Friday, April 13, 2012

Poorly designed bike lanes in the park

The letter below appears in today's Chronicle and in yesterday's Examiner:

Park bike lanes: bad design

I can't believe the Bicycle Coalition agreed to the new bike lane design in  Golden Gate Park. Cyclists now ride in a lane between the curb on the right and parked cars on the left. You have cyclists,  in-line skaters, rental bikers, and children all stuck in the same lane with  pedestrians trying to get to and from their cars.

When I've ridden it, I've had to dodge a child darting out from between the  cars and a family of five who strolled across the bike lane confused about where  to go. I've also been stuck behind Segways and rental bikers, forcing me and  another rider to go out into the traffic lane just to top 5 mph.

But of course the traffic lanes are now thinner to make room for the new  bike lanes. So we're left with one non-functional, unsafe lane and another mildly functional unsafe lane. Meanwhile, cars have less room to maneuver, and  people getting out of their parked cars are forced to try to avoid traffic on  one side and cyclists on the other. I can't figure out who thought this was a  good idea. The old lanes were fine---why change them?

Tom Kleinhenz,
San Francisco

City Hall's policy is to do whatever it can to get more people to ride bikes in the city, even if a particular project doesn't make sense. This is what one of my correspondents was told when he questioned the bike lanes in the park:

When I used common sense asking MTA how things will look, they were repeating they need to get more people on bikes. The fact that their ideas didn't make much practical sense doesn't matter. Wait till the pedestrian, bicycle accidents start adding up. Then people might sue MTA for a bad design. Bicyclists got what they asked for, its too late to complain. (emphasis added)

That's what the MTA guy in charge of the Panhandle bike lanes told me is the rationale for that project: "...the goals of the project include reducing collisions, as well as improving the subjective feeling of safety to encourage more people to bicycle more often." (emphasis added)

As a party to the Bicycle Plan litigation, I see all the briefs filed by the city. City Hall made it clear in their final brief before Judge Busch that, regardless of how disruptive the Bicycle Plan will be for city traffic, including Muni---taking away more than 50 traffic lanes and 2,000 street parking spaces---the benefits will outweigh making traffic worse for everyone else. Incredibly, this is based on the completely unsupported assumption that the Plan will result in more people riding bikes. I was surprised to see this admission in the city's brief:

The City found that, despite the significant impacts from approval of the Bicycle Plan...the benefits of approving the Plan outweighed the unavoidable impacts it created (page 25)...the City determined that by implementing the Bicycle Plan, more people would chose[sic] to ride a bicycle than currently do---the idea of "mode shift" (page 26)...Nothing in the Statement[of Overriding Considerations] downplays the number or magnitude of traffic or transit impacts, or overstates the number of bicyclists, the primary beneficiaries of the Project's benefits (pages 27 and 28, in "Respondent City and County San Francisco's Opposition to Petitioners' Objections to City's Return," emphasis added ).

Bikes uber alles! The Bicycle Coalition of course has campaigned for the defective bike lanes in Golden Gate Park.

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