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Money Abounds for Highways, Not Safe Crossings, at San Mateo County TA

The proposed expansion of the Highway 101 interchange at Holly Street will make a dangerous area more hazardous, but the SMCTA won’t use highway funds to provide a safer crossing. Image: City of San Carlos

The San Mateo County Transportation Authority is still throwing tens of millions of dollars at freeway widenings in a futile attempt to build its way out of traffic congestion. But when it comes to building a safe passage for people to cross a frightening interchange, don’t expect the agency to spend a dime.

The planned expansion of the Highway 101 interchange at Holly Street is San Carlos will cost $11 million, most of which is slated to come from the SMCTA’s $60 million-a-year Highway Program. But the agency won’t use that pot of money to fund a $5 million bridge for people to walk and bike safely across the wider interchange. If the money for the bridge isn’t secured by late next year, the freeway expansion could be built by mid-2017 without a safe crossing.

To design the bridge, San Carlos plans to spend scarce “active transportation” funds from another county agency. But the bridge wouldn’t be necessary without the dangerous cloverleaf interchange, which was built 28 years ago — and city planners know it.

“There’s a very small sidewalk on one side of the interchange, it’s a very dangerous situation for bicycles,” explained San Carlos Associate Engineer Kaveh Forouhi in a February review of the bike/ped bridge design [PDF]. “People don’t use the interchange because they’re fearful of it.”

“Even experienced, skilled cyclists are intimidated by the combination of multiple turn lanes, short merge sections, high automobile speeds, and poor sight lines,” wrote San Carlos Public Works Director Jay Walter. The proposed bridge “directly addresses inadequate sidewalks, lack of bicycle facilities, and an overall lack of pedestrian/bicycle connectivity.”

Because the SMCTA keeps its money in “silos” for limited purposes, the agency has repeatedly rejected highway-related projects that would encourage walking and bicycling, even though those projects can help reduce congestion by making driving less necessary.

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Parking-Free Marina Path Plan Could Be Delayed By Boaters’ Parking Proposal

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The Marina path as it exists today. Photo: Department of Public Works

Updated at 11:38 p.m. with further response from the Recreation and Parks Department below.

The Marina Boulevard bicycle and pedestrian path was supposed to be car-free by now. The years-old plan to remove the 57 car parking spaces on the stretch between Scott and Baker Streets is scheduled to be implemented by this spring.

But the SF Recreation and Parks Department may hold off yet again — potentially for years — because the department is seriously considering a last-minute proposal from boat owners to carve curbside “parking bays” from the path to preserve some spots.

The Association of Bay Area Governments’ Bay Trail Project and the SF Bicycle Coalition sent a letter [PDF] Tuesday urging Rec and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg “in the strongest of terms to move forward with the current plan to remove the parking and driving lane… immediately.”

We believe that a proposal to provide a drop-off, loading/unloading zone with limited parking may have merit and should be pursued. However, the thousands of walkers, joggers, cyclists, families, roller-bladers and wheelchair riders who make up 98% of the users of the Marina Green Bay Trail cannot continue to wait for safety in this area.

[Update] Rec and Parks spokesperson Connie Chan wrote in an email that the department “is seeking funding for” the project to include “the construction of 3 new parking bays.”

“Each bay will provide 3 to 5 parking spaces: 2 white loading-only spaces, 1 blue ADA-only space, and 2 unregulated public parking spaces (optional),” she wrote. “One parking bay will be situated near each dock gate, with exact location determined by traffic code and/or other site constraints.”

When asked if the parking removal will no longer happen this spring as planned, she repeated, “At this time, the Department is seeking funding for the project.”

In addition to reducing space for people, lumping parking bays into the project could further delay it for years. Digging into the pavement would require securing funding, design work, and construction for a project that originally only involved removing parking bumpers and replacing signs and pavement striping. It would add an estimated $450,000 to a $60,000 project.

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SFPD Arrests Driver Who Hit Three Bike Commuters on the Wiggle

The SFPD has arrested 25-year-old Bianca Lopez of Fremont for hitting three people on bikes at Scott and Fell Streets on the Wiggle on April 6.

According to an SFPD press release, Lopez has been charged with felony hit and run causing injury, misdemeanor hit and run involving property damage, and driving without a license. Her bail was set at $100,000.

Lopez allegedly drove a Jeep Cherokee through a queue of bike commuters in the northbound bike lane on Scott at Fell after rear-ending the driver of a Mini Cooper on Fell at about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 6. She then hit a parked car, which was wedged into a garage, as she left the scene.

Two of the victims suffered non life-threatening injuries, and a third sustained a fractured pelvis, compact fracture of an arm, and a lacerated liver, according to the SFPD.

The vehicle was found in South San Francisco later that day. The owner was located and questioned, but not believed to be the driver, who was described by witnesses as a Hispanic woman.

No booking photo or other information on the arrest or investigation was immediately released.

Streetsblog USA
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Avoid Bikelash By Building More Bike Lanes

Market Street, San Francisco.

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.

Here’s one reason the modern biking boom is great for everyone: more bicycle trips mean fewer car trips, which can mean less congestion for people in cars and buses.

But there’s a catch. A recent study shows that when bicycle use rises but cities don’t add bike lanes to put the new bikers in, traffic congestion actually gets worse.

In some situations, it gets a lot worse.

A study measured travel delay on a street with bikes but no bike lanes

NE 47th Avenue, Portland.

HOOOONK.

It’s happened to most regular bike users; it happened to me last week. Biking to meet friends at a restaurant, I had to pedal two blocks uphill on a street without bike lanes. As I started to push up the slope, a man zoomed his car around me, straddling the two lanes and laying on his horn as if I’d done something wrong.

I’d love to be out of your way too, I wanted to tell him. But this parking lane would have to go.

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Correction: Initial Upgrades on Polk Don’t Include Separate Bike Signals

Polk Street this week, where the SFMTA is striping interim bike lane improvements that don’t include separate bike signals. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Streetsblog erroneously reported last month that four Polk Street intersections would get signals to separate bike traffic from turning drivers by May. The signals are not in fact part of the first round of improvements on Polk.

I misinterpreted an announcement from the SFMTA that the initial upgrades would include “dedicated and separate space for southbound cyclists and right-turning vehicles.” I assumed this was a reference to intersection configurations in the final plan for Polk, which include separate bike signals. I apologize for the error.

Signals to separate curbside bike traffic and right-turning drivers are still part of the Polk plan, but the timetable calls for them to be installed during the construction phase beginning next year and wrapping up in 2017. The interim upgrades, which are being installed now, do not include the signals.

The short-term changes will stripe a bike lane between the through-traffic lane and a right-turn lane (like on 8th Street in SoMa). That will provide right-turning drivers a pocket to wait in instead of blocking the bike lane after merging across it. The striping is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

“The separated space on southbound Polk for right turning vehicles and through bicyclists is a measure the SFMTA was able to implement quickly to increase safety now,” said SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. “The improvement addresses the definitive and repeated right-hook crash patterns we see at southbound Polk and Turk, Eddy, Ellis and Geary.”

Installing the bike signals will “require complex technical work,” he said, which will be done in conjunction with sewer replacement. In total, pavement work on Polk is expected to take about a year.

“The final design will flip the vehicle right turn lane with the bike lane,” said Jose, “with a continuous bike lane running curbside at intersection approaches, where there will be a right turn signal phase for cars and a separated through phase for people biking.”

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Belmont Police Blame Cyclist for Getting in the Way of Driver’s Left Turn

An emergency crew treats an injured 29-year-old man who was hit on his bike by a driver who turned left into his path. Police blamed the victim for carrying bags and talking on a phone. Photo: Belmont Police Department

When a 90-year-old driver turned left into the path of a man bicycling on Ralston Avenue, the Belmont Police Department blamed the victim for talking on a cell phone and not wearing a helmet. The department also warned people on bikes against “carrying packages and bags” in its press release.

None of those behaviors are illegal, nor would they have stopped the driver from turning left into the victim’s path — which, by the way, she didn’t receive a citation for.

The crash on Saturday afternoon occurred on Ralston, where city officials refused to include bike lanes and a road diet in a plan for safety improvements last year.

“Cars come first,” Belmont City Council Member Coralin Feierbach declared in 2013. Feierbach acknowledged that “when you ride your bike on Ralston you take your life into your own hands,” but concluded that there is nothing to be done about it. She deemed it “impossible” to reduce speeding, ignoring the evidence that road diets do just that [PDF].

Victims of Belmont’s failure to implement proven safety measures won’t get any help from the local police department, which issued its statement on Monday to “remind cyclists to drive defensively.”

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SFMTA Postpones Expansion of Bike Parking in City-Owned Garages

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The SFMTA has held off on installing mandated bike parking in seven city-owned garages due to “very low usage,” as SocketSite reported this week. Bike advocates say the parking hasn’t been advertised well.

Photo: SFMTA

Photo: SFMTA

Under an ordinance approved in 2013, bicycle parking requirements were increased for new development as well as city-owned and -leased buildings and parking garages. “We want the city to be a model in providing bicycle parking,” a Planning Department staffer said at a City Hall hearing at the time.

The SFMTA has installed “significantly more bike parking” in its garages since 2013, said agency spokesperson Paul Rose. But after a six-month study which found that, “in many cases,” less than 25 percent of available bike parking spaces were used, the SFMTA requested “permission to delay full implementation in certain garages of bike-parking increases required.”

According to SocketSite:

The Union Square, Sutter Stockton and Civic Center garages are among those facilities for which reductions in the number of bike parking spaces required to be installed have been requested, with observed average daily utilization rates of 26.5 percent, 48.1 percent, and 14 percent for their existing racks respectively.

Keep in mind that businesses and buildings which have installed private racks, such as Twitter, Dolby and City Hall, have impacted the demand for publicly-accessible bicycle parking.

But many people just don’t know that there are bike racks in city garages, said SF Bicycle Coalition Policy Director Tyler Frisbee. “There hasn’t been great signage and awareness. Let’s give this bike parking a fair shot before we decide it’s not working.”

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SFUSD Announces Vision Zero Adoption During Bike and Roll to School Week

The SF Unified School District is the tenth city agency to adopt Vision Zero, officials announced at a Bike and Roll to School event today.

The announcement came in conjunction with the launch of an after-school program in Chinatown that teaches kids about safer street design. Supervisor Norman Yee also announced a push last week to bring student crossing guards back to schools around the city. Last year he revived the program as a pilot, starting at Commodore Sloat Elementary School, where today’s event was held.

“We know it’s great for children and great for our city when more kids and families get around on foot, bicycle and bus,” said Board of Education Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer in a statement. “Kids arrive at school energized and alert; the streets around schools are less congested; and we all breathe cleaner air. We have to make our streets as safe as possible to support all of you walking, biking and rolling every day, which is what Vision Zero is all about.”

More than 4,000 students, parents, and staff at nearly 90 schools were expected to participate in this year’s Bike and Roll to School Week, according to the SF Bicycle Coalition. Participation has grown immensely since the first Bike to School Day in 2009, when about 600 rode to school. In 2013, the event was expanded to a full week.

“Today demonstrates the beautiful potential of our city,” said SFBC Executive Director Noah Budnick in a statement. “We are realizing a vision where our roads are safe and welcoming for parents and kids of all ages to bike to school. When we make our streets safe for the youngest commuters, they’re safe for everyone.”

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Hit-and-Run Driver Arrested After Injuring Cyclist at Cesar Chavez & Valencia

John C. Fox tweeted this photo and: “To the shithead in the Silver SUV who hit and ran a cyclist at Cesar Chavez & Valencia: you’ll be found.”

The SFPD arrested a driver who hit a man on a bike and fled at Cesar Chavez and Valencia Streets yesterday at around 6:44 p.m. The victim is reportedly in stable condition and suffered a shoulder injury.

SFPD spokesperson Carlos Manfredi said the female driver fled, reported the crash about an hour later Mission Station, and was subsequently arrested and charged with felony hit-and-run.

The crash occurred while Streetsblog’s happy hour was happening at a bar around the corner. Some attendees who arrived after the crash reported seeing the crash scene, where a mangled bike, with its fork and front wheel broken off, was in the street.

Via Streetsblog California
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CA Bill to Prohibit GG Bridge Bike/Ped Tolls Expanded to All State Bridges

GGBridge

Bicycle riders and pedestrians prepare to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A California Assembly bill that would prohibit tolls for pedestrians and bicycle riders on state-owned bridges passed the Assembly Transportation Committee with a vote of 31 to 2. Assemblymember Phil Ting’s A.B. 40, originally drafted to apply only to the Golden Gate Bridge, was amended to apply statewide.

A.B 40 was a response to a proposal last year from the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District to study tolling bicyclists and pedestrians as one solution to its budget shortfall. Advocates argued that it would discourage walking and biking and generate little revenue.

“More bicycling solves so many problems in California that government agencies, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, should welcome and encourage bicycling,” wrote the California Bicycle Coalition in support of the bill. “The idea that ‘everyone should pay their fair share’ is a noble one but to use that argument to justify charging people when they walk or bicycle reflects a naïve and erroneous understanding of how we pay for the benefits and impacts of our transportation system.”

The Assembly Transportation Committee analysis concluded that “if free bridge access for those walking and using bicycles is good policy on the Golden Gate Bridge as a means of promoting these modes of transportation and their many benefits, surely it is good policy on all toll bridges.”

Assemblymember Ting accepted the suggested amendment to apply the prohibition universally to all state-owned bridges. With the amendment, the Golden Gate Bridge Authority removed its opposition to the bill, although did not go so far as to support it, stopping at a neutral stance.

A similar bill, also written in response to a Golden Gate Bridge Authority proposal to charge bicyclists and pedestrians toll, got all the way through the legislative process in 2005, but it was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.