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Posts from the "Bicycle Infrastructure" Category

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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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NACTO’s “Cities for Cycling” Road Show Comes to Oakland

Image of a bike box from the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide.

Today and tomorrow, Oakland will host the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Cities for Cycling Road Show, which brings experts on NACTO‘s “Urban Street Design Guide” to Oakland to meet with city planners, engineers, and elected officials.

The event is an opportunity for Oakland city staff and decision-makers to gather together to discuss the challenges and solutions in completing creating a network of safer streets for biking. They’ll receive guidance from representatives of New York City, Chicago, and Boston, all cities that have extensive experience using the NACTO guide and putting its bike infrastructure designs on the ground.

The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide is being adopted by more California cities, though Caltrans hasn’t endorsed it yet.

“Chicago and New York have the highest number of miles of protected bikeways in the United States,” said Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay. “And Boston has expertise in bike share, which will be coming soon to the East Bay.”

The Urban Street Design Guide shows how streets can be redesigned to be safe for all users — bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, and drivers. Oakland is one of 28 cities and three state departments of transportation that have endorsed the guide as a resource for designing its streets. San Diego, Davis, and San Francisco are the only other California cities that have endorsed the guide.

Caltrans was also urged to endorse the NACTO guide in the recent report calling on Caltrans to reform its car-centric culture, conducted by the State Smart Transportation Initiative.

Since 2009, NACTO Cities for Cycling Road Shows have taken place in eight NACTO cities. Road Shows take on the specific issues and projects of their host cities. For example, in Atlanta NACTO provided comprehensive training on protected bikeway design, and in Boston the focus was on how to build out the city’s bike network over time.

In Oakland the focus will be on two projects: Telegraph Avenue and 14th Street. The city is currently working on the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Project, developing alternative designs for bicycle facilities along the popular biking street. Bike East Bay has pushed for protected bikeways like the ones featured in the NACTO guide. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Polk’s Contra-Flow Protected Bike Lane Shaping Up

Polk at Grove Street, looking north against the flow of vehicle traffic. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Exciting news on the protected bike lane front. The contra-flow protected bike lane on the south end of Polk Street is taking shape. By Bike to Work Day on May 8, the project is expected to provide a direct bike connection from Market Street to City Hall.

The concrete has set for the planters that will separate bicycle riders from motor traffic. The southbound bike lane on the opposite side of the street has also been ground away, in preparation to be re-striped as a buffered lane.

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San Mateo County Bike/Ped Safety Projects Starved for Funding

In Burlingame, a stretch of El Camino Real lacks sidewalks south of the Mills-Peninsula Hospital. The latest funding request for the project was denied, leaving residents to walk on the shoulders to access transit and other services. Photo: Andrew Boone

Despite growing demand for better walking and biking infrastructure in San Mateo County, active transportation grants from the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) cover only a fraction of the projects that cities want to build, leaving many residents without the sidewalks, bike lanes, and other basic ingredients they need to safely navigate their streets.

“The high demand for [these] project funds is a significant shift in transportation priorities we’ve seen in recent years,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Corinne Winter. “People are looking to live and work in communities where biking and walking are convenient ways to get around. It’s more important than ever that our funding sources align with the undeniable need for improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.”

Cities recently submitted funding requests for 19 walking and biking safety projects from the county’s Transportation Development Act funds, a pot of state money distributed by C/CAG every two years. But C/CAG’s latest grant provided only $1.6 million, enough for eight projects. It would take $3.8 million to fund all 19 projects that cities in San Mateo County want to build.

C/CAG staff advised cities spurned for this funding to apply for the upcoming County Transportation Authority Measure A Pedestrian and Bicycle Program, another paltry funding source overwhelmed by demand. That program, which allocates 3 percent of a half-cent county transportation sales tax to bike and pedestrian projects, awarded funds to just 16 of the 41 projects that applied for the latest grant in 2011. That year, project requests totaling $11.2 million competed for $4.5 million. On Thursday, the TA Board of Directors is scheduled to review applications for this year’s funding round – 23 projects totaling $9.3 million competing for $5.4 million. The funding awards are expected to be announced on April 3.

Of the eight projects that were funded through the Transportation Development Act money, six will construct badly-needed sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes in Daly City, Pacifica, South San Francisco, San Mateo, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto.The other two projects are bicycle and pedestrian plans for San Bruno and Belmont, neither of which has ever written such a plan. This is the first year bike/ped plans were eligible for TDA funds.

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SFMTA’s Draft List for the Next Generation of Bikeways

Image: SFBC

The SFMTA has released a draft list of the 68 street segments it’s looking to include in the next wave of improvements to the city’s bicycle network [PDF]. The SF Bicycle Coalition mapped out the list and is asking its members to weigh in on a survey about which streets should take top priority.

The SFMTA’s list ranks 150 miles of street segments with the highest demand, according to bike counts and focus groups. Tim Papandreou, the agency’s director of strategic planning and policy, said planners are also targeting hot spots that see frequent bicycle crashes.

Under the “Strategic Plan Scenario” of the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy – the middle ground of the three scenarios — the agency plans to “enhance” 50 miles of the existing bicycle network and add 12 new miles by 2018. The 150 miles in the current list will be narrowed down to those final 62 miles.

Here are the SFMTA’s top ten “highest demand” street segments in the existing bike network. The asterisks denote streets where projects are already being planned or constructed:

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SFMTA Confident in Bike/Ped Funds, Says Changing Streets “the Hard Part”

SFMTA officials are growing more confident in obtaining the funding needed to implement the street safety infrastructure called for in the agency’s Bicycle Strategy and Pedestrian Strategy. But no matter how much funding the agency has, the SFMTA needs to address the lack of follow-through and political will to implement street redesigns, which often leaves projects delayed and watered down to preserve traffic lanes and car parking spaces.

Ed Reiskin. Photo: Michael Short, SF Chronicle

“It’s trying to get public acceptance of making that re-allocation,” agency chief Ed Reiskin told the SFMTA Board of Directors at a meeting yesterday on the agency’s Strategic Plan. ”It’s a pretty significant change we would need to be making in the public rights-of-way for transit and cycling and, to a lesser extent, to improve pedestrian safety — changes in the right-of-way that have been largely unchanged for the past 50, 60, 70 years. That, I think, is our biggest challenge.”

Cheryl Brinkman, vice chair of the SFMTA Board, said the agency and its board need to stand up to vocal groups who fight efforts to implement the city’s transit-first policy. “We need to be willing to step up and make those hard decisions, and understand that what we see as the needs for transportation in the city, may not jive with what we’re hearing loudly expressed in certain areas,” she said. ”We do need to step up say, ‘No, we need to re-allocate space, it has been mis-allocated for so long.’”

While no one at the hearing said Ed Lee’s name (many participants were appointed by him), it was hard to avoid thinking of the mayor’s failure to stand up for contentious street safety projects.

Reiskin told Streetsblog the SFMTA is “developing a new agency-wide approach to public outreach” as well as working with the City Controller’s Office to produce economic studies on the effects of street redesigns “to try to validate or disprove some of the concerns that are raised or the benefits that are estimated from these improvements.” The agency is also gathering research from other cities through the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the coalition of city DOTs currently led by Reiskin.

“We need to do a better job of articulating the transportation, safety, health, and economic benefits, not just based on theory, but based on empirical data from the city and elsewhere,” said Reiskin. “Some people are always gonna need to drive in San Francisco. The more people who are walking, on a bike, or on transit make space for those who really need to use a car for any given trip.”

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Long-Delayed Polk Contra-Flow Protected Bike Lane Jumpstarted by DPW

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DPW crews at work today on the contra-flow protected bike lane at Polk and Grove. Photo: SFBC/Facebook

In a surprising development, the Department of Public Works broke ground today on a contra-flow, protected bike lane on the two southernmost blocks of Polk Street, from Market to Grove Streets (at City Hall), which are currently one-way southbound. By Bike to Work Day, two of the city’s busiest bicycling streets are expected to be linked with the first bike lane in San Francisco to be protected with a landscaped median, against the flow of motor traffic.

The short but vital connection, first proposed by the city ten years ago and included in the SF Bike Plan, was threatened with yet another year of delay due to poor coordination and a missed contracting deadline. But DPW Director Mohammed Nuru was apparently convinced by the SF Bike Coalition that the project should become a top priority. The SFBC credits Nuru with kickstarting construction, said Executive Director Leah Shahum.

“When they see there’s a problem, there’s often more they can do to get things back on track, and they were able to do it in this case,” she said. “I can’t emphasize how important these two blocks are for so many people. This is going to be a game-changer for helping people ride where they need to go in a safer, more legitimate way.”

Currently, bicycle commuters have no legal way to turn from eastbound Market onto northbound Polk, except to travel a block ahead to Larkin, a one-way, heavily-trafficked three lane street with no bike lane. They must then turn left onto Grove to get back on to Polk.

To access the new contra-flow bike lane, which will replace an existing car parking lane, people bicycling on eastbound Market will have a new bike box to wait in at the intersection with 10th Street before making the turn on to Polk.

“With all the new developments, this is going to be a great way to connect a whole new community in mid-Market with the businesses on Polk Street,” said Shahum.

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At Car-Free Marina Path Meeting, Parking-First Boaters Balanced by Sanity

Image: DPW

Update 12/19: DPW now has an online survey you can take about removing parking on the Marina path.

Marina boat owners riled by the prospect of removing underused car parking from the Marina Boulevard bicycle and pedestrian path got a bit of a reality check at a meeting last week. Some neighbors in attendance made the case for moving the parking, and planners presented some enlightening data about the path’s use.

Unlike the first meeting, the open house format didn’t lend itself to loud rants from boat owners in defense of their entitlement to car storage on the path. In the open Q-and-A session of the previous meeting, attended by about a dozen people who mostly appeared to be boat slip lessees, one man argued that ”the bicyclists are out for whatever they can get” and that “the marinas on the east coast, where I also live, have adequate parking.” One woman asked whether or not parking was open space.

At the latest meeting, I did get into a discussion with someone who had a more reasonable defense of using the path for parking. He made the case that boat slip renters are entitled to the parking on the path as part of their contracts, and that the stretch in question, between Baker and Scott Streets, wasn’t a destination worth improving.

But the 57 parking spaces — the only ones directly on the 500-mile Bay Trail — just aren’t essential. They sit adjacent to just 91 of the 350-some-odd total slips in the Marina basin, and occupancy ranges between 40 and 68 percent, according to city counts done throughout 2011. And yet a quarter of the path is devoted to auto storage, while another quarter is deemed a “shared” driving lane, which undermines any sense of safety and comfort for people walking and biking — who comprise 98 percent of the users on this segment of the path.

The Marina path as it exists today. Photo: DPW

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3 Years After Fatal Crash, San Mateo County Adds Bike Lanes to Interchange

SVBC Deputy Director Colin Heyne checks for merging vehicles approaching from behind at the Alpine/280 interchange. Photo: Andrew Boone

SVBC Deputy Director Colin Heyne checks for merging vehicles while cycling north on Alpine Road towards Highway 280. Photo: Andrew Boone

Nearly three years after 47-year-old Los Altos Hills resident Lauren Ward was killed by a truck driver while cycling on Alpine Road at Highway 280 in southern San Mateo County, eye-catching green and buffered bike lanes, the first for a freeway crossing in California, were finally installed there in mid-October.

Local residents and street safety advocates organized and persistently lobbied county officials to install bike lanes at the interchange, failing twice to secure grants from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority in 2011 and 2012. Under increasing pressure from residents and county leaders, public works staff cobbled together funds from three different sources in late 2012 and re-designed the interchange to include bike lanes. Traffic lanes were narrowed to 11 feet and wide green and buffered bike lanes were incorporated into the design using input from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

An alternative design favored by bike advocates would have reduced the number of merge zones (where motorists need to cross the path of bicyclists to enter the highway) from three to two was also proposed. Caltrans rejected that option, saying it might cause delays for motorists. Nevertheless, the chosen design is still considered an enormous improvement over the previous complete lack of striping.

“Our goal is to create an environment on the road where people of all ages and skill levels feel comfortable riding a bike,” said SVBC Executive Director Corinne Winter. “Smart, visible infrastructure like this removes the ambiguity that plagued this intersection previously, and allows for all users in the road to feel confident while sharing the road.”

The buffers disappear and the bike lanes are dashed in sections where motorists need to merge across the bike lanes to enter Highway 280, making it obvious to everyone where the merging should take place. “If you ride south on Alpine Road, you’ll see the huge improvement,” said San Mateo County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair Steve Schmidt. “It seems like a more relaxed situation because it’s clear where everyone should be.”

Read more…

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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.