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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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Modesto: A Model Bike-Friendly City?

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Bike lanes featuring the first use of green paint in Modesto were installed in 2012 along Sylvan Avenue. Photo: Michael Sacuskie/TED

The California central valley town of Modesto is not usually high on anyone’s list of cities embracing cutting-edge pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. But that may change soon.

Modesto is one of the oldest cities in California, but like other central valley towns, it grew to accommodate car travel, with wide, fast streets, plenty of parking, and little attention given to other modes. In fact, the city may be best known as the setting for American Graffiti, George Lucas’ nostalgic look at teenagers in a world of cheap gas and oversized cars.

In recent years, however, the city has been quietly applying Complete Streets principles on its roads. It has added buffered bike lanes when it repaved, built roundabouts at major intersections, added bike parking corrals in thoughtful ways, and created temporary plazas with the idea that once people experience them they will want to make them permanent.

And last month the City Council approved a project that includes a road diet on College Avenue and a curb-protected, two-way bike lane along nearby 9th Street. The project will connect two campuses of Modesto Junior College to relatively new bike lanes on Briggsmore Avenue, considerably adding to the city’s bike network. This project alone will put Modesto at the forefront of bike-friendly infrastructure in California, ahead of other cities where advocates struggle to convince planners, and planners struggle to convince the public that safer street designs will work for everyone.

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Streetsblog USA
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New Federal Guide Will Show More Cities the Way on Protected Bike Lanes

Oak Street, San Francisco. Photo: SFMTA.

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.

Protected bike lanes are now officially star-spangled.

Eight years after New York City created a trailblazing protected bikeway on 9th Avenue, designs once perceived as unfit for American streets have now been detailed in a new design guide by the Federal Highway Administration.

The FHWA guidance released Tuesday is the result of two years of research into numerous modern protected bike lanes around the country, in consultation with a team of national experts.

“Separated bike lanes have great potential to fill needs in creating low-stress bicycle networks,” the FHWA document says, citing a study released last year by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. “Many potential cyclists (including children and the elderly) may avoid on-street cycling if no physical separation from vehicular traffic is provided.”

Among the many useful images and ideas in the 148-page document is this spectrum of comfortable bike lanes, starting with bike infrastructure that will be useful to the smallest number of people and continuing into the more broadly appealing categories:

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SFMTA Says It’s Just Getting Started on Protected Bike Lanes

Mayor Lee rides with SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire (behind) and SFBC Executive Director Noah Budnick (right) on Valencia Street this morning. Photo: Volker Neumann, SFBC

City officials gathered for another Bike to Work Day rally at City Hall today to cheer for bicycling, celebrating a 206 percent jump in ridership since 2006, according to a new annual bike count released by the SFMTA today. There was the usual citation of bike traffic on eastbound Market Street at Van Ness Avenue: 76 percent of all vehicles between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. were bikes.

So, was it another feel-good event in lieu of action? Maybe not…

After significant wins at the ballot box in November, these Bike to Work Day festivities felt a little different. There was legitimate cause to believe the city will accelerate its progress on bike infrastructure.

In 2015, the SFMTA expects to implement or start construction on an unprecedented 23 miles of bikeway upgrades, Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told Streetsblog. Then the real boom in bike infrastructure is expected to start in 2016, when “we’re going to look back and say, that was nothing.”

“We’re definitely going to be seeing more, better, and faster,” said Maguire. “That’s where we want go with the Bike Strategy.” As someone who helped deliver improvements at a rapid clip in New York City, Maguire’s word carries weight.

At the rally, Mayor Ed Lee touted the planned ten-fold expansion of Bay Area Bike Share and noted the need for “more sustainable ways to get around” as development and population increase.

“We are making it easier and safer to bike around our city with improved bike infrastructure and bike-share opportunities,” Lee said in a statement. “Biking isn’t just fun, practical and healthy; it also helps cut down on congestion. Every person on a bike is one less person in your traffic jam or fighting for a parking spot.”

A fine speech, but one that the mayor has given before without making the necessary decisions to back it up. It was only two months ago that Lee refused to say that protected bike lanes, which encourage bicycling and save lives, are more important than car parking.

Here’s the roster of officials who biked to City Hall this year along with Mayor Lee: SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, and Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, Julie Christensen, Katy Tang, Jane Kim, and Malia Cohen. Absent were Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Campos, Norman Yee, John Avalos, and London Breed.

What’s different this year is that voters sent some clear signals at the polls. “Every neighborhood in San Francisco is asking for safer streets,” said Maguire. “What the design looks like on every block is going to be different, but there were victories for Prop A and Prop B, [voters] defeated Prop L — it was proven at the ballot box. That’s the kind of momentum we want to go by.” Proposition L, a cars-first advisory measure, was funded last year by Lee backer Sean Parker.

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Happy Bike to Work Day, California

BTWT2015Ride

Mayor Albrecht Schröter of Jena, Germany follows Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates on a ride to city hall. They’re riding the blue bike-share bikes that will soon be available in the East Bay. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Yes, yes, every day is bike to work day, but today is the day we get to celebrate it. Here’s a photo of one group of happy participants in Berkeley, California, where the mayors of Copenhagen, Denmark and Jena, Germany joined Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates for a “mayorpalooza” bike ride through town.

We’re putting together a post with photos from all over California. Do you have photos of Bike to Work Day, or Bike Month, in your city? Share them with us!

Send them to melanie@streetsblog.org

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Wiggle Safety Upgrades Delayed Over Turn Bans to Reduce Thru Traffic

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The Wiggle would become safer and calmer with upgrades like a traffic diverter at southbound Scott and Fell streets. But Lower Haight neighbors oppose left-turn bans aimed at attracting cross-town drivers to Divisadero Street. Image: SFMTA

Improvements that would make the Wiggle calmer and safer have been delayed after continued driver protests against three left turn bans on Divisadero Street proposed as part of the project. Approval of the project was removed from the SFMTA Board of Directors’ Tuesday agenda and postponed until June.

Hoodline reported that some members of the Lower Haight Neighbors and Merchants Association can’t stomach the all-hours left turn bans from Divisadero on to Haight Street, and peak hour bans for turns on to Hayes and McAllister Streets.

The SFMTA says the bans are intended to complement the Wiggle improvements, which include a traffic diverter on Scott Street. By keeping cut-through drivers moving on Divisadero, the main driving route, that street would become the more attractive driving option. “This will reduce Scott Street’s appeal as a cross-town route, making it a more pleasant place to walk, bike, and live,” says an SFMTA fact sheet [PDF] on the Wiggle improvements.

“We want people to get where they need to go safely while keeping heavier traffic on Divisadero,” Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire said in a statement. “The SFMTA’s proposals for Divisadero will improve traffic flow, cut down on congestion and reduce spillover traffic into the neighborhood. We have worked with the community extensively on this project, and we wanted to take a little more time to better understand the concerns of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association.”

A major feature of the planned Wiggle upgrades is a large sidewalk bulb-out which would physically block drivers from entering southbound Scott at Fell Street. That would reduce the car traffic on Scott, which runs one block parallel to Divisadero, that degrades the livability of the neighborhood and congests the intersection at Haight. The improvements also include raised crosswalks, bulb-outs with rain gardens, and textured pavement.

“Thousands of people bike and walk through the Wiggle every day, and they and the neighborhood residents deserve a street that works for them,” said Tyler Frisbee, policy director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. The SFMTA’s project “enhances the residential, family-oriented nature of the community and ensures that everyone is able to walk, bike, and enjoy the area in a safe, inviting place. This project will reduce the amount of water pollution and runoff from these streets, minimize traffic congestion for neighbors, and improve safety for people walking and biking. That is a clear win-win.”

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San Jose to Adopt Vision Zero But No Target Date to End Traffic Deaths

Vision Zero San Jose As Soon As Possible Logo

San Jose’s Vision Zero plan doesn’t set a target date to eliminate traffic fatalities, only declaring a goal of “ASAP” — as soon as possible. Image: City of San Jose

The San Jose City Council is expected to adopt a Vision Zero plan [PDF] tomorrow, making it the third major city in the Bay Area and the tenth in the nation to commit to ending traffic deaths. But San Jose isn’t setting a timeline to achieve this goal.

“For years, San Jose created a roadway system exclusively for cars — not for people on bikes, pedestrians, or transit,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. “Vision Zero is San Jose’s commitment to prioritize street safety and ensure all road users – whether you walk, bike, drive, or ride transit – are safe.”

Unlike San Francisco and New York City, which adopted ten-years goals, San Jose’s version of Vision Zero doesn’t include a target date. Instead the plan calls for an end to traffic fatalities “ASAP”:

Vision Zero San Jose purposely has avoided setting a particular timeline as a practical matter and has instead chosen to pursue Vision Zero goals, as soon as possible (ASAP). The history of change particularly with regards to state and federal policy makes 10-years seem “unrealistic.” However, the urgency for safe streets makes a 10-year goal seem “too slow.” For now, our goal is to continue to make progress with advocacy, action and results, ASAP!

“While we understand concerns that a 10-year timeline may be too ambitious,” said California Walks Planning and Policy Manager Jaime Fearer, “we need to commit to a date for our goal, even if it is 15 or 20 years.”

Elijah Alvitre, 3, was killed in a crosswalk at Vine and Oak streets. The driver who struck him faced no legal penalties. Photo: Legacy.com

Dozens of supporters, including friends and relatives of people killed by reckless drivers, packed a committee meeting last week to plead for an end to the city’s traffic violence.

“Anything that can be done to improve safety should not only be considered but embraced, to help prevent this from happening to anyone else,” said Jenny Alvitre, whose 3-year-old grandson Elijah was killed in November 2013 by the driver of a pickup truck. The driver was not cited or charged for failing to yield to the 13-year-old girl pushing Elijah’s stroller in a crosswalk, hitting both of them, as well as a six-year-old girl holding the older girl’s hand.

Just hours later, 14-year-old Bianca Valdez was killed by a driver while walking across White Road near Hyland Avenue in east San Jose. A week later, 17-year-old Anthony Garcia was killed by an SUV driver while riding his bicycle on Branham Lane in south San Jose.

The death toll on San Jose’s dangerously-designed streets has risen in recent years, and a growing proportion of victims are killed by drivers while walking and biking. In 2013, 44 people were killed on San Jose streets, and 42 in 2014. In both years, 21 of the victims were killed while walking. Most fatal crash victims in SJ are now people walking or biking. That wasn’t the case between 2008 and 2012, when an average of 31 people were killed each year, 46 percent of whom were pedestrians or cyclists.

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Video Shows Driver Attempting to Ram SFSU Lecturer on Bike

Last night, Anthony Ryan was biking home from his job as a lecturer on fine arts at SF State University when he was nearly rammed by a motorist on Phelan Avenue. Ryan says the driver tried to door him and run him over multiple times. He posted footage taken by another driver showing the end of the encounter, when the assailant attempted to back up over Ryan.

The assault occurred outside City College’s main campus. According to Ryan, the aggression began as he was riding in the left-turn lane from eastbound Ocean Avenue on to Phelan. Ryan, who previously had a more violent run-in with a reckless driver in the area, relayed his account in a series of tweets:

A still from the video showing Ryan after he jumped off his bike to avoid getting struck.

A still from the video showing Ryan after he jumped off his bike to avoid getting struck.

I was controlling the lane from Ocean onto Phelan, driver drove up behind and gave a horn blast, pulled alongside me on the right and tried to open his door on me. I went to the opposite side of the street to evade him and he crossed the double yellow line to ram me. He sped off and was stopped at a red, I followed to get license plate, he reversed and tried to hit me again. Then he was behind me in the bike lane. I crashed my bike into a parked car and leapt onto the hood to take cover. He sped off.

Ryan says he attempted to record the driver’s license plate number when he was stopped at a mid-block red light on northbound Phelan. In the video, you can see the driver of a white sedan back up into the bike lane, then drive toward Ryan, then flee.

Ryan is seen at the end of the video standing up after having jumped off his bike. He said on Twitter that he was left only with “some scrapes.”

Ryan said a witness caught the license plate number. He “dealt with CCSF (City College) police […] they were great.”

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Streetsblog USA
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Honolulu’s First Protected Bike Lane Cuts Sidewalk Biking 65 Percent

An opening ceremony for King Street’s protected bike lane in December. Photo: Being 808

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.

A few months after Honolulu opened its first protected bike lane, it’s the latest to demonstrate a very consistent trend across the country: Almost every protected bike lane immediately cuts sidewalk biking by at least 50 percent.

From August 2014 (before barriers were installed) to February 2015 (after), the number of people biking on King Street (both directions, road bed and sidewalk combined) soared 71 percent.

And in the same period, says Honolulu bicycle coordinator Chris Sayers, the number of bikes on the sidewalk plummeted 65 percent.

That’s no big surprise, because someone biking on a sidewalk is just trying to ride in the protected bike lane that isn’t there. When cities make part of a street comfortable to bike in, people naturally choose to use it.

That makes things better for everybody, Sayers said.

“It just sort of organizes the whole roadway better,” he said.

We’ve been in touch with bike coordinators around the country who’ve done similar counts, and compiled every such study we’re aware of into the chart below. Honolulu’s finding is strikingly consistent with the others, all of which saw between a 27 percent drop in sidewalk biking (L Street in Washington DC) to an 81 percent drop (Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, New York).

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Streetsblog USA
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Salt Lake City to Install Nation’s First Protected Intersection for Bicycling

Salt Lake City has plans to install the first protected intersection for cyclists. Image: Salt Lake City via KSL.com

This intersection design Salt Lake City plans to install minimizes potential conflicts between cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. Image: Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is on track to implement America’s first protected intersection for bicycling this summer.

The intersection design is based on a Dutch template that minimizes potential conflicts between people biking, driving, and walking. For example, it allows cyclists to make a left turn in two stages without crossing against oncoming car traffic. It will be part of a protected bike lane running a little more than a mile through a central portion of the Utah capital.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials said that to the best of its knowledge, this will be the first protected intersection design in the United States.

This intersection treatment is best known from Dutch streets. Last year, Portland-based Nick Falbo campaigned to introduce the basic template to America and submitted a protected intersection design to a competition at George Mason University. His video is a great introduction to how protected intersections work.

The new Salt Lake City bike lane on 200 West will include just one protected intersection. Construction will start in August and will take about two months, local news station KSL reports.

The intersection of 300 South and 200 West in Salt Lake City is on track to be the first protected intersection in the U.S. Image: Salt Lake City

The intersection of 300 South and 200 West in Salt Lake City is on track to be the first protected intersection in the U.S. Image: Salt Lake City

Hat tip to Jacob Mason.

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Three-Bike Bus Racks on Muni: A Solution for Late-Night Transit Woes?

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Photo: SFMTA

Muni is testing front-mounted bike racks that can carry three bicycles (instead of the usual two) on some of its most hilly bus routes. If implemented widely, that third bike space could prevent some late-night travelers from getting “bumped” when racks fill up.

Bike capacity on transit is particularly important in SF and the Bay Area, given geographic barriers like hills and, well, the bay. Late at night, when many buses cover little ground and come just once an hour, getting home can be especially difficult for people with bikes who rely on transit for part of their trip, or who are just too tired to make the ride home. Late-night buses, it seems, often attract the most bikes.

Last month, Janel Sterbentz was one of the lucky ones. She narrowly avoided waiting an extra hour at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue at 2 a.m. on a Friday morning, when the hourly AC Transit All-Nighter bus — the only way to get to the East Bay by transit once BART shuts down — arrived with both of its bike rack spots full.

Unlike Muni, AC Transit and SamTrans allow bikes on board late-night buses at the operator’s discretion.

An AC Transit bus with a three-bike rack at the Transbay Terminal in SF. Photo: Kenya Wheeler/Twitter

An AC Transit bus with a three-bike rack at the Transbay Terminal in SF. Photo: Kenya Wheeler/Twitter

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