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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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Yielding to Cars-First Merchants, SFMTA Board Approves Polk Plan As Is

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted unanimously yesterday to approve the watered-down plan to redesign Polk Street with a protected bike lane along one side of the street for 10 of 20 blocks.

The board rebuffed efforts by member Cheryl Brinkman to preserve the possibility of adding protected bike lanes along the upper half of the corridor before the project is constructed. Instead, the board added the condition that SFMTA staff would report on the impacts of the redesign a year after it’s completed, when they will consider extending protected bike lanes in a follow-up project.

The decision came after a four-hour hearing, where hundreds of people spoke. Roughly half called for a bolder project that puts safety first, and the rest — many of them merchants — opposed the project in order to preserve car parking.

The board did not discuss the block of Polk between California and Pine Streets, where Mayor Ed Lee’s optometrist successfully lobbied to remove bike lane protection from the project six months after it was presented to the public. When asked if he’d taken any action on the project, Mayor Lee told Streetsblog last week, “We shouldn’t promote bicycle safety over pedestrian safety over cars and parking. I think they’re all going to be important.”

Supervisors Jane Kim and Julie Christensen, whose districts share a border along Polk, weighed in at the hearing.

D6 Supervisor Kim took the stronger stand for a safer Polk, calling on the SFMTA to “prioritize people over cars and to model Vision Zero for the rest of the city.”

“As someone who’s a beginning cyclist… if you want more people like me driving less, I’m going to want to see protected bike lanes,” said Kim. “That’s just the reality.” With heavy motor traffic and steeper grades on nearby streets, she said, “Polk Street is the only corridor that we can have a protected, green bike lane for the entire north-south” route. She also said she was “disappointed” about the removal of the bike lane on the block between California and Pine.

Christensen, who was recently appointed by Lee to fill David Chiu‘s District 3 seat, called on the board to approve the project as-is, so as not to delay the pedestrian safety improvements or undergound utility work, and “continue to debate the merits of changes further north.”

Unlike Kim, she did not make the case that a safer design should be an urgent priority. “We have thousands of people storing their cars on the street,” said Christensen. “While we want to discourage them from doing that, that is not going to change overnight.”

Read more…

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SFMTA Board Approves Watered-Down Polk Plan, May Revisit It Later

Half of one side of Polk will get a protected bike lane under the approved plan. Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted today to approve the plan to redesign Polk Street with a protected bike lane along one side of the street for 10 of 20 blocks. After a four-hour hearing, the board approved the plan with the condition that SFMTA staff would report on the impacts of the project a year after it’s completed, when they will consider extending protected bike lanes along the upper half of the corridor.

“Of course, we wanted the full suite of Vision Zero improvements along the length of Polk,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “But the improvements that were approved today are the foundation to build on and as we work through the massive construction on Polk, and the safety improvements are implemented, the MTA’s data-driven approach, I predict, is going to show that safety improves, traffic is reduced, businesses thrive, and will back up the case for extending pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements for the entire length of the street.”

We’ll have more coverage of the hearing tomorrow.

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Driver Kills Cyclist Charles Vinson, 66, at 14th and Folsom

14th and Folsom Streets. Photo: Google Maps

Update: SFPD issued a response below.

Charles Vinson, 66, was struck by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets in the Mission yesterday and died from his injuries today. A witness saw the driver of a Honda Civic “blow through a red light and strike the bicyclist as the bicyclist waited for the light to turn green,” according to the Examiner. Vinson suffered traumatic head injuries, and was wearing a helmet.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick called for a moment of silence for Vinson today at an SFMTA Board hearing on the redesign for a safer Polk Street.

“Mr. Vinson’s passing is sadly the latest example of the growing public demand for safe cycling that’s outpacing the city’s work to provide that space for them,” said Budnick.

When asked for confirmation of the witness report and information on any charges filed against the driver, SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan issued this statement:

I don’t have any information yet on any citations or charges, but with any investigation, should the facts lead to an arrest/citation of one party, the officers will do just that. As far as the witness reports, the investigating officers are still working on determining who was at fault and I cannot confirm if the driver ran the red light.

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Safety in Numbers: Biking Is Safest in Nations With the Most People on Bikes

Countries with high cycling rates also have low rates of fatalities per distance biked. Graph: International Transport Forum [PDF] via Amsterdamize

The more people get around by bike, the safer it is, according to the “safety in numbers” rule first popularized by researcher Peter Jacobsen.

This chart from the International Transport Forum [PDF] shows how the safety in numbers effect plays out at the national scale. As you can see, biking is safer in the countries where people bike the most.

There was, however, some variation country to country. The report noted that Korea’s cycling fatality rates were greater than what its biking rates would suggest. Researchers speculated that might be due to a rapid recent growth in cycling. Perhaps, they write, “neither cyclists nor other transport participants have had time to assimilate each other’s presence.”

Meanwhile, in some nations with high cycling rates, biking has become even safer over time. That was the case in Denmark, where cycling rates have been high but fairly stable for the last decade, but fatality rates have dropped 40 percent during the same period.

The safety in numbers has been observed at the scale of cities too. Recently, for example, bicycle injury rates in Minneapolis have declined as total ridership has risen. The same trend has played out in New York, as cycling has increased while total injuries and fatalities have not.

Do more people on bikes cause cycling to become safer, or does safer infrastructure attract more people to bike? There’s no conclusive evidence either way, but the answer is probably a mix of both. Safer infrastructure entices more people to ride, and more people riding instill greater awareness on the part of motorists and increase the demand for safer infrastructure.

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Protected Lanes Preview: Boston, Detroit, Indy, Minneapolis, Denver & More

Shelby Street in Indianapolis is a model for that city’s two latest protected bike lane projects.

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Spring is three weeks away, and that means it’s time for one of American cities’ newest rituals: announcing the year’s protected bike lane construction plans.

Every few days over the last month, another U.S. city has released plans or announced progress in building protected lanes. Even more excitingly, many are in downtown and commercial areas, which tend to have the highest latent demand for biking. Let’s take a scan from east to west of the projects that popped onto our radar in February alone, to be built in 2015 or 2016:

Boston is “heading toward” a firm plan for protected lanes on the crucial Commonwealth Avenue artery between Boston University Bridge and Brighton, Deputy Transportation Commissioner Jim Gillooly said February 9. In column the day before, the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson endorsed the concept on the strength of a trip to Seattle, where he rode a Pronto! Bike Share bicycle down the 2nd Avenue bike lane.

“I did something here I am scared to death to do in Boston,” Jackson wrote. “I bicycled on a weekday in the city’s most bustling business district.”

New York City is on track to upgrade several blocks of Columbus Avenue near Lincoln Square with greater protection, improving connections to the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown, after a February 10 thumbs-up from the local community board.

Columbus, Ohio, said February 2 that a 1.4-mile bidirectional protected lane on Summit near the Ohio State University campus is “just the beginning” of plans for biking improvements, thanks to advocacy group Yay Bikes and a receptive city staff.

Detroit is installing southeast Michigan’s first protected lanes this year on a “very short segment” of East Jefferson. Advocacy group Detroit Greenways says it’s “precedent setting and could serve as a model for all of Detroit’s major spoke roads.”

Read more…

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Outer London’s Huge Bike Plan Could Break the Cycle of Bad Suburban Transit

Kingston’s rail station would become a “major cycle hub” under London’s plan to pour tens of millions of dollars into biking improvements in three of its suburbs.

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

You may have heard that London has just approved a spectacular crosstown protected bike lane. But another part of its plan has, ironically, gotten little press in the United States.

As London’s regional government begins what may be the biggest municipal bicycling investment in the history of Europe, it’s setting aside $140 million for the suburbs.

“Cycling is, I think the secret weapon of suburban sustainable transport,” says Transport for London Director of Surface Strategy and Planning Ben Plowden. “It is much more like car travel than transit is.”

It’s almost impossible to build car-lite suburbs with transit alone

In the United Kingdom as in the United States, efforts to reduce car dependence have relied mostly on the biggest tool in the shed: transit.

In London and New York, transit reigns supreme. The cities’ woven grids of bus and rail lines carry the overwhelming share of non-car trips in each city.

But in smaller cities and suburbs, transit needs help. With further to walk to each bus stop, fewer people ride. With fewer riders, buses run empty and it becomes cripplingly expensive for agencies to run them frequently. With infrequent buses, even short transit trips can take hours.

It’s a situation familiar to anyone who’s ridden transit in a U.S. suburb or small city — let alone tried to balance the budget of a suburban transit agency.

“You’re not going to have a $125 an hour bus with 43 seats coming through all these cul-de-sacs,” said David Bragdon, a former New York City sustainability chief who now runs Transit Center, a transit-focused policy nonprofit. “It just doesn’t work.”

That’s why London, working to stave off congestion as its population keeps climbing, is looking hard for better ways to improve suburban transit. And that’s what led its transport agency to the bicycle.

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Mom and Toddler on Bike Injured By SUV Driver at Geary and 7th

Image: KPIX

An SUV driver reportedly ran a red light and crashed into a mother and her toddler on a bike at Geary Boulevard and 7th Avenue in the Inner Richmond at about 4 p.m. on Friday. The driver was reportedy headed westbound on Geary as the mother cycled southbound on 7th.

“People tried to honk at the driver to warn them what they were about to hit, but it was apparently too late,” KPIX’s Andrea Borba reported on Friday.

According to KPIX and the Richmond SF blog, the mother suffered a broken leg and the toddler appeared not to have sustained serious injuries. KPIX said a pediatrician happened to be on site and put the woman’s ankle in a splint.

We haven’t heard back yet from SFPD for updates on the victims’ conditions, confirmation that the driver ran a red, and information on any citations issued to the driver.

“We are relieved that mother and child are on the mend,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “I hope Mayor Lee and Police Chief Suhr take this crash to heart and send a strong message to San Franciscans to pay attention and think twice when operating thousand-pound machines in our dense, people-rich urban environment.”

Geary, a six-lane motorway, is one of the city’s high-injury corridors, and speeding is common there. The Geary Bus Rapid Transit project will improve safety on the street, but that isn’t expected to start construction until 2017. In addition to a center-running busway, the project calls for trimming Geary’s six general traffic lanes would down to four and adding sidewalk bulb-outs at many intersections.

There were at least two bicycle crashes on Geary at 7th and 8th Avenues between 2012 and 2013, according to a map of SFPD data.

The latest crash “is another example of the culture of speeding and how we can’t wait any longer for street improvements to come to Geary,” said D1 Supervisor Eric Mar. “We’re behind other cities that have implement slow zones and other physical changes to areas near schools, seniors, and other vulnerable populations. I wish the victims a speedy recovery and will continue to push for safer streets in the Richmond District and throughout the city.”

Budnick said the crash also highlights the importance of the SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” program, which targets the five most common violations that cause severe and fatal pedestrian and bicycle crashes, including red-light running. Richmond Station is the only one to have met the campaign’s goals so far.

“Red light-running is epidemic in our city,” said Budnick. “This is exactly why it’s so important that the SF Police Department focus citations on the five most dangerous traffic behaviors. We can achieve Vision Zero — ending all traffic fatalities and severe injuries — but it will take action.”

“It could be your wife or your child crossing the road,” he added. “It is your neighbor.”

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Eyes on the Street: Construction Begins on Fell and Oak Bike Lane Protection

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The Oak bike lane at Divisadero Street, where one of the first protective islands is taking shape. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Crews are at work building the planted concrete islands that will separate the Fell and Oak bike lanes from motor traffic. As we reported earlier this month, the long-delayed project is now supposed to wrap by April. The new construction is a sign that city agencies may make good on that.

This week crews carved up the asphalt at several spots along the Oak Street bike lane’s buffer zone, from Baker to Scott Streets, to prepare for the installation of the islands. The construction barriers provide a preview of the better sense of protection along the bike lane once the islands are complete.

According to Department of Public Works spokesperson Dadisi Najib, DPW and the SF Public Utilities Commission expect to finish the islands on Oak by March 20, and work on Fell will be completed between March 2 and April 30.

The protective bike lane islands are the final component of the safety measures going in on Fell and Oak. Pedestrian bulb-outs with rain gardens have been under construction for months.

Hopefully, the islands will also finally send the message to drivers to stop parking in the bike lanes, and the ranks of daily bike commuters who use them will swell from the current level of roughly 1,800.

Oak at Baker Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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A Protected Bike Lane Network Springs Fully Formed from Advocates’ Brains

The City of Halifax didn’t have a plan for a connected protected bike lane network, so advocates made one themselves. All images: Halifax Cycling Coalition

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

For supporters of cycling both inside and outside government, the playbook has become familiar.

Lobby city planners to make a bike network plan. Get it funded. Make it as forward-thinking and ambitious as possible. Once you’ve drawn a bunch of lines on the city’s official map, select the most important projects and start to fight political battles street by street, compromising every step of the way with those who argue that biking facilities don’t need to be that common or that comfortable or that direct — forcing elected officials to weigh the needs for this parking lane or that turn lane one block at a time.

It’s a time-tested strategy, and it can certainly get results. But this winter in Halifax, a handful of volunteer biking advocates decided to try turning the process upside down.

Working on their own time over two long evenings with a clipboard and a survey wheel, Ben Wedge and Matthew Eronoa mapped an entire 23-mile protected bike lane network themselves from the street up.

Read more…

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Market Street Has More Bike Traffic Than You Thought

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An unprecedented jump last month (on the right) reported by the Market Street bike counter appears to be explained by an improvement in the counter’s accuracy. Image: SFMTA/Eco Counter

The Market Street bicycle counter has been undercounting two-wheeled traffic — and not because of a computer glitch. Starting last month, the counter reported a huge jump in bike commuters. How come? All indications point to a recent tweak to the bike lane that guides more riders over the counter’s underground sensor.

On several days this year, the counter has tallied nearly 4,500 people cycling eastbound on Market at Ninth Street. On most weekdays, at least 3,700 riders have been counted. That’s about 1,000 more riders, on average, than were counted each day last January.

Last month may have been California’s driest January on record, but weather doesn’t explain the jump. Even in the warmest months last year, ridership typically ranged from 2,700 to 3,200. Prior to 2015, the record was 4,045, set on August 7 last year.

So what changed in the first week of January? The SFMTA installed plastic posts along the bike lane’s edge that guide bike riders to stay in the bike lane and roll over the bike sensor. Previously, many bike commuters passing by the counter rode outside the bike lane, instead using the adjacent traffic lane since it was closed to cars in 2009.

SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said that based on the agency’s manual bike counts, the bike counter remains about 95 percent accurate, the same rate as before. It’s “plausible” the posts explain the recent jump in the bike count, he said. No other likely explanation has been put forth, though the SFMTA has yet to verify with the counter’s manufacturer that it does not need to be recalibrated.

Getting a better read on Market Street bike traffic is one more way the SFMTA is improving the understanding of how San Franciscans’ travel habits are changing. Earlier this month, the agency reported its new survey methodology has revealed that most trips in the city are made without a private automobile.

Hat tip to Joe Chojnacki for pointing out the data jump.

Today’s count as of about 6 p.m. Photo: Aaron Bialick