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Posts from the "SoMa" Category

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For Cheng Jin Lai, Bicycling Was a Necessary Means to an Active Life

Safe streets advocates, family, and friends of Cheng Jin Lai gathered yesterday for a memorial service of the 78-year-old man who was killed by a Muni driver on October 18 while making a trip on his bicycle at the crash-prone intersection of Bryant, Division, and 11th Streets.

Cheng Jin Lai. Photo courtesy of the Lai family

The bicycle was Lai’s primary mode of transportation, “out of necessity and his passion,” said Mark Fong, an attorney for Lai’s family. Fong said Lai was making his regular trip from his home at a senior housing center in SoMa to deliver his and his family’s recyclables to a recycling center when he was hit by the Muni bus driver, who appeared to make a right turn into Lai’s path, though SFPD is still completing the crash investigation report.

“I guess you would call him an original, ahead-of-his-time kind of guy,” said Fong. “It’s part of Chinese culture to be very frugal and conservation-minded — to waste nothing. That was part of his thing.”

A retired Vietnam native who in 1996 moved to San Francisco from China with his wife of 60 years to live near his daughter, Lai became a U.S. citizen in 2003. Lai lived on a fixed income without a car, frequently traveling by bike to other neighborhoods like Chinatown and Fort Mason, where he loved to fish, said Fong and members of Lai’s family.

“It’s pretty amazing — I hope I’m that healthy and active when I’m 78,” said Fong.

Lai was the fourth bicycle rider to be killed on San Francisco streets this year — the third in SoMa (a fourth occurred in the Mission). All deaths appear to have been caused by drivers of trucks and buses who illegally made right turns into the victims, though none have been charged.

“These deadly and serious crashes on SoMa streets are not one off ‘accidents,’” says a website set up by the Lai family where the public can donate to a memorial fund. “These deaths are preventable and within the power of the city to change immediately.”

The couple dozen who attended Lai’s memorial service included reps from community organizations like the Chinatown Community Development Center and the SF Bicycle Coalition. Supervisors Jane Kim and David Campos were also there.

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SF’s First Painted Sidewalk Extensions Come to Sixth Street

Six new curb extensions were installed using temporary materials, as seen here and Sixth at Mission Streets. Photos: Aaron Bialick

A deadly stretch of Sixth Street received the city’s first painted sidewalk extensions last week, created using low-cost, temporary materials to help make pedestrians more visible. The SFMTA implemented the pilot project between Market and Harrison Streets — four blocks dense with residential hotels and shops — to help curb injuries while the agency develops plans for a road diet.

The six sidewalk bulb-outs replace car parking spaces, marked using a red and white gravel surface and plastic posts, with boulders and portable concrete planters set inside. The measures are expected to make pedestrians more visible to drivers as they enter crosswalks, and send the signal that the street isn’t just an extension of the freeway, but a gateway to a dense neighborhood street that drivers are expected to share with residents.

“We’re hoping that pilot programs like this can be a model for the city, knowing that [pedestrian safety] is an issue for every corridor,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. “People are already, anecdotally, talking about some safety improvements from these very affordable pilot designs that we’re putting out just to see what we should be doing to make Sixth Street safer.”

Sixth is designed primarily to speed drivers between the Tenderloin and the 280 highway through the dense SoMa neighborhood. Between 2005 and 2010, 93 pedestrians were injured and five were killed by drivers on this stretch, according to data from the Department of Public Health.

“If we don’t make our streets safer, if we don’t have proper enforcement, if we aren’t designing our streets to be shared by multiple users, people actually die or lose important parts of their body,” said Kim, who noted that in District 6 alone, pedestrian injuries have racked up a cost of $13.5 million in the last five years in costs for medical treatment and emergency services.

Although many pedestrian injuries occur while drivers are making a turn, neighborhood residents also say pedestrians are often hit on multi-lane streets like Sixth when, as they make their way through a crosswalk, some drivers stop to yield the right-of-way, but others attempt to pass, apparently not expecting a person to be in their path.

“It is not a pretty picture when you see a senior citizen going up in the air and coming down,” said ”Mother” Elaine Jones, a senior tenant organizer who lives at a single resident occupancy hotel at Howard and Sixth. “You’ve got some people laughing. They’re not caring. Enough is enough.”

Sixth and Market Streets.

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SFMTA Shops Folsom Buffered Bike Lane at Crowded Community Meeting

The SFMTA’s proposal to widen the Folsom Street bike lane with a buffer zone and remove a general traffic lane drew significant turnout at a community meeting in SoMa yesterday evening. The project, set to be installed by the end of the year, seems to have strong support from residents and livable streets advocates as a short-term measure to make Folsom safer.

Supervisor Jane Kim speaks at yesterday's community meeting on the Folsom bike lane pilot. Photo: Patrick Valentino/Twitter

Angelica Cabande, executive director of the South of Market Community Action Network, helped bring its members out to the meeting. The organization hasn’t taken a stance on the project yet, but she said the neighborhood has a dire need to make streets safer for families and elderly residents to walk on.

“A lot of cars, after they exit the freeway, they’re flying through Seventh Street,” said Cabande, who noted the danger is especially apparent outside Bessie Carmichael Elementary, located at Seventh and Folsom. “The school had put a crossing guard there, but a lot of drivers are not adhering to them. If anything, they actually cuss at the crossing guard and yell at families and honk at them to hurry up so they can make that turn right away.”

The SFMTA announced the pilot project on October 1 as a way to expedite safety improvements after 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac was killed on her bike by a truck driver who police determined made an illegal right turn at Folsom and Sixth Streets. The city has also proposed redesigning the one-way SoMa stretch of Folsom for two-way traffic with a parking-protected, two-way bikeway, but that plan may not be built for several years.

“We’re really pleased to see that the city acted quickly, though unfortunately, ideas of reforming Folsom Street have been in the works for more than a decade,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Kristin Smith.

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Man on Bike Killed by Muni Bus Driver at Bryant and Division

Image: KTVU

A man riding a bike was killed by a Muni bus driver this morning at the intersection of Bryant, Division and 11th Streets on the southwest end of SoMa, according to media reports.

From the SF Chronicle:

The crash involving a bus on the 27-Bryant line was reported at 8:44 a.m., said Mindy Talmadge, a spokeswoman for the Fire Department. She said the bicyclist, identified only as a man, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police and Muni officials said the bus was traveling southeast on 11th Street, and collided with the bicyclist while turning right onto Bryant Street.

The intersection is under Highway 101 and is controlled by traffic lights. However, Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said, “Its unknown at this point the dynamics of the collision.”

None of the roughly three dozen passengers on the bus were injured, Esparza said.

Paul Rose, a Muni spokesman, said the male bus driver, who has about 10 years of experience, was cooperative after the crash, and will be given a toxicology test under agency protocol. The driver was not immediately identified.

At the scene, KTVU reported that the bicycle had a black garbage bag tied to the rear rack and plastic bottles scattered across the street. KTVU also noted that the Muni bus had a camera on board which may have footage of the crash.

In a blog post, the SF Bicycle Coalition noted the poor design and high speeds at the intersection where the crash occurred, which lies underneath the Central Freeway.

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SFMTA to Widen Bike Lane, Remove Traffic Lane on Folsom in SoMa

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SFBC rallies for safety improvements on Folsom Street in August. Under a new pilot project, the right-hand traffic lane will be removed to create a wide, buffered bike lane. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The SFMTA will re-purpose a general traffic lane to widen and buffer the existing bike lane on Folsom Street between Fourth and 11th Streets by the end of the year, the agency announced today.

The pilot project, which comes about six weeks after 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac was killed on her bike by a truck driver at Folsom and Sixth Streets, will upgrade the current narrow bike lane to a buffered bike lane, apparently similar to a project implemented on Eighth Street last July, when that street was repaved.

In addition to providing a less stressful and more visible lane for bicycle commuters on Folsom, the redesign should help tame motor traffic and shorten the distances pedestrians must cross in front of moving motor vehicles on one of SoMa’s notoriously dangerous one-way, high-speed motorways.

“This is great news for the huge number of people who bike, walk and live along Folsom Street, one of SoMa’s busiest thoroughfares,” the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post today, noting that Folsom is the sixth-busiest bicycle route in the city. “For far too long, these huge numbers of people biking have had to pedal next to fast moving traffic, with no buffer. We are proud that our advocacy has resulted in a quick plan to mitigate this.”

“The buffered bicycle lane in this pilot will create a safer, less intimidating street,” said Mayor Ed Lee in a statement, “while giving us an opportunity to study how measures like these can be implemented in dense and rapidly growing areas of San Francisco to make our city streets safer for everyone.”

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Lanes on Cesar Chavez, Green Wave on 11th

Eleventh Street. Photo: Mark Dreger

Two bicycling upgrades were spotted in the eastern neighborhoods this past week: Preliminary striping for bike lanes on western Cesar Chavez Street and a “green wave” on 11th Street in west SoMa.

Cesar Chavez as seen last Wednesday. Photo: @dfro78/Twitter

The unprotected bike lanes being installed on Cesar Chavez are part of the ongoing rehab on the section west of Hampshire Street. A photo posted on Twitter last Wednesday shows temporary striping on fresh asphalt, and it’s unknown when permanent stripes will be laid down.

Construction on western Cesar Chavez was originally set to finish this summer, but the Department of Public Works website currently says it will be completed in the winter.

Meanwhile, the new green wave signal re-timing on 11th Street spotted by Mark Dreger comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise. The only other known green waves installed in SF so far are on Valencia and 14th Streets. The SF County Transportation Authority approved funds in April for green waves on five other streets, but 11th wasn’t on the list, and I couldn’t turn up anything on the project. The other five green waves are scheduled to be installed by next March, according to SFCTA documents [PDF]:

  • Arguello from Lake to Clement
  • North Point from Stockton to Polk
  • Folsom from 15th to 24th Streets
  • Fulton from Laguna to Steiner
  • Potrero from Alameda to 25th Street

We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about these projects.

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SFMTA Still Fleshing Out Details of Pilot Bike Lane Upgrades on Folsom

Folsom near Sixth Street, where the SFBC rallied for a safer Folsom after the death of Amelie Le Moullac last month. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The SFMTA isn’t quite ready to declare that it will expedite protected bike lanes on Folsom Street with a pilot project, but planners say they’re fleshing out the details of what near-term safety upgrades on the street could look like.

Although the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post Friday that city officials promised them a “separated bikeway” pilot, SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose told us that the agency “has not yet committed to any specific measures at this point in time.”

“The SFMTA is exploring the technical feasibility of design options for a proposed Folsom Street pilot project,” he wrote in an email.

As we’ve reported, a conceptual plan for a two-way, parking protected bikeway on Folsom is included in the Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study (EN TRIPS), but it’s undergoing environmental review, and construction is likely years off. Mayor Ed Lee said at the Bay Area Bike Share launch that he wanted to explore ways to expedite near-term safety improvements.

Jose said he’ll keep us posted on the details as they develop.

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SFBC: City Commits to Pilot Redesign of Folsom With Separated Bikeways

Hi everyone, greetings from New York. Aaron is currently away on a well-deserved break from running Streetsblog SF. He’ll be back next week delivering the livable streets news. In the meantime, consider this post an open thread about this development:

 

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SFPD Faults Trucker in Le Moullac’s Death, Apologizes for Ernst’s Behavior

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr gives a thumbs up at a stop light on Seventh Street on yesterday's bike-share celebration ride to City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

San Francisco police have determined that the truck driver who killed Amelie Le Moullac on her bike this month was at fault for the crash, after footage of the incident was found by the SF Bicycle Coalition. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr has also apologized in statements to the press for the behavior of Sergeant Richard Ernst, who stopped by at a rally and memorial held in Le Moullac’s honor to harass bicycle advocates and blame victims killed on bicycles this year for their own deaths.

The determination of fault in the crash at Folsom in Sixth Streets, first reported by the SF Chronicle’s Chuck Nevius, apparently confirms that the driver made an illegal right turn in front of Le Moullac, failing to yield and merge into the bike lane. The SFPD, which had initially indicated that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the driver, says that it will submit the case to District Attorney George Gascón’s office, who will decide whether or not to press criminal charges, according to the SF Examiner. The DA’s office has reportedly not received the case yet.

“We’re satisfied with the conclusion because we believe it comports with the evidence that Ms. Le Moullac did nothing to contribute to this collision,” said Micha Star Liberty, an attorney representing Le Moullac’s family. Liberty said that while the family “looks forward to a decision being made” by the DA, “it really doesn’t impact the civil rights of the family, which is geared towards ways to compensate victims.”

When I asked Chief Suhr why surveillance video footage of the crash wasn’t found by SFPD investigators — bicycle advocate Marc Caswell tracked it down instead — he said that “there’s often times when there’s an investigation and, very fortunately, citizens make us aware of things that we might not have found on our first pass. We make mistakes. Obviously, we’re super, super happy we have this video now. I’ve seen it myself, and I think it demonstrates clearly what happened with the accident.”

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As SF Launches Bike-Share, Mayor Calls for Safer Folsom, Safer Truckers

Mayor Ed Lee takes bike-share for a spin alongside cement trucks with his transportation advisor, Gillian Gillett, and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr on Seventh Street in SoMa. Photos: Aaron Bialick

Bay Area Bike Share’s celeste-colored fleet of bikes is now part of the streetscape in downtown San Francisco. At many of the city’s 35 stations, people took bikes for a spin as soon as the system went live at noon today, while curious observers said they were likely to use it as a convenient way to get around SoMa and the Financial District.

With bike-share users facing motor-dominated conditions on many of the streets within the area covered by the system, Mayor Ed Lee delivered some promising words about making SoMa’s streets safer at the press event held at the 4th and King Caltrain station this morning. Lee appeared prepared to respond to reporters who questioned the safety of novice bike riders encouraged to take on the wide, speed-plagued streets, with the recent death of Amelie Le Moullac on Folsom Street fresh in people’s minds.

Lee’s responses focused primarily on educating truck drivers, calming motor traffic, and implementing safer bike lanes.

“We’ve got to educate truck drivers in particular, but all other drivers, to respect bicyclists along the sides, as well as pedestrians, and then of course we’ve got to have the same amount of education for bicyclists — novice as well as experienced,” said Lee. “One of the recommendations that came to me after the very sad death of the 24-year-old a couple weeks ago on the 14th, is that … we’ve got to have good education with construction companies that hire truck drivers to make sure that they have an additional level of safety, looking around the right side and left side as they go down a street like Folsom.”

When I asked the mayor if he’s looking to roll out more protected bike lanes on SoMa streets, he said “absolutely.”

“A 96 percent [ridership] increase in SoMa alone has got to command a lot more dedicated lanes, and I think we’re going to focus on Folsom Street right now,” Lee said.

Lee, who said he’s very familiar with riding a bike on Folsom, pointed to the recent re-timing of traffic signals on the street, which synchronized lights for 25 mph travel speeds. He said he plans to look for ways to expedite other near-term safety improvements on the street while the plan for protected bike lanes and a two-way traffic conversion undergoes environmental review.

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