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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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Market Street Bike Count Off to a Record-Breaking Start in 2015

The Market Street bike counter tallied 97,302 people rolling by in March — the highest monthly total yet. Last year, the monthly count rose steadily until October, so bike ridership on Market is expected to keep breaking records. April could be the first month to break the 100,000 threshold.

Throughout March, typical weekday ridership ranged between 3,200 and 3,900 bikes on eastbound Market between Ninth and Tenth Streets.

A design tweak at the beginning of the year that led the counter to more accurately capture bike trips explains a large chunk of the increase this year. But safety improvements have certainly helped SF’s busiest bicycling street continue to flourish as well. A bigger boost could come when turn restrictions for cars between Third and Eighth Streets take effect starting in the summer.

“At this pace, 2015 is looking like the year that San Franciscans will top off the ‘bike thermometer’ on Market Street and hit over a million rides,” said Noah Budnick, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “The bits and pieces of improved infrastructure there are a down payment on a street that will be transformed.”

As city agencies shape the Better Market Street redesign, “Mayor Lee must meet this ever-growing public demand for more and better bicycling by rebuilding Market as a world-class street that is the backbone of a connected, convenient and enjoyable network of safe streets for biking,” said Budnick.

San Franciscans may take the throngs of bikes on Market for granted, but Los Angeles Times reporter Laura J. Nelson was stopped in her tracks today when she tweeted this photo across the street from the counter:


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SF’s Freeway-Like Streets Increase the Risk From Distracted Drivers

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Image: Zendrive

Image: Zendrive

Distracted driving in SF is no accident. A new map of cell phone use by drivers in SF reveals where drivers are most likely to use a mobile device, increasing the risk of crashes and injuries, and the pattern is unmistakable.

There’s one thing that streets with high rates of distracted driving have in common: They’re designed like freeways.

According to the map created by Zendrive, which “measures driving safety using only the sensors on a driver’s phone,” the streets with the most mobile device use by drivers were overwhelmingly designed as routes to freeways, leading to on-ramps and off-ramps, especially along the Central Freeway that divides the South of Market and Mission districts.

Sections of Duboce, Folsom, Eighth, 10th, and the interchange at Brannan and Division Streets all ranked in the top 10 of distracted driving streets.

Also high up the list were Fell and Oak Streets and 19th Avenue, which act as surface highways. Fell and Oak whisk west side drivers to and from the Central Freeway, and have synchronized traffic signals so drivers don’t have to worry about stopping often.

It stands to reason that wide, multi-lane streets designed to lull drivers into “cruise-control” mode fail to keep their attention. As Tom Vanderbilt wrote in his book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, “The relative ease of most driving lures us into thinking we can get away with doing other things.

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Streetsblog LA
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California Assembly Bill Would Allow “Traffic School” for Bicycle Violations

BikeEastBay-BikeSafetyClass

A mix of students, including some who received tickets for violating the campus vehicle code, learn about bike safety in Berkeley. Photo: Bike East Bay

A bill that would allow bicyclists who are ticketed for traffic violations to reduce their fines by attending a traffic safety class was introduced in the California Assembly last week. Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) amended A.B. 902 to repeal a provision in the vehicle code that currently prohibits such diversion programs except in the case of “minors who commit infractions not involving a motor vehicle for which no fee is charged.”

The bill, sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, would allow local jurisdictions to create a diversion program and expand it to all bicycle riders, including adults. It could also make it possible to offer all bicyclists, ticketed or not, more opportunities to learn the rules of the road and safe bicycle handling skills.

Robert Prinz sees the bill as an opportunity to increase bicyclist safety and awareness of traffic laws. As Education Director for Bike East Bay, he’s in charge of a program that offers free classes on bike skills and safety, including everything from adult learn-to-ride to advanced street skills classes. Bike East Bay also coordinates with the University of California Berkeley police department on a campus-wide diversion program, offering classes in exchange for reduced fines for bicyclists who are ticketed on campus.

But the violations currently eligible for the reduced fines are only those that violate the campus code—such as riding through the “dismount zone” in the central plaza—not the California Vehicle Code.

“It kind of seems silly that only the campus code violations are eligible, especially when things that have a much bigger impact on safety are not included,” said Prinz. “We should be able to turn these tickets into valuable educational opportunities.”

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Eyes on the Street: Polk’s Extended, Unprotected Bike Lane Blocked By Cars

Photo: Chet Anderson

This week the SFMTA extended the southbound bike lane on Polk Street from Post up to Union Street. The stripes are in, and the bike lane symbols are still being stenciled.

Two Streetsblog readers have written in about drivers double-parking in the bike lane and even cruising in it. You can chalk it up to the newness of the lane up to a point, but as with the prevailing design of most SF bike lanes, the Polk extension puts people on bikes in the door zone, unprotected between parked cars and moving cars and routinely blocked by double-parkers. Some double-parking enforcement will be needed for the bike lane to provide any meaningful safety improvement.

The southbound bike lane extension is the first in a package of interim bike and pedestrian safety measures coming to Polk in the next few months, after the SFMTA Board of Directors approved the watered-down redesign earlier this month. Other improvements in the works include protected bike signals at four intersections on the southbound bike lane south of Geary Street, as well as painted bulb-outs. The full redesign is set to begin construction next spring.

Polk, looking south toward Pine. Photo: Henry Pan

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SFPD Explains: Driver Won’t Be Charged for Killing Cyclist at 14th & Folsom

A ghost bike at the corner where Charles Vinson was killed. Photo: GhostBike.org/Twitter

Three witnesses told SFPD investigators that Charles Vinson, 66, biked through a red light when he was killed by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets on March 2, according to police officials.

An SFPD spokesperson told Streetsblog earlier this week that Vinson had been found at fault, contrary to an initial witness cited in the press who said the driver ran a red. The spokesperson declined to provide details at the time, since “the case is still open and active, we do not discuss open and active investigation matters.”

SFPD Sergeant Eric Mahoney later explained the department’s investigation, telling Streetsblog that Vinson may have misjudged the traffic signal timing at the complicated intersection. SFPD Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix shared the same details with the SF Examiner yesterday.

Mahoney said Vinson was traveling eastbound on 14th and was hit by a driver headed northbound on Folsom. According to three eyewitnesses, Vinson began to ride against a red light. However, given the signal timing at the intersection, it’s also possible the driver blew through a red light. Police have yet to determine if that is the case.

“We’re not 100 percent sure what the vehicle did, but we’re 100 percent sure what the bicycle did,” said Mahoney. “The bicyclist, I’m thinking, assumed that as long as nobody’s going to make a left turn in front of me, I can keep going straight.”

Mahoney said the driver can’t be charged since it was established that Vinson had a red light. “Not saying that what [the driver] did or didn’t do was unimportant, but once we’ve established a violation here, we know that, even if we can prove [the driver had] a red light, the DA is not gonna charge that person with a crime because there’s a contributory factor.”

So there you have it: If you make a mistake on a bike, the law will give a pass to a motorist who strikes and kills you, even if there’s conclusive evidence of reckless driving.

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“Vie Bikes” Looks to Make Cargo Biking Accessible for SF Families

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Photo: Vie Bikes

More San Francisco parents are discovering that cargo bikes are the new family minivan. But while it’s increasingly common in SF to spot a parent pedaling their helmeted offspring around, cargo bikes and motorized bikes remain off the radar of most families looking for better ways to get around the city.

In leading bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cargo bikes are no secret — they’re ubiquitous. Now, utilitarian biking in SF could get a leg up with the impending public launch of Vie Bikes, a company that will let families test out cargo bikes and bikes with electric motors.

Vie is currently testing out its services before the big public reveal next month, providing access to family-friendly bikes without the expense and hassle of having them shipped overseas. Vie staff will also offer consultation and maintenance services to customers.

“We’re trying to knock down barriers,” said Kit Hodge, one of Vie’s three co-founders, who was previously the SF Bicycle Coalition’s deputy director.

Vie will deliver bikes to the customer’s door and offer on-street consultation on how to use the bikes. The bikes can also be rented for trial periods, and the company will accept trade-ins for “when your life changes.”

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Streetsblog USA
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Two Key Factors That Can Make or Break a Bike-Share Network

What if you could dramatically increase the usefulness of a bike-share system without adding any bicycles or docks? Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business have come up with a model that they say could help even the most successful bike-share systems in the world get more bang for the buck.

Researchers estimate that even Paris’s much-used Velib bike-share could attract 29 percent more riders by optimizing the location and size of stations. Photo: Wikipedia

The Booth School team focused on two factors: station accessibility (or how long it takes people to get to a station) and bike availability (or having at least one bike to check out at a station). After collecting minute-by-minute ridership data from 349 stations in Paris’s highly successful Velib system over a four-month period, they modeled the effect of these factors on ridership.

Researchers found that decreasing the distance to access stations by 10 percent boosts bike-share trips by about 7 percent, while a 10 percent improvement in bike availability can increase system usage about 12 percent.

Interestingly, given a fixed number of docks and bikes, improving the accessibility of a network can diminish its availability, since the system would have a larger number of stations spaced closer together, but each station would be smaller. The inverse is also true — designing for greater availability can reduce accessibility.

However, networks can be optimized taking both accessibility and availability into account. In the researchers’ model, simply rearranging existing Velib bike-share docks — adjusting the size and location of stations — could attract 29.4 percent more trips.

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Supervisors Want More Bicycling Classes in Their Districts at Less Expense

An SFBC Family Biking class on the John F. Kennedy Drive parking-protected bike lane in Golden Gate Park. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

Several supervisors say they’d like to see city-funded bike education classes distibuted more equally among their districts, and to attract more participants to reduce the per-person cost of the program.

Locations of bicycling classes in SF. Image: Google Maps via SFBC

At a recent committee meeting of the SF County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of supervisors, members raised their concerns when they approved a nine-month extension of their contract with the SF Bicycle Coalition and the YMCA YBike program, which taught bicycling skills to over 1,800 kids and adults last year.

Supervisors Mark Farrell and Norman Yee said their districts appear “underserved” among the several dozen class locations. “We have a ton of bicyclists in District 2,” said Farrell, including kids and tourists on rental bikes. “We have bicycle shops all over the place, we have people cycling down the waterfront, through the Preisidio… It’s really challenging to look at this and say this is a great thing when I look at two locations in the district.”

Matt Lasky of the SFMTA said the locations are chosen based on neighborhood density, but that they will look into re-distribution.

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SFMTA to Install Three More Digital Bicycle Counters

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The Market Street bike counter. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA plans to install three more bicycle counters with digital displays on busy biking streets. They will be placed “at visible locations on high volume bicycle corridors,” though the exact spots haven’t been finalized, according to a city planning document. “Potential locations include Market Street, Valencia Street, and the Embarcadero.”

The SFMTA has already purchased the “bicycle barometers,” as the city calls them, with two in storage and one more expected to arrive. They are scheduled to be installed between this August and February 2017, according to a report from the SF County Transportation Authority [PDF].

SF’s first visible bike counter was activated on Bike to Work Day in May 2013, on the south side of Market Street between Ninth and 10th Streets. On an average weekday, it currently counts between 3,700 and 4,400 bike commuters in one direction. (It was discovered at the start of the year that the detector had been missing an estimated 1,000 daily riders, since many did not roll over the in-ground sensor.)

Visible bike counters, which have been installed in cities like Copenhagen, Portland, Seattle, and Montreal, are intended to encourage bicycling by displaying a number that ticks up every time someone rolls by, showing both the daily an annual total. The message to the public is that people on bikes count.

The SFMTA has also installed 24 invisible bike counters around the city, which use inductive loops installed in the pavement to detect bicycles but don’t have a display feature. The data helps the SFMTA measure demand for bicycling and the effectiveness of bike lane improvements. The data for the Market counter, and an invisible counter on Fell at Divisadero Street, are displayed online.

The three new digital bike counters will cost $187,000 total for purchase, planning, installation, and two years of maintenance, according to the SFCTA report. They will be funded by $89,580 in SFMTA operating funds and $97,500 in Prop K sales tax funds, which must still be approved by the SFCTA Board. The Market counter was partially funded by a $20,000 grant from a locally-based online gaming company, and it’s maintained by the Central Market Community Benefit District.

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SFPD Blames Victim for Biking Through Red Light But Won’t Cite Evidence

Contrary to initial reports, the SFPD says Charles Vinson, 66, ran a red light on his bike when he was hit and killed by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets on March 2.

Immediately after the crash, the SF Examiner reported that a witness “saw the vehicle blow through a red light and strike the bicyclist as the bicyclist waited for the light to turn green.” But on March 17, SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan said investigators had determined that Vinson ran a red.

Streetsblog asked how the SFPD arrived at that conclusion. “There are many different factors involved, such as examining skid marks, measurements, placement of evidence from the collision, etc,” said Gatpandan. “As the case is still open and active, we do not discuss open and active investigation matters.”

So, while police are comfortable releasing their determination that the victim was at fault in this crash, they say it’s too soon to disclose any supporting evidence.

Is there video of the crash? Is there witness testimony? If so, does it come from bystanders, the driver who struck Vinson, or both? We don’t know, and SFPD isn’t saying.

Gatpandan said the driver won’t receive a citation. We’ll request the police report to get more details on the investigation.

A ghost bike was placed at the corner where Vinson died. Photo: GhostBike.org/Twitter