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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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Biking and the Homeless on the Hairball: A Sad Situation for All

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Cesar Chavez bike bridge under the 101. Photo: Dan Crosby.

Cesar Chavez bike bridge under the 101. Photo: Dan Crosby.

Dan Crosby works in tech and cycles to his job in SoMa, using the bike lanes and bridges along Cesar Chavez. Recently, Crosby brought this situation to the attention of Streetsblog: “There’s now a homeless encampment on the westbound Cesar Chavez bike bridge under the 101. There have often been a couple of tents there, but now there’s at least six tents, and a bunch of people standing around, ironically, a pile of bikes,” he wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “Yesterday I had someone exit their tent right in front of me in the very narrow space left for me to pass, and today I had to weave around several people.”

It was just two years ago that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) celebrated these safety improvements to Cesar Chavez and the notorious “Hairball” tangle of freeway on-and-off ramps where the whole mess crosses 101. “Today, we celebrated Cesar Chávez Streets’ transformation into a beautiful, calmer, more livable street, complete with bike lanes, bulb-outs, a planted median and a road diet from six to four lanes,” said a Bicycle Coalition release. And “A Traffic Sewer Transformed Into a Safer Street” was the celebratory headline in Streetsblog.

And now the crown jewel of the project, the bike bridge under 101, is blocked by tents and trash.

This is in no way to detract from the hard work of Fran Taylor, who lead the CC Puede movement to calm the street, reduce the lanes and make it a more livable area. Nor is it a slight to the Bicycle Coalition. Certainly, the road is much better. There are protected bike lanes for long stretches. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Sunday Streets in the Mission

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Dancing on Valencia yesterday afternoon during the Sunday Streets event in the Mission. Photo: Streetsblog.

Dancing on Valencia yesterday afternoon during the Sunday Streets event in the Mission. Photo: Streetsblog.

Normally, Valencia Street in the Mission is dominated by traffic, double-parked cars blocking bike lanes, close calls, and the occasional injury. But not yesterday; yesterday, Valencia Street was all about games, fun and dancing–and a bit of politics and social advocacy–thanks to Sunday Streets.

Yesterday’s event, the second Mission District event this year, went from 26th St to McCoppin Hub Plaza and cars were banned from interfering with the fun from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to bikes, kids on scooters, dancing and all sorts of other fun, lots of people and organizations used the event to get their advocacy and health messages across.

Francisco Siguenza, a nursing student at the University of San Francisco, was volunteering with the American Heart and Lung Association, taking blood pressure and teaching people the basics of CPR. He sees a natural connection between heart health and street fairs and events. “We can reach communities, but it [the event] is an incentive for people to learn reasons to be healthy, to eat healthy.”

Olga Fedyukova, also a nursing student at USF, teaches a passerby the basics of CPR. Photo: Streetsblog.

Olga Fedyukova, also a nursing student at USF, teaches a passerby the basics of CPR. Photo: Streetsblog.

Heart health was also the reason Jennifer Wade was out collecting signatures opposing the construction of the Warrior’s Arena in Mission Bay. “Mission Bay is surrounded by water on three sides, and I’m concerned about access to UCSF  Medical Center,” she said. Her son has a congenital heart defect and, sadly, an emergency trip to the children’s center there is inevitable. “There will be 225 events a year there [at the planned arena] and traffic is going to be a problem…it’s the wrong fit for an area with a medical campus.”

Jennifer Wade was there gathering opposition to the Warrior's Arena in Mission Bay. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jennifer Wade was there gathering opposition to the Warrior’s Arena in Mission Bay. Photo: Streetsblog.

Of course, wherever large groups of people gather, there’s going to be political activists. Along those lines, Supervisor Jane Kim was on her pink bicycle doing some old-fashioned, handshake-politics–gathering support for her bid for the District 11 State Senate seat. “Sunday Streets is such an important way to build community,” she said. “You can see how crowded it is! People love it.”

Jane Kim was out there doing some old fashioned local politicking. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jane Kim was out there doing some old fashioned local politicking. Photo: Streetsblog.

Read more…

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Guest Editorial: Eisenhower’s Parking Policies No Longer Work for San Francisco

Street parking on Nob Hill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Street parking on Nob Hill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The last time San Francisco looked comprehensively at how we plan for parking, Eisenhower was president, gas was 25 cents a gallon, and we hadn’t even started building BART. It was an era when cities came to be dominated by drive-ins and drive-thrus, when streetcar lines were were being torn up, and new freeways were bulldozing old neighborhoods. As a result, our city’s parking policy still acts as a viagra for traffic, pollution and unaffordability.

As the City debates a Transportation Demand Management ordinance aimed at taming traffic congestion, now is the time to update San Francisco’s parking requirements, from the ground up. The City has decided it’s time to tackle congestion, and commissioned a survey of research on what works. The research concluded that “available parking is perhaps the single biggest factor in people’s decision to drive. The research shows that just building housing on a transit line doesn’t reduce automobile use, but reducing parking does.” We’re also in the city’s worst-ever housing affordability crisis, and parking requirements are a key culprit in driving up housing costs. Refreshing San Francisco’s parking policy critical to growing an affordable, sustainable city with vital and dynamic neighborhoods.

San Francisco should stop forcing parking on homes and businesses that do not need or want it. Paying for superfluous parking drives up housing and business costs, and worsens the city’s housing shortage and our escalating commercial rents.

Read more…

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Streetsblog Talks with Jeff Tumlin About Oakland’s Transportation Future

Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, outside a restaurant near Oakland City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson/Nygaard Consulting. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, has until early next year to put together a Transportation Department, pretty much from scratch, for the City of Oakland.

“A better Oakland starts with better streets today, in every part of our city,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf, in a prepared announcement. “We need a world-class transportation department to take a fresh look at our streets, and provide Oakland residents with safer, healthier and more accessible ways to get around, to and from work and school. Equitably enhancing our streets and adding to the array of viable transportation options in Oakland increases the vibrancy of our urban community.”

Tumlin is charged with setting up the department and putting all those goals in motion, as the interim director of the new DOT. Easy, right? Uh, no. From where Streetsblog sits, it seems pretty daunting. If anybody can do it, it’s Tumlin. He’s famous for his work on planning projects all over the world and his uncanny ability to make the wonkiest transportation stuff easily digestible to the general public. That’s important, considering how many voters–and the politicians who represent them–still think better transportation equals widening highways.

Tumlin asked Streetsblog for a sit down to talk about what he’s up to. And when a rock-star of the safe-streets movement asks Streetsblog for a lunch meeting outside Oakland City Hall, he gets it.

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Streetsblog: So Jeff, what brings you to Oakland?

Jeffrey Tumlin: My charge is actually fairly simple, first thing I have to do is create a DOT for Oakland. There’s currently one employee, that’s me. We need to create an organization. We need all of the details of the organization chart, including how to split administration functions from Public Works and have the resources to adequately staff our administration functions. Do we organize it functionally or by service delivery? Do we organize the org chart according to conventional silos, or do we turn it 90 degrees and organize it by project team or service delivery. Both structures have profound advantages and disadvantages.

SB: 90 degrees–come again?

JT: Is our primary orientation around skill and function area, or is it around service delivery? In a capital project, you can set it up so one group is in charge of planning, another does design, another does operations, and another builds it. And there’s a hand-off that occurs when it moves from phase to phase. Another way of addressing it is instead of organizing a group of people who do nothing but, for example, budgets, instead organize a project team.

SB: So instead of a design department, a planning department, and a bike lane department, you structure it so you have an office for, let’s say, the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets project, and people from all those specialties are inside that office?

Oakland will be getting more parking-protected bike lanes like this one demonstrated by Bike East Bay. But will the potholls get repaired? Photos: Melanie Curry

Oakland will get more parking-protected bike lanes like this one demonstrated by Bike East Bay. But will the pavement be repaired? Photo: Melanie Curry

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Panel Asks: How do We Get More Diversity in Bike Advocacy?

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SFBC director Brian Wiedenmeier introduced Janice Li, Renee Rivera, Lateefah Simon and Tamika Butler for a discussion about racial equity in the bike advocacy movement. Photo: Streetsblog.

SFBC director Brian Wiedenmeier introduced Janice Li (who moderated the panel), Renee Rivera, Lateefah Simon, and Tamika Butler for a discussion about equity in the bike advocacy movement. Photo: Streetsblog.

Yesterday evening, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) held a discussion about diversity as part of its “Bike Talks” series at the Sports Basement Grotto on Bryant Street. Janice Li, Advocacy Director for SFBC, moderated a panel comprised of Lateefah Simon, President of the Akonadi Foundation, Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and Renee Rivera, Executive Director of Bike East Bay.

The formal discussion about the lack of diversity in the bike advocacy community was preceded by a social with snacks and drinks. “I’ve been very up-front that issues of racial and economic justice are important to me personally, and I am interested in how the SFBC’s work can reflect those values,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, in a conversation with Streetsblog. Wiedenmeier, in several presentations, has stressed his wish that the SFBC broaden efforts to increase the diversity of its membership. “We have a strategic planning process we’ll be kicking off this fall and I think this event is a great way to begin that conversation with our members,” he said.

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Streetsblog Talks with Scott Wiener

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Streetsblog sat down with Supervisor Scott Wiener in an unofficial district office (Casto Tarts) on Friday. Photo: Streetsblog.

Streetsblog sat down with Supervisor Scott Wiener in an unofficial district office (aka: Castro Tarts) on Friday. Photo: Streetsblog.

On Friday, Streetsblog caught up with District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. Readers may recall that Streetsblog last interviewed the then newly re-elected chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority back in January. Since that interview, much has changed. The mayor has a new Executive Directive on Vision Zero, a new city sales tax initiative is scheduled for the November ballot that will be integral to the budget and transportation investment, and there is a new interim police chief. Moreover, Wiener is now locked in a close fight for the State Senate District 11 seat for San Francisco and San Mateo County with Supervisor Jane Kim. Given all that, Streetsblog thought it was time to get the latest from Wiener.

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Streetsblog: You recently wrote an editorial advocating for late night service on BART and Muni. I know you’ve been working for some time on late-night service options. Do you envision that as bus-only, bus-plus-Muni rail, or do you see a scheme of, say, single-tracking through the Transbay, so it would include some BART service too?

Scott Wiener: Obviously, the easiest late-night transportation expansion is going to be a bus service and that’s been a big focus. Improving the owl service—making it more frequent and expansive; not having to tour the whole city to get home. And we want to increase Transbay late-night service to make it truly usable. We’ve made progress, and there will be more.

I’d absolutely like to see overnight rail service. I’d like to see Muni run the subway later too—at least on the weekends until 2 a.m. In terms of BART—we’ve been struggling for so long. They insist they can’t do 24-hour service.  I’ve heard conflicting things about whether BART has enough of  a “can do” attitude. But they are emphatic about the impossibility of running overnight. So we need to keep a second Transbay tube on track, which will allow for 24-hour BART. Of course, it’s not just about 24-hour capacity; it’s about redundancy. It’s about connecting Caltrain, the Capital Corridor, and getting HSR over to the East Bay and Sacramento.

Read more…

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SPUR Talk: Transportation Challenges for Downtown Tech Companies

A SPUR panel discussed how downtown Tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work . Photo: Streetsblog.

A panel at SPUR discussed how downtown tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work . Photo: Streetsblog.

The San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), hosted a lunchtime talk in downtown San Francisco today, with representatives from Salesforce and Airbnb, about how the companies help employees commute between work and home. Unlike tech giants based outside of downtown San Francisco, neither company makes heavy use of private buses–so-called Tech Shuttles–and instead depends on public transit such as BART, buses and Caltrain.

“Our San Francisco campus is right down the street,” said Lauren Bennett, Senior Program Manager for Transportation at Salesforce. Her company has seven buildings in downtown San Francisco with nearly 7,000 employees, she explained, adding “That gives us access to two BART stations and the regional Transbay Terminal…we don’t have a last-mile problem.”

That’s probably why a third of its employees get to work by BART, with another 20 percent getting in by various bus and other transit providers. That’s part of a corporate strategy. “We think our employees want to work in urban areas and like the city as an amenity,” she said. And they don’t try to insulate their employees from the surrounding area. “We don’t have a cafeteria. We want people to get out, walk around and spend money in small businesses,” she said.

Airbnb has a similar strategy. “Airbnb was born and bred South of Market,” said Rob King, Facilities Coordinator at Airbnb. “It was started with air mattresses on the floor in SoMa; we’ve always been an urban company right in the heart of cities.” But the SoMa location comes with its own last-mile challenges. “The Caltrain station and BART are both .8 miles away,” said King, “Transbay is 2 miles and it’s 2.5 for the Ferry Terminal.”
Read more…

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Bicycle Coalition Member Q&A with Executive Director Wiedenmeier

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Kristin Smith moderated a member Q&A with Bike Coalition director Brian Wiedenmeier

Kristin Smith moderated a member Q&A with Bike Coalition director Brian Wiedenmeier. Photo: Liam Brooks.

Yesterday evening some 200 San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) members came to the Brick and Mortar Music Hall at Duboce and Mission to meet SFBC’s Executive Director, Brian Wiedenmeier. They had bánh mì sandwiches, a few beers, and good conversation before a formal Q&A hosted by Kristin Smith, currently with SFMTA and former SFBC staffer.

The questions were varied, but key in the discussion was Mayor Edwin Lee’s recent Executive Directive, instructing the police, the parks department, and SFMTA to accelerate Vision Zero projects and specific bicycle infrastructure plans in response to last month’s deaths of two cyclists, Heather Miller and Kate Slattery.

By six, the venue was already crowded, with a hundred or so bikes parked in the valet stand outside. Participants were of varied ages and professions, but all had one thing in common–a passion for cycling and safe streets. “I’m interested in seeing what Brian has to offer,” said Matt Dove, an SFBC member since 2004. Dove is Director of Bicycle Programs for the Presidio Community YMCA. “I’m curious to see what he’ll do about inclusivity,” said Eliza Barrios, a tech support staffer with the Wikimedia Foundation. She was especially interested in efforts to expand bike infrastructure in under-served and outlying areas of San Francisco, such as the Bayview and the Tenderloin.

If there was a common theme in concerns from participants, it was skepticism about whether the Mayor’s new directive will lead to tangible change on the ground. “We get too stuck in the minutia of projects in San Francisco… we need leadership to stop being re-active and start being pro-active,” said Dove. Read more…

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A Month After Kate and Heather’s Deaths, Mayor Lee Takes Action

The vigil for Kate Slattery. Photo: Streetsblog.

Last month’s vigil for Kate Slattery. Photo: Streetsblog.

It’s a little over a month since two cyclists were killed in one night on San Francisco’s streets: Kate Slattery, who was killed South of Market, and Heather Miller, who died while riding in Golden Gate Park. Today, in a rare move, Mayor Edwin Lee, after talks with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, issued an Executive Directive to bring safety improvements to the locations where they were killed.

The Directive includes instructions for:

  • SFMTA to deliver near­-term safety improvements on 7th and 8th Streets in the next nine months
  • The SF Recreation & Parks Department (SF Rec & Park) and SFMTA to deliver near­-term safety improvements to reduce speeds and vehicular through­-traffic on JFK Drive in the next six months
  • SF Rec & Park and SFMTA to initiate a study of expanded traffic calming and traffic restrictions in Golden Gate Park within the next three months

More details on the complete directive in a moment. First, some background.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition started pushing right away to get some action in response to the horrors of June 22. Streetsblog readers should take a moment and add to their letter-writing campaign by clicking here.

Brian Wiedenmeier, the Bicycle Coalition’s new executive director, has been in near constant contact with the Mayor’s office, SFPD, and SFMTA. In his own words:

Over the last month, the Mayor’s office has reached out to us, along with several city agencies, to meet regularly and develop a plan of action in light of the tragic fatalities on June 22. Informed by what we are hearing from our members through the 1,500 emails directed to the Mayor, we are approaching those meetings with the goal of seeing prompt, specific safety improvements delivered not just to the sites of two fatal collisions, but to streets across San Francisco.

We are urging the Mayor to demonstrate his commitment to Vision Zero by ensuring city departments take immediate actions to implement protected bike lanes, deliver significant safety improvements to the streets that saw the tragic fatalities of the past month, ensure SFPD focuses enforcement on the most dangerous traffic violations and speed the delivery of Vision Zero projects.

Read more…

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Streetsblog Talks with Lisa Feldstein about BART

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Outgoing BART Board President Tom Radulovich endorsed Attorney and Planning Instructor Lisa Feldstein for his replacement. Photo: Streetsblog.

Outgoing BART Board President Tom Radulovich endorsed planning instructor Lisa Feldstein for his replacement. Photo: Streetsblog.

20-year BART board veteran and current board president Tom Radulovich announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election this November. Additionally, he endorsed a replacement: Lisa Feldstein, an instructor at the University of San Francisco. It looks as if Feldstein is going to have quite a bit of competition for Radulovich’s seat. That said, Streetsblog figured it worth talking with Feldstein to find out what she’s all about and to learn her vision for BART. Streetsblog caught up with her yesterday afternoon at a coffee shop near the Balboa Park BART station.

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Streetsblog: Let’s start with the obvious question. Who are you and why do you want this job?

Lisa Feldstein: I’m a planner and transportation geek and I care a lot about BART. It’s the spine of the region and there’s a lot we need to do so it serves today’s commuters. I grew up in NYC. My grandfather drove a city bus and my dad was from San Francisco. He always talked about San Francisco like it was paradise on earth. So I went to law school in Berkeley, with a plan to return to the East Coast. But I met my spouse. BART has been part of my life ever since, getting to and from jobs, Berkeley law, which I graduated from in 1992, and then I went back to school in 2007 to get a planning degree.

SB: So this is hardly your first foray into politics and planning?

LF:  I was appointed to the San Francisco Planning Commission by former Supervisor Tom Ammiano. Then from there I took a job with a non-profit, teaching public health professionals in planning. The idea was public health professionals have to clean up from planning decisions. Planning and public health started as one thing, and they separated. Planners made non-walkable suburbs which helped with communicable disease but led to chronic disease.

SB: Such as diabetes and heart disease from the lack of exercise?

LF: Public health people had figured out what the problem was but had no idea how to intervene so my job was to teach them at the front end so they could work with planning departments.

SB: And now it’s generally recognized that bad planning leads to bad public health outcomes.

LF: Right. And the partnership [between health and planning] has been very successful, putting health elements into general plans.

SB: You had a law degree. But you decided to go back and study planning, even though you were already working in it?

LF: My daughter was young at the time. And I burned out on all the travel, but I liked the teaching part. So I went back and got a PhD so I could teach.

SB: You’ve been doing that for a while. So you want to get back into hands-on work with BART?

LF: I like the idea of being able to stick my hands back in and make some positive change on issues that I’ve been thinking about for so long. Some of that is transportation specific, but a lot of it has to do with equity.

SB: How so?

LF: BART is not that old a system, but it was created for a white middle class, mostly men, and that’s not really the ridership anymore.

SB: Right. If you look at old pictures of BART, the ridership is very, well, monochromatic.

LF: Today’s ridership is much more diverse, racially, socially, economically and we don’t have a single commute pattern anymore.

SB: It’s not just people commuting from the suburbs to Market Street.

LF: Lots of people, particularly low income, are commuting from suburb to suburb. BART is over capacity and it doesn’t serve the needs of the Bay Area’s population today.

SB: Right. So if you’re working a night shift, BART kind of sucks.

LF: When I was studying for my qualifying exam in planning, the last Transbay service was like at 12:02. If I missed it, I had to walk miles to get a bus that ran all night. So I’ll be advocating for extended service, but I understand there are real issues with maintenance. BART has to have buses, at least, that run all night.

SB: You’re talking about a dedicated service?

LF: Yes, to help people work swing shifts, night shifts and weekends.

SB: What are some other things you hope to work on with BART?

LF: The platforms at rush hour; they get backed up onto the stairs. It’s a matter of time before someone falls–we need to manage the capacity.

SB: Sounds like you would support peak pricing, like commuter railroads back east.

LF: Part of BART’s problem is it’s not quite commuter rail, but it’s not quite a subway either. You can do peak hour pricing, but BART’s already expensive. The pricing structure looks like commuter rail, so you end up creating further inequities for people who don’t have other choices. Lower income people have the least flexibility, but you’re now asking them to pay more. BART doesn’t even have monthly passes, so if you moved to a peak-ride cost, you have to first do something about passes.

The other problem, especially for low income people, is BART is connected to 28 other transit systems. It’s outrageous that when you transfer from BART to Muni you get a discount, but not in the other direction. AC transit used to have the reduced fare for transfers, but they had budget problems. So that was something that just got eliminated.

SB: Travel to Europe, to a city such as London, and you have one card and one fare and you can ride anything. We have Clipper–but there are still so many different agencies with different fares. Why can’t we get the fare structure more rational?

LF: The Europeans have the advantage that the government structure is more centralized. The government can say “you’re going to do it this way.” But here–and it’s the same with land use planning–every jurisdiction does whatever it wants.

SB: Which is why we have a suburban-style McDonald’s with a drive through on Ocean on a major transportation corridor?

LF: Or the one near me on Haight and Stanyan. But even near a BART station, usually, once you get back to ground level, it’s not BART’s jurisdiction. But it’s not as if BART always does a great job either. Look at the plazas at 16th and 24th and Mission. Read more…