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Posts from the Bike Lanes Category

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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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SFMTA Board Approves Watered-Down Polk Plan, May Revisit It Later

Half of one side of Polk will get a protected bike lane under the approved plan. Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted today to approve the plan to redesign Polk Street with a protected bike lane along one side of the street for 10 of 20 blocks. After a four-hour hearing, the board approved the plan with the condition that SFMTA staff would report on the impacts of the project a year after it’s completed, when they will consider extending protected bike lanes along the upper half of the corridor.

“Of course, we wanted the full suite of Vision Zero improvements along the length of Polk,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “But the improvements that were approved today are the foundation to build on and as we work through the massive construction on Polk, and the safety improvements are implemented, the MTA’s data-driven approach, I predict, is going to show that safety improves, traffic is reduced, businesses thrive, and will back up the case for extending pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements for the entire length of the street.”

We’ll have more coverage of the hearing tomorrow.

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SFMTA Cuts Block of Polk Bike Lane Fought By Visionless Mayor’s Optometrist

Polk at Pine Street, where the SFMTA has rolled back plans for a protected bike lane which was disliked by Mayor Ed Lee’s optometrist. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has nixed a block of protected bike lane planned on Polk Street, where merchants including Mayor Ed Lee’s optometrist have vocally opposed it to preserve car parking.

The raised, protected bike lane between California and Pine Streets was removed from Polk’s plans six months after they were presented at the final public open house. SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin ordered the reduction, as shown in emails [PDF] obtained by Madeleine Savit, who founded Folks for Polk to advocate for a safer street. Reiskin and the SFMTA Board of Directors are mayoral appointees.

The Polk redesign, which is up for a vote by the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday, has been fiercely opposed by a group of merchants called “Save Polk Street,” which has spread misinformation in its campaign to preserve parking. Under the proposed plan, partial bike lanes would be installed by removing about 30 percent of the 320 parking spaces on Polk, or 8 percent of parking spaces within a block of the street. About 85 percent of people on Polk arrive without a car.

“Mayor Lee in his new frames!,” reads the caption on a photo posted by Hiura and Hiura Optometrists. Photo via Yelp

Drs. Hiura and Hiura Optometrists, which posted a photo on its Yelp page of Mayor Lee in “his new frames,” had a “Save Polk Street” flyer on its reception desk when Streetsblog visited the business today.

Dr. Ronald Hiura told Streetsblog that he has “talked to the mayor and SFMTA Board members personally,” which “could possibly” have driven the removal of the bike lane on his block. “I was happy to see that they have revised that one-block issue,” he said.

Streetsblog asked Mayor Lee today if he had taken any action on the Polk plan, noting the protests from some merchants over losing parking. He didn’t say he’d pushed the SFMTA to change the plan. “I’ve been meeting with the MTA,” said Lee. “They’re the experts. They have so many issues to balance, and I just want to make sure I embrace a very strong balancing process.”

“I’ve heard from many different groups,” Lee told Streetsblog. “I know we want to make the streets safer, make it bike-friendly, small businesses don’t want to lose parking for their constituents… I can’t have a particular position on it except to endorse the most balanced approach that they have because there’s issues that should not be in conflict. We shouldn’t promote bicycle safety over pedestrian safety over cars and parking. I think they’re all going to be important.”

A rendering of the raised, protected bike lane planned on lower Polk at Fern Street, a block-and-a-half from where it will end. Image: SF Planning Department

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Eyes on the Street: Construction Begins on Fell and Oak Bike Lane Protection

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The Oak bike lane at Divisadero Street, where one of the first protective islands is taking shape. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Crews are at work building the planted concrete islands that will separate the Fell and Oak bike lanes from motor traffic. As we reported earlier this month, the long-delayed project is now supposed to wrap by April. The new construction is a sign that city agencies may make good on that.

This week crews carved up the asphalt at several spots along the Oak Street bike lane’s buffer zone, from Baker to Scott Streets, to prepare for the installation of the islands. The construction barriers provide a preview of the better sense of protection along the bike lane once the islands are complete.

According to Department of Public Works spokesperson Dadisi Najib, DPW and the SF Public Utilities Commission expect to finish the islands on Oak by March 20, and work on Fell will be completed between March 2 and April 30.

The protective bike lane islands are the final component of the safety measures going in on Fell and Oak. Pedestrian bulb-outs with rain gardens have been under construction for months.

Hopefully, the islands will also finally send the message to drivers to stop parking in the bike lanes, and the ranks of daily bike commuters who use them will swell from the current level of roughly 1,800.

Oak at Baker Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Market Street Has More Bike Traffic Than You Thought

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An unprecedented jump last month (on the right) reported by the Market Street bike counter appears to be explained by an improvement in the counter’s accuracy. Image: SFMTA/Eco Counter

The Market Street bicycle counter has been undercounting two-wheeled traffic — and not because of a computer glitch. Starting last month, the counter reported a huge jump in bike commuters. How come? All indications point to a recent tweak to the bike lane that guides more riders over the counter’s underground sensor.

On several days this year, the counter has tallied nearly 4,500 people cycling eastbound on Market at Ninth Street. On most weekdays, at least 3,700 riders have been counted. That’s about 1,000 more riders, on average, than were counted each day last January.

Last month may have been California’s driest January on record, but weather doesn’t explain the jump. Even in the warmest months last year, ridership typically ranged from 2,700 to 3,200. Prior to 2015, the record was 4,045, set on August 7 last year.

So what changed in the first week of January? The SFMTA installed plastic posts along the bike lane’s edge that guide bike riders to stay in the bike lane and roll over the bike sensor. Previously, many bike commuters passing by the counter rode outside the bike lane, instead using the adjacent traffic lane since it was closed to cars in 2009.

SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said that based on the agency’s manual bike counts, the bike counter remains about 95 percent accurate, the same rate as before. It’s “plausible” the posts explain the recent jump in the bike count, he said. No other likely explanation has been put forth, though the SFMTA has yet to verify with the counter’s manufacturer that it does not need to be recalibrated.

Getting a better read on Market Street bike traffic is one more way the SFMTA is improving the understanding of how San Franciscans’ travel habits are changing. Earlier this month, the agency reported its new survey methodology has revealed that most trips in the city are made without a private automobile.

Hat tip to Joe Chojnacki for pointing out the data jump.

Today’s count as of about 6 p.m. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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New Bike Lanes in Sunnyvale Could Be Just the Beginning for El Camino Real

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The first bike lanes installed on El Camino Real, in Sunnyvale, are six feet wide and run unprotected next to 14-foot wide traffic lanes. Photo: Andrew Boone

To build a bike network, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and on El Camino Real, it started in Sunnyvale last month. The first bike lanes on El Camino Real are six feet wide, striped along the curb with no protection from traffic, running half a mile from Sunnyvale Avenue to Fair Oaks Avenue/Remington Drive, near the city’s downtown.

While it may not be all-ages bike infrastructure, the new bike lanes still set an important precedent for the 43-mile-long street-level highway connecting San Francisco and San Jose. James Manitakos, former chair of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, has called the project “a good first step.”

Now several other towns on the Peninsula are considering safer, better bike infrastructure — including protected lanes — for key segments of El Camino.

Sunnyvale chose to replace car parking with bike lanes on this section of El Camino Real only after commissioning a study [PDF] to ensure that the parking was barely used, so as to not inconvenience drivers. This despite the city’s 2008 Policy for Allocation of Street Space [PDF], which states that “safe accommodation for all transport modes takes priority over non-transport uses,” and that parking “shall not be considered a transport use.”

According to the city’s study, only one of the roughly 134 parking spaces on El Camino’s curbs were used at peak hours on average, and city staff counted 3,337 spaces in the seven parking lots along the street.

Other sections of El Camino Real along the Peninsula could get bike lanes soon, though cities approve them on a piecemeal basis. Mountain View, to the north, approved six-foot wide buffered bike lanes on its 1.2-mile stretch from Calderon/Phyllis Avenue to the border with Sunnyvale at Knickerbocker Drive. That project was approved with the adoption of Mountain View’s El Camino Real Precise Plan in November.

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Alameda’s Second Parking-Protected Bikeway Takes Shape on Shoreline Drive

Alameda’s Shoreline Drive was just striped with a new, 1.8-mile parking-protected bikeway. Image: Robert Prinz, Bike East Bay

The East Bay’s island city of Alameda has laid down its second parking-protected bikeway along Shoreline Drive.

The paint has barely dried on the 1.8-mile, two-way bikeway, but Alamedans are already using it. The city is adding finishing touches before a ribbon cutting set for March 7. Bike East Bay Education Coordinator Robert Prinz, a former Streetsblog intern, captured the below time lapse video showing a roll down the bikeway.

It’s one of only a handful of parking-protected bikeways in the Bay Area, and the first to be installed since SF’s John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park was striped in 2012.

“We really think of this as our first complete street,” said Lucy Gigli of Bike Walk Alameda. “There’s vehicle travel, there’s wonderful bike lanes now, and the path and sidewalk are so much more comfortable for people walking.”

Like other parking-protected bikeways in cities like New York, the Shoreline project uses paint and concrete islands, with a car parking lane between the bikeway and the motor traffic lanes. A buffer zone allows for room to safely open car doors. The curbside bikeway runs along Alameda’s beach and next to a major shopping center (surrounded, unfortunately, by a giant parking lot). 

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City College Property Could Make Room for Buffered Bike Lane on Ocean Ave

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Ocean Avenue could be widened in front of the City College campus, and a freeway ramp re-aligned, to make bicycling from Balboa Park Station much safer. Image: Planning Department

A proposed solution has surfaced for one of the most frightening gaps in the Ocean Avenue bike lane at Balboa Park Station, where the existing bike lane disappears and throws uphill bike commuters in front of a high-speed freeway off-ramp. City College of SF has proposed opening up the edge of its main campus property, currently occupied by a retaining wall and undeveloped land, to make room for the bike lane extension, sidewalk extensions, and landscaped medians.

With plans also in the works to remove the curved highway 280 off-ramp and replace it with a perpendicular, signalized ramp, that stretch of Ocean could become dramatically safer.

The fix was presented this week at the final open house meeting for planned streetscape improvements along Ocean and around Balboa Park Station. Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich, a member of the BART Board of Directors, said the plans for bike and pedestrian improvements are “so far, so good,” and have been anticipated since the city began developing plans for the area in the late 90’s.

“The community has been remarkably patient, and the devil will be in the details,” he said. Still, the currently poor conditions for walking and biking to the station set “a low bar.”

City planners had originally included no substantial improvements to make bicycling safer on Ocean between the Balboa Park BART/Muni Station and CCSF, insisting on retaining both westbound traffic lanes, which Muni buses use. City agencies are now “working with City College to design a terraced landscape to eliminate the blank retaining wall currently in place and create a more inviting entrance,” according to Planning Department presentation materials [PDF].

Today, people using the westbound bike lane on Ocean are thrown into a traffic lane in front of a freeway off-ramp. Image: Google Maps

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Fell and Oak Safety Features to Finally Be Installed By April

Bulb-outs, rain gardens, and planted traffic islands on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now set to be completed two years late. Image: SFMTA

The final pieces of the protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety upgrades on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now due to be finished by April, according to the Department of Public Works. Assuming this timetable holds up, construction of the project will conclude two years after the originally promised date in spring 2013.

Crews have been at work for months installing the sidewalk extensions and rain gardens on Fell and Oak between Baker and Scott Streets. There have been no signs yet of construction of the planted traffic islands that will separate the bike lanes from motor traffic (except in locations where there are driveways or turn lanes).

The buffered bike lanes on Fell and Oak have mostly remained the same since they were striped without physical protection in September 2012 and May 2013, respectively. One exception was the installation of short-lived plastic posts in April 2013, which were removed after the bike lanes were re-paved less than a year late and never replaced.

At some points during construction, the Fell and Oak bike lanes have been blocked. Photo: Jonathan G/Twitter

Without the traffic islands, the bike lanes remain unprotected, keeping riders exposed to three lanes of heavy motor traffic and discouraging risk-averse people from biking. Drivers often park in the lanes, though Supervisor London Breed has convinced the tow truck company on Fell to reduce that practice.

While most of the basic bike safety improvements are in place, the project delays have been numerous and, in most cases, baffling. During the planning process, the original construction date of spring 2012 was pushed back a year to create more parking on nearby streets to compensate for spaces removed for the bike lanes. In October 2013, the SFMTA and DPW said construction wouldn’t happen that year because the agencies wanted to tweak the designs of the bulb-outs and islands.

Until recently, a sign was posted at the site promising construction would be finished in January 2015. When asked why the project still isn’t finished, DPW staff didn’t answer the question, only providing the new date. 

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Will the SFMTA Board Demand Complete Protected Bike Lanes on Polk Street?

The watered-down re-design of Polk Street is expected to go up for approval by the SFMTA Board of Directors in March. But support seems stronger than ever for a bolder plan that includes protected bike lanes along the whole length of the corridor, as many residents and merchants call for safety to be a higher priority than car parking.

SFMTA board member Cheryl Brinkman said the board could vote to hold off on approval of the re-design until it includes an option for a full-length bike lane, which the board requested in December 2013, though it hasn’t been presented by SFMTA staff.

“If we accept the notion that we can prevent traffic deaths and serious injuries, then we have a moral obligation to make sure that this project is a Vision Zero project,” said Brinkman. “That’s not something I take lightly.”

“This is their chance to show what Vision Zero really means,” said Tyler Frisbee, policy director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. “If the SFMTA Board is committed to Vision Zero, which they have been huge leaders on, we need to make sure that particularly when we’re [re-designing] high-injury corridors, that safety is our number-one priority.”

The current plan would create a protected bike lane only on a relatively small section of the street. Space would be reallocated by removing about 30 percent of the 320 parking spaces on Polk, or 2 percent of the 5,000 parking spaces within a block of the street. But even though 85 percent of people on Polk arrive without a car, and customers who drive spend the least per week, a vocal group of merchants and some residents demand that all spaces be retained for car storage.

At a 10 a.m. public hearing last Friday, about 45 speakers called for a safer plan, while 25 called for the preservation of the 110 parking spaces. According to the SF Bicycle Coalition, at least 220 letters calling for a safer plan have been sent to the SFMTA and other city officials, along with 320 petition signatures. And while some media reports have painted a simplistic picture pitting merchants against cyclists, at least 14 merchants have also sent in such letters.

“There are plenty of merchants who realize that their best customers are not driving and don’t need parking,” said Frisbee. “What they need are safer ways to get around Polk Street.”

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