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Posts from the "SF Streetsblog" Category

Streetsblog SF 26 Comments

Eyes on the Street: SF Polk Contra-Flow Bike Lane Nearly Ready to Ride

Here’s a little change of pace from the bad news this week. The Polk Street contra-flow protected bike lane, connecting Market Street northbound to Grove Street and City Hall, appears almost ready to go. A Department of Public Works spokesperson said the agency is shooting for a tentative opening date of May 2 or 5 and plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Officials at the SFMTA and DPW seem proud of the project — and rightly so. Photos of the bikeway and median planted with native succulents were tweeted by DPW Director Mohammed Nuru and Tim Papandreou, the SFMTA’s director of strategic planning and policy. DPW surprisingly jumpstarted construction on the bike lane in late January after years of delay, promising completion by Bike to Work Day on May 8.

The project also comes with a couple of bonuses. DPW is installing bulb-outs at the wide intersection of Grove and Polk, and completed one at the northwest corner last week. The pedestrian island and “bike chute” on the north side of Market at Polk were also reconfigured for more practical maneuvering for southbound bike riders. See photos after the break.

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Streetsblog SF 23 Comments

Chevy: What Better Way to Explore the Divisadero “Microhood” Than by Car?

The marketers at Chevy totally have this urban millennial thing nailed down. The car manufacturer sponsored this promotional video for a Divisadero Microhood Art Walk held last week, along with the website The Bold Italic.

In this virtual tour of the microhood, local business owner Erin Fong gets into one of Chevy’s electric Volts, driving an entire five blocks from the east side of Alamo Square to Divisadero. The drive is shown in a time lapse from the windshield. (Not shown: the hunt for a parking space.)

If the video leaves you puzzled and thinking, “That makes no sense whatsoever,” you’re not alone. Watching a video about driving is the complete antithesis of actually getting immersed in a microhood, an activity for which walking might be the best mode of transport. Perhaps that’s why the event is called an art walk.

Apparently, this campaign to market cars to urban millennials is no isolated incident. It’s part of General Motors’ Drive the District campaign, targeting major cities around the country, including Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, Portland, and Washington, D.C.. It’s certainly no coincidence that these cities are both seeing an influx of young people, and also making it easier to get around without a car.

Perhaps Chevy doesn’t know how out of touch they appear, trying to sell cars to young folks in one of America’s most walkable neighborhoods. As this generation loses interest in owning and driving cars, auto industry advertising only seems to become more clueless.

Streetsblog SF 6 Comments

The Case for Evening Parking Meters, Graphed

In many neighborhoods, blocks are more likely to be full of parked cars — and cruising for an open space spikes — after meters shut off at 6 p.m. (1800).

Every day at 6 p.m., San Francisco’s parking meters shut down. But in many neighborhoods, motorists continue to seek parking, and without the turnover brought by meters, the streets become clogged with drivers circling around for a spot.

The big mismatch between meter hours and actual demand for curbside parking spaces in SF was demonstrated in a new study of SFpark [PDF], which found that the program has cut cruising times for parking by 50 percent in the areas where it’s in place. The study, featured yesterday in Next City and The Atlantic Cities, was conducted by researchers at UC Santa Cruz, Carnegie Mellon University, and Nelson/Nygaard, who used data on parking occupancy from the SFMTA to model the effect of SFpark on driver behavior.

The study re-affirms the findings of a report published in the Journal of the American Planning Association last May [PDF], which showed that pricing parking according to demand is effective in reducing cruising. But as Donald Shoup, parking guru and one of the authors of last year’s study, told Streetsblog in August, the successful SFpark program goes to waste after 6 p.m. due to SF’s outdated meter hours, which were crafted in the mid-20th century when fewer businesses were open past that time.

“I hope San Francisco will ask, ‘Why is the right price at 7 p.m. on Union Square $0?,” Shoup said. “We have the equipment, all the software, and we just put it to sleep at 6 p.m.”

As the graph above shows, the biggest spike in evening cruising is in the Inner Richmond, a non-SFpark neighborhood studied as a control sample. Cruising there peaks at about 8 p.m. In every area except downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf, the daily peak in traffic caused by was after 6 p.m..

If Mayor Ed Lee wanted, he could nudge the SFMTA to simply extend meter hours to cut traffic on the streets in the evening. But rather than fixing SF’s traffic problems, Lee has been more inclined to use his influence to move the city in the opposite direction by undoing Sunday parking meters.

Streetsblog SF 23 Comments

Watch: “People Behaving Badly” Consults Streetsblog SF on Bike Lane Safety

Stanley Roberts asked me to come out yesterday for one of his “People Behaving Badly” segments and help explain how drivers should legally make a right-turn, since CBS 5 didn’t get it quite right. Roberts still didn’t touch on the point that CBS got wrong — drivers can’t just jump in front of people on bikes because they got to the intersection first — but it’s good to see him devote attention to the issue.

Hopefully, I’ll have fewer jitters the next time I’m in front of a camera.

Streetsblog SF 11 Comments

New California Transit Map Simplifies Car-Free Travel Across the State

See a larger version on the CA Rail Map website.

Finding a highway map for a road trip is easy, but comprehensive transit maps for car-free travel in California have always been a little harder to come by.

Not to worry: Alfred Twu and his team of cartographers have created a map of transit throughout the state. The new map features “both intracity and regional rail lines as well as connecting buses, proving once and for all that it’s possible to get to almost anywhere in the state on public transit,” says Twu.

The map ties together networks for Amtrak, BART, Muni, VTA, Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express, Sacramento Regional Transit, San Diego North County Transit District (NCTD), San Diego Trolley, LA Metro, and Metrolink, as well as key bus and ferry connections.

Of course, travelers can use apps like Google Maps to plan a transit trip automatically, but this map provides a nifty overview of the possibilities for transit trips that are available.

For those looking to reach camping and hiking destinations in Northern California without a car, another great resource is Post-Car Adventuring, a handbook which includes specific guidance on how to reach Big Sur, Mt. Diablo, Lake Tahoe, Tassajara, Yosemite, and Napa using only transit, bikes, and your own two feet.

Streetsblog SF 27 Comments

Berkeley Passes Bike Anti-Harassment Law

Last week, Berkeley became the second American city to implement an anti-harassment law to protect bicycle riders and allow victims to sue offenders in civil court.

The ordinance, which provides greater legal recourse for bicyclists who are harassed by drivers, will be followed by an educational campaign later this year, and proponents hope it will garner greater respect towards people cycling on the city’s streets.

“This ordinance is about educating motorists about how to be responsible users of the roadway,” said Dave Campbell, program director for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). ”We have roadways that have not been designed for safe bicycle usage by planners and engineers. That in and of itself encourages bicyclists to disobey the rules of the road, because the rules were never written for them, and when motorists start treating cyclists as second-class citizens, that even further encourages [that behavior]. This is about changing that.”

Los Angeles was the first city in the country to adopt a bicyclist anti-harassment law last July, after which L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti proclaimed: “If L.A. can do it, every city in the country can do it.” Read more…

Streetsblog SF 32 Comments

State Assembly Undermines Bill to Let California Cities Build Safer Bikeways

On Monday, the State Assembly Transportation Committee passed a watered down version of AB 819, the bill aimed at freeing California planners to install next-generation bikeway designs that other American cities are using to improve street safety and make cycling a more accessible mode of transportation.

CA legislators have removed language from AB 819 that would have facilitated the implementation of bikeways like this one in Chicago. Photo: CDOT via The Bicycle Blog of Wisconsin

Assembly members undermined the bill’s original intent by removing language allowing planners to use guidelines that have been established outside Caltrans, like the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, which includes designs for protected bikeways. Instead, the amended bill would only require Caltrans to create an experimentation process through which engineers can establish bikeway standards. That process is likely to be a lengthy one.

Advocates say the amended bill could be an improvement over the status quo, but it’s a far cry from giving local transportation agencies the freedom to implement bikeway designs that cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. have rolled out with impressive results.

“The committee’s amendment is a step toward our goal of permitting the kind of bike infrastructure that we need,” said California Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Jim Brown. “How big a step this will be depends on the kind of experimentation process Caltrans comes up with. But it’s not the blanket authorization we’re seeking for local agencies to design the safest possible bikeways.”

Local transportation officials can still implement protected bikeways, but the process is much more complex than it needs to be. Without a set of approved standards to work from, agencies are subject to greater liability, and each project must contend with the red tape of Caltrans approval — a time-consuming and expensive process.

Brown said the AB 819 amendment was passed without deliberation but still requires approval by other committees as well as the State Senate. It was introduced by the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, a group which distrusts the NACTO guide and has traditionally resisted protected bikeways despite their proven benefits in safety and increased ridership in California cities, other American cities, and abroad.

“Whether through legislation or other means,” said Brown, “we’re continuing to work with Caltrans to figure out how innovative bikeway designs already used in other parts of the U.S. and Europe can be implemented in California.”

Streetsblog SF 24 Comments

New Bill Could Free CA Planners to Use More Innovative Bikeway Designs

Physically protected bikeways have been implemented with great success in cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. But in California, where such facilities are still considered “experimental” by Caltrans, outdated state standards make it difficult for transportation planners to implement them.

New York City's Eighth Avenue protected bike lane. Photo: BicyclesOnly/Flickr

That could change under a state bill called AB 819, which would give California cities more flexibility to implement bikeway designs that are fast becoming the best practices in leading American cities.

“The goal of AB 819 is to free up communities to implement the kind of innovative facilities we’re seeing in use in other parts of the country and in Europe,” said Jim Brown, communications director for the California Bicycle Coalition.

Under current state law, facilities such as protected bike lanes, bike boxes, and bicycle traffic signals — which are not established within Caltrans guidelines — must go through an expensive and time-consuming approval process. Although some have been built in cities like San Francisco and Long Beach, they haven’t come easily.

“Cities can get permission to experiment through Caltrans, but it’s a really long decision process,” said Brown. Using “experimental” designs also leaves planners subject to greater legal liability. “It means that cities are less willing to install facilities that might actually increase bicycle ridership.”

AB 819 would allow planners to use guidelines that have already been developed outside the state, like the Urban Bikeway Design Guidereleased last spring by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and approved by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, to help them plan and fund those projects.

But the bill’s reach could be limited by an amendment proposed by the California Association of Bicycle Organizations (CABO), a smaller coalition which argues that using outside guidelines for bikeways could be problematic. Their alternative proposal, which will be considered at a State Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on Monday, would only allow new types of bike facilities to be established under an experimentation process within Caltrans.

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Detroit Rapper Breezee One’s “Bike Chase” is a Homage to the Bicycle

You can add this to our list of the world’s best music videos featuring bicycles. Rapper Breezee One’s “Bike Chase” is a homage to bicycles and “bike boyfriends.” It’s the first single release for Detroit’s “Diva-Licious-MC,” and perhaps the best bike video of the year?

H/T Clarence Eckerson.

Streetsblog SF No Comments

A Growing Living Streets Community Emerges in Redding, California

Enjoying car-free streets at Redding's first-ever Ciclovía-style event, Shasta Living Streets. Photo: Jeff Worthington

Redding, California, with a population of 90,000, is probably best known for its sunshine, breathtaking landscapes and conservative politics. Located 200 miles north of Sacramento in Shasta County, the lush region surrounded by the Trinity and Cascade mountains offers an abundance of recreation, including a growing number of paved multi-use trails that draw large crowds of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The seven-year-old Sundial Bridge, a 700-foot long steel marvel on the Sacramento River designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, has become Redding’s living room.

“It is where everyone hangs out in town, especially when the weather is nice. In a normal community, whatever normal is, you would see that sort of energy in a downtown square, or park, or even a downtown third place, but it happens to be out at the Sundial Bridge,” said Paul Shigley, the senior editor of the California Planning and Development Report (CP&DR), who lives six miles west of Redding near Whiskeytown Lake.

Downtown Redding does not draw a similar convergence of people enjoying public space because like many California cities it was designed for the automobile, and is not a particularly welcoming place for pedestrians and bicyclists. The city ranks 40th among 103 cities in California “for the number of pedestrian collisions by population,” according to a recent report [pdf]. Just last week, a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed by a driver while walking across a bridge that lacked a sidewalk.

“The town is set up to conduct motorists fast and to allow them to drive up to 50, 60 miles an hour right through the middle of town,” said Scott Mobley, a reporter for the Record Searchlight, the city’s daily newspaper.

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