around California are trying to be forward thinking in terms of alternative modes, such as bike and pedestrian, as well as the safety of the entire system, and the very least we can do as the department of transportation for the state is to follow that lead, to get out of the way, and to figure out how to carry that into regional travel.

Imagine how this commute on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland would feel with a protected bike lane. Photo by Jonah Chiarenza, www.community-design.com

NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide, launched last September, is the product of collaboration between the transportation departments of its member cities around the U.S. The guide provides the latest American standards for designing safer city streets for all users, incorporating experience from cities that have developed innovative solutions into a blueprint for others to use. It supplements, but doesn’t replace, other manuals such as the Caltrans Highway Design Manual and California’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

As the state’s transportation department, Caltrans has control over the design of state-owned highways, but the design of local streets and roads is left to local jurisdictions — with one exception. Bicycle infrastructure throughout the state has been dictated by the car-focused agency because local engineers rely on Caltrans-approved designs to protect local municipalities from lawsuits. As a result, city planners were often hesitant, or flat out refused, to build an innovative treatments like a protected bike lanes that don’t appear in Caltrans Highway Design Manual.

“It’s a permission slip for cities, for engineers and planners, to do the good, well-vetted, proven work that we know we can do to make our street safer,” said Ed Reiskin, president of NACTO and director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “It’s only a first step — ultimately, we’d like to see the changes in the Highway Design Manual to see it actually integrated into Caltrans documents. But this is a huge step forward, and great leadership from Malcolm Secretary [Brian] Kelly and Governor [Jerry] Brown,” who commissioned a report that recommended Caltrans adopt the NACTO guide.

The guide includes design standards for infrastructure including bike boxes, physically protected bike lanes, contra-flow bus lanes, and even parklets. Although these improvements have been implemented in cities in California and the world, they have been considered “experimental” until now. The NACTO guide has only been endorsed by two other states, Washington and Massachusetts.

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