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Posts from the Bike Lanes Category

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Santa Clara OKs Road Diet, Bike Lanes on “Ludicrously Overbuilt” Tasman Dr.

Even with two fewer auto traffic lanes, Santa Clara’s Tasman Drive could still carry more than twice the number of cars it handles during rush hour. Image: Google Maps

Santa Clara’s City Council unanimously approved a road diet last week on the city’s 1.5-mile section of Tasman Drive. Tasman, east of Great America Parkway, will have two of its six traffic lanes re-purposed for wide buffered bike lanes and permanent median fences to protect Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)’s light-rail tracks. West of Great American Parkway, where Tasman was has four lanes, only striped bike lanes would be added.

Tasman is “ludicrously overbuilt,” Cyclelicious author Richard Masoner wrote in a blog post the day before the vote. Masoner wrote at the time that the council seemed “reluctant” to approve the project at a meeting in late March. “There is literally no downside for this project no matter which mode of transportation you use, so what’s the problem?,” he wrote.

The council approved the project unanimously and without discussion last Tuesday.

At the March meeting, Council Member Patrick Kolstad asked if transportation planners would consider removing the Tasman bike lanes in 10 years if there are more cars to move. Council Member Lisa Gillmor claimed the road diet is “going to be a nightmare during traffic hour,” pointing to Pruneridge Avenue, where one of four traffic lanes was removed to add bike lanes in late 2011.

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Correction: Initial Upgrades on Polk Don’t Include Separate Bike Signals

Polk Street this week, where the SFMTA is striping interim bike lane improvements that don’t include separate bike signals. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Streetsblog erroneously reported last month that four Polk Street intersections would get signals to separate bike traffic from turning drivers by May. The signals are not in fact part of the first round of improvements on Polk.

I misinterpreted an announcement from the SFMTA that the initial upgrades would include “dedicated and separate space for southbound cyclists and right-turning vehicles.” I assumed this was a reference to intersection configurations in the final plan for Polk, which include separate bike signals. I apologize for the error.

Signals to separate curbside bike traffic and right-turning drivers are still part of the Polk plan, but the timetable calls for them to be installed during the construction phase beginning next year and wrapping up in 2017. The interim upgrades, which are being installed now, do not include the signals.

The short-term changes will stripe a bike lane between the through-traffic lane and a right-turn lane (like on 8th Street in SoMa). That will provide right-turning drivers a pocket to wait in instead of blocking the bike lane after merging across it. The striping is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

“The separated space on southbound Polk for right turning vehicles and through bicyclists is a measure the SFMTA was able to implement quickly to increase safety now,” said SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. “The improvement addresses the definitive and repeated right-hook crash patterns we see at southbound Polk and Turk, Eddy, Ellis and Geary.”

Installing the bike signals will “require complex technical work,” he said, which will be done in conjunction with sewer replacement. In total, pavement work on Polk is expected to take about a year.

“The final design will flip the vehicle right turn lane with the bike lane,” said Jose, “with a continuous bike lane running curbside at intersection approaches, where there will be a right turn signal phase for cars and a separated through phase for people biking.”

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Why Townsend Street Needs Protected Bike Lanes at 4th and King Station

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Anyone who uses Townsend Street’s eastbound bike lane to commute to Caltrain is sure to run into a litany of obstacles: Taxis, shuttles, private autos, and Muni buses obliterate the poor bike lane in the fight for curb space. (Much of the curb is reserved as a taxi stand.)

Sam McCandlish sent in this video, filmed by a friend of his, showing the chaotic scrum faced by bike-to-Caltrain commuters. The often-impassable conditions cause some people to resort to riding on the sidewalk. In 2011, the SFPD targeted sidewalk riders at the Fourth and King station while ignoring drivers blocking the bike lane.

In the video, a few Bay Area Bike Share users can be seen walking their bikes in the bike lane in the opposite direction to get through the mess. Fourth and King is the busiest bike-share hub in the city at peak commute hours.

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Eyes on the Street: Polk’s Extended, Unprotected Bike Lane Blocked By Cars

Photo: Chet Anderson

This week the SFMTA extended the southbound bike lane on Polk Street from Post up to Union Street. The stripes are in, and the bike lane symbols are still being stenciled.

Two Streetsblog readers have written in about drivers double-parking in the bike lane and even cruising in it. You can chalk it up to the newness of the lane up to a point, but as with the prevailing design of most SF bike lanes, the Polk extension puts people on bikes in the door zone, unprotected between parked cars and moving cars and routinely blocked by double-parkers. Some double-parking enforcement will be needed for the bike lane to provide any meaningful safety improvement.

The southbound bike lane extension is the first in a package of interim bike and pedestrian safety measures coming to Polk in the next few months, after the SFMTA Board of Directors approved the watered-down redesign earlier this month. Other improvements in the works include protected bike signals at four intersections on the southbound bike lane south of Geary Street, as well as painted bulb-outs. The full redesign is set to begin construction next spring.

Polk, looking south toward Pine. Photo: Henry Pan

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Four Protected Bike Signals Coming to Polk Street By May

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The SFMTA has promised signals to separate southbound bike traffic from right-turning drivers at four intersections along Polk Street by May. Image: SFMTA

Today the SFMTA announced details about the first package of safety upgrades coming to Polk Street in the next few months. They include signals at four intersections that will give southbound bike traffic a separate phase from drivers turning right, making Polk the second street in SF to get the configuration.

By May, the SFMTA said it would install the bike signals at all four intersections in the Polk plan: Geary Boulevard, Ellis Street, Eddy Street, and Turk Street. The signals “will be implemented to address existing right-hook crash patterns,” the SFMTA said in an email announcing the upgrades.

The prevailing design of SF current bike lanes calls for people on bikes to merge with right-turning cars, putting them at risk of drivers who turn without looking. At the four Polk intersections, right-turning drivers will have a separate lane and signal phase. The configuration is widely used in cities like Amsterdam, and is planned for protected bike lanes on streets like Second.

The only street in SF that already has the configuration is Cargo Way in Bayview, where a two-way protected bikeway separated by a fence was installed in 2012. A similar configuration exists at Fell Street and Masonic Avenue, where a left-turn signal was installed to protect people in a crosswalk along the Panhandle’s mixed bike and pedestrian path.

As part of the first batch of improvements on Polk, the SFMTA said the conventional southbound bike lane will be extended from Union to Post Street by April. That space will apparently be created by narrowing traffic lanes.

When construction of the rest of the Polk project starts next spring, the southern segment of the bike lane will get green paint and a buffer zone. Many sections will run curbside, eliminating the risk of dooring.

The northbound Polk bike upgrades will also come next spring, with the construction of a raised bike lane from McAllister to Pine Street, which won’t include separate signal phases at intersections.

Pedestrian safety improvements are on the way this spring, include zebra crosswalks at 25 intersections and painted bulb-outs at five intersections. By summer, the SFMTA said it will install leading pedestrian intervals, which “allow pedestrians a few seconds of a ‘WALK’ signal before vehicles receive a green light at certain intersections.” By that time, daylighting will also be in place at “various intersections,” along with “new and relocated” loading zones to reduce double parking.

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Eyes on the Street: Idiots Continue to Park in the Oak Street Bike Lane

Looks like some tickets are in order.

Even with planted protective barriers alongside the Oak Street bike lane, some drivers haven’t got the message and continue to park or stop in it. It’s not clear if the violations are happening less often, and it’s still early in the learning curve, but the hope had been that the planters would send a stronger message to drivers to stay out.

The design leaves large gaps in the physical protection around curb cuts and the approaches to intersections, where turning drivers merge into the bike lane. There are no plans to expand the protective islands.

For now, San Franciscans have to rely on the SFMTA and SFPD to provide consistent enforcement against violators. That’s another work in progress.

Photo: Al Sharff

Photo: Al Sharff

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Eyes on the Street: The Oak Street Bike Lane Is Now Protected

The Oak Street bike lane now has protective concrete planters. Photo: Mark Dreger/Twitter

At long last, the Oak Street bike lane has physical protection from motor traffic. Long-awaited concrete planters were completed last week.

“We’re thrilled that the final pieces are finally coming together to make the bike lanes on Oak and Fell achieve the high level of protection San Franciscans were originally promised and that we have advocated strongly for,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “Protected bike lanes are one of the most powerful ways to make San Francisco safe and inviting for people of all ages to bike. This critical corridor will now be a safe, attractive route for people biking and local residents, and will make the roadway more predictable for people driving.”

Next up is Fell Street’s three-block counterpart, completing the link between the Panhandle and the Wiggle, the flattest central route between the eastern and western neighborhoods. Fell’s concrete planters and finishing touches are expected to be completed by the end of April.

The first step in the redesign was to create a curbside bike lanes with a painted buffer. In an October 2013 survey, many bike commuters who use the route — currently, roughly 1,800 a day — said those changes made them feel safer and more likely to bike on Fell and Oak. The new concrete planters should make the route even less stressful and send a stronger signal to drivers not to park in the bike lanes.

In related news, the SFMTA Board of Directors last week approved the new residential parking permit Area Q to provide some regulation for car parking in the neighborhood. The idea was developed during planning for the Fell and Oak bike lanes since they required the removal of about 100 parking spaces, with about half added back on nearby streets.

Check out more photos of the Oak bike lane at Hoodline.

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Howard Bike Lane Gets Wider and Greener — Will Protection Come Soon?

The Howard Street bike lane in SoMa, between Sixth and Tenth Streets, was widened and got some green paint this week. While it’s no protected bike lane, we’ve already heard from bike commuters who say the buffer zone and contrast make the ride a bit more comfortable.

For the SFMTA, these improvements are low-hanging fruit to pluck while shaping bigger plans protected bike lanes on Howard and Folsom Street, a couplet of one-way streets. Howard’s new buffer zone, which isn’t as wide as Folsom’s, was created by narrowing a 15-foot wide traffic lane, which didn’t require a lengthy environmental review.

Folsom’s bike lane was widened with a buffer zone between Fourth and 11th Streets in late 2013 by removing a traffic lane, and was fast-tracked as a pilot project after Amelie Le Moullac was killed by a trucker at Folsom and Sixth. The bike lane on Eighth Street also replaced a traffic lane in 2013.

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Police Ticket Cyclists Who Fail to Navigate Market and Octavia’s Bad Design

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City planner Neil Hrushowy was among the few bike commuters who weren’t “behaving badly” at this poorly-designed bike junction, according to KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts. Image: KRON 4

Police were seen ticketing people on bikes navigating a poorly-designed junction at the dangerous Market Street and Octavia Boulevard intersection yesterday in the latest “People Behaving Badly” segment from KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts.

The bike lane’s design is so flawed, in fact, that the only bike commuter Roberts showed navigating it properly happened to be one of the city planners leading its redesign (and, no doubt, has paid closer attention to it than most people).

“Most choose the incorrect way and ended up with a ticket,” Roberts said in the segment. (Roberts said he didn’t know that his model cyclist was a city planner, but I recognized him.)

“We recognize that it is not an intuitive design for cyclists,” said Neil Hrushowy, Roberts’ model cyclist and the program director for the SF Planning Department’s City Design Group. “I think anyone’s going to feel comfortable recognizing that it’s the less appealing route for cyclists, which is why you see them coming through the intersection the other way.”

The junction in question has a path for bicycle riders headed southbound on Octavia as they prepare to make a left turn on Market. People must skillfully maneuver through a curved bike lane that runs between curbs through a traffic island, thrusting them alongside freeway traffic. When they reach the other side of the intersection, the path to the Market bike lane is blocked by a barrier installed to prevent drivers from making illegal right turns on to the freeway — the real danger at the intersection.

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Yielding to Cars-First Merchants, SFMTA Board Approves Polk Plan As Is

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted unanimously yesterday to approve the watered-down plan to redesign Polk Street with a protected bike lane along one side of the street for 10 of 20 blocks.

The board rebuffed efforts by member Cheryl Brinkman to preserve the possibility of adding protected bike lanes along the upper half of the corridor before the project is constructed. Instead, the board added the condition that SFMTA staff would report on the impacts of the redesign a year after it’s completed, when they will consider extending protected bike lanes in a follow-up project.

The decision came after a four-hour hearing, where hundreds of people spoke. Roughly half called for a bolder project that puts safety first, and the rest — many of them merchants — opposed the project in order to preserve car parking.

The board did not discuss the block of Polk between California and Pine Streets, where Mayor Ed Lee’s optometrist successfully lobbied to remove bike lane protection from the project six months after it was presented to the public. When asked if he’d taken any action on the project, Mayor Lee told Streetsblog last week, “We shouldn’t promote bicycle safety over pedestrian safety over cars and parking. I think they’re all going to be important.”

Supervisors Jane Kim and Julie Christensen, whose districts share a border along Polk, weighed in at the hearing.

D6 Supervisor Kim took the stronger stand for a safer Polk, calling on the SFMTA to “prioritize people over cars and to model Vision Zero for the rest of the city.”

“As someone who’s a beginning cyclist… if you want more people like me driving less, I’m going to want to see protected bike lanes,” said Kim. “That’s just the reality.” With heavy motor traffic and steeper grades on nearby streets, she said, “Polk Street is the only corridor that we can have a protected, green bike lane for the entire north-south” route. She also said she was “disappointed” about the removal of the bike lane on the block between California and Pine.

Christensen, who was recently appointed by Lee to fill David Chiu‘s District 3 seat, called on the board to approve the project as-is, so as not to delay the pedestrian safety improvements or undergound utility work, and “continue to debate the merits of changes further north.”

Unlike Kim, she did not make the case that a safer design should be an urgent priority. “We have thousands of people storing their cars on the street,” said Christensen. “While we want to discourage them from doing that, that is not going to change overnight.”

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