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Posts from the "The Wiggle" Category

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Fell Street Bike Lane Still Popular Among Bike Commuters, Parked Trucks

Ted and Al’s Towing trucks are routine sights in the Fell Street bike lane. Photo: Patrick Traughber/Twitter

The more than 1,800 people who use the buffered, curbside bike lane on Fell Street every weekday continue to be faced with a familiar hazard: parked trucks.

Photo: Gisela Schmoll

As we’ve reported, drivers, including SFPD officers, routinely park in the Fell bike lane with impunity. The vast majority of violators appear to be accessing three businesses on Fell between Divisadero and Broderick Streets: Ted and Al’s Towing, Bank of America, and Falletti’s Foods (which is actually around the corner and has a loading area). Drivers also line up along the curb in front of the Arco gas station at Divisadero, but the SFMTA made that queue legitimate by re-striping the section in 2010.

“It is so bad that frankly, there may as well be no bike lane as almost every time I ride or walk past here I see someone parking in it,” bike commuter Gisella Schmoll wrote in an email to D5 Supervisor London Breed.

Schmoll said the “worst offenders” are Ted and Al’s Towing trucks, whose drivers “are clearly not loading or unloading; often the driver is just sitting in their truck.” As a regular user of the Fell bike lane, I can also attest to that.

As reported in a nationwide study of protected bike lanes released this week by Portland State University, bike traffic on Fell increased 46 percent in the first year after the bike lane was upgraded from a skinny door-zone lane to a wide, curbside, buffered lane. All car parking along the south sides of Fell, and its one-way counterpart Oak Street, was removed for three blocks to make room for the bike lanes. The SFMTA tracks bike traffic on Fell with an in-ground sensor, and its data are posted online every day.

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Eyes on the Street: Easier Bike Navigation at Market and Buchanan

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A man uses a new waiting zone set up for bike commuters where the Duboce bikeway ends, at Market and Buchanan Streets. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

Doing the Wiggle should be a little easier, thanks to new green-backed sharrows and plastic posts installed by the SFMTA last week. These help bike commuters navigate the entrance to the Duboce bikeway, at Market and Buchanan Streets.

The sharrows are intended to establish a clearer path for bike traffic heading both to and from the bikeway, navigating around pedestrians in Market’s northern crosswalk across Buchanan. The paths mostly follow patterns long followed by bike commuters, but also set aside a new zone for eastbound riders to wait in without getting in the way of westbound riders.

Previously, the junction lacked any markings to direct bicyclists, who had little to go by other than the crosswalks. Riders heading in opposite directions often waited for the light on the same small spot of corner curb space. An added benefit of the sharrows is that they direct people to cross streetcar tracks at a safe, perpendicular angle.

The three plastic posts installed appear to help solve that problem in two ways: One post separates the two directions of bike traffic, while the other two mark the separation between waiting bike riders and car traffic on Buchanan.

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Eyes on the Street: Geary’s Bus Lane, Wiggle’s Curbs Get Red Paint

Geary at Powell Street. Photo: Cheryl Brinkman

Updated 4/23 2:45 p.m. with corrected project timelines for the painted bus lanes.

The SFMTA started adding the red carpet treatment to Geary Street’s bus-only lane, and started painting curbs red to daylight, or improve visibility at, corners along the Wiggle.

The Geary/O’Farrell Street couplet, between Powell and Gough Streets, is the second of three bus-only lane segments to get red paint; the first was Third Street in SoMa. The red paint is intended to warn drivers to stay out of the bus lanes, though reports from folks on the street say results have been mixed so far. The third stretch set to get red transit lanes is Market Street, inbound between 5th and 12th Streets, and outbound between 8th Street and Van Ness Avenue. The SFMTA said the Geary/O’Farrell project would be completed by mid-June, and the Market lanes by September.

On the Wiggle, street corners are finally getting daylighting — the practice of removing parked cars to open up sightlines between street users. It’s unclear what took so long to paint the short red segments of curb paint, which the SFMTA promised as early as 2012. Nonetheless, these simple measures to reduce the “peek-a-boo” effect at intersections are very welcome.

Steiner and Waller Streets on the Wiggle. Photo: Mark Dreger

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SFMTA Unveils Wiggle Plans, Including Traffic Diverter at Scott and Fell

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Image: SFMTA

The Wiggle is set to become a calmer, safer, and greener route after proposals presented by the SFMTA yesterday, with improvements like raised crosswalks, bulb-outs with greenery, textured pavement, and a traffic diverter at Scott and Fell Streets.

The diverter, which would prevent drivers from entering the block of Scott between Fell and Oak Streets in the southbound direction while allowing bike and foot traffic, is expected to lighten car traffic on Scott and facilitate the left turn into the Fell Street bike lane. Although the SFMTA has installed a protected left-turn signal there, some bike commuters continue to make the short-distance turn against a red light, when drivers have a green light to turn left on to Scott into their path. Under the SFMTA’s plan, an “extra-large bulb-out” with planters would physically block drivers from making that left turn.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, called the traffic diverter “a great tool for safer, smarter movement on our streets.”

“It’s exciting that we’re not just thinking of the traditional designs of yesteryear,” she said. “It’s great to be thinking outside the box.”

Concerns voiced by some neighbors at a meeting about traffic diverters on Scott in September seem to have been largely assuaged. The diverter even has support from many Scott residents, according to attendees at yesterday’s open house meeting. Although some neighbors on parallel streets remain concerned about drivers using their streets as an alternative, SFMTA planners say they plan to adjust traffic signals to make Divisadero flow more smoothly for motor traffic, including the 24-Divisadero, making it the most attractive option for drivers. “In fact,” says an SFMTA FAQ sheet [PDF], “some cross-town traffic on” neighborhood streets such as Steiner, Pierce, and Broderick “may switch to Divisadero as well.”

“It seems like there’s huge agreement that this neighborhood has so much more potential to be a great walking, biking, living environment,” said Shahum. “I think the city’s put forward some really strong proposals.”

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Eyes on the Street: Smoother Pavement on the Fell and Oak Bike Lanes

The Fell Street bike lane, between Broderick and Baker, was re-paved with smooth asphalt. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The bumpy concrete surface of the Fell and Oak bike lanes is being smoothed over. Over the holiday break, the Department of Public Works re-paved one block of the Fell bike lane, between Broderick and Baker Streets. The city expects to cover all six blocks with smooth asphalt by March, according to SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose.

The concrete slabs, a more suitable surface for the bike lane’s former life as a car parking lane, at first weren’t expected to be a problem for bike commuters, but SFMTA staffers said they’ve received a substantial number of complaints about the bumpy surface since it was re-purposed for bicycling. On the sections where the concrete hasn’t been paved over, people on bikes can typically be found riding just off the concrete portion, on the narrow strip of asphalt that’s available. On the asphalt-covered stretch of the Fell lane, having the entire seven-foot width of smooth riding room is surprisingly relaxing, and makes for some comfortable, social, side-by-side travel (as shown above).

As all the pieces of a high-quality, protected bike lane gradually come into place, this is one more small step that makes the  commute experience more pleasant for Wiggle riders. Jose said the permanent bike lane markings should be re-installed within a few days.

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Design Tweaks Delay Construction of Safety Features on Fell and Oak

The Oak Street bike lane, seen here soon after its installation before plastic posts were added. A van is parked in the bike lane up ahead. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Construction of the final pieces of bike and pedestrian safety improvements on Fell and Oak Streets between Baker and Scott has been delayed again as the agency finalizes the design of traffic islands and bulb-outs. Previously promised this year, the upgrades have been pushed back until some time in 2014, according to the SFMTA.

The SFMTA is consulting the SFPUC to refine the designs of landscaped bulb-outs and traffic islands and maximize stormwater collection on Fell and Oak Streets. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose said the SF Public Utilities Commission is helping the agency “enhance the corner bulb-outs to capture stormwater and beautify the project in parallel with the safety benefits the bulb-outs inherently offer.” The landscaped traffic islands, also known as concrete planters, will be installed in the buffer zones of the Fell and Oak bike lanes to help separate bicycle commuters from motor traffic “in coordination” with the bulb-outs.

“The SFMTA is collaborating with other city departments on improved designs for landscaped traffic islands to enhance physical separation from vehicle traffic, deter motorists from encroaching on the bike lanes and visually narrow the street,” Jose wrote in an email. “These traffic islands will be installed in coordination with other hardscape improvements, such as bulb-outs, curb ramps and bikeway paving improvements, next year.”

All of the planned safety improvements that don’t involve concrete work are in place. The long-awaited curbside bike lanes on Fell and Oak, currently separated by buffer space and temporary plastic posts, were installed in September 2012 and May of this year, respectively. Along with the lanes, the SFMTA installed bicycle traffic signals and more visible ladder crosswalk markings, while also lowering the synchronized traffic signal speeds from 25 to 20 mph. The block of Baker between Fell and Oak was also put on a traffic-calming road diet and had parallel parking spots converted to back-in angled parking spots.

As we reported yesterday, those improvements are yielding promising results, improving safety and comfort along the route. However, we still hear reports of drivers stopping or parking in the bike lanes, which the traffic islands should help discourage.

The landscaped bulb-outs and islands were originally expected to be completed this past spring. The bike lanes themselves came after years of advocacy for safer streets (the Oak lane was only installed in time for Bike to Work Day because D5 Supervisor London Breed pushed the SFMTA to expedite it). Is the latest delay a disappointment, or is it worth the wait to get the design of these finishing touches right? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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SFMTA: Fell and Oak Bike Lanes Are Yielding Promising Safety Results

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An SF Bicycle Coalition volunteer thanks commuters for "biking politely" on Oak at Scott Street. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The SFMTA has released some preliminary survey results showing that the three-block bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets, along with other safety measures, have resulted in calmer motor traffic, an increased sense of safety among bicycle commuters, and a decrease in illegal bicycling behaviors.

On Fell and Oak, between Scott and Baker Streets — the connection from the Wiggle to the Panhandle — the SFMTA removed car parking lanes to install curbside bike lanes, separated by buffer space and plastic posts, along with bicycle traffic signals and more visible “continental” crosswalk stripes, while also lowering the synchronized traffic signal speeds from 25 to 20 MPH. The block of Baker between Fell and Oak was also put on a traffic-calming road diet with a buffered left-turn lane to make it easier for bike commuters to pass stopped cars and reach a new left-turn bike box. Parallel parking spots on the block were also converted to back-in angled parking spots.

Although not all of the planned bike and pedestrian improvements are in the ground yet, the SFMTA posted the following results on its website:

Since the bikeways were completed in May of 2013, SFMTA staff have been conducting observations and collecting data about the project’s effects on behavior and attitudes. So far, we have seen some promising trends:

  • A 3-5 mph reduction in motor vehicle speeds on Oak Street as a result of modest changes to traffic signal timing.
  • A reduction in sidewalk bicycle riding now that bicyclists have buffered bike lanes to seperate them from traffic.
  • An increase in bicyclists’ compliance with traffic signals as a result of improved bikeways and traffic signals.

Additionally, an intercept survey was conducted of people riding their bikes on Fell and Oak streets in August of 2013. Preliminary tallies of the results found that many of the project’s goals are already being achieved:

  • Because of the bikeways on Oak and Fell streets, 98% of riders surveyed said they feel that the safety of bicycling on Oak and Fell has increased, and 90% feel that drivers’ awareness of people biking on Oak and Fell has increased.
  • Around one in six respondents said they would have used a different route on their bikes before the bikeways were implemented; About 7% said they would have used a different mode all together (driving, walking etc)
  • Around one in five people said that because of the Oak and Fell bikeways, how often they ride a bike overall has increased. Among women only, it is closer to one in three.

Good stuff. I’ve also noticed, while riding in a car or bus down Fell and Oak, that the eye-catching bike lanes seem to act as a sort of billboard for bicycling. It’d be helpful to know how many commuters have been drawn to try out the Wiggle option since the bike lanes appeared.

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Double-Parked Driver Chokes Wiggle Intersection; SFPD Nowhere to Be Found

Yesterday evening I returned to the Wiggle, where reports continue of SFPD officers targeting bicycle commuters rolling stop signs. To my surprise, there were no police to be found during their typical shift at about 6:45 p.m., but I did find a driver double-parked right behind the crosswalk on Waller and Steiner Streets. In the exact same spot where officers can usually be spotted admonishing bike commuters for doing an “Idaho stop,” the driver of this car pretty much put every passerby in danger for at least the ten minutes I was there, and faced no consequences.

There’s hardly a more hazardous place for someone to park: He was forcing all the drivers and bicycle riders behind him to pass in the oncoming lane, right at a crosswalk, blocking the visibility of people crossing the street. (Perhaps he could have done more damage by parking in the crosswalk itself, but another motorist I spotted beat him to that at the corner of Haight and Pierce Streets. When I pointed out to that driver that he was blocking a crosswalk, he simply told me, “I’m waiting for someone,” and didn’t move.)

In the last few minutes of the scene above, you can watch the driver refuse to move from this dangerous spot even as other drivers honk and argue with him. Three other drivers can be seen waiting behind for a chance to pass safely — and with the frequency of motor vehicle and bike traffic turning into their path, it’s a wonder no one crashed.

“Enforcing double parking should be high on SFPD’s list for a way to make our streets safer and more convenient for all,” said Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk SF, who said the organization has gotten behind Supervisor Scott Wiener’s recent efforts to bring more attention to the abysmal state of enforcement. ”Double parking is not only an inconvenience, it’s a safety hazard. Pedestrians’ visibility is threatened, bikes have to swerve into oncoming traffic, and it aggravates drivers, creating an unsafe condition for all.”

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SFPD Still Targeting Bike Commuters Rolling Stop Signs on the Wiggle

Bicycle commuters on the Wiggle continue to be confronted by SFPD officers posted at intersections issuing warnings and tickets for what police deem to be dangerous violations of stop sign laws. Police claim they’re obligated to respond to complaints from neighbors who apparently see the behavior as a threat to public safety.

But there have been no known crashes on the Wiggle recently. Posting officers there to ticket and chastise bike commuters who slow down and yield to others while not coming to a complete stop is a waste of precious enforcement resources and doesn’t make streets any safer.

“Everybody wants to eliminate the about five percent of cyclists who violate other people’s right-of-way,” said Morgan Fitzgibbons of the Wigg Party, which advocates for environmentally sustainable practices in the neighborhoods around the Wiggle. “Nobody wants to defend those people, but trying to put a constant police presence on the Wiggle to make people follow a law that really doesn’t make any sense is not the right way to go about it.”

“It will never solve the problem — it’s patently absurd.”

As in every state except Idaho, in California, the letter of the law calls for people on bicycles to come to a complete stop at stop signs, just like people operating multi-ton motor vehicles. The application of that law to bikes is so impractical, however, that most people who bike — including police officers — treat stop signs by slowing, checking for traffic, and proceeding. Idaho changed its stop sign law 30 years ago to legitimize normal bicycling behavior, and it’s not hurting anyone.

To address the issue of bicycle riders who actually violate others’ right-of-way, the SF Bicycle Coalition has recently posted up at spots along the Wiggle holding signs encouraging commuters to “bike politely.”

“We urge the police to prioritize their limited enforcement resources on the known, dangerous problem areas and behaviors, which means the high-injury collision areas and actions,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “The Wiggle is not one of those areas.”

Last Wednesday evening, I was bicycling home on the Wiggle when I spotted two officers standing next to their motorcycles on Waller at Steiner Streets, an intersection busy with drivers, pedestrians, and westbound bicycle riders who mostly make a left turn to follow the flattest route. I parked my bicycle and stood between two parked cars to record the scene on video, when officer L. Henderson (who declined to give his first name) told me to get on the sidewalk.

I complied, and then introduced myself and asked the officer for an interview, which he granted. The entire audio recording of the interview is below.

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New Options Arise for Greener, Calmer Streets on the Wiggle

A rendering of what the Waller and Pierce intersection would look like with raised crosswalks, greened bulb-outs, and water-permeable pavement in the parking lanes. Image: SFPUC

Plans to create calmer, greener streets on the Wiggle came into clearer focus Tuesday after the SFMTA presented more refined proposals for raised crosswalks and intersections, bulb-outs with greenery, traffic circles, traffic diverters, and other safety improvements.

The proposed treatments [PDF] are aimed at improving stormwater drainage while also calming motor and bicycle traffic. One newly proposed measure to help address the growing number of complaints that an increased number of bicycle commuters are making the streets uncomfortable to walk across is “in-pavement speed reduction bars” on approaches to crosswalks. Those, planners explained, would be strips of colored material much like the green-backed sharrows already along the Wiggle aimed at signaling bicycle riders to prepare to yield to pedestrians.

A example of "in-pavement speed reduction bars" shown along the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Image: SFMTA

“We can’t force anyone to stop, but there are physical improvements we can do to make it so that you can see what’s coming sooner and act accordingly,” said Miriam Sorrell, a planner with the SFMTA’s Livable Streets team.

While the original aim of the project was to add greening improvements along the traditional Wiggle bicycle route — topographically, the flattest way across the lower Haight — the SFMTA and Public Utillities Commission are now considering deviating from the route for two blocks, placing improvements on a block of Pierce and Page Streets instead of the corresponding blocks of Haight and Scott Streets. That’s because permeable pavement treatments that would go underneath the parking lanes on Haight wouldn’t be able to bear the loads of Muni buses and delivery trucks which often stop there. Sorrell said the pavement treatments are mostly intended to absorb stormwater, though they can contribute to calming traffic by narrowing the visual width of the roadway.

“We have the most potential for stormwater management” on Pierce and Page, said Sorrell, “compared to on Haight Street where we might be limited in terms of some of those green infrastructure improvements.”

The other reasons to consider the two-block deviation, SFMTA planners say, are that many bicycle riders have said they deviate on to Page and Pierce anyway, and that Scott would still have reduced car traffic if the street is blocked off to cars in at least one direction, as the agency proposes to do. The motor traffic diverters could be added on Scott at Oak or Fell Streets, creating a dead-end for drivers in one or both directions, preventing them from using Scott as a cut-through route. People walking and biking would still be allowed to filter through in both directions, and the SFMTA has also proposed adding a traffic circle at Scott and Page to calm that intersection further.

Although the proposals to divert motor traffic raised concern from some pro-parking activists at a recent meeting (even though little if any car parking would be removed), the Wiggle proposals seem mostly well-received.

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