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Posts from the "Bicycle Plan" Category

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Alta’s Mia Birk Helps Mountain View Kick Off Its Latest Bike Plan

Mia Birk describes some of the keys to Portland’s success in dramatically boosting the use of bicycles for transportation at Mountain View City Hall last Monday evening. Photo: Andrew Boone

How bikeable can Mountain View become? Last Monday, the city welcomed Alta Planning + Design President Mia Birk to help kick off an update to its 2008 Bicycle Transportation Plan. Birk had plenty to share about how Portland transformed itself into one of the best cities for biking in North America.

Birk was hired as the city’s bicycle program manager in 1993. Back then, “people thought of the bicycle as one of two things: it’s either a sport or a toy,” she said. “Those things are true. But bicycling can also be a serious means of transportation — if we take it seriously.”

Portland gradually built an extensive network of “low-stress bikeways” that helped boost cycling dramatically, especially in central neighborhoods where trips tend to be shorter than in the city’s sprawling suburbs. Planners estimated in 2008 that Portland’s entire bikeway network had cost roughly $60 million to construct, accounting for less than one percent of what the city spent on transportation.

Portland’s bike traffic grew faster after various education and encouragement programs were expanded in the early 2000′s. Image: City of Portland

Birk credited Portland’s education programs with boosting the use of bicycles as much as its expansive bikeway network. ”You’ve got to have to infrastructure, but you’re going to be significantly more successful when you encourage people to bike and walk in ways that are meaningful to their daily lives,” she said.

The city’s “personalized travel encouragement programs,” combine materials promoting bicycling and transit with community events like car-free street “block parties” and bike safety education classes.

“We find that we switch 10 to 13 percent of drive-alone trips to bicycling, walking, or transit for about $20 per household,” said Birk. “There have been analyses of these programs years later, and they stick.” Birk also stressed the importance of effective Safe Routes to Schools programs. “These are all about transforming the next generation to just thinking that bicycling and walking is just normal. It’s just how we get around.”

Roughly twice as many people are getting around Mountain View by bicycle since the city’s current Bicycle Transportation Plan was adopted in 2008, according to U.S. Census data. The most recent data available (2013) showed that over 7 percent of the city’s 40,000 employed residents used a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation to work, although one-year estimates have a high margin of error. Data averaged over three years (2010 – 2012) found this figure to be 5 percent for Mountain View residents, having risen from 3 percent just three years earlier (2007 – 2009).

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San Mateo’s Hillsdale Ped/Bike Bridge Moves Onto Final Regulatory Hurdle

The proposed Hillsdale Boulevard Ped/Bike Bridge would span Highway 101 with up to four different entrances. Image: City of San Mateo

Last Monday, San Mateo’s City Council reviewed a draft report ahead of the last step in the permitting process for the city’s ambitious Hillsdale Pedestrian/Bicyclist Bridge over Highway 101. The bridge has been needed ever since the interchange was rebuilt and expanded in 2002, which made crossing the highway more hazardous for people walking and bicycling. The following evening, city staff hosted a community meeting to gather residents’ preferred design alternatives for accessing the bridge from the surrounding neighborhoods.

The interchange’s “full to partial cloverleaf conversion” in 2002 enabled more car traffic to cross and access the highway by removing the southwest and and northeast loops, but nothing mitigated the new safety hazards that result from higher traffic volumes, speeds, and poor sight lines.

68-year-old Palo Alto resident Theodore Hinzte was struck and killed by the driver of a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) vehicle in December 2009, while Hinzte was bicycling on Hillsdale across the double-lane on-ramp to southbound Highway 101. Someone is hit by a car while walking or biking across the interchange at least once every four months, according to collision data summarized in the report:

“The existing five-foot wide sidewalks provide limited room for passing, offer little separation from adjacent high-speed traffic, and are often used by bicyclists who do not want to contend with vehicles at the double-lane entrances to the loop on-ramps. Visibility of approaching vehicles is limited for pedestrians attempting to cross at the loop on-ramp crosswalks because of the reduced design speed profile of the Hillsdale Blvd. overcrossing and ramps, as well as the position of the crosswalks relative to approaching vehicles.”

A ghost bike was installed in memory of Theodore Hinzte, who was killed while bicycling across the double-lane on-ramp shown. Photo: Google Maps

The report also states that the interchange’s poor design contributes to greater vehicle emissions, noise, and traffic congestion, because pedestrians and bicyclists “either minimize use of or completely avoid travelling through the current interchange because they feel unsafe doing so.” To cross the highway elsewhere requires major detours: 2.5 miles to the north at Fashion Island Boulevard, or 4 miles to the south using the Ralston Avenue ped/bike bridge. As a result, many short trips that a safe bridge would accommodate are instead taken by car.

The bridge project proposes a unique four-entrance design, with two entrances at different locations on each side of the highway. Four entrances would provide better connections to San Mateo’s street network for travelers heading from both north and south. The bridge would connect back to Hillsdale at two large intersections on either side of the highway (Franklin and Norfolk) and also connect residential streets on either side, for pedestrians who want to avoid Hillsdale Boulevard altogether.

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Fifth Street Bike Lane Plans on Hold for Central Subway Construction

Plans for bike lanes on Fifth Street, which would connect Market Street to the Fourth and King Caltrain Station, are on hold at least until the Central Subway is completed in 2019.

Fifth Street near Mission Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Originally, the 2009 SF Bike Plan called for conventional bike lanes on Fifth, painted between parked cars and moving cars. But during subway construction, Muni buses on the 30-Stockton and 45-Union have been detoured on to Fifth, meaning buses would have to jostle in and out of the bike lanes to make stops, a less-than-ideal situation. Instead, the SFMTA plans to revisit the plans “to determine what innovative approaches are feasible on Fifth Street,” said Ben Jose, spokesperson for the agency’s Livable Streets division.

Fifth is badly in need of protected bike lanes. Currently, people biking on the street must mix it up with motor vehicles, with only sharrows painted on the broken asphalt. Fifth is a key connector for commuters headed to and from Caltrain and other destinations in SoMa. Neighboring Fourth and Sixth Streets carry even heavier, faster freeway-bound motor traffic (Fourth is a five-lane, one-way street).

In the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy, planners ranked Fifth Street as having the ninth-highest demand for bicycle safety upgrades among streets within the existing official bicycle network. The SFMTA said that ranking was based on bike counts, focus groups, and bicycle crash data.

Years down the line, other streets in this area of SoMa are poised to get protected bike lanes. The Central SoMa plan (formerly the Central Corridor Plan), expected to be adopted later this year, calls for protected bike lanes on Third and upper Fourth Streets, as well as one-way and two-way bikeway options on Folsom, Howard, and Brannan Streets. There’s no timeline set for those projects yet.

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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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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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Video: A Dutch Perspective on U.S. Cycling Infra

SF editor’s note: This video features plenty of examples of San Francisco’s stressful bicycling streets — the kind that the SFMTA hopes to transform in its Bicycle Strategy. The agency has determined that only 10 percent of the city’s bike network is “comfortable for most people.”

Last December I traveled to Amsterdam for the first time. I don’t ride a bike, but as a pedestrian, to be surrounded by human-oriented infrastructure (see these Streetfilms) was a little like visiting another planet. And the strangest part was how normal it was. In the Netherlands, bikes are about as controversial as umbrellas, and only once in eight days did I feel threatened by a driver.

From BicycleDutch, this critique of street conditions in the U.S. flips this dynamic on its head. You’ll chuckle and cringe as the narrator calmly eviscerates typical American bike “infra.” (See? Even their descriptors are more elegant.)

On the other hand, he seems impressed that American cyclists have the fortitude to ride the streets at all, and that bike lanes are “popping up everywhere.”

What do you think, Amerikanen?

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SFMTA Board Backs Full Bike Strategy Build-Out, Though Funding Still Missing

The four levels of "traffic stress" experienced by people on bikes, as defined by the SFMTA.

The SFMTA Board of Directors voiced strong support yesterday for pursuing the most ambitious vision laid out in the agency’s draft Bicycle Strategy, which calls for a system of safe, comfortable bikeways that could elevate the level of cycling in San Francisco to levels seen in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Where the funding to implement that vision will come from, however, remains to be seen.

The Bicycle Strategy currently lays out [PDF] two primary scenarios to make bicycling accessible to a broader segment of San Francisco’s population.

The “Strategic Plan” scenario, which the SFMTA estimates would increase bicycling to an estimated 8 to 9 percent of all trips, would require $200 million over six years. The “System Build-Out” scenario, which is projected to meet the city’s goal of 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020, is budgeted at $600 million.

Though the board didn’t take any action on the Bike Strategy, there seemed to be a strong consensus favoring the boldest option — and not only among vocal bicycle advocates like Cheryl Brinkman and Joél Ramos.

After reviewing the SFMTA’s “needs assessment” map, which marks the most stressful parts of the bike network in red, board member Malcolm Heinicke pointed out that many of the streets deemed too intimidating for anyone but the “strong and fearless” to bike on — such as most of Market Street — are also some of the city’s most important routes and destinations. Less than 10 percent of streets on the bike network are deemed comfortable for most people.

SFMTA board members (left to right) Cheryl Brinkman, Joél Ramos, Cristina Rubke, and Malcolm Heinicke. Photos: The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back

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SFMTA Installs Bike Lanes on Point Lobos and Northern Great Highway

The SFMTA installed bike lanes this weekend on the Great Highway, north of Fulton Street at Golden Gate Park. The Great Highway continues as Point Lobos Avenue as it runs by the Cliff House.

Point Lobos Avenue. Photo: Andy Thornley/Flickr

The bike lanes are buffered from motor traffic on some stretches, and two of the four traffic lanes on Point Lobos in front of the Cliff House were removed, which should help calm car traffic. The bike lane also disappears on the downhill section of Point Lobos, though sharrows were stenciled in the traffic lane, and there’s a wide shoulder between the lane and the row of angled car parking which it runs by.

The bike lanes were installed as part of a re-paving and streetscape improvement project underway by the Department of Public Works that’s expected to be finished by October. The SFMTA will install plastic posts in the buffer zones “later in the construction period,” according to the agency’s Livable Streets Facebook page.

Thanks to Andy Thornley for the photos — he also pointed out that this is part of the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, which runs all the way from Oregon to Mexico.

See more after the jump.

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Spot-By-Spot, or Route-By-Route? SFMTA Refines Its Bicycle Strategy

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Images: SFMTA

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is pondering the most effective way to improve the city’s bicycle network in the coming years as it rolls out its Bicycle Strategy: Should planners focus bicycle improvements on dangerous and stressful spots throughout the city, or focus on upgrading major bike corridors to the highest quality of comfort first?

Tim Papandreou, deputy director of transportation planning for the SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division, posed the question to the SFMTA Board of Directors Policy and Governance Committee today, presenting a color-coded map showing the level of stress posed by traffic conditions at almost any given spot on the city’s official bicycle network.

On one end of the spectrum, spots that are comfortable for most anyone aged eight to 80 to ride a bike were colored with a deep blue. On the other, high-stress spots that are “tolerated only by the ‘strong and fearless’” were marked with a deep red. Needless to say, the map had lots of red, and very little blue.

The “primary corridors” include popular bicycling streets like Market, Polk, Folsom, San Jose, and the Embarcadero. “That’s where the majority of people are already cycling, and that’s where the majority of people will increase their cycling as well,” said Papandreou.

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Letter From London: What a Mayoral Commitment to Cycling Looks Like

A few weeks after SF Mayor Ed Lee displayed a total lack of commitment to the city’s Bike Strategy, London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced an aggressive $1.3 billion plan for a comprehensive bike network, including protected bike lanes.

Streetsblog NYC‘s Stephen Miller reports:

“Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network,” Johnson said. ”I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life.”

The plan includes big changes, including new types of bike lanes for the capital:

  • The flagship initiative, a 15-mile separated crosstown route connecting western and eastern suburbs via central London and business districts including the West End and Canary Wharf.
  • A network of “quietways,” akin to bike boulevards, that will connect suburban and central London neighborhoods.
  • Adding physical separation to the existing “cycle superhighways,” which sometimes offer little more than a stripe of paint on some of London’s busiest roads.

The plan also has a broad policy framework to transform biking in London:

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