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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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Leah Shahum to Step Down as SF Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director

Leah Shahum announced today that she will step down as executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, after 12 years at the helm.

Leah Shahum distributing flyers in 2008. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

“Leah leaves behind a legacy of one of the most bike-friendly big cities in America, and one of the most well-organized and effective membership groups in the country,” said Lawrence Li, the SFBC’s Board President. She will continue to serve in the position until the end of the year, and the SFBC’s board has launched a nationwide search to fill the role.

“I’ve never felt more confident in where this organization and city can go, with the kind of leadership and passion and skills that we have on our team today,” said Shahum.

Shahum said she doesn’t have a long-term plan yet after she leaves the SFBC, but that she plans to take part in the German Marshall Fund Urban and Regional Policy Fellowship Program next spring. She’ll head to northern Europe to study how cities like Berlin, Rotterdam, and Stockholm have pursued Vision Zero — an end to traffic fatalities. She noted that she chose cities that have populations, densities, and other characteristics comparable to SF.

Another recent participant in the fellowship was Streetsblog founder Aaron Naparstek. Shahum was instrumental in convincing him to launch Streetsblog San Francisco in 2009. She has since written articles for Streetsblog, sharing lessons on livable streets from her time in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Paris

Shahum started as a volunteer for the SFBC 17 years ago, and eventually became the organization’s program director before succeeding Dave Snyder as executive director. Since then, the SFBC’s membership grew from 3,000 to 12,000 in 2011, making it the largest city-based bicycle advocacy organization in the U.S. Today, SFBC membership remains at more than 10,000, and the SFBC has a staff of 17.

Snyder, who jumpstarted the long-dormant SFBC as the sole staffer in 1996, said Shahum had planned to leave her part-time volunteer coordinator position to pursue a journalism career. “I didn’t want her to leave, so I offered her a full-time job as our first-ever ‘program director.’ I didn’t have the budget for it but I stretched, and the risk paid off,” said Snyder, who today serves as executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition.

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Feast Your Eyes on Beautiful Trip Data From Year-Old Bay Area Bike Share

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The constellations of Bay Area Bike Share traffic in SF, as visualized by Bjorn Vermeersch [PDF].

Bay Area Bike Share fans created some pretty dazzling images and videos to visualize the system’s first six months of data, showing how this transportation system connects commuters’ dots in SF and four other cities down the Peninsula. BABS’ first birthday is approaching on August 29, and while the system isn’t growing as fast as many would like, it has certainly matured into a normal part of downtown streets. The system has seen over 250,000 trips so far, most of them in SF.

The visualizations were submitted for an “Open Data Challenge” contest sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which has taken over BABS management from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. From the MTC website:

In March, Bay Area Bike Share released a large, detailed set of anonymous data collected since the launch of the pilot program in August 2013. Users were invited to take the data, which included trip times, locations and bike numbers, among other information, and present it in a visually compelling manner. What resulted were 35 innovative and interactive entries. Five winners were awarded for best overall visualization, best presentation, best analysis, best data exploration tool and best data narrative.

One of the most informative and mesmerizing creations came from Bjorn Vermeersch. He won the “Best Data Narrative” award by painting bike-share trip patterns in various patterns: as a solar system, constellations, and inkblot patterns which resemble things like birds.

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East San Jose Bikeway Plan Scrutinized, Park Avenue Parking Debate Begins

Bicyclists in the East Side San Jose Ride navigate a variety of hazards to access Sunset Avenue’s existing ped bridge over Highway 280, including bollards and vertical curbs. Photo: Justin Triano

About two dozen residents attended a San Jose Department of Transportation (SJDOT) community meeting last Wednesday, where staff gathered public input on four upcoming bike lane and sharrow projects planned for east San Jose streets. Five other projects, which will add bike lanes and sharrows to streets west of downtown — and, to the chagrin of some, replace some parking along Park and Lincoln avenues with continuous bike lanes — will be presented at a community meeting this Wednesday at Gardner Community Center, 520 West Virginia Street, at 6 pm.

Improvements planned for Jackson Avenue, Madden Avenue, Sunset Avenue/Hopkins Drive, and Ocala Avenue will add or upgrade three miles of bike lanes, sharrows, and signage. These will connect to San Antonio Street, one of the Primary Bikeways identified by the city’s Bike Plan 2020 as a core network of high-quality bikeways.

“The Primary Bikeway Network is designed in a similar way for biking as our highway system is for moving cars,” explained Deputy Director of Transportation Paul Smith. “To go all the way across the city, there need to be routes that everyone can use safely and conveniently — routes that have some type of enhanced treatment, like the green buffered bike lanes on Hedding Street.”

Existing (solid) and planned (dashed) Primary Bikeways in central San Jose. Paths (green), bike lanes (blue), and bike routes (orange) are all included in the network. Image: City of San Jose

The four bike lane and sharrow projects proposed at the community meeting last week will connect bicyclists in many east San Jose neighborhoods to San Antonio Street, and then across town via San Fernando and Park. San Antonio itself could be upgraded to a bicycle boulevard, by minimizing stop signs and adding traffic calming features. These new bike routes, marked with sharrows and signage, will guide cyclists over Highway 280 via existing pedestrian bridges at Madden Avenue and at Sunset Avenue.

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How Bike-Friendly Streets Help Denmark Combat Inequality

danish bike use by income 570

Source: Transportvaneundersøgelsen, DTU Transport. 2011. Currency conversion: 7.69 DKK/USD via OECD PPP charts, 2011.

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

We don’t have to dream of a country where protected bike lanes and other quality bike infrastructure have dramatically improved life for poor people. We can visit it.

It’s called Denmark, and it’s arguably the most egalitarian country in the world.

Data published online for the first time suggests that bicycle transportation has been part of that triumph.

After embracing cars in the 1950s and 60s, Denmark took a U-turn around 1970 and began using protected bike lanes and low-speed side streets to make bicycle transportation an efficient, comfortable option. Today, this small, prosperous peninsula (whose capital, Copenhagen, is about the size of Columbus, Ohio) has the second-highest biking rates in the developed world after the Netherlands.

Ask Danes what sort of Danish people bike and they will probably say: “everyone.” In a sense, that’s true. But it also obscures something you’ll almost never hear a Dane mention: the massive benefit biking provides to the country’s poorest.

As you can see in the top chart, people of all incomes bike in Denmark, but biking is most common among the poorest Danes.

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Ocean Ave to Get Spruced Up, But Real Transformation Will Have to Wait

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Ocean and Geneva Avenues, outside the City College Main Campus. Photo via the SF Planning Department

City planners are shaping up plans for Ocean Avenue, following public workshops that will help develop a vision for both near-term and long-term improvements. The near-term plans, for the commercial stretch of Ocean west of Phelan Avenue and the City College campus, are far along in their development. Meanwhile, a long-term plan for the remainder of the avenue, stretching eastward to the Balboa Park BART Station, is still in its earlier stages.

Thus far, no major changes have been proposed on Ocean. Most of the street has narrow sidewalks, no bike lanes, and heavy car traffic turning from 280 — making the street dangerous to cross and snarling Muni. A separate plan is in the works to remove and re-configure those ramps years down the road, but a redesign of Ocean could present the opportunity to free up room for walking, biking, and transit.

On Ocean between Manor and Phelan Avenues, the near-term plans — set for construction next spring — include a handful of bulb-outs, new sidewalk greenery, seating, and other street fixtures at three “key” T-intersections: Ashton, Capitol, and Granada Avenues. At those intersections, Lily Langlois, the Planning Department’s project manager, said “the street dead-ends at Ocean, so there’s this kind of focal point, and an opportunity to build on that street pattern by creating those community gathering spaces.”

Community members have already taken proactive measures to improve the public realm on Ocean. Today, an event was held to celebrate a mobile parklet that was developed, designed, and built by high school students from the Youth Art Exchange. It will be placed in front of at least five different local businesses, six months at a time, starting at Fog Lifter Cafe.

Alex Mullaney, publisher of the neighborhood newspaper The Ingleside Light, said he helped push the Department of Public Works to create a plan for streetscape improvements on long-neglected Ocean, and created the Ocean Avenue Association’s Street Life Committee.

The near-term streetscape improvements “will go a long way to modernize Ocean Avenue, and bring it up to speed with a number of other neighborhoods,” he said. ”The new landscaping and amenities will improve quality of life and slow down traffic. Ocean Avenue has one of the highest vacancy rates in the city, along with three extremely dangerous intersections. I have zero doubt that the near-term project will turn around those two issues.”

A mobile parklet now sits on Ocean and will be moved every six months. Photo: Youth Art Exchange via Facebook

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Mapping the Story of San Francisco’s Bike Lanes

Betsey Emmons, a fellow at MapStory, has created an interactive map showing the history of San Francisco’s bicycle network. The map allows viewers to watch as San Francisco’s bike infrastructure develops over a 43-year period, showing streets that now feature bike lanes and sharrows.

This story begins in 1971, when the first designated bicycle lane was striped on Lake Street, between 10th and 13th Avenues in the Inner Richmond. This was an early political victory for the SF Bicycle Coalition, which had just been formed by a small group of grassroots activists.

What’s not visible on the map are the bike lanes that almost came to be. As recounted in a 2011 issue [PDF] of SFBC’s Tube Times magazine, the Board of Supervisors in 1972 approved a plan for parking-protected bike lanes on upper Market Street, but the head of the Department of Public Works put a stop to it. Save for the occasional two-block long bike lane, the momentum for bicycle infrastructure didn’t really pick up speed until the late 1990s.

There was a notable milestone in which an anti-bike lane department head didn’t get his way. The Valencia Street road diet was implemented in 1999, which added bike lanes despite opposition from Bill Maher, then the executive director of the Department of Parking and Traffic. The lower Market bike lanes were also installed west of Eighth Street in the early 2000s, along the curbs where car parking used to be.

The map shows a noticeable lull in bike lane expansion beginning in 2006, when the bike injunction was imposed by the San Francisco Superior Court, in response to a lawsuit which successfully argued that the Bike Plan needed more environmental review. No bicycle infrastructure — not even bike racks — were permitted in SF until the injunction was lifted in 2010. The backlog of projects is displayed in an explosion of bike lanes thereafter.

Emmons, who lives in Washington, DC, has completed maps for New York CityDC, and Portland. She told Streetsblog NYC that she wants to use these time-based maps to help tell the story of how bike networks have grown and where they are headed. Cities that make provide easily-accesible data about bike lane implementation make it particularly easy.

MapStory is currently a public prototype. The organization is aiming for a full release in the fall, where users will be able to comment on and edit other users’ maps.

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Study: To Keep Bicyclists Outside the Door Zone, You Need a Buffer

A buffered bike lane does a better job of encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone than a wide bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

A new study has found that bike lanes with a buffer next to the parking lane are better than conventional bike lanes at encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone.

The study, recently published by the Transportation Research Board, concludes that wider but un-buffered bike lanes aren’t necessarily better than narrower lanes in encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. If there’s enough space to make a wider bike lane, the authors conclude, that extra space should be used to install a “narrower bicycle lane with a parking-side buffer,” which “provides distinct advantages over a wider bike lane with no buffer.”

Bicyclists are more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than any other bike lane width studied.

Bicyclists are much more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than in any other bike lane width studied.

Researchers reached their conclusions after observing thousands of cyclists using various bike lane configurations in Chicago and Cambridge, Massachusetts. On one Chicago street, for example, few bicyclists rode outside the door zone when the bike lane had no buffer, then after a two-foot buffer was striped, 40 percent rode outside the door zone.

That’s because the door zone is four feet wide, and riding in the center of a six-foot-wide bike lane still doesn’t give a cyclist enough clearance.

The on-street tests demonstrated that a six-foot-wide bike lane offers no advantage over one that’s five feet wide, or even four feet wide. Regardless of the width, bicyclists still ride in the center of the lane — within the radius of a typical car door swinging open. Dooring crashes are common in urban areas like Chicago: In 2012, the last year for which data is available, 18 percent of reported bike crashes were doorings.

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African American Cyclists — And Others — Weigh in on Race and Biking

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Yesterday I wrote about a complicated subject: the links between biking and race in the United States.

It’s the first in an ongoing series over the next three months that will finish with a report about ways that marginalized Americans are pushing for protected bike lanes and other quality infrastructure. In our first post, we looked at the fact that African Americans use bikes at a slightly lower rate than other Americans even though African American heads of household are twice as likely to live without a car.

We asked “Why don’t more African Americans ride bicycles?“, and as we hoped, we’ve received many thoughtful replies so far. Here are a few. I’ve boldfaced some of the writers’ key points.

Marven Norman, vice president of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance in central California:

Every single day, I continue to see hundreds of people of color(s) on bikes bumping along on sidewalks or hugging curbs of hostile arterials. Yet, absolutely nothing is done for bikes in those areas where they’re often most needed. For example, there’s not even so much as a ‘sharrow’ in a lot of LA south of I-10. The “MyFiguerora” project stops right by USC and the enhancements on MLK aren’t even worth talking about in the context of connecting the community further than again, USC. The same trend is repeated in other cities all throughout SoCal and is a pattern I’m sure any community activist in other parts of the country can relate to as well: black/brown communities lack bike accommodations.

Then there’s the issue of the metric being used. The fallacy of measuring bike demand/usage solely by ‘commute trips‘ rears its ugly head highest when we’re discussing the segment of the population that has higher unemployment than the population at large. As it is, people are more apt to jump on their bike for a ride to a shop maybe 2 miles away than to ride 10 to get to work. (Yes, I’m aware that of plenty people actually do ride farther than that, myself being one of them on occasion.) Yet, measuring only commutes, especially given the aforementioned biases, continues to result in in the conclusion that there’s no reason to build anything.

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San Jose Candidates Campaign, Pitch Public Safety at SJ Bike Party

Mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo greets voters just before the start of San Jose Bike Party’s “Stars and Stripes Ride” on July 18. Photo: Andrew Boone

San Jose Mayor or City Council candidates Sam Liccardo, Raul Peralez, and Don Gagliardi all made appearances at last Friday’s San Jose Bike Party, pitching improvements to bicycling conditions on the city’s streets as integral to public safety. An estimated 2,500 Bike Partiers rolled out from Arena Green Park in downtown San Jose on the 18-mile, patriotically-themed “Stars & Stripes Ride” through the city’s East Side.

The June 3 primary election narrowed the field of 30 candidates down to eight candidates, competing for four seats on San Jose’s City Council: Mayor and Districts 1, 3, and, 7. Council races for Districts 5 and 9 were determined on June 3: Challenger Magdalenda Carrasco received 53 percent of the votes cast in District 5 (eastern San Jose), and incumbent Donald Rocha won 74 percent of the votes cast in District 9 (south San Jose), each above the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff election on November 4.

“I look forward to bringing back our public services that we’ve lost over the years — bring back our public safety,” announced Peralez, the District 3 Council candidate who finished first in the June 3 primary with 28 percent of the votes cast. Peralez touted his position as a San Jose police officer, and his work “with our youth at Juvenile Hall to try to help better them.”

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Open House Tomorrow Examines Protected Bikeway Along the Embarcadero

A temporary protected bikeway on the Embarcadero proved wildly popular last year. The SFMTA is finally looking to install a permanent bikeway between Fisherman’s Wharf and the ballpark. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The SFMTA and other city agencies will hold an open house tomorrow to kick off planning for a protected bikeway on the Embarcadero.

No specific proposals have been put forth yet, but a report [PDF] on the SFMTA website promises that the agency will “develop a conceptual design and cost estimate” for a “a bicycle facility that is physically separated from moving or parked vehicles and pedestrians.” Options for the project are expected to include a two-way protected bikeway on the north side of the street, and a pair of one-way protected bike lanes on either side of the street.

“What we’re hearing and observing everyday — hearing from the port, primarily — is that the status quo is no longer sustainable,” SFMTA Senior Transportation Planner Patrick Golier told SFBay.

Port Planning Director Diane Oshima praised the idea of “allocating space and increasing predictability, so that people start to adopt a culture of understanding [of] what acceptable behaviors are,” SFBay reported.

The effort comes nearly a year after a wildly popular temporary protected bikeway was tested along a short stretch of the Embarcadero, to encourage visitors to bike to the America’s Cup yacht races. Last July, the SFMTA added green paint to the existing bike lanes, making them more visible to drivers and discouraging them from blocking the lanes. Despite the paint, the street remains both one of the city’s most fearsome, and yet most popular, bicycle routes.

As SFBC community organizer Janice Li wrote in a recent blog post: “Even with the bike lane, the fast-moving traffic and lack of physical protection or separation makes it an unwelcoming ride for even the experienced. Vehicles regularly park in the bike lane, forcing bicycles into fast-moving traffic.”

People are allowed to bike on the Embarcadero’s northern sidewalk, but it’s typically crowded and can be difficult to share.

“These conditions have led to some collisions, many close calls, and detract from the comfort of all users,” the SFMTA’s report says.

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