The People Plan

In preparation for the 2013 America’s Cup yacht race taking place on our city’s waterfront, Mayor Ed Lee is working towards improving Embarcadero’s pedestrian, bike, and transit congestion.

The People Plan lays out the possible changes city officials can make. According to SF Streetsblog, these changes include:
  • Extending the F-line to Fort Mason
  • Implementing a bike share program with safe parking systems
  • New wayfinding signs on biking and walking routes
  • Prioritizing Bike Plan projects and adding more bike lanes

These changes can really make a big difference to the waterfront, not just for the event, but permanently. If there are any changes you want to see, this is the time to suggest them. And hopefully, after the tourists have all gone home, they’ll leave behind a more commuter-friendly Embarcadero.

Bike-Friendly Candidate for Mayor

On Monday, President of SF’s Board of Supervisors David Chiu announced his candidacy for mayor. Running on a platform of improving “sustainable transportation”, Chiu declared on the steps of City Hall: “We’re the city that invented the cable car, but while we call ourselves a Transit-First city, we are sick of gridlock, we are sick of potholes and we’re sick of Muni.”

Chiu is presenting himself as the “candidate for mayor who doesn’t own a car, who gets to City Hall either on the number 49 or on [his] bicycle” and as the candidate who firmly believes that “we can do better” when it comes to public transportation and protecting pedestrians and cyclists on the streets.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye for what he’s got planned!

A Rising Problem In Need of a Speedier Solution

The Bay Citizen recently reported on rising bike accidents and their leading causes and locations, using data reported to the SFPD within the last two years. With helpful infographics, the article provides statistics and viewpoints both bicyclists and drivers should be aware of.

Accident Hot Spots
For 2009-2010, these most dangerous neighborhoods averaged the following number of accidents:
The Mission: 96 accidents
South of Market: 85 accidents
Downtown: 68 accidents
Western Addition: 41 accidents
Financial District: 34 accidents
Inner Richmond: 27 accidents
Castro-Upper Market: 27 accidents
Haight-Ashbury: 22 accidents
Outer Mission: 16 accidents
North Beach: 15 accidents
Bernal Heights: 13 accidents
Lakeshore: 12 accidents
Bayview: 11 accidents
Outer Sunset: 11 accidents
…while the most dangerous streets and intersections were:
  1. Market and Octavia: 14 accidents
  2. Market and 5th: 14 accidents
  3. Market and New Montgomery: 8 accidents
  4. Geary and Polk: 8 accidents
  5. Powell and Masonic: 8 accidents
Reported accidents increased from 554 in 2009 to 593 in 2010.
One suggested explanation is that there is an ever-increasing number of riders. According to the SFMTA, the number of cyclists increased 70% (from the count in 2006) at the 5th and Market intersection, 75% at 17th and Valencia, and more than 100% at Fell and Scott.
However, between 2009-2010, the increase in cyclists was only 3% while the increase in accidents went up by 8%, showing that accidents are, in fact, climbing at a faster rate than ridership.
Assigning Fault

According to these graphs (created by The Bay Citizen) a shocking 50% of accidents are the fault of the cyclist, with cars in a close second at 40% of the time.

However, it is important to keep in mind that it’s the SFPD that “determines fault”, and that cyclists feel very strongly that the cops often favor the drivers. Take for example, Kate McCarthy’s story:

Kate McCarthy, 31, was biking up Mission Street in February 2009 when a recreational vehicle going the opposite direction made an illegal left turn right in front of her. She swerved, but still collided with the giant vehicle, crashing her bike and cutting her face. After a police officer showed up to take the report, he refused to cite the driver, even though there were several witnesses, according to McCarthy. The officer would not write up a police report assigning fault.

McCarthy filed a complaint with the city’s Office of Citizen Complaints. Three months later, the body ruled that the police department should have issued a report.

Measures for Safety and Prevention?
A situation like Ms. McCarthy’s is concerning for cyclists because it raises the question, “Who is protecting me from being run down on the streets?” If not the cops, then who?

In response to this important question, cyclists and organizations like the SF Bike Coalition have successfully lobbied for protection in street medians and more bike lanes. But these small successes have not been enough.

Take, for instance, the Market and Octavia streets:

While six accidents happened in 2009, eight occurred in 2010 — all of them taking place after the improvements were made. Almost every crash here is caused by cars making illegal right turns.

“The more things they try there, it doesn’t really help,” said Shaana Rahman, a lawyer who has represented two cyclists in Market/Octavia crashes. “I feel like the answer is to let the cars go right and move the bike lane to a mid-bike lane.”

It is clear from this data–which does not include unreported accidents–that the danger is very much real and very steadily building. So the only question that remains is: How much longer do we have to wait for the city to catch up with these dangers and provide reliable solutions?

Redesigning the Embarcadero Promenade

For many years, the pier has been the site of much public activity beyond shipping and unloading cargo. If you bike, walk, or jog regularly on the Embarcadero Promenade, you probably have a good sense of what it is like to try and navigate the chaos of tenets, tourists, sidewalk restaurants, and maritime businesses.
With so many different people fighting for space on the Promenade, the Port of San Francisco is trying to solve this problem by officially outlining and 3 specific zones of activity:
The Building Edge – “a space to transition between the building and the Promenade, where people enter and exit the building and where retail tenets can establish street-level identity.”

The Circulation Corridor – “the central space of the Promenade where people traverse the length of the wavefront.”

The Curb Area – “a transition zone between the roadway and the Promenade where street lights, roadway signs and pedestrian furnishings will be placed.”
For further details, the Port of S.F. has their Design Criteria up online for public review so you can know just exactly where to bike and walk safely.

Biking For the Real City Experience

In yesterday’s NYtimes, Seth Kugel gave his amusing and illuminating account of Los Angeles from the perspective of a cycling tourist.

Kugel made it his goal to visit a reasonably large stretch of LA county comprising of places like Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Downtown, and Pasadena on a budget of $100/day. Undeterred by lore on the impossibility of getting around LA without a car, Kugel made his ambitious week-long adventure depending only on public transportation and a rented hybrid Trek bike.
You can read his detailed saga in its entirety in “Frugal Los Angeles“. But to sum up the author’s verdict, biking is not only a possible means of sight-seeing, but ultimately gives you a more enriching and more authentic exposure to your vacation site. Even after a lot of sweat and not a lot of bike lanes (things that LA is known for), Seth Kugel came to this conclusion:
I had expected getting around Los Angeles by bike and public transportation to be a barely tolerable chore–a money-saving second-best way to see the city. Why, then, was I feeling so elated about my trip and smitten by a city I had never particularly liked before? […]

What I had really liked were the moments in between: the strangers who shared secrets on the buses, the dog walkers and Dutch tourists who stopped to chat with me along Rodeo Drive, the aspiring actor I struck up a conversation with on Santa Monica boulevard, as he cycled to an audition and I cycled to pick up my U.C.L.A. football ticket. These were true Los Angeles moments–moments that most visitors, stuck in freeway traffic behind the steering wheel of their rental car, never get to experience.”
Kugel claims that these experiences speak to an authenticity of L.A. And I think this can be found in S.F. too. Not only is our city filled to the brim with an eclectic culture and electric sights, but we can also boast of more bikers who take advantage of this. When we fight for safer streets, we also fight for people to get out of their cars and into the “true” San Francisco.

Electric Bikes for Beginning Cyclists

Most of us have seen in the city (if not experienced for ourselves) the spectacle of bicyclists sweating their way up a hill (Filbert, anyone?). These vertical terrors might be deterring people from biking, says a recent article in the Chronicle.

So Point Reyes is combining forces with John Granatir (owner of Go Green Electric Bikes) to encourage more people to bike and “[get] people out that normally wouldn’t be”. At Point Reyes, you can now rent an electric bike and take on all the hills you’d like. These bikes have pedals so you can still get an exercise from your outing; and the motor will start as soon as you reach an incline.
The article also mentions the stigma behind electric bikes because “many avid cyclists believe that you should earn every hill on your own”. But for those who are just starting to get in shape or just want a relaxing day outdoors without the epic (and often painstaking) workout, these electric bikes could be a good alternative.

Bay Area Bike Trail Wins Federal Grant

Last Tuesday, under a program called TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery), the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $600 million total to 70 “innovative transportation projects.”

In February, the SFTMA was awarded $46 million to replace Doyle Drive.
This year, the east bay seems to be the winner, being awarded $10.2 million “to help the East Bay Regional Parks District close gaps in its 200-mile system of paved trails.”
Randy Rentschler of the Municipal Transit Commission attributed the win to the project’s unique goal of encouraging more and more people to choose biking and other alternative, environmentally-friendly modes of commute. (source)
The East Bay Parks General Manager Pat O’Brien echoed these sentiments, saying, “A safe convenient connection means commuters are much more likely to take public transit, walk or bike as a commute alternative to driving, and that benefits everyone including commuters, transit agencies, and our environment.” (source)
This bike path aims to aid over 700,000 east bay residents commuting to work, but will cost a total of $43.3 million. The grant covers 25% and the Parks District is hoping for taxpayers to cover the rest. So commuters might have to wait a while before the full benefits of this project can be achieved.

Safer Streets to Yield More Biking

After four long years of waiting for better and safer streets, the Bike Plan injunction was finally lifted in August and cyclists in the city are already beginning to see the changes.

New bike lines are being painted down on Townsend, North Point, and Laguna Honda. But these small victories are just ripples in the waves of change the San Francisco Bike Coalition has in mind for our city. In the latest edition of their quarterly publication, the Tube Times, the SFBC announced their new campaign entitled “Connecting the City” the end goal of which is to increase the range of ridership “from an eight-year-old child to an eighty-year-old grandmother” by designing a city bike network that is resolutely safe and comfortable.
Their method for accomplishing this is heavily inspired by European engineering feats. For example, in Norway, you can step on a foot plate by a steep hill’s curbside and the bike lift will roll you and your bike up at a speed of 4mph.
And according to this article in the SFGate, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is following the same train of thought after recently spending time in the bike-friendly Netherlands.
The article says that, “Chiu believes that the share of bike trips can and should be dramatically higher, if the city makes the commitment to make two-wheel travel safer and more convenient.”
Both Chiu and the SFBC believe in the bike lifts and support plans to build separated bike pathways with physical barriers on big traffic streets like the Embarcadero, Valencia Street, Fell Street, Oak Street, and San Jose Street.
The SFBC is also pushing for a bike bridge from Marina Green, around Fort Mason, to Fisherman’s Wharf, a bridge which the city might not be able to fund. The city is looking to spend $25 million on these projects for the roads over the next 5 years, but most of this funding will be given to striping lanes and adding bike lanes.
It’s important to remember that nothing is set in stone yet, but the future seems to hold some exciting changes for cyclists.

To read the Tube Times Fall 2010 edition online:

“Shed the Lycra, Slip on Your Dancing Shoes”

November 13th is this year’s annual Bikers Ball held by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

Come join your fellow cyclists cut a rug at Servino Ristorante in Tiburon, CA, down by the waterfront.
There will be beer, wine, appetizers, live music by the band Vinyl, and a silent auction for various goodies (one of which is a Cannondale Super Six 5).
Only 200 tickets are available; get yours at

10th Annual AIDS LifeCycle

AIDS/LifeCycle is a 7-day bike ride through California, starting in San Francisco and ending in Los Angeles during the week of June 5th-June 11th, 2011. This 545-mile ride raises money and awareness for both the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

The Mission:

  1. Raise funds to support the HIV/AIDS services of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation;
  2. Increase awareness and knowledge about the services and programs offered by the benefiting organizations;
  3. Increase awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS among participants, their donors and the general public;
  4. Increase AIDS activism and volunteerism among the participant and donor communities, inspiring them to become ambassadors in the fight against AIDS;
  5. Provide a positive, life-affirming experience for people affected and infected by HIV;
  6. Contribute to an increased understanding of the disproportionate impact HIV has had on the GLBT communities in SF and LA;
  7. Encourage an environment of dignity and improved quality of life for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

The Route:

“You’ll ride an average of 80 miles a day, over varying terrain. One day, you’ll be riding a flat route along the coast or through artichoke and strawberry fields, the next you might be riding through fog banks and foothills. The course is designed to be challenging but completely doable, so be sure to train well in order to fully enjoy your week. No matter what, you can count on the constant presence of our Roadies on the route, who help keep everyone safe and sound. We are serious about safety and do everything possible to ensure your happiness and well-being during this week.”

Online registration begins October 25th from 7:00 P.M. to 7:45 P.M.

To find out more, visit