Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

Substandard cycletracks

The good news is that planners are finally embracing cycle-tracks. The bad news is that they are still designing substandard cycle-tracks.

A previous posting discussed a substandard cycle-track in Alameda. On the other side of the channel in Oakland, we find yet another example of half-assed bike infrastructure. Oakland bike planners are proposing to build cycle-tracks on Fruitvale Ave. The cycle-tracks would run from the BART station, under I880, and out towards the Bay. For the most part, the project is satisfactory — except for the segment running past I880. It is that segment which is by far the most dangerous for cyclists. And it is in that segment where the cycle-tracks would disappear entirely. Bicyclists would have no physical protection from the heavy traffic coming on and off the freeway.

Even worse, the plan would sandwich an unprotected bike lane between a right-turn lane and through traffic. This is a proven failure, as demonstrated most spectacularly last week in San Francisco.





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Last year, the Tampa Bay Times published a story on the racial disparities in police enforcement of black bicyclists. The article alleged that the Tampa Police had, in effect, a stop-and-frisk policy of black bicyclists. They called it the bicycle blitzkrieg, and 8 out of 10 people ticketed were black.

As a result of that report, the US Dept. of Justice conducted an investigation. The results were just published, which can read at http://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-w0801-pub.pdf.

The report confirms the allegations. The police department did have a policy of targeting cyclists in high-crime neighborhoods. Although these neighborhoods are predominantly black, the report stresses that this does not mean the program was racially motivated.

The stated purpose of the bicycle blitzkrieg was to: 1. recover stolen bicycles, 2. reduce traffic accidents, and 3. “pro-actively” reduce crime. The program failed to achieve any of these goals. Hardly any stolen bikes were recovered. The areas targeted for blitzkrieg did not have high accident rates to begin with. And the program did not reduce crime levels.

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A new road was recently constructed in South Fremont. Kato Rd was extended to connect with Mission Blvd. It provides a direct route between the the Warm Springs commercial district with various office parks along I880.

But as you can see, non-motorized users are not permitted to use it:


This road was actually built as part of the Warm Springs BART extension project. There are some alternate routes available, but they are less safe and (depending on where you are coming and going) more circuitous.


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Fremont Public Works informs me that there are no plans to remove bike lanes at the Grimmer/Blacow intersection:

The project will extend the bike lanes to the intersection crosswalk lines and install new bike detection loops and bike detection legends at all approaches.

While certainly good news, this does not change the fact that a Safe-Routes-to-School grant was used mainly for an automobile LOS improvement project.

The primary safety issue at the intersection isn’t the right-turn slip lane, but the ludicrously high traffic speeds. Blacow and Grimmer were both designed to encourage dangerous speeding. Just ask Leon and Marilyn Goheen, whose property borders Grimmer Blvd. On eight separate occasions, cars have gone flying off “dead man’s curve” and landed in their back yard.

If you want to make Grimmer Blvd safer for students, bulb-outs aren’t going to cut it. And adding automobile capacity makes it worse.


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Safe-Routes-to-School (SRTS) grants are supposed to improve bike and pedestrian access to schools. The city of Fremont has discovered a new way to use this funding source: to widen intersections and remove bike lanes. Cyclists biking past Irvington high school now have to contend with this:


You can see where the bike lane used to be. It was removed to make way for an additional left-turn lane. Cyclists now have to “share” the lane with 40+ mph traffic through a heavily used intersection. The Grimmer Blvd bike lane is a key part of the south Fremont Bike Plan, providing a connection to the new Warm Springs BART station. As well, pedestrians at the Grimmer/Blacow intersection will now have to cross 2 additional travel lanes.

Incredibly, this was all made possible by a California SRTS grant, which provided the bulk of the funding of the intersection “improvement” project. Fremont cleverly split the project up so that the SRTS grant paid for the expensive new signal and sidewalk changes, while the the new left turn lane was paid with non-SRTS funds.

Council gave the project a CEQA negative declaration (i.e. exempt from environmental review) because it would have “minor” impacts. The Staff Report to Council makes no mention of the bike lane removal. This raises the troubling question as to whether Fremont City Council or Caltrans was aware of the bike lane removal in approving the project.



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Australia’s mandatory helmet law provided the ideal experiment for testing the effectiveness of bike helmets. The result of that experiment was that helmet laws were completely ineffective.

That negative result should have led to the law being rescinded, but instead they are going full-retard on helmet laws:

Australia’s newest piece of criminal legislation is among the toughest in the world. The target: cyclists.

In a week, riders in Sydney and the rest of New South Wales state will be subject to a package of new laws aimed at cutting deaths and the more than 1,000 serious injuries a year among cyclists. The penalty for cycling without a helmet more than quadruples to A$319 ($229), stiffer than many speeding fines for drivers, and riders jumping a red light will get a A$425 fine. Adult riders will have to carry identification, or face a A$106 penalty from March 2017.

“This legislation is reaching new lows,” said Chris Rissel, a professor at the University of Sydney’s school of public health who has researched the benefits of cycling for 15 years. “There are many things that could be done to make cycling safer and to encourage more people to ride. These things are not it.”

Tougher rules, which come into force March 1, are needed because on average 11 cyclists die and 1,500 are seriously injured each year in New South Wales, said Bernard Carlon, executive director of the government’s Centre for Road Safety.

“If one cyclist chooses to now wear a helmet because of the new penalties, we consider that a win for cyclist safety,” Carlon said in an e-mail.

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When a celebrity crashes a plane, or is rear-ended by a truck, the NTSB will make a thorough investigation. But for the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists killed and injured each year, the NTSB has no interest in researching the cause of the collision.

A review of this year’s archive of accident recommendations shows the NTSB made dozens of recommendations for aviation, railroads, pipelines, and highways. But there is nothing related to non-motorized road users.

In fact, the last time the NTSB looked at a bike or ped issue was way back in the year 1972. Apparently, the NTSB believes the US has the most perfect infrastructure for bikes and peds.

When Congress created the NTSB, the purpose was to provide outside, independent guidance to transport planners. And since traffic engineers have such a huge blind spot for bikes and peds, one would think that a Vision-Zero policy would be the top high priority for the NTSB. Unfortunately, there is nobody at the agency, either at the staff or Board level, that seems to have any awareness of the issue.

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