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Oakland’s Pedalfest: Celebrating All Things Bicycle

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On Saturday, Bike East Bay’s annual Pedalfest at Jack London Square in Oakland brought out bicyclists of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors to celebrate what makes bikes wonderful. Below are some the day’s highlights. All photos by Melanie Curry.

Rock the Bike offered live music, powered by audience members on stationary bikes.

Rock the Bike offered live music, powered by audience members pedaling stationary bikes.

The ping pong bike brought games to anyone who wanted to play.

The PingPong Bike brought games to anyone who wanted to play.

Testing out the handmade cycle contraptions. She wants to be the driver.

Testing out the handmade cycle contraptions.

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Streetsblog Talks with Supervisor Jane Kim, Part II

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D11 Supervisor Jane Kim at her desk in City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim at her desk in City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Two weeks ago, Streetsblog did a Q&A with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. Kim was on a trip to New York and arranged to do the interview by phone. Unfortunately, the connection was intermittent, there was some miscommunication, and the interview had to be cut short. A few days later, Kim asked Streetsblog if we could continue the conversation. Fair enough. (Since Kim is in a tight race for the California State Senate seat for District 11 with Supervisor Scott Wiener, Streetsblog will do another interview with him as well).

In this follow up, Streetsblog talked with Kim about the State Senate, the search for a new police chief, Transbay and more topics of importance to livable streets advocates. But first on her mind was Tuesday night’s marathon budget negotiations, which didn’t turn out entirely as she would have liked.

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Streetsblog: So the Board was here past 10 pm–the budget passed and there will be a sales tax increase on the November ballot.

Jane Kim: I supported the point-five sales tax measure, because it’s a swap out of our existing sales tax.

SB: But not the .75 percent increase that passed?

JK: I wanted the city to look at alternative revenue. It [a sales tax] is ultimately a regressive tax. I don’t want to depend on that for essential city services,

SB: What else then?

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SPUR Talk: Gabe Klein on Technology and Past and Future Cities

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Transportation guru Gabe Klein presents to an audience at SPUR in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog.

Transportation guru Gabe Klein presents to an audience at SPUR in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog.

Gabe Klein, entrepreneur, writer and former head of transportation for Chicago and Washington DC, spoke yesterday afternoon at the Oakland office of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) about how technology can be guided to shape the future of our cities.

He put up a slide with a chilling number on it: 1.24 million–the number of people killed in car wrecks every year globally. That number will reach 3.6 million by 2030, as driving becomes more prevalent in the developing world. He wondered why people tolerate so much carnage. “We [the US] lost 35,000 people on the road last year–an increase of 10 percent because gas was cheap and people were driving more.”

Sadly, those alarming numbers don’t even account for deaths from automobile pollution or rising sea levels and other effects of global warming. “The transportation sector is spewing out more [greenhouse gas emissions] than everything else,” Klein said. Global warming “…is man made. We’re the only country with people who think it’s not real; convenient if you’re a Koch Brother, but not for the rest of us,” he quipped.
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Collecting Data to Push for Safer Biking on Valencia

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One of some 50 cars that blocked the bike lane on one side of Valencia between 16th and 17th at the peak hour Tuesday night. Photo: Streetsblog.

Altogether, some 50 cars took turns blocking the bike lane on the west side of Valencia between 16th and 17th at the peak hour Tuesday night. Photo: Streetsblog.

During yesterday evening’s rush hour, safe streets advocates, organized by Catherine Orland, District 9 representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee and longtime member and volunteer with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, started collecting hard data about how often the bike lanes on Valencia Street are blocked by motorists. Take a wild guess what they found: the bike lanes are a de facto loading-and-drop-off zone for cars.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Tenderloin Sunday Streets

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Nathan Woody of the San Francisco Yellow Bike Project pauses while working on this slick little two-wheeler during Sunday Streets in the Tenderloin. Check out those tassels! Photo: Streetsblog.

Sunday from 11 to 4 p.m. it was the Tenderloin’s turn to enjoy its streets free of car traffic. The route followed Fulton St. between Hyde and Larkin, Larkin to Ellis St., Ellis to Jones St., Jones to Golden Gate Ave., and Golden Gate back to Larkin St. The streets were filled with various activities and opportunities, including a “kid’s bike swap” with the San Francisco Yellow Bike Project, seen above, where families could bring their children’s bikes to have them repaired or, if necessary, replaced for free (or with a donation).

That wasn’t the only thing available for Tenderloin families. A petting zoo was set up in the new bike lane on Golden Gate. Note: that’s the only time anything should be parked in that bike lane.

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Usually it gets our goat when some turkey hogs the bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog.

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It’s a Go for Caltrain Electrification

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This Swiss electric train is close to what will one day run on Caltrain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

This morning, during its regular meeting in San Carlos, the nine-member Caltrain board voted unanimously to dedicate $1.25 billion towards electrifying Caltrain. If all goes according to plan, electric services will begin in 2020.

“The total program is $2 billion. That includes money for the advanced signal system, which we’re already installing today,” said Jayme Ackemann, spokeswoman for Caltrain. “But the $1.25 billion is the lion’s share for electrification.”

Included in the contract is an order for 96 rail vehicles, with an option to buy an additional 20. And “we are considering an additional purchase of more electric vehicles,” added Ackemann.

According to the Caltrain staff report issued during the meeting, the new electric multiple unit (EMU) trains will be built by Stadler, a Swiss company, and stringing the overhead wire and additional infrastructure for the electrification of the tracks will be done by the British firm Balfour Beatty.

The advocacy group Friends of Caltrain, explained it this way in a release sent out before the vote:

The Caltrain board will make a momentous decision to put money down for electric trains and electrification construction. The decisions are limited pending confirmation of major elements of funding from High-Speed Rail and the federal government later this year. Preliminary commitments of $41 million would start the train car purchase and $108 million would start the construction purchase.

But the Board is taking a bit of a risk awarding these contracts, as explained in the San Mateo Daily Journal:

The costly modernization project’s funding draws from a patchwork of local, regional, state and federal sources. However, not all of the money is in hand — its plans include relying on $713 million from high-speed rail and nearly $647 million in federal funds that have yet to be awarded.

But Caltrain officials expressed confidence things will line up in the near future after receiving support from federal transportation officials as well as the Obama administration. A local legislator also recently proposed a bill to unencumber high-speed rail funds to support projects such as Caltrain’s electrification.

The newspaper also reports that the contacts are limited in scope, in case things don’t pan out with the rest of the funding.

This video from Caltrain, meanwhile, explains the modernization and electrification plan the board approved:

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Streetsblog Talks with Supervisor Jane Kim

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Jane Kim during Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC

Jane Kim during Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC

Supervisor Jane Kim represents San Francisco’s District 6, which includes the Civic Center area, Mission Bay, South of Market, and the Tenderloin. Kim also sits on the SF County Transportation Authority’s Vision Zero Sub-Committee, where last week she took SFMTA to task for not moving fast enough to install safety measures that might have saved the lives of Kate Slattery and Amelie Le Moullac, two cyclists killed in her district on a route she cycles herself.

Streetsblog did a phone interview with Kim, who is currently traveling on the East Coast, to find out her hopes and vision for how San Francisco can make its streets safer and less dominated by automobiles.

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Streetsblog: You may have seen a photo circulating around—I saw it on the SF Bike Ride Crew’s Facebook page—of SFPD cracking down on cyclists on the Third Street bridge for riding on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, during the vigil for Kate Slattery, safe-streets advocate Randall Dietel tracked a car with a radar gun blowing through a red light at 65.  How do we get SFPD to focus precious resources on stopping deadly activities?

Jane Kim: We have been asking for more enforcement from SFPD and SFMTA but that’s just one way of changing behaviors. Speed was a factor in the case of the two recent fatalities. This is something the board has been asking for since 2014. I do see southern station [officers] a lot on Folsom, between Sixth and Seventh. I see them ticket cars in the mornings, but it’s not consistent throughout the day, and these [the speeders that killed Slattery and the one that sped past her vigil] occurred late at night. And that’s probably when the speeding is really occurring; we need to see this enforcement at night. Read more…

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Vigils for Heather and Kate

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Part of Wednesday night's vigil ride. Photo: Streetsblog.

Part of Wednesday night’s vigil ride. Photo: Streetsblog.

Wednesday evening, some 200 cyclists assembled around the William McKinley Monument in the Panhandle to begin a ride and vigil to remember Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, two cyclists killed in separate incidents one week ago. The ride was organized by the San Francisco Bike Party (SFBP).

Riders assembled at the end of the panhandle for the vigil ride. Photo: Streetsblog.

Riders assembled at the end of the panhandle for the vigil ride. Photo: Streetsblog.

One of the first to arrive was Paul Santagata, a Google employee who lives in the Mission. He sat on the base of the William McKinley Monument as cyclists came into the park. Santagata is the man who helped apprehend Farrukh Mushtaq, the suspect in the hit-and-run killing of Kate Slattery. “I was driving back from work at 8 p.m. on Howard and thought I was going over to the car of a victim of a hit and run…I dialed 911,” he explained. He saw a man near the wrecked car. “After my description, they [the police on the phone] described that he most likely was involved in a hit and run on a cyclist,” he said. The dispatcher on the phone asked him to try and keep the man there. “Me and a couple of other folks got him to sit down until the police came.” Santagata cycles daily and decided to come to the vigil to get a sense of closure.

Tom Rohlf and Paul Santagata were two of the first to arrive. Photo: Streetsblog.

Tom Rohlf and Paul Santagata were two of the first to arrive. Photo: Streetsblog.

Next to him sat Tom Rohlf, a friend of Slattery and also a regular cyclist. “I’m just remembering her,” he said. Devon Warner, who runs San Francisco’s Ride of Silence, was also there. The previous night she was at the Bicycle Advisory Committee, which she said was well-attended and contentious. “It was pretty emotional, with more public comment [than usual],” she said.

Rich Behrens of Lone Mountain said he was riding close to where Miller was killed. “I saw the car go by twice,” he said, describing the white Honda that killed Miller as going at an excessive speed and driving recklessly. “He was driving like it was a real-life video game.”

It was a real-life game that had horrific consequences. The driver of the Honda that hit Miller is still at large. A man handed out flyers, urging people to call 415-575-4444 or to Text a Tip to TIP411 and to “begin the text with SFPD” if they have any information on the driver who killed Miller at 6 p.m. on Wed., June 22., at JFK Drive at 30th.

Riders clustered around the ghost bike shrine for Heather Miller. Photo: Streetsblog.

Riders clustered around the ghost bike shrine for Heather Miller. Photo: Streetsblog.

The ride, which was not escorted by police, first went to JFK and 30th. It was slow going, since the large group had to split up and wait at several intersections. Throughout the ride, people remarked on how fast cars were going up and down JFK drive, which, as the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition pointed out in a release after the deaths, has no bike lanes in the western part of the park.

The ride was quiet and courteous, with cyclists helping each other leave openings for cars to slip through at the intersections. Several people lit candles, took pictures, and knelt at the white ghost bike for Miller.

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Outrage Over Bicycling Deaths is Not Enough

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Kate Slattery and Heather Miller died Wednesday while riding their bikes in San Francisco. Photo: San Francisco Bike Coalition.

Kate Slattery and Heather Miller died Wednesday while riding their bikes in San Francisco. Photo: San Francisco Bike Coalition.

The deaths of Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, two more people killed riding on San Francisco’s dangerous streets, has left the entire safe-streets community rattled and heart broken. Cycling advocates took San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and SFMTA head Ed Reiskin to task for a tone-deaf press conference held Thursday about the carnage. The mayor said he was “outraged” at the deaths. Reiskin said to the Examiner that “the best bike infrastructure in the world would not have prevented these collisions.”

There weren’t enough facepalms to go around.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mayor Lee said the city’s tireless work and the millions of dollars it has spent to make streets safer was undermined by the “incredibly irresponsible actions” of the drivers involved in the crashes.

Was Lee talking, perhaps, about the “millions” that went to build infrastructure (paint and plastic posts) such as this:

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San Francisco’s bicycle infrastructure is defeated by its own employees. Photo: Streetsblog.

By the way, that’s a city owned Prius blocking the bike lane on Market at 9th.

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Streetsblog Talks With SF Bicycle Coalition Incoming Director Brian Wiedenmeier

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BriansmilingEarlier this week, the SF Bike Coalition announced it is tapping its development director, Brian Wiedenmeier, as its new executive director. Wiedenmeier takes the reigns from Margaret McCarthy, who had served as the organization’s interim director during a search to replace Noah Budnick, who resigned last year.

Streetsblog sat down with Wiedenmeier to find out more about him and his goals for the organization.

Streetsblog: So why bike advocacy?

Brian Wiedenmeier: I associate cycling with joy and freedom, I began riding a bike as a child and as someone who grew up in a small town in the Midwest. It’s not cool after 16, so I bought a car to get to my job. But when I went to college at the University of Minnesota a car was not something I could afford, so I started biking again out of necessity. But then I realized what a freeing, amazing thing it was–this simple machine that let me experience the city in a new way.

SB: Tell us about cycling in Minnesota.

BW: Minneapolis is a great city that’s blessed with a network of fully separated bike paths that run through parks. And they have the midtown Greenway which is an old piece of rail infrastructure, a freight line that ran in a trench through the city. It’s been re-purposed exclusively for the use of bicycles and pedestrians. It’s a magic thing with bicycle on-ramps and off-ramps that get you cross town in no time flat.

SB: But you decided to move to San Francisco. How was that, cycling-wise? Read more…