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Posts from the Bike Boulevards Category


Streetfilms: NYC Bike Lanes 101

In some cities people are so desperate for bike lanes they'll mark their own. Elizabeth Press of Streetfilms in New York City, on the other hand, had this to say about the work the NYC Department of Transportation has been doing in her city: "It feels like every time I get on my bike there is a new bike lane -- sometimes on the left, sometimes buffered, and sometimes completely separated from automobile traffic."

For those of us who live in cities that haven't caught the bicycle infrastructure fever or have been prevented from such by a bicycle injunction, perhaps the best we can do is tag along with her as she rides the streets with NYC DOT bicycle infrastructure staff as they show off the many classes of bike lanes and inventive facilities they have added in the past few years.

Behold and be bicycle-lane green with envy!


Eyes on the Street: Cops Tell Double Parkers to Get Out of the Bike Lane

motorcycle_cop_on_valencia_1.jpgPhotos by Bryan Goebel
We've written before about obstructions caused by motorcycle cops parked in the bike lane (and the SFPD generally doesn't have a good reputation among cyclists), but yesterday around 4:30 p.m. -- a few hours after Sunday Streets wrapped up -- I spotted a cop parked in the bike lane on Valencia Street just before 16th for a good reason: to shoo away a motorist who was double parked.

"What are you doing?" I asked his partner, who stopped in the street.

"This car can't be parked here. It's the bike lane," he responded.

A woman who was a passenger in the car got out, darted across the street, and brought the driver back, and he was gone within minutes, but without a ticket. Double parking in a bike lane carries a $100 fine and San Francisco's law is "explicit about the bikes-only limitation," according to the SFBC.  However, it's the first time SFBC executive director Leah Shahum has heard of SFPD motorcycle cops telling cars to get out of the bike lane. I watched them do it on a few blocks of Valencia.

"We encourage the police department to enforce the law," said Shahum. "It's not just an inconvenience for bicyclists it's a serious hazard and we'd be thrilled to see them enforce it regularly." 


For a City of Panhandles! Copenhagenize it!

city_living.jpgMona Caron's rendition of 24th and Folsom after we've made a few basic changes.  (Thanks to Mona Caron for this image, originally published in the Bay Guardian in 2006.)

We’ve been waiting for years now to see some physical changes to accommodate the huge increase in daily bicycling. We did get an odd set of painted bike lanes and green bike route signs, and a significant number of bike racks for parking, before it all came to a halt due to the injunction three years ago. After perusing the much-anticipated Draft Bicycle Plan and its dense bureaucratese, full of overlapping redundant promises, I’m afraid we’ll be waiting a good while longer to see the kinds of changes that we ought to be getting.

It’s really hard to believe that after all this organizing and earnest campaigning we’ll basically end up with a few thousand “sharrows” and another batch of partial, end-in-the-middle-of-nowhere bike lanes, lanes which in any case are horribly inadequate patches on our misallocated and car-centric public streets. How is it that after almost two decades of rapidly expanding bicycling, the city’s transit priorities still treat bicycles as an annoyance that they only grudgingly are willing to accommodate? When will there be a systematic commitment to altering the streets of this city to create dedicated bikeways, separated from cars and pedestrians, comprehensively linked to provide for easy, graceful, convivial bicycling to all parts of the city?

Over at the blog Copenhaganize their basic point is summarized in two short sentences:

Each and every day 500,000 people ride their bicycle to work or school in Copenhagen. This blog highlights who they are, why they do and how it was made possible.

Forty years ago Copenhagen was just as car-clogged as anywhere else but now 36% of the population choose the bicycle. Copehagenizing is possible anywhere.

News From New York: The ABC’s of Trial Plazas and Complete Streets

Picture_18.pngThe trial plaza at Madison Square
When we wrote about the trial pedestrian plaza on 17th Street and Market Street that DPW expects to start this May, the story generated numerous doubts about how the city would create a successful public space out of a busy street abutting a gas station. 

As commenter Josh said, "This truly is a ridiculous idea! Why would anyone want to "enjoy" a small patch of cemented area that's filled with salvage yard leftovers while inhaling unhealthy fumes from not only the cars on the busy streets that surround the designated area but by the gas station?"

Though we can't make guarantees on a pilot project that hasn't been built, we thought we'd highlight some of New York City's temporary plazas and street treatments as best practice analogs, knowing our DPW and MTA are also looking to the Big Crabapple for inspiration. 

DPW Director Ed Reiskin explained to Streetsblog by email that his goal is to keep expenses low. "As for cost, it should be minimal, since materials cost should be close to zero," he said.  "There will be some labor cost to us and MTA to put up signs, transport and place materials, and install any pavement treatments and cuts."

In New York, even the "salvage yard leftovers" have become very nice public amenities.


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Good Roads?

I just finished an interesting journey that took me to the World Social Forum at the mouth of the Amazon River system in Belem, Brazil, and then to Los Angeles and finally home, just in time to attend a presentation last night at CounterPULSE of Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes III. The show consists of rare and obscure footage of life in San Francisco going back over 100 years. A few of the clips are striking reminders of how much the basic "technology" of roads and how we use them has evolved during the past century.

3BIKS875.jpgThese "boneshakers" in 1875 were superceded a decade and a half later by air-filled rubber tubes. With that new technology, bicyclists led the Good Roads Movement in the 1890s, demonstrating in the thousands for asphalt!
It's lost to most of our memories, but in the 1890s bicyclists took to the streets (pdf) by the thousands across the U.S. with a shared demand: Good Roads and asphalt! Sometimes you get what you ask for and it doesn't all work out quite the way anyone imagines! (It is worth noting in a brief digression that as we celebrate and promote the bicycle as an ecological alternative to the private automobile, the early breakthrough that made bicycling what it became was the invention of the air-filled rubber tube. That in turn made it possible to produce a smooth-riding vehicle in early industrial settings, but to produce such a device required a lot of raw material, like any industrial product. Rubber in the 19th century was not yet synthesized from hydrocarbons and the supply was garnered by imposing extremely barbaric slave-like conditions in the Amazon and the Congo, where tribal peoples were violently coerced into gathering ever-increasing amounts of wild rubber from the trees growing in the forest, all to meet the insatiable demand of bicyclists in Europe and the United States!) Read more...

Market/Octavia Debate: Safety by Numbers or Safety in Numbers?

2792852796_3914807463.jpgA blue bike lane in Copenhagen.
Though Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch ruled the MTA will not get an immediate exemption to the bike injunction to remove the eastbound segment of the bike lane at Market and Octavia because he didn’t think an “adequate case has been made that there's a public safety crisis,” when the hold on the bike plan is lifted as early as this spring, the agency will likely try to remove the lane anyway.  

So will the changes improve safety for bicyclists?  That answer depends on how you look at it and highlights a recurring international debate among transportation engineers and cycling advocacy groups: Are segregated bicycle lanes safer for cyclists than shared lanes?

The MTA argues its plan will increase safety, citing among other examples a report from Copenhagen, Denmark, which details equivalent lane markings to the current Market/Octavia design and the proposed design (PDF, pg 30):
One type continues all the way up to the intersection, the other type stops at a distance from the intersection. Experience shows that the shortened type of cycle track results in the fewest casualties, whereas cyclists feel more secure on the type that continues all the way up to the intersection. Both types may be supplemented with a blue marked crossing, which significantly improves safety.