Category: News

Have a fun and safe NYE!

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It’s been a year since we started blogging about bike culture and biking related issues in San Francisco and now Oakland. We can’t believe how fast the time rolled by! We want to wish all of you fun and safe NYE celebrations and an awesome New Year! We look forward to sharing more about biking in Oakland and SF in 2014! Here’s to a great year ahead on two wheels!

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Oakland – A new home for my bicycles

SF in the background while Oakland is in the foreground.  Source:  The Independent

Oakland is in the foreground with San Francisco in the background. The Bay Bridge in between them links these two interesting cities, separated only by the waters of the bay. Source: The Independent

Dear fellow bicyclists,

I didn’t expect my time-off from blogging to be more than a couple of weeks but it ended up being that way. I had multiple things going on, and one of them was my move across the bay from SF to Oakland. There were many reasons why we moved to Oakland, but since this is a bicycle blog, I won’t discuss it all here.

But I do want to share about my experience so far being a bicyclist in Oakland, including how I am now a full-time bike commuter and not just a weekend warrior!

From what I have observed so far, biking in Oakland is a much more relaxing experience. Although SF was wonderful to ride in, with beautiful and interesting scenery, and a very strong bike culture, it’s just not the same anymore. When you have taxis, ride-shares, freight trucks, private shuttles, and company buses becoming increasingly the norm and fighting ever more for the limited space, bicycles lose out. Until SF has real protected bike lanes throughout their entire bike network, things will only get worse. Constantly, vehicles are blocking bike lanes, speeding and cutting you off at intersections, honking at and intimidating you, and you can’t relax. It takes the fun out of riding.

So here we are in Oakland! It’s very laid-back and the streets are wide so that you don’t get squeezed by cars. Because it is not a touristy city, you don’t get the cab drivers whizzing dangerously close by you like jerks to pick up their next customer. You also don’t have as many large trucks that have huge blind spots which account for half of all bicycle collisions. There are some painted bike lanes and it is true that they are not built out to the level in SF, but it is still pretty easy to ride. I never like to share the road with drivers and you have to here a lot more, but it is easier to do so. The term “share the road” does exist here. The drivers are considerate most of the time and don’t drive nearly as fast as drivers in SF. I rarely get honked or cussed at while riding here.

One of the best things about living in Oakland is that I am now using my bike 5 days a week to get to work. My bike route includes 3 soothing miles (4.8 km) one way from my condo, and passes along Lake Merritt and stops at Jack London Square where I take the San Francisco Bay Ferry to get to South San Francisco. Then I bike another 0.5 mile (0.8 km) on the Bay Trail to get to my office.  Yes, you heard that right!  I get to ride the ferry every morning to work! Below are some photos from the ferry ride.

SF Bay Ferries boarding at Jack London Square, Oakland

SF Bay Ferries boarding at Jack London Square in Oakland.

There are 3 departure times in the morning and 3 in the evening. The fares are quite expensive at $7 USD one way despite it being subsidized by bridge tolls. Bicycles are welcome though! It has bike racks in the front and rear which can park up to 34 bikes. Usually there are plenty of spaces to park. I think about a third of the passengers are bike commuters by looking at the number of bikes. You don’t need to lock your bike because it is very safe (well, there’s no where to go if one tries to steal your bike while on the water). Not locking your bike makes it hassle-free.

Two rows of bike racks for about a dozen bikes each in the front of the ferry.

Two rows of bike racks in the front of the ferry.

Bike racks in the rear are usually empty.

Bike racks in the rear are usually empty.

The seats are spacious and is at half capacity. There's complimentary coffee and its free lackluster WiFi.

The seats are spacious and usually are just at half capacity. There’s complimentary coffee and WiFi (with very poor reception). Drinks and snacks are served in the evening.

The ferry takes you through the Port of Oakland and across the Bay. It’s pretty cool to see these massive football-field-sized (actually, up to 3x the length) container ships from around the world bringing goods to your area. I have seen ships from London, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands, Tokyo, and France (see image below: CSCL Le Havre).

One of many cargo ships waiting to dock at the Port of Oakland.

One of many cargo ships waiting to dock at the Port of Oakland.

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A popular local meme is to refer to those cranes on the left as reminiscent of the robot dinosaurs AT AT from The Empire Strikes Back.

SF's skyline.

San Francisco’s skyline as seen from the ferry.

If you ever think about using the ferry as part of your commute, I say try it out. It is not only a great trip but the water definitely will calm whatever stress you have that day.

On a side note, I may have to change my blog title since I am in Oakland now. But even though I now reside in Oakland, I will always appreciate and remember my time in San Francisco. That is where I discovered my passion for urban cycling and became inspired by the bike community there.

I look forward to sharing more with you about biking in Oakland, and the Bay Area in future posts.

Until next time, Happy Riding and Happy Holidays!

Stay tuned…

Hey fellow bicyclists,

I will be taking care of some things for the next couple of weeks and won’t have time to post. But I will definitely return to continue sharing more about biking in SF and the Bay Area. Stay tuned!

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Pedal Power Infographic

Cara Delany and her team have put this ‘pedal’ powerful info-graphic together to help promote bicycling with facts and statistics from environmental, economic, and health impacts of biking. It is self-explanatory and full of information.


An infographic by the team at Online Masters In Public Health

Notice the info-graphic on the proliferative uptick of bike sharing programs across this country from the largest city of New York City (pop. of 8M) to the smallest city of Boulder, CO (pop. of 97K). Cities are getting it but the general population are not. Spread the word by showing this info-graphic to your friends and relatives.

Till next time, happy pedaling!

BABS Launch Ceremony (8/29/13)

Finally today is the day the bicycle community feels some legitimacy! I feel so proud that a bicycle is incorporated into the public transit system.

The Bay Area Bike-Share ceremony started at 10:30 am today at 4th and King St. Caltrain station. Here are some photos from today’s ceremony. It wasn’t until noon that the bike shares could be used by the public.

bike share celebrity

She was the celebrity of the day. Our celeste green Bay Area Bike Share. She got so much attention, deservingly.

bay area bikeshare refreshments

Mayor Lee speaking

Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco was there to speak at the ceremony with Jane Kim, Scott Wiener and John Avalos (3 of our Supervisors) in attendance.

Jared Blumfield

Jared Blumenfeld, a bike commuter and an EPA official (appointed by President Obama) spoke convincingly of why bicycle is good for transportation, good for business, good for livability, etc.

bike share ribbon cutting

little girl on bikeshare

Mayor Lee on bikeshare

Mayor Ed Lee leading the bike share caravan back to City Hall.

Police chief Greg Suhr

Our police chief, Greg Suhr on a bike? Maybe now he can understand how it feels to be a bicyclist. I would love to see more cops on bikes.

bike share dispatcher

First customer at Caltrain station

Right at noon time is this first happy customer at the Townsend and 4th St. station.

bike shares already in use

By riding around town today, I can already tell bike shares are going to be very popular.

Happy Bike-Sharing!

25% jump in the bicycling rate on Market Street!

Bike counter on Market Street on a Sunday afternoon.

Bike counter on Market Street on a Sunday afternoon.

SF’s very own bicycle counter Eco Counter was unveiled on Bike to Work Day which was May 9th of this year. It was a perfect day to celebrate biking to work with the counter running.

For those of you who don’t know what’s the point of having a bike counter- well, it’s the same thing as doing a survey/poll. After data collection, Market Street may be justified in getting more bike infrastructure investment (crossing fingers) and a traffic mobility reassessment. Plus, it’s cool to see the numbers increase in real-time for all those bicycle boosters and data geeks out there.

Location of the bike counter. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Location of the bike counter. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The bicycle counter is located on the south side of Market St. between 9th and 10th Sts. to count bicyclists heading eastbound. Market Street has the highest amount of bicycle traffic in San Francisco, so it’s a no brainer to have it there.

Let’s take a look at the historical data on bicycling in SF and then at the numbers coming from the counter:

SF boasted an increase of 71% in bicyclist counts between 2006 and 2010. Unfortunately, in the last 5 years SF saw the same rate in bicycle theft. These two data sets sort of correlate with each other.

Additionally, bicycle trips account for 3.5% of all trips in 2010, an increase from 2% in the year 2000. But have these numbers gone up since 2010? I am still waiting and eager to see data showing that jump because everywhere I ride, I see a lot more bicyclists.

But it’s also possible that the percentage of trips made by bicycle remained the same even as the number of bicycle trips went up, because it also seems like there has been a large uptick in car trips (and congestion) which many have observed in the city. So after accounting for that, the percentage of bike trips may sadly still remain at 3.5%.

Now let’s take a look at the numbers coming from the bike counter:

Data from bike counter for since May 9. Image courtesy of SFMTA.

Data collected from bike counter since May 9. Image courtesy of SFMTA.

First, the counter only collects data on Market St. and possibly has some glitches. It’s been reported that not every bicyclist gets counted, that vehicles are sometimes counted, and that there’s a 5% error rate (source).

Nevertheless, according to the bike counter posted on the SFMTA’s website, the number of bicyclists that were registered has jumped from an average of 2,032 per day in May to 2,715 in August (excluding outliers) within 4 months. Although the number of daily riders is small, that’s a 25% increase! In addition, the August weekday count of 3,132 almost tied with Bike to Work Day’s count of 3,231 which is incredible! Many people that came out to ride for BTWD are not regular bicycle commuters and perhaps now, these occasional riders have become regulars!

The increase could have also been due to the warmer months. But I doubt it has much to do with that because the climate in SF is pretty mild all year round, and it’s been especially warm throughout this year so far.

You’ll notice that there is no data for the months of June and July. It’s possible that when the counter was shut down for the Market St. repaving back in June, the counter was also re-calibrated and fine-tuned (we don’t know for sure) affecting the counts for May. So the count could have already been at the same level as in August and there might not have been an actual increase.

It’s too bad that during the months of June and July, there was no data input. If it wasn’t turned off for the re-pavement, it would have told us more about the change. For example, a slow increase would confirm the 25% increase from May to August.

If there really was an increase, it would be great to see it continue in this upward trend. Maybe this road will soon eventually outdo Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge as the busiest bicycle corridor in the nation.

One of nine bike share stations on Market St next to bike counter.

One of nine bike share stations on Market St. next to the bike counter. Bay Area Bike Share will launch on Thursday, 8/29.

Amelie’s death: last of five tragic deaths involving truck drivers.

Amelie Le Moullac, 24.  Image courtesy of Voce Communications.

Amelie Le Moullac, 24. Image courtesy of Voce Communications.

What a very sad last week it was for the bicycle community. Amelie Le Moullac of 24, was on her way to work last Wednesday morning. She was riding her bike on a striped bike lane going straight on Folsom St. in the SOMA neighborhood when a truck driver made a right turn on 6th St. and killed her. It was the driver’s fault but of course he wasn’t cited.

Amelie's bike.  Image courtesy of SFGate.

Amelie’s bike. Image courtesy of SFGate.

Since 2011, the last five bicyclists’ deaths had all resulted from colliding with truck drivers at intersections in San Francisco. This seems like a common theme here.  This is all too familiar when cycle tracks are not put in.  I hear these kinds of stories coming from London as well. 50% of cyclists’s deaths in London involve trucks. The reason I think is that cities like London and San Francisco are very auto-centric and both have a rapidly growing bicycle culture. However, both have dysfunctional bike infrastructure which is composed of striped bike lanes.  As a result, cyclists are forced to share roads with motorists. In just about any city with this kind of set-up, tragic fatalities with motorists are bound to happen.

Bike lane on the right on Folsom St. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Bike lane on the right on Folsom St. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The street Amelie was a riding on is a one way thoroughfare with 4 lanes. This is one of many streets (pretty ridiculous for such a small and dense city) in SF which are very suitable for large trucks to be on.  The construction frenzy in the city has also brought in dozens and dozens of these trucks. Add to the fact that truck drivers can’t see you because they sit 8 ft/2.4 m above ground with a huge blind-spot on the driver’s right side.

Either reduce speed limits on these kind of roads (and enforce it), ban all right turns on red lights, or put in real bike infrastructure. Bicycle commuters are going to take this route because it is one of 2 routes (from the central neighborhoods) with some sort of bike facility that leads to downtown. It’s unfortunate that we have a long way to go to have safe streets throughout SF for bicyclists. Since our city is not going to implement any of these soon, the responsibility to be safe is on us bicyclists. Below are some tips that may help you to be safe.

1. Always look over your left shoulder moments beforehand when crossing an intersection.

2. Don’t speed through intersections, prepare to stop.

3. Be visible to drivers by being out in front at a junction when waiting for a green light.

4. Listen for loud trucks if you can. I know the city can be very loud a lot of times.

5. Be assertive and take the whole lane if you have to. You have the legal right to.

6. And always pass to the left of a vehicle to avoid a right hook, this is when a car merges suddenly to the right to make a right turn sandwiching the bike rider between the car and the curb.

Amelie's memorial at 6th and Folsom St.

Amelie’s memorial at 6th and Folsom St.

Rest in peace, Amelie.

Read also:
In Memory of Diana Sullivan, Ghost Bike Memorial