Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why One Block of Baker Street Was Just Repaved (When Other Blocks Seem to Need It More)

Paint crews finished the stencils on Fell Street earlier on Tuesday and then came to Baker

A smooth walk or ride up to Golden Gate will greet Sunday Streeters in September

Bicyclists: new smooth and clearly painted bike lane but, as always, beware the door zone

How much difference do smooth, well-maintained streets make? NOPA residents can walk, bike or drive on Baker Street between Golden Gate and McAllister for a reminder of what more of our streets could be like with sufficient funding for street maintenance. Last week the Department of Public Works gave the block a "mill and fill" renewal (replacing the asphalt) and smoothed the new surface. Tuesday this week the paint crews added the bike lane stencils and stripes, and Wednesday a crew laid new thermoplastic road treatment marking the four crosswalks at the Golden Gate and McAllister intersections. The complete treatment for one smooth and sleek block.

As much as NOPA neighbors appreciate the newly paved block, more than a few were surprised that the city selected that particular stretch when Baker just south of McAllister seems to be in much worse condition and other blocks in the neighborhood also need a makeover. Here's some background on how blocks become candidates for repaving, gleaned from working with the staff of the Department of Public Works as a volunteer with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:
  • each block in the city has been inspected and given a score for the condition of its surface
  • blocks with the lowest scores need reconstructive work to address severe cracking and sinking problems that have damaged the base
  • other blocks are targeted for spot repairs (potholes and cracks) to extend the life of the surface or for new asphalt for a smooth surface when the roadway is too worn
  • with so many streets in the city requiring reconstruction, repaving or maintenance, DPW gives priority to those that serve transit and bicycles as part of the city's Transit First policy (a great many transit and bike streets are also thoroughfares for motorists so everyone benefits)
  • DPW also factors "geographic equity" into their plans so all neighborhoods see improvements
  • the city mandates that city streets cannot be torn up more than every five years; once reconstruction or paving is planned, all utility work needs to be completed prior to the project moving forward (consider all the public and private utilities in the city and you can imagine the logistics challenge for scheduling)
  • In addition, some individual blocks are repaved by DPW crews while a long ribbon of blocks usually gets contracted to construction firms through a process of notices, bids, and approvals.
Back to the question: why this block of Baker? The full street from Fell to Turk needs repaving with the exception of Fell to Hayes which was more recently smoothed over. Each of those blocks need sewer repairs -- the likely cause of the sinkholes -- while sewer work was already completed from McAllister to Golden Gate. Short answer: that block was a candidate, didn't require more underground utility work, and DPW crews could repave it themselves. The rest of Baker will be repaved once the sewer work is completed. Current projections indicate a May 2011 start date for the repaving.

Wiggle Bike Route Segment Gets Much-Needed Reconstruction and Paving

Every bicyclist is hoping for a smooth ride on this essential part of the Wiggle

Total scrape to the dirt for reconstruction of Steiner Street block

Both traffic lanes of Steiner between Duboce and Waller to get a new base and asphalt

Only a rideability test on two wheels will determine for sure whether the roadbed reconstruction and paving of Steiner Street between Waller and Duboce will be as smooth and safe as bicyclists have long awaited. On Monday crews began removing the old base down to the dirt in the traffic lanes. A new layer of asphalt will follow early in July. The two block stretch is a crucial link in the Wiggle bike route used by hundreds of people on bikes every day. Advocacy by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and a commitment to safe bike routes by the Department of Public Works helped advance this project by several months. During the weeks ahead, Sanchez Street just south of Duboce, aka "the washboard," will receive a similar roadbed makeover.

Neal Patel, director of SFBC's Good Roads Campaign, said he was "thrilled" to see this segment of Steiner Street get repaved. "This is a great example of how Good Roads volunteers identified a crumbling stretch of road that needed fixing and how the Department of Public Works quickly responded and prioritized a fix."

Many bicyclists had taken to avoiding the two blocks of Steiner altogether given the rough surfaces that resulted from multiple repairs over several years. Others found the route even more frustrating with the temporary paving that followed a recent utility cut the length of the blocks. Several people complained to DPW directly about the uneven, bouncing ride that forced cyclists off the bikeway and into the traffic area. Their input contributed to the effort SFBC had begun to get the roadway repaved many months ahead of schedule.

The Steiner and Sanchez blocks are good examples -- although certainly not the worst -- of what happens when streets are not adequately repaired in a timely manner. Only during the last several years has DPW received enough funding to keep city streets from dropping below their "fair" rating. To avoid the much more expensive roadbed reconstruction (instead of asphalt repaving alone), the department will need a significant infusion of new revenue.

Disclosure: I am one of SFBC's Good Roads volunteers, and I can't wait to see the Steiner and Sanchez blocks completed.

Video: NOPA VELO's Ride to the Parade

Thanks to NOPA VELO member Kelly Johnson for producing and sharing this video of the ride from NOPA to the Market Street staging area: one good and safe ride with everyone ready to celebrate.

Women Who Bike: Cheryl Hunt

A real biking smile Photo: Youth Mountain Biking Adventures

Cheryl with husband, Adam Photo: Youth Mountain Bike Adventures

Cheryl with one of the kids from Youth Mountain Biking Adventures

Women Who Bike is a collaborative effort by BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City that features San Francisco women and their bikes. Each Monday and Wednesday check both blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas that women who bike the city want to share with you. Today's profile features a woman who bikes in Berkeley and the East Bay.

When did you start biking?
I lived in San Francisco as a pre-schooler and grew up in Kentfield in Marin. I got my first bike on Christmas when I was six, and I lost my front teeth in a crash flipping over my handlebars. After First Grade, I rode my bike the mile to school and back. Later, I convinced my parents to buy me one of the first production mountain bikes when I was in high school because the brakes were so much better that I could ride safely in the rain (so they wouldn't have to drive me). My parents even ended up getting bikes for themselves!

How much is bicycling part of your life now?
I have always commuted by public transportation, biking and walking. I don't have a car, although my husband has a light truck. He is the one who got me back out on the trails. He's a long-time wrench like my friend Aurelia's* sweetie. We both love camping and have done it with our bikes as well. My husband, Adam, and I are also involved with a great group, the Youth Mountain Bike Adventures.

You live in Berkeley. Do you bike in San Francisco much?
I do bike in San Francisco, but not that often because I've never worked further than a 40 minute walk from transit so it was almost never worth the bike-on-BART hassle. But one of my favorite routes is to ride along the shore from the Ferry Building through Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Mason, the Presidio, and then out to the Golden Gate Bridge. I suggest that route to out-of-towners. For myself, I like turning south from the Presidio to ride past the beaches and the Cliff House and then to turn into Golden Gate Park.

How is biking in Berkeley?
San Francisco has more things to see and do than Berkeley, but Berkeley has a greater number of bike lanes for its size than anywhere I've ever lived. While my street is not a bike lane, the parallel streets on either side of us are and so is one of the cross streets. I've seen an incredible number of parents biking their kids to school in trailers and tag-along bikes. The number of commuters has also increased. The best thing though is the number of parents riding with children on the weekends on the (flat) Ohlone and bayside trails. For the intrepid, Wildcat Canyon has great riding on roads and trails.

What's difficult about biking in Berkeley?
Unlike San Francisco, there are no real sources of rental bikes so I think all the tourists are only here from a short distance away. Berkeley has almost no exposed railroad or streetcar tracks, so that eliminates one danger. We do have some incredibly steep hills, but at least most of those are residential. Ashby Street, aka Highway 13, is probably the nastiest street to ride.

Any tips for cyclists on either side of the Bay?
I've found that having streamers on my bike causes drivers to give me more room on the road.

* Cheryl's good friend Aurelia d'Andrea was profiled earlier in this series.

Check here for previous posts in this series and stop by Bikes And The City every Monday and Wednesday for even more Women Who Bike.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fell Street Gets Striped; Motorists Find Many Changes

Two new bicyclist icons for the bike lane approaching Arco station and at exit.

"Do Not Block Sidewalk": no respect during its first two days

Arco attendant helped guide customers in during striping operation, but provided no intervention with sidewalk blocking

City paint crews took advantage of the dry weather today and striped Fell Street for the new traffic design that may improve safety and traffic flow for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. People on bikes will find the same continuous, straight-ahead bike lane, but everyone should expect motorists to be surprised and confused with lane changes. And no one should be surprised when some drivers ignore the new design.

An aerial view would be best for getting a sense of the lane changes, but here's perhaps the next best option with words and photos:
  • motorists in the far left traffic lane will find a solid do-not-cross stripe up to the new mid-block access to the queue for Arco (between 7am and 7pm daily)
  • motorists in this same far left lane will no longer be able to turn left onto Divisadero; "No Left Turn" is stenciled on the pavement
  • the only way motorists are allowed to turn left on Divisadero is from a new curbside Left Turn Only lane; there are dashed stripes starting at the Arco entry for drivers to move into this turn lane
  • Arco customers can exit onto Fell as usual (as well as onto Divisadero) but they cannot (or at least should not) cross the solid stripe into the westbound traffic lanes
The lane configurations represent major changes for how motorists use this block of Fell Street, and both in-person guidance and enforcement will be needed initially. The tow-away signs have been posted for 24 hours now, but as of noon today the parking spots just east of Arco were mostly full. One resident chose to block half the sidewalk by parking in the driveway. And the new "Do Not Block Sidewalk" directive was virtually ignored, or not seen, by Arco customers.

Bicyclists and motorists might encounter the most difficulty at the Arco exit with drivers waiting to push into the westbound traffic lane and thus blocking left-turners and cyclists wanting to cross Divisadero. Although many cyclists want to see the Fell Street entry to Arco closed for safer travel, the new traffic design may present greater conflicts at this exit.

SFMTA will evaluate all the changes during the next several weeks.

SF Day School Celebrates at Pride Parade

Celebrating All Families

SFDS getting ready to join the parade on Market Street

The San Francisco Day School celebrated the 40th GLBTQ Pride Parade on Sunday with a contingent joining the Parade itself. The North Panhandle-area school paraded from Beale Street to 8th Street on Market taking its message of diversity to an estimated 500,000 cheering observers along the parade route.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fell Street Tow Away Signs Posted before Arco/Divisadero

Fell Street, southside, before Divisadero and Arco station, new 7 to 7 No Parking

Parking restricted to allow queue for motorists seeking Arco gas

From Arco entry on Fell to Divis: no stopping ANYTIME

San Francisco's heavy summer mist, fog, rain splatters -- all of them -- prevented striping of the bike lane and marking the queue space for motorists along Fell Street. Sunday's and today's fine weather is now really expected to permit SFMTA's full installation of the hoped-for safety improvements on Fell early this week.

There's one more sign that I missed during my photo stop: Tow Away Zone round-the-clock for the two to three former parking spaces between the Arco entry and exit. Clearing these spaces creates much greater visibility for all road and sidewalk/crosswalk users approaching Divisadero.

Women Who Bike: Kelsey Morrison

Kelsey on the Panhandle Path Photo: Kelsey Morrison

Getting started near the Purple and Blue House in NOPA Photo: Kelsey Morrison

Woody and Scott on their bike tour of Asia

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

How do you describe your biking style?
Progressive. My biking skills, style, and frequency have progressed over the years from timid to comfortable, and now ... eager. I find biking to be one of the most practial activiites I can engage in, and each day I bike I become more excited about using my wheels to get where I'm going.

What makes you most passionate about bicycling?
I'm amazed by how efficient a bicycle is. It provides the rider with exercise, green transportation, and entertainment. There is also a sense of camaraderie that I feel when I bike, especially in a city like San Francisco where you're sharing the road with so many other cyclists of different natures. I also love the rush of flying down a hill with the wind in my face and, alternately, the feeling of accomplishment I get after reaching the top of a steep hill.

How often do you bike and what for?
I bike several times a week, as often as I can. During the weekdays, I sometimes use my bike to get to and from work. My office is in the Tenderloin, and I prefer not to leave my bike on the street with the risk of parts or all of it getting stolen or tampered with. My office has very little space to keep a bike. I wish there was more secure bike parking in the more unsafe neighborhoods throughout the city. Because of this parking conumdrum, I tend to mostly use my bike after work hours.

I bike to get to social events around the city or to get quickly to and from the Hamilton Park pool where I regularly swim laps. During the weekends I take rides through Golden Gate Park and out to Ocean Beach or to the Mission via the Wiggle or to any other social activity that is practical to bike to (read: I won't run the risk of getting a BWI when biking home).

Are you involved with bike organizations or groups?
I've been following a bike-travel blog, AsiaWheeling, for several months now. It chronicles the travels of Scott and Woody as they cycle around different cities in Asia on their Dahon folding bicycles. They embark on various adventures in rural areas and cities, and they report their experiences with culture, commerce, ecology, faith and food. Their writing is filled with enthusiasm and intrigue. It engages me in a way that I can remove myself from my routine and imagine biking through the streets of Luang Prabang during the Pi Mai Lao New Year festival or basking in the sun on the beaches of Bali, or devouring a bowl of Pho in Saigon. It's the ultimate form of escapism for anyone interested in biking, travel, and adventure.

How does bicycling fit your social life?
My roommates are all bicyclists. Their passion for cycling has motivated me to be a more active cyclist. When I first got my bicycle, I didn't use it that much because I was intimidated by all the expereienced cyclists on the road. My roommates and friends encouraged me to develop my own personalized biking style. I took their advice and now two years later I feel much more acclimated to the lifestyle.

A few months ago my boyfriend took me on my first ride across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. I was excited about the ride but nervous about the degree of difficulty. Something about "crossing the bridge" seemed really daunting in my mind, but it turned out quite easy and a really memorable adventure for us. Bicycling also fits in with my professional relationships as I recently began working for AsiaWheeling and spreading the word to folks in the Bay Area.

I like bicycling in NOPA especially because...
It's right on the Wiggle! NOPA is in the center of the city so you can easily get to Golden Gate Park, the Sunset, the Richmond, the Mission, the Civic Center, the Castro...anywhere! I love living in NOPA because it has a real neighborhood feel to it. There are great locally-run shops and restaurants, and fun community events like the Divisadero Art Walks or the Divisadero Street Farmers' Market. We also have beautiful parks on every side of us: Alamo Sqaure, the Panhandle, Duboce Park, and Buena Vista Park. Sometimes I find it hard to leave NOPA on the weekends because I can get to everything I need within a short ride or walk.

My message to women who want to try biking:
Start off with a mid-price hybrid bike that's relatively light and has low gears so you can get up all the hills. Also be aware of hand signals and traffic rules. Pick up a bike map and find yourself some nice and easy routes to start with. Before you know it, you'll be cycling to Sausalito ...or throughout Asia!

Check here for previous posts in this series and stop by Bikes And The City every Monday and Wednesday for even more Women Who Bike.

Bicyclists Beware: Golden Gate Park Exit a Double-Risk; Collisions & Injury and Be Found at Fault By SFPD Too

Arguello Blvd entrance to Golden Gate park at Fulton; where left-turn drivers yield right of way

Is this boogying? Bicyclists enter Fulton intersection with Arguello

Motorist yielding before making left turn onto Fulton from turn lane

Not great barriers but standard in city. Drivers: approach slowly

Looks like a street, striped like a street, motorists drive it as a street, and named a boulevard

Bicyclists who exit Golden Gate Park on Arguello Boulevard risk collisions with motorists and a judgment by SFPD that they are at fault if a crash does occur. That’s what happened to Kelly Johnson last month when he concluded his bicycling in the park to get coffee at the popular Velo Rouge café on Arguello at McAllister Street. He told his story to BIKE NOPA with the hope that others can avoid the trauma, injuries, and threat of financial hardship that he has dealt with since the crash.

On Sunday May 23rd at about 2:30 in the afternoon, Johnson prepared to leave Golden Gate Park by way of Arguello which is part of the official bicycle route #65. That section of Arguello has a moderate grade as it drops to the intersection with Fulton Street. The intersection there is governed by traffic signals. Biking down the grade on his gray Raleigh, Johnson saw that the signal was red and he stopped for it to change. When the light turned green, he approached the intersection with his eye on the motorist in the oncoming, southbound left turn lane of Arguello. The motorist stopped in the intersection, apparently waiting for Johnson to ride through before completing his left turn onto Fulton.

Johnson recalled what should have been a straightforward crossing of Fulton Street with what he presumed was his right-of-way. “I proceeded forward, travelling at about 10-12 mph. As I entered the intersection, an SUV suddenly made a left turn from the right side of the vehicle I had been watching. The vehicle struck me with severe force. My memory is groggy after this.”

Only later, after reading the SFPD Traffic Collision Report, did Johnson get the full picture. According to the report, a 26-year-old male driver of a green Ford Escape was travelling southbound on Arguello in the outside lane. He intended to enter Golden Gate Park but found that the Arguello entry was barricaded. (This entry is closed to vehicles on Sundays, 6 am to 6pm, April through September). He later told an SFPD officer that he was stuck in the intersection and had to turn left. He noticed that the motorist in the left turn lane had stopped, so he proceeded to turn left onto Fulton (not using the turn lane). He was paying attention to a Muni bus on the south side of Fulton, he reported, and had nearly cleared the intersection when he glimpsed a bicyclist exiting the park. He said he tried to stop but, according to the police report, “the bicyclist hit his car…(and then) …the bicyclist fell to the ground and the bicycle continued across Fulton Street.”

It might still seem a straightforward but unfortunate incident:

  • a man on a bicycle entered the intersection with the right-of-way
  • one motorist waited for the bicyclist to clear the intersection before making a left turn onto Fulton
  • another driver was surprised to find he couldn’t enter the park and then made an unanticipated wide-left turn without yielding the right-of-way to oncoming traffic (the bicyclist)

An SFPD officer from Park Station determined it otherwise. In the traffic report, he held Johnson responsible for failing to comply with California Vehicle Code 21804(a) that states the driver of any vehicle (bicycles are included) about to enter or cross a street “from any public or private property, or from an alley shall yield the right-of-way to all traffic…close enough to constitute an immediate hazard.”

Although the officer referred in the traffic report to “Arguello Street south of the intersection,” he wrote that Johnson was exiting “public or private property or an alley” when he was actually leaving the park on a street. But, the officer evidently believed Johnson should have yielded not just to the motorist in the left-turn lane but also to the sudden, unexpected turn of another driver in the intersection.

This interpretation by one SFPD officer has troubling implications for the hundreds of cyclists who exit the park at this location, especially on the weekends. Most expect motorists turning left to yield as part of the rules-of-the-road. Now they won’t know whether to exercise the right of way or wait until the intersection is clear of all confused drivers who may be making sudden turns. And, in fact, virtually all motorists turning left do yield to the oncoming bicyclists. A half-hour's observation yesterday, on a Sunday closure day, revealed all the drivers yielding to people riding their bikes into the intersection.

If SFPD now expects bicyclists to yield and motorists not to yield at Fulton and Arguello, then it seems the department will cause confusion and more risk at the intersection with no user understanding why the rules of the road don't apply. Drivers familiar with Arguello expect to yield a right-of-way to people leaving the park on foot, bike or vehicle already. Very few road users know about CVC 21804(a) or consider Arguello anything other than a street.

The SUV driver who collided with Johnson may have been confused by the street closure and the not-always-visible signs. No one would fault him with that. But to make an unexpected turn without traveling carefully enough to notice all circumstances of the road and then to collide with someone on a bike is something else.

For Kelly Johnson, the SFPD finding will likely make it much more difficult to obtain damages from the motorist’s insurance company for the injuries he sustained. The SF Fire Department fitted him with a neck brace and took him to SF General Hospital after the crash. There, Johnson was treated for a dislocated toe, wounds requiring sutures, massive swelling on the left side of his face including around his eyes, and severe scrapes and cuts on his face and left side of his body. He was released that evening and returned to his home in the North Panhandle where he has lived for the last seven years. He has since received bills from the hospital and Fire Department that total $18,000.

Johnson does not recall speaking with an SFPD officer, but the traffic report notes that another officer spoke with him at the hospital. The report narrative states that Johnson said he was coming out of the park, crossing Fulton with a green light, when a cur turned in front of him, and, according to the police report, Johnson said “he hit the car and fell to the ground.” Johnson told BIKE NOPA that he believes he was “hit by a vehicle that made a left turn from the wrong lane,” in violation of the vehicle code, CVC 22100 (b), that stipulates left-turns should be made from the inside left lane.

No witnesses who saw the collision were interviewed, other than Johnson and the driver of the SUV. However, the reporting officer later contacted a woman who was at the intersection. According to the report, the woman said “she saw the bicyclist boogying out of the park not wearing a helmet and just knew something bad would happen.” But she said she did not see the collision itself. Boogying? Difficult to say what the woman meant other than, presumably, that she thought he was moving quickly. (BIKE NOPA's first report of this collision included an observation from a cyclist who arrived after the crash that other bicyclists often "fly through the intersection" with the right-of-way). That he wasn't wearing a helmet is irrelevant to right-of-way determinations or to how he was biking.

But in a recent communication to SFPD, Johnson describes his bicycling, and himself, this way: "I am a 19-year resident of San Francisco. I have spent ten of those years living in the Park Station district. I am a responsible, property tax paying and voting citizen. I am an avid cyclist having been riding a bicycle for the last 24 years as my main mode of transportation. I don't take risks on the road or flaunt the law because I'm too old (47 years old) and I don't have health insurance."

Last week Johnson asked SFPD to review and reconsider the determination that he was at fault in the collision.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

NOPA VELO Rides Pride Parade

Individual signs for each bike in the LGBTQ Pride Ride

Meet up at Oasis Cafe

NOPA VELO, the North Panhandle's biking group, took to Market Street today for the sun-drenched "Forty and Fabulous" LGBTQ Pride Parade marking the 40th year for the city's biggest parade. They joined the 70 plus member contingent of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) and spun their wheels right behind the kick-off group, Dykes on Bikes.

NOPA VELO and SFBC members first met in a NOPA garage on Saturday morning for a bike decorating party to prep the customized SFBC placards for each bike, along with handlebar streamers for all.

Sunday morning the SFBC floats rolled through NOPA, met NOPA VELO cyclists at the Oasis Cafe on McAllister and Divisadero and altogether headed for Market Street.

Thanks to all who helped with the event, especially SFBC volunteer Scott Madden,volunteer decorators, cookie makers, riders, and to SFBC for great promotion and logistics support and for welcoming NOPA VELO in a great San Francisco event.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

NOPA VELO Returns in Three Days

Image: Rick Helf

NOPA VELO, the North Panhandle's biking group for neighbors and friends, is only six months old, but we're ready to celebrate the "40 and Fabulous" LGBTQ Pride Parade this Sunday. Background info here in a previous post, and all the facts you need right here:

Bike Decorating Party
Saturday, June 26th, 10 am to 1 pm
NOPA Location
Find out more once you register by contacting
(Bikes can also be decorated Sunday morning at staging area as supplies allow)

Pre-Parade Bike Meet-up
Sunday, June 27th, 8:30 - 9:oo a.m.
Oasis Cafe, 901 Divisadero at McAllister Street
Depart Cafe at 9:00 am for Market Street parade staging area

Ride with other SFBC members in a contingent that is likely to be at the start of the parade
Flat ride on Market Street


You haven't experienced the parade until you've been in it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Changes to Fell/Arco Traffic Tangle Expected This Week

Several Fell Street neighbors objected to the first proposal at an April 30th hearing

The MTA hopes changes will greatly reduce blocking the traffic lane, bike lane, and sidewalk

This week the MTA will begin making traffic design changes on Fell Street to alleviate the hazardous conditions that currently exist near the Arco service station at Divisadero. According to an MTA engineer, the work orders for the job are complete and the on-street implementation will soon get underway.

The changes will bar parking from five spaces just east of Divisadero on the south side from 7 am to 7 pm to create a curbside line-up area for motorists seeking entry to Arco. In addition, the existing bike lane on Fell will be re-striped with plans to repaint the lane green after further study. The design changes result from a compromise developed by the MTA after Fell Street and Alamo Square neighbors objected to the original proposal that would have removed the parking spaces round the clock.

The new traffic design is intended to make Fell Street safer for all road users:
  • motorists will queue up for Arco without blocking the traffic lane
  • bicyclists will no longer encounter motorists crossing into or blocking the bike lane
  • people walking will no longer find motorists blocking the sidewalk on the south side of Fell
The MTA proposed the new configurations on an experimental basis. Traffic engineers will conduct studies to determine whether the design adequately addresses the risks for road users.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, working with the MTA on community outreach, started contacting Fell Street neighbors, as well as bicycle and pedestrian advocates, via door hangers and email early this week. In the messages, the SFBC describes the changes as "a good starting point." But the staff also note that the compromise solution might not be adequate to the problematic stretch of Fell Street. The SFBC requests feedback about street conditions "for better or for worse" from residents and road users once the changes are in place. (Send comments to .

Women Who Bike: Larissa Zimberoff

Larissa during her first century ride last year. Photo: Larissa Zimberoff

Larissa riding the Tour de Cure Photo: pkingDesign

Women Who Bike is a collaborative effort by BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City that features San Francisco women and their bikes. 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 is your bicycling style?
Confident and fast. Riding in the city is dangerous, but, at the same time, when you ride in San Francisco you need to be confident and sure of yourself. I am very aware of my surroundings. It helps me move fast and quick through the city. The streets are for sharing!

How much do you bike and where?
I used to bike to work when I lived near USF. I would ride Golden Gate Avenue down to Market Street. I loved stopping at Broderick and waiting for the light to turn green on Divisadero. Then I would bomb down the hill with the wind at my face, grinning ear to ear. On a good day, I could make it all the way to Franklin Street. These days I bike out of the city to Marin for long weekend rides. I do the Wiggle to the Panhandle through Golden Gate Park and then to the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. It's my favorite way to get out of the city.

Is biking your main exercise?
I have two bikes, but these days I'm usually on my road bike, Roger. I like to do a Saturday ride of about 50-85 miles. I love coming back from a long ride, eating a big meal, and kickin' back.

How much of your social life revolves around biking?
I'm a hybrid biker. I bike, hike, swim, do yoga, and run. It's hard to find time for everything. When I can, I volunteer for the SFBC and through that have some amazing friends. It's a very special community, and I'm lucky to be a part of it.

How can San Francisco encourage more women and girls to bike?
I think fitting riding into everyday life comes from better educational outreach, safe city roads, and greater public awareness. San Francisco is a great town to learn how to ride; there's always someone around to give you a hand. Just ask. When I got my first road bike, about three years ago, I asked my Aunt Bunni to show me the ropes. She took me out on the roads of Sonoma and helped me quickly get over my road riding anxiety. She's an inspiration to me as a rider. In fact she's out right now on a cross country ride from New Orleans to Lake Itasca, Minnesota. I'm so impressed with her.

I get most upset when I'm biking when ...
guys think I need help getting up a hill. I'm not sure why they do, but it's happened twice. In my first Century in San Diego and, most recently, at the Tour de Cure in Palo Alto. Trust me: if I need your help, I'll ask.

My message to women who want to try biking:
It's great exercise and men on bikes are hot. Get out there and meet them.

BIKE NOPA note: One of the SFBC activities that Larissa has volunteered for is the Good Roads Campaign, an ongoing effort to keep San Francisco streets smooth and safe (no potholes!) for bicyclists.

Check here for previous posts in this series and stop by Bikes And The City every Monday and Wednesday for even more Women Who Bike.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

B2B at 100: Six Westside Groups Charge City Allows Repeated Code Violations; Seek Meeting with Mayor and Stakeholders

No one has a problem with the footrace and its early spectators

B2B at 100: An ongoing series about neighborhood efforts to reclaim Bay to Breakers as a foot race and party that San Franciscans can support and celebrate for all the edgy, quirky, and fabulous things it has represented for most of its 99 year history.

Six neighborhood and merchant associations have had enough of the city-sanctioned havoc that accompanies the Bay to Breakers after-party. In a June 15th letter sent to Mayor Gavin Newsom, the groups describe "escalating illegal and dangerous conduct"that threatens their neighborhoods with "increasingly brazen acts of illegal activity, violence, San Francisco Municipal Code violations, and Health and Safety violations." They charge that the city continues to issue permits to the race organizers with full knowledge of the mayhem that has resulted the last several years.

In an introductory message to Newsom, Jarie Bolander, President of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA), asked for leadership from the Mayor to end the "epidemic of defacing public and private property, harassing neighbors and using homes as urinals." He added that several other organizations have already reached out to the neighborhood collective, including AEG and Save the Bay to Breakers, to plan a safer celebration. Bolander concluded, "We all want to see the centennial Bay to Breakers celebrate our uniqueness and not our sleaziness."

Along with NOPNA, the other organizations seeking mayoral leadership and citywide involvement in the B2B solution represent the most influential neighborhood groups of the inner west side:
In the group's letter to the mayor -- with copies to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and the full Board of Supervisors -- the neighborhood leaders assert their broad reach. "We represent tens of thousands of constituents, hundreds of small businesses, and many of the city's most prominent historic streets and homes, spanning over 100 city blocks."

The associations cite the relevant state and city codes that govern public nuisances, including public urination, that are flaunted every year after the footrace has concluded. By granting permits each year to the race organizers -- with full knowledge of the previous years' experience -- the city, in effect, is allowing the illegal behavior.

But the neighborhood groups make it clear their primary concerns are with the violence that holds residents hostage. They have no complaint with the "lively, boisterous, and uniquely San Francisco event." Their concern is with the "growing presence of drunk, angry, and disrespectful participants who think nothing of threatening elderly folks, urinating, defecating, and fighting in the streets." They also cite "countless reports" of residents being threatened and "mobs verbally attacking residents, children being screamed at, women afraid to venture outdoors, and individuals breaking into yards and side entrances." They conclude, "We will not allow 'business as usual' and wait for a resident or participants to get seriously injured." Their concerns reflect sentiments also expressed during last month's NOPNA meeting, reported here, as neighbors described the mayhem as "combustible" with "a spark to violence just waiting to happen."

The neighborhood associations wish to partner with the city, race organizers, sponsors and participants. They hope to get the race back to its roots and prevent the "intolerable behavior" that has become a dangerous part of its reputation. The groups seek a meeting with the mayor "within the next few weeks."

Note: Read the letter (pdf document) to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. NOPNA's Bolander also attached to his email message to the mayor, a summary of a survey of North Panhandle residents with their reactions to this year's Bay to Breakers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Women Who Bike: Jenny Oh Hatfield

Jenny Oh Hatfield and Shawn Hatfield: Wedding Day on the Beach Photo: Trevor Hartsell

Keep Up With the Bride: Wedding Party Ride Photo: Shawn Hatfield

Jenny Oh Hatfield Photo: Steve Anderson

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

How do you describe your biking style?
My style is a mix of approaches depending on the situation. When I'm commuting, I'm slow and steady, cautious and law-abiding. If I'm on a training ride or racing, then I try to push myself. If I'm touring, bike camping, or riding with friends, I'm relaxed and carefree.

How often do you bike?
I wear a variety of cycling caps: commuter, racer (track and cyclocross), and just for fun. I'd say that I have to bike at least several times a week or I start to feel deep pangs of withdrawal.

What can San Francisco do to encourage more women and girls to bike?
  • Providing more opportunities to kids and teenagers would foster the development of more women cyclists
  • Creating more youth cycling leagues developed in partnership with schools and non-profit organizations
  • Offering free bike demonstrations and race registrations at events
  • Working with cycling advocacy groups to promote and organize more family-oriented cycling events throughout the Bay Area
  • Supporting non-profits to host classes on how to ride, repair and safely bike in urban areas
How many of your best dates and friendships started with biking?
Most of my friendships in the Bay Area stemmed from my love of cycling, but the best one of all is with my husband, Shawn Hatfield. We met back in 2006 when I first moved to San Francisco. We eventually fell in love and had a bicycle wedding last October. Over 60 guests rode over the Golden Gate Bridge to Rodeo Beach in Marin for our ceremony, and then we biked to our picnic reception in nearby Ft. Barry Parade Grounds. It was truly one of the best days of my life!

I've also founded a charity bike race called Supermarket Street Sweep which has been running for four years. It was inspired by a similar event Cranksgiving in New York City -- where I lived for 13 years -- that benefits a local food bank. The sweep is basically a food drive on wheels. Participants ride to grocery stores all over the city and bring back food that is donated to the San Francisco Food Bank. They compete by returning first with a specific list of items or by bringing back the most food overall. Last year's big winner brought in 962 pounds of food with a cargo bike! We plan to host the 5th event in December.

I surprise people when I bike by ...
I don't know if I surprise other people, but I've definitely surprised myself. Prior to moving here in 2006, I was more of a commuter and casual cyclist. Then I moved here and started track racing at Hellyer Velodrome in San Jose. Now I ride a fixed gear for commuting, and I began racing cyclocross last fall. I went on my first bike camping trip, and I plan on getting a mountain bike in the near future.

I never imagined myself becoming a competitive cyclist, much less with disciplines I had never heard of until I became a Bay Area resident. It's been great for me to push myself to confront my fears, and I look forward to more challenges that lie ahead.

I get most upset when I'm biking when...
I try not to get upset when I'm biking these days, but I wish there was more mutual respect between cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians when it comes to sharing the road. There's definitely room for improvement for everyone.

My message to women who want to try biking:
Keep at it: you'll get better.

Check here for previous posts in this series and stop by Bikes And The City every Monday and Wednesday for even more Women Who Bike.