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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

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Woman on Bike Killed by Truck Driver on Folsom: Charges Off the Table?

Photo: Will Tran via hhttp://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Bicyclist-killed-in-SoMa-crash-with-truck-4731657.phpSFGate

An unidentified 24-year-old woman was killed while bicycling on Folsom at Sixth Street this morning when she was hit by a big rig truck driver, according to SFPD and media reports.

The victim is the third bicycle rider killed in San Francisco this year, and each death has involved a truck driver. Although the driver seemed to be at fault in each case, none have faced charges.

Here are the details on this morning’s crash, via SFGate:

The crash happened as the truck tried to make a right turn at 7:07 a.m. at Sixth and Folsom streets, police said.

Both the bicyclist, a woman about 30 years old, and the truck driver were headed east on Folsom. When the trucker tried to turn south onto Sixth, he hit the bicyclist, said Officer Bryan Lujan.

The woman died at San Francisco General Hospital. Neither her name nor the name of the trucker has been released.

The truck driver stayed at the scene and was interviewed by police. He has not been cited. The truck was later towed away.

As police investigated the crash, the woman’s crumpled blue, road-riding bicycle lay at the southwest corner of the intersection. A bike helmet was nearby.

Police have already determined that the truck driver won’t face any charges, according to a tweet from KTVU reporter Brian Flores, who also specified the victim’s age at 24.

SFPD spokesperson Dennis Toomer said he couldn’t confirm those reports, however. “This is still an on-going investigation and I cannot confirm if charges are pending for a later date or not,” he said. Toomer said state law also prevents SFPD from releasing information about the victim or driver at this time.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, called the crash “another tragic reminder of what can happen when bikes and large trucks mix on our city’s high-speed corridors.”

Folsom, a street designed as a one-way, high-speed motorway — common in SoMa — has a painted, unprotected bike lane at the site where the victim was killed. “Folsom Street is one of the city’s few designated bike routes to downtown,” said Shahum. “Still, this street feels intimidating. This core route sees thousands of bike riders every day, yet large trucks travel next to these bike riders — completely unprotected.”

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SFMTA Looks to Tame Sixth Street With Road Diet, Temporary Parklet

Sixth at Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Sixth Street, which has one of the highest rates of pedestrian injuries in the city, could receive a road diet after the SFMTA analyzes the impacts of removing two of its four traffic lanes to improve safety.

In the meantime, the agency is planning a pilot project this fall on the street’s northern end at Market Street, likely in the form of a parklet-style installation in the parking lanes, to test out “gateway” treatments to signal freeway-bound drivers to slow down.

“There’s nothing telling you so much that you’re entering someone’s neighborhood,” said Mike Sallaberry, a planner at the SFMTA’s Livable Streets subdivision, at a community planning meeting yesterday. “It just looks like a continuation of a freeway that leads to another freeway. So maybe we can do something really soon that announces to people that, hey, you’re coming into our front yard.”

Though the SFMTA won’t present proposals for the pilot until the next community meeting in the coming months, planners said it will likely occupy parking spaces for roughly two months on one or both sides of Sixth between Market and Stevenson Street, an alleyway. Sallaberry said the pilot would help inform the larger plan to redesign Sixth for the long term. In addition to calming traffic, removing two of the street’s travel lanes will open up space for improvements like sidewalk expansions, bike lanes, and greenery.

“Lowering the speed saves lives,” said SFMTA project manager Adam Gubser. In response to residents’ calls for police to issue more tickets to drivers violating Sixth Street’s 25 mph speed limit, Gubser said, “It is enforcement, but it’s also engineering and education. We can’t rely on one leg. The facility should be designed for the speed we want.”

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Central Corridor Plan Envisions Transitways and Safer Streets for SoMa

Fourth Street. Photo: San Francisco in 15 Weeks

The Central Subway is coming, like it or not, and that means Fourth Street will get Muni Metro service starting in 2019. With that in mind, the SF Planning Department recently released the draft Central Corridor Plan, which sets the stage for upzoned transit-oriented development near new stations and street improvements to accommodate a growing population in a rapidly changing section of SoMa.

“The idea is to support development here because it’s a transit-rich area,” said Amnon Ben-Pazi of the Planning Department’s City Design Group. “Between BART, Caltrain, and the new light-rail, you have as much city and regional transit as you can get.”

The Central Corridor Plan, which encompasses one section of the broader Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, is aimed at creating a more people-friendly SoMa — a district which was primarily industrial until recent years. Streets that have served as car traffic funnels since the mid-20th century would be overhauled with improvements like protected bike lanes, new crosswalks, wider sidewalks, transit-only lanes, and two-way traffic conversions.

The Central Subway route along Fourth Street. Image: SFMTA

SoMa’s streets “were designed in a really specific way to accommodate large volumes of very fast traffic and trucks,” said Ben-Pazi. “While that may have been appropriate when this was an industrial area, it’s certainly not appropriate now with what we know about pedestrian safety and how the design of streets really affects the behavior of drivers.”

“If we’re going to go in the direction of having more people live and work here,” he added, “relying on the streets for their everyday circulation, we really need to address what these streets are designed as.”

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich said the plan seems to be mostly on the right track, though it should include greater restrictions on new car parking that are more in line with the plan for the adjacent Transbay District adopted last year. “With as much development as is planned, and with a desire to reclaim SoMa’s mean, traffic-sewer streets for people and sustainable transportation, the plan has to be truly transit-oriented,” he said.

The plan calls for reducing traffic lanes and on-street car parking to make room for improvements to transit, biking, and walking. Ben-Pazi said the environmental review process for all of those projects would be completed as part of the plan, which is currently set to be adopted in late 2014.

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Details on 2nd Street Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Upgrades Come Into Focus

A rendering of Second Street at South Park. Images: DPW

The plan for raised, parking-protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements on Second Street is shaping up after the Department of Public Works presented new details [PDF] last week.

When completed in September 2016, the project is expected to transform Second into a far safer corridor with protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, pedestrian bulb-outs, more visible crosswalks, and new greenery.

In response to calls for wider sidewalks, planners added a major improvement in the latest iteration of the plan. Originally, city staff said only one of the narrow sidewalks on the stretch of Second between Harrison and Townsend Streets could be widened due to budget constraints. But because of a push from residents who emphasized the importance of taking the opportunity to widen sidewalks on both sides to 15 feet, the project will now include that change, said Cristina Olea, DPW’s project manager. Utility poles will remain in place until the city funds a separate project to move the overhead wires underground.

Despite surveys showing broad support for the proposed improvements, as well as praise for DPW’s extensive community outreach from residents and city officials, discussion at the latest meeting was hijacked by a contingent of residents from a building at 355 Bryant Street who said they were recently caught off guard by the project.

Those residents mostly voiced fears about traffic congestion and problems with loading that they claimed would result from the project. When one man argued that the proposed safety improvements couldn’t be made because car commuters need all four existing traffic lanes to get to and from the Bay Bridge, Olea said the improvements should discourage those drivers from using Second as an alternative to the main motor routes like First and Third Streets.

“Our overall vision is to de-emphasize Second Street as a route to the freeway,” said Olea. “It’s not an arterial.”

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