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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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Mayor Lee on Bike Demo: “I Won’t Bend to Interests Who Disregard Safety”

Contrasting with Supervisor London Breed’s sensible position on the demonstration planned in response to the SFPD’s impending bike crackdown, we bring you a dispatch from the hidebound side of City Hall — Room 200.

Mayor Ed Lee weighed in today on the plan from bike commuters on the Wiggle to fully comply with the stop sign law en masse this evening, to highlight its absurdity.

Mayor Lee on Bike to Work Day. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Lee told reporters that he’s “not going to be bending to interests that simply want to disregard public safety”:

We’re a great city for first amendment voices. I’m willing to listen to them. But I’m going to always say everybody’s safety has to be the number one priority. I’m not going to be bending to interests that simply want to disregard public safety. That’s not what our city should be doing.

We’re investing a lot of money in bike lanes. A lot of money in dedicated lanes. A lot of money in making sure that people can get to work without driving more cars. We have environmental goals for that to happen. But you’re talking to a mayor, and I think a very strong Board of Supervisors, who will not compromise safety for the sake of other interests.

Mayor Lee is, of course, missing the point of the demonstration entirely: SFPD’s Park Station captain is disregarding safety data and wasting precious enforcement resources on compliance with an impractical stop sign law, which won’t make anyone safer. Meanwhile, the driver violations that hurt the most people go under-enforced.

The “interests” Lee referred to — bike commuters rallied by the Wigg Party — say they “intend to show” that the unrealistic prospect of not practicing rolling stops on bikes (which Idaho legalized 32 years ago) would “have disastrous effects to traffic patterns” by disrupting the existing expectation of efficient turn-taking.

“That may be their point of view,” Lee said to a reporter. “Is it shared by everybody else?”

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Sup. Breed Backs Idaho’s Common-Sense Law: Let Bikes Yield at Stop Signs

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Updated at 1:04 p.m. with comments from Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition.

Supervisor London Breed has come out as the first known elected official in San Francisco to publicly support a sensible change to California traffic law: allowing people on bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs.

Supervisor Breed rides the Wiggle with the SF Bicycle Coalition's Noah Budnick (right) and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin after a recent celebration of the Fell and Oak bike lanes. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

Supervisor Breed rides the Wiggle with the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Noah Budnick (right) and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin after a recent celebration of the Fell and Oak bike lanes. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

Breed voiced her position today in today’s deftly-crafted article by SF Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on changing the stop sign law:

“I think that’s how it should be,” she said, when asked if she supported San Francisco introducing Idaho-style rolling stops. “A bicycle is not a car, and they should be handled differently.”

Of rolling stops, she said, “On my bicycle, that’s what I do.”

“She’s speaking common sense,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, and former head of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Breed’s District 5 includes some of the city’s busiest bike routes like the Wiggle and Page Street, where two recent captains at SFPD’s Park Station have called for letter-of-the-law crackdowns on bike violations at stop signs. They aren’t a major cause of injuries, and the practice is even followed by officers biking in the district.

Breed’s views on bicycling issues have evolved since 2013, when she tweeted that “the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling” was “the bad behavior of some bicyclist” [sic]. She later clarified that she meant that the perception of bad bicycling behavior made it “harder to win public and political support” for bike safety improvements on the streets.

The complaints that drive SFPD’s bike crackdowns largely result from unrealistic expectations set by a strict interpretation of the state stop sign law, which treats 30-pound bikes the same as three-ton motor vehicles. The vast majority of people on bikes already negotiate stop signs safely by slowing, looking, and being prepared to yield when others have the right of way.

Allowing rolling stops on bikes “would normalize, and legalize, behavior people are doing safely anyway,” Morgan Fitzgibbons of the Wigg Party told the Examiner. The Wigg Party plans to hold a “Wiggle stop-in” this evening to demonstrate the absurdity of the current stop sign law by rallying riders to make full stops at every sign.

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SFPD Tickets Bike Commuters Trying to Get By Car Queue on Page Street

Here’s today’s edition of egregious waste of SFPD resources used to harass people on bikes.

SFPD officers were posted at the bottom of the hill on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard this morning ticketing bike commuters who squeezed to the left of stopped cars. Freeway-bound drivers routinely queue up to turn right, occupying several blocks of Page’s only eastbound traffic lane.

Tickets were issued to people headed downtown who are essentially given no safe, legal, or practical alternative to use this official bike route. It’s one more sign that the department has no plans to stop targeting innocuous, common-sense behaviors by people on bikes while violations that hurt people remain under-enforced.

“It’s adding insult to injury,” said Jason Henderson, a board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association and author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

“Bicyclists don’t want to be doing that,” Henderson said. “It’s because the city has shirked its moral responsibility and left bicyclists to fend for themselves at that intersection.”

Squeezing to the left on Page, where the oncoming westbound traffic lane is mostly empty, has been normal for years and hasn’t been known to cause any crashes. The SFMTA has actually proposed a partial center-running bike lane on Page to legitimize the behavior as part of street improvements on and around Octavia.

A typical queue of cars on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Wiggle Riders to Show Folly of Stop Sign Law By Complying With It

Demonstrators plan to muck up the flow of traffic on the Wiggle by daring to follow the letter of the stop sign law on bikes. Photo: Aaron Bialick

What if everyone on a bike followed the letter of the law and made a complete stop at every stop sign, as if they were driving a car?

“It would have disastrous effects to traffic patterns,” say the organizers of a “Wiggle Stop-In” demonstration planned for Wednesday evening. “That’s what we intend to show.”

Organizers at the Wigg Party hope to demonstrate the absurdity of the state stop sign law, which fails to account for the way people negotiate stop signs on bikes. It’s a response to plans by SFPD’s new Park Station captain to institute a crackdown on bike behavior (particularly at stop signs), diverting enforcement resources from violations that actually hurt people.

The group “want[s] to gather 50-100 cyclists to ride around the Wiggle/Lower Haight and stop at every stop sign in single file order,” the Wigg Party wrote on its Facebook event page. “We want to make the point that, in fact, requiring cyclists to come to full stops at every stop sign is a really terrible idea for everyone on the road.”

On the average day on the Wiggle, people walking, biking, and driving move mostly without incident. Reports of injuries involving bicycles are rare. The vast majority of bike commuters practice typical common-sense behavior at stop signs: slowing down, looking, and being prepared to yield to others with the right-of-way.

When bicycle riders who clearly have the right-of-way avoid unnecessary stops that kill their momentum, drivers and pedestrians can get moving faster, too.

The practice, which officers in Park District follow too, was legitimized by Idaho more than 30 years ago.

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SFPD Captain Justifies Bike Crackdown By Misconstruing “Focus on the Five”

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SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford is misconstruing the premise of his department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign to justify diverting precious traffic enforcement resources for his own campaign: getting people on bikes to always stop at stop signs, once and for all.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

Here’s a refresher on Focus on the Five, for those, like Sanford, who need it…

As many as 900 pedestrians are injured each year by drivers. The SFPD has used its data to identify the five most common causes of those injuries, as well as the five most dangerous intersections in each police district. By making the five most dangerous violations the top priority, the SFPD can use its limited traffic enforcement resources to have the greatest impact on reducing traffic violence.

Those five top crash factors are all driver violations: drivers violating of pedestrian right-of-way, drivers speeding, drivers running stop signs, drivers running red lights, and drivers making illegal turns.

But Captain Sanford doesn’t see it that way. “‘Focus on the Five’ depicts that Red lights and Stop signs are two of the most deadly behaviors that contribute to these tragic accidents,” he wrote in an email response to a constituent. “There is no exemption for cyclist [sic].”

Captain Sanford has his own rogue interpretation of statistics to justify his quest to control the “cyclist.” In this version of reality, data about driver behavior can simply be transposed to people who ride bikes. As such, people on bikes are assumed to be just as culpable for the vast majority of injuries on San Francisco streets as drivers are.

Rolling a stop sign on a bike, as the SFPD officers seen here are doing on Haight Street, is now one of the five most deadly violations, according to Captain Sanford. Screenshot from sugarfortea/Youtube

“Twisting the facts to divert resources away from enforcing the deadliest traffic violations is cynical and dangerous,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Chris Cassidy. “People who walk, bike and drive around the Panhandle, Inner Sunset and the Haight are scared of the effects this approach is going to have on the safety of their streets.”

Other SFPD officials seem to get it. Just last week, Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix explained at a Park Station meeting that “the injury that a car inflicts, of course, is far greater than what a pedestrian could do to a car, or what a bicyclist could do.” She noted, however, that “we get the most complaints about bicyclists.”

This is the real problem: Complaints — not data — still dominate traffic enforcement priorities at stations like Park.

Park Station residents and commuters would be safer if Sanford took a cue from his neighbor to the north, Richmond Station Captain Simon Silverman. Richmond Station is the only one to meet the SFPD’s goal of issuing 50 percent of traffic citations towards “the five.”

“You always have competing demands on officer time,” Silverman told Streetsblog in December. “The collisions we want most to stop are the injury collisions, and they are usually caused by” the top five violations. “Some of the other violations don’t lead to as much conflict.”

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McAllister Street Set to Get Two Traffic Circles Instead of Signals

McAllister, a popular bike route, would get traffic circles to speed up Muni’s 5-Fulton line after a proposal for traffic signals faced opposition. Photo: Aaron Bialick

McAllister Street, a popular bike route where SFMTA’s Muni Forward planners want to speed up the 5-Fulton, would have stop signs replaced by traffic circles at two intersections under the agency’s latest proposal.

Under the plan [PDF], which must be approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors, McAllister would become the first street to get traffic circles on a bus route. Up for debate, however, is how well they’ll serve their intended purpose of calming traffic enough to ensure drivers yield to pedestrians and don’t squeeze out bike commuters.

The proposal for traffic circles at Lyon and Steiner Streets is a substitute for the SFMTA’s original proposal for traffic signals at five intersections. Neighbors protested the plans for signals on McAllister and Haight Street, arguing that they would encourage drivers to speed and hurt “neighborhood character.” Both streets carry major Muni lines that hit frequent stop signs as they head to and from the western neighborhoods.

On McAllister, transit-priority traffic signals are moving ahead at two of the five intersections — Broderick and Scott Streets. They were dropped at Baker and Pierce Streets.

“The idea is there’ll still be stop signs for the side streets, but McAllister would have no stop sign, and the circles would be the calming feature for vehicles heading along McAllister,” said Muni Forward Program Manager Sean Kennedy.

At Lyon and Steiner Streets, traffic circles would replace stop signs, and the Muni stop at Lyon would be removed. Images: SFMTA

At Lyon and Steiner Streets, traffic circles would replace stop signs, and the Muni stop at Lyon would be removed. Images: SFMTA

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SFMTA Wants to Remove King Street Bike Lanes, Won’t Improve Alternative

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The ghost bike at King and Third is for Diana Sullivan, who was killed on the stretch where the bike lane disappears. Photo: Google Maps

The SFMTA wants to remove bike lanes and sharrows on King Street in SoMa’s South Beach area to discourage bicycling on the truck-heavy street, Hoodline reports.

The agency wants to divert bike commuters to the parallel stretch of Townsend Street, but has no plans to improve the bike lanes there, which are unprotected and routinely blocked by drivers near the Caltrain Station.

The SFMTA originally proposed extending King’s striped bike lanes (one of its 24 Vision Zero projects). But the agency instead decided to remove all bike infrastructure on the street until concrete changes can be made.

The existing bike lanes are narrow and disappear suddenly, which “is not comfortable for people biking,” said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose. “By directing people to bike on Townsend or the Embarcadero Promenade, we can improve safety for people biking and reduce confusion in the area.”

“In the long-term,” said Jose, the agency “will be examining how biking can be improved in the area through the larger-scale Embarcadero Enhancement Project,” which could bring protected bike lanes along the waterfront years down the road. In the meantime, the agency’s “goal is to encourage people biking in the area to use Townsend when appropriate.”

The SF Bicycle Coalition isn’t fighting the removal of King’s painted bike lanes. But Communications Director Chris Cassidy said it “highlights the importance of protected bike lanes on Townsend.”

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New SFPD Park Station Captain’s Bike Crackdown Won’t Make Streets Safer

In the name of “protecting life,” SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford has promised a crackdown on people on bikes rolling through stop signs.

The SF Bicycle Coalition and some neighborhood leaders are calling on Sanford not to divert precious enforcement resources away from the most deadly traffic violations in the district, none of which are bicycle violations.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

The SFPD has committed to Vision Zero, an end to traffic deaths. Its ostensible strategy is called “Focus on the Five” — the idea being that most citations should be for the five top causes of traffic injuries in the city, which are all driver violations. All stations but one have failed to meet that goal. The share of tickets issued to people walking and biking is actually growing faster than “the five.”

“This crackdown is a significant departure from the SFPD’s Vision Zero Commitment and risks lives by diverting resources away from the deadliest traffic violations,” the SFBC wrote in a blog post today announcing a petition. “This program at Park Station ignores the SFPD’s Vision Zero goal and their own data… which show that the behaviors most likely to result in someone being hit or killed in the Park Station area are failing to yield to pedestrians, speeding, and sudden left or right turns.”

Park Station has a history of targeting people on bikes on the Wiggle and streets in the North of Panhandle and Upper Haight neighborhoods, often at intersections that are nowhere close to being the district’s most dangerous.

But Sanford, who became captain of the station in April, seems less convinced by data than by his personal perceptions. He explained his reasons for the crackdown at a community meeting in June, reports Hoodline:

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Protected Bike Lanes Finally Coming to Folsom Street Near Transbay Center

Image: Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure

Image: Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure

The city will hold a public meeting on Thursday evening to present updates on a plan to install protected bike lanes on Folsom Street near the Transbay Transit Center, east of Second Street.

Construction on the project was previously expected to start this year, according to a city staff presentation from last June [PDF]. At the time, an interim version of the streetscape redesign would have included only a protected bike lane in the eastbound direction, with three lanes for cars, converted for two-way traffic.

The plans are now set to be constructed in 2016, and they’ve been upgraded “because of Vision Zero,” according to Paul Chasan of the Planning Department.

“The new design calls for a two-lane street and a cycle track, which is going to make it a much safer pedestrian environment,” Chasan told a supervisors committee at a recent meeting. (“Cycle track” is the city’s term for protected bike lanes.) “It’s going to make it a high-quality space.”

As part of the project, a protected bike signal phase would be installed at the harrowing Essex Street intersection, which has two right-turn lanes for drivers headed to a Bay Bridge onramp.

For some reason, no information on the time and location of Thursday’s meeting has been posted online by the Department of Public Works or the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, which are leading the project. The SF Bicycle Coalition posted info on its website about the meeting yesterday.

The meeting will be held on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at 701 Mission Street.

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Cities Are Reinventing Transportation Planning for the Age of the Public Beta

A three-day test of a protected bike lane on SW 3rd Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Greg Raisman

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.

As protected bike lanes and other new-to-North-America designs have spread, they’ve created an exciting new era for American traffic engineers, who are once again getting the chance to solve new and interesting problems on our streets.

But they’re also creating a new golden age for another important but unsung civil servant: the public outreach specialist.

Here’s the latest evidence, from Delaware: Next week, a team of city workers in the university town of Newark are going to test a protected bike lane concept by installing it for exactly one hour and getting volunteers to try it out.

It’s a simple, practical idea. But if you’ve been watching closely, you’ll also recognize this as part of a big change that’s sweeping through the profession of transportation planning.

If you were into computer software, you might say we’re now in the age of the public beta.

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