Friday, January 09, 2009

Market/Octavia and safety for cyclists

The city will be going to court on January 22 in another attempt to convince Judge Busch to allow it to make a radical change to the Market/Octavia intersection to supposedly make it safer for cyclists, even though Busch rejected the identical proposal last year, when he allowed the city to make changes to the Fell/Masonic intersection. To modify an injunction you have to show the court there's been a change in the facts or the law since the injunction was imposed. Even though the city claims there's an ongoing safety emergency for cyclists at the intersection, it doesn't have the numbers to show that it is more dangerous than other intersections in the city.

Interestingly, the city's traffic engineers have undermined their credibility by arguing the opposite in another case---Margaret Timbrell v. City and County of San Francisco---that the Market/Octavia intersection is in fact safe!

What the city wants to do is so stupid even the SF Bicycle Coalition opposes it (below in italics), though its opposition is based on dubious grounds. The city wants to take away the existing bike lane and force cars and cyclists to share a single lane on Market Street between Pearl Street and Gough Street to eliminate the alleged danger to cyclists when motorists try to make the illegal right-turn onto the freeway. This will be a boon for those passive-aggressive cyclists who enjoy screwing up traffic, though the city is claiming unconvincingly---it's done no traffic studies in the area on the proposal---that this scheme won't have any impact on traffic either on Market Street or nearby streets.

The SFBC's criticism of the city's proposal:

We believe that while MTA might eliminate the bike lane and narrow the remaining single lane, they'll never eliminate bicyclists getting to the right of motor vehicles, whether in the lane itself or on the sidewalk beside it, and the right hook crashes are going to be more cruel and sudden then they are now. Look up and down Market Street for other examples of the "choked" intersection model and how well it forces bikes and motor vehicles to queue up in a single line — of course it doesn't, cyclists filter past cars to the right and left, even if there's only twelve inches to squeeze in.

That is, cyclists aren't going to follow the law anyhow, so why bother? This is reminiscent of the recent proposal to allow cyclists to ignore stop signs: They routinely ignore them now, so why not legitimize their contempt for the traffic laws everyone else has to obey?

The ban on motorists making the easy right turn from Market Street onto the freeway already causes a bottleneck on the streets around 13th and South Van Ness, where motorists trying to get on the freeway are now forced to go. Forcing all motorists to line up single file behind cyclists on a long stretch of Market Street will both enrage drivers---a plus for some cyclists---and make traffic worse for everyone driving down that part of Market Street.

And there's a basic contradiction in the proposal apparently unrecognized by city traffic engineers: Once the bike lane is gone from the Market/Octavia intersection and motorists and cyclists share a single lane on eastbound Market Street, there will be no justification for banning the right turn onto the freeway, since cyclists would presumably no longer be at risk from motor vehicles trying to get on the freeway at that intersection. What all this really means, as the SFBC's statement suggests, is that the biggest safety problem for cyclists is the unsafe practices of many cyclists themselves, not the design of this or any other city intersection.

In fact, even in its offical reports on accidents involving cyclists, the city doesn't tell us who exactly is responsible for all these "collisions," though we are told in the Bicycle Plan's Framework Document that cyclists themselves are often at fault (pages 6-14 through 6-18).

(See also MTA's "2005-2006 San Francisco Bicycle Injury Collision Report" of Feb. 8, 2008; and the "San Francisco 2007 Collision Report" of October 14, 2008. Both documents are available through MTA's website.)

Just as important, the city is again asking the court to give city traffic engineers the authority to do whatever they want to city streets, provided they invoke "public safety" as a justification, which would render moot both CEQA and the massive EIR on the Bicycle Plan. Like the city's proposal for the Market/Octavia intersection, the court also rejected this proposal last year.

The court will also hear arguments on whether the city should be held in contempt for stubbornly refusing to take the invalidated Bicycle Plan legislation out of the General Plan after the court ruled against the city.

Remove Market and Octavia Bike Lane? NO WAY!
On January 22, the city will ask a judge for permission to remove the Market & Octavia Bike Lane. Tell the city 'No Way!' This is a step backwards! The SFMTA wants to remove this bike lane as an 'emergency safety improvement.' Previously, the Planning Department proposed creating a raised and painted bike lane and the SFBC wholeheartedly supported this plan. SFBC staff and members who have been injured at this intersection asked the MTA to abandon their request to remove the bike lane, but the city has chosen to go ahead with this misguided plan anyway.We are urging you to write an email and tell the city 'No Way!' Beyond that, a letter to the editor to the SF Chronicle or The Examiner can also help. Keep checking back here to see what's happening next and you can read more about this Injunction Relief Request and the SFBC's position on removal of the Octavia Market bike lane.

board calls for end of bike lane
Rachel Gordon
Thursday, January 8, 2009

Over the objections of bicycling advocates, including the politically influential San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a city board has endorsed a plan to eliminate a short stretch of the eastbound Market Street bike lane where it crosses Octavia Boulevard---at an on-ramp to the Central Freeway.

The idea is to force cars and cyclists to share a lane. The city's traffic engineer believes that will reduce the likelihood of cars making an illegal right turn onto the freeway and into the path of cyclists.

Drivers aren't used to intersections where right turns aren't allowed, but Octavia and Market is one such intersection. There have been at least 16 collisions there between cars and bicycles since the freeway ramp opened in 2005. The city has erected barriers and posted numerous signs trying to stop drivers from making the turn, but the problem persists.

The single-lane idea was endorsed Tuesday by the governing board of the Municipal Transportation Agency. Although board members were unanimous in their approval, bicyclists are not.

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At 11:44 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"This will be a boon for those passive-aggressive cyclists who enjoy screwing up traffic, though the city is claiming unconvincingly---it's done no traffic studies in the area on the proposal---that this scheme won't have any impact on traffic either on Market Street or nearby streets."

You don't know jack. This will have zero impact on traffic. A cyclist traveling Northeast on Market St, at any time of day, will easily outpace the motor vehicle traffic - without running any lights or signs. Market is not timed for traffic a la Franklin or Gough. Traffic backs up. Cyclists, either in the separated bike lanes or on the "shoulder", bypass series of cars all the way from Castro to Embarcadero. This becomes more evident closer to downtown where delivery trucks, taxis dropping off passengers, and double parkers block motor vehicles but allow room for cyclists to pass.

Should cyclists prefer to simply "act as a car" they would not delay traffic - at least not anymore than a car would - because with the slight downhill gradient it is trivial to maintain the same speeds as automobiles.

A fit cyclist can beat traffic going Southwest - uphill!

To me it sounds like you are making the argument for bike lanes. By having bike lanes, the bikes can clear Market faster rather than adding to traffic. Remember - the bike trips do not happen in a vacuum - those people are also going to work, if we banned bicycles they would be in a car going down Market adding to traffic just the same. What this really does is force CYCLISTS to line up behind MOTORISTS - not the other way around!

Regarding "Filtering", my understanding is that it is not illegal in California - because it is lanesplitting which is explicitly legal. Before you jump on me, that's just my understanding and I have never been able to get a clear answer - the only definitive answer was from someone who told me it was patently *illegal* - but he was in a state that does not allow motorcycles to lanesplit so the data point was not relevant.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous random said...

I look forward to the joint Rob Anderson / SFBC press conference against this idea!

At 9:34 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

...of course it doesn't, cyclists filter past cars to the right and left, even if there's only twelve inches to squeeze in.

"That is, cyclists aren't going to follow the law anyhow, so why bother?"

Researched: Filtering is not illegal. At least when Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter spews off they take a poorly supported position but one which is usually a function of opinion. Karl Rove had the temerity to flat out lie.

Rob, I get the feeling you are just too lazy to bother, preferring to try to win arguments by yelling the loudest. Of course this couples with your disdain for facts and research when they don't agree with your desires. Why it took me too long to figure this out I have no idea. Maybe I'm not as smart as I thought I was.

Onward and upward.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

First of all, fuck you Murph, you know-it-all asshole. Legality is not really the most important issue here, since the city is claiming that their new scheme for Market/Octavia is going to make it safer for cyclists, even as they argue in another case that it's safe as it is. I cite several documents the city puts out on safety and bicycling, which of course you ignore. The city cites numbers for "collsions" without defining what that term means, which I've written about in earlier posts. Does it mean cyclists colliding with other vehicles or "solo falls" that don't involve another vehicle? I cited the Framework Document wherein the Bicycle Plan itself provides numbers that show cyclists are often responsible for their accidents.

Whether "filtering" is legal or not, the conduct of cyclists on Market Street is often shockingly unsafe and stupid, behavior which is typical of cyclists all over the city. You and other asshole cycists ride recklessly all over the city and, when the inevitable accidents happen, you whine about the lack of safety for cyclists on city streets.

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Wow, real talk from Rob Anderson!

First of all, if a car right-hooks a cyclist moving legally through the right side of the lane, the driver is at fault. Obviously it's safer for the cyclist to merge and pass on the left, but drivers rarely offer any hint of the intention to turn (using, say, a turn signal), which leaves the cyclist with no other option but to come to a complete and sudden stop. The right-hand ban at Market and Octavia is an acknowledgement of poor driver behavior, not some devious SFBC scheme to snarl automobile traffic. If drivers were more generally aware and law-abiding, this probably wouldn't be an issue. And the traffic flow argument is totally bogus, as allowing vehicles to turn right here could very well cause an even worse pileup on Market eastbound--assuming, of course, that they'd still be required to yield to pedestrians. Or would you be against that, too?

It's also worth noting that merging with traffic can be pretty scary on that stretch of Market. Drivers tend to fly through that corridor, and merging with downhill speeding traffic toward an intersection full of cars flying down Octavia is not for the faint of heart. The alternative is eliminating the lane further up the hill and requiring cyclists to merge earlier, which of course would slow traffic down even more.

The only other option that I can imagine would be a dedicated turn signal like the one at Fell and Masonic. And, as we all know, those are not without their own disadvantages.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"First of all, if a car right-hooks a cyclist moving legally through the right side of the lane, the driver is at fault."

Who says otherwise? The issue at Octavia and Market is whether there are enough of those accidents to justify doing what the city now wants to do---eliminate the bike lane and merge all traffic into a single lane for blocks on Market Street. The ban on the easy right turn onto the freeway from Market Street was in fact pushed by the SFBC and its allies in the Planning Dept. long before the intersection was open for traffic. The right-turn ban badly jams up traffic on South Van Ness and 13th Street, the nearest entrance to the freeway. Yes, it's interesting that the city apparently hasn't considered changing the traffic lights at that intersection like they did at Fell and Masonic to address the alleged problem.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"First of all, fuck you Murph, you know-it-all asshole."

Who says the renaissance man is extinct!

That almost makes me wish you had beaten Mirkarimi. Watching you and Daly get into a swearing match would be great theatre.

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

So you agree that the forces at odds here are traffic flow and bicycle/pedestrian safety then, right? Because the "easy" right turn is exactly what's endangering people here--not, as you seem to imply, the dangerous behavior or cyclists.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, I don't agree at all, as the post makes clear. The greatest threat to cyclists is their own behavior and mindset (see my comment on the Clipper Street/Portola Drive post above). Is there a good reason why the city can't simply install a different stop light system at that intersection like they did at Fell and Masonic while allowing the right-turn onto the freeway?

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Goodplanner said...

When will someone state the obvious? Landing the freeway ramps at Market Street was a BAD idea! All of these urban design advocates wanted a pretty Market Street without a birdge. Those of us in the industry knew the ugly truth -- Market Street should be a pedestrian and bicycle corridor, and a high-speed off ramp landing there is going to create injuries for years to come. Alas, the urban design advocates (with little insight on bicycle or pedestrian safety) prevailed with the voters as some sort of "model street" that looks good in photos.

The original concept designs were initially proposing to land the Central Freeway structure one block north of Market Street. That would have eliminated this whole problem. We could have developed an attractive bridge over Market Street and put some sort of activity center under the freeway (like a post office or welcome center or even a bike station)! Bicyclists and pedestrians could use Market Street more easily without worrying about getting hit.

I think that the bicyclists and pedestrians should quit getting made at the City for trying to do a "clean up" design, and instead consider going after SPUR for pushing such a half-baked Octavia Boulevard layout in the first place.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I disagree. The impetus for the right-turn ban came from John Billovits in the Planning Dept., a steadfast advocate for the bike people. Not allowing freeway bound traffic easy access to the freeway is just dumb traffic policy, which is now creating gridlock at 13th and South Van Ness, the nearest entrance to the freeway.

My reading of the court documents files for the Jan. 22 hearing show that the city can't substantiate with some real numbers its claim of a safety emergency at that intersection.

Besides, why not try what the city did at the Masonic/Fell intersection? Like at the Masonic/Fell intersection, cyclists and motorists at Market/Octavia are sharing a green light. Eliminating that conflict could be the answer. Oddly, no one has proposed that yet.

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The obvious solution is to tear out the god-damn freeway. I don't know why nobody can see that. Daylight Duboce/Division! Bathe the Zietgiest patio in glorious sunshine! No more subterranean shadows!

At 10:51 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

In a separate decision, Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch denied two motions by the attorney for Rob Anderson, who filed the lawsuit halting the bike plan, alleging the city was in contempt for not amending the General Plan to language that existed before the bike plan was adopted.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, Judge Busch denied our contempt motion, but he also denied the city's motion to change the Market/Octavia intersection, denied the city's motion on bike racks, denied the city's proposal to allow the city's traffic engineer unlimited authority to make changes to city streets. He allowed the city to put three sharrows per block on Market Street between Embarcadero and 8th Street where there are now two sharrows per block. All in all, a pretty good day for us and not so good for the city.

The SFBC will be happy that he denied the city's proposal to screw up the Market/Octavia intersection even more than it already is.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"In a hearing that lasted for more than an hour, Busch said the city should proceed with certifying the EIR to allow the bike injunction to be lifted."

In other words don't bother me now, just focus on finishing the EIR certification noting that I denied Anderson's motions, and get started on the whole thing.

When this happens Rob, you will vaguely resemble Rush Limbaugh saying we are all going to hell because we are too stupid to know how much of a loser Obama is or how we don't care. Much like Limbaugh only has Sean Hannity to listen to him now, even I probably won't bother to spit into the wind, preferring to just lie back in the sun in Healdsburg

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That's not what the judge said at all. He rejected the city's motions---except for the added sharrows on Market Street---in large part because the EIR process was nearing completion and he didn't want to be the city's traffic engineer in the interim. He specifically repeated his aversion to allowing the city to continue piecemealing in the Bicycle Plan before they are in compliance with CEQA, that is, they have completed the EIR on the Bicycle Plan, he has certified it, and he has lifted the injunction, which won't happen until later this year.

The only motion of ours he denied was the contempt motion. Being not held in contempt of court is hardly a great victory for the city.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"First of all, fuck you Murph, you know-it-all asshole."

The first time I read this blog, I thought it was a joke. Then I realized Rob actually believes all this inane non-sense he blabs on about and it makes the site all the more amusing.

Rob, you never fail to put a smile on my face.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"The first time I read this blog, I thought it was a joke. Then I realized Rob actually believes all this inane non-sense he blabs on about and it makes the site all the more amusing."

Typical cutesy comment from another witless, anonymous asshole. Could you cite some specific "inane nonsense"? Of course you can't. You just wanted to register your disapproval while being cute and condescending. Why bother if you have nothing to say?


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