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Posts from the "SoMa" Category

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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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At Safe Streets Rally, SFPD Blocks Bike Lane to Make Point of Victim-Blaming

Update: Shahum reported that SFBC staffer Marc Caswell found a surveillance camera at an auto body shop which has footage of Le Moullac’s crash, even though SFPD has said no such footage could be found. More on that story later as it develops.

San Francisco Police Sergeant Richard Ernst apparently decided that the best way to make Folsom Street safer was to purposefully park his car in the bike lane this morning and force bicycle commuters into motor traffic.

Staff from the SF Bicycle Coalition were out at Folsom and Sixth Streets, handing out flyers calling for safety improvements on SoMa’s freeway-like streets in the wake of the death of Amelie Le Moullac, who was run over at the intersection last week by a truck driver who appeared to have made an illegal right-turn across the bike lane on to Sixth.

When Ernst arrived on the scene, he didn’t express sympathy for Le Moullac and other victims, or show support for safety improvements. Instead, he illegally parked his cruiser in the bike lane next to an empty parking space for up to 10 minutes, stating that he wanted to send a message to people on bicycles that the onus was on them to pass to the left of right-turning cars. He reportedly made no mention of widespread violations by drivers who turn across bike lanes instead of merging fully into them.

He said it was his “right” to be there.

According to SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum, Ernst blamed all three victims who were killed by truck drivers in SoMa and the Mission this year, and refused to leave until she “understood that it was the bicyclist’s fault.”

“This was shocking to hear, as I was told just a day ago by [SFPD Traffic] Commander [Mikail] Ali that the case was still under investigation and no cause had yet been determined,” Shahum said in a written account of the incident. While Ernst’s car was in the bike lane, “a steady stream of people biking on Folsom St. were blocked and forced to make sudden and sometimes-dangerous veers into the travel lane, which was busy with fast-moving car traffic during the peak of morning rush hour.”

One observer, who declined to be named, called Ernst’s behavior “insane.”

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Folsom Truck Victim Identified as 24-Year-Old Amelie Le Moullac

Amelie Le Moullac. Photo: Voce Communications

The woman killed on her bike by a truck driver at Sixth and Folsom Streets yesterday morning has been identified as 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, SF Weekly reported this morning. Le Moullac was run over by a truck driver making a right turn from Folsom on to Sixth at about 7:07 a.m., and although SFPD says it’s still investigating the crash, officers have already said they have no plans to submit case to the district attorney to investigate the case for potential charges, according to KTVU.

Photo: Voce

Le Moullac, a graduate of Menlo High School in Atherton and the University of Southern California, worked as a client executive at Voce Communications, a public relations firm located on Third Street near Brannan. She may have been riding to work when she was killed.

In a blog post, Voce called Le Moullac “one of our beloved family members.”

“We miss you dearly,” the company said. “We will miss your smile, your humor, your wit and your friendship. You are irreplaceable and unforgettable.”

Le Moullac is the third resident to be killed on a bike in San Francisco streets this year, and each victim was killed by a heavy truck driver, none of whom have been cited or charged. In February, 48-year-old Diana Sullivan was run over and killed while reportedly stopped at a red light at Third and King Streets.

“I’ve had a few close calls when it seemed like the driver didn’t notice me in broad daylight,” said Kristina Varshavskaya, 19, who bikes from her home in the Mission to her office on Townsend Street near Third. “I definitely worry about it in the back of my mind.”

Varshavskaya said she tends to commute on streets with safer bike lanes and calmer traffic, like Townsend and Division Street, which has curbside bike lanes separated by plastic posts.

“Almost all SoMa streets, specifically Folsom, Mission, and Third, from my experience, are always really busy and cars can be pretty aggressive and indifferent to bikers,” she said. The lingering plan for protected bike lanes on Folsom “seems like the safest possible solution.”

Varshavskaya said she was also hit by a driver while walking near Second and Market Streets about two years ago, suffering a broken leg in four places. “I’m pretty alert while biking and definitely more cautious than most people I know.”

Seen on Sixth at Folsom. Photo: ionfeldman/Instagram