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Market Street Cyclist Stands up to Road Rager

Casey Ann Dilou on her bike.

Casey Ann Dilou on her bike. Photo by Bradley Johnson.

Last Thursday, at 1:30 in the afternoon, 32-year-old Casey Ann Dilou was riding her bike northeast on Market between 8th and 7th when she heard a car horn blaring behind her. She turned around and saw a blue Ford Minivan driving dangerously close with the passenger yelling out the window “run her over” and “get the fuck out of the way!”

Dilou stopped her bike and the car drove around. As it did, the passenger continued to yell obscenities, laughed, and flicked a cigarette at her.

That was it. Dilou said she’d been run off the road twice before by aggressive drivers—the last time a truck blasted its horn and forced her onto the trolley tracks. She crashed and fractured her elbow.

Dilou caught up to the minivan at the next red light and put herself in front of it. “This is a fucking bike lane and you can’t treat people like that!” she shouted. The passenger started screaming back and yelled at the driver to run her over. But Dilou held her ground. “There was a Muni stop there and other cars and no way for them to go around.”

Then the passenger threw a water bottle at her and got out of the car. “You better move before I make you move,” he said. But Dilou, who is nearly six feet tall and teaches self defense, was not intimidated. She called the cops. “The passenger said he’s going to go get his ‘crew’ and that I’d better be gone when he gets back,” explained Dilou. “The cops will be here first so I can’t wait until you show up with your ‘crew,’” she replied.
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Evidence That Split-Phase Signals Are Safer Than Mixing Zones for Bike Lanes

Mixing zones, rendered above, are DOT's standard treatment for left-turns on corridors with protected bike lanes. Image: DOT

Mixing zones are DOT’s standard treatment for intersections where motor vehicle traffic turns across the path of protected bike lanes, but they are not as safe as intersections where pedestrians and cyclists get exclusive signal time. Image: DOT

When DOT presented plans for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue, one point of contention was the design of intersections. How many intersections will get split-phase signals, where cyclists and pedestrians crossing the street get a separate signal phase than turning drivers? And how many will get “mixing zones,” where pedestrians and cyclists negotiate the same space as turning drivers simultaneously?

DOT tends to opt for split-phase signals only at major intersections, like where Sixth Avenue crosses 14th Street and 23rd Street. At other cross streets with turning conflicts, the mixing zone is the go-to treatment. Manhattan Community Board 4 wants to change that, asking DOT to include more intersections with dedicated crossing time for pedestrians and cyclists in the Sixth Avenue project.

The evidence backs up CB 4’s assertion that split-phase signals are safer. Data from previous protected bike lane projects in Manhattan show that the reduction in injuries on streets that mostly received split-phase treatments was more than double the improvement on streets that mostly received mixing zones.

A 2014 DOT report [PDF] analyzed three years of before and after crash data from Manhattan’s protected bike lanes. The last section of the report shows the change in total crashes with injuries on 12 protected bike lane projects — six with primarily split-phase treatments (segments of Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue below 23rd Street, and two unconnected segments of Broadway in Midtown), and six with primarily mixing zones (segments of First Avenue, Second Avenue, Columbus Avenue, Broadway, and Eighth Avenue above 23rd Street). We don’t have access to the raw numbers DOT worked with, but the aggregate data strongly suggests that split phase treatments are significantly safer.

On average, crashes with injuries declined 30 percent on the six “split-phase” redesigns and 13 percent on the six “mixing zone” redesigns.

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North of Panhandle Meeting Stressed Data and Parking Parking Parking

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Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick

Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick

Thursday night, I was exhausted from covering so many stories in this crazy city that I love. So I grabbed my laptop and headed out to my favorite Divisadero coffee shop to catch up on Facebook and maybe look at some funny cat videos.I walked in the door, ordered, and heard: “Hey Roger! So glad you could make it!”

It was Janice Li, Advocacy Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She’d given me a tour of bike projects on Market Street and the Wiggle just the week before.

In my attempt to escape, I’d walked into the monthly meeting of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. No sooner had that registered, when I turned around and found myself face-to-face with SFPD Park Division Captain John Sanford. Janice started to introduce us. “I know who he is. Glad to meet you Captain,” I said, shaking his hand. “I’m the new editor of Streetsblog.” I wondered if he’d read my piece where I jokingly compared his bicycle crackdown logic to the Spanish Inquisition.

Sanford and Captain Greg McEachern gave presentations about policing and crime levels in the area. They both asked that residents contact them immediately about any “quality of life” problems. They also talked about crime stats. McEachern mentioned that they’d start a foot beat on Divisidaro. It seemed odd there wasn’t one already on such a busy street, but I’d already heard that SFPD is not big on getting out of their cruisers.

Cathy DeLuca, Policy and Program Manager for WalkSF, gave a great presentation about Vision Zero and their goals for making streets safer. First, she helped get the audience up to speed on the current situation.

“At least three people walking every day get hit in this city,” she said. “One-quarter of all trauma patients are pedestrians hit by cars.” She explained that by focusing on the most dangerous activities on the most dangerous streets, the police and SFMTA can start to bring those numbers down.

“The city has gathered data and crunched the numbers: six percent of city streets are responsible for 60 percent of crashes. The top five things that cause injuries and deaths are speeding, not yielding, not stopping at stop signs, not stopping at red lights, and improper turning,” she said. “They’re not accidents. They are predictable events.” Above all, she stressed the importance of using data to dictate policies for law enforcement, speed limits, and street designs.

Next, Oliver Gajda, a planner from SFMTA, presented on the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project, which is slated to start construction in a few months. The project will add a landscaped median, bus stop enhancements and raised bikeways. But instead of talking about the great things the project will bring, he focused on how the city will make up for lost street parking on Masonic.

 

Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking. Image: SFMTA

Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking on Masonic. Image: SFMTA

To add more parking, the city is considering blocks of nearby Turk, Central, Lyon and other streets for 90-degree, angled parking. An audience member brought up that she doesn’t like angled parking, because it’s hard to see oncoming cyclists. At that point, I chimed in. It occurred to me that if they’re re-configuring parking, why not add a cycle path between the curb and the parked cars, to created a simple protected bike lane? It would require blocks to make sure cars don’t pull up too far, but that’s cheap. Not exactly a ground breaking idea, so I thought.

Gajda was emphatic that there wasn’t room, and besides, they were building a bike lane on Masonic. I kept pointing out that building a raised bike lane on Masonic, as part of a relatively complex and expensive street improvement project, is not an argument for not building a simple parking-protected bike lane on another street. After all, the city is spending the money to reconfigure the parking regardless. Somewhere between 90 degree parking, which the city is considering, and parallel parking, there has to be an angle that will make enough room for a bike lane along the curb without blocking the car lane, even if that costs a handful of parking spots.

“You should suggest that,” said another representative from MTA.

“I just did,” I answered.

It’s unfortunate, but much of SFMTA is in a mindset that all safety improvements are necessarily complicated. They’re not. The agency also thinks safety improvements can only happen if the overall number of parking spaces is maintained. That’s an attitude that has to go. After that, Supervisor London Breed talked about the housing crisis. I was going to make a suggestion that if the city didn’t allot so much land to parking, there would be more for housing. But I decided it was time to move on to funny cat videos.

My takeaway from my first, impromptu community meeting: San Francisco is a city full of super smart, wildly dedicated, and truly awesome people. And Streetsblog, WalkSF, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other groups for street safety have their work cut out for them.

See you tonight, Monday, Jan.25 at the Streetsblog Happy Hour at Virgil’s.

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Bike Psych: Can Bay Area Drivers and Cyclists Get Along?

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Dutch Streets Segregate Car and Bikes with Curbs, Trees, Buffers and Phased Signals. Photo: Roger Rudick

Dutch streets segregate cars and bikes with curbs, trees, buffers and signals. Photo: Roger Rudick

Yesterday, John Robert Donovan, 41, of Mill Valley, accepted a plea-bargain that got him a misdemeanor conviction, two years of probation, 80 hours of community service, and a $4,134 fine plus court costs, as reported in the Marin Independent Journal. Last November, Donovan, who was driving a Tesla, reportedly got into a road rage incident with some cyclists on Shoreline Highway. When one of the cyclists flipped off his wife, Donovan overtook, cut them off, and braked—causing one of the cyclists to crash into his car. Donovan then drove off.

It seems not a week passes without some kind of car-versus-bike road rage incident.

Just last week, cyclist Danica Helb was pepper sprayed by a motorist. “I got a call from Sergeant O’Connor, who recorded a detailed description of the events,” she wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “He said he is investigating the case as a battery, and would be following up with the witnesses.”

And then there’s this madness from last year, captured on video. The driver nearly ran over a cyclist who was riding safely in the bike lane. But instead of apologizing, the motorist gets out and screams and kicks at the cyclist.

No doubt next week there will be another conflict. And another. People will continue to get hurt. Sometimes they are intentionally killed.

What’s really going on here?

Dr. Robert Nemerovski is a psychologist with practices in San Francisco and Marin who specializes in anger management. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the psychology of road rage. He’s also a cyclist. “I feel extremely threatened by automobiles–they’ve got metal and airbags and I’ve got nothing,” he said. “So when a car gets too close or cuts me off or doesn’t see me, even with my flashers and my obnoxious yellow outfit, it’s really a gut reaction that my life is in jeopardy.” Read more…

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Mayor Vetoes Bike Yield But Advocates Must Never Yield to Regressive Politics

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The veto of Bike Yield can't be permitted to discourage advocates for safe streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The veto of Bike Yield can’t be permitted to discourage advocates for safe streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Mayor Edwin Lee officially vetoed the “Bike Yield” ordinance yesterday. Without enough votes to override, supporting supervisors will have to figure out a compromise plan, such as a pilot project. The bill’s author, Supervisor John Avalos, already prepared for that contingency. Not surprisingly, Avalos was frustrated with the Mayor’s veto. “SFPD has focused traffic enforcement on places where bicycling is common instead of on high collision corridors. It is clear we have a ways to go with our Vision Zero efforts,” he said in an email to Streetsblog.

The veto is also an opportunity for safe-streets advocates to take stock and get clarity on what transpired.

First, the Mayor’s veto. He said he is “not willing to trade away safety for convenience.” In response, Avalos wrote that “it’s disappointing to hear the Mayor confuse smart, targeted traffic enforcement with ‘convenience.'” The Mayor has often referred to the ordinance as if it would have legalized the “Idaho Stop” in San Francisco; that means allowing cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield. Of course, that’s not the proposal, as this excellent editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out last September. Streetsblog has also attempted to clarify—multiple times.

Avalos and the other bill sponsors were responding to complaints from cyclists on the Wiggle and elsewhere because SFPD was cracking down on safety-minded cyclists for not coming to an absolute stop at stop signs. Cyclists might like an Idaho Stop law, but the proposed Bike Yield ordinance did not actually go there. It can’t go there; San Francisco can’t change state traffic laws.

All the ordinance would do is instruct the San Francisco Police to make citing cyclists who roll carefully through stop signs the lowest priority, so they can instead focus invaluable, finite law-enforcement resources on stopping dangerous traffic violations. In other words, the law was attempting to cajole the police into pursuing “Vision Zero” and the “Focus on the Five” most dangerous behaviors. Every minute a cop spends writing a ticket for a cyclist who went through a stop sign at less than six mph, is a minute he’s not out looking for a crazy cyclist who blew through a stop sign at 25 mph; or speeding cars that regularly kill people.

“We must focus our scarce traffic enforcement resources on behaviors that are creating dangers,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, a supporter of the Bike Yield ordinance. Police need to focus on cyclists who are “blowing through stop signs and red lights. Or doing things that actually put people in danger.”

Put simply, the Mayor vetoed a law that would have re-directed finite police resources from technical but benign offenses to things that hurt and kill.

Ironically, nobody illustrated the total disconnect better than Bike Yield opponent SFPD Captain John Sanford, whose crackdown helped start the whole thing. He was caught on video safely rolling through a stop sign on his bike; a practice he says creates “chaos on our streets.” On the same page of his newsletter where he explained his opposition to Bike Yield, he wrote that his law enforcement approach is “guided by my Christian faith.” Given the double standard, maybe he means in the spirit of the Spanish police of 1478?

Joking aside, deputies at city hall confirmed that the next step is likely a pilot Bike Yield on the Wiggle. Not great, but “it’s certainly better than the status quo,” said Wiener.

That may sound discouraging. But remember: San Francisco bike-share began as a 400 bike pilot. It’s now starting a ten-fold expansion. San Francisco now has miles of bike lanes. There are raised bike lanes on the way on Polk, Second and Masonic. This started with pilots on Market.

In other words, setbacks happen. Let’s hope Bike Yield will pass after it is reintroduced as a small pilot–and then grow into a larger change.

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My City Bikes Promotes Bike Commuting to Help with New Years Resolutions

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my_city_bikes_san_francisco

A Nielsen survey shows that 37 percent of Americans list “staying fit and healthy” as a top New Year’s resolution. “Losing weight” is close behind it, at 32 percent. That’s not much of a departure from last year. And, sadly, we’ll probably see something else repeated in 2016: most people won’t stick with it. In fact, roughly eight percent will keep those resolutions throughout the year.

My City Bikes, a Palo Alto-based organization with chapters in San Francisco and the East Bay, hopes it can get more people to ride by encouraging them to combine two top resolutions: staying fit and saving money.

“Bike commuting is a trick that can actually make it easier to stick to a fitness and weight loss resolution,” said Sara Villalobos, a spokeswoman for My City Bikes. “By rolling exercise and transportation into one, people can save money and time, which makes it a health habit that is easier to achieve.”

In addition to recommending bike shops that specialize in helping novice cyclists, the company provides a smart phone app to help guide beginners. The MyCityBikes apps provide specialized information for different locations, such as the East Bay and San Francisco. It prompts a user to select whether they are riding as a family with kids or as a commuter, for example. It list streets with dedicated bike lanes, provides safety tips, and shows the mileage of bike trails. It also lists cycling events with times, dates, locations and contact information, such as the Alameda family ride, which is held from 10 to noon on the first Sunday of the month.

They are not the only organization, of course, encouraging more people to get into commuting by bike. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition also offers events and classes for novice cyclists, such as its “intro to urban bicycling” and other cycling courses for adults. Health and physician groups also encourage bike commuting because “moderate activity for 30 minutes per day is effective at reducing risk for diabetes,” said Matt Petersen, Managing Director of Medical Information for the American Diabetes Association. And, he points out, diabetes risk factors overlap with heart disease and cancer.

Bike advocates have long argued that the best way to get new people bike commuting—and therefore healthier—is with improved infrastructure such as the long-awaited protected bike lane on Second. Or getting cars completely off Market Street. And census data shows that, albeit slowly but surely, Bay Area investments seem to be working. It’s hoped the health of the city will improve along with it.

In fact, several of San Francisco’s supervisors, including Jane Kim, have cited the health benefits of cycling as a reason to support the Bike Yield ordinance. “We need to make it easier for individuals to get out of their cars and onto bikes,” said Kim.

Either way, “Hopefully this year more people than ever will resolve to make cycling and other active transportation options part of their commutes,” said Villalobos. “We want to help them stick with it.”

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“Just Transit” Contest Winner to Straighten Out Caltrain Station Mess

Back in October, the Schmidt Family Foundation announced its “Just Transit SF Challenge,” a contest to come up with good transit improvement ideas that can be implemented quickly. The three winners were announced this month.

Bike lanes as currently configured at Caltrain. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The current street situation at Caltrain. Photo: Bryan Goebel

The $125,000 first prize went to RideScout and TransForm, which are partnering to improve transit using financial incentives. In many cities, off-peak transit tickets are discounted to encourage people to ride trains and buses when they are less crowded. This project exploits modern technology to take things further, offering discounts for people to ride when loads are light or even encouraging them to use a less direct route if it will reduce crowding.

The grant will pay for the fare discounts the first year, during which the grantees will study to what extent financial incentives can work, using smart phone technology, to change travel patterns. After that, they’ll have to get SFMTA and BART to buy in. That may mean charging more at peak times and on heavily-crowded routes to offset the expense. Either way, it should bring in more revenue by making sure trains and buses have fewer empty seats on off-peak routes. In this sense, the project is trying to apply the kind of math airlines use to make sure planes don’t fly with empty seats.

Another winner addresses a problem that’s all too tangible to anyone who has ever used Caltrain’s King Street Station.

“Curbing the Caltrain Cluster,” which won a $50,000 award, is a joint project from Livable City and Lyft. How will it work? Suppose you get off your Caltrain and need a Lyft. The way things work now, you end up wandering past Muni buses, bikes, cars, and through the taxi queue trying to find your ride. “Curbing the Caltrain Cluster” proposes numbered stalls, so that when you call your Lyft, Uber, or whatever service, it also tells you to go to stall number 9, for example.

So when a Lyft driver heads over to Caltrain and looks at his app, “It will say your rider will proceed to ‘X’ location,” explained Scott Reinstein, development and communications director for Livable City. The plan is also to separate cars, buses, and bikes as much as possible.

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Parking-Free Marina Path Plan Could Be Delayed By Boaters’ Parking Proposal

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The Marina path as it exists today. Photo: Department of Public Works

Updated at 11:38 p.m. with further response from the Recreation and Parks Department below.

The Marina Boulevard bicycle and pedestrian path was supposed to be car-free by now. The years-old plan to remove the 57 car parking spaces on the stretch between Scott and Baker Streets is scheduled to be implemented by this spring.

But the SF Recreation and Parks Department may hold off yet again — potentially for years — because the department is seriously considering a last-minute proposal from boat owners to carve curbside “parking bays” from the path to preserve some spots.

The Association of Bay Area Governments’ Bay Trail Project and the SF Bicycle Coalition sent a letter [PDF] Tuesday urging Rec and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg “in the strongest of terms to move forward with the current plan to remove the parking and driving lane… immediately.”

We believe that a proposal to provide a drop-off, loading/unloading zone with limited parking may have merit and should be pursued. However, the thousands of walkers, joggers, cyclists, families, roller-bladers and wheelchair riders who make up 98% of the users of the Marina Green Bay Trail cannot continue to wait for safety in this area.

[Update] Rec and Parks spokesperson Connie Chan wrote in an email that the department “is seeking funding for” the project to include “the construction of 3 new parking bays.”

“Each bay will provide 3 to 5 parking spaces: 2 white loading-only spaces, 1 blue ADA-only space, and 2 unregulated public parking spaces (optional),” she wrote. “One parking bay will be situated near each dock gate, with exact location determined by traffic code and/or other site constraints.”

When asked if the parking removal will no longer happen this spring as planned, she repeated, “At this time, the Department is seeking funding for the project.”

In addition to reducing space for people, lumping parking bays into the project could further delay it for years. Digging into the pavement would require securing funding, design work, and construction for a project that originally only involved removing parking bumpers and replacing signs and pavement striping. It would add an estimated $450,000 to a $60,000 project.

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Widening El Camino Real in Menlo Park Won’t Cut Traffic, But Bike Lanes Will

El Camino Real facing south at Middle Avenue. Widening the street to six continuous lanes through downtown Menlo Park will attract more traffic and worsen congestion, according to a W-Trans study. Photo: Google Maps

Redesigning El Camino Real to squeeze in more cars will cause more cars to squeeze into El Camino Real, warned the consultant working on a redesign of the street in downtown Menlo Park last week. But creating a safe street for people to get around without a car can actually cut traffic.

At a community meeting last Thursday about the design options for Menlo Park’s stretch of El Camino Real W-Trans Principal Mark Spencer said that widening the street from four to six traffic lanes through downtown would increase traffic volumes dramatically and worsen congestion. Adding buffered or curb-protected bike lanes instead, as recommended by the city’s Transportation Commission in November, would reduce both traffic volumes and congestion slightly, according to the study.

With the six lane option, “traffic volumes on El Camino would go up because it would open up that pipeline to push more traffic through,” Spencer said. “Because of that induced demand, we’re seeing travel times [for car drivers] getting longer.”

A 2008 community-led Vision Plan for El Camino Real in Menlo Park set several goals that street safety advocates say should disqualify the four-to-six lane expansion from consideration. Among those objectives are “maintain a village character,” “provide greater east-west, town-wide connectivity,” and “provide an integrated, safe, and well-designed pedestrian and bicycle network.”

To help meet these community goals, planners recommended maintaining the existing four-lane cross-section for vehicle traffic while adding buffered or protected bike lanes. But with the adoption of the El Camino Real / Downtown Specific Plan in 2012, the City Council also ordered that a six-lane expansion of El Camino be analyzed as well, in the belief that the city might be able to build its way out of congestion.

W-Trans estimates that due to induced demand, widening El Camino Real to a continuous six lanes through downtown Menlo Park would add between 10 and 45 percent more traffic at Ravenswood Avenue, the city’s most congestion intersection. Most of that traffic would be pulled from parallel routes, including Highway 101 and Middlefield Road.

“This option worsens the pedestrian environment as it places fast moving traffic near pedestrians,” wrote Fehr & Peers Principal Jane Bierstedt in a March 2012 report [PDF]. Even without the effect of induced demand, which its preliminary traffic study did not account for, Fehr & Peers found that the maximum travel time savings for car drivers would be 17 seconds at Ravenswood Avenue.

“With induced demand, the delay reduction would be less and operations would likely mimic the four-lane alternative,” concluded Bierstedt.

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Momentum Builds to Eliminate Dangerous Gap in SF Bay Trail

Officials hope to secure funds from San Mateo County’s 2012 Measure A program to extend the San Francisco Bay Trail through Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, eliminating a stressful detour. Photo: Andrew Boone

Prospects for a safer and more convenient San Francisco Bay Trail are looking brighter as momentum builds for strengthening environmental protections along the bay in San Mateo County.

On Tuesday, Menlo Park planning staff reported that the city, in partnership with neighboring East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, as well as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD), will seek approval from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to designate their many San Francisco Bay shoreline parks and wildlife refuges as a new priority conservation area.

The designation was created by ABAG in 2007 “to attract funds to support the long-term protection of regionally significant open spaces about which there is broad consensus for long-term protection.” The conservation area would include Bedwell Bayfront Park, the Ravenswood Salt Pond Restoration Area, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve, Cooley Landing, and the Baylands Nature Preserve.

One upshot of this development could be a better Bay Trail. “The PCA designation would expand funding opportunities for enhancing the current Bay Trail around Bedwell Bayfront Park and connections from the Belle Haven neighborhood to the Park,” wrote Menlo Park Assistant Community Development Director Justin Murphy in a report presented to the City Council [PDF].

Murphy cited the long-planned $2.2 million Ravenswood Bay Trail, a missing 0.6-mile section of the San Francisco Bay Trail from University Avenue to the Ravenswood Regional Open Space Preserve in East Palo Alto, as a high-priority regional project more likely to receive county and regional grants with the PCA designation. This gap in the Bay Trail forces pedestrians and bicyclists on a detour along a section of busy, four-lane University Avenue that includes narrow bike lanes but no sidewalks.

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