News Posts Within This Article:
GJEL interviews San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener
San Francisco cyclist’s arm crushed in collision with Muni bus
San Francisco Supervisors Urge New Lanes to Reduce Bicycle Accidents
San Francisco Agencies Distribute Lights to Reduce Nighttime Bicycle Accidents
San Francisco Bike Accident Death Ignites Helmet Debate
San Francisco MTA to Consider Masonic Avenue Pedestrian Accidents
San Francisco Chinatown Acts to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents
San Francisco Cracks Down on Distracted Drivers
Crosstown Bikeways Proposed for San Francisco Bike Accidents
San Francisco Bike Lanes Removed for Bicycle Safety

GJEL interviews San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener is one of the most outspoken street safety advocates in the city government and Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (a four year term).

In 2011, he was instrumental in passing Proposition B, which will allocate $248 million in General Obligation Bonds for fixing San Francisco’s streets, bridges and public spaces. In 2012, he’ll be tackling another far reaching transportation renovation: bringing high-speed rail to the Bay Area.

We spoke with Supervisor Wiener about improving the transportation experience in San Francisco, thinking long term on high-speed rail, why more taxis means fewer drivers, and other street safety issues.

GJEL: You’ve lived in San Francisco for 14 years. Has the way people travel changed significantly since you moved here?

WIENER: Not dramatically. We do see more people biking and I do know of more people who have gotten rid of their cars or have a car but hardly ever drive it. You know, I have some friends I never thought would ride Muni who now ride Muni at least some of the time.

GJEL: To what would you attribute that change?

WIENER: I think that’s a combination of the fact that parking can be challenging but also there are a lot of people who are realizing that just driving in this town is not always so fun.

And I’m realistic. I have a car. I don’t drive it that much, but there are times when I need to drive. I don’t subscribe to the belief that we are going to create a non-car paradise. There are people who need to drive whether that’s because of their job or to get groceries or getting their kids around.

But for the people who are only driving because they can’t get where they want to go otherwise, we want to give them the option to travel in a different way. So by improving Muni, by making the streets more walkable, by getting more cabs on the street there will be more people who decide that is more desirable to not drive.

GJEL: You mention taxis on your city council homepage. Why are cabs such a big part of your agenda?

WIENER: If you want to be a transit first city, if you really want to get people out of their cars, cabs are an important part of that system. Even if we had 100 million dollars each year to improve Muni to address its structural deficits, to expand service and to really upgrade the system, Muni is never going to be able to get you anywhere you want to go at any time. If you look at a city like New York, this city has a world-class transportation system, one of the most amazing subways around. That is part of what gets people out of their cars in New York, but their cab system is just as important.

People need to know that if they need to get somewhere quickly, they can jump in a cab and get there. And I personally have people tell me that if they knew they could get a cab when they wanted, they would sell their cars tomorrow. But we have a relatively low number of cabs, and our cab service is bad.

GJEL: The passing of proposition B was a big win for you this year. The city has tried to pass similar bond measures in the past, in 2005, what was different this time?

WIENER: A couple things: We put together a very strong coalition to get the streets bond passed of all sorts of different people including the Bike Coalition, the safety advocates, labor, the business community. We had a lot of different people involved who could agree that we needed to fix our roads and fix a lot of other infrastructure that this bond addresses.

It’s also important to keep in mind that in 2005, the last bond that failed, it got in the high 50s (in terms of votes), so that bond did well, it just didn’t make it to two-thirds. That was a much smaller campaign so we knew with the right campaign we’d have a shot at the two-thirds and I also think that, as time goes by, people just become more convinced that we need to do something drastic to getting our roads fixed.

GJEL: On transportation issues, some might see a tension between function and experience in urban planning. That is, there’s a belief that the things we do for quality of life, wider sidewalks, etc, are not the most functional improvements. This bond sort of addresses both needs. Can you talk about your emphasis on quality of life in San Francisco?

WIENER: I think anything we can do to improve our public spaces is going to bring people together and build communities. So when we now have $10’s of millions to spend on street safety and making our neighborhoods more walkable, to make room for outdoor seating by making the sidewalks a little wider–that improves our experience as a community. When we improve Muni with signal upgrades, it improves the public experience. When we make our streets more bikeable–that improves the public experience.

GJEL: Speaking of bikeable: The relationship between Muni buses and city cyclists isn’t all that great. There have been a number of collisions in the last year. Is the problem one of education for riders and drivers, or is it an infrastructural issue?

WIENER: We live in a very cramped city in a lot of ways. Geographically it’s a small city that’s densely populated. Many times we have narrow roads, and on these cramped spaces we have cars and large busses and cyclists and pedestrians so there’s a lot of potential for conflict on our roads.  So we’re not going to make our geographic space bigger, but what we can do is make sure our roads are structured in a way so that everyone can use them and its clear who should be where and that it’s as easy as possible to make sure everyone can travel on our roads in a way that reduces those conflicts. That’s a real challenge but we have been moving in that direction.

GJEL: One of the crucial tools for a lot of the pedestrian advocacy organizations we talk to are strong statistics that help pinpoint where we can make manageable improvements. Are metrics an important tool for you?

WIENER: Yes, because they really help us make the case for why we’re doing this. Sometimes when we make changes, let’s say by having a longer crossing time for pedestrians. Sometimes people will say “you’re just doing this to undermine driving because you’re anti-car,” or something like that. And that’s not the case. We’re doing this because we have an unacceptable rate of injuries and fatalities for pedestrians.

[Stats] really help justify why we’re doing it. We’re not doing it for the heck of it, for unfounded reasons. We’re doing it because we have a lot of pedestrians in this town and too many injuries.

GJEL: What are you big transportation agenda items in 2012?

WIENER: I’m already engaged–and will be even more so–in high speed rail and making sure it happens and that it goes to down town San Francisco.

GJEL: That’s another controversial topic, what’s the status of that initiative right now?

WIENER: It’s in flux now. The press has sort of gone on a feeding frenzy against high-speed rail, and that’s unfortunate. Yes it’s expensive; yes it’s going to take a long time. But that’s true of any transformative infrastructure project.

You know the interstate highway system was not built overnight, and when the decision was made to build it, they didn’t have all the money in the bank. These projects take years and years and years and investment over time. But we know that without high speed rail we’re just going to have to spend an enormous amount on highways and doing a lot of things that are very expensive, have significant negative environmental impacts and then we still wont have a good transportation system.

GJEL: What do you think the hang up is? Is it that people do not think this sort of infrastructure is important, or is it a sort of cognitive issue where people recognize that they want or need these changes, but it’s such an enormous project that right now, with the economy not so flush, people aren’t willing to take the plunge?

WIENER: The short term, easy answer is to say, “let’s not take on these big projects because they’re expensive and they take a long time and they’re controversial.” So it’s easy just to throw up your hands and say, “lets not do it.” But if you look at what made this country great, it was our willingness to say, “we’re going to do something big and it may be expensive and it may take a longtime and politically it may be a heavy lift, but its going to be transformative.”

So whether it’s the interstate highway system, whether its building BART and Muni underground–whatever it may be—it almost always ends up being worth it. Can you even imagine what would have happened if people would have killed BART because it was going to be expensive and take a long time and be disruptive while they’re building it?

Look at the fact that we made the huge blunder of allowing Marin County and San Mateo to opt out of BART. If we had BART all the way up to Santa Rosa and down through the Peninsula to San Jose, it would be so much better. With these kinds of infrastructure projects, far more often than not, you regret not doing it, and you regret not going further.

GJEL: What are some things that people who are passionate about high-speed rail can do to aid its progress?

WIENER: When there are negative stories about high-speed rail, for example, write a letter to the editor. Keep lobbying officials, keep all of our spirits up and make sure that we’re focusing on high-speed rail, that we’re committed to it.

Sometimes you only hear from the people who don’t want it. As committed as you may be, sometimes you only hear from the opponent. And that’s tough psychologically for any public official, so it’s important to keep communicating and keep talking about how important it is.

San Francisco cyclist’s arm crushed in collision with Muni bus

Even in areas where drivers know to expect bicyclists, unexpected dangers can rear up at any moment. This was the case for Nob Hill resident Laila Brenner, who was cycling home from work when a double-parked car forced her to change lanes. The adjustment caused her to contact an 8X-Bayshore Express bus traveling in the same direction. After falling to the ground, Brenner’s arm was crushed by the back wheel of the bus, which then continued its route without stopping.

The traumatic incident, which occurred by the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Broadway in North Beach, is under investigation; Muni official Paul Rose said that the footage taken at a nearby club is inconclusive.

Regardless of the cause of the accident—whether the illegally parked car or negligence on the part of the bus driver or cyclist—the event raises serious questions about the driver’s reaction. Rose did offer that an operator may not feel such a collision if it involved only the second half of an articulating bus.

Though police are still trying to determine whether Brenner, whose arm was so badly crushed that doctors had to wait days before addressing the multiple fractures, changed lanes illegally and why the bus operator failed to stop, the story is yet another ugly incident for the Muni system. Only last month, a woman was killed crossing the street in San Francisco’s Castro district.

Brenner’s attorney said that he plans to bring a civil case against the city. If earlier cases are any indication, the city could end up paying upwards of $6 million to settle the Brenner case.

The relationship between San Francisco’s cyclists and Muni operators continues to be an troubled one. Executive Director Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bike Coalition said she is unsatisfied with how Muni has trained its operators to deal with the city’s growing number of cyclists. “We haven’t seen much improvement in the way of operators in a long time,” said Shahum.

The problem certainly isn’t going away. There is growing movement from legislative bodies to encourage more Bay Area workers to commute on their bikes. So far, it seems the only thing that the Muni system has done to account for the extra cyclists is devote large sums of money to accident victims. In the last five years, Muni has paid more than $91 million in injury claims and settlements.

It’s unclear exactly how much can Muni operator training compensate for the inherent vulnerability of city cyclists navigating automobile and pedestrian traffic. Bike lanes and bike-only areas remain the surest way to avoid these unfortunate incidents. But clearly, reserving massive amounts of money ($22 million this year) for injury settlements instead of investing in more effective operator training is a choice that is both costly and dangerous.

San Francisco Supervisors Urge New Lanes to Reduce Bicycle Accidents

While serving briefly as San Francisco’s Acting Mayor, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu voiced significant support for an influx of city lanes to reduce bicycle accidents. “First and foremost, as someone who bikes every day, is ensuring that we’re expanding our bike network,” said Chiu during a ride to City Hall with bicycle advocates Tuesday, “creating what I think of as bike thoroughfares that we can use to easily get folks around the city.”

Chiu’s statements come at a time when San Francisco’s bicycle population has surged, but safety regulations have generally lagged behind. “Every day, on average, there are two or more pedestrians that are injured on San Francisco’s streets. Pedestrians account for half of the people who are killed in traffic collisions in San Francisco, while overall fatal collisions have actually declined since the 1960s,” Chiu told the city Transportation Authority’s plans and programs committee. “New York City, Seattle, Boston, London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Amsterdam all have fewer fatalities per 100,000 residents than we do.”

Due partially to troubling bicycle and pedestrian injury rates in San Francisco and California as a whole, local and state lawmakers have started calling for stricter bicycle laws to reduce serious accidents. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for example, has called for a statewide helmet law for all ages. And city counsel member Bill Rosendahl has called for a “three foot passing law.” Adopting both measures, in addition to adding more bicycle lanes and improving safety on existing bike routes, would be a great start to reducing bicycle accidents in San Francisco and California as a whole.

The calls of Chiu and other state lawmakers for better bicycle laws could lead to even better changes down the line. “Finally, this critical issue is getting the attention it deserves,” said Elizabeth Stampe of Walk San Francisco. “A study is a good start, but we also need action. The city is tasked with creating a Pedestrian Action Plan to commit to making our streets better and safer for walking, and it’s time to get started on that.”

San Francisco Agencies Distribute Lights to Reduce Nighttime Bicycle Accidents

Anticipating the negative effects of last week’s daylight savings adjustment, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have teamed up to distribute free bicycle lights to commuters who aren’t prepared for nighttime cycling. With the help of an army of volunteers, the two agencies expect to dole out nearly 2,500 lights throughout the winter as part of this “Light Up the Night” campaign.

In the past, the SFBC has announced the location of their light giveaways in order to maximize their impact. This year, however, the organization will take a more guerilla approach, stopping light-less cyclists on their commute to attach a red and white blinking light. Each year, 12 people are killed and more than 1,500 are injured in bicycle accidents in the months of November and December. These are daunting statistics considering that this is the “off season” for many cyclists put off by the poor visibility and adverse road conditions.

SFMTA and SFBC hope the program will reduce bicycle accidents, which have become an increasingly contentious issue throughout California. Fortunately, California lawmakers have announced their intention to boost bicycle safety laws over the next couple years. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for a statewide helmet law for all ages at an August “bike summit.” And LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl has suggested implementing a three foot passing law.

The “Light Up the Night” campaign proves once again that California citizens are eager to improve the state’s bicycle safety record. Perhaps this year the increased focus will lead state lawmakers to implement stricter bicycle safety laws and approve a sweeping pedestrian plan.

Photo credit: habi

San Francisco Bike Accident Death Ignites Helmet Debate

Nancy Ho was struck and killed by a delivery truck at the corner of Fremont and Mission streets last week. Since Ho was not wearing a helmet, the widely reported bike accident re-ignited a battle over helmet requirements at the center of a deep divide between safety advocates and many in the bicycle community. California does not yet mandate helmet use, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the California Bicycle Coalition have not announced their positions on bicycle helmet laws. But in light of Ho’s fatal bike accident last week, others are taking up the debate in full force.

This argument closely mirrors the motorcycle helmet debate also at issue here in California. One side points to reports indicating that helmets reduce head injuries and save lives, while the other side argues that the statistics over-state the importance of helmets, and also that they don’t want to be told what to do. Proponents of a statewide helmet law point to studies showing that bike helmets can reduce the chances of death following a serious bike accident by as much as 65 percent. But critics, including many in San Francisco’s bike community, oppose such a law, saying it could reduce the number of cyclists on the road, and make city cycling more dangerous.

Noting that “bike helmets are padding; they’re not armor,” California public health consultant Peter Jacobsen says a statewide helmet law will make the streets less safe for cyclists. Following similar legislation in Australia and New Zealand, for example, bike ridership dropped 33 percent, a major decline considering that many analysts agree that bicycle safety improves when there are more cyclists on the roads.

Randy Swart, director of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, acknowledges that a helmet law could carry unintended circumstances like giving cyclists a subliminal reason to take more risks. But, he adds, a similar argument used against a proposed seatbelt law was later proven to be false. And take it a step further, to drunk driving laws. No one would argue that driving sober gives drivers a false sense of security and leads drivers to take more risks behind the wheel. Cyclists and drivers alike aren’t likely to put their lives in danger simply because they are more protected by a seatbelt or helmet.

A bike helmet survey we conducted earlier this year found that regular cyclists are universally divided on the perceived benefits of a California bicycle helmet law. But there’s one point nearly everyone could agree on: children under 18 should be required to wear helmets. California already requires helmet use for cyclists under 17, so this unscientific statistic will not have a significant impact on a statewide law for all ages. But it does indicate that at the end of the day, most cyclists recognize that bicycling can be dangerous if the safety risks are not taken seriously.

So whether or not California decides to implement a helmet law for all ages, reduce the risk of being seriously injured in a bicycle accident by putting on a helmet every time you get on the bicycle to commute to work, ride to a friend’s house, or go out to get some exercise.

Photo credit: Chicago Bicycle Program

San Francisco MTA to Consider Masonic Avenue Pedestrian Accidents

Late last week, 61 year-old James Hudson, a San Francisco resident, was fatally wounded by a drunk driver at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street. The suspect, San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department cadet Jose Jimenez, was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, and attempting to flee the scene. The pedestrian accident marks a troubling trend showing that Masonic Avenue is dangerous and that the city must take steps to improve pedestrian safety. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will meet this Friday to discuss a popular $20 million plan to make Masonic Avenue safer.

The behavior of motorists on Masonic Avenue has contributed to two pedestrian deaths and many more injuries in the past year. Last August, 22 year-old tourist Nils Yannick Linke was killed in a bicycle accident on Masonic and Turk by a drunk driver. And even since last Friday’s fatal pedestrian accident, Masonic Avenue has hosted two traffic accidents. On Tuesday morning, a driver ran the red light at Masonic and Hayes, causing an accident that left both drivers with minor injuries. And on Saturday May 7, a driver ran a red light and caused a motorcycle accident at 60 miles per hour. As an eyewitness told BikeNopa, “the motorcyclist ran right into the side of the car, and flew over 15 feet into the air. His shoe actually flew off, and landed all the way across the intersection, right by me. The bike just exploded, totaled.”

One of the problems is Masonic Avenue’s width, which makes drivers feel comfortable exceeding the 25 miles per hour speed limit and treating the city street like a highway. This Friday, the San Francisco MTA will discuss the $20 million Boulevard plan, developed with help from safety organizations and neighborhood residents, which is designed to reduce speeds and make Masonic Avenue narrower. Visit the SFMTA Masonic Avenue Street Redesign Study [pdf] for more on the Boulevard plan.

San Francisco has pledged to address rising pedestrian accidents for years, but progress has been slow. “We are very frustrated with the progress on Masonic Avenue,” said North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association President Jarie Bolander. “There just doesn’t seem to be the focus from The City on making things safe for pedestrians on Masonic.”That’s why neighborhood residents have been so supportive of the Boulevard plan. City officials including Police Captain Dennis O’Leary, City Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, and District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, have also endorsed the Boulevard plan for Masonic Avenue.

Calling Masonic “tragically unsafe,” Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of pedestrian safety organization WalkSF penned an impassioned letter to the SFMTA in support of the Boulevard proposal. “In our city, 100 people are seriously injured or killed every year,” she wrote. “One of the most powerful things we can do to change this is to reduce traffic speeds on our arterial streets like Masonic. These wide fast streets are where the worst crashes occur and where we have the most potential to save lives.”

Photo credit: crazbabe21

San Francisco Chinatown Acts to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents

San Francisco’s historic Chinatown is one of the city’s densest neighborhoods, with the most crowded streets, and the lowest percentage of auto ownership (17 percent). While Chinatown’s streets have become some of the city’s most dangerous, it remains a top tourist spot for domestic and international visitors. Hoping to make the area safer for residents and visitors, the Chinatown Community Development Center has released two studies designed to improve the neighborhood’s streets and boost pedestrian safety in the bustling hub.

The San Francisco Chinatown Pedestrian Safety Needs Assessment and related Safety Plan are major steps for Chinatown, which in 2000 housed a population with a median income of just over $18,000, 21 percent of whom were below the poverty line (that’s compared to 11 percent citywide). The CCDC emphasized these facts as a reason for the study’s importance. Since “low-income communities are disproportionately affected by the lack of walkable neighborhoods,” the Safety Needs Assessment reads, “the provision of safe, walkable streets is a social justice issue.”

Streetsblog San Francisco notes that the two Chinatown studies are much bolder than the a recent pedestrian safety study by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which failed to include an suitable action plan. By contrast, the CCDC developed a detailed action plan based on investigations into the neighborhood’s 21 most dangerous intersections with the help of $20,000 from the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Below are some of the report’s suggestions, as reported by Streetsblog:

Along the Stockton corridor, for instance, the Safety Plan recommends increasing pedestrian space, comfort and mobility by adding pedestrian scramble phases and full intersection crosswalk treatments and curb extensions at intersections. Other suggested improvements include “adding seating, removing old signage and meter posts, and getting rid of newspaper racks to help reduce sidewalk clutter. Strategies to decrease vehicle speeds and turning conflicts include replacing standard ‘No Right on Red’ signs with LED signage, which illuminate to prevent turning movements during pedestrian phases, and adding a dedicated left turn signal phase to the traffic lights.”

In the past decade, Chinatown residents suffered seven pedestrian fatalities due to such dangerous intersections. “Rather than waiting for another accident to occur before taking action,” said Deland Chan of the CCDC, “we wanted to proactively identify and systematically rank priority areas where the city and community groups can work together to make the neighborhoods safer for pedestrians.”

Photo credit: jondoeforty1

San Francisco Cracks Down on Distracted Drivers

Following the nationwide tidal wave recognizing the extreme dangers of distracted driving, San Francisco has launched a series of crack downs in recent weeks to enforce California’s laws against using handheld devices behind the wheel. Last week’s crackdown led to more than 900 tickets for cell phone users. Today, the California Highway Patrol has launched the second citywide bust in ten days, and expects to ticket at least that number.

These crackdowns are important and will go a long way toward enforcing existing laws against distracted driving and raising awareness about the ubiquitous practice’s dangers. But in a series of blog posts applauding the CHP’s efforts to make roads more safe, SF Weekly says California has not gone far enough.

The alternative weekly points to studies indicating that speaking on hands-free devices is no safer than holding the phone to your face. In essence, these studies suggest that the main problem associated with cell phone use is lack of attention rather than loss of motor skills. According to the Department of Transportation, for example, there were 4,500 accidents among people using hands-free devices between 2006 and 2008, only 18 percent lower than the 5,500 crashes among people using hand-held devices over the same period.

“Even though you are listening, your mind is processing the information, and you’re busy formulating a response,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Tracy Noble. “We have to change the culture that everyone is multitasking when they are in a vehicle because it is a danger when you are taking your attention off the roadway.”

California currently bans the use of handheld devices for all drivers and prohibits any cell phone use among school bus drivers and drivers under 18, a pretty common distinction for most states. You can see state-by-state distracted driving laws on this interactive map. As ‘crackdowns’ like the ones in San Francisco raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, I hope to see knowledge about talking on the phone behind the wheel in general spread.

Photo credit: mrJasonWeaver

Crosstown Bikeways Proposed for San Francisco Bike Accidents

Continuing the effort to make San Francisco streets safer for cyclists, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has launched a campaign aptly named “Connecting the City,” comprised of 100 miles of new city bike paths, including three major crosstown routes. When finished, the project’s video explains, it will improve safety for “everyone, from an 8 year old kid, to your 80 year old nana.” As a mix of San Francisco residents recite into the camera in this two minute video, the SFBC’s Connecting the City proposal promises to create 100 miles of bikeways by 2020. The three pilot crosstown routes would connect Ccean Beach to the Ferry Building, North Beach to San Francisco State University, and the Golden Gate Bridge to the ferry building and the baseball stadium in Hunter’s Point.

Despite popular support for these crosstown bikeways, the city has recently set some controversial policies that seem to indicate declining support for bicycle initiatives. Despite years of planning, for example, the Mayor’s office halted the installation of bicycle lanes on Cesar Chavez Street, part of a comprehensive road diet, only days before scheduled construction. The Mayor’s office said it nixed the plan due to concerns that it may harm industrial businesses along Cesar Chavez, an official truck route, by removing a full eastbound lane to make way for the bikeways.

“With 30 percent of the city’s growth happening in the southeast sector, Cesar Chavez is a significant conduit for transportation down into that section of the waterfront,” said Port of San Francisco representative David Beaupre. But safety advocates argue that Cesar Chavez simply doesn’t have enough room to keep four traffic lanes and fulfill needed safety improvements. “We need a plan that’s feasible for it to become a shared street that people can walk along safely,” said WalkSF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “There just isn’t room for four traffic lanes, bike lanes and accessible sidewalks.”

Amidst these obstacles, it’s difficult to tell whether Connecting the City will succeed or be bogged down by bureaucratic details or powerful business interests. But it’s certain that adding new bicycle paths would greatly benefit San Francisco cyclists and pedestrians by improving safety standards and reducing accident injures. Take a look at the Connecting the City video for more:

Photo credit: GJELblogger

San Francisco Bike Lanes Removed for Bicycle Safety

Overnight late last week, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Association removed a set of controversial bike lanes on Post and Sutter streets in the San Francisco financial district. Although Bay Area bicycle lanes in high-traffic areas are often popular among cyclists, these were placed in the middle of the road, instead of on the right or left side, meaning cyclists were surrounded on all sides by vehicles. Earlier this year, the Bay Citizen reported that the lanes could lead to bicycle accidents and posted a video of a cyclist nearly getting hit by a car. “I would never ride in that lane again,” he said. “I did not feel safe.”

The removal of these lanes has ignited discussion about the best ways San Francisco can promote bicycle safety. Noting that the city’s bike plan suggests experimenting with bicycle lanes, Streetsblog suggested allowing cyclists to use lanes designated for busses, as is the case in a handful of cities like Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Vancouver, BC. An SFMTA spokesman said the agency is aware they need to make a change, but that allowing the shared lane would require a change of law since “it’s a full-time transit-only lane.”

As we’ve written before, California lawmakers are beginning to get very serious about bicycle safety, especially in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Implementing a lasting and safe bicycle plan will require boosting the state’s bicycle safety laws and figuring out what to do with those downtown bicycle lanes. As always, we’ll be following closely.

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.