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Posts from the "Bike Lanes" Category

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San Mateo County Bike/Ped Safety Projects Starved for Funding

In Burlingame, a stretch of El Camino Real lacks sidewalks south of the Mills-Peninsula Hospital. The latest funding request for the project was denied, leaving residents to walk on the shoulders to access transit and other services. Photo: Andrew Boone

Despite growing demand for better walking and biking infrastructure in San Mateo County, active transportation grants from the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) cover only a fraction of the projects that cities want to build, leaving many residents without the sidewalks, bike lanes, and other basic ingredients they need to safely navigate their streets.

“The high demand for [these] project funds is a significant shift in transportation priorities we’ve seen in recent years,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Corinne Winter. “People are looking to live and work in communities where biking and walking are convenient ways to get around. It’s more important than ever that our funding sources align with the undeniable need for improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.”

Cities recently submitted funding requests for 19 walking and biking safety projects from the county’s Transportation Development Act funds, a pot of state money distributed by C/CAG every two years. But C/CAG’s latest grant provided only $1.6 million, enough for eight projects. It would take $3.8 million to fund all 19 projects that cities in San Mateo County want to build.

C/CAG staff advised cities spurned for this funding to apply for the upcoming County Transportation Authority Measure A Pedestrian and Bicycle Program, another paltry funding source overwhelmed by demand. That program, which allocates 3 percent of a half-cent county transportation sales tax to bike and pedestrian projects, awarded funds to just 16 of the 41 projects that applied for the latest grant in 2011. That year, project requests totaling $11.2 million competed for $4.5 million. On Thursday, the TA Board of Directors is scheduled to review applications for this year’s funding round – 23 projects totaling $9.3 million competing for $5.4 million. The funding awards are expected to be announced on April 3.

Of the eight projects that were funded through the Transportation Development Act money, six will construct badly-needed sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes in Daly City, Pacifica, South San Francisco, San Mateo, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto.The other two projects are bicycle and pedestrian plans for San Bruno and Belmont, neither of which has ever written such a plan. This is the first year bike/ped plans were eligible for TDA funds.

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Eyes on the Street: Holloway Bike Lane Connects SFSU, City College

The SFMTA has installed bike lanes and speed bumps on Holloway Avenue between Beverly Street and Ashton Avenue, a stretch that serves as the main bicycling route connecting SF State University to City College’s Ocean Campus and Balboa Park Station.

The configuration has a bike lane on one side of the street and a parking lane on the other, switching sides at Vernon Street. The side without a bike lane has sharrows. Traffic lanes have also been narrowed.

Henry Pan, an SFSU student who bike commutes on Holloway, said “traffic is noticeably calmer now,” and the project is “long overdue.”

The project is the second iteration of a 2010 traffic calming experiment that narrowed traffic lanes on Holloway and the parallel Garfield Avenue, from Junipero Serra Boulevard to Ashton Avenue. The original configuration was removed after residents complained it was ineffective and too confusing (for instance, the design included shoulders that weren’t marked as bike lanes, but had a similar width).

The new Holloway improvements link a few other ongoing traffic calming and bike lane projects along the corridor through Ingleside. On the west end, buffered bike lanes were installed in 2012 on Holloway between Junipero Serra and 19th Avenue as part of a road diet. On the east end, the SFMTA installed a partial bike lane and sharrows on the block of Lee Avenue that connects to Ocean Avenue, a heavily-trafficked street which lacks bike lanes. The Planning Department recently launched an initiative to redesign Ocean.

Between Ashton and Lee, the SF Public Utilities Commission also plans to install a “green street” traffic-calming plan with bulb-outs and rain gardens starting in mid-2015.

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SFMTA’s Draft List for the Next Generation of Bikeways

Image: SFBC

The SFMTA has released a draft list of the 68 street segments it’s looking to include in the next wave of improvements to the city’s bicycle network [PDF]. The SF Bicycle Coalition mapped out the list and is asking its members to weigh in on a survey about which streets should take top priority.

The SFMTA’s list ranks 150 miles of street segments with the highest demand, according to bike counts and focus groups. Tim Papandreou, the agency’s director of strategic planning and policy, said planners are also targeting hot spots that see frequent bicycle crashes.

Under the “Strategic Plan Scenario” of the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy – the middle ground of the three scenarios — the agency plans to “enhance” 50 miles of the existing bicycle network and add 12 new miles by 2018. The 150 miles in the current list will be narrowed down to those final 62 miles.

Here are the SFMTA’s top ten “highest demand” street segments in the existing bike network. The asterisks denote streets where projects are already being planned or constructed:

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Road Diet, Buffered Bike Lane Finally Coming to Northbound Bernal Cut

The proposed road diet for northbound San Jose Ave. Image: SFMTA

A road diet and buffered bike lane are finally coming to San Jose Avenue north of 280, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut, where neighbors have fought for traffic calming for years.

The SFMTA and Caltrans are moving forward with a two-phased pilot project — first, in March, the SFMTA will reallocate one of San Jose’s three northbound traffic lanes to widen the existing bike lane with a buffer zone, much like the southbound side. If traffic speeds don’t drop below the target, Caltrans will remove one of the two traffic lanes on the 280 off-ramp that the agency added in 1992 to accommodate re-routed traffic during freeway repairs after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

That second off-ramp lane was supposed to be temporary, but Caltrans never removed it. The agency was finally convinced by the SFMTA, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and neighborhood residents to test the lane’s removal on the condition that it’s a reversible pilot. (Caltrans has jurisdiction over the off-ramp, while SFMTA has jurisdiction over San Jose, which is a city street, as much as it might seem like a freeway.)

“There’s been a fight with Caltrans for 20 years now to get it back to one lane,” said Jon Winston of Friends of Monterey Boulevard, who has pushed for safer streets in the neighborhood.

“The speeds are incredibly high,” said Wiener. “We have crazy stories of cars turning on to the side streets and flipping over… and I can’t imagine why anyone would bike in a bike lane with no buffer and 50 mph traffic going past you.”

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Gov’s Report to Caltrans: Get Out of the Way of Protected Bike Lanes

Caltrans needs to stop focusing so much on moving cars and let cities build safer street designs with protected bike lanes, says a new report commissioned by Governor Jerry Brown and CA Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly.

SF’s parking-protected bike lanes on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park are technically illegal, according to Caltrans. Photo: Mark Dreger/Flickr

The report [PDF] calls out Caltrans’ “archaic” practices when it comes to imposing outdated, automobile-centric design standards on city streets in California, and says the department should reform its “culture of risk aversion and even fear,” which often prevents local city planners from implementing modern designs for bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly streets.

When agencies like the SF Municipal Transportation Agency want to implement protected bike lanes, they must take a legal risk since Caltrans hasn’t approved such designs, and design exceptions require “a painful and time-consuming process,” says the report, produced by the State Smart Transportation Initiative.

“Caltrans’ peculiar standards on bicycle facilities even pertain to locally owned streets, precluding some active transportation initiatives,” the report says. “The agency and department should support, or propose if no bill is forthcoming, legislation to end the archaic practice of imposing state rules on local streets for bicycle facilities.”

In a statement, TransForm said the report “offers a refreshingly candid and detailed critique, and more importantly points to a host of critical reforms.”

“The report recommends the direction come ‘from the top down and outside in,’ to avoid the long-standing status quo at Caltrans where bottom-up planning via staff just leads to ‘the culture endorsing itself,’” said TransForm.

Stuart Cohen, TransForm’s executive director and a member of Secretary Kelly’s CA Transportation Infrastructure Priorities workgroup, said that “this is not the first report slamming Caltrans” but that the critical difference comes from the ”tremendous leadership” of Governor Brown and Kelly, who commissioned the review.

“We asked for an honest assessment because we are committed to modernizing Caltrans and improving transportation for all Californians,” Kelly said in a statement.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty issued a statement saying that “we see this as a tremendous opportunity to reassess our priorities and improve our performance.”

“We have some internal reforms already underway so we can hit the ground running,” he said.

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Long-Delayed Polk Contra-Flow Protected Bike Lane Jumpstarted by DPW

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DPW crews at work today on the contra-flow protected bike lane at Polk and Grove. Photo: SFBC/Facebook

In a surprising development, the Department of Public Works broke ground today on a contra-flow, protected bike lane on the two southernmost blocks of Polk Street, from Market to Grove Streets (at City Hall), which are currently one-way southbound. By Bike to Work Day, two of the city’s busiest bicycling streets are expected to be linked with the first bike lane in San Francisco to be protected with a landscaped median, against the flow of motor traffic.

The short but vital connection, first proposed by the city ten years ago and included in the SF Bike Plan, was threatened with yet another year of delay due to poor coordination and a missed contracting deadline. But DPW Director Mohammed Nuru was apparently convinced by the SF Bike Coalition that the project should become a top priority. The SFBC credits Nuru with kickstarting construction, said Executive Director Leah Shahum.

“When they see there’s a problem, there’s often more they can do to get things back on track, and they were able to do it in this case,” she said. “I can’t emphasize how important these two blocks are for so many people. This is going to be a game-changer for helping people ride where they need to go in a safer, more legitimate way.”

Currently, bicycle commuters have no legal way to turn from eastbound Market onto northbound Polk, except to travel a block ahead to Larkin, a one-way, heavily-trafficked three lane street with no bike lane. They must then turn left onto Grove to get back on to Polk.

To access the new contra-flow bike lane, which will replace an existing car parking lane, people bicycling on eastbound Market will have a new bike box to wait in at the intersection with 10th Street before making the turn on to Polk.

“With all the new developments, this is going to be a great way to connect a whole new community in mid-Market with the businesses on Polk Street,” said Shahum.

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Cesar Chavez: A Traffic Sewer Transformed Into a Safer Street

As part of the newly-completed redesign of Cesar Chavez, there’s a new plaza at the corner of Mission and Capp Streets. Photos: Aaron Bialick

Western Cesar Chavez Street has been transformed after decades as a dangerous motor vehicle speedway that divided the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods. City officials cut the ribbon today on a redesign of the street, nearly nine years after residents began pushing for safety improvements.

Cesar Chavez was widened in the 1930s and 40s at the expense of safety and livability to serve as a thoroughfare from the 101 and 280 freeways to a planned Mission Freeway that was never built. As a result, it became a virtual no-man’s land for walking and biking, and crossing the street was a huge risk.

Fran Taylor speaking at the ribbon cutting today.

Fran Taylor speaking at the ribbon cutting today.

“Our neighborhoods were cut in two by this dangerous street that was in no way worthy of the man it was named after,” said Fran Taylor, who helped found CC Puede to push for a redesign of the street. “It’s taken a long time, and the efforts of many, but we finally have a Cesar Chavez Street to be proud of.”

With the redesign, the six traffic lanes on Cesar Chavez (known as Army Street until the nineties) were reduced to four. In place of those two lanes are unprotected bike lanes, bulb-outs with rain gardens, and a center median lined with palm trees. With fresh pavement and markings like continental crosswalks, the treatments have made the street calmer and more habitable for people.

The ribbon cutting was held on Si Se Puede! Plaza, which was created at the northeast corner of Cesar Chavez and Mission Street, where Capp Street ends. Drivers can still pass through at the end of Capp, but permeable, textured pavement raised to sidewalk level signals that they are guests.

“We finally have a street that’s going to protect families and reflects what we value, which is safety, first and foremost,” said D9 Supervisor David Campos, whose district includes Cesar Chavez. “It took longer than it should have.”

The project snowballed from a simple re-paving planned by Department of Public Works into a full redesign as residents pushed for safety improvements, and city agencies sought to coordinate those changes with the re-pave to save costs. Andres Power was the project manager for the Planning Department until 2012, when he became an aide for Supervisor Scott Wiener.

“On one hand, it’s unbelievable that it takes this long to get anything like this done. On the other hand, it’s such a transformative project, and I think the wait was well worth it,” said Power. “We wanted to do something that was not just a street project, that was about bringing the neighborhood together, and encouraging people to use the street outside of their cars.”

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Survey Shows Polk Neighbors Want Safer Streets First, Not Parking

A new survey shows that car parking is far from the top priority for people who live, work, and shop on Polk Street.

Updated 6:09 p.m. with comment from MPNA.

Polk Street’s dangerous conditions for people walking and biking are, by far, the biggest concern for people who live, work, and shop there — far more important than any lack of car parking, according to a new neighborhood survey.

The survey [DOCX] was conducted by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development in partnership with the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, which hosted a neighborhood meeting last March where the parking-obsessed furor drummed up by the a group of merchants called “Save Polk Street” overwhelmed discussion of facts with fearmongering.

“Middle Polk is extremely concerned about safety – pedestrian, bicycles, etc..” said MPNA Chair Dawn Trennert. ”No doubt that would rank #1. The Save Polk Street issue about parking has a few aspects to it – but the primary one is concern over removal of parking.  Pedestrian and bicycle safety and parking are all important items for our neighborhood.”

Out of the 140 respondents to the survey conducted last fall, 48 said “the biggest challenge affecting Middle Polk” was the “unsafe environment for pedestrians and cyclists.” It was the top choice, while “not enough parking” was chosen by 16 respondents, making it the third-most selected choice. The second-biggest concern was the “presence of homelessness / loitering.”

The survey findings buttress an SFMTA survey released last March which found that 85 percent of people on Polk arrive without a car, and that those who do drive tend to spend the least on a weekly basis.

“These survey results reaffirm what so many residents, shoppers and commuters of Polk Street understand: this thriving corridor needs a transformation that places people first,” said Kristin Smith, communications director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. “The SFMTA must implement a robust pilot to demonstrate the benefits of safer and more inviting biking and walking conditions and ensure the Polk Street Project Improvement Project meets the real needs of Polk.”

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Who’s Parking in the Fell Street Bike Lane Today? Oh, It’s SFPD

Photo: Aaron Bialick

You’d better have a pretty good reason to park a car in the heavily-used Fell Street bike lane during the evening rush hour, forcing commuters to squeeze by alongside three lanes of motor traffic. Police response to an emergency might qualify, but the two SFPD officers who returned to this cruiser from the adjacent Bank of America, carrying an envelope, didn’t appear to be in any particular rush.

On Tuesday, the day I spotted this cruiser, 1,707 people used the Fell bike lane, according to the SFMTA’s live counter feed. The next day, it was 1,845. By leaving a car in the lane during the peak hour, there’s hardly a more effective way to maximize the number of people you endanger and stress out on their way home. All for a lazy parking job.

While there’s some hope that the concrete planters planned for the Fell bike lane this year will go a long way toward ending the routine illegal parking, it’s pretty dismaying to see the very officers responsible for enforcing the violation committing it themselves.

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DPW Tallies the Vote Before Committing to More Ped Space on Potrero

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A DPW rendering of option 1 for Potrero between 22nd and 24th Streets, which has been selected after receiving the highest number of votes from the public.

The Department of Public Works has selected a design option for the two most heavily-contested blocks of Potrero Avenue following a vote by attendees of two public meetings. Of the three choices presented for the section between 22nd and 24th Streets in front of SF General Hospital, the most popular was Option 1, which will allocate street space to wider sidewalks and a center median with plantings — not a bike lane buffer or car parking, as in the two other options, according to DPW.

By November, DPW had settled on the plan for the rest of Potrero, between 17th and 25th Streets, which will include a planted center median (south of 20th Street), pedestrian bulb-outs, and green-painted buffered bike lanes. It also calls for moving the existing red-painted transit lane from the northbound side to southbound side and extending it a few blocks. No other section will get a full sidewalk widening other than the one side of the two blocks that the public voted on.

Although DPW originally proposed widening four blocks of Potrero’s eastern sidewalk, planners downsized that part of the proposal after some people agitated to retain parking and traffic lanes for cars. However, according to DPW, in the vote on options for the two blocks between 22nd and 24th, only 25 percent of attendees voted for option 3 — the one that prioritized car parking.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider said the organization “is thrilled that DPW did not choose option 3, a plan to maintain sub-par sidewalks in front of a hospital.” The improvements in option 1 “can cut the number drivers that hit pedestrians in half,” she said.

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