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Posts from the Bicycling Category


Majority of Supes Back the “Bike Yield Law” to Be Introduced Tomorrow

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The “Bike Yield Law” proposed by Supervisor John Avalos is poised to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors Avalos, Breed, Wiener, Kim, Mar, and Campos have all signed on as sponsors of the "Bike Yield Law." Photos: SF Board of Supervisors

Supervisors Avalos, Breed, Wiener, Kim, Mar, and Campos have all signed on as sponsors of the “Bike Yield Law.” Photos: SF Board of Supervisors

The ordinance urges the SFPD to let bicycle riders safely treat stop signs as yield signs. Avalos plans to introduce the ordinance tomorrow, and it has support from six supervisors — the majority needed to vote it into law. It’s unclear if it has support from SFPD officials.

The latest endorsements come from Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar, joining early sponsors London Breed and Scott WienerThe six co-sponsors plan to hold a press conference at City Hall before tomorrow’s board meeting.

At the event, SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick will speak about “the need to provide SFPD the direction and clarity that they deserve in order to achieve Vision Zero and safer streets overall,” according to an SFBC press release.

While local legislation cannot supersede the state’s stop sign law, Avalos’s ordinance would set a “San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy” that would “make citations for bicyclists who safely yield at stop signs the lowest law enforcement priority.” In essence, it would legitimize the safe, practical way that people on bikes normally treat stop signs, which has been legal in Idaho for 32 years.

Avalos announced his plans to introduce the legislation last month after SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford called off his letter-of-the-law crackdown on bike commuters rolling stop signs. In an interview with Streetsblog, Sanford seemed hesitant to support the bill, saying that police already use discretion in prioritizing limited enforcement resources.

Support from the SFPD will be crucial for the non-binding ordinance to hold sway over police traffic enforcement priorities. The SFPD’s lagging compliance with its own “Focus on the Five” campaign against the most dangerous driving violations is evidence of how difficult it is to change police practices, even when it’s official department policy. Most SFPD stations have only begun to move toward the enforcement target set in January 2014.

The press conference announcing the “Bike Yield Law” ordinance will be held tomorrow on the steps of City Hall at 12:30 p.m.

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Protected Bike Lanes Even More Useful in Snowy Cities Than in Warm Ones

7th Street, Calgary, Alberta. Photo: City of Calgary Bicycle Program

pfb logo 100x22Annie van Cleve is a guest writer for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Here’s the best argument not enough people are making for protected bike lanes: Winter.

Hear me out. If you have ridden your bike through snow or ice, you know your speed goes down as you negotiate crusty and uneven roads, often in the dark. In these conditions, not every driver takes care when passing or understands when they are stuck behind a bicyclist on a snow-narrowed street. On streets with lots of high-speed motorized vehicles, it can be especially dangerous to mix cars with vulnerable road users like bicyclists. Protected bike lanes and off-street trails and paths are needed to make bicycling safe enough to be an accessible mode of transportation for people of all ages and abilities in all seasons.

Unfortunately, this picture of winter bicycling appears grim to some people and winter has too often been used as an argument against investing in bicycle infrastructure and proper maintenance in Northern cities. Why invest in infrastructure that will go unused for half the year? Who wants to risk life and limb to pedal a bicycle through the dark and frozen winter landscape? No one, it is assumed.

Those of us organizing the Winter Cycling Congress 2016 — to be held 2-4 February in Minneapolis-Saint Paul — disagree. That’s not just because we’ve observed more and more bicyclists on the streets of the Twin Cities — the coldest large metropolitan area in the United States — over the past couple of years. Even with less than ideal on-street conditions, 20 percent of bicyclists keep riding all winter in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

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Awesome 11-Year-Old Defends Road Diet, Calls Out LA’s “Bullying” Drivers

In case you need a reason to feel confident about the next generation of livable streets advocates, check out this viral video of 11-year old Matlock Grossman, standing up for a road diet in his Los Angeles neighborhood.

Grossman has been bike commuting since he was seven, and now commutes five miles each way to school. Unfortunately, like many bicycle commuters, he has already experienced his share of harassment from drivers.

Matlock Grossman (center in blue shirt) reads his comments at the Rowena Avenue forum. Photo: Joe Linton

Matlock Grossman (center in blue shirt) reads his comments at the Rowena Avenue forum. Photo: Joe Linton

At a public forum about a road diet and bike lanes implemented on Rowena Avenue, here’s what Grossman had to say to the project’s detractors:

Clearly there are motorists out there who not mature enough to share the road without having the rules painted on the road to show who goes where. The road diet by design is meant to slow down cars because – motorists are the problem.

Even if there are zero bicyclists taking advantage of the bike lanes, it doesn’t matter. The road diet effectively reduces collisions and the statistics prove this.

Stop bullying and victim-blaming the pedestrians and bicyclists as being the problem.

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Northern Station Leads Rise in SFPD “Focus on the Five” Citations

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Image: SFPD via SFGovTV

SFPD traffic citations issued for “Focus on the Five” have hit an all-time high of 32 percent, as the SF Examiner reported earlier this week.

The rate of tickets issued for the five most dangerous driving violations in this year’s second quarter was up 34 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to stats presented by SFPD Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix last week. The numbers show a dramatic improvement over last year’s period, when tickets to people walking and biking increased at a far faster rate.

While Richmond Station’s “Five” rate of 63 percent is still the only one to exceed the SFPD’s 50 percent mandate, several other stations are leading the way. The largest increase was seen at Northern Station, where “Five” tickets jumped 125 percent to a rate of 41 percent.

Northern Station Captain Greg McEachern doesn’t seem to share Park Station Captain John Sanford’s fixation on addressing complaints about innocuous bike violations. In a July interview with Hoodline, McEachern explained his take on the situation Page Street, a popular bike route which runs through both districts:

I’ve gotten feedback from the community about traffic concerns in the Page Street area, but not in particular about bicyclists coming through. What I always tell my officers when we do our enforcement is that we don’t target any specific entity of traffic—pedestrian, bicyclist or a vehicle. What we do is we respond to a location and we look for what violations are occurring.

We don’t focus on any one specific thing—what we’re trying to do is save lives. I think everyone would agree that there are violations of traffic laws by everyone; we’d be naive if we thought that it didn’t happen by all groups. We focus on what we feel we need to focus on to make sure that collisions go down, and that we reach the Vision Zero goal of reducing fatalities by 2020.

It’s worth noting that the officers who reportedly cited bike commuters passing to the left of the car queue on Page were part of SFPD’s Traffic Company, not Northern Station.

Three other stations have reached “Focus on the Five” rates above the average: Ingleside is at 38 percent (a 30 percent increase from the same quarter last year), Taraval is at 40 percent (a 94 percent increase), and Bayview is at 33 (a 10 percent decrease). The Traffic Company’s rate rose by 100 percent, to 31 percent.

Sanford’s Park Station increased “Five” tickets by 41 percent, to 28 percent, and reportedly issued no tickets to bicyclists during the quarter from April to June, which preceded his bike crackdown.

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Americans Applaud as Cities Build Protected Car Lanes

A proposed protected car lane on Board Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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.

Driving is a dangerous activity. As a result, many Americans find it stressful and unpleasant.

“I’m interested in driving but it doesn’t really seem safe,” said Bekka Wright of Boston. “I mean, a 3,000-plus-pound machine in the middle of a densely populated area? There should really be a buffered or protected lane for that. It’s a nice abstract concept, but the infrastructure isn’t there yet.”

Wright is not alone.

Though there will probably always be avid car users committed to driving even under the worst rush-hour conditions, no amount of infrastructure is likely to make cars useful in every situation. However, an exciting new development in U.S. street design promises to allay the concerns of those who, like Wright, shy away from it.

Known as protected car lanes, these increasingly popular street designs use curbs, posts or planters to clearly separate bike and car traffic on major streets, significantly reducing the risks of driving.

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SF’s First Parking-Protected Bike Lane Outside a Park Opens on 13th Street

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SF’s first parking-protected bike lane outside of Golden Gate Park is open for business on 13th Street. The lane runs westbound on 13th, connecting existing bike lanes between Bryant Street and Folsom Street, underneath the Central Freeway.

The new bike lane runs along the curb with a buffer zone separation from parked cars, which provide protection from motor traffic.

SFMTA crews are still adding finishing touches, like green-backed sharrows in the “mixing zones” where turning drivers merge into the bike lane, left-turn bike boxes, and more visible crosswalks.

SF’s first parking-protected bike lane was installed in 2012 on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. Now that people are getting more familiar with this type of safer street design, hopefully the SFMTA will make it the norm on dangerous streets like the wide thoroughfares of SoMa.

Photo: Jessica Kuo

Photo: Jessica Kuo


New SFMTA Safe Driving Video Is Required Viewing for City Truckers

The SFMTA has produced the city’s first training video to teach truck and bus drivers safe urban driving practices and highlight the extra care needed to operate in close proximity to people walking and biking on city streets.

The video will be required viewing for all truck and bus drivers employed or contracted by the city, as well as companies that operate under the SFMTA’s private shuttle regulation program. “A variety of private companies will [also] share it with their employees, and the Teamsters union will share it with their locals,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post.

The video explains bike and pedestrian infrastructure like bulb-outs and protected bike lanes, which are relatively new features on SF streets. It also notes the heightened responsibility of truck drivers to keep people safe, due to the weight and blind spots of vehicles like garbage trucks and big rigs.

From the SFMTA:

Although just 4 percent of collisions in San Francisco involved large vehicles from 2007 to 2011, these collisions accounted for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. Collisions between large vehicles are eight times more likely than collisions involving small vehicles to result in death to people walking or biking.

Most of the people killed while biking in San Francisco in recent years were run over by truck or bus drivers, including Amelie Le Moullac, Diana Sullivan, Robert Yegge, Dylan Mitchell, and Cheng Jin Lai. In the past two years, truck drivers have killed 61-year-old Rose Kelly in a Richmond crosswalk and a 91-year-old woman on Fillmore Street.

Tricia Decker came across an all-too-common scene this morning at 14th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, where a truck driver had struck a female cyclist who “was sitting on the curb surrounded by police officers with her twisted bicycle nearby,” she wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “She was sitting upright and appeared to be conscious and responsive. The mangled bicycle was still partly under a Recology flatbed truck.”

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Aaron Peskin Consulted With Polk Street Bike Lane Opponents on Lawsuit

District 3 supervisor candidate Aaron Peskin provided consultation for Polk Street bike lane opponents earlier this year on filing a lawsuit over the street’s redesign.

Aaron Peskin at a taxi workers forum. Screenshot via Taxi Town SF/Youtube

Despite his recently-declared support for full bike lanes along Polk, Peskin confirmed his one-time involvement with Save Polk Street, a group of merchants which has fiercely opposed protected bike lanes to preserve car parking.

Peskin said that he had let Save Polk leaders know “what their rights and options are” when they’d considered filing a lawsuit against the city in anticipation of the plan’s approval in March, even after it was heavily watered down.

Streetsblog asked Peskin to clear the record on the rumors last week at a campaign event hosted by the furniture store Flipp. Flipp’s owner, Dan Kowalski, has been the primary press spokesperson for Save Polk since the group formed over two years ago. Peskin said he’d only met Kowalski for the first time that evening.

Peskin said he didn’t encourage Save Polk to sue, but that he’d provided advice about legal rights:

I always let everybody know what their rights and options are, the same way that I let tenants know that they can disappear into the middle of the night, but they also have options. If you’re asking whether I encouraged anybody to file a lawsuit, no, but people will say, Do I have rights of appeal? Yes, you’ve got rights of appeal. These are the things that you can do. I’m always clear with people what their rights are. It’s important that people know what their rights are. That’s part of the way you bring people together — you let them know, these are the powers you have, these are the powers these people have.

Peskin defended his record on improving bicycling, walking, and transit as a former supervisor, and said his position on the Polk bike lanes has not changed recently.

As Streetsblog highlighted last week, Peskin wrote “yes” on an SF Bicycle Coalition questionnaire which asked D3 supervisor candidates if they will “commit to supporting continuous, protected bike lanes on the High-Injury Corridor segments of Polk Street when the Polk Streetscape Project is next reviewed.” He added that he “was disappointed by how contentious the Polk Street process became.”

Efforts from public representatives to “bring folks together and build some consensus” were “unfortunately lacking,” Peskin told Streetsblog. But “in the months and years to come, we’ll see what we’ve seen all over the city, that [street redesigns like Polk’s] actually work, that business will continue to not only survive, but thrive.”

Supervisor Julie Christensen, Peskin’s opponent, did not respond to the SFBC’s question about committing to expanding Polk’s bike lanes. She wrote that she’d “worked to sustain a compromise that does not preclude future adjustments, but will allow the significant bike safety portions of the current project to move ahead.”

When Christensen was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to the office in January, “The plan was in jeopardy,” she wrote.

Peskin served two terms as D3 supervisor from 2000 to 2008, and acted as board president from 2004 to 2008. In 2011, he was nominated for appointment as interim mayor by the Board of Supervisors when Gavin Newsom vacated the office. The board instead appointed Lee as mayor, who was then elected to remain in office. Lee faces re-election in November along with the D3 candidates.

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Protected Bike Lanes 7 Times More Effective Than Painted Ones, Survey Says

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Alki Avenue, Seattle.

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.

We all know that if your goal is to get meaningful numbers of people to ride bicycles, protected bike lanes are better than conventional ones painted into a door zone. But how much better?

Well, adding a bike lane to a four-lane commercial urban street increases the number of American adults who say they’d be “very comfortable” biking on it from 9 percent to 12 percent.

Making that bike lane protected increases the number to 29 percent.

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The finding comes from a survey of adults in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas by the National Association of Realtors, conducted by Portland State University and published this summer. It’s some of the clearest, simplest evidence yet that for people of every demographic, a door-zone painted bike lane on a busy street makes far less difference to people’s biking comfort than one with a physical barrier between bike and car traffic.

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How Many People Will Get Hurt If the Masonic Redesign Gets Delayed Again?

Opponents of the safety overhaul of Masonic Avenue complain in particular about removing nine trees on a concrete triangle at Masonic and Geary Street, where a plaza with many more trees (shown) will be built. Image: DPW

Another sorely-needed street safety redesign could be threatened by neighbors protesting the replacement of trees, even though, when all is said and done, the number of trees in the project area will double.

The overhaul of deadly Masonic Avenue could be delayed or altered if the SF Board of Appeals upholds an appeal against tree removal permits at a hearing on Wednesday.

The redesign, which was supposed to start construction this summer, was recently delayed by at least six months, the SF Examiner reported earlier this month. The addition of underground utility upgrades to the scope of work pushed back the start of construction to 2016, with the project scheduled for completion a year later.

The Masonic plan requires the removal of 49 trees, 17 of which are unhealthy and “unsafe,” and the planting of 185 new trees. It’s “a more than three-to-one replacement ratio,” Department of Public Works landscape architect John Dennis said in a statement. Overall, the current count of 145 trees will increase to 282.

“In order to construct our project some trees need to be removed and replaced,” Dennis wrote in an email blast to supporters of the redesign, encouraging them to urge the Board of Appeals to approve the permits. “This is unfortunate, but a small price to pay in exchange for a safer Masonic Street for all users.”

“We have been diligent in our efforts to save existing trees along the corridor,” he added.

As with the Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project, which 16 speakers protested last week over tree replacements, a handful of neighbors are threatening to slow down the Masonic plan, which has been in the works since 2010. The Masonic tree removal permits were issued in May, but they were appealed by two neighbors.

If the tree appeal does delay the Masonic projects, it will be another case in which the city’s appeals system has enabled a small group of people to obstruct or delay a project even after extensive vetting via publics meetings, analysis, and city approvals. All it takes is one appellant to bring a major safety effort to a halt.

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