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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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Protected Bike Lanes Bill Passes CA Senate Transportation Committee

The “Protected Bikeways Act,” A.B. 1193, passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Thursday on a 10-0 vote, despite opposition from some quarters. The bill must still be approved by the full Senate and Governor Jerry Brown.

A protected bike lane in Temple City. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The proposed legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would compel Caltrans to create guidelines for protected bike lanes, a type of facility that is not currently allowed under California law.

A second measure in the bill would give local jurisdictions — cities and counties — the freedom to follow Caltrans standards for bicycle infrastructure or to choose some other guidance. Currently all bicycle infrastructure in California must adhere to Caltrans standards, whether it’s built on state highways or local streets. There are a few limited exceptions to this, generally through cumbersome experimental processes, but overall Caltrans’ antiquated standards have limited implementation of infrastructure that has proven safe in other states and other countries.

“This comes down to an issue of local control,” said Ting. “Cities have control over every aspect of their streets except when it comes to bikes.”

Supporters at the hearing included representatives from Napa County, the city of San Jose, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.

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CA Senate Committee to Consider Protected Bike Lanes Bill Tomorrow

A key hearing will be held in Sacramento tomorrow on legislation that would pave the way for more California cities to build protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks.”

Legislation by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF) aims to make protected bike lanes, such as this one in Long Beach, more common throughout California. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

Currently the California Highway Design Manual does not allow protected bike lanes, and state law requires local jurisdictions to follow Caltrans specifications for bicycle facilities on all roads, not just state-controlled highways. No such requirement exists for any other type of street infrastucture — just bicycle facilities.

A.B. 1193, the “Safe Routes for Urban Cyclists,” from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would require Caltrans to develop standards for bike lanes that are physically separated from motor traffic. At the same time, the bill would permit cities to opt out of using Caltrans specifications for bike facilities on local streets and roads.

The legislation follows the spirit of a recommendation from the recent State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) report on Caltrans that Caltrans “support, or propose if no bill is forthcoming, legislation to end the archaic practice of imposing state rules on local streets for bicycle facilities.”

Caltrans recently complied with another SSTI recommendation when it endorsed design guidelines for bicycle infrastructure from the National Association of City Transportation Officials. However, while that endorsement adds some tools to the toolkit for planners, the NACTO guidelines are not yet included of the California Highway Design Manual, which local jurisdictions are still bound to.

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Surprise! People Aged 60-79 Are Behind More Than a Third of the Biking Boom

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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.

The national surge in bicycling since 1995 may have more to do with hip surgeries than hipsters.

More than a third of the increase is coming from people between the ages of 60 and 79, an analysis of federal data shows.

As recently as the Clinton administration, biking was for the young. Riding a bicycle over the age of 55 was very rare; riding over the age of 75 was almost unheard of. Even today, the rapid drop in car use among young adults sometimes leads to assumptions that millennials are driving the nationwide boom in bike trips.

Nope.

There’s no question that Generation Y’s tendency to favor city life and declining enthusiasm for car ownership has boosted bike transportation. But as the older civil rights generation and the baby boomers who followed them have entered their golden years, they’ve quietly transformed what it means to be the kind of person who rides a bicycle.

biking rates by age

Vertical scale measures share of all trips taken by bicycle. Graphs: National Household Travel Survey

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SFMTA Adds Two Left Turn Bike Boxes in SoMa

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New left-turn bike boxes at Eighth and Folsom Streets (top) and 11th and Howard Streets (bottom). Photo: SFMTA

The SFMTA installed left turn bike boxes at two SoMa intersections this week. This type of bike infrastructure, new to SF, debuted at Market and Polk Streets last month with the new contra-flow Polk bike lane.

The new green-backed bike boxes were placed at two intersections where bike commuters often make ”two-stage” left turns between bike lanes: Eighth Street for turns on to Folsom Street, and Howard Street for turns on to 11th Street. They provide guidance and visibility, to show where people on bikes should stop and wait for traffic signals to change.

“Making a left turn across several lanes of traffic isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially for people who are less confident on their bike,” said SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. The turn boxes should make two-stage turns “more easy, safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.”

The SFMTA said the boxes were funded by a grant from People for Bikes, a national bike advocacy organization. Left-turn bike boxes are featured in the SFMTA’s “Innovative Bicycle Treatment Toolbox,” drafted two years ago, and largely based on the National Association of City and Transportation Officials’ Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

Jose said the SFMTA “will be evaluating the measures on the ground, and observations will guide future implementation.”

A left turn at Eighth and Folsom in action. Photo: SFMTA

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San Jose Approves Diridon Plan, With Creek Restoration and Reduced Traffic

The Diridon Station Area Plan proposes a complete network of linear parks featuring the Los Gatos Creek and Guadalupe River. Image: City of San Jose

On Tuesday evening, the San Jose City Council finally approved the Diridon Station Area Plan. The final plan retains a creek trail restoration project that had been on the chopping block, while strengthening requirements for SAP Center to help reduce demand for driving to the arena and Diridon Caltrain Station.

After transportation and housing advocates complained that the San Jose City Council wasn’t planning to allow public comment during their final review of the plan, Mayor Chuck Reed agreed to hear from the public one last time, before finalizing and approving the 30-year land use and development plan for everything within walking distance of the City’s downtown rail station.

At the City Council’s preliminary review of the plan on May 20, several residents spoke in favor of the recommendation by the Diridon Plan to “daylight” the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and extend the trail along the creek to connect with the Guadalupe River Trail, just north of Santa Clara Street. The creek currently flows through an enclosed culvert underneath Montgomery Street and Park Boulevard.

Despite this public feedback, and support for the project within the draft Diridon Station Area Plan, city officials instead proposed on June 6 to eliminate the restoration of the creek from the plan’s recommendations, saying that “acquiring the land would be extremely costly… and the bridge structures [of the streets above the creek] would still shadow much of the creek”.

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New Research Suggests Separation Key to Protecting Cyclists From Pollution

Cyclists who ride on bike boulevards in Portland inhale 19 to 45 percent less pollution, a new study finds. Photo: Wikipedia

The fresh air and physical activity that come with cycling are great for your health. But for urban cyclists, one downside is that it comes with a potentially harmful dose of air pollution.

For years, studies have examined how cyclists and pedestrians are affected by air pollution in urban areas. According to Portland State University researcher Alex Bigazzi, who recently completed a literature review of dozens of studies on the issue, results have been all over the map when it comes to who experiences the most pollution — drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, or even transit riders. But when you account for the fact that bicyclists are exercising, and therefore inhaling two to five times as much air, Bigazzi says it’s pretty clear cyclists are absorbing more toxic chemicals.

A new pair of research studies point to a possible solution. Studies from Portland State University and Harvard found that cyclists are exposed to less pollution when they are provided with facilities that help separate them from cars.

Using bike trailers outfitted with equipment to measure air quality, Harvard researchers recently examined different pollution levels in the Boston area on three types of bicycling facilities: on-street bike lanes, shared bike-bus lanes, and off-road bike paths running parallel to roads (side paths). They found that cyclists who traveled on side paths separated from traffic by grass or trees inhaled 33 percent less harmful emissions, compared to those who rode on on-street bike lanes.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at Portland State University compared pollution outcomes for cyclists traveling on major arterials and cyclists traveling along bike boulevards — low-traffic, neighborhood streets that are designed to prioritize bike traffic. In the study, subjects riding on both types of facilities were asked to exhale into a respirator bag. Their breath was then analyzed in a lab. They found cyclists riding on bike boulevards inhaled 19 to 45 percent fewer pollutants.

Bigazzi, who was also a lead author on the Portland study, says his research helps make the case for separate facilities for cyclists.

“There are specific things we can do to reduce the pollution risks while maintaining the health benefits,” she said. “And that’s specifically separating bicyclists from cars.”

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WaPo Is Wrong: Head Injuries Are Down, Not Up, in Bike-Share Cities

The Washington Post ran a headline today erroneously claiming that cyclist head injuries increased in bike-share cities, when in fact head injuries declined more in bike-share cities than in cities without bike-share.

A Washington Post headline proclaimed today that cyclist head injuries have increased in cities with bike-share systems, based on a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But University of British Columbia public health professor Kay Ann Teschke is challenging that conclusion, pointing out that the data cited by the WaPo actually leads to the opposite conclusion: In cities with bike-share systems, head injuries and injuries of all kinds have gone down.

“The message that bike-share is increasing head injuries is not true,” Teschke told Streetsblog. “The tone of the article suggests that head injuries go up. Really what is happening is that head injuries went down, non-head injuries went down — but non-head injuries went down more.”

The study was based on injury data from trauma center databases and registries in American and Canadian cities, collected over the same time period from both bike-share cities and control cities. A press release for the study said the “risk of head injury among cyclists increased 14 percent after implementation of bike-share programs in several major cities.” But to put the finding in plainer language, what the researchers actually show is that head injuries as a proportion of overall cyclist injuries rose from 42 percent to 50 percent in five cities after the implementation of bike-share.

As for the overall safety of cyclists following the introduction of bike-share, Teschke says the data in the article actually show that total head injuries fell more in the five cities that implemented bike-share than in the control group. Head injuries just didn’t fall as much as total injuries.

The AJPH article’s authors make cautious assertions that their research might build the case for helmet requirements with bike-share. The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein, meanwhile, wasn’t cautious at all:

A few weeks ago, in honor of annual Bike to Work day, I asked a simple question about why those terrific bike share programs don’t provide helmets to riders. There were a lot of understandable reasons — hygiene, cost, liability — but one thing all the cities I checked seem to argue is that bike share programs are very safe, much safer than, say, cruising around on your own bicycle. Their evidence was anecdotal, based on the tiny number of reports of injuries to cyclists who have taken millions of bike share trips nationwide.

Well, it looks like they are wrong.

A look at the raw data doesn’t support Bernstein’s gloating at all.

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SF Bicycle Coalition Welcomes Tyler Frisbee as New Policy Director

Tyler Frisbee is the SF Bicycle Coalition’s new policy director, filling the shoes of Deputy Director Kit Hodge. Hodge left SFBC last month to start a company that will lease family-friendly cargo bikes.

Tyler Frisbee. Photo: SFBC

“We’re honored to have her national expertise to our local issues,” the SFBC wrote in a blog post:

For the last five years, Tyler worked as an aide to Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, serving as one of Congress’ key bike and pedestrian advocates… In her new role at the SF Bicycle Coalition, Tyler will be overseeing our terrific Program, Outreach and Education teams, helping to craft our strategy for big and small campaigns alike, and working on Connecting the City with protected, crosstown bikeways.  She’ll be one of our key voices at City Hall, speaking up for you and your commute, and helping to win important funding and support for the bike projects you care about most. This month she’ll be focusing most on bike funding, working to ensure that biking gets more than the abysmal 1% of the SFMTA’s transportation budget.

Frisbee told Streetsblog she sees the bike movement, in SF and nationally, as being in a “fascinating transition, where [previously] we’ve been outside, riding in the streets Critical Mass-style, having to be very aggressive and vocal and visible about what we want and need. And because of the really strong advocacy work that has happened, and I think San Francisco is an incredible example, we are now at a point where we’re not necessarily out on the streets rallying. A lot of times, we’re helping to make these decisions, we’re part of the bigger transportation world.”

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The Street Ballet of a Bike Lane Behind a Transit Stop at Duboce and Church

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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.

Why don’t more cities escape the curse of bus-bike leap-frogging by putting bike lanes between transit platforms and sidewalks?

Though “floating bus stops” and similar designs are being used in many cities, others have avoided doing so, sometimes out of concern that people will be injured in collisions with bikes while they walk between platform and sidewalk.

But is this actually a problem? An intersection in San Francisco that uses a similar design seems to be working just fine.

The annotated video above shows one minute of the self-regulating sidewalk ballet.

Seleta Reyolds, the San Francisco Municipal Transportaiton Agency’s section leader for livable streets, calls the corner of Duboce Avenue and Church Street “a great example of how to design for transit-bike interaction.”

Though it’s only been open since June 2012 and hasn’t worked its way into the city’s official collision records yet, Reynolds said she couldn’t find any record of a complaint arising from the intersection.

A few details worth noting:

  • This block is unusual in that it’s closed to cars, even on the other side of the transit stop. This removes any risk of right hooks due to limited visibility, an issue that other such designs must handle differently.
  • The relatively narrow bikeway here, with a curb on each side and a flat grade, prompts people to move at manageable speeds. This wouldn’t work as well on a slope.
  • There is no fence here between platform and bike lane. This gives people maximum visibility and maximum flexibility as they negotiate past each other.

A key lesson here is that what’s often true of car traffic — that the safest designs are the ones that avoid as many potential conflicts as possible — is not true for people on bikes and foot. In pedestrianized areas (a British study of 21 such spots turned up exactly one bicycle-related collision in 15 years) people are very good at negotiating around one another. Sometimes, we can all just get along.

Video shot by Charly Nelson. You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

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Why Sharrows Don’t Cut it: Even SF Bike Safety Instructor Bert Hill Got Hit

When a driver rear-ended Bert Hill, he was using all of the safe bicycling techniques in the book — after all, he’s one of the most heavily-consulted bike safety instructors in San Francisco. Hill even had a major role in the SFMTA’s new video for Muni drivers on how to share the streets with people on bikes.

Nonetheless, a driver rammed Hill from behind on May 31 around noon as he was pedaling west on Bosworth Street in Glen Park, which has no bicycle infrastructure except for sharrow markings. Hill suspects that the driver was distracted — how else could a motorist unintentionally ram straight into a bicyclist from behind?

“There’s no reason why it could be anything else,” Hill told KTVU in a report this week. Hill says police also told him the driver didn’t have a license.

“I got out of it with a lump over my right eye, a sprained wrist, bruises, some road rash, sore shoulder and something going on inside my hip,” Hill, the chair of the SF Bicycle Advisory Committee, told Streetsblog. “I’m happy to say that I am very fortunate, and that other than a slight limp, am doing quite well. I can’t say as much for my trusty Univega” bike.

Hill’s crash flies in the face of assertions from vehicular cycling advocates that bicycling is perfectly safe on streets designed for cars first, and without any protected bike lanes, as long as people on bikes do their best to “drive” their bike like they would a car — and in particular, always riding in the center of a lane that’s too narrow to be shared. It’s a philosophy that could only make sense among the few people, mostly adult men, who are adamant bike riders and feel comfortable keeping pace and mixing it up with cars.

Meanwhile, a growing body of research shows that protected bike lanes in North American cities not only increase bicycling rates by an average of 75 percent in their first year alone, drawing from the many “interested but concerned” bicyclists. Protected lanes also reduce the risk of injury by up to 90 percent.

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