Tuesday, October 16, 2018

San Francisco and bicycles

Hooray, we're number two! That is, according to Bicycle Magazine's rating system. An examination of the magazine's entry on the city (below in italics) reveals both errors of omission and commission.

No mention of the dramatic failure of the city's new bike lanes on Masonic Avenue. I live nearby and either cross Masonic on foot or ride the #43 bus almost every day. I rarely see any cyclists on the gaudy green bike lanes, and during commute hours traffic is more congested than it used to be now that the city can no longer convert those parking lanes into traffic lanes.

Also unmentioned is a 24% decrease in bike commuters in the city. Seems like the bike revolution may be over in San Francisco.

The Bicycle Coalition and City Hall routinely exaggerate the growth of cycling in San Francisco. The reality is revealed on page 3 of the MTA's Transportation Fact Sheet: bike commuters were 2% of city commuters in 2000 and 4% in 2014, a 100% growth in bike commuting, but it took 14 years to get there.

That the city has "drastically reduced traffic fatalities" only compares 2017 (20) with 2016 (30). Based on the city's own numbers, last year was probably an outlier. 

My interim report on traffic fatalities as of September 24 documented six cyclist and eleven pedestrian deaths so far, which means we're on a pace for more than 20 traffic fatalities this year, with the total probably closer to the 30 that's typical in recent years.

Since my count is only based on the media stories on accidents that I've noticed, it is almost certainly an under-count. On the other hand, the city's credibility on counting traffic fatalities and accidents in general is questionable, to put it mildly. 

On page 7 of the annual Collisions Report, we see that fatalities in recent years average 30, though there were only 22 deaths in 2010. The report on interpreting the numbers:

In general, injury collisions[page 6] tend to be a more reliable indicator of global long-term collision trends because fatal collisions, being fewer in number, are subject to sharper fluctuations from year to year.

In 2010, the city of San Francisco didn’t have a single protected bike lane. “Five to six years ago, getting paint on the ground felt like a win,” says Brian Wiedenmeier, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “Now there are 10 protected bike lanes across the city,” which equate to almost 20 miles of protected riding bliss. Even better, between now and 2021, the city is investing $112 million in bike-related improvements.

The city also drastically reduced its traffic fatalities in 2017, from 30 in 2016 (including motorists and pedestrians), to 20 in 2017. “We’re really taking a data-driven approach to this,” says Wiedenmeier, adding that the city also has been extremely aggressive when setting goals for both maximizing safety and minimizing single-user car trips.

Amazingly, it’s actually reaching many of them. For example, one of those goals was to make 50 percent of all trips in the city via sustainable methods, like biking, walking and mass transit. The city hit and surpassed that mark in 2012, and has since upped it to 80 percent of trips being via sustainable methods by 2030.

No city is without its problems, though. The Bay Area’s current headache is ride-share programs, like Uber and Lyft. A few years ago, when rideshare first entered the marketplace, many thought that it would reduce car ownership and cut back on overall car trips. But that hasn’t happened. In San Francisco, those cars are so easy to find that people are using them instead of walking, biking, or taking the subway across town. 

“There are 20,000 additional vehicles in the city now that are Ubers or Lyfts. On many streets the bike lanes have been taken over by literally hundreds of loading and unloading vehicles that are illegally parked,” says Widenmeier. 

Ben Jose, the communications manager for San Francisco’s Sustainable Streets Division, agrees that rideshare is a nightmare for cyclists, and says finding solutions is a top priority. “We’re both trying to find better ways to use curb parking and ramping up enforcement,” he says, adding that the city has added a dedicated phone line where people can report cars illegally parked in the bike lane at any time.

Also, the city is trying to work as quickly as possible while still building high-quality infrastructure. This has been dubbed the “quick build” method, and it basically means that the city uses paint plus plastic or moveable concrete barriers to quickly get a protected bike lane onto a street, then allows the community to give feedback on ways to improve it. Because it isn’t expensive to do, there’s not much harm if a major design flaw is discovered, and it doesn’t have to go through as many channels of bureaucracy as something deemed “permanent.”

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At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha Rob, I haven't thought of you for years but did a search and you are still writing your silly blog.

Bike ridership is UP and you are as clueless as ever. Still driving your old clunker or do you ride electric scooters now?

Larry (your former neighbor)

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merely looking at the SFBC "Bike to Work Day" map of Energizer Stations shows the limitations of bicycling in SF: One must both along the Valencia St. or Upper Market corridor and work in Civic Center/ Downtown. That's it. Both live and work in that small section of the City.
Because of the hills there are whole swaths of SF where the bicycle is just not a viable means of transportation. But the SFBC/ SPUR/ SFMTA types are mostly newcomers who have little knowledge of the City as a whole.
We've reached Peak Bike.

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes i think the bike revolution in SF has peeked...bikers from even a decade ago are getting older and given that SF is just a big Disneyland for semi-adults, most arrive out of college, play for a few years then leave. The "core" of the SF Bike nuts Coalition are a few hundred...


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