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Guerrilla Bike Lanes: San Francisco Makes Illicit Infrastructure Permanent (99percentinvisible.org)
257 points by misnamed on Nov 14, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 137 comments

I love 99% Invisible, but in my opinion this piece is far too generous to the actual SFMTA, who occasionally respond to the SFMTrA's work reasonably (as covered in the article), but who usually just strip it wholesale, to the detriment of the safety of thousands of pedestrians and cyclists. For example, these markers on Folsom St helped improve safety considerably and were constructed in an incredibly professional way, but are now gone completely [1].

The group itself puts it best here [2]:

> "The SFMTA is glacially slow to install pedestrian and bicyclist safety infrastructure, yet was able to remove our simple safety improvements within a week," the group said in a statement sent to SFist. "We call on SFMTA to immediately replace these pedestrian safety improvements with protection at or above the level installed by SFMTrA."

Everyone who walks or bikes in SF can atest to the truth of this statement firsthand. Progress _is_ being made, but it's frustratingly slow.

[1] http://www.sfmtra.org/blog/2016/10/26/the-sfmta-removed-safe...

[2] http://sfist.com/2016/10/19/sfmta_says_street_safety_improve...

This is the kind of proactive action that delivers change, but it takes time and effort. For some inspiration here are 2 videos about how Amsterdam people relentlessly fought to bring change and transformation to the city, to make it more human friendly.

1. https://www.facebook.com/groups/expatrepublic/permalink/1298... 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEPnZ952NFI

Speaking of Amsterdam and bike safety: Amsterdam has lots of street-level trams that share the road (without protective dividers in some of the busiest parts of the city) not just with cars but with millions of bicycles and pedestrians.

I'm kind of shocked that this would be allowed in Amsterdam, one of the most bike-friendly cities on the planet, considering how easy it is for bicycles to get their wheels stuck in the tram tracks while trying to cross them, and what a hazard trams are to bicycles and pedestrians.

The risk of injury is further aggravated by many of the pedestrians being drunk, stoned, or high on a large variety of substances easily available in the city, and many of them being tourists who are unfamiliar with the city and not used to expecting random trams popping out of the middle of nowhere while they're walking down an otherwise pedestrian- and bicycle-populated street.

This is all rather exaggerated. Nobody wears helmets, yet the number of accidents is very low The number of high or drunk people is not higher than elsewhere. Falling because your wheel gets stuck in the rails will not seriously injure you. Just watch out next time.

Source: lived here for 40 years.

> considering how easy it is for bicycles to get their wheels stuck in the tram tracks

This is one of the reasons to use a mountain-bike in the city.

Virtually everyone in Amsterdam rides ancient one-speed "city" bikes. Anything else would get stolen in five minutes flat (and you only really need one speed anyway, since the city's flat). Tram tracks are a hazard for pretty much all of them.

Thing with these tracks is that you know where they are and thus you can anticipate. Just as with the trams riding them: if you stay off the tracks the chance of being run over by a tram are quite close to zero. Cars however are different. These tend to sneak up on you or come out of dark street corner unexpectedly. Their agility, speed and mass make it a true killer... In short: trams are part of life in Amsterdam and the locals are used to them and their tracks. Overall the quality of the bike lanes in the Netherlands is excellent and exceeds by far what SF has now...

I've yet to meet anyone in Amsterdam who has not had an encounter with tram tracks -- whether sober, stoned or drunk...

Well, it's a lesson, then ;-)

Unless you're too drunk to learn.

Nevertheless, I grew up in a city with trams and never had an encounter with tracks in that way. Maybe roads, cycleways, and tram tracks are better separated than in Amsterdam. Off the top of my head I cannot think of a place where I could accidentally ride a bike along the tram tracks; it's either far away from them or crossing them, neither of which is dangerous. Of course, cars are still a problem, especially with cycleways that are part of the road and not separated in any way.

Wow, I was wondering why those soft-hit posts got removed suddenly; I just assumed that they had been placed by the City because they looked 100% identical to official ones (in a place where I've been concerned about safety for a while).

Edit: in fact, I was previously thinking of writing to SFMTA to thank them for placing them (!!).

You should write that letter, and let SFMTA know that some ruffians have removed the posts ;)

Before the posts were, um, posted, I was thinking of writing to them about that intersection (Folsom and Division) because there's a parking space or a maybe-parking-space which forces cyclists out of the bike line if it's in use, especially by a large vehicle.

Now that this has happened I guess they might react a bit differently to correspondence about it.

Also, I feel like SFMTA may not be super-great about responding to correspondence about specific intersections and traffic design (which is not to say that they don't read it or don't think about what people have to say); I've written to them twice about 17th and Sanchez after someone I know had an accident making a left turn onto the Muni Metro tracks, and I never got a reply.

> I feel like SFMTA may not be super-great about responding to correspondence about specific intersections

Try tweeting if you haven't already. I tweeted regarding the intersection at 17th and Harrison (before they improved it a couple months back) and they actually created an issue in their tracking system to address it.

The account to tweet at is apparently @SF311. Here's the thread: https://twitter.com/andrewmbenton/status/710485661267075072

It's extremely offensive to me that the people are so powerless to fix things like this without sneaking it (like that guy that added a much-needed highway sign in the LA area before it was caught over a year later).

Link to story about LA sign for reference:


>a much-needed highway sign in the LA area before it was caught over a year later

It's worth pointing out (because, for some reason, the coverage of this dude and his I-5 sign never emphasizes this) that when the sign was 'caught', Caltrans examined it, found it appropriate and to-spec, and left it up.

Thanks, I found a donate button in your first link and sent them some $.

Bringing up these improvements at a city council meeting with proof of funds would likely end up with a much more positive outlook from the community (clearly some people are willing to pay for a bit of safety).

How do city councils generally feel about people offering to donate money for government-administered programs? I've wondered about this and imagined that they might consider it improper influence in their budgeting and policy-setting practices and that it might actually be forbidden by law in some places. (But clearly some people are able to negotiate "public-private partnerships" on particular issues and projects and people have also been able to donate large amounts of money for certain infrastructure projects, like the recent Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital project.)

If I showed up with a group of people and a couple of thousand dollars for an earmarked public works project, how might it be received in different places?

"Sure, cool?"

"Against our budgeting laws?"

"Contrary to our notions of democracy or equity in public spending?"

"Improper in public administration terms because it results in overhead or management costs that can't be properly accounted for or budgeted?"

Some cities embrace neighborhood funded programs, for example, in Sacramento, CA:

If your street qualifies for speed lumps, but has not been funded by the City, you may pay for installation yourself. The cost will include design, construction and inspection of the City, speed lumps. Your street must meet all qualifications including two-thirds majority approval through the ballot process. Your neighborhood must have the funding and obtain approval from the Department of Transportation before speed lumps may be installed. The cost of a speed lump and associated signage is approximately $3,000.


I love the term "speed lump". Local government should have more of this.

I've also head "speed hump".

Setup a non-profit for redevelopment "blessed" by the city with cronies in key positions?

I'm all for this kind of citizen action. They're volunteering their own time to improve public safety. Kind of like how neighborhood watch groups can supplement police, these volunteers are supplementing departments of transportation. Of course it'd be even better if they could do it without breaking the law, but I doubt there are rules in place to permit citizens to do their own DIY infrastructure improvements.

Also, unlike what some commenters think, this doesn't really go against democracy. The cities where these groups work have embraced Vision Zero at least on paper, so they're generally for these sorts of improvements. Government just tends to move slowly, and they often have to deal with NIMBY groups that are more concerned with keeping as many parking spaces as possible in their neighborhood than public safety.

"Also, unlike what some commenters think, this doesn't really go against democracy. "

It definitely goes against democracy and civility.

Maybe it's for the better, maybe it's for the worse - but a small group of people taking it upon themselves to decide for everyone else how a city should operate is a very tricky place for any society to be.

Maybe most people don't want something.

Maybe it makes rescue workers jobs difficult by blocking traffic in a certain hot spot.

Maybe the situation is more complex than one would imagine (i.e. some lanes radically affect the flow of traffic, screw up incoming/outgoing traffic/lane changes).

I can think of quite a few things that 'civic vigilantes' could do that would be way, way out of bounds.

It would be nice if SF could elect a mayor that could improve efficiency as opposed to simply encouraging people to make up their own policies.

  taking it upon themselves to decide for everyone else how a 
  city should operate
How so? They aren't dictating traffic flow, they are adding visibility markers to existing bike lanes.

That's the most generous possible interpretation of the situation. It may be correct, I'm just noting.

I ride my bike to and from work pretty much every day in SF, and I readily admit that adding these markers most definitely does interrupt and disrupt traffic flow.

The fact of the matter is, sometimes delivery vehicles and service vehicles need to stop and block traffic. They tend to pull over as far as possible to the right, so as not to impede auto traffic. Often this means pulling over into the bike lane. (Note that when there is no bike lane, these vehicles block the right-most lane of auto traffic and cars just go around without getting too hot and bothered. But I digress.)

Erecting the markers prevents this behavior in many instances. You can decide to be in favor of the new bike lane markers, but you can't pretend that the added markers aren't a unilateral alteration to traffic flow that does have an effect.

I agree that they change traffic flow. But it is interesting there's an implicit car-prioritization bias in the behavior you're describing.

The delivery/service vehicles choose to block the bike lane instead of blocking a lane of traffic.

This gets complicated quickly once you factor in total impact and so on, but I just want to point out that a person on a bike doesn't necessarily deserve less priority than a solo driver, for example.

Plus there's the fact that blocking the bike lane is indeed illegal as noted by the other commenter. Although I sometimes think that we don't really know how bad it would be if all delivery drivers had to comply with all parking laws - maybe we'd all be starving in the nicely flowing streets due to a lack of food.

A bicyclist can get past any inconveniently parked vehicle, with some effort.

Cars, OTOH, just have to stand there and wait, and it doesn't take many minuted for a major gridlock to form.

And that's why I think it's reasonable to block bike lanes over car lanes. Why you have to block anyone is maybe the more important, but much harder question.

> A bicyclist can get past any inconveniently parked vehicle, with some effort.

The whole point of bike lanes is that mixed traffic with bikes and cars is highly dangerous for bikes. Frequently blocked bike lanes that force cyclists to suddenly merge into car traffic defeats the point of having the lanes in the first place.

Not to mention, there's an implicit assumption on your part that we're universally talking about confident, healthy adult cyclists. Do you think it's cool to push pre-teen cyclists in traffic? What about grandma? A parent with kids on their bike?

If we just accept dangerous infrastructure and behavior, biking for transportation will always be an activity only for the tiny minority of people who are highly tolerant of physical danger.

> Do you think it's cool to push pre-teen cyclists in traffic?

When you try to choose the lesser evil, there are no "cool" options.

I think the real problem here is that SF streets are so overcrowded that basic delivery has to be done by blocking live traffic lanes.

I wonder where you live where drivers will just sit patiently behind a double parked vehicle rather than just swerving into the opposing lane to pass it?

There are few places in SF where a car can pass a vehicle that's half in the car lane and half in the bike lane where the car couldn't also pass if the illegally parked vehicle was completely in the car lane.

A bicycle has to veer into the car lane (dangerous) or go on the footpath (illegal and dangerous).

A car has to go from one lane to another lane.

Cyclist here. When a delivery/service/taxi/etc vehicle is parked in car lane right next to bike lane, I'm very uncomfortable when passing it.

I'm afraid to get doored. I'd be stuck in between car and raised sidewalk with nowhere to go. Whenever possible, I pass such vehicle using opposite (or 2nd) car lane.

Passengers/workers getting in/out vehicles or loading/unloading vehicles frequently stand on bike lane during process. Or put their stuff on bike lane. Which is totally fine by me, they do what they gotta do.

I'd rather have them parked in bike lane and pass it in car lane. IMO it's safer and less stressful both for them and me.

Almost like a question for democracy to decide as opposed to vigilante justice?

the dynamic between the bike riders and cars is pretty complicated and there is lots of bad behavior on both sides.

but i really feel for the delivery guys. if they park on the right they have angry bike riders screaming at them and shooting past them at high speed when they are trying to work. if they park in the middle of the street they have to somehow negotiate pallet jacks full of food across active traffic.

so sure, lets make it harder for single occupancy vehicles. they use the most resource and are arguably impossible to sustain going forward. but the bikes are directly in conflict with deliveries, contractors, busses, subway riders, and pedestrians. how do we deal with that?

Aren't delivery drivers and contractors also in conflict with buses? 80% of the problem of delivery parking could be resolved by removing car parking spaces and putting in dedicated loading zones.

I haven't seen a transit system yet where bikes are allowed to ride on the rails in underground tunnels, so I don't see how bikes are directly in conflict with subway riders?

How are bikes more in conflict with pedestrians than cars already are?

Yes, I think if the more militant of my fellow bicyclists could move past their calls to "enforce the illegal blocking of bike lanes at all costs!" we could actually have a reasonable discussion about traffic flow prioritization for cars vs bikes.

I don't know if everyone would necessarily be safer if vehicles who decide to stop did so by blocking a lane of auto traffic while leaving the bike lane clear. It would introduce a visibility issue which would prevent cyclists from seeing anyone walking in front of the stopped vehicle to and from the curb, for instance.

There's a Dutch traffic design principle that states traffic lanes should be separated by speed and mass. Pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers, and transit operators each have their own independent infrastructure, because lighter/slower road users are by their nature much more vulnerable to harm when they collide with something faster/heavier. This traffic design principle is at the core of Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities. The difference between politicians in Holland and San Francisco is that the Dutch actually implement principles like this one to reduce traffic deaths, rather than using Vision Zero as an empty platitude at election time.

I'm furious for my own safety when drivers block the bike lane on Fell St. Cars are pouring down the hill at 40mph+ and not expecting a cyclist to take the lane, yet cyclists don't have a choice when their only other infrastructure is blocked by a selfish driver.

Yes, parking in San Francisco sucks. We can all agree on that. But, if you're going to park illegally, use a driveway. It's way less dangerous than blocking a bike lane, and it inconveniences fewer people too.

Yes the Dutch are way ahead of us with this. It's disappointing, but I do think we'll get there eventually.

I'm not sure what part of Fell St you are talking about, since the only part with a bike lane that I'm aware of is the section between Scott and Baker and there's no hill on that part. But I think you probably mean the section leading up to the left turn merge at Divisidero where there's also a lot of cars waiting in line for the gas station on the corner. I do sympathize, since as a cyclist myself I don't find that to be very safe either.

I guess I don't understand the part that makes you "furious for my own safety" though. You have the power to be safe in this situation. Just stop behind the blocking vehicle until it's safe to go around. The traffic light at Scott will eventually be red, which will block the traffic on Fell "pouring down the hill at 40mph+".

My own frustration with my fellow bicyclists' behavior is that a lot of us seem to think we deserve to never have to stop for any inconvenience ever. That we for some reason deserve to never have our feet touch the ground.

Sometimes traffic slows or stops in front of you. Sometimes you have to wait until it's safe to go around. Automobiles do this all the time and don't often complain by slamming on the horn or endangering themselves and others by suddenly swerving and taking the lane. Those that do take those actions in response to the minor inconvenience that is stopping and safely waiting are rightly derided as jerks.

I say this as an auto driver, it's way easier to start and stop a car than a bike. Things like rolling through stop signs (when clear and safe) makes perfect sense for bikers. Anyone who says differently is just jealous the bikes are moving faster and probably having more fun.

I ride that stretch every day and for the amount of cars coming through it feels surprisingly safe. Most people going in or out of the gas station know what's up with the bikes and it's mostly protected. The tow trucks just past the light block things more.

I do find it funny the number of illegal lefts onto fell from bikers, when most get caught at the divisidero light anyway. I feel bad for the driver who inevitably is going to hit a biker there.

FWIW, turns are going to be prohibited from Fell onto Scott to avoid that problem.

You mean, sometimes delivery vehicles and service vehicles illegally choose to stop and block traffic.

Sure, and sometimes I illegally jaywalk. These are common occurrences that, I believe, are generally accepted with grace and understanding by the rest of us and keep our society running smoothly.

But it's undemocratic. A small number of people are determining how best to keep society running smoothly. Shouldn't they follow the democratically decided rules?

"Jaywalking" law, including its slur of a name ("jay" = "crazy", for the crime of walking in your neighborhood), was installed by the automobile lobby to give automobile users priority of the majority of society, to increase automobile sellers' profits..

> to increase automobile sellers' profits

How's that working out for them.

Well, they managed to entrench themselves in society so thoroughly that the government bailed them out when they collapsed due to their own incompetence, so pretty well.

But when you jaywalk you make sure the road is clear, no? How can the delivery driver ensure no one else uses the bike lane while they make their drop off?

Jaywalking pretty much only puts yourself at risk. Blocking traffic puts others (usually many others) at risk. That's a pretty huge difference that you can't just paper over.

What are they supposed to do to make a delivery when there is no off-street parking at that address? Fling it out of the vehicle as they drive by?

If that's a problem the city has to address it somehow. Saying, "well in order to do our business we have to randomly put others into physical danger" is not acceptable.

There are yellow loading and unloading zones throughout the city designated for that purpose.

Actually I'm pretty sure DHL (Destroy, Hide & Lose) has a patent on that, so, not without paying royalties.

> The fact of the matter is, sometimes delivery vehicles and service vehicles need to stop and block traffic. They tend to pull over as far as possible to the right, so as not to impede auto traffic. Often this means pulling over into the bike lane.

So putting other people in danger while breaking the law is okay as long as you're doing it as a part of your business?

Why is it okay for them to block the bike lane, but not okay to block the car lane?

Are you willing to

- Never take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft unless both ends of your trip have parking or passenger loading zones available?

- Never have food, a package, or mail delivered unless your building has a dedicated cargo loading zone?

- Never shop at a store or eat at a restaurant which lacks a dedicated cargo loading zone?

Short term double parking is okay because living in a dense area would be totally infeasible if no one broke that law.

Maybe the markers are too high and will hit some car mirrors. Maybe they impede lane access for turning vehicles. Maybe they are too close together, too far apart or too distracting to drivers or too close to bicyclists. Maybe they are not well grounded and if hit one will fly into traffic causing an accident.

That being said, these are probably completely fine. But there's lot of reasons why having a process for infrastructure changes makes sense. At the same time, I applaud SF for being pragmatic about it and accepting of these people while working toward a long term solution.

If your door mirror is getting hit, you are driving way too close to the markers and they are doing their job. Hug the shoulder less, unless you like no mirrors & damage to the side of your car.

> Maybe it's for the better, maybe it's for the worse - but a small group of people taking it upon themselves to decide for everyone else how a city should operate is a very tricky place for any society to be.

This already happens, unless you imagine that we are voting on every single issue such as new stop signs or changed traffic flows?

At least in SF, there is a public hearing for any new permanent stop sign.

> Maybe it's for the better, maybe it's for the worse - but a small group of people taking it upon themselves to decide for everyone else how a city should operate is a very tricky place for any society to be.

The actions these groups are taking line up with city goals. Not only that, most of the time they're upgrading infrastructure that already exists, not creating something entirely new.

   a small group of people taking it upon themselves to decide for everyone else how a city should operate is a very tricky place for any society to be
You realize, you just described the government right?

The government is elected and acts for and in the behest of the plebes, they're not just an arbitrary group doing as they think best.

Well, unless you're very cynical :)

> but a small group of people taking it upon themselves to decide for everyone else how a city should operate is a very tricky place for any society to be.

good thing we don't have small groups of organized opposition showing up to these things and blocking progress while calling themselves "concerned neighbors" or "neighborhood coalitions"

oops no wait thats whats happening now.

It all looks good until someday another car loving group might erect something else that harms others.

> how neighborhood watch groups can supplement police,

neighborhood watch groups DO NOT supplement police.

Police supplement neighborhood watch groups. Police are only necessary when civilian management fails.

> Kind of like how neighborhood watch groups can supplement police

Is this a Sarcasm? :)

Would it go against democracy for a billionaire to install bollards around his Bentley, merely drawing attention to a parking spot that the city has embraced on paper?

Well you'll be happy to know that my comment about democracy was forcibly removed by the mods. I won't repost it since it was made quite clear the opinion contrasted with the mod's opinion and not welcome here.

Your comment was clearly removed because it was unnecessarily hostile. Many other people have made the same point more civilly, and their comments were left alone.

When startups skirt entrenched and slow industries, it's disruption; when bicyclists add traffic cones to already-defined bike lanes, it's an affront to democracy.

Nice, HN commenters.

It's almost as if different people might be commenting at different times...

Recent Uber/AirBnB threads have had plenty of negative sentiment, and there is clearly support for the cycling activism in this thread. You can cherry-pick comments to support whichever sweeping narrative about HN commenters you want.

Not that I agree withe affront bit, but HN is forum of many people, don't assume hypocrisy where there might just be disagreement. Many comments have taken the contrary positions on both issues.

Entitlement is painful

That it is.

They mention New York in this as well, and Sixth avenue. It's annoying to bike up due to the lack of a bike lane, but traffic is usually slow enough that you can get along pretty easily and safely. It's also better than 8th avenue, which does have one - but is always filled with pedestrians. (And which seems to disappear around Port Authority, forcing bicyclists to go into traffic anyway.)

Luckily, you can usually take the Hudson River Greenway by cutting all the way west. It's a more pleasant ride, but does take you out of your way, and once you get above 59th street, has limited access eastward and not a lot of signage to that effect.

If I don't mind pedaling through traffic, I'll take Sixth. If I'm angry and want to stay that way, I'll take 8th. If I've got time to kill, I'll take the greenway.

I'll take the open street any day. Zombie pedestrians, head down in phone, step off the curb and into the protected lane thinking that they can get 1/5 of the way across the street without looking up. Oncoming auto traffic reduces this likelihood significantly, but disturbingly, not completely.

If you learn the traffic pattern of your route, you can reduce your concern primarily to red light runners.

Don't take away my fast-walker lanes on Sixth and on Broadway!

Don't forget the disaster that's the 2nd ave "shared" bike lane, especially from the Queensboro Bridge and below.

It's a deathtrap. The trick is to go over to 1st Avenue and ride south (against traffic) in its protected bike lane.

Biking against traffic (even in a bike lane) is a bad idea. It forces someone into traffic, either the guy going the wrong way or a bicyclist going the correct way. It surprises pedestrians jaywalking and it surprises cars pulling out of parking spots both of whom assume they only need to look one way. It's just a bad idea all around.

"jaywalking" is a slur against people walking. Just say "pedestrian in the street".


"Pedestrian" is almost a slur, since the word is also used to mean "boring".

Yup definitely a bad idea. But a less bad idea than getting murdered by a cabbie on 2nd avenue while riding with traffic in the nonexistent bike lane.

Not really no. You increase the chance that you'll kill yourself and someone else. Ride in the lanes and with traffic. Everyone is safer when everyone can anticipate what's going to happen. This is especially true in the chaos of NYC traffic.

If there is no bike lane. Take the whole lane.

As a pedestrian it's a horrible idea. I've almost been struck 5 times (and counting) by cyclists riding the wrong way down avenues. It's incredibly frustrating - and definitely gives me a very jaded view of cyclists and their respect for traffic rules.

this is the thing about cyclists is they are scarier than they are dangerous.

in a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian there is an almost equal potential for harm for both the cyclist and the pedestrian. the rates of rapid deceleration are just as forceful as the rate of acceleration.

the pedestrian could potentially be struck with a metal part of the bike. an almost equal potential exists for the cyclist to be injured by a metal part of the bicycle hitting the ground or a parked car before the cyclist does.

So while i'm sure that your close encounter with a scofflaw cyclist was scary, it was just as dangerous for you as it was for them.

That doesn't excuse the behavior. One is deciding to engage in it despite the danger the other is a passive unwilling participant. Or, to put it in auto terms, a reckless driver and other drivers have the roughly the same potential damage if a collision were to occur, but we definitely don't equate the reckless driver with the one who drives predictably.

It may be as dangerous to them as me, but I doubt they're considering that. And I'd rather not get hit by a bike; I was once, by a cyclist going at a decent clip and was lucky to leave with only minor injuries (if I'd fallen at a different angle my head would have hit the edge of a concrete stair.)

If you're worried about dying you really shouldn't be cycling at all.

contraflow bike lanes are common in paris

Some bike lanes in NYC have two lanes as well. I don't believe 1st Ave does though.

edit: I misunderstood. Yes, if the bike lane is contraflow of course use it that way. Everyone expects bikes from the "wrong way" in that situation. It's all about minimizing surprises to anyone in or near the street.

I'm confused by your comment. Sixth Avenue does have a bike lane for large sections. Did you mean a protected lane specifically?

See also: http://gothamist.com/2016/02/04/sixth_ave_bike_lane.php

In NYC, "unprotected bike lane" === "no bike lane at all" in 95% of all cases and 100% of dangerous cases.

I genuinely didn't remember it having one, but it's been awhile since I've biked that way.

And in any case, here's what it tends to look like in a lot of places: https://goo.gl/6nGUfz

* Open car door with a guy probably unaware of any bicyclists coming up behind him. I would 100% have to go into traffic to avoid him, to make sure he doesn't step back and elbow me.

* A truck half in the bike lane. I'd probably risk just riding up against it, since I can see them unloading - unless they're standing right next to the bike lane.

* Lady getting into a taxi cab. I have to either stop and wait, or cross an entire lane of traffic to go around them.

* Black SUV up ahead is also parked - in the intersection - doing god knows what with a passenger: http://goo.gl/3jYdOb

* http://goo.gl/gCkKVT Fresh Directly In The Bike Lane

* http://goo.gl/1cXmLX Goodbye, bike lane, and good riddance.

Now, you can say I cherry-picked the bad examples, and you'd be correct. But I cherry picked them by going down 6th Ave in Google Streetview. These are all examples I would run into on my daily bike commute. These aren't once-a-week or once-a-day examples; if I rode down today and counted, I'd probably see more examples of things that directly impact my safety.

This seems related to the idea of the Desire Path[0], which some of us may have heard by the story of the "architect who waited to see which pathways pedestrians would take through his/her outdoor spaces, and then paved sidewalks to match those routes."[1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desire_path

[1] https://www.quora.com/Who-was-the-architect-who-waited-to-se...

I think it would be very good to have bike lanes more separated from the road. Safer for everyone that cars don't accidentally use bike lanes and bikes don't affect traffic. It reminds me of those articles that said j-walking is more safe than crossing at crosswalks. Paying attention is something people seem to have trouble with. Clear markings are definitely for the best.

Can't agree enough with this. Here's a safe type of bike lane (note the two curbs): http://therecord.blogs.com/.a/6a00d8341c465d53ef0133f21e9125...

Here are two incredibly unsafe types, but for some reason the one's being installed right now in the Bay Area at least: http://www.newsworks.org/images/stories/flexicontent/l_bike-... http://www.executivestyle.com.au/content/dam/images/1/3/i/n/...

I just don't get it.

The cheap type fulfil a requirement to create bike lanes, without any of the "inconvenience" of actually having people use them. They're common in Britain, where the national government talks about cycling, tells local government to implement it, but doesn't require a minimum standard.

You can also go one better with the bike lanes, with a kerb between the road and the lane: http://portlandtribune.com/images/artimg/00003517543605.jpg (Copenhagen).

In fact, the street in your first picture (also Copenhagen) has been improved, with this arrangement on one side: https://www.google.dk/maps/@55.6733243,12.5605277,3a,75y,218... -- it looks like some parking has been removed to achieve this.

Riding in that second bike lane would be of questionable legality here in Germany. Cyclist are required to stay far enough away from parked cars that open doors don't hit them, otherwise they bear part of the responsibility in an accident. OTOH you're also required to use bike lanes if they exist, so...

You're required to use bike lanes within city limits when there's Zeichen 237, Zeichen 240, or Zeichen 241. Otherwise you're free to use the road. Any other sign even if it has a bike symbol on it, does not mandate the use of a specific path.

But indeed, Schutzstreifen next to parked cars often have the problem that you either have to veer into traffic (or traffic veers into you), or get doored (I don't recall that it's mandatory to keep your distance to parked cars, though, it's just in your own best interest). Even though motorists are required to keep 1.5 m distance to you there, very few do, since apparently the dashed line implies that you're safe enough from them ...

http://pdeleuw.de/fahrrad/urteile.html#seitenabstand has a reference for the distance to parked cars.

I'd say 40 cm is not enough. It may suffice for those who open the door a tiny bit and then look whether a cyclist is approaching, but those aren't the problematic kind; rather those who just open the door fully without checking anything, ruining either a cyclist's face, or a car's mirror.

I would say extreme cost cutting.

These are not "Guerilla bike lanes". These are guerilla traffic cones. The lane was there. The only non-permitted part are the improved markers. I doubt many driver really care. Most probably appreciate them as they keep the bikes away from the non-bike areas. If people want to spent their own money installing such devices, more power to them.

Going out and painting new lanes, that is stepping things up a notch. That will get police involved. That will create liabilities should any accident occur due to your new lane designations.

The City of West Hollywood has installed delineators on its crosswalks to prevent further accidents. They have been effective in their goal so far, but are not going to be maintained since drivers keep hitting them and the cost to constantly repair them is high. http://laist.com/2016/06/29/weho_crosswalks.php

I wonder what would happen if they were made out of solid steel and sunk about six feet down into the concrete.

Friend of mine is an urban planner. He talks about letting the environment inform the speed of cars more than speed limits, which I've always found interesting. Narrower streets and bollards that encourage drivers to slow down to avoid damage to their car are good examples of that.

> Narrower streets and bollards that encourage drivers to slow down to avoid damage to their car are good examples of that.

Speed bumps, chicanes and chokers have become very common in france over the last 10 years or so. They used to only be found in centers of pretty large cities but these days you can find them on any old "local" country road.

I was in France for three weeks last month so saw exactly what you're talking about. They also have very narrow streets in villages, and avenues bordered by plane trees exceptionally close to the road!

> They also have very narrow streets in villages, and avenues bordered by plane trees exceptionally close to the road!

These are more historical remnants, new codes don't really allow for that but if a village was there at the time people still mostly used horse-drawn carts (which was very common until post-war) they weren't going to tear down all the houses to build the road.

It leads to interesting situations e.g. A380 parts heading to the final assembly line near Toulouse go through Levignac, some parts have inches of clearance from the houses.

Maybe something like this, although that would be much more expensive: https://youtube.com/watch?v=hCSsope5vOA

(The signs are extremely clear on the approach to this.)

An oldie which I saw many times. BTW, I only more recently realized why the latter couple is in such a hurry to take their child out of the back seat: it's the gunpowder smoke in the car after the airbags have deployed. The smell is quite strong and you could think the car is burning.

We have these in Boulder, CO as well. I like them with one exception: they are AWFUL for bike lanes. Most drivers can't actually identify the edges of their car while driving, so when they feel pressured by the sign, they'll blindly (without checking mirrors) swerve into the bike lane to give the sign 2-3ft of unnecessary space.

Put one between the lane and the bike lane as well then?

Maybe they need to install a camera with each one so they can send the driver a bill for the damage and a ticket for reckless driving when they hit one.

I think city infrastructure can learn something from the open source software community in situations like this.

The city has a ton of work to do, but it is really picky about how it is done and how it gets paid for. If it planned out the work out in advance, community organizations like the SFMTrA could claim the low hanging fruit and comply with the official requirements. If it fails inspection the city can tear it down just like they are doing now.

I really hope that biking SF will improve in the future. It's freaking dangerous to bike on some of the streets in downtown SF.

IMO this is fantastic. Benevolent, efficient and easily reverted in case it was wrong. I would love to see many public choices made as such.

I wonder if the people fed up with the slow pace of infrastructure development, to the extent that they are building their own, have made any effort to push for a less sclerotic government structure in their town?

Actually, I bet I can guess the answer.

I could see how SF government would now not put separators up even if they originally planned to just out of spite.

This is more or less how Pyotr Kapitsa helped to plan pedestrian lanes in Cambridge. He said that officials should wait until pedestrians lay out their ways and then just move them into official walks plan. So they did, I was told.

Yeah, fuck democracy. Just do whatever you want to shared resources. Gotta look out for number 1! /s

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12953625 and marked it off-topic.

Yeah fuck this account. I'm going to password out of it. Feel free to just delete everything I've written in the past that you don't agree with as well.

I mean, in the primary example given, the bike lane already existed, they just upgraded it.

Personally I'd say it's more of a reaction to the often glacial pace of government action. Cities like SF, Seattle, and NYC have embraced Vision Zero's safety-oriented goals in theory, but are moving very slowly indeed to meet them.

These groups are actually helping the city meet their own self-imposed targets. How does that translate to "fuck democracy"? More like "fuck overly bureaucratic processes" if anything.

I totally agree with your, take, but I'd hedge it and say that if these cities did not enact vision-0, these tactics would occur regardless of tacit approval or explicit intention by gov. Guerrilla implies it's not seeking govt (or broadly popular for that matter) approval.

They might still do it, but then in that case the accusation of them being undemocratic would be accurate.

It's more like.... New street features that don't have an engineer's stamp and may not be compliant with any of a thousand regulations? Time to fucking sue.

To be clear, in all the projects that I've seen by the SFMTrA, the crosswalks or bikelanes already existed—both physically and legally—but their usability was/is extremely compromised due to fundamentally lacking infrastructure and very minimal enforcement of moving violations in San Francisco.

Like Tullius mentions, these are improvements that should have been installed by the government (and may be eventually), but which aren't due to incredibly untimely bureaucratic processes.

I've seen the SFMTA response to these changes and I have a lot of sympathy for them going in and removing them. There are a ton of laws and regulations around how road markings, etc can be changed and the SFMTA has no option other than to follow those laws.

Maybe the guerrilla group should try and tackle some of the regulations and laws rather than point the finger at the SFMTA?

That's the SF Bike Coalition's purpose.

I really don't see how you get the improvement of lacking bureaucracy as an affront to democracy.

Civil disobedience is an important part of democracy


Exactly, if that kind of stuff is OK, then I'd like to make a public call to improve Cesar Chavez St for cars, as the last 'improvement' SFMTA did over there actually transformed the street in a parking lot! :)

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