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Two Horrific Bay Area Crashes Highlight Need for Faster Action

Fulton Street in Berkeley near where Schwarzman was severely injured while cycling. Image from Google Street View.

Fulton Street in Berkeley near where Schwarzman was severely injured. Image from Google Street View.

Megan Schwarzman, 42, a research scientist at the Berkeley School of Public Health, was riding her bike southbound on Fulton Street near Bankcroft Way on Tuesday around 5 p.m. when she was hit and dragged under a car driven by Berwick Haynes, a Sunnyvale resident. Haynes remained at the scene and was later arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, according to reports. Schwarzman’s injuries were so severe that the Berkeley Police sent its “Fatal Accident Investigation Team.” Fortunately, Schwarzman is expected to live, reported Berkeleyside, an independent news site.

It’s difficult to see what, if anything, Schwarzman could have done to ride more safely. Reportedly, she was wearing florescent green safety gear, a helmet, and she had lights on her bike. She was struck from behind. There’s no way anyone can call this an “accident,” given the conditions on Fulton—its design encourages dangerous speeds and provides no protection for cyclists.

According to the Daily Californian citing data from the California Highway Patrol, there were ten reported bicycle-versus-motor vehicle collisions at the intersection of Fulton Street and Bancroft Way from 2001 to 2014. Meanwhile, Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates has declared that he wants to make Berkeley the most bike-friendly city in the US.

Then why do such conditions persist? It wasn’t a cost issue: the city repaved Fulton last year. “We asked them to put in bike lanes and got our usual response that they need to do a traffic study,” said Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director for Bike East Bay. “We were told both would take time and they didn’t want to delay the paving. It would have been very easy to do.”

Campbell said it’s a problem endemic to Berkeley and other cities: the paving engineers work in a different department from the city planners. Putting protected bike lanes on Fulton “was in the 2000 bike plan. It was in the 2005 bike plan. It was in the 2010 downtown plan — every five years the city says ‘yes, do this’ and then they repave without doing it,” said Campbell. He hopes that with the end of CEQA’s car-centric “Level of Service” (LOS), things might improve, but he’s fears the foot-dragging and excuses will continue.
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Via Streetsblog California
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Crowdsource Bicycling App ‘Ride Report’ Goes National Today

Crowdsourced map xxxx

Example Ride Report crowdsourced map of Portland streets. Redder streets are more stressful, greener streets more chill. Image via BikePortland.

Since last September, Portland cyclists have been generating bike trip data via the free Ride Report app. Today, Ride Report has completed its Portland beta and is now open for use throughout the United States.

Ride Report, currently available for iPhone only (Android coming soon), runs in the background. The app knows when riders are riding their bikes, and tracks these trips. After each trip it prompts a short one-question survey: was the last trip “stressful” or “chill”? The app aggregates survey data to form a crowdsourced bicycling map showing which routes cyclists rate best and worst. End users–likely to be mostly folks who are already regular riders, according to Ride Report co-founder William Henderson–can track their trips and can view crowdsourced maps. Ride Report also works with municipalities to license data for bicycle planning. Much of the data is available free in an open source format; for full data, cities contract with Ride Report.

BikePortland’s Michael Andersen writes that Ride Report is “simple, seamless, and some of the messages are gently funny, which makes it a pleasure to use.” Andersen’s recent article reviewed Ride Report data maps for Portland, identifying which streets are stressful at which times of day.

There are a few apps that are helping cities better understand cycling patterns. For example, Strava has licensed its trip data to cities. With its trip evaluation tool, Ride Report builds in the additional data layer of the bicyclist experience.

These apps are still in their early stages; none are perfect. They, of course, only track the trips of people who are well enough off to own a smart phone, hence low income riders and low income neighborhoods are very likely underrepresented in their data. Andersen mentions that during the past week Ride Report “accounted for 7% of my battery power. It turns off automatically when I’m under 20%, which is nice.”

Cyclists – are you using Ride Report and/or other apps to track your trips? What do you like or dislike about the app? What additional features could make your trips, your neighborhoods, and your region better?

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Market Street Cyclist Stands up to Road Rager

Casey Ann Dilou on her bike.

Casey Ann Dilou on her bike. Photo by Bradley Johnson.

Last Thursday, at 1:30 in the afternoon, 32-year-old Casey Ann Dilou was riding her bike northeast on Market between 8th and 7th when she heard a car horn blaring behind her. She turned around and saw a blue Ford Minivan driving dangerously close with the passenger yelling out the window “run her over” and “get the fuck out of the way!”

Dilou stopped her bike and the car drove around. As it did, the passenger continued to yell obscenities, laughed, and flicked a cigarette at her.

That was it. Dilou said she’d been run off the road twice before by aggressive drivers—the last time a truck blasted its horn and forced her onto the trolley tracks. She crashed and fractured her elbow.

Dilou caught up to the minivan at the next red light and put herself in front of it. “This is a fucking bike lane and you can’t treat people like that!” she shouted. The passenger started screaming back and yelled at the driver to run her over. But Dilou held her ground. “There was a Muni stop there and other cars and no way for them to go around.”

Then the passenger threw a water bottle at her and got out of the car. “You better move before I make you move,” he said. But Dilou, who is nearly six feet tall and teaches self defense, was not intimidated. She called the cops. “The passenger said he’s going to go get his ‘crew’ and that I’d better be gone when he gets back,” explained Dilou. “The cops will be here first so I can’t wait until you show up with your ‘crew,’” she replied.
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Streetsblog USA
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The Feds Want to Reform the Cult of “Level of Service”

FHWA is trying to encourage states and localities to move away from using Level of Service. Cartoon by Andy Singer, via PPS.

The old way of making transportation decisions prioritized the movement of cars above all. The Federal Highway Administration will encourage local agencies to shift to other methods. Cartoon: Andy Singer via Project for Public Spaces

“What you measure is what you get,” the saying goes.

That’s certainly true for transportation policy. And for a very long time one metric has reigned supreme on American streets: “Level of Service,” a system that assigns letter grades based on motorist delay. Roughly speaking, a street with free-flowing traffic gets an A while one where cars back up gets an F.

Level of Service, or LOS, is what traffic engineers cite when they shut down the possibility of transitways or bike lanes. It also leads to policy decisions like road widenings and parking mandates. Even environmental laws are structured around the idea that traffic flow is paramount, so they end up perpetuating highways, parking, and sprawl. Because if the top priority is to move cars — and not, say, to improve public safety or economic well-being — the result is a transportation system that will move a lot of cars while failing at almost everything else.

The good news is that there’s a growing recognition inside some of the nation’s largest transportation agencies that relying on LOS causes a lot of problems.

Just last week, the state of California introduced a new metric to replace LOS in its environmental laws. Instead of assessing how a building or road project will affect traffic delay, California will measure how much traffic it generates, period. Car trips, not car delays, will be the thing to avoid. This is likely to have the opposite effect of LOS, leading to more efficient use of land and transportation infrastructure.

Change is afoot at the federal level too. Officials at the Federal Highway Administration are looking at how they can spur changes like California’s LOS reform in other places.

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Streetsblog Talks with San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener

Supervisor Scott Wiener

Supervisor Scott Wiener

Scott Wiener, who has served District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 2011, was re-elected this week as chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The Authority was created in 1989 and it works closely with the Municipal Transportation Agency, funding and shepherding long-term projects such as the Van Ness and Geary bus improvements and the Central Subway. Wiener has long been a leader in transportation issues—probably because, unlike some elected officials, he actually rides the trains and buses.

Here’s what he wrote in a post about his reappointment as chair of SFCTA:

    “I’m deeply honored that my colleagues just reelected me as Chairman of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. I will continue to work very hard to improve transportation options as our city and region grow. We have so many needs – increased frequency and reliability of service, more subway lines, a complete revamping of BART and Caltrain, a second transbay tube, and high speed rail to downtown San Francisco. We have huge challenges, and with aggressive and innovative work, we will meet them.”

Streetsblog talked with Wiener about cycling, his goals for improving Muni, and general mobility in San Francisco. But first, late last December Supervisor Wiener pulled out his phone to check an appointment and got robbed. The thieves took his phone and then demanded money. Wiener got his phone back and managed to maneuver them in front of an ATM camera. Streetsblog started by asking him about that encounter and what it says about personal safety in San Francisco.

*

Streetsblog: So you got the thieves on a security camera?

Scott Wiener: It was either an incredibly smart move or an incredibly stupid move, but I got my phone back and the people are in custody. I was walking down 16th Street at Valencia and I had briefly taken my phone out to look at my calendar to see where I was going. A woman who was with two guys snatched the phone out of my hand and I was able to get it back from her by paying. So I got them to an ATM machine so that they would be on video; two of the three are now in custody.

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Streetsblog USA
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SF One of 10 Cities Chosen to Help Model Vision Zero Policy in the U.S.

The 10 cities chosen will help lead the movement toward Vision Zero in American cities.

Ten “focus cities” will lead the way in developing effective Vision Zero policies.

What is Vision Zero? Simply put, it’s a recognition that traffic fatalities are preventable, and a commitment to ensure that no one is killed in traffic. Cities that adopt Vision Zero set out to end traffic deaths within a specific time frame.

In America, a few cities have publicly committed to Vision Zero. So how should policy makers go about achieving this goal? What works and what doesn’t? Which places are making real progress, and how are they doing it?

The Vision Zero Network was founded with support from Kaiser Permanente to help ensure that “Vision Zero” promises result in meaningful and effective change.

Yesterday, the network announced 10 “focus cities” that will model Vision Zero strategy in the United States. These cities were chosen for having demonstrated a significant commitment to Vision Zero:

  • Austin
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington

The “focus cities” initiative will bring together transportation, police, and public health officials from those 10 cities, as well as representatives from mayors’ offices. This network of public officials will share best practices and develop common strategies for eliminating traffic deaths.

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Meetings Underway for East Bay and San Jose Bike Share Expansion

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Bike-Share is Expanding in the East Bay. Photo: Courtesy of Motivate.

Bike-Share is Expanding in the East Bay. Photo: Courtesy of Motivate.

A few weeks ago, Streetsblog was happy to tell you about meetings to get input for a huge expansion of San Francisco’s bike-share program. The East Bay and San Jose are moving forward with their plans as well, bringing the number of share bikes in the region from 700 to 7,000 over the next few years.

Motivate, which is managing the bike-share system throughout the Bay Area, held its first meeting on Monday in Berkeley. If you missed it, you can still give your input and suggest bike-share locations online at suggest.bayareabikeshare.com.

“I can’t wait to jump on a bike when we bring this program to Oakland in the fall,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, in a prepared statement. “Active transportation improves public health, promotes economic development, helps the environment, and is fun and affordable. We’re committed to making sure that the benefits of bike sharing serve neighborhoods and residents across our city.”

“Berkeley is a vibrant, world-class city that is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. “Motivate’s partnership with MTC gives us another important tool in our efforts to combat climate change and makes bike sharing a reality in our city.”

The workshops are offered twice on each date, covering the same material. Each workshop will be focused on stations in that locality.

San Jose District 3 Bike Share Workshop

Co-sponsored by Councilmember Raul Peralez
February 4, 2016
6:00PM – 7:00PM and 7:00PM – 8:00PM
King Library, Room 225, 150 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose

Oakland Districts 2 & 3 Bike Share Workshop

Co-sponsored by Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, and Councilmember Abel Guillén
February 18, 2016
6:00PM – 7:00PM and 7:00PM – 8:00PM
SPUR, 1544 Broadway, Oakland

Emeryville Bike Share Workshop

Co-sponsored by Mayor Dianne Martinez
February 11, 2016
6:00PM – 7:00PM and 7:00PM – 8:00PM
Emeryville City Hall, Council Chambers, 1333 Park Avenue, Emeryville

Upcoming workshops will be announced online. And, of course, those unable to attend a workshop can submit station ideas any time online at suggest-a-station portal.

Streetsblog NYC
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Evidence That Split-Phase Signals Are Safer Than Mixing Zones for Bike Lanes

Mixing zones, rendered above, are DOT's standard treatment for left-turns on corridors with protected bike lanes. Image: DOT

Mixing zones are DOT’s standard treatment for intersections where motor vehicle traffic turns across the path of protected bike lanes, but they are not as safe as intersections where pedestrians and cyclists get exclusive signal time. Image: DOT

When DOT presented plans for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue, one point of contention was the design of intersections. How many intersections will get split-phase signals, where cyclists and pedestrians crossing the street get a separate signal phase than turning drivers? And how many will get “mixing zones,” where pedestrians and cyclists negotiate the same space as turning drivers simultaneously?

DOT tends to opt for split-phase signals only at major intersections, like where Sixth Avenue crosses 14th Street and 23rd Street. At other cross streets with turning conflicts, the mixing zone is the go-to treatment. Manhattan Community Board 4 wants to change that, asking DOT to include more intersections with dedicated crossing time for pedestrians and cyclists in the Sixth Avenue project.

The evidence backs up CB 4’s assertion that split-phase signals are safer. Data from previous protected bike lane projects in Manhattan show that the reduction in injuries on streets that mostly received split-phase treatments was more than double the improvement on streets that mostly received mixing zones.

A 2014 DOT report [PDF] analyzed three years of before and after crash data from Manhattan’s protected bike lanes. The last section of the report shows the change in total crashes with injuries on 12 protected bike lane projects — six with primarily split-phase treatments (segments of Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue below 23rd Street, and two unconnected segments of Broadway in Midtown), and six with primarily mixing zones (segments of First Avenue, Second Avenue, Columbus Avenue, Broadway, and Eighth Avenue above 23rd Street). We don’t have access to the raw numbers DOT worked with, but the aggregate data strongly suggests that split phase treatments are significantly safer.

On average, crashes with injuries declined 30 percent on the six “split-phase” redesigns and 13 percent on the six “mixing zone” redesigns.

Read more…

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North of Panhandle Meeting Stressed Data and Parking Parking Parking

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Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick

Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick

Thursday night, I was exhausted from covering so many stories in this crazy city that I love. So I grabbed my laptop and headed out to my favorite Divisadero coffee shop to catch up on Facebook and maybe look at some funny cat videos.I walked in the door, ordered, and heard: “Hey Roger! So glad you could make it!”

It was Janice Li, Advocacy Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She’d given me a tour of bike projects on Market Street and the Wiggle just the week before.

In my attempt to escape, I’d walked into the monthly meeting of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. No sooner had that registered, when I turned around and found myself face-to-face with SFPD Park Division Captain John Sanford. Janice started to introduce us. “I know who he is. Glad to meet you Captain,” I said, shaking his hand. “I’m the new editor of Streetsblog.” I wondered if he’d read my piece where I jokingly compared his bicycle crackdown logic to the Spanish Inquisition.

Sanford and Captain Greg McEachern gave presentations about policing and crime levels in the area. They both asked that residents contact them immediately about any “quality of life” problems. They also talked about crime stats. McEachern mentioned that they’d start a foot beat on Divisidaro. It seemed odd there wasn’t one already on such a busy street, but I’d already heard that SFPD is not big on getting out of their cruisers.

Cathy DeLuca, Policy and Program Manager for WalkSF, gave a great presentation about Vision Zero and their goals for making streets safer. First, she helped get the audience up to speed on the current situation.

“At least three people walking every day get hit in this city,” she said. “One-quarter of all trauma patients are pedestrians hit by cars.” She explained that by focusing on the most dangerous activities on the most dangerous streets, the police and SFMTA can start to bring those numbers down.

“The city has gathered data and crunched the numbers: six percent of city streets are responsible for 60 percent of crashes. The top five things that cause injuries and deaths are speeding, not yielding, not stopping at stop signs, not stopping at red lights, and improper turning,” she said. “They’re not accidents. They are predictable events.” Above all, she stressed the importance of using data to dictate policies for law enforcement, speed limits, and street designs.

Next, Oliver Gajda, a planner from SFMTA, presented on the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project, which is slated to start construction in a few months. The project will add a landscaped median, bus stop enhancements and raised bikeways. But instead of talking about the great things the project will bring, he focused on how the city will make up for lost street parking on Masonic.

 

Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking. Image: SFMTA

Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking on Masonic. Image: SFMTA

To add more parking, the city is considering blocks of nearby Turk, Central, Lyon and other streets for 90-degree, angled parking. An audience member brought up that she doesn’t like angled parking, because it’s hard to see oncoming cyclists. At that point, I chimed in. It occurred to me that if they’re re-configuring parking, why not add a cycle path between the curb and the parked cars, to created a simple protected bike lane? It would require blocks to make sure cars don’t pull up too far, but that’s cheap. Not exactly a ground breaking idea, so I thought.

Gajda was emphatic that there wasn’t room, and besides, they were building a bike lane on Masonic. I kept pointing out that building a raised bike lane on Masonic, as part of a relatively complex and expensive street improvement project, is not an argument for not building a simple parking-protected bike lane on another street. After all, the city is spending the money to reconfigure the parking regardless. Somewhere between 90 degree parking, which the city is considering, and parallel parking, there has to be an angle that will make enough room for a bike lane along the curb without blocking the car lane, even if that costs a handful of parking spots.

“You should suggest that,” said another representative from MTA.

“I just did,” I answered.

It’s unfortunate, but much of SFMTA is in a mindset that all safety improvements are necessarily complicated. They’re not. The agency also thinks safety improvements can only happen if the overall number of parking spaces is maintained. That’s an attitude that has to go. After that, Supervisor London Breed talked about the housing crisis. I was going to make a suggestion that if the city didn’t allot so much land to parking, there would be more for housing. But I decided it was time to move on to funny cat videos.

My takeaway from my first, impromptu community meeting: San Francisco is a city full of super smart, wildly dedicated, and truly awesome people. And Streetsblog, WalkSF, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other groups for street safety have their work cut out for them.

See you tonight, Monday, Jan.25 at the Streetsblog Happy Hour at Virgil’s.

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Bike Psych: Can Bay Area Drivers and Cyclists Get Along?

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Dutch Streets Segregate Car and Bikes with Curbs, Trees, Buffers and Phased Signals. Photo: Roger Rudick

Dutch streets segregate cars and bikes with curbs, trees, buffers and signals. Photo: Roger Rudick

Yesterday, John Robert Donovan, 41, of Mill Valley, accepted a plea-bargain that got him a misdemeanor conviction, two years of probation, 80 hours of community service, and a $4,134 fine plus court costs, as reported in the Marin Independent Journal. Last November, Donovan, who was driving a Tesla, reportedly got into a road rage incident with some cyclists on Shoreline Highway. When one of the cyclists flipped off his wife, Donovan overtook, cut them off, and braked—causing one of the cyclists to crash into his car. Donovan then drove off.

It seems not a week passes without some kind of car-versus-bike road rage incident.

Just last week, cyclist Danica Helb was pepper sprayed by a motorist. “I got a call from Sergeant O’Connor, who recorded a detailed description of the events,” she wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “He said he is investigating the case as a battery, and would be following up with the witnesses.”

And then there’s this madness from last year, captured on video. The driver nearly ran over a cyclist who was riding safely in the bike lane. But instead of apologizing, the motorist gets out and screams and kicks at the cyclist.

No doubt next week there will be another conflict. And another. People will continue to get hurt. Sometimes they are intentionally killed.

What’s really going on here?

Dr. Robert Nemerovski is a psychologist with practices in San Francisco and Marin who specializes in anger management. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the psychology of road rage. He’s also a cyclist. “I feel extremely threatened by automobiles–they’ve got metal and airbags and I’ve got nothing,” he said. “So when a car gets too close or cuts me off or doesn’t see me, even with my flashers and my obnoxious yellow outfit, it’s really a gut reaction that my life is in jeopardy.” Read more…