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Posts from the "Bicycle Safety" Category

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Folsom Truck Victim Identified as 24-Year-Old Amelie Le Moullac

Amelie Le Moullac. Photo: Voce Communications

The woman killed on her bike by a truck driver at Sixth and Folsom Streets yesterday morning has been identified as 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, SF Weekly reported this morning. Le Moullac was run over by a truck driver making a right turn from Folsom on to Sixth at about 7:07 a.m., and although SFPD says it’s still investigating the crash, officers have already said they have no plans to submit case to the district attorney to investigate the case for potential charges, according to KTVU.

Photo: Voce

Le Moullac, a graduate of Menlo High School in Atherton and the University of Southern California, worked as a client executive at Voce Communications, a public relations firm located on Third Street near Brannan. She may have been riding to work when she was killed.

In a blog post, Voce called Le Moullac “one of our beloved family members.”

“We miss you dearly,” the company said. “We will miss your smile, your humor, your wit and your friendship. You are irreplaceable and unforgettable.”

Le Moullac is the third resident to be killed on a bike in San Francisco streets this year, and each victim was killed by a heavy truck driver, none of whom have been cited or charged. In February, 48-year-old Diana Sullivan was run over and killed while reportedly stopped at a red light at Third and King Streets.

“I’ve had a few close calls when it seemed like the driver didn’t notice me in broad daylight,” said Kristina Varshavskaya, 19, who bikes from her home in the Mission to her office on Townsend Street near Third. “I definitely worry about it in the back of my mind.”

Varshavskaya said she tends to commute on streets with safer bike lanes and calmer traffic, like Townsend and Division Street, which has curbside bike lanes separated by plastic posts.

“Almost all SoMa streets, specifically Folsom, Mission, and Third, from my experience, are always really busy and cars can be pretty aggressive and indifferent to bikers,” she said. The lingering plan for protected bike lanes on Folsom “seems like the safest possible solution.”

Varshavskaya said she was also hit by a driver while walking near Second and Market Streets about two years ago, suffering a broken leg in four places. “I’m pretty alert while biking and definitely more cautious than most people I know.”

Seen on Sixth at Folsom. Photo: ionfeldman/Instagram

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Woman on Bike Killed by Truck Driver on Folsom: Charges Off the Table?

Photo: Will Tran via hhttp://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Bicyclist-killed-in-SoMa-crash-with-truck-4731657.phpSFGate

An unidentified 24-year-old woman was killed while bicycling on Folsom at Sixth Street this morning when she was hit by a big rig truck driver, according to SFPD and media reports.

The victim is the third bicycle rider killed in San Francisco this year, and each death has involved a truck driver. Although the driver seemed to be at fault in each case, none have faced charges.

Here are the details on this morning’s crash, via SFGate:

The crash happened as the truck tried to make a right turn at 7:07 a.m. at Sixth and Folsom streets, police said.

Both the bicyclist, a woman about 30 years old, and the truck driver were headed east on Folsom. When the trucker tried to turn south onto Sixth, he hit the bicyclist, said Officer Bryan Lujan.

The woman died at San Francisco General Hospital. Neither her name nor the name of the trucker has been released.

The truck driver stayed at the scene and was interviewed by police. He has not been cited. The truck was later towed away.

As police investigated the crash, the woman’s crumpled blue, road-riding bicycle lay at the southwest corner of the intersection. A bike helmet was nearby.

Police have already determined that the truck driver won’t face any charges, according to a tweet from KTVU reporter Brian Flores, who also specified the victim’s age at 24.

SFPD spokesperson Dennis Toomer said he couldn’t confirm those reports, however. “This is still an on-going investigation and I cannot confirm if charges are pending for a later date or not,” he said. Toomer said state law also prevents SFPD from releasing information about the victim or driver at this time.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, called the crash “another tragic reminder of what can happen when bikes and large trucks mix on our city’s high-speed corridors.”

Folsom, a street designed as a one-way, high-speed motorway — common in SoMa — has a painted, unprotected bike lane at the site where the victim was killed. “Folsom Street is one of the city’s few designated bike routes to downtown,” said Shahum. “Still, this street feels intimidating. This core route sees thousands of bike riders every day, yet large trucks travel next to these bike riders — completely unprotected.”

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Tonight: Tell the SFMTA What You Think About Its Proposal for a Safer Polk

Thanks to Lisa Ratner for shooting this video on Polk last Friday.

This evening’s open house community meeting is your chance to tell the SFMTA what you think of its proposal for Polk Street, which, according to Supervisor David Chiu and SFMTA planners, will make the street safe enough for a broad range of San Franciscans to bike on.

The plan for Polk, between Union and California Streets.

As we’ve reported, the plan includes a partial protected bike lane in the southbound direction. For nine blocks, between California and Union Street, the SFMTA’s proposal includes only minimal improvements for bicycle safety – certainly not enough to invite mothers to ride with children — in an effort to preserve car parking for merchants, one of whom tried try to stop Streetsblog from filming the street after a bike crash.

Here’s a refresher on the full plan [PDF], which encompasses 20 blocks of Polk, between McAllister and Union Streets.

The 11-block southern segment between McAllister and California will include a raised, protected bike lane with bike traffic signals. The northbound side of that segment will include a green, buffered bike lane that, depending on the block, will run either curbside (without parking) or next to the parking lane.

On the nine-block segment between California and Union, only a southbound, green-painted bike lane will be added, placed between parked cars and moving cars. Most of the day, the northbound direction won’t include a bike lane at all — riders will still be forced to mix with motor vehicles, much like you see in the video above. Curbside parking will be banned on that side of the street to make room for bikes during morning commute hours, but at other times, the only provision for cycling will be green-backed sharrows in the traffic lane.

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Cyclist Injured on Polk Street Block Where Merchants Fought Protected Lane

On Friday at about 5 p.m., I came across a crash scene on Polk Street at Pine. A bicycle rider had been struck by a driver and thrown into another car, and he was being hauled away in a stretcher. As it happened, I was pedaling up Polk to meet with Lisa Ratner, a videographer, to get some shots of the dangerous traffic conditions on the street (stay tuned for that video later this week).

Without a protected bike lane, conditions on Polk Street force cyclists to mix it up with traffic. Photo: Lisa Ratner

I reached Lisa two blocks up at Sacramento Street, told her about the crash, and we headed to the scene, where the ambulance was ready to drive away with the victim. After the emergency vehicles left, one police officer remained, as well as one of the drivers who was involved in the crash (not the driver who struck the cyclist, however), and a shop worker from the adjacent corner store who said he saw it happen.

We began asking the two witnesses about what happened, while Lisa began filming shots of the intersection. At one point during the interview, the man who works at the corner shop told us that we could not film the street, attempted to block Lisa’s camera, and told her to delete the footage she had taken. We told him several times that filming a public street is perfectly legal, but he wouldn’t budge. He did only let up after we asked the SFPD officer to assure him that were allowed to film.

From the moment we began asking questions, and even before Lisa began filming, the shop worker seemed to be riled up about the crash, repeatedly insisting that the bicycle rider was at fault. Lisa didn’t attempt to film him — she later told me that she did not want to aggravate him any further because she felt unsafe. (The man told us that he believed we would misleadingly frame the driver as being at fault. I overheard him repeat this to a bystander behind us.)

I asked the SFPD today for official information on the crash, but department spokesperson Dennis Toomer said he didn’t have any available. Here’s what I pieced together based on accounts from the shop worker and the driver who was at the scene. Keep in mind that this crash happened on a block of Polk that is slated to get a southbound protected bike lane in the SFMTA’s plan to improve safety on the corridor, though it will only start at California. North of California, plans include only a conventional bike lane southbound, and no bike lane northbound.

The driver said he was making a right turn from southbound Polk on to Pine (waiting for pedestrians to cross). The bicycle rider was passing to the left of his car when another driver traveling in the opposite direction on Polk hit him and knocked him into the car of the right-turning driver. The oncoming car’s mirror was knocked off, and the driver fled the scene. The victim, a man who looked to be in his thirties, appeared conscious and was holding his head when I saw him on the stretcher.

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The Sorry State of Caltrans’ Dumbarton Bridge and Bay Trail

Debris on Dumbarton Bridge

Garbage and debris on the Dumbarton Bridge frequently reduce the usable width of the mixed-use path from eight feet to six feet. Photos: Andrew Boone

The Dumbarton Bridge, which connects Menlo Park in southern San Mateo County with Fremont in the East Bay, remains the only bridge that allows bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the San Francisco Bay from east to west, with an eight-foot wide path on its southern side. From the bridge, the path continues for three miles along Bayfront Expressway (Highway 84) through Menlo Park to Marsh Road. It’s an important biking and walking connection for both commuting and recreation.

Longitudinal cracks on the Bay Trail.

Longitudinal cracks on the Bay Trail near Marsh Road. These cracks can easily catch the front wheel of a bicycle, causing over-the-handlebars crashes.

Poor maintenance of the bridge path and Bay Trail by Caltrans, however, continue to discourage use. The bridge path is not swept often enough to keep it free of glass and other debris, which reduces the usable width of the path from the minimum eight feet required by Caltrans’ own Highway Design Manual. Occasionally, large objects such as car bumpers and plastic buckets litter the path. From mid-May to mid-June, large piles of highway debris blocked a two-foot section of the path. The culprit? After the roadway was cleaned, the garbage that had accumulated there was dumped onto the car-free path. Though the large items littering the path have been removed, glass shards and dirt remain.

John Fox, who has commuted by bike from Fremont to Stanford University for the last 13 years, finds the bumpy, pothole-filled conditions of Marshlands Road, used to access the bridge from the East Bay, a greater challenge. “That road is horrible, it’s like a cheese grater,” he said. “In the winter time a lot of us ride until dark, and then it’s pretty dangerous.”

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SFCTA Board Approves Funding For Masonic, Second Street, and More

The Masonic re-design will now be fully funded. Image: SF Planning Department

Federal funding for street redesigns on Masonic Avenue, Second Street, and other improvements was unanimously approved yesterday by the Board of Supervisors, acting as the board of the SF County Transportation Authority.

The projects selected to receive a chunk of the regional One Bay Area grant also include a bike/ped path on Mansell Street in McLaren Park, pedestrian safety improvements on Broadway in Chinatown, and bike and pedestrian upgrades on streets around the Transbay Transit Center. Altogether, $35 million in OBAG funds will go toward projects in SF.

A crash between a car and a fire department truck seen last week, after the car driver reportedly ran a red light. Photo: Michael Helquist

The most anticipated project in the package — and the most contentious – was the overhaul of Masonic, a deadly street which is slated to get raised bike lanes, reduced traffic lanes, a tree-lined median, bus bulb-outs, and other pedestrian safety upgrades. Of the estimated $18 million needed for the project, OBAG will provide $10 million, while the SFMTA is expected to provide the remaining $8 million.

SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Kristin Smith wrote in a blog post yesterday:

This is a huge win for safer, more complete San Francisco streets — especially on Masonic Avenue, one of San Francisco’s most deadly streets. In the last five years, 122 people have been injured and two people killed, just on 2/3 of a mile of Masonic. Thanks to today’s funding decision, this deadly corridor will be transformed into a safer place for all road users.

Even though the Masonic project was approved last September after several years of planning and extensive outreach, a few dozen residents at the hearing told the board to reject funding for the plan because it would remove all on-street car parking on Masonic. They claimed that the safety upgrades were actually dangerous, would add congestion, and that they weren’t notified about the planning process. Almost as many speakers who backed the project attested to the long-overdue need to save lives and make the street more accessible to bicycling.

Supervisors — including Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed, who penned a joint letter in February urging funding for the project — gave a sympathetic nod to the complainers, but didn’t budge on their commitment to safer streets.

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Heinicke to SFMTA: Let’s Not Dilly-Dally With More Forced Turns on Market

Some 20 percent of drivers on Market Street still violate the forced turn at 10th Street, but SFMTA board member Malcom Heinicke thinks implementing a full ban along lower Market will be more effective at gaining compliance. Photo: Jym Dyer/Flickr

In a continued push for a car-free Market Street, SFMTA board member Malcom Heinicke urged the agency to not waste time and money on phasing in more forced turn restrictions, instead calling for a full ban on private autos on lower Market.

“It is my strong supposition that if we close Market altogether, say from Tenth Street or Van Ness all the way to the Ferry Building, and you have an actual uniform ban, that the need for enforcement would be less than if you’re doing it sort of block by block,” Heinicke told SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin at a board meeting last week.

Within the next couple of months, SFMTA staff plans to release a list of recommended intersections to divert westbound car traffic off Market, expanding upon the forced right turns implemented for eastbound traffic at 10th and Sixth Streets in 2009. The sites under consideration include Market’s intersections at O’Farrell/Grant Streets, Sutter Street, Geary Street, as well as Battery at Bush Street, where it feeds traffic on to westbound Market, according to SFMTA transportation planner Andrew Lee.

But while the SFMTA estimates that 80 percent of drivers are complying with the existing forced turn at 10th — where the through-traffic lane was physically removed — only 30 percent are adhering to the turn at Sixth, where no physical measures were put in place to discourage drivers from continuing down the street.

Reiskin cautioned that relying on police enforcement to get drivers to comply with forced turns isn’t cheap, noting that the agency has paid the SFPD up to $1 million to enforce the current turn restrictions. He also said that the ongoing construction of the Central Subway makes it difficult to divert traffic at some spots.

“We don’t have many places — there may be one or two,” said Reiskin, “where we can hard-wire and design in the turn restrictions, but for the most part, we can’t, because we need to allow transit and taxis and delivery vehicles to continue through, which means it’s softer on design and heavier on enforcement, which is extraordinarily expensive.”

In response, Heinicke said he “would favor the whole enchilada” of a car ban on Market to maximize the potential improvements in Muni speeds and safer conditions for walking and biking.

“I think that would also allow you to realize the transit and bike benefits that we’re talking about,” he said. “Two blocks of safety and expedited transit is as good as nothing because then you get to the next block and you’re right back in the traffic and the unsafe zone, so people aren’t going to make the choices we want them to make.”

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Belmont Council Member: “Cars Come First” on Deadly Ralston Avenue

Belmont residents fed up with dangerous conditions from speeding drivers on Ralston Avenue have launched an online petition with nearly 600 signatures so far, calling on the city council to implement safety improvements.

But proponents of safer streets apparently can’t count on support from Belmont City Council Member Coralin Feierbach, who voiced her opposition to bike lanes and red-light cameras this week. “Cars come first,” said Feierbach, according to the Daily Journal. ”It’s our lifeline.”

Coralin Feierbach

Coralin Feierbach. Photo: Belmont Patch

Feierbach seemed to have no problem with the fact that “when you ride your bike on Ralston you take your life into your own hands,” deeming it “impossible” to reduce speeding from drivers.

With crosswalks typically placed up to a quarter-mile apart, and the street spanning five wide lanes of motor traffic, walking on Ralston can also be nerve-racking, and often deadly.

But Feierbach’s defense of the dangerous status quo on Ralston won’t do much to help mothers like May Dembowski, who lives in downtown Belmont and regularly walks her 8-year-old daughter on Ralston to Central Elementary School.

“I’m nervous all the time — it’s very stressful to cross. We’ve almost been hit by cars several times,” said Dembowski. “The crosswalk lights don’t give children enough time to get across — even many adults can’t make it. And many drivers are in a hurry and just run the red lights.”

There are 10 schools on or near Ralston, a 2.5-mile long street where drivers often exceed speed limits, which vary from 30 to 40 mph, according to data from the Belmont Public Works Department [PDF]. The street serves as a connection for drivers between the 101 and 280 highways.

According to data from the Belmont Police Department, Ralston saw 70 traffic crashes last year — an average of one every five days. Since 1998, the street has seen an average of 65 crashes annually, according to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). In those crashes, 193 people suffered injuries — 160 drivers or passengers, and 33 people walking or biking.

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New Video Teaches Muni Drivers How to Share the Streets With Cyclists

The SFMTA and the SF Bicycle Coalition recently teamed up to produce a training video that teaches Muni operators about safe practices when sharing the road with bicycle riders.

“Muni drivers help set the tone of the street for everyone, so it is especially important that they have the skills to lead by example,” said SFBC Deputy Director Kit Hodge. “This video is an important tool for educating Muni operators about how to drive safely around the rapidly increasing number of people biking throughout San Francisco.”

Bike safety instructor Bert Hill, who had a major part in producing the video, now uses it in the bicycle safety courses he provides to Muni operators for the SFMTA. The video is shown to all new Muni drivers, as well as any veteran drivers who must repeat their training, he said.

“The main things we’re trying to address are helping operators understand things that bicyclists are doing that are completely legal and very safe,” he said. “But it’s also important for them to recognize what bicyclists who aren’t trained in safety tend to do, which they may think is safe, but really isn’t.”

Muni operators are just one group the SFBC teaches bike safety courses to — the organization taught 4,800 new bike riders in 2012, and over 1,000 taxi driver applicants. The courses, Hill noted, have encouraged some Muni operators to start biking to work themselves. “I know two who ride their bike in and park it to drive the bus,” he said.

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SFMTA Drops Protected Bike Lane Proposals for Most of Polk Street

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency has taken protected bike lanes off the table for 14 of 20 blocks of Polk Street under its latest design options [PDF].

On 14 blocks of Polk Street, from Geary to Union Street, the SFMTA's most ambitious proposal only includes conventional bike lanes. Protected bike lanes are apparently off the table. Image: SFMTA

The agency, it seems, has backed down from making bicycling on Polk safe enough for a broader range of San Franciscans, in order to placate merchants who have vociferously opposed removing a small percentage of parking to make room for safety improvements that could actually boost business on a street where 85 percent of people arrive without a car.

Instead, the SFMTA’s most ambitious proposal for Polk between Geary and Union Streets only includes bike lanes that, depending on the block, would run either curbside (without parking) or in the door zone — the kinds of bike lanes that only make a relatively small percentage of people feel comfortable enough to ride.

No longer included are options [PDFpresented by the agency in December which would have provided bike lanes that run along the curb consistently, with some stretches protected from traffic by parking lanes.

“The city is setting its sights too low if they’re not committing to a truly family-friendly bikeway that really does offer people of all ages and skill levels a safe place to ride,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “We know Polk Street is already one of the more intimidating places for people walking and biking, and we also know there’s a major problem with dooring.”

In all, the SFMTA now provides three design options for the two sections of Polk — north and south of Geary. For both sections, the SFMTA has included an option that would essentially maintain the status quo for bicycling conditions, making no changes to the bike lanes except for some new green paint.

In terms of the amount of parking that could be removed, SFMTA staff said the range for these options is between 4 to 14 percent of the 2,100 on-street spaces within a block of the corridor. (When off-street parking is taken into account, for a total supply of 5,100 spaces, our calculations put the range at 1.6 percent to 6 percent.)

On the six-block stretch of Polk south of Geary to McAllister, the SFMTA does provide an option for protected bike lanes that would eliminate northbound motor traffic (precluding a potential re-route of the 19-Polk onto the street) and preserve much of the parking. Another option for that stretch would create buffered bike lanes with mixed levels of protection, running curbside on some stretches, between parked cars and moving cars on others.

Regardless of the options chosen, SFMTA planners said they would add all of the proposed pedestrian safety upgrades, like corner bulb-outs, re-timing traffic signals for slower speeds, and daylighting to improve visibility at corners.

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