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Posts from the "Separated Bike Path" Category

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San Francisco’s State of Cycling: Is It Falling Behind?

An increasing number of women are riding bikes in San Francisco, but bike advocates say the city still has a long way to go to make the streets inviting for less intrepid riders. Photos: Aaron Bialick

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency released its four-year State of Cycling Report [PDF] this week. While the findings in the report may not be new to those keeping an eye on the growth of bicycling in San Francisco — which has jumped 71 percent from 2006 to 2011 — bike advocates say it highlights the city’s faltering plans to roll out bike infrastructure in comparison to other cities.

San Francisco’s bicycling rate, at 3.5 percent of work trips, ties for second among major American cities with Seattle, lagging only behind Portland’s at 6 percent. The city was also recently ranked the second-most “bikeable” city in the country by Walk Score, tying with Portland behind Minneapolis in first. And, no doubt, it has seen an unprecedented roll-out of bike improvements since the bike injunction was lifted two years ago.

But the success of San Francisco’s low-cost investments in improvements is all the more reason for the city to catch up to cities like Chicago and New York, which are setting the bar for rolling out protected bike lanes, said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

“The state of bicycling in San Francisco is indeed strong,” Shahum said in a statement, “but it can and should be much stronger by connecting our city more quickly with great bikeways and welcoming more people to biking with a robust bike-share program and great bike parking options. Making San Francisco a more bike-friendly place will help our city be even more successful in reaching our goals of growing jobs locally and improving our overall accessibility, sustainability and public health.”

The SFMTA is working on a strategy to reach the city’s goal of increasing bicycling to 20 percent of all trips by the year 2020, but its release seems to have been delayed for months. That goal, set by the Board of Supervisors in October 2010, has been criticized as lofty — as the SF Bay Guardian pointed out, it would require a 571 percent increase in ridership over the next seven years.

The expectations set in the SFMTA’s five-year Strategic Plan [PDF], approved in January, were more tempered, however. The agency’s goal is to increase all non-private automobile trips to 50 percent by 2018. Currently, that number is at 38 percent. While that “mode shift” would also come from walking, transit, car-share, and taxi use, “We think half of that can come from bicycle growth,” said Tim Papandreou, Deputy Director of Transportation Planning for the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division.

“We’re at [3.5 percent trips by bike] now, we could get to 8.5, 9.5 percent, which would make us the biggest bicycling mode share in North America,” he told Streetsblog. Still, that target would only meet the city’s “20 percent by 2020″ goal by roughly half.

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SFMTA Unveils Fell and Oak Bikeway Designs, Pushes Timeline to Spring 2013

Fell Street looking west from Divisadero. Images: SFMTA

The SFMTA revealed the design [PDF] for protected bike lanes on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets at an open house on Saturday. The plan would create a safer connection from the Panhandle to the Wiggle by installing a one-way buffered bike lane on each street, partially separated from motor traffic by planters. The proposal would also paint green markings where bike traffic merges with turning motor traffic, re-calibrate the traffic signals for 20 MPH movement, construct pedestrian bulb-outs and zebra-striped crosswalks, and add angled car parking spaces (mostly on Baker Street) to replace over half of those removed to make way for the bikeways.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, said the organization is “encouraged to see the city officially proposing wider, physically separated bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets” and “grateful to see that the design includes many new corner, sidewalk bulbouts that will make it easier and safer for people to walk across these intimidating streets.”

“We believe the designs shared at the community workshop should move forward and be implemented to make it safer for the thousands of people who bike this corridor every day,” she said.

Although in January the SFMTA set the implementation timeline for next winter, staff said it has again been pushed back until spring, almost a year later than the city originally predicted. The SFMTA asserts that the project is on schedule according to the new timeline.

The plan uses green pavement treatments to emphasize a number of bike markings, including bike boxes, ”super” sharrows where bikes and cars mix, and bike lane “entrances” at the beginning of each block. The approach at the intersection of Fell and Divisadero Streets, where green markings have already been added to reduce conflicts with drivers queuing up for the Arco gas station, would remain mostly as it is, though a bike box would be added.

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Safety Improvements for Eastern Cesar Chavez Face Key Decision on Friday

The SFMTA's 4-lane proposal (at top) for continuous bike lanes through the Evans Street intersection is up for approval at hearing on Friday, but the another option (5-lane) forcing bicycle commuters to merge with trucks is still on the table. Image: SFMTA

Safety enhancements for Eastern Cesar Chavez Street are coming together after staff from the SFMTA and the SF Planning Department presented project plans at an open house last week. The near-term improvements include buffered bike lanes with soft-hit posts, while the long-term vision would add a two-way protected bikeway and wider sidewalks.

One piece of the near-term plan faces a major hurdle this Friday at an SFMTA engineering hearing, where officers will decide whether to recommend a design that provides continuous dedicated bike lanes through the critical Evans Street intersection. Without the bike lanes, cyclists would be thrust into a mixed traffic lane with heavy truck traffic.

“The Evans Street intersection proposal is an important step for connecting neighborhoods in the southeast and waterfront,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. “The new proposal provides dedicated bike space, which is vital for getting people through this busy intersection safely. We’re encouraging people who live, work and bike in this area to share their stories and ensure the passage of this proposal. Without this approval of the proposal, there will be a huge gap in the Eastern Cesar Chavez bikeway.”

Though SFMTA planner James Shahamiri said city agencies have come to agree on the safer design, it could still face some opposition from businesses who run trucks along the route.

“Everyone agreed that right now, this project works, and will work at least for the foreseeable future,” said Shahamiri.

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SFMTA Delays Fell and Oak Bikeways to Spring 2013 to Create More Parking

Bike commuters will continue to face dangerous conditions on Fell Street for at least another year. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Separated bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets won’t come until spring 2013 at the earliest, nearly a year later than originally proposed, the SFMTA told Streetsblog today.

SFMTA planner Dustin White said the delay largely comes from opposition from some car owners to the removal of curbside parking, which is leading staff to create more parking spaces on nearby streets as it plans the bikeways.

“We have started to receive feedback opposing the parking removal, and I anticipate that developing parking mitigations will be one of the most difficult aspects of building community support for the project,” said White. Before presenting a proposed design this spring, staff will be “working on refining intersection design options and seeking mitigations to the proposed parking loss” and fielding input from bicycle, pedestrian, and disability advisory committees, he said.

Although SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division Planner Mike Sallaberry said last June that the project could be fast-tracked as a trial and be on the ground as early as this June, White claimed the project was actually ahead of an original target of fall 2013 officially set in a funding grant document approved by the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) [PDF]. “We don’t think the environmental review process will take as long” as originally envisioned in the SFCTA document, he said.

On top of environmental review, staff must complete detailed design, legislation, and acquire funding for construction before implementation, said White.

The bikeways, which would vastly improve a vital bicycling link on three blocks between the Wiggle route and the Panhandle, would replace up to 80 parking spaces depending on which design alternative is chosen. However, about 120 paid parking spaces were opened to the public last year at the adjacent lot at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the city has a nearly forty-year-old Transit First Policy which generally says safe bicycle access should take precedence over car storage.

Mayor Ed Lee told Streetsblog's Bryan Goebel last February, "I want to get to that experiment on Fell Street quickly." San Franciscans will have waited at least two years since that statement for the city to make good on it. Photo: Christine Falvey

While Mayor Ed Lee‘s administration continues to let complaints from car owners impede safety improvements to city streets, San Francisco is falling farther behind cities like New York and Chicago when it comes to 21st Century bike infrastructure. New York has implemented about twenty miles of on-street protected bikeways in recent years; in no instance has the city delayed a project to make up for the loss of on-street parking. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel installed the Kinzie Street protected bikeway just days after entering office and plans to add 100 miles of protected bike lanes within four years.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is urging supporters to call on Lee and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin to take a stand behind the long-overdue project and implement it with haste in pursuit of the city’s official goal of reaching 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020.

“A safe separated bikeway on this key biking corridor can’t wait,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “We are urging the city to move this project forward more quickly, and ensure the safety of the thousands of San Franciscans who use this crosstown route daily.”

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Laguna Honda Separated Bikeway, Raised Crosswalk Installed on West Side

Laguna Honda Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA installed separation improvements on the Laguna Honda Boulevard bike lanes and added a raised pedestrian crossing on St. Francis Circle last week, tacking on a pair of safety features for vulnerable street users in two western neighborhoods of San Francisco that are notorious for high volume, high-speed car traffic.

The bike lanes on Laguna Honda Boulevard have continued to receive treatments since the lifting of the bike injunction that go beyond what the original Bike Plan called for. A buffer zone reinforced with soft-hit posts last week provides the physical separation needed to create a more inviting cycle track for travelers on bike.  Walkers will also benefit from reduced roadway width for motor vehicles that should slow traffic.

“This facility will enhance access to the Forest Hill Muni station and is especially appropriate given the speed differential between people riding their bikes uphill and cars driving on Laguna Honda,” the SFMTA Bicycle Program said on its Facebook page. The road serves as a major north-south link between San Francisco’s western neighborhoods via the west side of Mount Sutro.

“The completion of the soutbound bike lane and installation of soft-hit posts is transformative as well as safe,” said Jason Henderson, who commutes on the road by bike to his job at San Francisco State University (SFSU) as an Associate Professor of Geography. “The build-out of bicycle lanes on the west side of San Francisco is critical for reducing the traffic impacts of SFSU.”

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The Nowtopian 7 Comments

Technology and Impotence

oil_spill_may_17_nasa.jpgNASA satellite image of Gulf oil spill, May 17, 2010.

The BP oil spill goes on. And on. We watch the oil on live web cam pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. And we watch. Political rage is muted, practical responses even more distant. What to do? How do we “take action” on something like this? How can individuals meaningfully respond to this catastrophe? Stop driving? Boycott one brand of gas? Stop buying things made of plastic? Let’s not flatter ourselves. A few folks I know are planning to go to a local ARCO gas station (owned by BP) to protest, which will surely be a big moment for the minimum wage employee in the cash booth, and probably an irritant to the half dozen or more motorists waiting to fill their cars.

The numbing impotence we feel is painfully calibrated to our inability to affect what’s happening. Consumer choices we might make will have zero impact on this disaster, and can’t shape the larger dynamics of a globe-spanning, multinational oil industry either. Just listen to Democracy Now on Friday morning to hear how Chevron has destroyed thousands of square miles of the Nigerian delta in its incessant exploitation of the oil there, or how the Ecuadoran Amazon too is covered in vast lakes of spilled oil.

The deeper questions about technology and science are far from our daily lives. The world we live in is embedded in complex networks of technological dependencies, which none of us have chosen freely. Nor do any of us have any way to participate directly in deciding what technologies we will use, how they will be deployed, what kind of social controls will be exerted over private interests who organize and run them for their own gain, etc. (supposedly the federal government regulates them in the public interest, but that is clearly false as shown YET AGAIN by this disaster). The basic direction of science is considered a product of objective research and development, when it has always been skewed to serve the interests of those who already have economic and political power. Public, democratic direction for science and technology is not only non-existent, we really don’t even discuss it as a possibility!

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StreetFilms 44 Comments

Biking Around NYC With Randy “The Ethicist” Cohen

A few years ago, Randy Cohen, who writes the "Ethicist" column in the New York Times Magazine, visited the Streetfilms set for an interview about "transportation ethics." For this sequel, we got out of the studio for a two-wheeled jaunt around Manhattan and popped him a few more questions.

During our ten-mile journey, Mr. Cohen weighed in on making Central Park car-free, the ethics of "salmoning" and stopping for red lights on your bike, and the transformation of our streets to better serve pedestrians and cyclists. He made no attempt to hide the incredible "policy crush" he has on NYCDOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan.

The Nowtopian 9 Comments

Bridge the Gap!

bikes_small.jpgPhoto: Matthew Roth
As I climbed the steps out of the Lake Merritt BART station this morning I heard loud chanting. "Wow," I thought, "those bicyclists have really pulled out the troops!" But the demonstrators that greeted me across 8th Street in Oakland were pile drivers, iron workers, carpenters and other trades workers, chanting "Jobs for Oakland Now!" Not far from their boisterous demonstration in front of the main doors of the Joseph Brot Metro Center were a few cyclists showing their signs to passersby, "Bridge the Gap Now" "All the Way Across the Bay" and "Safety Path!" Across the street, Transform and Urban Habitat were also making their presence felt, opposing the Oakland Airport Connector that the building trades unionists were clamoring for.

Democracy in action, I suppose. Long-time bicycle advocates from the East Bay and San Francisco converged on this meeting, hoping to convince the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) to support using some of the new tolls ($5 on all bridges as of July 1, with $6 congestion pricing on the Bay Bridge during rush hour, and for the first time, a half-price toll for carpoolers) to fund a new west-span bicycle/pedestrian/maintenance/safety lane to make the bridge safer, and to finish the transbay route for bicyclists and pedestrians too, not just motorized vehicles. But that effort was bureaucratically sidetracked before this meeting even started.

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The Nowtopian 9 Comments

Hopenhagen or Carbonhagen, We’ll Still be Cycling Regardless

chic_cyclist_brown_3792.jpgCycling chic in Copenhagen, and this is a cold day in December!

I caught Mikael Colville-Andersen's inspiring talk on urban cycling from the Copenhagen context at San Francisco's SPUR on the last Friday of October. I suggested we could do an interview when I came to Copenhagen in December and he graciously agreed, stepping outside into the drizzling snow at a December 10 awards ceremony he was hosting. (The title of this post is a quote from him when he was on stage at the ceremony, and is a new tag line on his blog too.) They were handing out prizes for the best new designs for the next generation of Copenhagen's bikeshare program. He is well known for his blogging at Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycling Chic. The photos throughout were taken by me in Copenhagen during the last couple of weeks there.

Chris Carlsson: What was your experience in San Francisco? Did you have a good time there?

Mikael Colville-Andersen: I had a brilliant time. I just blogged a film with three of my friends, about Critical Mass.

C: Did you get in to the Halloween Critical Mass?

M: Oh yeah, all the way!

C: I saw you wrote some vaguely critical comments about Critical Mass in general.

M: I have done… it’s just that marketing thing. You’re not selling it if you’re pissing people off. Riding around… I didn’t see any bad behavior. There were so many people at that Critical Mass that it was more tame?

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Streetfilms: L.A.’s Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (plus bike path!)

Who would have thought that one of the best Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in the U.S. would be in its most crowded, congested, sprawling city? Well check this out. It's really fabulous.

In October 2005, the Los Angeles County Metro Authority (or Metro) debuted a new 14-mile BRT system in the San Fernando Valley using a former rail right-of-way. Unlike many "rapid" bus transit systems in the U.S., the Orange Line is true BRT - it features a dedicated roadway that cars may not enter, has a pre-board payment system so buses load quickly and efficiently, and uses handsome, articulated buses to transport passengers fast - sometimes at speeds approaching 55 mph! The roadway is landscaped so ornately you could almost call it a bus greenway.

But that's not all. The corridor also boasts a world class bike and pedestrian path which runs adjacent to the BRT route for nearly its entire length, giving users numerous multi-modal options. Each station has bike amenities, including bike lockers and racks, and all the buses feature racks on the front that accommodate up to three bikes.

Perhaps the biggest problem is its soaring success: ridership numbers have some calling for the BRT to be converted to rail, and Metro is exploring ways to move more passengers, including buying longer buses. Plus: expansion plans are underway. Whatever way you slice it, this is truly a hit with Angelenos. A formerly 81 minute trip now takes 44-52 minutes - over an hour in round-trip savings - making a bona fide impact in the lives of commuters.