Bad News Berkeley

Between 2005-2010 there were 819 cycling accidents in Berkeley making it the 4th most dangerous city for cyclists in the Bay Area.

The recent death of world-renown neuropsychologist, Shlomo Bentin, in a cycling accident near the UC Berkeley campus, has brought more attention to the dangers of cycling in downtown and southern Berkeley.

One of the reasons Berkeley may be an epicenter for cycling accidents is that it has one of the highest bike commuter rates in the nation,  about 8 percent of residents commute by bike. The city should be proud of the achievement, but at the same time city officials need to recognize that this constituency needs to be supported with safe and readily available infrastructure. Berkeley cyclists have been calling for reform and improvements for many years. The East Bay chapter of the Bicycle Coalition argues that road conditions and lack of safe bike lanes make the areas around the campus some of the most dangerous in the Bay Area for cyclists.



Confusion on the JFK Bikeway

Earlier this year the SF Municipal Transportation Agency revealed the new JFK separated bikeway. Since its unveiling there have been mixed reviews on the effectiveness of such a design. For those of you who have not ventured over to Golden Gate Park to see what the fuss is all about, the new separated bikeway looks like this:

The SFBC noticed that in the early stages of use there were three main problems with the design:

1. Cars parking in the bike lane

2. Cars parking in the buffer lane

3. Pedestrians exiting cars and crossing the bike lane without looking out for bikes

According to the SFBC these problems largely rectified themselves as riders and drivers became acclimated to the new design. They found that in general, cyclists felt safer using the lane because there was so much space between them and moving traffic.

Protected bike lanes are increasing in number throughout the United States and with Market Street improvements on the table and city planners always looking for new ways to integrate bikes onto city streets, it is important to have an open and productive conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of this type of protected bike lane.

In May the San Francisco Bay Guardian expressed a few of its concerns with such a design:

1. The increased potential for pedestrian and cyclist collisions

2. The lack of traffic enforcement leading to use of the buffer lane during peak hours, increasing the potential for collision between cars and between cars and cyclists.

It is clear that San Francisco needs better and safer bike lanes. However, the jury is still out on this particular type of protected bike lane. What can be improved with this type of project? How can we do it better next time?

Offer your feedback on the JFK bikeway by taking the SFMTA Survey and take part in the Market Street Improvement discussions.



Bike + BART = Better for Everyone

For the next five Fridays commuters will see bicycles on BART trains during rush hours. The change is courtesy of a pilot program BART is running as part of its new goal to double BART ridership among cyclists. The Draft 2012 BART Bicycle Plan has more on BART’s goals for the coming years.

Normally bikes are not allowed on BART trains during rush hours in the morning and the evening, so those people from the East Bay region who might combine public transportation and cycling in order to avoid the frustrating, expensive and environmentally degrading commute, are unable to do so.

The pilot program lifts the ban on August 3rd, August 10th, August 17th, August 24th and August 31st. The SFBC encourages riders to take advantage of the program and to help make a statement. This ban is good for BART and good for the community.

In order to make the program as great a success as possible, SFBC encourages riders to remember a few key rules:

1. Bikes are still not allowed in the first car

2. Bikes are not allowed in crowded/full cars

3. Bikes must give priority to elderly and disabled persons

4. Please be as courteous and polite as possible. The success of the program depends on you!

For those of you who are interested in ways to combine public transportation and cycling outside of the designated pilot program days, there are a couple of alternatives in the Bay Area:

1. CalTrans Bike Shuttle

2. AC Transit





Younger and Less Likely to Drive

Studies show that Young Americans are leaving their parents and grandparents in the dust… while riding bikes, taking public transportation and even walking. Less than 1/2 of eligible teens 19 or younger have driver’s licenses, down from approximately 2/3 ten years ago, annual vehicle miles driven by Americans ages 16 to 34 have dropped 23% from 2001 to 2009 and biking and walking as alternative forms of transportation have increased by 24% and 16%, respectively, among the same age group. In addition, in 2009 and 2010 — for the first time since World War II — American car ownership rates declined.

This trend can be attributed to many cultural and economic factors.  Perhaps, most obvious is that the country is in a major recession. Young people are having trouble finding jobs and paying rent. Few can afford to buy and maintain a car (approximately $9,000 per year with all payments, maintenance, parking and other fees). These young people are flocking to cities where they can find jobs and get around without the hassle and expense of a car. However, this is only a contributing factor. The shift from cars to other means of transportation, especially cycling, is most stark among wealthier Americans and those least affected by the recession, so it seems unlikely that if/when the economy turns around the younger generation will begin buying cars en masse.

What could be causing the cultural shift away from driving? One explanation is the steadily rising price of gas. Generation Y is driving at a time of $4/$5 gallons of gas. They can barely remember the $1 prices of their childhood, or the $.10 gallons of their parents youth. High gas prices are the norm and it doesn’t look like that will change soon. So, with high gas prices here to stay, younger generations will inevitably be driving less and less.

Some people, like Jeremy Bowman at Daily Finance, also give credit for the shifting trend to social media. Taking public transportation is becoming more and more convenient and accessible, especially since mobile apps tell you when the next bus is coming, help you find the best route and provide ample entertaiment during the ride. Smartphones allow buses and trains to become mobile offices and entertainment stations. In an ever-more work-obssessed culture, that extra 30min to answer emails while riding the bus, instead of being stuck behind the wheel in bumper-to-bumper traffic, is the preferable option.

The role of the environment is also playing a role. Generation Y has grown up with bigger and more frequent natural disasters than any generation before them. The affects of global warming are literally happening in front of their eyes. The increasing evidence that fossil fuels and carbon emissions have a negative effect on the environment and the role of cars in this cycle has had an affect on consumer choices.

The ‘obesity problem’ in the U.S. may also have an affect. Americans are perceived by the rest of the world to be overweight (see also, In Bruges and Paris, je t’aime, to list a few), and studies have shown that this perception has adequate basis. Young Americans are trying to climb out from under this legacy and one way could be through lessening automobile dependence.

Portland is one of the cities where the decline in car ownership is most drastic.Giving up a car in Portland is feasible because of its high population density, the convenient location of services and stores, and its extensive public transportation network, car sharing services and bike paths.

Living car free is not so easy elsewhere, even in San Francisco and the East Bay, but especially in the mid-West and in smaller towns and cities where a car is absolutely necessary to get to the food market. A car-free lifestyle won’t be possible in many areas until city planner’s objectives drastically change. Hopefully this alternative-transportation-minded younger generation will make it happen.



Sharing is Caring

Anaheim launched California’s first bike-sharing program on Saturday joining Denver, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami, Boulder, Madison, New York City and Portland as one of the major U.S. cities to implement the program. Bike-sharing is a very simple concept. Cities and/or private companies provide kiosks with bikes that can be “checked out” with a credit or membership card. The membership card costs a relatively small amount (in Anaheim it’s $75.00 for a year).  The goal is to promote short trips by commuters  so the first 30 or 60 minutes is usually free. The bike can be “returned” to any kiosk in town.

There are many advantages to implementing bike sharing programs in major cities. Bicycle-sharing overcomes common riding deterrents like theft and difficulty finding secure storage.  In addition, bicycle-sharing programs promote investment in bicycle infrastructure,  it creates construction and maintenance jobs, it provides low-cost alternative transportation between transit points and major destinations, it provides cycling opportunities for people who don’t usually cycle, and it can be a publicity boon for cities.

Anaheim’s pilot program will consist of 100 bikes at 10 kiosks near metro stations and major commuter centers. Depending on how the program performs it may be extended to other California cities including San Francisco and the Bay Area.

A bike-sharing program in San Francisco could be a perfect fit in many areas of the city. Bike kiosks around the new 1.5 miles of separated bikeway in Golden Gate Park could be useful to both commuters and tourists. Bike kiosks in the Castro district, along Market Street and Pier 39 (especially if biking infrastructure is improved during the Market Street improvement project) and even along the Treasure Island route when it is complete, could all improve the transportation situation in San Francisco.

Over the next year, cycling advocates will be keeping a close eye on the situation in Anaheim as it could have major repercussions for the rest of California. In the meantime San Franciscans should begin to consider what a bike-sharing program could do for the city.

Here are some additional bike-sharing stats from Bikes Belong:





The Power of 3

Earlier this month, East Bay Attorney Bill Dullea of GJEL Accident Attorneys testified before the Assembly Transportation Committee in support of Senate Bill 1464. Senate Bill 1464, commonly known as the 3-Foot Passing Bill, clarifies the current, vague law requiring cars to give cyclists a ‘safe distance’ when passing. In his testimony Dullea argued that the ‘safe distance’ law unnecessarily endangers cyclists because not all drivers judge ‘a safe distance’ in the same way. Since 40% of cycling collisions occur when a cyclist is hit from behind by a vehicle, this proposed legislation is poised to make a large impact in the cycling community.

Dullea argued that the 3-Foot Passing Law would help make cyclists feel safer when they are  sharing the road with automobiles and would therefore encourage more cyclists. Ideally, this law would lead to safer streets for everyone. Like Rahman Law, GJEL represents many cyclists in their line of work. Dullea testified that in his experience it s clear that drivers don’t know how to judge a ‘safe distance’ mostly because most California drivers do not have to deal with cyclists very often in their day -to-day driving. This has obviously been changing in the last few years, especially in San Francisco and the Bay Area. A statistic that often creeps into these conversations and which is extremeley illuminating, is that in San Francisco in the last 5 years, cycling ridership has increased more than 70%.

With interactions between cyclists and vehicles constantly increasing it is important for drivers to know how they can best avoid collisions. The 3-Foot Passing Bill is designed to do just that. The California Bicycle Coalition and cycling advocates like Rahman Law and GJEL Accident Attorneys support SB 1464 because it protects cyclists and drivers and generally makes the roads, which we all share, a safer place.

The bill is currently waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

For more information on how you can become involved in the California Bicycle Coalition’s Safe Passing Campaign visit their website at




A google search of the term ‘scofflaw’ reveals an urban dictionary definition of “one who habitually flouts or violates the law, esp one who fails to pay debts or answer summonses”. Understanding this term is an important first step in understanding the debate raging about ‘the growing problem’ of scofflaw cyclists in San Francisco.

The SFBC’s report, What About Scofflaw?  also provides some valuable insight and context into the debate. As the numbers of cyclists have grown in San Francisco, 71% in the last five years, conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers have naturally increased. Indeed, recent stories involving careless and negligent cyclists have inflamed an already sensitive issue.

San Francisco has an oftentimes harrowing mix of pedestrian, cycling and automobile lanes. Negotiating the changes from street to street, the sharrows and the lack of marked lanes, can cause frustration and unease for even the most experienced cyclists and drivers. The fact is that in San Francisco, and indeed in any major urban center, there will be pedestrians, cyclists and drivers who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, break traffic laws. Unfortunately for the cycling community these few ‘scofflaw cyclists’ can have an extremely detrimental effect on the cycling community as a whole because public opinion is so split on the cycling issue in general. One rude or unsafe cyclist can mess things up for everyone else. The situation might not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

The best defense against the argument that there is a ‘growing problem’ with scofflaw cyclists in San Francisco, is to simply be aware of the rules of the road and to be polite and safe at all times. This is true for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers as well.

We have to share the roads. Please, let’s be safe and courteous while doing so.

The SFBC hosts regular Urban Bicycling Workshops as part of its drive to educate cyclists about the rules of the road.


Market Street Improvements

Market Street is at the heart of San Francisco’s history, tourism industry and daily transportation system. As a city hub, it is a meeting point for many different modes of transportation. Cyclists, Pedestrians and Drivers all share one heavily trafficked area. It may come as no surprise to many people who frequent the Market Street area that cycling is becoming an ever more dominant mode of transportation.  In fact, Better Market Street claims that at various time of the day bicycles outnumber vehicles.

As cyclists who frequent Market Street know, there are a number of areas where a collision between cyclists and autos or cyclists and pedestrians is intensified by poor urban design. One of the goals of the Better Market Street Project is to optimize the safety and efficiency of the traffic on Market Stteet. This is an area of San Francisco that needs improvement and the opportunity to create that change is here.

Better Market Street is currently in Phase 1. This phase includes the opportunity for public input. Join the San Francisco Bike Coalition at one of two community meetings to discuss potential improvements to the Market Street area.

Community Meeting | Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM | SFMTA (1 South Van Ness, 2nd Floor Atrium

Community Meeting | Saturday, July 21, 2012, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM | SFMTA (1 South Van Ness, 2nd Floor Atrium)

Urban Bicycling Workshop: Intro to Safe Biking 6/25/12

If you missed the last workshop, don’t worry! There is another workshop on Monday June 25th!

Urban Bicycling Workshop: Intro to Safe Biking

PUBLIC Bikes (123 South Park Street)

The SF Bicycle Coalition will be hosting a one-hour workshop on safe bicycling for everyone. Learn about types of bikes, the rules of the road, and how to manage everyday riding while performing tasks including grocery shopping. All skill levels welcome and no bike necessary.


Urban Bicycling Workshop: Intro to Safe Biking TONIGHT!

Urban Bicycling Workshop: Intro to Safe Biking TONIGHT!

Richmond Rec Center (251 18th Ave.)

The SF Bicycle Coalition will be hosting a one-hour workshop on safe bicycling for everyone. Learn about types of bikes, the rules of the road, and how to manage everyday riding while performing tasks including grocery shopping. All skill levels welcome and no bike necessary.