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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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America Could Have Been Building Protected Bike Lanes for the Last 40 Years

intersectiondesigns

The latest in bikeway design? Nope, these intersection treatments are from early American bikeway planning documents. Sources: Fisher, 1972; City of Davis, 1972; Smith, Jr. 1974

Salt Lake City is on track to implement the nation’s first “protected intersection” — a Dutch-inspired design to minimize conflicts between cyclists and drivers at crossings. For American cities, this treatment feels like the cutting edge, but a look back at the history of bike planning in the United States reveals that even here, this idea is far from new. In fact, the protected intersection concept appeared in every foundational document for bike planning in the early 1970s. But no American city ever installed one until now — here’s why.

First, some background. The first modern on-street bike lanes in the United States were installed in Davis, California, in the fall of 1967. Of these three bike lanes, one was a parking-protected bikeway on Sycamore Drive. That’s right: The first on-street bike lane in the United States was a parking-protected bikeway.

davis_protected_lane

A woman rides on Sycamore Lane in Davis, CA.

As word of the Davis bike lanes spread across the country, cities all over the United States began improvising their own designs. In response, the Federal Highway Administration funded the publication of four key planning documents between 1972 and 1976 that provided diagrams and guidelines to help cities (and ultimately the FHWA) create a uniform design for bikeways. There are many similarities in all of these documents, but it is clear that with each subsequent report, the design of on-street bike lanes slowly drifted toward designs that treated the cyclist more like a motor vehicle than a human.

Just as the bikeways movement was gaining steam and formalization was taking shape, physically separated bikeways were challenged by a new movement of vehicular cycling advocates — many of whom still challenge bikeways today. Throughout the 1970s, these fit men who self-identified as “cyclists” attended meeting after meeting to decry the designs that engineers were supposedly building for them. Quibbles in the wording of laws or details of a design became arguments and headaches for city staff. Anyone who was not already riding a bicycle on busy car-dominated streets was drowned out by the vehicular cyclists who claimed to speak for all bicycle riders.

Of course, surveys of riders showed these individuals to be in the minority — with 72 percent of riders saying separated bikeways provided good protection and 59 percent saying “signed routes” offered poor protection:

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SFMTA Retracts Report of 651% Jump in Bike Traffic on San Jose Avenue

The SFMTA has retracted its report last week of a 651 percent jump in bicycling on northbound San Jose Avenue after a traffic lane was removed to widen the bike lane.

The actual increase in morning peak-hour bike counts was 14 percent, said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose. In the evening peak hour, the reported 221 percent was actually 62 percent.

“A second analysis of the underlying raw data revealed a spreadsheet error overstating the bicycling increase,” Jose said in a statement. “We apologize for our error and will do our best to bring you accurate information going forward.”

The agency issued its correction statement late Friday. Streetsblog reported the 651 percent jump on Wednesday after receiving confirmation of the statistics from the SFMTA, following a blog post from the SF Bicycle Coalition highlighting the statistic last Monday.

The newly-released version of the SFMTA’s data spreadsheet [PDF] includes a note stating that there was “an equipment malfunction during the AM peak data collection period” on one of the post-implementation days when bikes were counted. The note says the data from that day was removed from the counts, which were averaged over 72-hour periods in January 2014 and January 2015.

The SFMTA says the bike counts were taken on the Monterey Boulevard ramp, just before it merges on to northbound San Jose.

All other data in the report remain accurate, including impacts on car traffic volumes and speeds, said Jose.

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Parking-Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Division at 9th

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The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

Bike lanes on the block of Division Street between 9th and 10th Streets will get some much-needed protection this fall. Earlier this week the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a design that will put people on bikes between the curb and parked cars. The massive 9th and Division intersection will also get safety improvements like large painted curb extensions.

The upgrades would complement other bike and pedestrian safety improvements going in along Division, which becomes 13th Street as it runs beneath the Central Freeway.

SF’s first parking-protected bike lane on a city street was expected to be constructed this spring on westbound 13th, from Bryant to Folsom Street. SFMTA officials haven’t explained why that project has been delayed, though some of the other striping improvements included in the package have been implemented.

Altogether, the upgrades along Division and 13th, from the traffic circle at Eighth Street to Folsom, will create a continuous curbside westbound bike lane that could set a precedent for how low-cost redesigns can make dangerous SoMa streets safer.

“It’s turning out to be a really good cycling route,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the SFMTA board on Tuesday.

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

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SFMTA Bucks Uber, Bans Private Autos From Turning On to Mid-Market Street

Uber's Wayne Ting told the SFMTA board the company opposed "preferential treatment" for taxis on Market Street. Video screenshot from Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/YouTube

Uber’s Wayne Ting told the SFMTA board the company opposed “preferential treatment” for taxis on Market Street. Video screenshot from Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/YouTube

Private auto drivers will be banned from turning on to Market Street between Third and Eighth streets after the restrictions were approved unanimously by the SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday.

The board dismissed the last-minute protest from Uber, who complained that its ride-hail drivers would be included in the ban, while taxis wouldn’t. In the roughly three hours of public comment, the vast majority of speakers supported the bans — safe streets advocates and taxi drivers alike.

Uber had initially criticized the plan outright, saying that it would “increase gridlock around town, with no improvement to safety.” But reps from Uber and Lyft, which have long fought the kind of regulations applied to the taxi industry, told the SFMTA board they support turn bans to make Market safer as long as they’re also applied to taxis.

“It creates a preferential treatment for one form of transportation over another,” Wayne Ting, Uber’s SF general manager told the board, eliciting jeers from members of the audience.

“If Uber wants to be regulated like a taxi then they can have the benefits of being regulated,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara told Bay City News.

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[Corrected] San Jose Ave Bike Traffic Jumps; More Traffic Calming Goes In

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San Jose Avenue seen last June, just after bike lane upgrades and a road diet went in. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

Update 6/22: The SFMTA has retracted its report of a 651 percent increase in bike traffic on northbound San Jose Avenue in morning peak hours, which was featured in an earlier version of this article.

Evening bike traffic increased by 62 percent on northbound San Jose Avenue after a traffic lane was removed and the bike lane was widened with a buffer zone a year ago, according to the SFMTA.

As part of the ongoing traffic-calming project, Caltrans last week also removed a highway off-ramp lane leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut.

The “incredible change” in bike counts reported by the SFMTA “shows the power of streets that make people feel safe,” SF Bicycle Coalition community organizer Chema Hernández Gil wrote in a blog post on Monday.

San Jose, which divides Glen Park and Bernal Heights, is the most direct route to downtown from southern neighborhoods like the Excelsior and Ingleside.

The SFMTA compared 72-hour bike counts on the Monterey Boulevard ramp, just before it merges on to northbound San Jose. The average bike counts were taken during morning peak hours in January 2014 and January 2015, according to SFMTA data [PDF]. [Update: The SFMTA said the bike counts included in that spreadsheet were not accurate. A new version is available in this PDF.]

The data was collected as part of a two-phase pilot project aimed at measuring how a road diet and better bike lane protection can help tame driving speeds and attract more people to commute by bike on San Jose north of Highway 280.

“San Jose Avenue has long been a pseudo-freeway with huge negative impacts on the surrounding areas due to over-the-top speeding,” said a statement from Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pushed for the safety measures. “This pilot program is designed to reduce speeds, improve neighborhood quality of life, and allow for diverse uses of the road, including both drivers and cyclists. The pilot also allows cyclists to safely use the bike lane, and an increase in cycling on San Jose Avenue is a good thing. I look forward to the results of the pilot and to having a safer, multi-modal San Jose Avenue for all users.”

When the first phase was implemented last June, the SFMTA and Caltrans removed one of three traffic lanes on northbound San Jose to match the geometry of the street’s southbound side. The leftover space was used to upgrade the existing narrow bike lane with a buffer zone and plastic posts to separate it from motor traffic.

As part of the second phase, Caltrans removed the second Highway 280 off-ramp lane last week, and will measure its effectiveness in bringing down excessive traffic speeds, along with that of other measures in the coming months. Caltrans added the second ramp lane in 1992 after the Loma Prieta earthquake, as a supposedly temporary measure to accommodate traffic re-routed away from freeway repairs.

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Via Streetsblog California
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Save the Date: CalBike Summit Coming in October

The 2015 CalBike Summit’s theme is equity. Photo: Melanie Curry

The California Bicycle Coalition’s 2015 Bike Summit will take place in San Diego in late October, providign an opportunity for bike advocates from across the state to gather and discuss issues of this year’s theme: equity.

Executive Director Dave Snyder pointed out that equity is becoming a focus in California, especially in the legislature, where climate change legislation increasingly includes requirements to consider fairness across income groups and locations.

“Bicycling is one solution to addressing inequities,” said Synder, “and the more that legislators and the people who elect them understand this, the more success we’ll have in making all our communities healthier, safer, and more prosperous.”

The summit will feature three days of learning sessions and networking events, starting on Sunday, October 25.

“It’s a chance to bring together all of the advocacy organizations around the state to share information and learn from each other,” said Stephan Vance, a planner at San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and a member of CalBike’s board of directors. “It also includes a professional engineering and planning component. Our advocates are very savvy about these topics, and can share information about what cities are doing around the state to help meet our goals. It’s the convening of a high-powered advocacy group with the addition of a professional bike planning and engineering conference.”

Or, as Snyder put it, “It’s our state’s version of three national events, combining the professional quality of the national ProWalk ProBike Conference with the political savvy of the National Bike Summit and the advocacy expertise of the Alliance [for Biking & Walking]’s Leadership Retreat.”

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Tomorrow: Support Car Restrictions for a Safer Market, Which Uber Opposes

Image: SFMTA

Image: SFMTA

You can email public comments on the “Safer Market Street” car restrictions to the SFMTA board at MTABoard@sfmta.com.

The SFMTA Board of Directors is set to vote tomorrow on whether to ban private auto drivers from turning onto mid-Market Street, part of a package of safety improvements and transit upgrades.

While the improvements seem to be backed by a wide coalition, Uber doesn’t belong to it. At the eleventh hour, the ride-hail app company launched a petition to exempt Uber drivers from the restrictions. Though Hoodline reported that the petition had gained 15,000 signatures after Uber’s email blast, the petition webpage was hacked and subsequently taken down by Uber, according to Business Insider.

The “Safer Market Street” improvements are short-term measures aimed at reducing injuries, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told reporters last week. “Our most iconic street should be our safest street.”

On Market between Third and Eighth Streets, where the turn bans would go into effect, private auto drivers make up just 10-30 percent of roadway traffic but were involved in 82 percent of the 162 injury collisions in 2012 and 2013, according to Maguire. Most pedestrians were injured in crosswalks.

The mid-Market stretch contains four of the city’s top 20 intersections for pedestrian injuries, and the two intersections with the most bicycle injuries citywide.

“These types of crash patterns are just not acceptable to us,” said Maguire.

“The Safer Market Street Project is a strong example of a data-driven proposal that is purely focused on safety,” SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post today. “It’s important that the project moves forward promptly in its strongest form to help protect the thousands of people who walk and bike on Market Street every day.”

Uber dismissed the data while demanding that its drivers be exempt from the turn bans, as taxis will. Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend told the SF Chronicle last week, “Market Street is a major artery of the city, and cutting off riders and driver-partners from accessing this thoroughfare will increase gridlock around town, with no improvement to safety.”

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim stands by the car restrictions, her aide told Hoodline:

When she championed the legislation to establish the Vision Zero policy citywide two years ago, this is the type of engineering change that she had in mind. Engineering to create safer streets, with a priority focus on the corridors and intersections with the highest rates of collisions between vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians, is a critical component of the Vision Zero policy. This change will target four of the worst collision intersections where drivers fail to yield to pedestrians.

Andy Bosselman, a transit activist who uses Uber regularly, blasted Uber’s opposition in an open letter to the SFMTA board.

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Fisherman’s Wharf Parking-Free Street Revamp Boosts Sales, Will Expand

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Two years after the city gave Fisherman’s Wharf a people-friendly redesign on two blocks of Jefferson Street, business is booming. Despite merchants’ fears that removing all car parking on the blocks would hurt their sales, they now say it had the opposite effect.

The second phase of the project, which will bring a similar treatment to three blocks of Jefferson from Jones Street east to Powell Street, is taking a step forward. D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen and other city officials announced today that $1.7 million has been allocated for design and engineering for the expansion. The rest of the funds for the second phase, totaling $13 million, haven’t been identified, but it could be constructed as early as 2017.

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman's Wharf CBD

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman’s Wharf CBD

In June 2013, the two blocks of Jefferson between Hyde and Jones Streets were made safer and calmer with wider sidewalks, textured pavement to calm motor traffic, and the removal of curbside car parking. One-way traffic was also converted to two-way.

Since then, sales on the street have risen. The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District surveyed 18 of the 33 businesses on those blocks, and they reported month-over-month gross sales increases between 10 to 21 percent on average:

From July through November 2013, these 18 businesses generated an additional $1.5 million dollars in gross sales from the previous year. This added approximately $140,000 more in sales tax for the city during this 5 month period.

“People are staying longer and spending more money,” said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf CBD. “Drivers are a little more cautious, I would say.”

Removing car parking to widen sidewalks provided more room for crowds and made storefronts more visible, said Campbell. “You look down the street, and you don’t have a string of cars that are part of the landscape. The businesses become the landscape.”

“A lot of the merchants came back to me and said, you know what, I thought losing the parking was going to be a problem, but I feel like people can actually see my windows now, and they’re engaging with us more.”

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Sup. Christensen: Make the Stockton Tunnel Better for Walking and Biking

Supervisor Christensen (left) listens as Richard Ow speaks, along with SF Planning Director John  Rahaim and Department of Public Works Director Mohammend Nuru. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Supervisor Christensen (left) listens as Richard Ow speaks, along with SF Planning Director John Rahaim and Department of Public Works Director Mohammend Nuru. Photo: Aaron Bialick

D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen wants to make the Stockton Tunnel more comfortable to walk and bike through. She announced today that she procured at least $100,000 in the city budget for a study of improvements in the next fiscal year.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Photo: Aaron Bialick

“Union Square is known all over the world. Chinatown is known all over the world,” Christensen told reporters today. “This is the wormhole that connects the two of them, and we’ve sort of left it as a transit afterthought.”

“Lots of us walk through the Stockton Tunnel, mostly out of necessity. I’d like people to do it because it’s safe and fun, if that’s possible… I know when I’m cycling, those flat shortcuts are really preferred.”

Christensen said the specifics of the study would be developed through community participation. But she suggested ideas ranging from public art and better lighting to removing a traffic lane, which could quell the roar of motor traffic and make room to physically separate cars from people walking and biking.

Richard Ow, a senior who lives in Chinatown, said he’s been walking through the tunnel since he was 10 years old. “This should’ve been done a long time ago,” he said. “We want to see some action.”

The idea of removing one of Stockton’s three traffic lanes already seems to have strong support. Pius Lee, chairman of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, told the SF Chronicle in February that local merchants and residents already agree it’s a good idea. He noted that it would skirt the merchant controversy of parking removal.

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Streetsblog USA
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Five Key Lessons From Europe’s Vision Zero Success

Cross-posted from the Vision Zero Network

Berlin, Germany

From the moment that Vision Zero began capturing attention in American cities, we’ve heard many admiring references to its success in Europe, particularly in its birthplace of Sweden.

I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to research those experiences and their lessons for the growing number of American communities working to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. As part of a fellowship with the German Marshall Fund, I’m spending two months visiting Stockholm, Sweden; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Berlin, Germany to interview experts and observe first-hand their approaches to traffic safety. The goal of my research: to gather and share replicable lessons for American communities, particularly in urban areas, where we’re seeing the most momentum for Vision Zero.

First, a disclaimer: I’m still actively researching and interviewing, so it’s too soon to share my sense of the “full story.” Please consider these early impressions.

And, second, a clarification: What the Swedes — and to a lesser extent the Germans — call Vision Zero, the Dutch call Sustainable Safety. While there are many similarities to what can generally be termed a “safe systems approach” to transportation, there are more differences than I realized between their efforts. (But more on that in a future post…)

So what have I observed thus far? Here are five initial  takeaways, focusing on areas that seem relevant to the U.S. experience and worthy of more exploration.

1) Managing speeds — and speed differentials — is a top priority

In all three of these countries, the leaders of traffic safety efforts emphasize that managing speed is the number one determinant in their successes in improving safety.

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