Blog » bicycling
- September 15, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
What would it take to transform San Francisco into a world-class bicycling city? More bike racks? More designated green lanes? Fewer hills? San Francisco is already one of the premiere biking cities in the country: bicycling has increased over 50% since 2006, and last year saw over 8,000 bicyclists on the city's streets. San Francisco was recently ranked the sixth most bike-friendly city in America.
But most San Francisco residents are not riding their bicycles. Last week's lunch forum, "Crosstown bikeways," hosted by Andy Thornley and Renee Rivera of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, posed the question: "What is it going to take to get your neighbors, boss, coworkers and in-laws to ride bikes?"
The SF Bicycle Coalition publicly debuted its "Connecting the City" campaign at SPUR last week, featuring routes that would allow residents to cross the entire city by bike. Borrowing a slogan from Gil PeÃ±alosa, the visionary livable city advocate (as well as former Parks Commissioner of BogotÃ¡, Colombia), Rivera and Thornley spoke of improving the city's bike network to make bicycling across town a real possibility for citizens aged "eight to 80."
Appealing to families, senior citizens and children, (not necessarily the dominant demographic in urban bicycling), the SF Bicycle Coalition made a strong case for creating new bikeways and elevating the existing routes with improvements like green paint and soft barriers against traffic. As Thornley pointed out regarding the overwhelming enthusiasm for Market Street's new experimental green lanes, "a little bit of space designation goes a long way."
Among the proposed priority bikeways are the "Bay to the Beach" route, extending from the Ferry Building, continuing down Market Street, through Golden Gate Park to the coast, and the "Bay Trail," which extends around the entire shoreline from Hunters Point to the Presidio.
A suggested improvement of the Valencia Street bike lane would move the lanes from the curbsides to the middle of the street, allowing bicyclists to avoid idling vehicles and other obstacles. The Coalition also proposed a bridge extending around Black Point in Fort Mason, so that bicyclists and pedestrians alike could avoid climbing the steep hills there.
But perhaps most essential to the Connecting the City campaign is its vision of a bike network as a multi-layered system that includes transit, pedestrians, and even cars. A representative from the SFMTA cited the need to "get out of the bikes versus cars talk" and "reframe the debate" as necessary for pushing through a city-spanning bike network. Most car advocates probably haven't considered that more bicycling means fewer cars on the road — and less traffic.
Although the SFMTA voted to adopt the 2009 San Francisco Bike Plan, a five-year master plan adding 34 miles of new lanes and 60 overall improvement projects, the Connecting the City campaign focuses on routes that would allow San Franciscans to bike from one end of the city to the other.
By next year the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition hopes to make three miles of "eight to 80" bike lanes available to the citizens of San Francisco, with the entire crosstown route completed by 2012, and 10% of trips in the city made by bicycle.
A rendering of proposed bike lanes down the middle of Valencia Street.
A bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians around Black Point.
[All images via San Francisco Bicycle Coalition]
- September 1, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
A prototype for a bike rack designed by David Baker + Partners [Photo Credit: David Baker]
Build pretzel-shaped steel tubes, bolt them to the sidewalk, and the cyclists will come. Or at least that seems to be the logic behind the newfound interest in bike rack design in cities throughout the country. I remember a time when parking your bike meant locking it to anything you might tie a dog to, but these days everyone seems to have an opinion on the right way to lock up your bike — and a lamp post or park bench just will not do.
San Francisco-based architect David Baker (whose elegant, pleasantly weathered bike rack prototype is featured in DIY Urbanism: Testing the grounds for social change -- opening next Tuesday!), provides an excellent primer on bike rack design and implementation. Who knew that round tubes were more susceptible to pipe cutters? Or that a standard U-rack can easily accommodate three bicycles? It would behoove city planning officials to consult this guide before potentially installing the wrong kinds of racks on their city streets.
But bike racks have become much more than just another place to park your bike. Following in the wake of widespread bike lane implementation in even the most car-centric of cities (like Indianapolis and Detroit), bike racks are an instantly recognizable symbol of a city government's commitment to promoting bicycle transportation. In recognition of the bike rack's symbolic potential, cities like New York and San Francisco have brought industrial designers and architects into the process, sponsoring bike rack design competitions. Even David Byrne has collaborated with the New York Department of Transportation to install his own whimsical designs — although he seems to be on such good terms with the DOT that his work managed to bypass the usual jury process.
American cities have a long way to go before we come close to approximating the volume and efficiency of bike storage in iconic cycling cities such as Amsterdam, but a standard curbside U-rack with a galvanized steel finish is a good place to start.
Bike storage in Amsterdam [Photo Credit: flickr user julia.simard]
Criteria for bike rack installation in San Francisco [Image courtesy of SFMTA]
- March 1, 2010BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
After learning about new plans for San Francisco's public realm—widened sidewalks and bike lanes on Cesar Chavez Street and throughout the Mission District, a complete makeover of Fisherman’s Wharf—it was time to tackle a public space issue ourselves: Market Street.
SPUR teamed up with Next American City and the AIA to host an interactive charrette. Building on the Better Market Street Project, we brainstormed the transformation of Market into our city's grand boulevard and anchor.
[Image: Nelson Nygaard]
Jeff Tumlin of Nelson Nygaard kicked things off with an outline of what makes a great street: it invites participation, teems with people and offers transparency. It challenges our assumptions, inspires and surprises, plays with light and shadow and makes us feel sexy.
Brimming with sexy ideas, focus groups scattered to various corners of the urban center. Kim Havens of Wilson Meany Sullivan led the Commerce (Planning and Development) discussion and Karin Flood Eklund of MJM Management led Commerce (Shopping). Tim Papandreou of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and Neal Patel (pictured) of the SF Bike Coalition facilitated the transit and bike conversations, and Jill Manton of the Public Arts Commission and Kit Hodge of the Great Streets Project took on public art and public space.
[Image: Colleen McHugh]
An interesting theme emerged: to achieve our goals, groups needed to work together. Sure, there were some specific requests, such as dedicated bus lanes and stop consolidation (transit) and regular exhibitions (public art). But the majority of ideas required a partnership. Commerce and public space needed help from public art programming to draw in crowds. Public art needed help from public space and transit for fresh new locations for work. Obviously successful transit and bike systems required cooperation. And the list went on.
So can we make Market Street an avenue of constant activity, our own Champs-Elysées? According to this charrette, if we work together, then yes.
- February 3, 2010BY BEN LOWE
The recession has caused both private auto and public transit use to fall in the past couple of years, both in San Francisco and throughout the country, as travelers cut out superfluous trips to save money and those who have lost their jobs simply do not have anywhere to go.
Yet one mode of transportation in SF has shown massive mode-share gains over the same period: bicycle ridership in San Francisco increased 8.3% from 2008 to 2009, the MTA reports. During this same period, recession pressure has seen bicycle use stay flat or even fall, even in bicycle-friendly cities like Portland. This increase extends a trend that has seen SF ridership increase 53% from 2006 to 2009.
Not only is bicycle use up, but so is support for bicycle advocacy efforts: in the past year, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has seen its membership rise 15%, to more than 11,000 dues-paying members. The San Francisco government is also throwing its support behind cycling: Mayor Newsom has reiterated his support for a citywide bicycle-sharing program, and with the city's bicycle plan ready to be partially implemented, the city will become even more friendly for its two-wheeled travelers.
- December 1, 2009BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
Fall programming concluded November 18th with bikes, parks and policy in the City of Light. Writer and lecturer Marilyn Clemens illustrated current trends in Parisian roadway and park design, which follow the geometry of the classical era, while also redefining the purpose of public space. The Alliance Française generously sponsored the event.
Clemens reported walking as the most popular method of circulation, and the city of Paris plans accordingly for its pedestrians. From small alleys to the Champs-Élysées, streets of all sizes have taken lanes away from cars and given to pedestrians. Cyclists are also a priority, with over 230 miles of new bikeways in the works. And while bicycle sharing has faced challenges, Vélib’ remains popular throughout France.
A partnership of the planning department with the department of the environment prompted a new focus on sustainability in the parks, using educational programs and exhibitions to promote the message. Innovations in park design set new precedents. The Promenade Plantée (pictured) runs for nearly three miles along an abandoned railway viaduct. Completed in 1995, the green space inspired New York City's High Line. The beautiful elevated space caters to both bikers and walkers, making it easy for Parisians to take the high road.
[Image: Marilyn Clemens]
- May 21, 2009BY DAVE SNYDER
The Alliance for Biking & Walking, a national coalition of advocacy organizations, is working the Congressional Bike Caucus. The Caucus represents a majority of members who support an increased federal role in promoting bicycling as a solution to our nation's transportation crisis, not to mention our health and environmental crises.
In the attached letter from the Bike Caucus Chair, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland, OR), you'll see what the national bike movement is up to. The letter calls for four policies:
1. an increase in safe routes to school funding. (This will help us traffic-calm many SF streets)
2. a complete streets requirement (that all streets be designed for safe use by all, a policy already in place in San Francisco).
3. an "active transportation investment fund" to provide large grants for ambitious nonmotorized transportation plans, and
4. better data collection.
All in all, if the bike caucus (which is comprised of a slight majority of congress) supports this agenda, it bodes well for the urbanist transportation system SPUR is pushing.