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Posts from the "Bicycle Safety" Category

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Sidewalk Cycling Ban Again Proposed for Downtown San Jose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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San Jose Merchants Object to Parking Removal for Bike Lanes on Park Ave

San Jose DOT Deputy Director Paul Smith explains a proposal for buffered bike lanes on Park Avenue. Some merchants have opposed the removal of 168 car parking spaces to make the bike lanes safer and more comfortable. Photo: Andrew Boone

About 150 residents attended a community meeting last Wednesday hosted by the San Jose Department of Transportation in the Willow Glen neighborhood to introduce plans for new bike lanes and sharrows on six streets west of downtown. The projects would complement four less extensive bikeway projects on streets east of downtown which were presented on August 6.

While some merchants opposed the removal of car parking to make the bike lanes safer, SJDOT officials say the improvements are critical to providing a more complete bicycle network in central San Jose, where the city is most dense.

“This circle shows a four-mile radius from the center of downtown San Jose,” explained SJDOT Deputy Director Paul Smith, pointing to a map showing existing and planned bikeways. “It’s about one-quarter of the land area of the city but contains 47 percent of the population and 57 percent of all the jobs in San Jose.”

SJDOT is aiming to create a high-quality east-west route across the city “to support higher numbers of bicyclists of various skill levels” running through downtown as the backbone of its network of “Primary Bikeways.” New conventional and buffered bike lanes, proposed on a 2.8-mile stretch of Park Avenue from the Santa Clara city limit near Newhall Street to Market Street, would connect to the green and buffered bike lanes installed last year on San Fernando Street from the Diridon Caltrain Station to 10th Street.

A total of three miles of new bike lanes are also planned for Lincoln Avenue, Stockton Avenue, and Julian Street, while a route of sharrows would extend 1.5 miles along Scott Street and Auzerais Avenue from MacArthur Avenue (near the 880/280 interchange) to the Los Gatos Creek Trail.

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East San Jose Bikeway Plan Scrutinized, Park Avenue Parking Debate Begins

Bicyclists in the East Side San Jose Ride navigate a variety of hazards to access Sunset Avenue’s existing ped bridge over Highway 280, including bollards and vertical curbs. Photo: Justin Triano

About two dozen residents attended a San Jose Department of Transportation (SJDOT) community meeting last Wednesday, where staff gathered public input on four upcoming bike lane and sharrow projects planned for east San Jose streets. Five other projects, which will add bike lanes and sharrows to streets west of downtown — and, to the chagrin of some, replace some parking along Park and Lincoln avenues with continuous bike lanes — will be presented at a community meeting this Wednesday at Gardner Community Center, 520 West Virginia Street, at 6 pm.

Improvements planned for Jackson Avenue, Madden Avenue, Sunset Avenue/Hopkins Drive, and Ocala Avenue will add or upgrade three miles of bike lanes, sharrows, and signage. These will connect to San Antonio Street, one of the Primary Bikeways identified by the city’s Bike Plan 2020 as a core network of high-quality bikeways.

“The Primary Bikeway Network is designed in a similar way for biking as our highway system is for moving cars,” explained Deputy Director of Transportation Paul Smith. “To go all the way across the city, there need to be routes that everyone can use safely and conveniently — routes that have some type of enhanced treatment, like the green buffered bike lanes on Hedding Street.”

Existing (solid) and planned (dashed) Primary Bikeways in central San Jose. Paths (green), bike lanes (blue), and bike routes (orange) are all included in the network. Image: City of San Jose

The four bike lane and sharrow projects proposed at the community meeting last week will connect bicyclists in many east San Jose neighborhoods to San Antonio Street, and then across town via San Fernando and Park. San Antonio itself could be upgraded to a bicycle boulevard, by minimizing stop signs and adding traffic calming features. These new bike routes, marked with sharrows and signage, will guide cyclists over Highway 280 via existing pedestrian bridges at Madden Avenue and at Sunset Avenue.

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San Jose Proposes Better Bikeways East and West of Downtown

Door-zone bike lanes on Park Avenue, San Jose. Image: Google Maps.

On August 6 and 13, San Jose Department of Transportation officials will present plans to improve traffic safety on ten streets that its Bike Plan 2020 identifies as key links in the city’s proposed 500-mile bikeway network. The improvements include new striping for both conventional and buffered bike lanes, bike detection for traffic signals, sharrows, sidewalks and curb ramps, and the removal of some turn lanes and curbside auto parking.

The streets included are mostly located west of and east of downtown. Several connect to the city’s critical east-west “Primary Bikeway” through downtown, which stretches from the Santa Clara/San Jose city border east, past Highway 680, to Capitol Expressway, via Park Avenue, San Fernando Street, and San Antonio Street. The city’s Primary Bikeways comprise a core network of higher-quality bike lanes and bicycle boulevards, which “serve as key cross-town facilities and support higher numbers of bicyclists of various skill levels” on streets with lower traffic volumes and speeds.

“These projects were chosen because they’re key connections,” said SJDOT Active Transportation Program Manager John Brazil. “We’re focusing our three-year work plan on central San Jose, [within] a four-mile radius from the downtown core, because trips by bike tend to be shorter trips, and are also supported by better transit in the denser urban core,” he said.

Caption. Image: Andrew Boone / Google Maps

Bike lanes (blue) and sharrows (red) are proposed for ten streets east and west of downtown San Jose. The Park-San Fernando-San Antonio Primary Bikeway is shown in light green.

“The central parts of San Jose have the greatest densities of employment and population,” said SJDOT Deputy Director Paul Smith. “This is the area that should move first towards a greater use of bicycles.” San Jose’s Envision 2040 General Plan set a goal to gradually increase walking and bicycling trips over the next 30 years. Doing so will support several of the plan’s key community values, such as an interconnected city, healthy neighborhoods, and environmental leadership.

“Expanding San José’s comprehensive bicycle network outward from the downtown area will give more residents, workers, and customers safe and comfortable access by bike,” wrote the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) on the proposed improvements.
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Santa Clara County Still Plans to Widen Expressways, Despite Lower Traffic

Traffic congestion has worsened on Lawrence Expressway over the past decade, but has remained steady or lessened along Santa Clara County’s other urban expressways. Photo: Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County is still operating under plans that assume it can build its way out of traffic congestion by adding more lanes of traffic, plus new overpasses and underpasses, to the county’s 62 miles of expressways — dangerous arterial roadways that were “upgraded” decades ago with freeway-like ramps and overpasses. This is in stark contrast to the 21st-century approach taken by other cities and transit agencies in the region, which are planning for reduced traffic volumes by centering future urban growth around transit corridors and high-quality networks for walking and bicycling.

The county is still in the preliminary stages of its Expressways Plan 2040 — a long-term plan to “improve” the county’s system of eight 1960′s-era expressways, which “were designed to relieve local streets and supplement the freeway system.” The current expressways plan is a 2008 update of a 2003 planning study, which identified and prioritized among a long list of highway expansion projects that could meet “expressway needs.” Those “needs,” of course, consisted of reducing traffic delays at intersections for drivers.

“The Santa Clara County Expressway Master Plan has historically promoted additional auto capacity and grade separations (separating cars from local cross-traffic to increase their throughput), with limited accommodation for other types of travelers,” SPUR stated in its July report on strategies to improve transportation in the South Bay. “Future expressway master plans should aim for a multi-modal expressways system that is integrated with local efforts to grow sustainable, multi-modal communities.”

Santa Clara County maintains a network of eight expressways, and is coordinating plans to widen and extend Santa Teresa Boulevard and Hale Avenue to Gilroy. Image: Santa Clara County

“Going back to the 1960′s, the expressways were built with the intention of carrying automobiles,” said Santa Clara County Transportation Planner Dawn Cameron. “For over two decades, we’ve been working at what is basically retrofitting an expressway system that was built fifty years ago.”

The 2003 and 2008 plans did recommend new sidewalks, better crosswalks, improved signal timing, and striping changes, all of which would reduce hazards for walking and biking across or along the expressways. Long crossing distances and high speed traffic make the expressways inherently dangerous to walk or bicycle along, or even just to cross.

Twenty-six-year-old Daniel Campbell was killed in April while walking across Capitol Expressway at Seven Trees Boulevard in south San Jose, in what KTVU called a “hit and run accident.” In June, 51-year-old Richard Yanis was severely injured after being struck by a hit-and-run driver just two miles away, on Capitol Expressway at Silver Creek Road.

Despite this clear danger, projects to reduce hazards for people walking or bicycling remain a low funding priority for the expressways, comprising three percent of the estimated $2.5 to $2.8 billion in capital program funding needs identified by the 2008 plan.

In comparison, sound walls and landscaping would receive four percent of funds, and the remaining 93 percent of funds would be spent on increasing vehicle capacity.

Meanwhile, traffic congestion seems to be going away on its own, without billions of dollars in new construction.

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San Jose Candidates Campaign, Pitch Public Safety at SJ Bike Party

Mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo greets voters just before the start of San Jose Bike Party’s “Stars and Stripes Ride” on July 18. Photo: Andrew Boone

San Jose Mayor or City Council candidates Sam Liccardo, Raul Peralez, and Don Gagliardi all made appearances at last Friday’s San Jose Bike Party, pitching improvements to bicycling conditions on the city’s streets as integral to public safety. An estimated 2,500 Bike Partiers rolled out from Arena Green Park in downtown San Jose on the 18-mile, patriotically-themed “Stars & Stripes Ride” through the city’s East Side.

The June 3 primary election narrowed the field of 30 candidates down to eight candidates, competing for four seats on San Jose’s City Council: Mayor and Districts 1, 3, and, 7. Council races for Districts 5 and 9 were determined on June 3: Challenger Magdalenda Carrasco received 53 percent of the votes cast in District 5 (eastern San Jose), and incumbent Donald Rocha won 74 percent of the votes cast in District 9 (south San Jose), each above the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff election on November 4.

“I look forward to bringing back our public services that we’ve lost over the years — bring back our public safety,” announced Peralez, the District 3 Council candidate who finished first in the June 3 primary with 28 percent of the votes cast. Peralez touted his position as a San Jose police officer, and his work “with our youth at Juvenile Hall to try to help better them.”

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Watch: ABC 7 Talks With Officials, Advocates Supporting Vision Zero

ABC 7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings talked to some of San Francisco’s key city officials and advocates about Vision Zero, the campaign to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024, on her show “Beyond the Headlines” Sunday.

ABC's Cheryl Jennings speaks with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Image: ABC 7

ABC’s Cheryl Jennings speaks with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Image: ABC 7

Pedestrian and bike safety was the theme of the half-hour show, during which Jennings interviewed SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin; the family of Dylan Mitchell, who was killed on his bike by a truck driver in the Mission; SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali; and Cheryl Brinkman, vice chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors. Jennings also spoke with Caltrain spokesperson Christine Dunn, who addressed the issue of deaths at railroad crossings.

The show begins with a segment featuring Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who explains why streets like Van Ness Avenue are so dangerous. It’s a great overview of street safety in SF, especially for folks just getting introduced to the issues.

“If we don’t do something different,” Reiskin said, people will continue to die while getting around on SF’s streets. “We’re absolutely committed to doing something different, to redesigning our streets.”

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Safety in Bike-Share: Why Do Public Bikes Reduce Risk for All Cyclists?

Injuries to all cyclists declined after the launch of bike-share systems in Boston and other cities. Photo: Kelly Kline/Flickr

What if Yankees legend Yogi Berra had followed a season with 24 homers and 144 hits with one featuring 27 homers and 189 hits? Would the baseball scribes have declared “Yogi Power Shortage” because only one in seven hits was a homer instead of one in six? Duh, no. The headlines would have read, “Yogi Boosts Production Across the Board.” The fact that a greater share of base hits was singles and doubles would have been incidental to the fact that Yogi’s base hits and homers were both up.

So how is it that a study that documented drops of 14 percent in the number of cyclist head injuries and 28 percent in total cyclist injuries in U.S. cities with bike-share programs got this headline in the Washington Post last month?

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To be sure, those figures were buried in the study. They saw the light of day, thanks to two posts last month by Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt. So readers know that the Post’s headline should have been: “Cities with bike-share programs see marked decrease in cyclist injuries.”

Simple enough, right? Except that to run the story straight up like that would have required the Post to set aside the unholy trinity atop Americans’ ingrained misperception of cycling safety: the beliefs that helmetless cycling is criminally dangerous; that cycling is inherently risky; and that cyclists, far more than drivers, make it so.

To see why, let’s look further into the research data that made its way into the Post story. The team of researchers, two of whom work at the Harborview Injury and Research Center in Seattle, compared five bike-share cities with five cities that did not implement bike-share programs. The bike-share cities had a total drop in reported cyclist injuries of 28 percent, versus a 2 percent increase in the control cities. The effective difference of 30 percentage points is huge.

The safety improvement in bike-share cities is all the more impressive, since those places likely saw a rise in overall cycling activity that one would expect to lead to an increase in cyclist injuries. But the expected increase in injuries is small when you take into account the safety-in-numbers phenomenon that one of us (Jacobsen) has documented for a decade and counting: You’re safer riding a bike in a community where more people ride bicycles.

Let’s train the safety-in-numbers lens on that 28 percent drop in cyclist injuries in bike-share cities and consider why the injury risk fell instead of increasing:

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Will San Mateo County Make Real Changes for a Safer Middlefield Road?

Pedestrians face long crossing distances everywhere along Middlefield Road in North Fair Oaks. Photo: Google Maps

Residents of North Fair Oaks have made it clear that they want a safer Middlefield Road with wider sidewalks, but San Mateo County has yet to commit to a redesign that could make a real difference on this important commercial street.

On Tuesday, county officials presented the results of a community survey on the $12.5 million streetscape project for Middlefield Road between Fifth Avenue and Pacific Avenue in North Fair Oaks. The wide, four-lane street is home to most of the local businesses serving this densely-populated, 1.25-square-mile unincorporated area east of El Camino Real and south of downtown Redwood City.

“The common themes found in the survey’s results, how residents and workers want Middlefield Road to be… were safety, accessibility, attractiveness, and a more active and vibrant urban area,” said Deputy County Manager Peggy Jensen.

A summary of the Middlefield Road Redesign survey results. Image: County of San Mateo

More than 2,100 people responded to the survey, conducted in April and May. Despite strong support for wider sidewalks and bike lanes, the county has still not committed to a road diet on Middlefield Road that’s needed to create space for them. Planners are instead opting to keep the street’s current four-lane configuration on the table, awaiting a recommendation on the street’s design from the North Fair Oaks Community Council expected at their August 28 meeting.

Middlefield Road’s outdated design presents serious hazards for anyone walking across or bicycling on the street, and it even poses difficulties for car access and parking. The long crossing distances for pedestrians prevent many children and seniors from walking across the street at all, especially at unsignalized intersections. With angled parking in most places, drivers’ view of pedestrians stepping from the sidewalk into the street is often blocked by parked vehicles, and drivers can’t see approaching traffic while backing out of a parking space.

The street’s five-foot-wide sidewalks, narrowed even further by power line poles, make walking in groups uncomfortable and don’t allow restaurants and cafes to provide outdoor seating as in the neighboring downtowns of Redwood City, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto. Utilities were placed underground and sidewalks widened in the downtown retail districts of those cities long ago to attract shoppers and diners.

A four-to-three lane conversion would open up room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes. Since the center lanes are often used by left-turning vehicles in the current design, converting them into one center left-turn lane should actually help traffic flow more smoothly, since drivers won’t have to weave as much.

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