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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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Tell SFMTA How the New San Jose Ave Bike Lane and Road Diet Are Working

How does northbound San Jose Avenue feel ever since it got a road diet and buffered bike lane? The SFMTA has launched an online survey where you can weigh in on the project. It’s your chance to let planners know if you think the street’s safer and calmer, and how it could be improved.

As we’ve written, the “Bernal Cut” finally got a road diet in June, following years of advocacy from neighbors who have pushed for traffic calming. Over 20 years ago, Caltrans invited more speeders to the street by adding a 280 off-ramp lane. Under the current pilot project, the SFMTA and Caltrans replaced of one of San Jose’s three traffic lanes with a buffered bike lane, matching the geometry of San Jose’s southbound side.

The agencies are measuring the traffic-calming effects of the change: if the number of drivers traveling faster than 35 mph doesn’t drop to 15 percent or less, Caltrans will test the removal of the second off-ramp lane it added in 1992 as a temporary measure.

San Jose has a speed limit of 45 mph, and before the redesign, 15 percent of drivers traveled faster than 48 mph (a figure known to engineers as the “85th percentile speed”). On the off-ramp, that speed was 57 mph.

The SFMTA said on its website that agency staff made some preliminary observations on how traffic was moving on August 13 “during both the AM and PM peak travel periods,” finding:

  • The two new merges at the foot of the off-ramp, one with San Jose Avenue and one with Monterey Boulevard, are working well, and drivers are negotiating them with no visible difficulty.
  • Motorists were observed driving in the bike lane, particularly between Milton Street and St. Mary’s Avenue.  Project staff are looking into the travel patterns of these drivers and are exploring ways to mitigate this unsafe behavior.
  • Congestion approaching Randall Street has increased, but has not affected the freeway off-ramp.  Staff noted congestion on San Jose Avenue prior to the implementation of the pilot, and are currently measuring detailed queueing times.  Additional wait time is only present for up to half an hour during the AM and PM peak periods.

This unremarkable picture doesn’t quite jibe with the carmageddon-like scenarios described by a few motorists who have jumped into the comment section on our June article, claiming it’s resulted in car backups a mile long. Of course, it typically takes months after street redesigns for changes in behavior to settle in, as drivers adjust and more people decide to try bicycling on the improved route.

In any case, the SFMTA needs to hear from a greater number of people to get a more complete picture of how San Jose’s working.

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The Letter to the Times That Foresaw NYC’s Biking Triumph 10 Years Ago

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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.

With the recent news that Bicycling Magazine has named New York America’s best city for biking, this seems like a particularly good moment to share the very first time protected bike lanes were mentioned in The New York Times.

It happened on October 10, 2004, in a letter to the editor from a man named Kenneth Coughlin. It was a response to a personal narrative the previous week from a young Times reporter who had made the daring decision to start riding her bicycle to work. In that article, then-Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall had made the prediction that New York City could one day be “one of the world’s great bicycling cities.”

It seemed like an obviously ridiculous claim. In a city of 8.2 million, fewer than 20,000 New Yorkers biked to work at the time. There was no Streetsblog, no Summer Streets, certainly no Citi Bike. The Times reporter, Lydia Polgreen (later a decorated Times correspondent in Africa, now the newspaper’s deputy international editor), described an incident in which she spent 20 minutes just looking for a place to lock her bike. Still, Polgreen came away from her first summer of bike commuting convinced that New York (“flat and compact … perfectly suited to biking”) had potential.

You can still find Coughlin’s 151-word reply to Polgreen on the NYT’s website. Here it is:

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New Report Out of NYC: Protected Bike Lanes Improve Safety for Everyone

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Injuries are down across the board on protected bike lane segments with at least three years of post-implementation crash data. The total number of injuries for cyclists dropped slightly even as the volume of cyclists on these streets increased, leading to big drops in what DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Chart: NYC DOT

In sync with Bicycling Magazine naming New York America’s best biking city, the NYC Department of Transportation released a report this week full of stats on the safety impact of protected bike lanes. It’s the most robust data the city has released about this type of street design, and the results prove that protected bike lanes make streets safer not just for cyclists, but pedestrians and drivers as well.

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had six years of before-and-after data for the study. Image: DOT

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had at least three years of post-implementation data and were part of this analysis. Image: DOT

For this analysis [PDF], DOT looked at protected bike lanes in Manhattan with at least three years of post-implementation crash data: segments of Broadway and First, Second, Eighth, Ninth, and Columbus Avenues. These streets saw big growth in cycling and major improvements in cyclist safety. The safety benefits extended to all road users, with total traffic injuries dropping 20 percent and pedestrian injuries down 22 percent.

The biggest improvement on these streets is in the diminished likelihood that a cyclist will suffer an injury — a metric DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Because injuries tended to fall or hold steady while cycling increased, most of the streets saw cyclist risk drop by more than a third. On Broadway from 59th Street to 47th Street, for example, bike volumes jumped 108 percent while crashes with injuries fell 18 percent.

The best results were on Ninth Avenue between 23rd and 16th Streets, where cyclists were 65 percent less likely to be hurt after the protected bike lane was installed. Only one of eight segments, Broadway between 23rd and 18th Streets, saw an increase in cyclist risk.

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How Vancouver Designs Intersections With Bike Lanes to Minimize Conflicts

Vancouver, land of the 5 percent bicycle mode share. Photo: Paul Krueger/flickr

For the last installment of our series previewing the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference, which starts Monday in Pittsburgh, I talked to Jerry Dobrovolny, transportation director of the city of Vancouver, BC, about how the city designs intersections where there are protected bike lanes. (The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.) Members of his staff will be presenting on this topic next week.

Vancouver is famous for its livable urban core, the ease with which its citizens can live without a car (as 26 percent of downtown residents do), and its enviable investments in bicycling and transit. Read on and tell me: Don’t you wish your city’s transportation chief talked like this?

Tell me a little bit about how Vancouver designs intersections to minimize car-bike conflicts, and why a focus on intersections is important in designing good bike infrastructure.

Clearly, it’s conflict zones that require the most attention. For separated bike lanes, those conflict zones are either driveway entrances or intersections. Intersections have more interactions going on and that’s where most of the collisions occur.

Over the past number of years, as we’ve been on our journey here in Vancouver — changing the types of infrastructure that we provide — we’ve been looking around the world quite actively to learn from what others are doing, to see what’s working and what isn’t working so well. It was pretty tough for us a couple years ago, because we didn’t really have a lot of places to go in North America. When we launched our Transportation 2040 plan two or three years ago, we actually hired the bike planner from Copenhagen to help with the bike section.

Since then, in the last year and a bit, NACTO has done some amazing work, and there’s a whole variety of U.S. and Canadian cities that have done some really amazing work. So we’re having a much better dialogue between cities in North America now compared to three years ago.

I want to talk just a little bit more about the mechanics of the intersection design. I saw the Dunsmuir Street bike lane. Can you walk me through that one and what the engineering there accomplishes?

The separated bike lane on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver received the first generation of the city's intersection treatments. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/pwkrueger/5133829565/in/photostream/##Paul Krueger/flickr##

The separated bike lane on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver received the first generation of the city’s intersection treatments. Photo: Paul Krueger/flickr

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Tow Truckers Pledge to Reduce Fell Bike Lane Parking, Thanks to Sup. Breed

“Three tow trucks blocking the bike lane on Fell now. Forcing people on bikes towards vehicle traffic,” writes Patrick Traughber on Twitter.

Updated 9/5 with comment from the SFPD captain below.

Ted & Al’s Towing company pledged to make a stronger effort to avoid parking its trucks in the Fell Street bike lane, an illegal practice that forces bike commuters to veer into heavy motor traffic.

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

D5 Supervisor London Breed said that her staff came to an agreement with Ted & Al’s owner Larry Nasey and Raj Vaswani, the new SFPD Park Station captain. “Both were very responsive and helpful, and we are optimistic that this dangerous, illegal parking will not continue,” she said.

“Public safety is my greatest concern,” said Breed, who pushed the SFMTA to accelerate the installation of the neighboring bike lane on Oak Street last year. “When these tow trucks park in the bike lane, they force bicyclists into an active lane of traffic and jeopardize everyone’s safety.”

Nasey said he couldn’t promise a complete end to tow trucks stopped in the bike lane, since the driveway there is the only entrance they have to the building, and truckers must often wait for others to make room first. But managers will encourage truck drivers to move out of the bike lane more quickly, and to stop in one of the three traffic lanes available to motor traffic instead when car traffic isn’t too heavy.

“Had the bike lane been there [first], I never would’ve put my business there knowing the disruption it would cause,” said Nasey. “But because we’re there, and now the bikes are there, we’re trying to work it out so we can co-exist.”

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Bill Streamlining Protected Bike Lanes in CA Awaits Governor’s Signature

With Governor Brown’s approval, protected bike lanes like these ones on San Francisco’s Market Street could become easier for cities to build. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A bill that would make it easier for California cities to build protected bike lanes was passed by both houses of the state legislature this week and only awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

The bill, A.B. 1193, was authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition.

The bill serves several purposes. First and foremost, it requires Caltrans to establish engineering standards for protected bike lanes or “cycletracks,” a new category of bike lanes for cities to use.

At the same time, it removes a provision in the law that requires that any bike lane built in California adhere to Caltrans specifications, even if it is built on a local street that is not under Caltrans’ jurisdiction. This frees up local jurisdictions to choose other guidelines, such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, if the Caltrans standards do not adequately address local conditions.

Caltrans endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide earlier this year but has not adopted it, meaning that cities that want to build separated bike lanes must still go through a process to get an exemption.

Last-minute negotiations on the bill addressed concerns about liability by adding several conditions that have to be met before non-Caltrans criteria can be used. A “qualified engineer” must review and sign off on a protected bike lane project, the public must be duly notified, and alternative criteria must “adhere to guidelines established by a national association of public agency transportation official,” which means the NACTO guidelines would could be used whether Caltrans has officially adopted them or not.

And unfortunately for lay people, Caltrans balked at removing its convention of naming bike lane types by “class” and numeral, saying it is just too embedded in its documents. So the new protected bike lanes category would be officially named “Class IV Bikeways,” adding to Class I Bikeways (bike paths or shared use paths), Class II bikeways (bike lanes), and Class III bikeways (bike routes). Memorize that.

“We’re very excited to have gotten to this point after months of harder-than-expected negotiations and stalwart support from Phil Ting,” said Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition. ”He really wants to see protected bikeways get more popular.”

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In Austin, Posts and Paint Bring a New Bike Bridge From Good to Great

All photos: Nathan Wilkes

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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.

Here are a few images from Austin bikeway engineer Nathan Wilkes that show how a protected lane can cheaply add a lot of value to a larger project.

The bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Little Walnut Creek, visible in the top right background above, officially opened Monday after 17 years of planning. It created a direct link between Hart Elementary School and the residential neighborhood to the north — but the link also required pedaling on a wide street that many people would see as unsuitable for children.

Furness Drive before the new bike lanes. Image: Google Street View

The new bidirectional protected bike lane, Wilkes wrote in an email, “is on both sides of the bridge and makes seamless transitions between on and off-street infrastructure.” The 1.1-mile biking improvement cost $20,000, compared to $1.2 million for the bridge itself.

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Eyes on the Street: New Curbs Coming to Market/Valencia Bike Turn

Photo: Aaron Bialick

In case you’re wondering why the left-turn “jug handle” connecting bike commuters on Market to Valencia Street suddenly disappeared behind construction barricades, we’ve got the answer. The “bike bay” is being re-built with granite curbs, replacing the original concrete curbs with materials that better match the rest of Market Street.

That’s according to SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. Jose said the re-construction is part of the ongoing work around the intersection of Market, Haight, and Gough Streets, which will create a contra-flow Muni lane and build pedestrian bulb-outs. Even though many have complained that the bike waiting zone and thru traffic lane are uncomfortably narrow, Jose did said the bike bay is not being widened, but that it could be in the Better Market Street project.

When I stumbled upon the construction site last Friday, there was no apparent alternate accommodation for people on bikes waiting for the bike signal to turn left off Market. It wouldn’t be the first time that construction crews have closed a bike lane on that stretch of Market without providing a safe detour.

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Eyes on the Street: Buffered Bike Lanes for Students on Ortega in the Sunset

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This school year, Ortega Street offers parents a safer street to walk and bike their kids on in the Outer Sunset, as seen here at 40th Ave. Photo: SFBC

The SFMTA has installed new bike lanes and traffic calming measures on Ortega Street in the Outer Sunset, bringing a safer commute for parents and students in time for the start of the school year. Ortega runs along Sunset Elementary School and AP Giannini Middle School, which occupy the four blocks between 37th and 41st Avenues.

The improvements, funded in part by a Safe Routes to School grant, include a bike lane with a buffer zone in the uphill direction on the stretch along the school, and a conventional bike lane in the downhill direction. Ortega also has new pedestrian islands, speed humps, continental crosswalks, daylighting, and sidewalk bulb-outs to calm car traffic and make it safer to cross the street. They were previously expected to be installed by the end of 2012, with the bike lanes in by summer of last year, and it’s unclear why the project was delayed.

The safety upgrades were championed by Nik Kaestner, the director of sustainability for the SF Unified School District, who bikes his kids to school on “a heavy Dutch cruiser,” he told the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Asked about the benefits of these projects, Kaestner pointed out that “walking school buses and bike trains also build community and allow students to arrive at school ready to learn… Ensuring that students have a variety of ways of getting to school means that students from disadvantaged areas have the means to get to the school of their choice.”

See more photos after the jump.

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San Jose Merchants Object to Parking Removal for Bike Lanes on Park Ave

San Jose DOT Deputy Director Paul Smith explains a proposal for buffered bike lanes on Park Avenue. Some merchants have opposed the removal of 168 car parking spaces to make the bike lanes safer and more comfortable. Photo: Andrew Boone

About 150 residents attended a community meeting last Wednesday hosted by the San Jose Department of Transportation in the Willow Glen neighborhood to introduce plans for new bike lanes and sharrows on six streets west of downtown. The projects would complement four less extensive bikeway projects on streets east of downtown which were presented on August 6.

While some merchants opposed the removal of car parking to make the bike lanes safer, SJDOT officials say the improvements are critical to providing a more complete bicycle network in central San Jose, where the city is most dense.

“This circle shows a four-mile radius from the center of downtown San Jose,” explained SJDOT Deputy Director Paul Smith, pointing to a map showing existing and planned bikeways. “It’s about one-quarter of the land area of the city but contains 47 percent of the population and 57 percent of all the jobs in San Jose.”

SJDOT is aiming to create a high-quality east-west route across the city “to support higher numbers of bicyclists of various skill levels” running through downtown as the backbone of its network of “Primary Bikeways.” New conventional and buffered bike lanes, proposed on a 2.8-mile stretch of Park Avenue from the Santa Clara city limit near Newhall Street to Market Street, would connect to the green and buffered bike lanes installed last year on San Fernando Street from the Diridon Caltrain Station to 10th Street.

A total of three miles of new bike lanes are also planned for Lincoln Avenue, Stockton Avenue, and Julian Street, while a route of sharrows would extend 1.5 miles along Scott Street and Auzerais Avenue from MacArthur Avenue (near the 880/280 interchange) to the Los Gatos Creek Trail.

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