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Posts from the Bicycling Category


Governor Signs Bill Banning Tolls on Bridges for Bicyclists and Pedestrians

 Assemblymembers Phil Ting (pictured) and Marc Levine introduced and championed A.B. 40 to ban tolls of bicyclists and pedestrians on bridges. Photo: Office of Assemblyman Ting

Assemblymembers Phil Ting (pictured) and Marc Levine introduced and championed A.B. 40 to ban tolls of bicyclists and pedestrians on bridges. Photo: Office of Assemblyman Ting

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 40, legislation that bans tolling bicycle and pedestrians on bridges that have tolls for cars throughout the state.

While this is a statewide ban, all toll bridges in California are located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Golden Gate, the Antioch, the Benicia-Martinez, the Carquinez, the Dumbarton, and the eastern span of the Bay Bridge have bicycle and pedestrian crossings.  Currently, there are no tolls for cyclists and pedestrians to cross any of these bridges. However, a proposal to place bicycle and pedestrian tolls has come up several times in recent years.

The campaign against the tolls has focused on how biking and walking are good for the environment and should be encouraged, not tolled.

A statement from the bill’s sponsors notes that forty percent of climate changing emissions come from transportation.  In 2014 Bay Area commuters lost over 45 million hours in traffic, wasting $291 million in fuel.  The Golden Gate Bridge is crossed by tens of millions of people each year, with as many as 10,000 pedestrians and 6,000 cyclists crossing each day.  And, 43.6% of tourists report visiting the bridge during their visit to San Francisco.

The signing was met with praise from bicycle and pedestrian advocates.

“Taxpayers save money when more people ride bicycles. We pay for our roads through sales taxes, property taxes, and through all kinds of related costs such as for emergency services, health care, and cleaning up pollution,” explained Dave Snyder, the executive director of CalBike at a rally for the legislation last month.

“We pay less for all this when more people ride bicycles. Bicycling is so good for California, our economy, our health, our environment, that taxpayers would come out ahead if we paid people to bike for short trips instead of drive a car for short trips. We certainly shouldn’t charge them to do it.”

Locally, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition was similarly enthusiastic. Read more…


To Tackle Anti-Bike Bias, SFPD Must Start With Knowledge of Traffic Laws

At a heated community meeting last month, a bike commuter asked SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford whether he could expect to continue safely treating stop signs as yield signs. Sanford had instituted a crackdown on that behavior, and some ticket recipients said they were told they had to put their foot down at stop signs. Sanford confirmed to the crowd that that requirement does not exist, and insisted that his officers didn’t enforce it.

Photo: mikaela_carolyn/Twitter

An officer from SFPD’s Traffic Company stops a bike commuter on Market Street. Photo: mikaela_carolyn/Twitter

Sanford then called over Traffic Company Sergeant Frank Harrell, who was in another conversation a few yards away, to consult as an expert on bicycle traffic laws.

Harrell walked over and told the crowd, “The law says that the bicyclist must come to a complete stop and drop one foot.”

In a roar, the group erupted, “No!”

“This is the problem,” one man said to Harrell. “You guys don’t have the rules right.”

Ignorance and misinterpretation of traffic laws among SFPD officers — even the supposed experts — is a sign of the anti-bike bias that pervades the department.

Bike advocates and attorneys say officers routinely fail to accurately cite the laws they enforce against bicyclists, and even fabricate justifications.

“It comes up all the time,” said Michael Stephenson, an attorney who estimates officers have wrongly cited a law in about a third of the bicycle crash cases he’s investigated at Bay Area Bicycle Law (more than 1,000 of them).

Miles Cooper, a bike injury attorney who was there when Harrell falsely cited the stop sign law, said it’s “a classic example of the huge institutional biases that have to be overcome in order for cyclists to be treated as equal on the roadway.”

SFPD Sergeant Frank Harrell speaking to the crowd at Park Station. SFBC/Flickr

SFPD Traffic Sergeant Frank Harrell speaking to the crowd at Park Station. SFBC/Flickr

Cooper was one of dozens who recounted experiences with anti-bike bias at the SFPD at a City Hall hearing two years ago. Supervisors called the hearing after the death of Amelie Le Moullac, who was killed on her bike by a truck driver at Sixth and Folsom Streets, and was initially blamed by police who asserted that the onus is on bicyclists to pass to the left of right-turning vehicles.

The SFPD later found that the trucker was at fault for failing to yield when making a right turn, but only after video of the crash was found by a staffer at the SF Bicycle Coalition. Although the botched investigation sparked outrage and brought political attention to the issue of police bias, the trucker was never charged by the District Attorney’s office.

Leah Shahum, who was executive director of the SFBC at the time of the hearing, now heads the national Vision Zero Coalition. “It’s not surprising that Vision Zero is raising questions and debate about long-held practices around traffic safety,” said Shahum. “This is happening around the country.”

SF is seeing “a realignment of thinking of policies and on-the-ground practices in really significant ways,” she said. “It’s not unusual that there will be individuals within those departments who perhaps don’t fully understand the shift that is happening, and may resist and hold on to ideas from the past.”

Read more…


The Top 5 Times Mayor Lee “Traded Safety for Convenience” on SF’s Streets

Photo by @terrapin_sf/Twitter, text added by The Wigg Party

Mayor Ed Lee says he’ll veto the Bike Yield Law because he’s “not willing to trade away safety for convenience.”

The mayor is just being modest here. Of course he’s willing to trade safety for convenience! In fact, he’s elevated convenience to a core value.

Here are our top five moments when Mayor Lee traded away safety for convenience on the streets of San Francisco. (You won’t believe #1!)

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Boulder’s Protected Bike Lane Removal Would Be Just the 4th Nationwide

Boulder’s Folsom Street on Friday afternoon. Photo: Eric Budd

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Boulder, Colorado, will vote today on whether to become the fourth U.S. city to remove a modern protected bike lane.

The others are Memphis, where a riverside project was removed this year after the end of a one-year pilot; Boise, where a downtown network was removed last year after the end of a one-month trial; and Portland, Oregon, where in 2012 the city decided not to replace a series of posts that had been torn out by car collisions on one of its bridges.

As of last month, 75 U.S. cities (including Memphis, Portland, and Boulder) have built permanent protected bike lanes, and the number of such projects is doubling every two years or so.

But in Boulder, as Streetsblog reported last week, the latest project has taken a turn. On Thursday, city staff recommended scaling back what was planned as a year-long pilot just 11 weeks in.

That’s an unexpected change of direction for one of the four cities in the country rated as “platinum” by the League of American Bicyclists.

“This is not what we would ever expect to see for a platinum city,” League spokesman Steve Clark said in an email Friday. “Or gold, or silver. Extremely bad precedent.”

The protected bike lanes on Folsom Street were added in July as part of a redesign that replaced two general travel lanes in each direction with one general travel lane in each direction plus a new center turn lane.

The number of reported collisions on the street dropped immediately, city data show.

Read more…


Mayor Lee Vows to Veto Bike Yield Law

Updated at 6:46 p.m. with image of Mayor’s veto letter at the bottom.

Mayor Ed Lee has vowed to veto the “Bike Yield Law” put forward by six supervisors. Assuming the mayor follows through, it will take a vote from eight of the 11 supervisors to override him.

Mayor Lee and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, seen here riding Bay Area Bike Share in 2013, have missed the point of the Bike Yield Law. Photo: Aaron Bialick

In a comment to the SF Chronicle, Lee showed that the point of the ordinance remains beyond him:

I’m not willing to trade away safety for convenience, and any new law that reaches my desk has to enhance public safety, not create potential conflicts that can harm our residents.

So the mayor’s spin is that the majority of supervisors want to “trade away safety for convenience.” How tone-deaf.

The Bike Yield Law, of course, is all about safer streets through the efficient allocation of law enforcement resources. By legitimizing the normal practice of bicyclists yielding at stop signs — even the SFPD captain who cracked down on rolling stops does it! — the ordinance would help urge police to focus enforcement on violations that actually hurt people.

Supervisor Scott Wiener explained it to the Chronicle:

When you have a cyclist that is approaching an intersection at a slow speed, cautiously and not violating anyone’s right of way, it doesn’t make sense to be ticketing them. That’s not creating any kind of danger. That’s not hurting anyone. That should not be the focus of law enforcement…

If the cyclist is blowing through the intersection and not entering slowly and cautiously, they absolutely should get a ticket. But when you look at what is causing injury and death on our streets, it’s not a cyclist entering an intersection at a few miles an hour.

So far, Lee’s legacy on safe streets and sustainable transportation is mainly one of obstruction, and this case is shaping up no differently. But if the experience with Prop B is any guide, Lee might come around to the Bike Yield Law after everyone else has already embraced it.

There’s growing recognition at City Hall that San Francisco will make streets safer by acknowledging the need to update a flawed law. As Wiener told KPIX, the Bike Yield Law is an example of how “San Francisco frequently lead[s] the way and lead the nation in terms of smart, progressive, forward-thinking policies.”

If Mayor Lee really cares about safer streets, he won’t stand in the way of an effort to bring traffic law into the 21st century.

Updated 6:46 p.m.: Supervisor John Avalos tweeted this photo of Mayor Lee’s letter explaining his opposition to the board:


The “Bike Yield Law”: It’s How Captain Sanford Rolls, Too

Even John Sanford is not immune to practicing the safe, common-sense ethic that most people on bikes use to negotiate stop signs. SFPD’s Park Station captain is the latest officer to be filmed within the Park District executing the completely normal practice of slowing and yielding, and not necessarily coming to a full stop, during a ride with bike advocates last month.

As SF Weekly reported, Morgan Fitzgibbons of the Wigg Party posted video today of Sanford’s rolling stop at a stop sign on John F. Kennedy Drive’s parking-protected bike lanes in Golden Gate Park. It’s exactly the sort of safe behavior that John Avalos and five other supervisors want to legitimize with a “Bike Yield Law” ordinance, after bike commuters reportedly received tickets for similar behavior during a crackdown instituted by Sanford.

“I just wanted to show this was normal behavior, that even the poster child for the bike crackdown shows on a bicycle,” Fitzgibbons told SF Weekly. The assertions from Sanford and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr that it’s dangerous to allow people on bikes to safely roll through stop signs “are just so silly,” he said.

Chief Suhr told KQED this week, “Stop signs are pretty simple. They say ‘stop.’ They don’t say ‘yield,’ they don’t say ‘slow down.’”

Fitzgibbons had refrained from posting the video until today because he worried it would seem like an act of undue shaming toward Sanford. But in an email conversation I had with him yesterday, he changed his mind after I put it like this: If even Sanford does rolling stops, who doesn’t?

“After thinking about it we realized he has nothing to be embarrassed about — treating a stop sign as a yield sign is a perfectly normal, safe, reasonable thing to do,” Fitzgibbons wrote in a post on Facebook that featured the video. “If he wants to be embarrassed by his own hypocrisy, that’s his problem.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The World’s Nuttiest Bike Lane NIMBYs Live in a San Diego Beach Community


Look at this visual cacophony long enough and it will induce a dizzying type of vertigo.

Think you’ve read about every possible NIMBY objection to bike lanes? Think again. These recent comments from a public meeting in San Diego’s affluent Coronado beach community are definitely, um, different.

At the meeting, city leaders were bombarded with objections — not about parking, traffic, or “scofflaws” on bikes, but about the “visual pollution” of painted stripes on the road. There’s just something about a bike lane stripe that aesthetically revolts these people in a way that, say, a dashed yellow center stripe never will.

Local news station says Coronado is a “haven for bicyclists” (the League of American Bicyclists named it a silver-level Bike Friendly Community in 2013). Apparently, it’s also a haven for world-class NIMBYs, as evidenced by these amazing comments captured by KPBS (we left off the names to be merciful):

  • “You are covering Coronado with paint stripe pollution.”
  • “The graffiti on the streets does not help our property values.”
  • The lanes “bring to mind a visual cacophony that if you look there long enough it will induce a dizzying type of vertigo.” [Editor’s note: This one wins!]
  • “These black streets with these brilliant white lines everywhere … believe me, it takes away from your home, from your outlook on life.”
  • “It’s very similar to personally taking all three of my daughters to a tattoo parlor and having them completely body tattooed.” [Editor’s note: Okay, maybe this one.]

Now that you’ve had a laugh, here comes the not-funny part: As a result of these ridiculous complaints, the City Council voted not to continue with a plan to add 12 miles of bike lanes. According to KPBS, from 2005 to 2013, bicyclists were struck by motor vehicle drivers more than 800 times in Coronado, resulting in 48 severe injuries and 7 fatalities.


KTVU Stays Classy With Fearmongering Segment on “Bike Yield Law”

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What KTVU’s sensationalistic bike coverage lacks in integrity, it compensates for in consistency. The Fox affiliate’s segment on the proposed “Bike Yield Law” yesterday kept the bar low in manufacturing controversy, featuring a bedside interview with a single mother recovering from injuries after being hit by a bicycle rider earlier that day.

KTVU’s segment on the “Bike Yield Law” featured a single mother who was injured by a bicyclist, but the crash had nothing to do with the proposed policy. Image: KTVU

KTVU reporter Amber Lee glossed over the fact that the bicyclist who hit 36-year-old Virginia Melchor “wasn’t going through a stop sign” when the crash occurred in Golden Gate Park. The segment introduces Melchor immediately after showing Supervisor John Avalos explain that under his ordinance, people on bikes who fail to yield “will still have to be held accountable.”

Melchor’s crash is as tragic and unacceptable as any. But it has nothing to do with the ordinance. That didn’t stop KTVU from exploiting it.

KTVU didn’t bother to consult any experts on traffic law and street safety, but did feature SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford and his binder full of complaints about bicyclists.

Sanford cited anecdotes, not traffic injury data, to justify his crackdown on innocuous bike violations at stop signs last month, which he called off after protest at a community meeting. Although Sanford’s views seem to be evolving, he told KTVU that “giving cyclists the opportunity to roll through stop signs can be very dangerous.”

But the point that continues to be missed by Sanford, KTVU, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, and Mayor Ed Lee is that failure to yield to pedestrians would remain illegal. The ordinance would simply codify the idea that SFPD should not direct its enforcement resources toward the vast majority of people on bikes who slow down and yield at stop signs. They are not the ones injuring people like Virginia Melchor.

Police data does show that drivers hit about three pedestrians a day, on average. And the number of people injured in traffic who need to be hospitalized for more than 24 hours is much higher than previously thought. Health Department researchers recently found that those cases occur every 17 hours, on average.

Those stories don’t make the cut at KTVU. Instead the news team is all about harassing bicyclists without helmets and hyping scandals like bike-share, 27-cent parking meter fees, and the re-purposing of handfuls of parking spaces. Improving public safety on SF streets doesn’t rate.

You can see why KTVU might be threatened by an ordinance like the Bike Yield Law. If San Francisco’s laws actually aligned with the safe, common-sense way that most people bike, there would be one less thing to sensationalize on the evening news.

Via Streetsblog California
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Governor Brown Signs Law Allowing Bicycle Ticket Diversion Programs

Sgt. David Krumer of the LAPD at a Critical Mass ride in 2010. Image: Damien Newton/Streetsblog

Sgt. David Krumer of the LAPD at a Critical Mass ride in 2010. Image: Damien Newton/Streetsblog

A new law just signed by Governor Jerry Brown will make it possible for bicyclists who are ticketed for certain infractions to attend a class on safe bicycle riding and thus reduce their fines.

The bill, A.B. 902, has been tracked by Streetsblog since it was introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) in February. Sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, it was amended a few times, but survived the process of squeezing through the legislature with mostly minor changes.

“When a bicyclist is ticketed for a moving violation in California, they by default receive the same monetary fine as when driving a motor vehicle. This means that with court fees added a stop sign violation can cost around $200, and running a red light around $400,” explained Bloom.

“The penalty should be determined so as to encourage safe behavior and not so punitive that it discourages bicycling altogether, especially for low-income individuals who rely the most on bicycling for everyday transportation.”

One of the changes clarified that any class taken in lieu of a fine would have to be “sanctioned by law enforcement.” Robert Prinz, Education Coordinator at Bike East Bay, who worked on putting the bill forward, said this was an important clarification.

“That means there would have to be a certain level of standard for the information provided in the class,” he pointed out. Also, he said, “for the most part law enforcement has a pretty good idea of what’s important for bicycle safety, but some police departments would benefit from attending some of these classes themselves.”

The other change to the bill removed a requirement that classes be offered free of charge. This was originally included because it created more of an incentive for people to take safety classes, and also because it’s the way Bike East Bay handles its education programs. But other advocacy organizations didn’t want to restrict their own, not-yet-in-existence programs in this way.

Whichever way a program is set up, the hoped-for result is a reduced fine and a more educated and knowledgeable bike rider.

Prinz points out that it will take some work to set up education programs where none exist now, and that it’s up to local bicycle advocacy groups to get the ball rolling. To that end, Bike East Bay has been working with other advocacy groups to formulate the best programs for local needs. Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the city of Long Beach, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have all expressed interest in creating diversion programs. Davis already has an on-campus diversion program and is interested in expanding it citywide. The cities of Huntington Beach and Alameda both used to have programs but suspended them because of a legal prohibition against them in the existing vehicle code. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition already has a diversion program, which it has been able to run because of strong local support from the police and courts.

“For sure it’s going to be easier to get these programs going in areas with established advocacy organizations,” said Prinz. “In rural or less populated areas there is going to be a need for outreach and education.”

Bike East Bay currently incorporates a diversion program into its regular educational offerings. Like Davis, UC Berkeley has its own police department that issues citations on campus. For on-campus infractions, ticketed bicyclists can attend a class, bring proof of attendance to the police, pay a fee, and have the ticket destroyed. The fee, around $50, is much less than what they would have to pay for a ticket if it went through the court system.

Read more…


SFPD Chief Suhr Misses the Point of the “Bike Yield Law”

SF Police Department Chief Greg Suhr doesn’t seem to grasp the point of the “Bike Yield Law” proposed by Supervisor John Avalos.

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr. Screenshot from SF Bay Guardian/Youtube

“Stop signs are pretty simple. They say ‘stop,'” Suhr told KQED today. “They don’t say ‘yield,’ they don’t say ‘slow down.'” Suhr added that anyone who violates the letter of the stop sign law “will be cited.”

If only it were so simple. Here’s the problem: California’s stop sign law is based on the unrealistic expectation that people ride 30-pound bikes exactly like they pilot 3,000-pound cars. Just about everybody who gets on a bike, including SFPD officers (see the video below), treats stop signs by slowing down and yielding to others with the right-of-way.

There is an ethic to biking safely at stop signs, and it’s more like the “golden rule,” as Avalos put it, than the letter of the current law. Idaho updated its stop sign law in 1982 to reflect that, and bicycle-related injuries there have dropped since. As bike commuters demonstrated on the Wiggle recently, strict compliance with the stop sign law by people on bikes would result in absurd traffic queues — and no one would be safer for it.

“Our traffic laws have not changed since the mid-20th century, but the way people move around our cities has,” SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick said at a press conference introducing the Avalos ordinance today. “What the Bike Yield Law does is move our city into a leadership position in the 21st century.”

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