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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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Sheriffs Blame Cyclist Victim in OC Road Rage Bottle-Throwing Incident

Screen capture showing Gatorade bottle thrown at cyclist. Source: Youtube

On May 31st, 2014, Bryan Larsen was bicycling on a crowded stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in south Orange County. He began to notice a pattern of harassment by the occupants of a large white 4×4 Ram Truck, with Texas license plate 65-500. When passing cyclists, the truck would spew thick black coal-rolling exhaust.

Larsen got out his phone and began to record video. He then captured this road rage incident.  The truck swerved out of the car lane toward the cyclist in the bike lane. The truck slowed and its passenger threw a bottle full of Gatorade at the cyclist. When Larsen held his phone up and shouted that he had captured the incident on video, the truck blasted more exhaust and drove away.

In a television interview, Larsen describes the incident:

I was in a lot of fear. They came into the bike lane. The tires were as big as I was and I thought they were going to run me over.

Larsen posted the video online and reported the incident, submitting the evidence to the Orange County Sheriffs Department.

OCSD responded that they were investigating, but stated that there really was nothing law enforcement could do, because, even thought it was caught on video, no sheriff had actually been present to eye-witness to the incident.

Meanwhile, the video went viral. The incident was reported in local media. Larsen approached Arizona-based advocacy organization Look! Save A Life which produced an annotated version of the video, slowing down and clarifying what occurred. Just over a month passed with no response from OCSD.

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Safety in Bike-Share: Why Do Public Bikes Reduce Risk for All Cyclists?

Injuries to all cyclists declined after the launch of bike-share systems in Boston and other cities. Photo: Kelly Kline/Flickr

What if Yankees legend Yogi Berra had followed a season with 24 homers and 144 hits with one featuring 27 homers and 189 hits? Would the baseball scribes have declared “Yogi Power Shortage” because only one in seven hits was a homer instead of one in six? Duh, no. The headlines would have read, “Yogi Boosts Production Across the Board.” The fact that a greater share of base hits was singles and doubles would have been incidental to the fact that Yogi’s base hits and homers were both up.

So how is it that a study that documented drops of 14 percent in the number of cyclist head injuries and 28 percent in total cyclist injuries in U.S. cities with bike-share programs got this headline in the Washington Post last month?

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To be sure, those figures were buried in the study. They saw the light of day, thanks to two posts last month by Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt. So readers know that the Post’s headline should have been: “Cities with bike-share programs see marked decrease in cyclist injuries.”

Simple enough, right? Except that to run the story straight up like that would have required the Post to set aside the unholy trinity atop Americans’ ingrained misperception of cycling safety: the beliefs that helmetless cycling is criminally dangerous; that cycling is inherently risky; and that cyclists, far more than drivers, make it so.

To see why, let’s look further into the research data that made its way into the Post story. The team of researchers, two of whom work at the Harborview Injury and Research Center in Seattle, compared five bike-share cities with five cities that did not implement bike-share programs. The bike-share cities had a total drop in reported cyclist injuries of 28 percent, versus a 2 percent increase in the control cities. The effective difference of 30 percentage points is huge.

The safety improvement in bike-share cities is all the more impressive, since those places likely saw a rise in overall cycling activity that one would expect to lead to an increase in cyclist injuries. But the expected increase in injuries is small when you take into account the safety-in-numbers phenomenon that one of us (Jacobsen) has documented for a decade and counting: You’re safer riding a bike in a community where more people ride bicycles.

Let’s train the safety-in-numbers lens on that 28 percent drop in cyclist injuries in bike-share cities and consider why the injury risk fell instead of increasing:

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Watch: D10 Supervisor Candidates Weigh in on Muni, Parking, and Bike Lanes

The candidates running for District 10 supervisor this November gave some telling responses to transportation questions last week. The first debate of the D10 race was held at the Potrero Hill Democratic Club and moderated by SF Chronicle reporter Marisa Lagos, who asked some pointed questions on issues around Muni, parking, and bike lanes in SF’s eastern and southeast neighborhoods.

District 10 encompasses neighborhoods like Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Bayview-Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Image: SFGov

The five candidates, as seen seated from left to right in the video above, included Ed Donaldson, Marlene Tran, incumbent Malia Cohen, Tony Kelly (the close runner-up in the most recent election), and Shawn Richard. The video was provided by Kelly’s campaign.

Here’s a summary of highlights from the transportation section:

  • 38:00: Lagos tested candidates on some transit fundamentals by asking them each to write down all of the Muni lines that serve Potrero Hill, then show their answers to the crowd. The responses, which acted as a score card of sorts, weren’t exactly uniform.
  • 40:30: Lagos also drew some differing responses with her follow-up question: ”What would you do to improve Muni service to the hill?” Notably, Donaldson was the only one to mention bringing back Sunday parking metering for Muni funding, and was met with hisses from the audience.
  • 43:00: Lagos asked, “Should private buses be allowed to stop at public bus stops?” The consensus from candidates is a resounding “no.”
  • 44:35: Candidates were asked whether they “agree with the current ratio of residential units to parking spaces in new developments.” All candidates except Kelly said they felt current parking maximums were too low. (On parking, it’s worth noting that Kelly pushed the idea of allowing nearby residents to park at new meters for free.)

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What a Great Pilot Bike Lane Project Looks Like: 3 Best Practices

Cheap and flexible: A pilot protected lane project on Multnomah Street in Portland. Photo: Green Lane Project

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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.

From Calgary to Seattle to Memphis, the one-year pilot project is becoming the protected bike lane trend of 2014.

Street designers looking to use the design have been putting down their digital renderings and picking up plastic posts and barrels of paint, city staffers from around the country said in interviews this week.

“I think there’s been sort of this realization that we don’t have to be so theoretical in our work and we don’t have to be so tied to the process,” said Kyle Wagenschutz, pedestrian and bicycle coordinator for the City of Memphis. “By doing a pilot project you’re able to very quickly put a substantial change on the ground in your city.” The point isn’t to avoid public dialogue, Wagenschutz argues. Just the opposite.

Because a pilot project lets ordinary people see a new street design in action, rather than “spending three to five years talking about renderings and sketch models,” Wagenschutz said, “you’re changing the starting point for your input. You’re changing the point by which people begin to communicate. … The dialogue is based on this new experience that they’re having rather than a dialogue about what might be.”

It’s not unlike the philosophy of many software startups, Wagenschutz said: “Ready, fire, aim.”

But that doesn’t prevent some pilot protected bike lane projects from misfiring. So we talked to a few creators of successful ones to get their advice.

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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.”