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Posts from the "Bicycle Infrastructure" Category

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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.

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Curbside Bikeway at Fort Mason Only Temporary, Set to Be Removed

The bike lane we spotted at Fort Mason last week, which replaced a lane of car parking on the northern end of Van Ness Avenue, could be removed any day now, according to city staffers. The bike lane was installed temporarily as part of the People Plan, intended to encourage visitors to bicycle during the America’s Cup yacht races — but only on a trial basis.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

As a number of Streetsblog commenters noted, it was a refreshing surprise to see such a sensible project apparently go in without the fierce, drawn-out political battles that typically accompany parking removal. But it looks like this space will revert to car storage, and sharrows will be painted in the roadway instead.

The bike lane was originally scheduled to be removed on November 1, said Adam Van de Water, project manager for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. It’s unclear why the lane has lasted this long (best guess — it’s on the backlog for street painting crews). The lane “was designed as a pilot to provide safety, comfort and direction to cyclists transiting between [America's Cup] venues with the long term legacy value of providing empirical data on its effectiveness given competing uses at the site and the desire to create a contiguous SF Bay Trail,” said Van de Water.

Through “visual surveys and mode counts on site,” the SFMTA and the National Park Service, which holds jurisdiction over the land, came to the conclusion that the post-separated bikeway linking the bicycle/pedestrian paths along Fort Mason and Fisherman’s Wharf isn’t worth keeping, according to Van de Water:

I believe the consensus only a portion of cyclists used the cycle track with many opting for a quicker transit along the center of the roadway where the pavement is in better condition and where they are used to riding. As a result, SFMTA is adding new painted sharrows in the roadway when the temporary cycle track is removed.

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How a Poll Showing SF’s Pro-Bike Attitudes Can Change the Conversation

People ride in a temporary protected bike lane on the Embarcadero during America's Cup this July. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

If you listen to the public discourse about re-allocating street space to make bicycling safer in San Francisco, a pattern in the naysayers’ message quickly emerges. “Only a small margin of people ride bicycles, and those people don’t deserve space for safer travel,” goes the refrain. “Traffic lanes and parking for cars are too important to give up — trading them for bike lanes won’t get San Franciscans to ride bikes more, it’ll only result in carmageddon.”

Too often, city planners and political leaders give in to these assertions and try to appease the vocal minority of residents who espouse them, scaling back their efforts to make streets safer and more bike-friendly.

Image: David Binder Research

But the results of a new poll released yesterday indicate that a significant majority of San Francisco voters think the expansion of protected bike lanes, bike-share, and other efforts to make bicycling more attractive should be a high priority for the city. This kind of public opinion data can be extremely useful for city officials, planners, and bicycling advocates to bolster the case for such efforts, rather than allowing the conversation to be framed by the pre-conceived views of a few curmudgeons.

The poll, conducted by David Binder Research and commissioned by the SF Bicycle Coalition, surveyed 400 San Francisco voters in October. Because voters tend to skew older than the general population, Binder Research noted in a memo [PDF], pro-bike “support would be even higher if these questions were asked of all city residents and not voters.”

The SFBC summed up the findings in a blog post yesterday:

  • About three-fourths of voters believe bicycling is good for San Francisco and that bicycling in the City should be comfortable and attractive to people of all ages, from small children to seniors.

  • And voters are not just generally supporting the idea of bicycle riding, but are already out there riding a bike regularly. 43% of voters are already riding a bike, with 25% of voters in San Francisco riding regularly, meaning a few times a month or more.

  • Two thirds of voters support expanding the bike sharing program to 3,000 bikes to serve San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

  • More than two-thirds of voters support the City adding physically separated bikeways to improve safety and traffic flow and to create clearly delineated space for road users.

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Design Tweaks Delay Construction of Safety Features on Fell and Oak

The Oak Street bike lane, seen here soon after its installation before plastic posts were added. A van is parked in the bike lane up ahead. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Construction of the final pieces of bike and pedestrian safety improvements on Fell and Oak Streets between Baker and Scott has been delayed again as the agency finalizes the design of traffic islands and bulb-outs. Previously promised this year, the upgrades have been pushed back until some time in 2014, according to the SFMTA.

The SFMTA is consulting the SFPUC to refine the designs of landscaped bulb-outs and traffic islands and maximize stormwater collection on Fell and Oak Streets. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose said the SF Public Utilities Commission is helping the agency “enhance the corner bulb-outs to capture stormwater and beautify the project in parallel with the safety benefits the bulb-outs inherently offer.” The landscaped traffic islands, also known as concrete planters, will be installed in the buffer zones of the Fell and Oak bike lanes to help separate bicycle commuters from motor traffic “in coordination” with the bulb-outs.

“The SFMTA is collaborating with other city departments on improved designs for landscaped traffic islands to enhance physical separation from vehicle traffic, deter motorists from encroaching on the bike lanes and visually narrow the street,” Jose wrote in an email. “These traffic islands will be installed in coordination with other hardscape improvements, such as bulb-outs, curb ramps and bikeway paving improvements, next year.”

All of the planned safety improvements that don’t involve concrete work are in place. The long-awaited curbside bike lanes on Fell and Oak, currently separated by buffer space and temporary plastic posts, were installed in September 2012 and May of this year, respectively. Along with the lanes, the SFMTA installed bicycle traffic signals and more visible ladder crosswalk markings, while also lowering the synchronized traffic signal speeds from 25 to 20 mph. The block of Baker between Fell and Oak was also put on a traffic-calming road diet and had parallel parking spots converted to back-in angled parking spots.

As we reported yesterday, those improvements are yielding promising results, improving safety and comfort along the route. However, we still hear reports of drivers stopping or parking in the bike lanes, which the traffic islands should help discourage.

The landscaped bulb-outs and islands were originally expected to be completed this past spring. The bike lanes themselves came after years of advocacy for safer streets (the Oak lane was only installed in time for Bike to Work Day because D5 Supervisor London Breed pushed the SFMTA to expedite it). Is the latest delay a disappointment, or is it worth the wait to get the design of these finishing touches right? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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SFMTA: Fell and Oak Bike Lanes Are Yielding Promising Safety Results

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An SF Bicycle Coalition volunteer thanks commuters for "biking politely" on Oak at Scott Street. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The SFMTA has released some preliminary survey results showing that the three-block bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets, along with other safety measures, have resulted in calmer motor traffic, an increased sense of safety among bicycle commuters, and a decrease in illegal bicycling behaviors.

On Fell and Oak, between Scott and Baker Streets — the connection from the Wiggle to the Panhandle — the SFMTA removed car parking lanes to install curbside bike lanes, separated by buffer space and plastic posts, along with bicycle traffic signals and more visible “continental” crosswalk stripes, while also lowering the synchronized traffic signal speeds from 25 to 20 MPH. The block of Baker between Fell and Oak was also put on a traffic-calming road diet with a buffered left-turn lane to make it easier for bike commuters to pass stopped cars and reach a new left-turn bike box. Parallel parking spots on the block were also converted to back-in angled parking spots.

Although not all of the planned bike and pedestrian improvements are in the ground yet, the SFMTA posted the following results on its website:

Since the bikeways were completed in May of 2013, SFMTA staff have been conducting observations and collecting data about the project’s effects on behavior and attitudes. So far, we have seen some promising trends:

  • A 3-5 mph reduction in motor vehicle speeds on Oak Street as a result of modest changes to traffic signal timing.
  • A reduction in sidewalk bicycle riding now that bicyclists have buffered bike lanes to seperate them from traffic.
  • An increase in bicyclists’ compliance with traffic signals as a result of improved bikeways and traffic signals.

Additionally, an intercept survey was conducted of people riding their bikes on Fell and Oak streets in August of 2013. Preliminary tallies of the results found that many of the project’s goals are already being achieved:

  • Because of the bikeways on Oak and Fell streets, 98% of riders surveyed said they feel that the safety of bicycling on Oak and Fell has increased, and 90% feel that drivers’ awareness of people biking on Oak and Fell has increased.
  • Around one in six respondents said they would have used a different route on their bikes before the bikeways were implemented; About 7% said they would have used a different mode all together (driving, walking etc)
  • Around one in five people said that because of the Oak and Fell bikeways, how often they ride a bike overall has increased. Among women only, it is closer to one in three.

Good stuff. I’ve also noticed, while riding in a car or bus down Fell and Oak, that the eye-catching bike lanes seem to act as a sort of billboard for bicycling. It’d be helpful to know how many commuters have been drawn to try out the Wiggle option since the bike lanes appeared.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Lanes on Cesar Chavez, Green Wave on 11th

Eleventh Street. Photo: Mark Dreger

Two bicycling upgrades were spotted in the eastern neighborhoods this past week: Preliminary striping for bike lanes on western Cesar Chavez Street and a “green wave” on 11th Street in west SoMa.

Cesar Chavez as seen last Wednesday. Photo: @dfro78/Twitter

The unprotected bike lanes being installed on Cesar Chavez are part of the ongoing rehab on the section west of Hampshire Street. A photo posted on Twitter last Wednesday shows temporary striping on fresh asphalt, and it’s unknown when permanent stripes will be laid down.

Construction on western Cesar Chavez was originally set to finish this summer, but the Department of Public Works website currently says it will be completed in the winter.

Meanwhile, the new green wave signal re-timing on 11th Street spotted by Mark Dreger comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise. The only other known green waves installed in SF so far are on Valencia and 14th Streets. The SF County Transportation Authority approved funds in April for green waves on five other streets, but 11th wasn’t on the list, and I couldn’t turn up anything on the project. The other five green waves are scheduled to be installed by next March, according to SFCTA documents [PDF]:

  • Arguello from Lake to Clement
  • North Point from Stockton to Polk
  • Folsom from 15th to 24th Streets
  • Fulton from Laguna to Steiner
  • Potrero from Alameda to 25th Street

We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about these projects.

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Marina Boat Owners Riled by Proposal to Take Cars Off Bike/Ped Path

DPW proposes removing the 51 parking spaces (seen here on the right, mostly empty) along the only stretch of the Bay Trail where cars are currently allowed. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Along Marina Boulevard there’s a bicycle and pedestrian path where visitors and residents can stroll along the bay without having to worry about cars — until they get to the stretch between Scott and Baker Streets, where drivers are allowed to enter the path to access 51 parking spaces.

It’s the only part of the 500-mile Bay Trail where people must share space with cars. But now the Department of Public Works is leading an effort to remove those parking spots and ban cars on that stretch of the path. At a public meeting yesterday, the proposal was met with protest from about a dozen boat owners who claimed they were entitled to those parking spaces as part of the $10,000 yearly fee they pay to store their vessels.

Boat owners at a community meeting last night fought for their right to parking. “There are plenty of marinas on the east coast, where I also live, that have adequate parking,” said one man. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“We don’t have any other place in the trail where there’s a multi-use pathway adjacent to the shoreline with cars in the middle of it,” said Maureen Gaffney, Bay Trail planner for the Association of Bay Area Governments. “It’s first and foremost a safety issue. We think that parking is not the best use of the waterfront.”

Boat owners complained about longer walks to carry equipment from their cars to their slips, but most users of the marina already seem to make longer walks. The Bay Trail parking spots, which often appear empty, sit adjacent to only 91 of the 350-some-odd total slips in the basin. Attendees also claimed that the city doesn’t have the jurisdiction to remove those parking spaces because boat slip renters are entitled as part of their contracts with the harbor (DPW didn’t have the documentation on hand to refute that).

Although the Marina pathway is heavily used by families, many with rental bikes, that didn’t stop a few attendees from repeatedly calling people on bicycles a hazard, while insisting that operating motor vehicles on the path is just fine.

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Protected Bike Lanes, Dual Bus Lanes Still Left Out of Potrero Ave. Plan

A new design option for Potrero would mix the southbound bike lane with the transit lane. (The numbers denote removed parking spaces.) Image: DPW

The latest proposals for a redesign of Potrero Avenue include no protected bike lanes and only one transit lane, while the removal of any of the street’s four lanes devoted primarily to private car traffic remains off the table.

Planners from the SFMTA and the Department of Public Works presented two design options at an open house community meeting last night, one of which [PDF] would actually eliminate the existing southbound bike lane and instead place colored bike markings in the transit lane, denoting that riders are expected share it with buses. The northbound side of Potrero would have a buffered bike lane. The other option [PDF] would basically maintain the striped, unprotected bike lanes on each side.

Under both options, the eastern sidewalk would be widened to 14 feet along the four blocks in front of SF General Hospital, and bulb-outs and a planted center median with pedestrian refuges would be added. Up to 79 car parking spaces would be removed, down from the previous estimate of 100, as planners have added more perpendicular an angled spaces on side streets.

Elliot Schwartz, a neighbor and livable streets advocate who bikes with his son in a rear seat, said he was disappointed with the options. “It moves the needle a little bit, but not much,” he said. “It makes things better for people walking, it doesn’t really do a thing for people biking as far as safety or comfort. It moves a bus lane from one side to the other — they say that’ll be more efficient, but why not add bus lanes in both directions?”

After the previous community planning meeting in late July, reader Josh Handel submitted a concept for Potrero that includes two transit lanes and protected bike lanes safe enough for a broad range of San Franciscans to feel comfortable using. The street is wide enough if one lane for car traffic was removed in each direction. But city planners claim that would result in unacceptable car congestion.

The Potrero project has faced resistance from some neighbors and merchants over the removal of car parking and traffic lanes. Flyers were reportedly handed out and placed on car windshields near SF General prior to the meeting, protesting the repurposing of parking spaces, mainly for bulb-outs and left-turn pockets.

Fran Taylor, a neighborhood livable streets advocate, said she was upset by “the callous indifference to users of San Francisco General Hospital shown in a petition that demands that plans for sidewalk widening be squelched to save storage space for cars.”

The plan “seems like a poor compromise between people who come to these meetings and argue that they don’t want to give up their free parking space that they’ve had for years,” said Schwartz, “and people who’d actually like to see safer streets so they can ride a bike with their kids and things like that.”

Schwartz said the bike/bus lane “seems crazy,” and though he’d be willing to try it, it probably wouldn’t feel safe enough for most residents.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but we continue to hear calls for the strongest possible improvements to make Potero safe for walking and biking,” said Kit Hodge, deputy director of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

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Breed Defends Record on Safer Streets for Biking; Plus: Other Supes Respond

Supervisor London Breed has issued a statement explaining her Twitter comments yesterday on safer streets for bicycling which led her to delete her account. Breed had responded to an inquiry sent out by Twitter user Patrick Traughber to every city supervisor and a few other city officials, asking, “In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling in San Francisco?”

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

In her initial answer, Breed cited “the bad behavior of some bicyclist,” which led several people to respond in protest. Breed tried to clarify that she’s “not blaming anyone,” and that she’s “been fighting to help make streets safer for all,” but then shut down her account minutes into the discussion. Breed has a record of making abrasive comments on Twitter, arguing with constituents and getting press attention for it.

In her written statement, Breed defended her record of standing up for street redesign projects like Masonic Avenue and Fell and Oak Streets in the face of anti-bike vitriol. Here’s what she had to say:

I suspended my account because I realized twitter can be extremely time consuming and it’s too hard to have nuanced policy discussions in 140 characters. I want to take some time to think about how I use this medium in the future.

With respect to the bike exchange, my record is clear! I have been a consistent and effective advocate for bike projects in our city. I got the Oak and Fell bike lanes implemented well ahead of schedule. I led the effort to fund the Masonic Blvd project which includes dedicated bike lanes, and I’ve voted for every bike project that’s come before the Transportation Authority, including the popular bike share program just implemented in our city.

My point was not that I think bicyclists’ behavior should be an impediment to new projects. My point was bicyclists’ behavior is the complaint I hear most often from those who oppose the projects. So as a practical matter, those behavioral concerns — whether you think they’re accurate or inaccurate, right or wrong — make it harder to get new projects moving, harder to win public and political support. But that absolutely has not, and will not, stop me from fighting to win that support.

I’ve faced a lot of fire, a LOT of fire, over the Masonic blvd project and I’ve stood strong in my support. That’s my record. So it does bother me to see Masonic supporters criticizing me over a twitter post. But it is my fault for being unclear about a complicated topic on an inappropriate medium. That is why I am taking a break from that medium.

Breed deserves a lot of credit for supporting those safety improvements. And judging by her statement, she doesn’t think that policymakers should decide whether San Franciscans get to have safer streets based on the perceived behavior of people who use a particular mode of transportation.

Traughber’s question on Twitter yielded responses from a few other supervisors and District Attorney George Gascón, offering a glimpse into those officials’ understanding of how to make streets safer (or just how willing they are to respond to tweets).

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The Faulty Assumptions Behind Supervisor London Breed’s Bike Tweets

Screenshot from Mike Sonn

In response to a Twitter inquiry this morning about what she deems to be “the “biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling,” D5 Supervisor London Breed blamed “the bad behavior of some bicyclist” [sic]. She then argued with several Twitter users before suddenly deleting her Twitter account.

Mike Sonn got a screenshot of the initial tweet “in case she deletes it” (quick thinking), as well as [update below] some of Breed’s follow-up tweets. Breed said that she was just being honest, and argued that when she goes to community meetings about street safety, “they’re all about bad biking behavior,” which she has trouble defending.

The underlying assumption in this argument is that cycling is an activity for a distinct class of people, rather than just a way of getting around. According to this way of thinking, the city cannot implement proven redesigns that make streets safer for the general population until this “class” exhibits suitable behavior. Imagine if you applied the same logic to car infrastructure: No highway or garage would ever be built until we sorted out all the speeding, failure to yield, and distracted driving that kills thousands of Americans each year.

Lumping “cyclists” together as a class fails to consider the large number of San Franciscans who say they’d ride a bike more if streets were made safer. The perceived bad behavior of some people who already ride bikes should not dictate whether we make streets safer for mothers, kids, and all San Franciscans.

It’s very disappointing to hear this sort of nonsense from the supervisor who took credit for expediting the installation of the protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets. That (still incomplete) project has provided a safer, more inviting route for District 5 residents who might otherwise feel too intimidated to hop on a bike.

As for the actual barriers to safer streets for bicycling, a more accurate answer would be the lack of political leadership at City Hall to stand behind street safety redesigns and prioritize funding for bike infrastructure.

Update: Commenter murphstahoe posted his record of his Twitter conversation with Breed following the initial tweet:

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