Monday, May 31, 2010

Women Who Bike: Aida Berkovitz

Aida Berkovitz: San Francisco bicyclist in Barcelona, 2008. Photo: Aida Berkovitz.

Aida mountain biking at Lake Tahoe. Photo: Aida Berkovitz

What's your bicycling style?
I'm very knowledgeable about how to ride safely in traffic and I always signal my turns. I find that drivers will avoid doing crazy things around bicyclists when they know what we are intending to do.

When did you start biking?
I've always liked bicycle riding, ever since I was a child. I wa in college n the early 1970s when the 10-speed racing bikes from Europe became the rage. I bought my first adult bike then, the one which I still have. I rode to school every day and when I graduated and started my career, I upgraded to a new bike. Shortly after purchasing it, it was stolen from the van that was moving me from California to the East Coast. It was many years later -- after getting married, raising my daughter, and moving back to California (a span of about 22 years) -- before I got back on a bicycle.

When did you return to bicycling?
In my job as a traffic and safety engineer with the Federal Highway Administration, I became a pedestrian safety and design expert. I got elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) and served as president for a couple of years. I realized that I also needed expertise and experience in bicycle design as well, so I rented a bike on a trip to Nantucket. I fell in love all over again. I got home and bought myself a nice hybrid-type bike and rode around the city. After about 6 months of riding, I upgraded to a lighter bike.

How much do you ride today and where?
I probably ride about 3 to 4 times a week to run errands, visit my mother, and then I add a weekly longer ride for exercise. My car sits in the garage most of the time getting dusty. I get great pleasure now from moving quickly around town and not having to worry about finding a place to park. I love riding in city traffic and particularly love it when I can move faster that the vehicles around me.

What can San Francisco do to encourage more women and girls to bike?
I think the best way is to ensure that they have easy access to training in how to ride in traffic. Providing more bike lanes and some separate bicycle facilities also seems to encourage more women to get out and ride more often. I think the fact that bicycling in San Francisco has become stylish has gone a long way to encouraging younger women to use bicycling as their primary form of transportation.

Has your cycling led to new friendships or other relationships?
I met my husband on the Cycling Singles website in 2005; we married two years later. We ride together all the time. We find that bicycling has a certain serendipity to it. We discover interesting places and events whenever we are out on our bikes. We often take vacations with our bikes. I met my good friend Lynne Howe (profiled here) through a SF Bicycle Coalition event, and we now ride together about once a week. I also met lots of great bicycling people when I was on the board of the APBP.

I get upset when I'm biking when ...
I see bicyclists who flagrantly make unsafe bicycling maneuvers, such as riding the wrong way down a bike lane, riding at night without any lights, etc. I also get upset when vehicle drivers fail to use their signals.

I surprise people when I bike by...
being middle-aged and still riding as is I was young and slightly fearless. I also surprise people with how I dress when biking.

My message to women who want to try biking:
Take the League's Effective Riding course.* Then get out and ride with a more experienced friend, to help give you more confidence and practice.

* Editor's note: Another option is the Urban Cycling Workshops provided by the SF Bicycle Coalition.


Women Who Bike is a collaborative effort by BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City that features San Francisco women and their bicycles. Each Monday and Wednesday check both blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas of women who bike the city. See the other profiles in the Women Who Bike series and on Bikes and The City.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lower Divisadero/NOPA Next Up for City's New Bicycle and Shop Incentives

I Bike SF logo

After a successful first month in Hayes Valley, I Bike SF is coming to the Lower Divisadero and NOPA neighborhood. During the month of June, several local businesses and bicyclists from all over the city will participate in a win/win promotion. Patrons who bike will find a range of discounts at restaurants, cafes, bars, and all kinds of shops that post the I Bike SF sign at the entry or in windows. By showing their bike helmet or bike lock (update: make that "bike lock key"), cyclists might get 10% off purchases, a buy-one-get-one-free offer, free dessert with purchase of an entree, happy hour discounts, or something even more creative. Local merchants who participate in I Bike SF get lots of free promotion of their business by the city and local organizations during the month-long run.

BIKE NOPA recently spoke with Mari Hunter, the intern who developed the program for the Mayor's Climate Protection Initiative, at the Matching Half Cafe, one of the NOPA businesses set to participate in the program. "There's lots of carrot and no stick involved," Hunter said about I Bike SF. "We simply encourage bicycling and promote local businesses at the same time."

Mari Hunter promoting I Bike SF in Lower Divisadero/NOPA

Five merchants in Hayes Valley found the program so beneficial that they want to be year-round participants, according to Hunter. One Hayes Valley business -- the popular restaurant Supenkuche -- embraced the program so much that it placed the I Bike SF discount on its menu. Hunter thinks local businesses find I Bike SF really easy to join. "They can say yes right away without having to go to corporate headquarters for approval."

Eleven businesses along lower Divisadero -- from Haight to Turk -- and on Baker Street have joined the program and will be ready for anyone stopping by with a helmet or bike lock. Hunter expects more to participate early in the month as word spreads along the corridor, and she thinks Divisadero businesses might be even more successful with the program given the area's high bike traffic and several bike lanes.

Hunter helped develop I Bike SF with lots of dedication but no budget. "I'm effectively a volunteer," she said, "but we've received some money from different city departments." The list of collaborators for the program is daunting: the Mayor's Office, SF Environment, the Municipal Transportation Agency, the Office of Small Business, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Hunter reported that all the organizational reps had been "really excellent" to work with. "They pipe in where they have the most experience."

For a full listing of all the participating businesses, check the I Bike SF website June 1st. Merchants can contact Mari Hunter at 415-554-6556 and at .

Thursday, May 27, 2010

$100 Award for Winning Logo in Divisadero Farmers' Market Competition

Anyone inspired to get into the logo design trade, take note: the Divisadero Farmers' Market is looking for you. Dmitrius Spartos, manager of the ever-more popular Sunday market at Divisadero and Grove, wants to usher in spring and summer with its own new logo. The design contest runs through May 30th when the winning entry will be selected. Contact Spartos here or by phone: 925-825-9090. Time's running out. Competition will be judged by the end of this week. And an extra jolt to creative juices and the pocketbook: the winning entrant will receive $100.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Curious Case of the Divisadero Islands: Risky Pedestrian Crossings in New Design?

At Turk Street: The "refuge" juts out into walking space on the inside

At Fell Street: pedestrians have to negotiate around vehicles or, sometimes, step into oncoming traffic lane to use the crosswalk

At Page Street: In what pedestrian design scheme does this make sense?

They were meant to increase safety for pedestrians using the crosswalks on Divisadero, but the pedestrian islands or refuges that are part of the recent makeover of the Divisadero corridor make little sense with few exceptions. Nor do they conform to the city's code.* Instead the islands sometimes jut past the inside line of the crosswalk or float in the middle of the crosswalk blocking easier passage. It's no news that motorists often stop in the crosswalks for signal changes, thus blocking pedestrian passage. With the current island or "thumbnail" refuges, walkers are often forced to negotiate around the intruding vehicles and proceed outside the crosswalk just to cross the street.

BIKE NOPA reader Jeff Gibson first wrote about the odd array of crosswalk islands as a guest contributor on May 4th. He compiled the several anomalies and sent them to the Department of Public Works with a request for an explanation. Kris Opbroek, DPW's Great Streets manager for the Divisadero project, explained that the configuration at Fell Street was a safety measure to protect pedestrians from motorists turning left from Fell. But Opbroek was unable at the time to explain the great variation of traffic island placements along the busy corridor. Gibson is still waiting for a reply about those.

San Franciscans live with oddities in the physical environment all the time, but the obstruction of pedestrian passage -- in crosswalks, no less -- is more than a quirk to endure. Unless there are solid traffic and safety design justifications for each of the variations, those that pose an unnecessary risk need to be changed.

What happened here? Unless there are some good reasons for the peculiarities of these island placements that have yet to be explained, the other possibilities are disturbing:
  • City staff provided the contractor with unclear directions and designs for the crosswalks
  • The contractor, Synergy Construction, cut corners with the designs or misread them in its desire to complete the project on time or ahead of schedule
  • The city conducted inadequate supervision of the work
  • City inspectors -- or their supervisors -- noticed the problem but decided to let it pass
Perhaps we're missing something that explains the curious case of the Divisadero islands. Jeff Gibson and quite a few pedestrians crossing the neighborhood's primary business corridor would like to know.

* Better Streets, San Francisco, Chapter 5.0, Guide: Street Design, pages 122 - 124.
  • Raised thumbnails should be provided on the intersection side of refuge islands. Ideally, thumbnails should be located outside of the crosswalk.
  • To accommodate turning radii for large vehicles, the thumbnail may need to be within the crosswalk or have a mountable outside edge. Mountable thumbnails should be built so that pedestrians are discouraged from standing on the thumbnail itself (for example, by using cobbles or other uneven paving materials.

Women Who Bike: Susan King

Susan King and her flower-power basket bike Photo: Susan King

Multi-tasking in the park Photo: Susan King

So many women ride bikes for transportation and recreation in San Francisco that BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City are collaborating to bring their stories to you. Our series, Women Who Bike, appears every Monday and Wednesday on each of our blogs. Check both sites for the experiences, insights, and tips from women who want to share their passion for biking with you. Tell us what you think and post your comments for the featured riders.

How do you characterize your biking style?
Slow and steady. I am never in too big a hurry to stop for pedestrians or run through a stop sign when there are cards waiting their turn. People fly past me on hills (both up and down), but I always arrive in one piece, and that's good enough for me.

How often do you get to bike?
I ride my bike to work just about every day that it is not raining -- I admit to being a fair-weather cyclist. I also ride for recreation on weekends. My work in organizing Sunday Streets* allows me the opportunity to spend more time on my bike, so work sometimes equals pleasure.

What can San Francisco do to encourage more women and girls to bike?
I recently realized that I cycle more because I hang around with friends who cycle. We often take group rides for recreation or caravan to social events by bike. This social cycle circle definitely inspires me to ride more, and it provides the extra incentive that I sometimes need to get on my bike at night. Having friends around as you bike is more fun and safer.

The number one thing I would say needs to be done to get more women on bikes is to create safe places to ride. As a 20 year plus bike commuter, I am a fairly competent and confident rider, but even I get nervous on roads that have no bike infrastructure and are populated by fast moving cars. I hesitate to encourage all of my friends to ride to work and around town for this reason.

Have many of your current friendships started with bicycling?
I met my current roommate at a bike ride. Most of my favorite people are bikers, and my funnest holiday-in-the-city memories are the group rides organized by friends, including the past two New Year's Eves, and the daytime rides on Valentines Day organized by Kay Hoskins.

I've had lots of fun encounters on my bike. I especially love riding around with music playing. It is so much fun to see how people react to hearing music blasting out of speakers mounted on a bike. It's an instant rolling dance party (courtesy of Deep Jawa and his Trikeasaurus or Dan Nguyen-Tan and the Funcycle.

I surprise people when I bike by ...
With my flower-adorned basket, wearing a skirt, ringing my "I Love My Bike" bell.

My message to women who want to try biking:
Biking is a great way to get around the city, save money, and keep your girlish figure. Lots of women ride (for lots of different reasons), and you do not have to compromise your style or your lifestyle to make cycling part of your life.

* Susan bikes through NOPA all the time and is often spotted at Green Chile Kitchen. NOPA neighbors will definitely see her when Sunday Streets comes to the North Panhandle on September 19th.

For more great stories in the series, take a look at these previous Women Who Bike posts. And stop by Bikes And The City every Monday and Wednesday for Meli's Women Who Bike.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in the series, please contact me at

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mural In Progress: New Green Bike Lane on Fell to Have San Francisco Panorama for Company

Surface prepped, sketched, and advisory posted

From this to the wall, a profusion of iconic San Francisco and flowers to match diversity

The block of Fell Street between Scott and Divisadero -- an essential link in the Wiggle Bike Route -- will soon greet pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists with a bright splash of color featuring iconic San Francisco sights and symbols of the city's diversity. With great timing, a new mural is being sketched and painted along the block that has been the focus of much frustration, contention, and risk. Earlier this month the SFMTA advanced a traffic plan that the agency hopes will improve safety for all road and sidewalk users. One element of the proposal is a green-painted bike lane to guide cyclists and give motorists a visual cue to share the road with bikers. Weather permitting, the mural will be completed this week to make the block a visual treat for all.

Marina Perez-Wong, 3rd generation San Franciscan and muralist

Marina: and a bicyclist too!

Marina Perez-Wong's portfolio convinced the owners of the building at the SW corner of Fell and Scott that she was the artist they wanted for their mural. Perez-Wong has been painting murals for four years since graduation from the California College of Arts. She is a third generation San Franciscan who grew up in the Mission with murals all around her. She applied to the Street Artist Program of the San Francisco Arts Commission and was selected to join a pool of artists ready to create murals at selected locations in the city.

"The owners had a few requirements," Perez-Wong explained. "They wanted the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car, and a bike rider in the mural." The Alamo Square Neighborhood Association (ASNA)* wanted the mural to reflect the neighborhood, its postcard-row houses and its stunning park. And Perez-Wong was hoping to include a political statement. In the end, she included the owners' wishes, tried to accommodate ASNA's interests, and muted the political angle. "Most people travel this block on bike or in a car," she said. "I want the mural to be an easier read for them while travelling."

Perez-Wong decided to focus on the historic diversity of neighborhood residents. In the middle of her work she placed the Hall of Flowers from Golden Gate Park, a structure that houses a rich mix of plants from all over the world. She will also feature flowers geographically associated with Western Addition populations: African violets, dahlias from Mexico, Japanese cherry blossoms, and several native flowers too. "Now everybody is here in the neighborhood," she added.

To complete her work, Perez-Wong ("Micho P") had help yesterday from Rashad, who was doing some brush work, and from Ernesto Aguiler who laughed when Perez-Wong described him as "an assistant who saves Marina's ass."

Street art, a traffic-calmed corridor, and a green bike lane -- all signs of another more livable space in the city. But, does anyone in NOPA have potential mural space for Perez-Wong's more political vision?

* ASNA will cover the cost of the graffiti-resistant coating for the mural, according to board member Gus Hernandez. Something new: ASNA has a new website here.

You might also want to view BIKE NOPA's "Murals of NOPA" series.

Bicyclist/Motorist Crash Sunday at Fulton and Arguello Streets

A bicyclist and motorist crashed Sunday afternoon at Arguello and Fulton Streets, according to a cyclist who stopped at the scene shortly after the collision. The cyclist, believed to be a man, was already in an ambulance when Matthew Brill arrived at the intersection. There were two police cars and a fire truck also at the site. The cyclist's bike was placed on the fire truck. Brill relayed to BIKE NOPA what else he observed and heard in an email this afternoon.

"The accident was around 2:45 PM. There were two cars involved, but only one appeared to have hit the cyclist, based upon conversation I overheard of the two involved motorists. The vehicle was a small to medium-sized sport utility. I did not see much visual damage on the vehicle."

Although Brill did not see the collision, he suspects -- based on the placement of the vehicles -- that the motorist who hit the cyclist was driving south on Arguello and turning left on Fulton. Brill notes that motorists likely do not expect any "vehicles" to be exiting Golden Gate Park onto Arguello since the barriers were up and blocking vehicle access during the Sunday closure of the park to traffic. He also notes that cyclists often fly through the intersection, coming out of the park, when they have the green light and the right-of-way to proceed north on Arguello. "I am thinking this intersection might need some signage to alert motorists of oncoming traffic, especially on Sunday Street closure days," Brill added.

BIKE NOPA is seeking more information about the collision and the condition of the cyclist from SFPD and will provide an update as soon as possible.

11 pm update: The cyclist was released from the hospital "banged up but alive" in his words.

Women Who Bike: Rose Johnson

Rose Johnson: another day of biking

Women Who BIKE!: Rose (2nd from left)

Photos by Rose

Women Who Bike is a collaborative effort by BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City that features San Francisco women and their bicycles. Each Monday and Wednesday check both blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas that women who bike the city want to share with you.

What's your style of biking?
Efficient. Depending on my mood, how late I am, and my energy level, I choose routes that accommodate my needs. On a sunny day there is nothing I love more than a cruise down the Wiggle. When I am tired, I avoid the hills and enjoy the granny gear. On a sunny Saturday morning the Sausalito hill is nothing. But most of the time, I bike standing up.

How often do you bike and what for?
I ride my bike everyday, almost everywhere I go. I bike because I can and because I believe in alternative forms of transportation, a low-cost life style, and participation. My bicycle is not only my main form of sustainable travel, but it is also my load wagon. I like to see how much stuff I can fit on the back. By using busted tubes creatively, I am able to carry all of my supplies for my small bike-powered business, Apothocurious, my camping gear for bike tours, and for my bike-less friends.

What can San Francisco do to encourage more women, including teens and younger, to bike?
I think with proper education to EVERYONE (cyclists, car drivers, and youth) we can share the road safely and enjoyably. When we prove that "it can be done," we empower everyone in being able to live a low-cost, low-impact, and low-stress life style.

I think when someone is able to experience bicycling around the city in a safe, fun, and supported environment, within a few rides they are hip to the ease, the possibility, and the new-found freedom that comes with bicycles.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I lead an all-girl bike club at Hoover Middle School. The group is not a place without boys, but a place where females can express their uniquely feminine experiences without judgment of misunderstanding. They can ride slow, walk up hills, or ask questions that might otherwise have have overlooked or unheard in a bike club comprised mostly of boys. The group is unique in the way that the pace is more calm, the leadership is fluid, and, when I look back to check on the riders behind me, every rider is doing exactly what she should should be: riding safely.

What's one of your best times bicycling?
I live on my bicycle, and most of my friends do too! So much is shared, experienced, and grown when we travel together. For the past three years I have trained for the AIDS Life Cycle ride. I have only ridden once, but the training is what is special to me. Year One, my friend Nicole convinced me to jump on for an 80 mile trip to Occidental. This was when I was first getting into long distance cycling, and the feeling of accomplishment I got at the end of that trip was enough to know it was true love. Year Two I decided to do the ride, and I convinced my two besties to join me. It was the greatest thing to spend a Saturday riding 80 miles, catching up, preparing and appreciating each other. This two more besties have decided to do the ride. Watching them preparing, helping fundraise, and riding the Headlands has been full of so much beautiful quality time.

I surprise people when I bike when ...
I'm in my yellow vest with ten kids in tow.

My message to women who want to try biking:
We can do it!

Rose lives in NOPA and, as she says, "I heart the hard."

For more great stories, take a look at these previous Women Who Bike posts:

And stop by Bikes And The City every Monday and Wednesday for Meli's Women Who Bike. (Treat yourself and visit her site every day!)

If you or someone you know might like to join this series, please ask them to contact me at

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Murals of NOPA: Bold Touch at the Laundry

You can't miss the mural at the corner of Lyon and McAllister. On the Lyon Street exterior of the neighborhood laundry "Get the Funk Out," this eerie visual evokes, for me, an Almodovar homage amid free-form graffiti script and an octoman I don't want to encounter on a dark street.

Other posts in the Murals of NOPA series.

Devastated Muni Stop Replaced at Hayes & Baker

Road-rage motorist destroyed Muni stop at Hayes & Baker. Photo: Tom O'Connell

New structure now in place. Photo: Michael Helquist

A motorist overcome with self-indulgent, destructive road rage wiped out a Muni bus stop at Hayes and Baker the end of last month. More importantly, he seriously injured a visitor to San Francisco who was waiting for the 21 Hayes to arrive. Muni cleared the smashed structure, the city swept the glass from the sidewalk and street, and today a new stop is in place. Almost as if nothing had happened. But the real physical and psychological pain, the slow-healing, the life-disruption and the expense for the injured tourist continue out of our view.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Women Who Bike: Dawn D'Onofrio

Sunday Streets: Bayview...sunny day for Dawn and Smoky

Energized at Bike to Work Day Station; Smoky's All Powered Up

Dawn ready for the NOPA VELO "Climb Every Mountain" ride with Smoky in basket

Women Who Bike is a collaborative effort by BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City that features San Francisco women and their bicycles. Each Monday and Wednesday check both blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas that women who bike the city want to share.

Sixth in a series: Dawn D'Onofrio

How do you characterize your bicycling style?
I would have to say "respectful." So many people complain about cars, cyclists, and pedestrians -- but I'm sure we are all a little guilty of some infraction. As cyclists we are in some middle ground and many take that as the right to have our own set of rules - or not have to abide by "others." But being a cyclist, I can't complain about cars running stop signs or red lights if I do the same. So I try not to. It's really scary when another cyclists zips through an intersection as I am turning or a pedestrian runs in front of me. I try to be cautious and aware, but mostly I just try to respect the right we all have to a piece of the road, and hope that by doing my part I make it a little easier for all to coexist.

How often do you bike and what for?
I sold my car before I moved here 2+ years ago, so biking is about it for everything. Although at times, I really do enjoy the walk and adverse weather forces me onto public transportation.

What could be done in San Francisco to encourage more women to bike?
I think it's being done. More bike shops are offering women's nights for simple maintenance, better fitting, lighter women's bikes, better looking fashion and accessories. We tote around a lot more stuff than guys, and we need a good way to take it with us other than a huge messenger bag.

Have any great dates or friendships started with bicycling?
I hadn't ridden a bike for over eight years after a van hit me while I was riding. One guy I met became a good friend, and he took me out to pick out a new bike. His philosophy was "just do it" (I think I have heard that somewhere before!). He was fairly new to the area, and he didn't know anyone else as into bikes as I was. We became super bike buddies and went riding almost every day after work. He showed me a lot on mechanics and maintenance. In about six months I was back to speed and we were doing century rides. I bought a mountain bike and fell in love with the sport. There was an awesome place near my house we hit on the weekends. Soon others started joining and the encouragement spread from one to another. One guy lost about 50 pounds and another quit some unhealthy habits. The funniest part was at first one guy was intimidated about joining the group because he didn't want a girl riding better than him! I could do all the hills and trails without a slip! It was a great couple of years with some really great and special friends. Since moving to SF, almost everyone I know I met through cycling and most of my social activities revolve around it.

I surprise people when I bike by ...
riding in 3-inch heels, and with my dog.

My message to women who want to start biking:
Why not?Look good, feel good. What's more appealing than that? And it's fun.


Dawn lives in NOPA on Broderick at Fulton. She bikes with NOPA VELO and so does her dog Smokey.

Check out the previous posts in this series.

For even more stories, see Bikes And The City's Women Who Bike.

If you or someone you know would like to be part of this series, please contact me at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And the Fix Goes On: Plate Returns to Haight & Scott Corner of Wiggle

Construction plates finally removed at Haight & Scott on May 4th

But the May 4th work left sunken SFWD covers, a different hazard

Now a different plate is lodged at the intersection, better wedged with asphalt this time

And the plate surface is non-skid as all plates in the city are required to be

Cyclists relieved to no longer have to dodge or bump over the risky, badly positioned construction plates at Haight and Scott streets now find another plate in the exact same position. What's going on here?

As previously reported, cyclists complained to the city and to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition about the original plates that seemed abandoned at the northeast corner, right along the Wiggle bike route. SFBC urged the city to fix the defect, and the city responded. On May 4th workers for the SF Water Department jackhammered the area, applied new asphalt, and smoothed everything over. Except they left submerged, below-grade SFWD utility covers, a different hazard for cyclists.

The end of last week SFBC pointed out the latest problem to the Department of Public Works. Perhaps with that intervention -- or maybe by coincidence -- the below-grade manhole covers were gone by Monday. Instead, one very large plate covers much of the fix-on-fix area. At least this plate has a skid-resistant covering and is better ramped along the sides with asphalt. Nearby construction signs indicate SFWD will be working at the site from May 19th to 28th. Maybe then this part of the Wiggle will have received its last makeover.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Women Who Bike: Kay Hoskins

"At the Palace of Fine Arts, a stop on the Valentine's Day ride I led."

"Breaking in the cup holder with hibiscus juice from a street vendor at Sunday Streets in the Mission."

"How I combine my two greatest passions: biking and dog rescue."

BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City spin out more stories this week in our new collaborative series, Women Who Bike. Each Monday and Wednesday we will feature San Francisco women and their bicycles. Check both our blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas that women who bike the city want to share with you. Post your thoughts and leave comments for the featured riders.

Fifth in a series: Kay Hoskins

How do you characterize your bicycling style?
Mostly law-abiding and cautious but also defensive. I try to anticipate that car about to cut me off or that door about to open into me. Luckily, I haven't wiped out on my bike seriously and not in many years. I hope that's due to my cautious riding style.

How often do you bike and what for?
I pretty much ride my bike every day weekdays for work and on some evenings and the weekend for fun rides.

What could be done in San Francisco to encourage more women, including teens and younger, to bike?
Most of the women I know who don't already bike in San Francisco are afraid to start. And I think they're a bit intimidated by the hills. Once the bike network is completed, I think we will see even more women out there. High schools in the city need to have programs to teach urban biking skills. I know that might be unrealistic right now given that so many programs are being cut.

Have any of your best dates or friendships started with bicycling?
My current boyfriend Liam and I met at SFBC volunteer nights and we "got together" on a bike camping trip.

I surprise people when I bike by...
singing out very loud.

My message to women who want to try biking:
Find a mentor and get out there! Start with Sunday Streets and bike in Golden Gate Park on Sundays; then have an experienced friend show you the "wiggle routes" around town to avoid the hills. The SFBC map is an amazing tool as well.

Kay lives near NOPA; she biked NOPA VELO's Dead Presidents ride in April.

See previous profiles in the BIKE NOPA WOMEN WHO BIKE series. And find even more at Bikes And The City.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"A Clear Case of the Bicyclist At Fault": SFPD on Recent Masonic/Fell Collision

The bicyclist was riding a red Cannondale fixie. Photo: Jim Herd

The motorist was driving a Ford Focus XZW station wagon. Photo: Jim Herd

The bicyclist injured in a collision with a motorist at Fell and Masonic Streets last week was travelling against the light and without the right of way, according to a police report filed by the SFPD officer who inspected the scene and spoke with witnesses. "This was a clear case of the bicyclist at fault," Lt. Lawrence Ramlan of SFPD Park Station told BIKE NOPA in a telephone conversation early this morning.

Ramlan was not at the scene nor did he file the report, but he reviewed the account that has since been filed with the Traffic Division for possible investigation. "The bicyclist was travelling westbound on Fell Street in the left-side traffic lane," Ramlan said. "He then made an abrupt left turn from Fell onto the northbound lanes of Masonic; he didn't turn with the light." According to Ramlan, the officer who filed the report obtained testimony from a number of "uninvolved witnesses" who indicated that the collision resulted from the cyclist's turning against the light. The injured cyclist's brother who was biking nearby corroborated this account, according to Ramlan. The lieutenant did not say whether any other uninvolved witnesses reported a different set of circumstances.

During the brief conversation this morning, Lt. Ramlan added that the cyclist was also riding a fixed speed bike with limited means of braking. When BIKE NOPA inquired if use of a "fixie" was a factor in determining responsibility for a collision, Ramlan replied, "If you don't have any brakes or means of stopping, then it becomes an issue." He added, "For anyone who uses the road -- whether a motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- if you don't have the means to control your speed adequately, there can be a problem."

Ramlan stated that there has not been a determination of whether the cyclist will receive a citation. "The matter is with Traffic now." Asked about the bicyclist's condition, the lieutenant said he had been unable to obtain that information. The rest of the details about the cyclist and the driver was in the police report, he added. Ramlan then ended the conversation, explaining that officers at the station were very busy that morning with the Bay to Breakers race about to begin. An earlier report in the San Francisco Examiner indicated that the bicyclist was in his early twenties, that his injuries were minor, and that the driver stopped at the scene. Where the collision occurred and when in the signal period it happened are factors presumably included in the police report that has yet to be released to the public. The first report of Friday's collision appeared in the blog San Francisco Citizen.

When BIKE NOPA tracked the outcome of a February 14th collision involving a taxi driver and a bicyclist at Fell and Masonic, we found what appeared to be a lack of clarity and transparency in the handling of non-fatal traffic collisions. The officer at the scene of that incident told BIKE NOPA that his job was to collect the facts, including witnesses' testimony, but not to recommend whether a citation should be issued to either party. His responsibility he said was to file the incident report with the Traffic Division for investigation and determination about citations. Yet an officer at Traffic explained that the unit is so overwhelmed with the daily number of traffic incidents and reports, that they usually do not investigate a case or issue a citation unless the reporting officer suggests it. If that's the rule-of-thumb, then the reporting officer who believes it is not his duty to recommend a citation guarantees that neither a citation or further investigation will occur. In the February 14th case the officer at the scene determined there were conflicting statements among the witnesses, although an uninvolved witness clearly stated that the bicyclist was using the crosswalk during the green right-of-way period. No citation was issued.

*The earlier BIKE NOPA story about this collision, filed May 14th, stated in its sub- headline that the driver hit the cyclist. A more accurate reflection of events and an account more in line with the circumstances stated today by Lt. Ramlan indicate a better choice would have been to have used only the headline: "Another collision at Fell and Masonic."