Skip to content

102 Comments

Phil Matier Needs to Do His Homework on Transit and Bike Policy

Phil Matier, a pundit for KCBS and the SF Chronicle, has been betraying a rather stunning lack of policy knowledge recently, painting transit in the Bay Area as a boondoggle and wagging his finger at “bicycle lobbyists” for opposing a statewide mandatory helmet law.

Phil Matier. Photo: KCBS

In a KCBS radio segment this week, Matier did seem to understand the case against the mandatory helmet law proposed by State Senator Carol Liu:

[Bicycle lobbyists] feel that the requirement of helmets for adults would be another barrier to more people getting on bicycles and that it would be a disincentive. Safe or not, they seem to think it’s more important to get more people to ride their bikes.

The concept that Matier was apparently trying to convey is called “safety in numbers” — the well-documented phenomenon that biking is safer the more people are on bikes. As CA Bicycle Coalition has argued, helmet laws have been shown to only discourage bicycling, countering the safety in numbers effect. Focusing on helmets distracts from the implementation of changes that actually make streets safer and prevent crashes in the first place.

But then Matier went on to ignore that point and paint bike advocates as a constituency that just wants something for nothing:

San Francisco has already started to spend $3 million on bicycle awareness and will continue to do so for the next few years. This will include safety campaigns and improvements to bike lane infrastructure. The city has also called to increased citations to motorists by 50 percent in the next two years in an effort to cut down on injuries.

But when you turn it around on the bicycle groups, they don’t want to adhere to things like mandatory helmet wearing or even chipping in money on the new bike lanes. This is making state lawmakers and politicians wonder if this is a one-way street.

There’s a lot to unpack here. For one thing, the SFMTA has barely increased its bike spending in recent years, and $3 million remains only about 2 percent of the agency’s total budget.

Matier is also dead wrong when he claims that people who bike don’t “chip in on new bike lanes.” The vast majority of funding for local street infrastructure, including bike lanes, comes from general taxes paid by everyone. People who bike instead of drive also impose much less in the way of maintenance costs on the street system.

Read more…

15 Comments

Daly City Votes to Continue Subsidizing Residential Parking Permits

Willits Street two blocks south of the Daly City BART Station. Only residents are allowed to park vehicles in the street on weekday mornings, and each residence may receive up to three free permits. Photo: Google Maps

Daly City’s City Council shot down a proposal last month to charge $40 a year for residential parking permits near the city’s BART station. The permits, which give resident car owners privileged access to on-street parking, are currently free.

The proposed fee, which amounts to 11 cents per day, elicited raucous opposition from public commenters at the council meeting. The fee would have applied only to a household’s third and fourth parking permits, leaving the first two permits free. The maximum number of permits each household could receive would be capped at four vehicles, up from the current three.

“The proposed fee would encourage driveway and off-street parking; reduce traffic congestion; create a safer pedestrian environment in the affected neighborhoods; recover the costs for processing parking permits and a small portion of the cost for parking permits enforcement,” wrote Daly City Director of Finance and Administrative Services Lawrence Chiu.

The argument to stop subsidizing parking quite so much didn’t get very far. City Council Member Judith Christensen called the proposal “outrageous.”

“That would be 1,039 people who will be paying $40 for something that for 20 years was free,” she noted, pointing to the city’s data on how many households are now parking a third or fourth vehicle in the street.

“I’m absolutely opposed to the raising of parking permit fees… we should disapprove any fee whatsoever,” said Council Member David Canepa.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

A Protected Bike Lane Network Springs Fully Formed from Advocates’ Brains

The City of Halifax didn’t have a plan for a connected protected bike lane network, so advocates made one themselves. All images: Halifax Cycling Coalition

pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

For supporters of cycling both inside and outside government, the playbook has become familiar.

Lobby city planners to make a bike network plan. Get it funded. Make it as forward-thinking and ambitious as possible. Once you’ve drawn a bunch of lines on the city’s official map, select the most important projects and start to fight political battles street by street, compromising every step of the way with those who argue that biking facilities don’t need to be that common or that comfortable or that direct — forcing elected officials to weigh the needs for this parking lane or that turn lane one block at a time.

It’s a time-tested strategy, and it can certainly get results. But this winter in Halifax, a handful of volunteer biking advocates decided to try turning the process upside down.

Working on their own time over two long evenings with a clipboard and a survey wheel, Ben Wedge and Matthew Eronoa mapped an entire 23-mile protected bike lane network themselves from the street up.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net No Comments

America’s Heartless Transportation System at Work

Fedora Henderson, 31, was struck from behind and killed by a snow plow driver earlier this week in Richmond, Virginia. Henderson was commuting to her job at a Target, and bicycling along wide, dangerous roads was “the only way she could get to work” because she didn’t own a car, a co-worker told the local CBS affiliate.

A 31-year-old woman was killed by a snow plow driver while riding her bike in this area this week. Image: Google Maps

Network blog The Wash Cycle notes that, naturally, the state has pretty much abdicated any fault at this point, blaming Henderson’s death on the weather. That’s how society at large can rest assured that nothing needs to change:

So the driver hit her from behind. Sure, I suppose it’s weather related, but a snowplow operator — of all people — should know how to drive in the snow without running a cyclist down from behind. Was it even snowing in the Richmond area this morning?

She was wearing dark clothing, but that’s not illegal. She was riding without a helmet, which is also not illegal. She had a rear reflector, which is the minimum required, though a light is certainly better. She did not seem to have a headlight, which is required, but that wasn’t really the issue here. If meeting the legal standard isn’t deemed adequate to remove fault, then we should raise the standard. I’m concerned this is being brushed away as “just an unavoidable accident” which is unfortunate since the cyclist didn’t break the law (unless you count the lack of a headlight) but the driver did, by not driving at an appropriate speed and by hitting another vehicle from behind.

If we give people only terrible options, like biking in the snow on an unlit street before sunrise, bad things are going to happen. But at least the driver was wearing a seat belt, he could’ve been hurt.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington says installing freeway-style signs over regular streets sends the wrong message to drivers. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance explains two bills in the Oregon statehouse to mandate bike licenses. And Cap’n Transit asks whether better marketing is really needed for crowded bus routes that could use higher quality of service.

3 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Leah Shahum Officially Stepped Down as SF Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director This Week (Weekly)
  • Mayor’s Vision Zero Press Conference Held During VZ Task Force Meeting, Far From Transit (Weekly)
  • SFMTA Wants Residents to Weigh in on Transit Upgrades Along Mission Street (Mission Local)
  • Muni Dash Cameras Capture Dangerous Behaviors; Crashes Cut in Half in First Year (CBS)
  • Upper Market to See Road Re-Paving, Sewer Replacement Work Through July (Hoodline)
  • Inner Richmond to Get New “City and County Bicycle” Shop at Clement and 3rd Avenue (Richmond)
  • Two SF App Services Send Valets to Park Drivers’ Cars for Them (ABC)
  • DeSoto Cab Changes Name to “Flywheel Taxi” (ExaminerKTVU); Uber Drivers Can Rate Riders (CBS)
  • BART Plans to Test New Cars With Bike Racks on Only One End; Bike East Bay Calls for Both (CBS)
  • Concord Driver Kills Christopher Gonzalez, 14, in Crosswalk (SFGate)
  • CA Assemblymember’s Bill Could Make an Agency Responsible for Reducing Car Traffic on 101 (GC)
  • 75 Percent of CA’s “Clean Car” Carpool Lane Decal Holders Earn Over $100,000 (SF Chronicle)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

5 Comments

Market Street Has More Bike Traffic Than You Thought

This post supported by

An unprecedented jump last month (on the right) reported by the Market Street bike counter appears to be explained by an improvement in the counter’s accuracy. Image: SFMTA/Eco Counter

The Market Street bicycle counter has been undercounting two-wheeled traffic — and not because of a computer glitch. Starting last month, the counter reported a huge jump in bike commuters. How come? All indications point to a recent tweak to the bike lane that guides more riders over the counter’s underground sensor.

On several days this year, the counter has tallied nearly 4,500 people cycling eastbound on Market at Ninth Street. On most weekdays, at least 3,700 riders have been counted. That’s about 1,000 more riders, on average, than were counted each day last January.

Last month may have been California’s driest January on record, but weather doesn’t explain the jump. Even in the warmest months last year, ridership typically ranged from 2,700 to 3,200. Prior to 2015, the record was 4,045, set on August 7 last year.

So what changed in the first week of January? The SFMTA installed plastic posts along the bike lane’s edge that guide bike riders to stay in the bike lane and roll over the bike sensor. Previously, many bike commuters passing by the counter rode outside the bike lane, instead using the adjacent traffic lane since it was closed to cars in 2009.

SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said that based on the agency’s manual bike counts, the bike counter remains about 95 percent accurate, the same rate as before. It’s “plausible” the posts explain the recent jump in the bike count, he said. No other likely explanation has been put forth, though the SFMTA has yet to verify with the counter’s manufacturer that it does not need to be recalibrated.

Getting a better read on Market Street bike traffic is one more way the SFMTA is improving the understanding of how San Franciscans’ travel habits are changing. Earlier this month, the agency reported its new survey methodology has revealed that most trips in the city are made without a private automobile.

Hat tip to Joe Chojnacki for pointing out the data jump.

Today’s count as of about 6 p.m. Photo: Aaron Bialick

9 Comments

New Bike Lanes in Sunnyvale Could Be Just the Beginning for El Camino Real

camino_bike_lane

The first bike lanes installed on El Camino Real, in Sunnyvale, are six feet wide and run unprotected next to 14-foot wide traffic lanes. Photo: Andrew Boone

To build a bike network, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and on El Camino Real, it started in Sunnyvale last month. The first bike lanes on El Camino Real are six feet wide, striped along the curb with no protection from traffic, running half a mile from Sunnyvale Avenue to Fair Oaks Avenue/Remington Drive, near the city’s downtown.

While it may not be all-ages bike infrastructure, the new bike lanes still set an important precedent for the 43-mile-long street-level highway connecting San Francisco and San Jose. James Manitakos, former chair of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, has called the project “a good first step.”

Now several other towns on the Peninsula are considering safer, better bike infrastructure — including protected lanes — for key segments of El Camino.

Sunnyvale chose to replace car parking with bike lanes on this section of El Camino Real only after commissioning a study [PDF] to ensure that the parking was barely used, so as to not inconvenience drivers. This despite the city’s 2008 Policy for Allocation of Street Space [PDF], which states that “safe accommodation for all transport modes takes priority over non-transport uses,” and that parking “shall not be considered a transport use.”

According to the city’s study, only one of the roughly 134 parking spaces on El Camino’s curbs were used at peak hours on average, and city staff counted 3,337 spaces in the seven parking lots along the street.

Other sections of El Camino Real along the Peninsula could get bike lanes soon, though cities approve them on a piecemeal basis. Mountain View, to the north, approved six-foot wide buffered bike lanes on its 1.2-mile stretch from Calderon/Phyllis Avenue to the border with Sunnyvale at Knickerbocker Drive. That project was approved with the adoption of Mountain View’s El Camino Real Precise Plan in November.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

4 Things to Know as Transportation Bill Negotiations Heat Up

Lawmakers in Washington are just beginning their latest attempt to craft the first long-term transportation bill in roughly a decade. The current bill expires in just a few months, on May 31, but in Congress that’s an eternity. While it’s a long way from go time, the contours of the debate is starting to become apparent.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (center, in white) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (right, in the red tie) held a Twitter town hall last week to promote a long-term transportation funding plan. Photo: Bill Shuster via Twitter

Here’s how things are shaping up.

The White House Transportation Proposal and Anthony Foxx’s “Grow America Tour”

The Obama Administration has unveiled the broad strokes of a six-year transportation proposal, the “Grow America” plan, that would dramatically increase federal funding for transit and include key incentives to reform how state DOTs spend their billions.

Transportation Secretary Anthony set out on a four-day tour of some Southern states yesterday to promote the Grow America plan. Foxx has been enlisting local leaders to help build a push for reauthorization.

The Fight Over Transit Funding

Pushing in the opposite direction, bolstered by Koch brothers money, is the Tea Party wing of the GOP, which wants to end federal funding for anything that’s not highways.

Last week, a group of rural Republicans raised the prospect of eliminating the portion of the Highway Trust Fund that supports transit. Since Ronald Reagan signed the policy into the law in 1983, 20 percent of federal gas tax revenue has gone toward the nation’s rail and bus systems.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Talking Headways: Mapping Out Local Transportation Advocacy and Reform

Mariia Zimmerman of MZ Strategies joins me to chat about her new report on local advocacy for transportation reform called Transportation Transformation. Mariia, former deputy director for the Office of Sustainable Communities at HUD as well as former chief of staff to Congressman Earl Blumenauer, spent a year probing the local transportation advocacy landscape to see what issues people are working on and which regions are the most innovative. Her in-depth case studies look at the San Francisco Bay Area and the Washington DC region.

I asked Mariia about which important issues advocates are focused on, the role of peer exchanges in the advocacy landscape, and how local bloggers fit in. We also discussed what the term “capacity building” actually means.

So take a listen and learn what an inside/outside strategy for policy reform is, why advocates focus less at the state level, and advocacy in the SF Bay Area differs from the DC region.

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Portland Sued Over Faded Crosswalk Where Driver Killed Two People

The family of a young woman who was killed trying to cross a Portland road is suing the city for not properly maintaining the crosswalk where she was struck by a driver.

Lindsay Leonard, shown here at high school prom, was killed trying to cross the street in Portland. Photo via Oregonian

Lindsay Leonard and her roommate Jessica Finlay, both 23, were both killed when they were struck by Tito Feliciano while trying to cross S.E. Foster Road on a November evening in 2009. Though the victims were carrying a flashlight and records showed Feliciano, a manager for a grocery store chain, used his phone several times while driving that night, a civil jury found Leonard 51 percent at fault. But her parents aren’t giving up.

Aimee Green at the Oregonian reports they recently won an appeal that will allow them to sue the city of Portland because the crosswalk where she was killed was faded:

Leonard’s family had contended that it was more difficult to see Leonard — and her roommate, Jessica Finlay, 23, who died weeks later from her injuries — because the women blended into the dark gray asphalt of the road. Leonard’s family contended that if the crosswalk had been maintained, white paint would have provided a contrasting backdrop for the women — who were wearing dark coats and carrying a flashlight.

Leonard’s father, Lane Leonard, appealed the judge’s ruling to dismiss the city as a defendant. Last week, the appeals court agreed with him — finding that a reasonable juror could find that the city contributed to the crash by allowing its crosswalk to fall into disrepair.

Because Lindsay Leonard’s estate will now get a chance to pursue damages against the city, a new trial will be set. As a result, her family again will be allowed to ask a new jury to consider awarding damages against Feliciano and Moran Foods, which operated Save-A-Lot food stores.

By the way, check out the area where Leonard and Finlay were killed. This is the kind of urban design that invites pedestrian fatalities. Could lawsuits like this one at minimum force cities to be more diligent about maintaining pedestrian crossings?

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment reports the state of Wisconsin is rightfully moving on from the idea of a double-decker freeway for Milwaukee, but its preferred alternative is still awfully pricey and destructive. Streets.mn‘s before and after photos show an increasingly urbanized Minneapolis. And Cyclelicious explains that a bill introduced in Hawaii would exempt cyclists from receiving personal injury protection if they are hit by a motorist.