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Posts from the Bicycling Category


SFBC, 3 Supervisors Say Law Should Let Cyclists Treat Stops as “Yield” Signs

The SF Bicycle Coalition announced its “unfettered support” today for a “Bike Yield Law” that would enable cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and cautiously roll through when there is no cross-traffic.

Until now, the SFBC has had no official position on the stop sign law, focusing instead on the message that police enforcement of bicycle riders who harmlessly roll through stop signs distracts from efforts to enforce violations that actually hurt people.

But when SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford attempted to crack down on bike commuters at stop signs earlier this month, the idea of changing the current law gained steam. After his first bike ride in many years, Sanford told Streetsblog that he can see how the “bike yield” practice can make sense, and that police already use “subjective” discretion in their enforcement. Last Thursday, he took a ride with a group of bike advocates to make amends.

Letting bicyclists treat stops as yields would entail changes to city ordinances and state law, which the SFBC refers to under the umbrella of the “Bike Yield Law.” The organization wrote in a statement:

The Bike Yield Law clarifies that people biking absolutely have to yield to people walking, but no one should waste time cracking down on people biking safely. The SFPD deserves this clear direction on how best to keep our streets safe, and that is the goal of the Bike Yield Law, which we support.

The SFBC plans to throw its support behind an ordinance proposed by Supervisor John Avalos, which Supervisors London Breed and Scott Wiener plan to co-sponsor, that would “make citations for bicyclists who safely yield at stop signs the lowest law enforcement priority.”

But for now, there’s no broader campaign to change the state stop sign law, which is more challenging. California Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Dave Snyder told SF Weekly last week that while the current law is “inappropriate,” the organization’s energy is focused on creating safer streets.

A similar law has been in effect since 1982 in Idaho, where it’s been credited with reducing injuries and clarifying expectations between drivers and bicyclists. Idaho’s law also allows bicycle riders to proceed through red lights when safe, and Paris adopted a similar law last month.

In the Bay Area, there was an effort in 2008 at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to endorse a “bike yield” law, on the tails of an (unsuccessful) effort in Oregon to change its law. But the MTC legislation stalled and was never approved. MTC staff wrote in a 2007 memo [PDF], “Allowing cyclists to roll through takes the ambiguity of the law away and allows law enforcement to focus on more serious violations.”

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Feds to Traffic Engineers: Use Our Money to Build Protected Bike Lanes

The feds say there’s no excuse not to use federal funding on designs like protected bike lanes.

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

Last week, the agency released a “clarifying” document that shoots down, on the record, some of the common refrains people hear from their DOT when they ask for safer street designs. This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.

Here are the seven things FHWA wants to be absolutely clear about:

1. Federal funds CAN be used to build protected bike lanes.

In case any doubt remains, FHWA printed its own design guide for protected bike lanes. It’s okay to use federal money to build them.

2. Federal funds CAN be used for road diets.

FHWA created a whole website to help states and municipalities implement road diets that reduce lanes for motor vehicle traffic to improve safety. FHWA wants local agencies that federal money can be used on them.

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SFMTA Approves 2nd Street Protected Bike Lane Redesign, Ponders Car Bans

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Second Street will get raised, protected bike lanes, sidewalk extensions, and Muni boarding islands with a redesign approved yesterday. But SFMTA Board members wonder if car restrictions are needed, too. Image: DPW

The SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday unanimously approved a redesign of Second Street which will remove traffic lanes and add safety upgrades like raised, protected bike lanes and sidewalk extensions. After years of delay, SFMTA Board members and some attendees at the meeting said it may not go far enough, and that the agency should consider car restrictions to prevent private autos from clogging the street.

The redesign [PDF] will remove two of Second Street’s four car traffic lanes and bring one of the city’s first routes with raised bike lanes protected from motor traffic by curbs and parked cars. Muni boarding islands will also be installed to allow buses to make stops in the traffic lanes and passengers to alight without conflicting with bike traffic.

The approval is “a resounding victory for safer SoMa streets,” wrote SF Bicycle Coalition Business and Community Program Manager Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, in a blog post. The SFBC submitted support letters from nearly 100 residents and a dozen businesses on the street, Cosulich-Schwartz told the SFMTA Board, noting that it’s the only north-south bike route in that area of SoMa.

Walk SF’s new policy and program manager, Cathy DeLuca, also lauded the plan. In addition to safer crossings (including removal of dangerous double-turn lanes at Harrison Street), and more room for pedestrians, she noted that the protected bike lanes will “make it easier for pedestrians and motorists to navigate” Second, which is “in the heart of such a fast-growing part of our community.”

The redesign “will give the residents, employees, local business, and visitors who use Second Street the great street they deserve,” Davi Lang, an aide for D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, told the SFMTA Board.

DeLuca noted that the plan for Second is the first street redesign to come out as part of the citywide Green Connections plan.

Second’s redesign has been delayed for years. Most recently, completion was pushed back a year from its previous schedule, to fall of 2017, apparently due to delays in completing the environmental review. Before that, the year-long construction was scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

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Bike Station Opens at Civic Center BART After Two Years of Delay

A bike parking and repair station opened at Civic Center Station today, providing BART and Muni Metro riders secure parking for 89 bikes, accessible only with a paid key card. Bike racks with another 60 spots were added outside the paid station area, adding to 63 existing rack spots.

The paid parking was originally expected to be ready more than two years ago, in June 2013.

Transportation officials and advocates held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the station’s opening. Tom Radulovich, director of Livable City and a BART Board member, noted in a statement that Civic Center Station is “where several of the most popular San Francisco bike routes converge, which means a lot for commuters heading into the East Bay.”

The total addition of 149 bike parking spots was initially planned to be 150 to 175. But the cost, which included upgrades to existing parking, also dropped from the original estimate of $830,000 to $650,000. It was paid for with local Prop K sales tax funds, the Prop AA vehicle registration fee, and state Prop 1B Lifeline funds.

There are five other BART Bike Stations at Embarcadero, Fruitvale, 19th Street in Oakland, Ashby, and Downtown Berkeley.

As BART bike program manager Steve Beroldo recently told Hoodline, the 24-hour “controlled access” bike station adds “an extra level of security because we know who’s entering and who’s leaving.” To park in the gated bike rooms, users need a BikeLink card and pay 3 cents an hour. The service also includes bike pumps and tools to use for repairs.

The room includes a bike pump and repair station. Photo: greggawatt/Twitter

Tom Radulovich holds the giant scissors along with fellow BART Board Member Robert Raburn, SFCTA Director Tilly Chang, and SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. Photo: SFCTA/Twitter

Tom Radulovich holds the giant scissors along with fellow BART Board Member Robert Raburn, SFCTA Director Tilly Chang, and SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. Photo: SFCTA/Twitter


SFPD’s Sanford Explains His Evolving Views on Bicycling and Traffic Priorities

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John Sanford rode a bicycle yesterday for the first time in an untold number of years. Then, he sat down for nearly two hours to have an insightful discussion with a couple of his staunchest critics. Streetsblog’s recorded interview with Sanford is posted at the bottom of this article.

SFPD Captain John Sanford sat down for two hours yesterday with Streetsblog and a neighborhood advocate to talk about safer streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFPD Captain John Sanford sat down for two hours yesterday with Streetsblog and a neighborhood advocate to talk about safer streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The new-ish captain of SFPD’s Park Station is taking strides to build relationships and learn from safe streets advocates after his short-lived crackdown on innocuous bike violations at stop signs last week, which led to dozens of protesters packing a community meeting Tuesday.

By the end of the hours-long meeting, Sanford announced an end to the bike crackdown (at least for now). After listening to compelling explanations as to why people on bikes treat stop signs as yield signs, he also promised to refine his enforcement efforts to account for differences between bikes and cars. (Supervisor John Avalos has since proposed it as a policy.)

Sanford paused the bike crackdown after two days, and then reached out to me and the SF Bicycle Coalition for one-on-one meetings. At Tuesday’s meeting, he told the crowd that his intention was to “get the attention of the cyclists. I think we got the attention of the cyclists.”

I caught up with the captain yesterday after Katherine Roberts, a longtime advocate for safer streets in Cole Valley, invited me to tag along on a neighborhood walk that Sanford had arranged with her. Roberts planned to point out the daily dangers of using crosswalks on streets like Stanyan, where drivers routinely fail to yield to pedestrians.

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Record-Breaking Bike Traffic on Market Street Neared 100,000 in July

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Record-breaking bicycle traffic on Market Street nearly broke the 100,000 threshold in July, according to the bike counter on SF’s most heavily-pedaled thoroughfare. Last month, 99,461 people were counted in the bike lane on eastbound Market at Ninth Street, topping the previous record of 97,302 in March.

"So, so awesome to be in the company of this many bikes commuting in a US city," writes Jess Zdeb on Twitter.

“So, so awesome to be in the company of this many bikes commuting in a US city,” writes Jess Zdeb on Twitter.

The record for daily bike counts was also set in April at 4,475 (monthly total: 91,685). July’s daily counts didn’t approach that record, generally ranging between 3,400 and 4,000 bikes. But July had enough consistent days of high bike counts to add up to a new record.

It seems safe to say that joining the waves of rush hour bike commuters on Market is the closest thing to experiencing a bicycling mecca like Copenhagen or Amsterdam this side of the North Atlantic.

And the momentum is only poised to grow after private auto drivers were banned on Tuesday from turning on to Market between Third and Eighth streets. With more car restrictions, the downtown section of Market east of Eighth, which lacks bike lanes, will only become friendlier to biking, walking, and transit. And just wait for the Better Market Street redesign (whenever that happens).

Now, it is possible that bicycling records on Market have been broken in recent years. After a design tweak to the bike lane in January, the counter captured bike trips more accurately. On the other hand, some bicycle riders still don’t ride over the sensor in the bike lane, so we may have already hit that six-digit milestone.

Hat tip to Joe Chojnacki for keeping an eye on the bike counter data.


Avalos Proposes Ordinance Urging SFPD to Let Cyclists Yield at Stop Signs

Supervisor John Avalos plans to introduce a policy urging the SFPD to let people on bikes treat stop signs as yield signs. It could legitimize the safe, practical maneuver already practiced by the vast majority of people on bikes, which is legal in Idaho.

John Avalos in a screenshot from his 2011 mayoral campaign video.

John Avalos in a screenshot from his 2011 mayoral campaign video.

While SF can’t supersede the state’s flawed stop sign law, Avalos’ 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,” said a press release from Avalos’ office:

The California Vehicle Code requires bikes to follow all the same rules as cars. But bikes are very different than cars. We’ve learned that traffic flows better when we give bikes certain considerations like bike lanes, sharrows, and bike boxes. Strict enforcement of stop sign laws for cyclists is counterproductive for several reasons:

  • It takes away scarce enforcement resources from more dangerous violations.
  • It is counterintuitive to the way most bicyclists and drivers currently navigate intersections.
  • It discourages people from bicycling.

“Nobody condones unsafe behavior by cyclists, but common sense enforcement of the law will make our streets safer and more predictable,” the release says, noting that a 2010 academic study found that injuries have decreased in Idaho in the 32 years since it changed its law. “The study also found that Boise, Idaho had much lower injury rates than comparable cities such as Sacramento and Bakersfield.”

“We can minimize these conflicts if we all take our turn at intersections and avoid being a ‘right-of-way thief,'” Avalos said in a statement. “Our streets work best when we all follow the ‘golden rule,’ and treat others like we want to be treated.”

With City Hall on legislative recess, Avalos can’t formally introduce his ordinance until September. If approved, SF would become the first known city in the state to recognize that the stop sign law isn’t realistic when applied to bicycles.

Read more…

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It Just Works: Davis Quietly Debuts America’s First Protected Intersection

Images: City of Davis

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.

The city that brought America the bike lane 48 years ago this summer has done it again.

Davis, California — population 66,000, bike commuting rate 20 percent — finished work last week on a new intersection design ordered up by a city council member who had decided that initial plans didn’t measure up to streets he’d ridden in the Netherlands.

A year later, with the help of Dutch consulting firm Mobycon, Council Member Brett Lee’s proposal for a protected intersection has arrived at Covell Boulevard and J Street. And as the Davis Enterprise reported Sunday, it’s working perfectly:

There were no standing diagrams on the street, no big street signs attached to traffic light poles announcing the difference between a standard American intersection and the Dutch-styled one people were passing through.

Everyone went in blind.

Yet for busy lunch hour traffic — well, for summer — on a Friday afternoon, motorists along Covell Boulevard zipped on through, with bicyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders seamlessly following their paths across the so-called “Dutch junction” — modeled after designs in the bike-friendly Netherlands.

No one died. No near misses. Nothing even close. Just history in the making no one seemed to notice.

It’s exactly what fans of protected intersections would have predicted for a design that arranges traffic so people on bikes and in cars can easily make eye contact with one another without looking over their shoulders.

Davis, it turned out, wasn’t alone in its vision. Austin has already built two protected intersections in a still-uninhabited part of a new development and expects people to start using them in the next few months. It’s planning two more.

Salt Lake City is currently building another downtown and plans to open it in the first week of October. Boston and Sacramento are planning their own.

“What did surprise me was how intuitive the intersection is,” Davis bicycle coordinator Jennifer Donofrio said Monday. “Observing people use the intersection, they are able to use it without any sort of education or any sort of guidance.”

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Tomorrow: Weigh in on SFPD’s Bike Crackdown With Captain Sanford

As a new video illustrates, SFPD seems to hold drivers to a different standard when they roll stop signs at Page and Scott Streets. Image: Kristin Tieche/Vimeo

A new video illustrates how SFPD holds drivers who roll through stop signs to a different standard than cyclists. Image: Kristin Tieche/Vimeo

SFPD Park Station’s monthly community meeting tomorrow evening is your chance to weigh in on the ongoing harassment of bike commuters led by new captain John Sanford.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

On the ride there, you can join a second Wiggle “stop-in” to demonstrate the folly of holding bicycle riders to the letter of the stop sign law.

Sanford’s decision to devote police resources to these tickets is now opposed by at least three supervisors: London BreedJohn Avalos, and Scott Wiener.

“Enforcement against minor bike violations won’t make our streets safer but will make it a heck of a lot harder for people to bike,” Wiener wrote in a post on Medium today:

In my view, traffic enforcement should focus on dangerous traffic behaviors — which are largely by motorists – that lead to deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Regarding bikes, police absolutely should enforce against cyclists engaging in dangerous and reckless behavior , for example, blowing through stop signs without slowing down, violating the rights-of-way of other road users, biking on sidewalks, and speeding . However, enforcing against cyclists for minor violations  —  such as slowing down at a stop sign, cautiously and safely entering the intersection, and not violating anyone’s right-of-way  —  is not a productive use of scarce traffic enforcement resources.

While Sanford fixates on holding cyclists to a strict interpretation of the stop sign law, SFPD still seems to ignore “rolling stops” committed by car drivers at the same locations.

A new video produced by Volker Neumann and Kristin Tieche (below) shows traffic on a normal night at the intersection of Page and Scott Streets on the Wiggle, where most bicyclists and drivers don’t come to a complete stop when there’s no cross traffic.

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Help Streetsblog Shine a Light on SFPD’s Bike Crackdown — Submit Your Video

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SFPD was spotted ticketing bike commuters on the Wiggle as late as 11:30 p.m. last night. Help by filming the crackdown on your commute. Photo: Kristin Tieche

SFPD was ticketing bike commuters on the Wiggle as late as 11:30 p.m. last night. Help by filming the crackdown on your commute. Photo: Kristin Tieche

Streetsblog needs you and your devices to provide eyes and ears on the Wiggle, Page Street, and wherever the SFPD is lurking to ticket bicycle riders who harmlessly roll stop signs.

It’s been clear from the start that Park Station’s bike crackdown is a huge waste of resources. But there are things that video can help us understand better. What are bike riders doing that triggers a ticket? Are tickets going to people who actually violate others’ right-of-way? Are police accurately enforcing laws?

So, the next time you head out in the Park Station district, if you’ve got a few minutes and you come across officers staked out at an intersection, get some video footage. Let’s see if we can get a look at this bike enforcement in action.

Although no SFPD bike stings were reported this morning on social media, it’s a good bet they’ll be back soon — and not just during rush hour. Police were issuing citations to people on bikes between 10 p.m. and midnight last night, according to posts on Twitter and Facebook.

If you get something on video, send your file or link to