Friday, December 3, 2010

Santa Rosa Junior College US 101 Bike/Ped Bridge in jeopardy

Santa Rosa has proposed a Bike/Ped overcrossing of US 101 near the Santa Rosa Junior College and Coddington Mall. There is a major destination on both sides of 101, and many residences on both side. In between there might as well be a brick wall. US 101 in Santa Rosa is a trenchlike barrier between the West and East. If you aren't in a car - good luck getting across, the freeway overcrossings are gnarly. I ride from our place in Healdsburg down to the bus depot at Piner/Industrial and have to cross 101 on Bicentennial. It's only mildly nervewracking - but I'm crossing it at 5:30 AM with almost no traffic. That's not when people go to Junior College.

The bridge was up for a vote recently, and passed 5-2. Well, really it passed 4-3, but one of the opponents voted for it in order to be allowed to bring it up for another vote in January, when new council members will be seated and the balance will tip the other way. You can read about it in the Press Democrat here.

Regardless of the "political shenanigans" - cancelling this project is just a bad idea. And I don't believe any talk of "It's a recession, this is a bad time". US 101 from Rohnert Park to Windsor has been under construction throughout the entire recession, none of these guys have gone into hysterics asking to delay portions of the project. "It's a recession, this is a bad time" is code for "Here is my excuse to delay it so hopefully it will go away".

This whole thing is very disappointing to me. Sonoma County is a very progressive area and a great place for recreational cycling. As a general rule it is also a good place for transportational cycling, with some good infrastructure in place. One of the thorniest spots is crossing 101 in Santa Rosa (don't get me started on trying to figure out how to get past Petaluma with any sort of rational ease). There are some crazy people out in the hills, but mostly very bike friendly. They certainly love the money that comes from all the people who come for the events - Wine Country Century, Levi's Grand Fondo, Vineman Triathlon. Santa Rosa has hosted the Amgen Tour of California every year since the event started.

So I fired off the following letter to the Santa Rosa City Council. Even if all of your bike rides start with taking your bike off of the roof of your car, you should care about this. The same mindset that is trying to kill this bridge is why there is a cop camped out at 84/Canada in Woodside or Camino Alto and Blithedale in Mill Valley, ticketing cyclists for rolling a right turn at a stop sign while motorists do the same and get ignored. If you're on a bike, you don't count. Though we will take your money, thanks!

Feel free to drop a line to the following people supporting this bridge and expressing you will support nearby places with a little more sense... like for example This Friendly Burg

Bike friendly on Twitpic,,,,,,

Dear Santa Rosa City Council -

While I am not one of your constituents, I would like to express my dismay at the rumored demise of the project for the bike bridge over US-101 at SRJC. I am frequently in Santa Rosa with my bike and your city can be tough to navigate due to the configuration of 101 - I typically cross on Bicentennial to get to the Piner Road Golden Gate Transit bus stop, and that crossing is not for the faint of heart - I fortunately have a strong heart and quick reflexes.

Others who choose to bike around your city - primarily your residents - may not be as bold as I am, and the proposed bridge would make your city a much safer and enjoyable place for all, but especially pedestrians and cyclists needing to make a crossing in that area.

What dismays me most about this possibility is this. I am a San Francisco resident and the owner of a Vacation Rental property in Healdsburg. I have invested a lot of time and money buildi ng a business and our primary constituency - a very lucrative one - is recreational cyclists. It is not uncommon for our guests to request that we try to get them a reservation at Cyrus in Healdsburg, and also to ask for other destinations, and we frequently send them to downtown Santa Rosa and Railroad Square. We also patronize these businesses ourselves - LoCoco's has fueled many a ride on Kings Ridge.

I do as much as I can to promote Sonoma County as a destination for cyclists nationwide, and as you probably can tell, I pale in comparison to your constituent Mr. Leipheimer. This population brings a lot of money into Sonoma County and I am a big flag waver in San Francisco and the Peninsula to ship that money into your county.

While I will continue to do so, if you are so short-sighted as to kill this invaluable project, I will have to recommend to my guests that they bypass your city. I will tell the 100's of friends that go to Levi's Grand Fondo, the Wine Country Century, and dozens of other cycling events, that they should stay, shop, and eat in Healdsburg or Windsor. The triathletes participating in Vineman should eat in Sebastopol. If Santa Rosa is hostile to cyclists, cyclists should not give Santa Rosa our money. Maybe Amgen is on to something.

Transportational cycling in Santa Rosa can more of a cycling challenge than Kings Ridge Road. That's a shame. You have the power to do something to fix that. I urge those of you against this project to reconsider your position.

Thank You

John Murphy - San Francisco/Healdsburg

Thursday, December 2, 2010

DPT going after cabbies parking in bike lane by Caltrain

Riding to Caltrain I had to (broken record) leave the bike lane to avoid cars parked in the bike lane, in this case the typical cab line overflow from the Caltrain cab stand.

Suddenly one of these cabbies whips out of the line into the lane I am now occupying, right in front of me. I swerve around and stop when I get past, blocking him. I grab my water bottle and start a Tim Lincecum when a sweet voice calls out "breathe deep honey - smell this rose". I turn to see a DPT officer with a rose extended and she says "smell the rose, it helps. I'm out here ticketing these people for blocking your bike lane."

I looked back at the cab and he was slinking down and giving me the I'm sorry. I decided after yesterday getting yelled at by the bus driver, why not smell the rose today. Thanked the PCO and went on.

Thinking it through - the cabbie had seen the PCO and was evading the ticket, which ended up being worse than just being in the bike lane. Wish I had figured it out immediately so I could have asked her "ticket him first".

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Incident with "First Student" bus 12/1/2010

Update sent to my supervisor and Avalos (D11 Supe), and School Board.

From Dufty

I'm sorry for this and am asking Chris Armentrout to make sure the right people see it ASAP


On Alemany around Mt Vernon, Jason, Signe and I were cruising along in the bike lane. There were three contractor trucks double parked in the bike lane, maybe there is a day laborer pickup spot there? Anyway, as we are merging out of the Bike Lane into the rightmost traffic lane I hear a honk from 30 or so yards behind us, close enough to hear but not close enough to startle. But what did startle me was a "First Student" bus that buzzed within a foot or so of us, fortunately before we made it to the double parked cars so we had a little room to veer away (I think, it happened pretty fast). We were going 16 MPH or so, the bus was almost certainly exceeding what I am pretty sure is a posted 35 MPH speed limit. There was zero additional traffic - the left lane was clear.

Of course, as is always the case, this allowed the bus driver to make it to the red light 50 yards in front of us much faster. As we pulled alongside I started scanning for the bus number and found it on the front of the bus - 215866. As I have learned - instead of looking first at the driver, I pointed at the number - indicating to the driver I didn't want a fight, I wanted to report him. He opened the bus door and started screaming at us.

Among his points - "YOU CAN'T LEAVE THE BIKE LANE" (not true - you are allowed to leave the bike lane to avoid obstacles, 3 pickup trucks generally count as obstacles). "I SHOULD CALL THE CHP ON YOU" (Alemany isn't in the CHP jurisdiction, SFPD could not ticket us but probably not ticket him, to me it was an unsafe pass but that's hard to quantify - nonetheless he was the one operating unsafely). Beyond that there was a bunch of rambling.

Mid 50's grayish hair, blue baseball cap with a logo of interlocked letters of some sort. Small sized bus.

He had decision points where he could have avoided incident. Seeing us signal and merge out he could have slowed until we passed the double parked cars (it really annoys me - the root cause of his "delay" is three double parked cars, not three bikes). He could have switched lanes. If he's lazy he could just move over 3-4 feet and given us plenty of room. Any argument that this was impossible is thwarted by the fact he had the wherewithall to take a hand off the wheel and honk his horn. And certainly that verifies - along with his statement "YOU CAN'T LEAVE THE BIKE LANE" that he had seen us, and he made a conscious decision to not accommodate us and thus endanger our lives for no reason.

He saw us, and drove right at us. Period.

Note that the "First Student" website pretty much starts with

First Student, Inc. is North America’s leading school bus transportation services company and responsible for safely transporting 6 million students to and from school every day.

Technically, I'm not a student.

Sad. This guy is a professional driver for an organization that 6 million parents (give or take) trust with their children, and he made a measured decision that he didn't care if he ended someone's life.

Just to add insult to injury, in Woodside we made a foot down stop at 84/Canada, watched a car cross from our left, then from our right, then we proceeded into the intersection and had to slam the brakes when another car proceeded from the left. Apparently our friends from the Woodside PD were in the bakery for that one.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's that time of year.

Our Vacation Rental in Healdsburg gives us a couple of unique opportunities to help out some good causes.

We have a pretty decent orchard up there, but since we are in and out, we can't always pick the fruit or the veggies I plant. There is a program in Healdsburg called "Farm to Pantry" and we talked to them at the Farmer's market a few weeks back. They wandered by this week and managed to get some late season fruit.

Hi John,
Thank you for inviting us to glean. We found all of the trees you mentioned and picked 11.5 pounds of hachiya persimmons, 18 pounds of pomegranates and a handful of almonds We took everything to the after-school program at the Healdsburg Community Center where the children will study the almonds as part of their nut unit and enjoy the fruit for their afternoon snack.

We would love to work with you when your garden comes in, the fruit trees are ripe and you have surplus to share. Just email me when it's about time, and we'll swing by, glean what we can and return if needed.

Farm to Pantry
Cultivating Community through Healthy Food

I think this is a really cool program and allows me to plant in the Winter even if I don't think I'll be able to harvest. We have spinach, cilantro, parsley, snow peas, and fava beans in the ground, we'll see what they do.

We are also donating a Wine Country Vacation package to the San Francisco Bike Coalition Winterfest Auction - a 2 night stay at our house, wine from Limerick Lane Winery , 50 dollars in shopping credit at the Healdsburg Farmer's Market , and four 2 day bike rentals from Spoke Folk Cyclery in Healdsburg.

See you at Winterfest!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Notes from a rainy commute

Slogging my way to Caltrain this AM, thinking I probably could have gone riding because it wasn't *that* cold and it wasn't *that* wet, I noticed a couple of interesting things.

On 14th Street, there is a bike lane. That wasn't the interesting thing, it's been there since before Rob Anderson laid down his fatwa. There was a van double parked in the bike lane, also not terribly interesting because that seems to be de rigeur. What *was* interesting was that just as I spotted the van parked in the bike lane, I also spotted a DPT PCO ("Meter Maid" in pre-PC parlance) to my left. The PCOs drive around in little golf cart like vehicles with open windows, so I looked left, pointed forward, and said - "Puuuleeeese tell me you are going to ticket that guy".

She nodded, and promptly drove right past the van, presumably to go after street cleaning duty in some backwater across town.

Disheartened, I continued on my way, but on Division Street my day brightened, as I saw this...

New doorzone free demarcated bike lane. Division Street, San ... on Twitpic

A brand new bike lane on Division Street - complete with a line of soft hit posts - had arisen where formerly there was only car parking.

I also saw these guys on the other side of the street.

DPW starring in "Rob Anderson's worst nightmare" on Twitpic

DPW was curating a similar lane on the other side of Division.

This is a pretty obvious place for a bike lane, it is a highly used bike corridor that runs to SoMa and Caltrain. I stopped to take a photo and tried to catch the cyclist that had been behind me, but they got out of the frame too fast, so I waited for another. All around good guy Janne Karjalainen from SF2G happened by within 20 seconds or so.

While I'm sure Rob Anderson would be very upset at the sight of parking being removed for bike lanes, even if it was happening at Burning Man, these removals would cause a conundrum for him, and no conundrum at all for the local "permanent" residents/businesses. That stretch of Division was pretty much populated by RV's and beater sedans that people were living in. Rob hates the down and out almost as much as he hates the cyclists (I think he pretty much considers the two groups the same, with the addition of rich white hipsters to the cyclist population). I won't say that I'll miss the "Mobile Homes" very much.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mark Simon on Pico Boulevard

I'm in Mark's "inbox", now - he dug out my address by finding an email about the Giants selling Caltrain tickets. I'm officially a "troublemaker".

Hi John -
I just read your online petition and I have to tell you I think it's unfair to say we closed the gate for "unspecified safety concerns." Our concerns are exactly as specific as those who object to be rerouted to Redwood Shores Boulevard - someone is going to get hurt or killed if circumstances remain unchanged. I'm going to forward you a letter to the editor I sent out last week, which includes a link to the initial safety assessment.
In addition, we have contracted with a traffic engineer who is undertaking a safety assessment at this moment.
That should take about 30 days.

Mark Simon
Executive Officer for Public Affairs
San Mateo County Transit District
San Mateo County Transportation Authority
Phone: (650) 508-6340
Fax: (650) 508-6281

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More District 8 Shenanigans

From: Scott Wiener for Supervisor
Date: Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 11:16 AM
Subject: ALERT: Fraudulent Email Impersonating the Democratic Party

You may have received a recent email claiming to be from the San Francisco Democratic Party and attacking Scott Wiener.

Warning! This email is a fraud.

The web address attached to the email,,
is NOT the URL of the San Francisco Democratic Party ( )
In fact, the domain name was registered on October 25th-- the day before the fraudulent email went out. It is not a functioning website.

Don't be fooled by those trying to swift boat our former Democratic Party Chair Scott Wiener, who is endorsed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Mark Leno, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and the Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Church.

Not only is the domain name false, but so are the charges: the email is full of lies about Scott Wiener’s position on rent control.


Scott fought against Prop 98, which would have ended rent control in California. Ted Gullicksen, the Tenants Union director, was reported in Beyond Chron as stating that Scott has a “pro-tenant voting record” as a member of the San Francisco Democratic Party. In fact, Scott received an award from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights for his work defending low-income tenants from eviction.

Don't fall for these desperate last minute tricks.

Be on alert for false and misleading information in these last few days before Tuesday’s election.

For more information about Scott Wiener’s actual positions and background, go to

Paid for by Scott Wiener for Supervisor 2010, 538 Castro Street, San
Francisco, California 94114,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mandelman's Mularkey

I got two mailers from outside contributors for the Rafael Mandelman campaign in the past week. The California Nurses Association and the SF Tenants Union.

There is an organization called the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth that has contributed to the Scott Wiener campaign, I have gotten mailers from them as well.

I found something very appalling in the Mandelman mailers. The CNA mailer connects these dots... Alliance for Jobs contributed to Wiener. Chamber of Commerce backs the Alliance. Sutter Hospital involved in the Chamber. ergo... "WE COULD LOSE TWO SAN FRANCISCO HOSPITALS IF SCOTT WIENER IS ELECTED SUPERVISOR".

The Tenants Union one is similarly thin. The San Francisco Apartment Association backs Scott Wiener. Ergo Scott Wiener wants to end rent control.

What? This sort of backwards causation is brutal. But effective I guess, Wiener had to respond with a "I support Rent Control" robocall ad. Go on offense, make the other side play defense. But not intellectually honest - and I can't stand that. I'm dropping Mandelman to the third line on my Supervisor ballot - he went from First to Worst.

Here is Gillian Gillete's rebuttal of the St Luke's ad.

This e-mail is to respond to the inaccurate, nasty mailers and telephone
calls that the California Nurses Association (CNA) has been sending out
against Scott Wiener. As someone who has served on the St. Luke’s Hospital
Advisory Council since 2003, was part of the Blue Ribbon Panel process about
the future of St. Luke’s and delivered both of her children at St. Luke’s, I
feel it is important to call MALARKEY when I see and hear it.

CPMC’s St. Luke’s Hospital is a very troubled institution that has been
largely unsuccessful in attracting privately insured patients for decades.
That’s unsustainable and unacceptable. The poor should not receive separate
healthcare from everyone else. St. Luke’s should be great; and a lot of
people, including me, are working on it becoming a model community medical
center that treats everyone by offering the services we actually use.

CPMC has agreed to the United Healthcare Workers (a competitor to the CNA)
unionizing the proposed Cathedral Hill Hospital. Nurses at St. Luke’s are,
and will continue to be, CNA union members. CNA is therefore pushing for a
much larger St. Luke’s Hospital, at the cost of UHW jobs, than has a viable
future. Their mailers to us are about CNA union jobs, and not necessarily
about healthcare or what’s good for San Francisco.

Contrary to CNA’s claims in their phone calls and mailers:

Scott Wiener supports rebuilding St. Luke’s. Period.

Scott Wiener supports HIV and AIDS funding and services. He is a gay man who
co-chaired the original committee that built the LGBT Center on Market

Davies Medical Center, which serves Noe Valley and the Castro, makes
money--contrary to St. Luke’s. Davies is so successful, in fact, that CPMC
is seeking permits to build a **new* *medical office building there. No one
wants to close Davies.

Please join me in calling MALARKEY and consider Scott Wiener for the next
District 8 Supervisor!


Gillian Gillett

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Letter to Mark Simon of SamTrans regarding Pico

The Pico Boulevard situation continues.

Mark Simon of SamTrans sent out this note.

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the closure to through traffic of Pico Boulevard in San Carlos .

Last December, out of concerns that automobile, cycling and pedestrian traffic on Pico Boulevard presented a significant safety hazard, San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) staff closed the east-end gate, thereby blocking access to through traffic.

This decision was prompted by several near-collisions between buses and automobiles, cyclists and pedestrians. Pico Boulevard is the only access road to the SamTrans South Base and it is used throughout the day by hundreds of buses.

In the intervening months, SamTrans, as the lessee and principal user of the road, conducted a safety review of the street. A copy of the safety review is attached.

That review is complete and a report concerning that review was provided to the SamTrans Board of Directors at its regularly scheduled meeting on October 13.

As part of that report, staff indicated that the road as currently configured does not meet District safety standards. Therefore, the east gate will remain closed as a continuing safety measure, while further options are explored.

Here are the principal findings of the review:

n Pico Boulevard is an unimproved, privately owned road that is the sole access to South Base for the hundreds of buses that travel in and out of the base every weekday.
n The road is used, additionally, to provide parking for base personnel.
n As an unimproved road, Pico Boulevard is neither designed nor configured to meet California Highway Patrol definitional requirements as a publicly accessible highway appropriate for through-passage use by automobiles, cyclists and pedestrians in traffic interaction with buses.
n Specifically, the road:
o Is not engineered for public usage to accommodate through traffic of any kind, including pedestrians, bicycles and pedestrians;
o Is of insufficient width to support mixed traffic, particularly mixed traffic that could include two buses traveling side-by-side and additional automobiles or bicycles;
o Lacks appropriate safety signage, including speed limit signs and signs designating Pico Boulevard as a private roadway;
o Lacks sufficient lighting. Current lighting on Pico Boulevard is designed and installed to provide minimal safety and security features for the SamTrans base, not vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic in darkness;
o Is not subject to consistent maintenance of the roadway to ensure safe operation of vehicles for the purposes of accommodating through traffic.
n A formal traffic engineering study is necessary to determine what changes and improvements would be required to bring Pico Boulevard to an acceptable standard of safety and to ensure that public access to the roadway would not compromise security and safety at the SamTrans base.
n A determination will have to be made whether such a safety review is warranted and, as lessee of the property, whether an investment of public funds is warranted to improve a privately held roadway;
n In the interim, the gate will remain closed.

In the report to the Board, it was noted that a number of comments were received from cyclists who expressed concern that the alternative to Pico Boulevard , Redwood Shores Parkway is significantly more hazardous for cyclists.

We do not have the expertise to judge the relative safety of one road over another.

We are particularly alarmed, however, that a public thoroughfare designed to be used by bikes and including a well-marked bike lane, is considered unsafe and significantly more hazardous than an unimproved, private roadway that is used by hundreds of buses every day.

We are prepared to assist in facilitating a meeting between cyclists and the City of Redwood City to determine what steps may be taken to improve the safety of Redwood Shores Parkway, which is already designated and designed for pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic. When such a meeting is scheduled, we will notify you.

We believe the city is in the best position to provide, legitimate, safe passage on public roadways and we are prepared to work with the city and cyclists to assure that the right conditions exist for Redwood Shores Parkway .

We understand and sympathize with those who have been frustrated by the decision to close the gate. Our concern for safety – including the safety of bicyclists – must be the paramount concern. We would prefer to have cyclists alive, well, and angry at the agency, than any of the alternatives that might arise due to unsafe conditions.


Mark Simon

I wrote this letter.

Mr. Simon -

I just read this snippet from a mail you sent out about Pico Blvd and Redwood Shores.

"We are particularly alarmed, however, that a public thoroughfare designed to be used by bikes and including a well-marked bike lane, is considered unsafe and significantly more hazardous than an unimproved, private roadway that is used by hundreds of buses every day."

Words fail to describe my anger at this statement. Redwood Shores was designed to be used by cars - not by bicycles. Just because they slap down some paint on the road that says "BIKE LANE" does not mean the roadway was designed to be used by bikes.

A well marked bike lane on the right side of the road is of no use to a cyclist needing to merge across three lanes of high speed traffic in order to make a left turn. The majority of people using Pico Boulevard were doing so in order to accomplish exactly that - by crossing Redwood Shores using the traffic light, they were able to remove the procedure of merging across three lanes of traffic to get to the left turn lane. Incidentally, the left turn light from Redwood Shores to Shoreway does not trigger for bicycles, so in addition to the hazardous merging situation, cyclists are forced to wait for the rare instance of a car turning left onto Shoreway in order to get a green arrow - the result being that most of them simply run the red light to their own peril.

If this description was not clear to SamTrans, then your review was worthless.

Pico Boulevard is used by hundreds of buses every day. Redwood Shores is used by hundreds of cars EVERY FIVE MINUTES.

The situation is broken. Samtrans has within its control the ability to make a broken situation better. Instead you appear content to pass the buck to Redwood City and San Carlos. You should know full well that any solution that mitigates this on the roadway would be years until fruition - and more likely is simply impossible. Any solution that provides a safe merge across three high speed traffic lanes for cyclists would be met with howls of protests from the drivers who use that roadway currently - it would involve changing light cycles and potentially removing a lane.

If you had simply said "We're scared to death of the liability issue so we aren't opening the roadway", I'd think SamTrans was gutless. Instead I think you are completely disingenuous.


John Murphy

Simon's reply

We do not think the road meets our safety standards. We have said so repeatedly.

Mark Simon
Executive Officer

Remember this part from his first letter...

We understand and sympathize with those who have been frustrated by the decision to close the gate. Our concern for safety – including the safety of bicyclists – must be the paramount concern. We would prefer to have cyclists alive, well, and angry at the agency, than any of the alternatives that might arise due to unsafe conditions.

I'm not sure how closing an "unsafe" road and forcing people onto a "more unsafe" road accomplishes that aim.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Caltrain! Weekend Baby Bullets!!!???

Caltrain has just posted the agenda for the next JPB meeting.

You can read the minutes HERE

Here's the highlight - at least for me!

Further, Staff Coordinating Council recommends that the Board direct staff to implement a minimum of a 3-month weekend Baby Bullet demonstration in response to customer comments.

THANK YOU to everyone who signed the petition - and sent them a LOT of emails!

I love it when we win one. At the last JPB meeting I said "We LOVE Caltrain, I feel that we are in this together, and I think this is a good idea"


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Caltrain Clipper FAILBLOG #4

This is a good one.

The Millbrae Intermodal Terminal contains both the Caltrain and BART stations in Millbrae. You can connect from the two services at this spot. Depending on the connection you are making, this can be difficult - for example transfering from BART to a Southbound Caltrain, you must go up a set of stairs, exit BART, walk across the upstairs level, and down a flight of stairs to the Caltrain SB platform.

However, if you are transfering from a Northbound Caltrain to BART, it's a snap. Exit your Caltrain, and on the opposite side of the platform are the BART gates. There are two sets of BART gates on the platform, one on the Northernmost part of the platform, and one sort of in the middle. Since I have my bike with me, I am usually in the Northernmost Caltrain car - the bike car. This means from the door of my Caltrain to the BART gates is roughly a 5 yard walk. Perfect.

Aside - For the purposes of this conversation we will ignore that this set of fare gates which is next to the Caltrain bike car does not have a faregate that facilitates bikes, and the emergency gate which you are supposed to use to get your bike onto the BART platform is routinely blocked by BART staff.

OK, so I am getting off Caltrain and I'm going to get on BART, by entering the gates which are five yards away. There is only one problem. Since I am adopting our fancy new technology, I am using my Clipper Card to pay for both my Caltrain and BART fares - which should be super convenient. However, before I enter the BART system, I need to "tag off" from Caltrain. I look to my left. I look ahead. I look right.

There is no Clipper Reader in sight. What is in sight is the rarest of all birds, a BART train at the station at the same time as my Caltrain arrival. If I can just get "tagged off" and "tag in" to BART, I can make this train and avoid a 15 minute wait. So I start running down the platform. With my bike. Wearning bike shoes.

I run 30 or so odd yards and there it is - tucked behind a bank of pay phones.

At the far end of this picture is where I got off @Caltrain a... on Twitpic

Aside - why are there more payphones here than there are Clipper readers?

Suffice to say, shortly after I heard the "BEEP" from the Clipper reader, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a BART train leaving the station. That left me the time to take the picture.

In the right foreground of the picture you can see the Clipper reader. If you squint real closely and look on the left side way in the background, past the handicapped lift and the handicapped riser platform, a sign that shows where I came from - the BART gates that I wanted to enter but could not until I ran 30 yards down the platform to find a Clipper reader.

The BART gates aren't near anything else. The only persons who would use those gates are transferring from Caltrain - someone initiating a BART trip at Millbrae has to enter the Intermodal station from the BART side and go up to the upstairs level where there are a dozen or so gates, and would have no reason to then trek down to the Caltrain platform. If both systems use Clipper, the only way those gates retain any usefulness is if there is a Clipper reader at the fare gates. But no - they put the Clipper reader in the middle of nowhere, positioned in a way that adds no value (pun not intended) to the ridership.

Of course, how it really should work is that I don't need to "tag off" from Caltrain at all. When "Tagging on" to BART at Millbrae station, the system should recognize an open Caltrain trip, and "tag off" of Caltrain and "tag on" to BART in one fell swoop.

But what do I know, I'm not a train guy. I'm a computer programmer.

If you squint real closely

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Clipper Caltrain FAILBLOG #3

Caltrain has a multi-ride discount program called the "8 ride pass". This is a pretty good deal, the discount is pretty steep. In fact, it is perhaps too good - a rider must ride the train round trip 16 times per month in order for a Monthly Pass to be a better deal than the 8 ride tickets. Which pretty much means that if a rider works from home or drives to work once a month, they are better off with 8 ride tickets instead of passes. Caltrain would be better off in a future round of fare changes to increase the 8 ride prices more compared to the Monthly Pass. In this manner, they would collect more money and service more trips - a rider who has a Monthly Pass feels that they now have to "pay" to drive, whereas if they are on 8 ride tickets, driving costs money but saves them money on train fare. This makes the marginal cost of driving higher, and encourages people to become more loyal train riders. But I digress - this is about Clipper.

Recently I have been using 8 ride tickets using my Clipper Card. Normally I get a Monthly pass, but I had a month where we were out of town two weeks, so I did the math and decided to go with 8 ride tickets. This causes a bit of consternation because I need to use up my 8 ride tickets by the end of the month so that I can go back to using a Monthly Pass. This wasn't so bad in the days of paper tickets when I could sell my extra tickets - with the 8 ride on my Clipper Card it's much harder to transfer the extra rides.

I use 8 rides for zone 1-3 and zone 1-4, my two most common Caltrain trips. The 8 ride tickets are "autoloaded" from my Credit Card. I was working my zone 1-4 eight ride down to zero rides, so I could turn off the autoload and pay the one way fare if needed to end the month. Taking the train to Lawrence from SF one day, I tagged off at Lawrence and looked at the reader to see how many rides I had left. I figured I would have two or three rides left. I tagged the reader and saw this...


??? What happened? I had 2 rides left, but Clipper added another 8 rides to my card? Why? I asked Clipper and they said that the card does indeed autoload another 8 rides onto your card when your eight ride ticket gets down to 2 rides.

This is just stupid. The best I can guess is some brain surgeon at Caltrain or Clipper looked at it and said "Well, it will be more convenient for the user if we add more rides at 2 so they don't run out". Of course, this makes no sense - in order for the rider to use a ride, they have to access a Clipper Kiosk. And if they can access a Kiosk, they can have a ridebook added. The system should wait until the rider gets to zero rides, and THEN it should add 8 more rides.

At first glance, this really only impacts someone who is trying to bleed their rides down to zero, like I was. If I had just turned off the autoload as soon as I knew I didn't want to buy any more tickets, I would have been fine. Except for one thing.

Eight ride tickets expire. In 60 days.

By autoloading new rides when you still have 2 left, riders who ride occasionally are penalized by their tickets starting to expire before they really need to buy the tickets. Bogus.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Caltrain Clipper FAILBLOG #2

Usually I have my trusty Caltrain paper monthly pass on me. Soon though, paper passes will go the way of the dodo, and you will need to "load" your monthly pass onto your Clipper Card.

In our last installment, we looked at a poorly placed Clipper reader. The readers are there for riders to tag on and off the train, so that the system knows how far you have ridden the train, and can charge you appropriately. But how does that work if you have a monthly pass, you ask?

I will be "autoloading" my pass onto my Clipper card via my Wageworks Credit Card every month. So come the first of the month, I will have my pass ready to go. However, the pass is autoloaded into the system, but not magically transmitted to my Clipper Card. In order to get my pass onto my Clipper Card, I need to load it onto the card by tagging on and off to ensure the zones traveled match the zones purchased for the pass.

Here's where it gets dodgy. If I have a Zone 1-4 pass, does Zone 2 "match" that pass? Answer - no. This is a problem. I work near Lawrence Expressway, in Zone 4. But the Baby Bullet trains require me to get off the train in Mountain View, in Zone 3. On the first of the month, if I get on a bullet train, and tag on in Zone 1, and off in Zone 3 - that doesn't "match" my pass. I will get charged a $7.75 cash fare that I have already effectively paid by buying my monthly pass. Additionally, my pass will still not be activated.

I asked Clipper about this...

"Yes, you do need to tag off in Zone 4 or else you will be charged the Zone 1-3 cash fare.

I understand that it can be inconvenient, but since Caltrain is a zone-based system with open entry/exit, they have instituted the policy that every c...ard be charged the maximum fare (from the originating station) until the card tags off at its destination. At that time, Clipper searches for an applicable pass or ridebook. If there isn't one, than the fare is deducted from the cash balance.

- Lisa

Kind of sucks given that Caltrain's Clipper Brochure says this...

Monthly Pass: When you load a Caltrain monthly pass, you’ll receive unlimited rides within the zones specified, just like a paper Caltrain monthly pass. Monthly passes can be purchased on the 21st of each month for the coming month through the 9th day of the valid month.

Technically correct - the rub being that you have to go through the proper procedure to "load" the pass.

I told Mike Scanlon last month - "I am not a train guy", and he fed off this to say something about "this seems like common sense but...". Well, I AM a programmer guy. This should be trivial to get right. No - this IS trivial to get right. But they FAILed instead.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Clipper Card Caltrain FAILBLOG #1

I took Caltrain to Santa Clara today. After getting off the train, you need to "tag off" if you are a Clipper Card user. This can often be quite frustrating trying to locate the card reader, but at Santa Clara it hit a new low.

This is what @caltrain thinks of their @bayareaclipper users ... on Twitpic

Here is the Clipper reader, off the sidewalk, off the curb, sort of dumped into some landscaping woodchips, behind the trash can and some newspaper racks. It was probably placed before the construction started, but it's still very poorly placed, in a spot where there is only 2 or so feet of open sidewalk before another curbing.

If you look to the very right of the frame (or by looking next to my shadow taking the photo) you can see that there is in fact another Clipper reader on the platform itself. So it's not like there isn't an "accessible" Clipper reader - I just want to know why they decided to put another one behind a trash can. Even if there were enough detraining passengers that a second reader would speed things up, nobody can get to the second reader, especially with a crowd around the first one.

This placement makes no sense. There are a lot of translink placements out there that seem to makes sense at first glance but in fact are quite broken, but this one is broken on its face.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ford's Paradox - Central Subway and Congestion Pricing.

I saw the following snippet on the SF Appeal that I found very humorous, in this article.

During his presentation of the report to the board, Ford said that with local sales tax revenues in decline and other sources of SFMTA revenue susceptible to market fluctuations, "We need to seek out more stable funding sources."

He cited ideas such as congestion pricing and variable parking prices in more parts of the city as ways to add revenue.

"Without these, we will not be able to close critical funding gaps" to pay for projects such as the Central Subway Project, he said. The Muni extension is slated to open in 2018.
Each of the board directors addressed the report and expressed how they would like to see Muni service improved.

This is amusing to me. A lot of transit advocates oppose the Central Subway on the grounds that it's pretty much a waste of money. I am in this camp - the arguments for the Central Subway trumpet the fact it will go to Caltrain, as someone who has taken the MUNI underground to Caltrain I can very clearly state that getting off at Powell and walking 5+ minutes the opposite direction of the Caltrain station, then going down 2 levels to switch to the CS, will not be an improvement. At that point, I'd rather just go to ground level and walk down 4th Street.

Most people advocating for the CS (aside from Construction firms who stand to profit and Politicians who will get photo ops) don't actually take transit. They just know that Stockton Street is a mess, and think that a subway will magically fix that. They look at a map in isolation and see the "connection" at Market which isn't really a connection, or they just assume that since we are building it, that there will actually be a connection. They ignore that the Chinatown stop will be NINE stories underground - tell me how that is an improvement to a ground level stop for the 30/45?

On the flip side, Transit Advocates generally are in favor of congestion pricing, and people who don't take transit think congestion pricing is a dumb idea. Now, Nat Ford is connecting the Central Subway with congestion pricing. In order to have the money to complete and run the Central Subway, we're going to have to raise parking prices and implement congestion pricing.

So if you are against the Central Subway, would you be willing to let them build it if we get congestion pricing? (for the record, I am completely ambivalent on congestion pricing - I rarely drive or bike in the areas affected). If you are for the Central Subway, but were told that if we build it that the city will be implementing congestion pricing, does that change your mind?

Personally, I say no Central Subway, no congestion pricing. The Subway is a waste of money, and I'm not so sure that we really have the traffic to justify congestion pricing - granted I have driven onto the Bay Bridge from SoMa during rush hour once or twice and it wasn't very pleasant, so I can't really speak to this compared to people who deal with that daily. I just wonder how much money the city would take in compared to the implementation, and if it is justified by whatever benefits congestion pricing would bring (vs the unintended side effects).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Noe Valley Parklet "status"

Here is an email I received from Robert Roddick yesterday.

The Merchants Association conducted a survey of its members and also non-members and the result was that Seventy-Two (72%) favored the Park Lets. Sixty-eight percent supported Park Lets as beneficial for business. The remainder just liked the idea.

The results were forwarded to all members in good standing and to Andres Power on Tuesday.

The first choice was Martha Bros. and the second was in front of the old Real Foods, but this was disqualified as there is no operating business to assume the responsibility. The next choice was Just For Fun.

Andres Power was in agreement and I believe that the establishment of the Park Lets at these locations is now proceeding. The details of the site business's responsibility are being finalized.

The Noe Valley Association will take up the cleaning and maintenance in conjunction with our ordinary every day cleaning, beautification and maintenance schedule.

From the newspapers and Andres Power it looks like Park Lets will become part of the ordinary permit procedure. I hope and expect that it will require Conditional Use Hearings before issuance. This is something that the NVA and the Merchants will be watching closely.

Bob Roddick

This doesn't necessarily sound good for the residents of Vicksburg Street with respect to their concerns that a parklet in front of Martha Brothers will not attract coffee drinkers and people with their dogs, but will instead become a magnet for drunks rolling out of the Dubliner.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

You hear that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sound of inevitability... Goodbye, Mr. Anderson...

I received the following tweet this morning...

@murphstahoe Haha, SF is claiming $52K legal costs against Rob Anderson for losing lawsuit against the bike plan than a minute ago via web

Checking out link to the case


The City might not get it but you gotta love the fact he'll have to deal with it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Noe Valley Parklet Feedback

Update - fixed reference and link - grant came from the "Noe Valley Association" which is different than the "Noe Valley Merchants Association.

I have found that there is an amusing side effect of sticking your nose where perhaps it doesn't belong. Suddenly a mild mannered Silicon Valley engineer with no real authority becomes the listening board for random issues and the "owner" of issues - e.g. "How are things going with 'your plaza'". This becomes more prevalent when you have a big email distribution list, which of course I would never abuse ;)

So now I occasionally get random emails that are directly or tangentially related to the two most recent issues I have been pontificating about - Caltrain weekend Bullets and the addition of public space in Noe Valley (I will use a generic term there rather than "Plaza" or "Parklet" or "Town Square"). For example the bullet train thing has gotten me a lot of email from people about High Speed Rail, Gilroy Service (apparently an extension to Salinas is what would solve the whole problem), and running 10 minute headways all day long. Surprisingly, no "What we need to do is kill Caltrain and run BART down the Peninsula".

Last night, I got another email regardling "Public Space in Noe Valley". For those not following the saga, the Noe Valley Association wrote a grant which was looked upon favorably by San Francisco's San Francisco's Pavement to Parks program to put a Plaza on Noe Street in Noe Valley. I became a F-List Celebrity in Noe Valley - at least electronically - for advocating for this plaza but alas, we lost this battle in spectacular fashion . Instead Pavement to Parks decreed that Noe Valley would get two "parklets" along 24th Street.

If one thing was generally agreed upon during this whole saga, was that no matter the outcome, the process was flawed. While the NVA was very well meaning, many citizens felt that they figured out something they liked, and flung it upon an unsuspecting populace. They developed the idea, went to P2P, P2P approved the idea, and got set to roll it out. The idea was then leaked, a few people with enough influence to get their phone answered by our Supervisor put a bunch of DON'T BLOCK NOE signs in their windows, and the project was deemed to be too divisive before people who might like the project got to voice their opinions. So then me and mine got equally as pissy, and a lot of people who probably would have nice conversations over the Giants prospects in the playoff race ended up screaming and shouting at each other, online and in public.

That's water under the bridge. Supervisorial Candidate Rebecca Prozan saw me on the street and told me she thought she had figured out my plaza problem (again with the ownership meme!). "Vicksburg" - she said confidently. I had a bag of bagels and my wife was waiting for me, so I just nodded and said "Vicksburg" and pointed at the Farmer's Market and said "Well, maybe we'll get a 'plaza' here" - referencing an effort to get money to buy the Noe Valley Ministry's parking lot and turn it into a non-street-blocking public space. What I really wanted to say was "It's over, we had fun, we lost, sometimes that happens, now I just want to go to Healdsburg and work on my tomatoes.

However, there is one open issue. We get two parklets! And this brings this longish thread (I like to write - deal with it) to the new news. Remember several paragraphs ago where I said I often get random emails? Last night I got an email address "To all those involved in the decision-making of the parklets on 24th Street:". Remember - I am an engineer in the South Bay, not a politico in San Francisco. I am not any more involved in the decision making than the author of the email.

I struggled with what to do with the missive. Then thinking back about the whole thing - I recalled that the problem with the Noe Street Plaza was that everyone was upset that decisions were ostensibly being made by a secret cabal - and not by the public at large. Noe Valley is a community - and as such, we are ALL the decision makers - are we not? So in that spirit - I am publishing the email. I have redacted the names because while I think the content is relevant, the persons involved did not expect to have their names and emails published.

To all those involved in the decision-making of the parklets on 24th Street:

Please keep parklets far away from any bars because people coming out of the bars late at night tend to congregate on the sidewalk and stay for a long time (sometimes hours). This creates a noise disturbance for the residents. Late at night their voices and laughter travel far distances, unlike during the day, because their voices aren't masked by other noises. And having just left a loud bar, they continue talking loudly as they had been used to doing inside the bar.

I know you are considering placing a parklet at Martha Bros. or by the parking lot owned by the Noe Valley Ministry (used for the farmer's market), but these locations are very close to the Dubliner bar. PLEASE do not place any parklets on the eastern half of that block. If you "must" place a parklet between Sanchez and Vicksburg, please place it closer to Sanchez to remove its temptation from the departing bar patrons of the Dubliner.

Thank you for considering these facts.

Name Redacted
Vicksburg Street resident

cc to other Vicksburg residents

As to my personal opinion on this issue - I do not drink coffee and Sanchez is a long way from my house so a Martha's parklet would be underused by me. But you see, I'm ambivalent about the outcome - I'm concerned about the process ;)

But I'm pretty sure this means that Rebecca Prozan has not solved "my plaza problem".

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sean Elsbernd, Caltrain JPB Chairman, on service cuts

I emailed Scott Wiener - who is running for Supervisor in San Francisco's District 8, about the Caltrain cuts. Scott is sharing his campaign headquarters with FIX MUNI NOW which is the organization pushing Prop G which entails some reforms to MUNI's labor negotiation rules. FIX MUNI and Prop G are in large part the work of Sean Elsbernd - the District 7 Supervisor (D7 is Park Merced, West Portal, etc...)

Sean Elsbernd is also the Chairman of the Caltrain Joint Powers Board - the group overseeing Caltrain Staff.

Scott Wiener read my missive on the Caltrain cuts and forwarded it to Sean. I gave Scott some background as to how important Caltrain is, that there is no excuse for Caltrain not to close a 2.3 Million dollar budget gap, and that they should be creative in finding more revenue and reducing costs. This of course including getting over the last hump to solid bike capacity and weekend limited/express trains.

Here is my petition for limited/express trains on the weekend! Please sign it and pass it on!

Here is Sean's response - unedited.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this one. Feel free to pass on this
e-mail, cut and copy parts of it, or just toss it.

Caltrain is the forgotten step child of Bay Area Transit. Unlike every other
regional public transit system, Caltrain has no dedicated source of revenue.
60% of itsoperation costs are covered by fare revenue (which, as an aside, is
actually a tremendously high level of fare box revenue) and 40% is covered by
the 3 member agency (MTA, SamTrans, and VTA) contributions. For years, those 3
contributions have been a steady source of funds. This year, however, SamTrans,
in order to balance their budget, reduced their contribution to Caltrain. Once
they did that, the MTA followed suit. The VTA has not done it yet, but its a
given that they will next fiscal year.

So, long story short, the financial troubles of the MTA, SamTrans, and the VTA
are the cause of Caltrain's poor fiscal condition. I do believe that this year
we will be able to make it through the budget without some of the draconian cuts
listed below, except for maybe the Gilroy cut - that service could very well be

My very real worry is July 1, 2011 and forward. If financial projections hold
at all accurate, Caltrain will fall off the cliff next year.

We are looking at all kinds of other revenue ideas, and I will absolutely pass
on the suggestion of a limited line on the weekends - that's a new one to me.
The issue of bikes on the train has been discussed at nearly every meeting I've
attended. If it was as a simple as simply removing some seats to make room for
my bikes, that would have been done already. It, of course, is not. We have
doubled the amount of space available for bikes in the last 12 months, and
continue to do more. The number of bicyclists who are "passed up" has dropped
significantly. We are working on it.

Shirley Johnson pointed out that Sean's numbers were a bit off. The farebox recovery is 42%, the bike capcacity was increased 39%.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Letter from Dan Connelly to Caltrain regarding Monthly Passes

Letter to Caltrain from Dan Connelly on the Monthly Pass vs. 8 ride conundrum. I agree wholeheartedly

Presently the monthly pass is an unwise investment for many due to the
relatively large ratio of cost of a monthly pass to a 10-ride.

Consider the following example:

30 days in month
21 weekdays
1 holiday, on average
1 vacation day, on average
1 sick day
travel for business, 2 days per month
alternate transportation, average 2 round trips per month

That's 15 round trips per month, yet the ratio of a monthly pass to an 8-ride
ticket costs is 16 round trips. And with the gradual reduction and impending
cancellation of weekend service, there's little if any value there.

So the reality is for many professionals the monthly pass is an economic loss on
average. I therefore propose you spare the monthly pass from further fare
increases, decreasing the ratio of monthly to 8-ride tickets well below the
present 16 to a level which makes more economic sense. By encouraging riders
to buy monthly passes, you will likely increase revenue, as more part-time
riders choose to spend a bit more for a monthly and become full-time riders.

The economic sense of this is further supported by the view that regular train
users are likely more price-elastic than, for example, Giants fans, who view the
cost of a train ticket a small portion of an evening's expense, while commuters
are already in large numbers making the decision that using a car is cheaper.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sky View Tours San Francisco, run by Grey Line Bus

Tuesday, leaving 22nd Street Caltrain Station.

My route home goes down Pennslyvania and then right onto Cesar Chavez. The run in to Cesar Chavez is downhill, my Garmin typically pegs me at 25 MPH leading into the right hand turn. At that speed, to make the banked corner onto CC you need to set up a line in the left side of the lane. I do a shoulder check to see if some driver appears really impatient and set up the line. I can make this corner at speed because the bike is more maneuverable than a car going through the narrow turn pocket, and my exit line goes into the far right hand side of Cesar Chavez - a motorist making this turn must merge into Westbound Traffic on CC.

I look back, see nothing, and go to set up my line. Then my spidey sense goes off and I see one of those big double decker tour buses coming up to my left. There is a small possibility he's turning left, but the bus starts to veer towards my line and I look over at the driver.

The bus is open air, so I look right into his face and say "What the hell are you doing" and he flips me the bird and says "FUCK YOU", then continues to merge into the turn pocket. I hit the brakes and head for the sidewalk. There is no bailout here - there are parallel parked cars right up to the turn itself, so I do sort of a kung fu stop and get right next to the cars.

I follow the bus through the turn and note the bus number - 91237.

He heads up CC to make a left turn onto Evans. He has a red arrow so I can catch him. I pull up and fumble with my cellphone in an attempt to get a picture as he screams at me in some foreign language. Light turns green and he slams off the accellerator, still yelling.

I had to get home to Liam, so I bypassed the SFPD, and after that I knew they weren't going to do shit anyway. So I called Sky View tours, which happens to be Gray Line Bus. The reservation person transfers me to the dispatch, who transfers me to "Safety and Training". I get voice mail and leave a nastygram. As predicted, 2 days later, no word back about their driver who decided he was going to play chicken driving a 4 ton bus against a 200 lb cyclist, and he wasn't going to lose even if he killed me.

Please do not patronize Grey Line Bus/SkyView Tours.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Townsend bike lanes.

They have finished striping Townsend on the Westbound side from 4th to 7th.

Bike lane - townsend @4th Westbound on Twitpic

I feel like crying. Not because we have a bike lane on such a notoriously bad stretch of road - but because San Francisco managed to get this done quickly despite a minor logistical hurdle.

See those cars? Thursday, they were parked perpindicular to the road. As I rode down Townsend this AM, I noticed the parallel parked cars and was a little shocked that a change went in without months of public notice and hand-wringing.

"Park Parallel" - new signs reminding of parking co... on Twitpic

A "PARK PARALLEL" sign is in place reminding the regulars of the change. I tried to snap a photo but failed - there were signs that designated this stretch of road a tow-away zone last Friday, they must have just rousted all the cars off Townsend and put the stripes and signs in that day.

This is a huge improvement to the street. The travel area is now wider with a designated bike lane in a spot that was formerly occupied by perpendicular parked cars - cars that would back out into bike traffic with little notice at alarming frequency.

I also saw workers on the Eastbound side of Townsend this AM - probably prepping the parking changes that will happen on that side of the road, that will supposedly allow the City to add a sidewalk, removing pedestrians from aimlessly walking down the roadway.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bike lane on Townsend

Finally - a bike lane on Townsend.

Jenga! Townsend @ 7th on Twitpic

This street sees a lot of bike traffic, being the primary route for the majority of Caltrain bike riders - 2500 people ride Caltrain with bikes daily. It's also a primary route to a large part of SoMa with people from the Mission and Potrero hill going this way to the Embarcadero.

Previously this intersection was completely unstriped. Vehicles would set up where you see the line of cars right now, but impatient drivers would swerve out of the line and into the unmarked area that is now a marked bike lane and a right turn pocket - often without looking for the cyclists off to their right. This problem was exacerbated because some motorists would see that the cyclist had "room" to their right, of course that "room" includes 2 train tracks and getting pushed into those tracks by a swerving car is a recipe for disaster. Supposedly with CEMOF in place for Caltrain, these tracks can be paved over/removed/whatever now, but the bike lane dilineates space for the cyclists to the left of the tracks.

Of course, the first time I rode down this lane - a car did the same thing, using the bike lane as a through lane on Townsend.

V C Section 21209 Motor Vehicles and Motorized Bicycles in Bicycle Lanes
Motor Vehicles and Motorized Bicycles in Bicycle Lanes

21209. (a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207 except as follows:

(1) To park where parking is permitted.

(2) To enter or leave the roadway.

(3) To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.

(b) This section does not prohibit the use of a motorized bicycle in a bicycle lane, pursuant to Section 21207.5, at a speed no greater than is reasonable or prudent, having due regard for visibility, traffic conditions, and the condition of the roadway surface of the bicycle lane, and in a manner which does not endanger the safety of bicyclists.
Amended Ch. 262, Stats. 1988. Effective January 1, 1989.

Townsend on Twitpic

That day, the stripes were down but the cyclist symbol was not. I predict this lane will be utilized in this manner anyway, but the striping will help. And if it gets real bad - there are plenty of cops at the Starbucks at 8th and Townsend who we can ask to help patrol this intersection.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tell Caltrain - switch weekend service to Bullets/Limited Service

I'm going to go to the next JPB meeting the first Thursday in September (10 AM, San Carlos at the SamTrans/Caltrain Headquarters near the San Carlos train station) to make the case that instead of cutting all weekend service, they should go to a limited schedule, reducing overall runtimes at the cost of some stops losing service.

The spiel from Caltrain on service cuts and fare increases can be found here

On the chopping block are Gilroy service, midday service, early AM and late night service, and weekends.

I suspect Gilroy is in big trouble, ridership there cratered once the 101 expansion was complete. Midday service and the AM/night service cannot be cut without crippling the system - I for one could not risk taking an AM Caltrain and be put in a situation where I could not get home for the next several hours, or where I could not work late. I am sure I am not alone.

The service in the balance is the weekends. Caltrain's latest ridership numbers show ~39,000 weekday boardings, ~11,000 Saturday boardings, and ~7400 Sunday boardings. It is cheaper to run the weekend service as a whole since there are fewer trains, but the rails are still open and crews are in place.

My proposal to Caltrain is that they run a limited/express service on the weekends. This will increase ridership much the same way that similar service had this impact on weekday ridership. The cost to run the train, if scheduled properly, could be lowered - the fuel costs of stopping and starting the train are eliminated, and there is the potential to run fewer trainsets - reducing labor costs.

I think that Caltrain should at least consider this option. But they won't respond to one person showing up to a Public Comment meeting - we all think that we are the Oracle of Delphi but it just doesn't work that way. I want to show up to that meeting with the ability to tell Caltrain that others are of like mind. So I have set up an online petition for people to sign onto this idea - I'll bring the signatures to the JPB meeting.

My petition can be found here - Caltrain Weekend Bullet Petition

I realize that losing that local service will be a painful experience for people who have used the local service - many of whom are transit dependent. However - those people will have NO train option if Caltrain cuts Weekend service. There is substitute service on the Caltrain Corridor from VTA and SamTrans. Apparently Caltrain thinks that is sufficient - the head of SamTrans is the same person who runs Caltrain, and the head of the VTA is on the Joint Powers Board that oversees Caltrain.



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Letter to Caltrain.

Dear Mr. Scanlon et all…

To me, a clear winner for Caltrain would be to modify weekend service to run bullet or limited service instead of local service.
Currently, instead of even providing the poorly received local service you run midday and late night, you add the Broadway and Atherton stations to the weekend schedule, making an inconvenient, slow use of Caltrain even worse. Admittedly I do frequently ride my bike from San Francisco to Palo Alto on the weekend and then return to the City on Caltrain, but by that time I am tired, have purchased a lunch and a newspaper to enjoy on the train, and can sit back and relax. However, if I were in the need to get anywhere in a timely fashion on the weekend, Caltrain is not a palatable option.

I am not a railroad operator, but it stands to reason that less starting and stopping would reduce fuel costs – albeit perhaps by a trival amount. This proposal would also make schedules more reliable. The key gain is that such service – just as it has on weekdays – would attract MORE riders – and most of these riders (unlike on weekdays) would be non-regular travelers paying full fare. The difference between one hour from Palo Alto and 30 minutes from Palo Alto would be a dealmaker for many casual riders, especially Giants fans and other ATT Park event goers.

Certainly there is some downside from communities that feel they would be left out of the stop list. However, all of those stops are serviced – roughly – by buses like the VTA 22 and Samtrans 295, among others. Fortunately Mr Scanlon is also the head of Samtrans and could coordinate the parallel bus service to work with the bullet Caltrain schedule, and the VTA head should be amenable as well. If the alternative is NO service at all, I see little room for those communities to complain.

Thank You

John Murphy – San Francisco, loyal rider since 1996

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A new low...

Headed to work today.

Riding down 18th towards Valencia, at the intersection of Dolores there is a right turn pocket. Hitting a red light, I set up in the far left side of that pocket - outside the through lane but not setting myself up to be right hooked by being on the outside of the pocket. I heard a car behind me, and looked to see a white pickup truck pulling into the turn pocket, and turning on his right blinker. I acknowledged the driver and started to shuffle forward into the beginning of the crosswalk and over to the left a bit to allow him to make a right on red. He gave me "the wave" and started to inch forward - and then BOOM. He was rear ended by a Jeep Cherokee behind him.

I decided I had to see how this one would play out. The drivers got out. The truck driver was nonplussed, checking out his dented fender and broken taillights, the Jeep driver said "Why didn't you keep going forward". The truck driver pointed at me and said "I didn't feel like running that guy over". The SUV driver looked at me and decided that the whole incident was my fault - for "being in the way". The truck driver quickly corrected him and told me to just move along.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trust Karma

A few weeks back, I found a wallet on Caltrain. I opened it up to find a Drivers License, 700 or so dollars and 70 Euros Cash, and a business card from a Mercedes dealer, with a quote for a $65,000 car on the back. I recognized the photo on the DL as a guy who had just gotten off at Menlo Park. By the time I made SF, I had contacted the Mercedes Dealer, gotten the business phone and email of the guy, called and emailed him, and not getting direct contact, dropped the wallet off at the SF Caltrain station. He emailed me back the next day thanking me. I figured that sooner or later I would suffer his fate, and decided that the karma from getting this guy his wallet back would protect me and get me my stuff back.

Today, I was in fact protected by that karma, but I suffered a few minor penalties for not having the faith.

This month, due to being away July 1-5, and a week in the middle, I decided to forego my Monthly Caltrain Pass. This will probably save me $30 or so - after tax preference maybe $20. I have already decided this isn't ever worth it, but I did it anyway. This is especially true since I am using Translink and forgetting to tag off a couple of times will suck up that $30 real fast. And then you have today's incident.

I rode to Millbrae from home, and as I was pulling into the station, so was the train. Since I didn't have a pass, instead of just rolling onto the train, I had to fiddle with my wallet, find the translink card, and tag in. Fortunately this went smoothly and I got on. Too smoothly it turns out, as I put my translink card back into an empty wallet, and looked back in horror to see my DL, Credit Cards, etc... on the platform, and the door closing. I saw an older woman trying to buy a train ticket, and frantically waved at her and pointed at my stash, she just returned a puzzled look. Doh!

The conductor wandered into the car and I mentioned my predicament. He quickly radioed the train 15 minutes behind us, asking them to check the platform - and I could meet the train in Mountain View to get the stuff. 15 minutes later, he returned, shaking his head - they didn't find the stuff. "Hopefully someone turned it into BART".

Occam's razor disagrees - the simplest explanation is that the old woman got her ticket, saw my stuff, and got on the train. She's the most likely person to have found the cards, and the following train was a local that wouldn't exactly attract a lot of passengers. The BART office is a longish walk up some stairs. So while I accepted the BART angle as a possibility, the most likely scenario was that my stuff was on that train.

The pro move would be to get off in Redwood City and just wait for the train there. Instead, I stayed on to Mountain View, using the time to block my ATM and Credit Cards. Unfortunately, the Credit Cards could only be cancelled. Oh well, I'll use that as an exploit - yesterday I had found out we had neglected to cancel our Consumer Reports subscription after buying all the baby gear. This will take care of that.

Arriving Mountain View, I asked the conductor if he had heard anything more. He said "I called them, they don't have your stuff". I had one more card to cancel anyway, so I sat down to make the phone call, have a bite to eat, and wait for the following train.

The train arrived and I got on, and asked the conductor. She said "We looked pretty hard and didn't see anything". I said "I was hoping a passenger had the stuff and turned it in". She radioed the other conductor - no dice. Then, my phone rang, a 650 number. Aha! I answered the phone.

"Hello John, this is David Vanderwilt, your Dentist". I said "I'm guessing you know where my Credit Cards are". He said, "Why yes, someone named 'Jean' has them and here is her number". The conductor gave me a pen and paper to write them down. As we pulled into Sunnyvale I asked the conductor if she minded me riding to Lawrence Station (next zone, beyond what I had paid for), she said "no sweat". Now I did something really stupid...

Instead of *dialing* the phone number, I entered it into a note on my phone and went back to bullshitting with the conductor. I got off the train, sat down on the bench, and called 'Jean'.

"Hi Jean, this is John Murphy - apparently you have my credit cards"

"Why yes, I do. I have them with me right here. I am on the Caltrain right now - we just left Lawrence Station, what do you want me to do with them???"


Now that you've made it this far - I leave you with the stylings of Noe Valley's finest doing their thing at the Plaza Public Outreach Meeting.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Market Street improvements, San Francisco

I had to go fight City Hall yesterday giving me the rare displeasure of riding down Market Street. It always amazes me to see how many cyclists use Market, I think it sucks, but I am sure plenty of streets I typically use would be considered even worse (cough cough Cesar Chavez cough) but I have adapted to that, and more people need to get where Market goes so they've adapted as well. And they've now got these pretty green bike lanes with soft hit posts to keep the cars out. Right?


Or not. The gentleman cropped out of the photo wearing the track suit suddenly woke up and headed to his car after he realized I was taking his photo. "I was unloading". I just sort of grinned at him and he said "Where else am I supposed to unload". Of course, what he was unloading was his opinion on Algeria's chances against England in the World Cup game, as he babbled to his friend on the sidewalk while I sat at the red light up the block. I told him "I hope you made more money on that delivery than the parking ticket you just got". Of course, I have no idea if I could even get him a ticket, and I'm probably not going to find out.

Further down the street I reached the 10th Street Oasis of plenty. So named because cars are forced to take a right turn by a right turn only lane, to the left of which is a bike lane. To the left of the bike lane, is a bus/taxi only lane. In that lane I found this, speeding straight on Market to the light at 9th...

Cars must turn right at tenth. I think he figures his car is ... on Twitpic

Perhaps that qualifies as a bus.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Letter to the Editor, Palo Alto Daily News.

This is a good one...

Stanford fuels most Juniper Serra traffic

Dear Editor: So, cash-strapped Santa Clara County is to spend $1.5 million
making Junipero Serra nicer for about six Stanford faculty residences,
forcing traffic onto other routes. That must be gratifying to non-Stanford
residents of the county.

If 90 percent of people exceed a speed limit, then that speed limit is not
reasonable: it used to be 55 mph, and 45 mph is a safe speed under most
conditions. Your June 10 article did not state where the accidents occurred
or why College Terrace residents have any stake in the change. At least 90
percent of the traffic on Junipero Serra is Stanford-related. However, since
Stanford traffic has blocked most nearby roads, Junipero Serra is west Menlo
Park¹s main access to Palo Alto. If the process were truly
multijurisdictional, San Mateo County would have been involved in the

Things that do need to be fixed are: (a) for the county to abide by the
posted signs that deny access to large trucks along the stretch between
Alpine and Page Mill roads; (b) alter the bike diversion near Campus Drive
West. Virtually no one uses it, so vehicular traffic headed to Menlo Park
has to cross over the yellow line to avoid cyclists, thus imperiling
themselves; (c) trim the vegetation that is a hazard to cyclists; (d) remove
debris and landslide material from the bike lane; (e) construct a decent
pedestrian path from Santa CruzAvenue to Campus Drive so that Stanford
people can walk safely to and from campus.

This is just another example of Stanford insulating itself from problems
it causes, and shifting them to other neighborhoods.

Janet Davis, Menlo Park

Where do I begin.

Most of the traffic is supposedly Stanford related. Yet it is unfair that the county spend money on that road that benefits the community that is the majority user of that road, to the detriment of people who are using the road to cut across Stanford?

Just because people DO speed, does not mean that the speed limit is unreasonably low. It means that the road is set up to allow/encourage those speeds, but that does not mean that the speed limit makes sense. The county has determined that people drive to fast given the uses around that road. Junipero Serra has high usage by cyclists, Stanford students jogging, it is the access point to the Stanford Dish where hikers flock. It's not good to mix that usage with higher speed traffic, but the road is built to encourage that high speed. So we adapt the road to encourage lower speeds. As an aside, I have not seen the plans, and some in the cycling community are worried that the specifics of this project might create some hazards to cyclists, I am speaking more in the general sense.

The road is in Santa Clara County. If Santa Clara determines that Menlo Park (San Mateo County) residents are using JS as a freeway across Stanford, it's not incumbent upon them to maintain that status quo. And frankly, I don't get the argument anyway, the primary route into "Palo Alto" from "West Menlo Park" is Sand Hill Road. I guess it depends on which part of "Palo Alto" you need to get to. I'm guessing the author commutes from her home in West Menlo Park to somewhere off Page Mill Road.

Of course, the biggest gem is this one...

(b) alter the bike diversion near Campus Drive
West. Virtually no one uses it, so vehicular traffic headed to Menlo Park
has to cross over the yellow line to avoid cyclists, thus imperiling

I dunno. My dad taught me that I'm not supposed to cross over the yellow line in general, and if required to by some obstruction, to be extremely cautious. I guess this is difficult if you are driving back to "West Menlo Park" at the "reasonable" speed of 55 MPH on a narrow road with a guardrail on the right side and high usage of cyclists, on a college campus.

Vehicular traffic does not HAVE to cross over the yellow line.

Here is the streetview of the area in question.

Browse around the area and you will see that the Google cam catches several cyclists in the picture - a major mode share in the area. Among other things - the cyclists commuting around here aren't allowed to take the closest alternate route - I-280.

If you look close, you might see the "Bike diversion". A lot of cyclists don't know it exists - it's sort of hidden. It basically bypasses the section where the guardrail exists, to protect cars from going over the embankment. The diversion is dangerous in that it's populated by golf carts and then requires you to merge back onto Junipero Serra into a spot without the best of shoulders (due to the vegetation on the side of the road) coming into the road blindly.

The "diversion" is somewhere between 100-200 yards. A cyclist going 10 MPH would take 40 seconds to traverse 200 yards, resulting in a 30 second delay to a motorist going 45 MPH. Note however that the most likely scenario where there is a motorist/cyclist conflict is coming off a red light at the intersection. The car first (and maybe second) in line would proceed ahead of the cyclists, the third car would be hard pressed to be at 45 MPH before the end of that 200 yard section anyway.

The diversion is pretty silly - and if my understanding is correct, the only reason it even exists is as a path for the golf carts. Frankly, the signs should be taken down and cyclists should use the road, and cars should take care, waiting until after the shoulder widens to pass.

Of course, the real kicker is this...

(c) trim the vegetation that is a hazard to cyclists; (d) remove
debris and landslide material from the bike lane; (e) construct a decent
pedestrian path from Santa Cruz Avenue to Campus Drive so that Stanford
people can walk safely to and from campus.

When vilifying cyclists, it's always best to follow up by burnishing your ped/bike street cred with unrelated pleading to save the poor cyclists. How often does our "West Menlo Park" friend feel like walking from Santa Cruz Ave to Campus Drive? My guess? Never. She just wants those peds/cyclists out of her way.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Me dost think they protest too much

Holy Cow. California's Assembly is voting on a measure to ban plastic bags
from grocery, convenience and other stores under a proposal that appears headed for a major legislative victory this week.

When San Francisco got involved earlier in the fray on this issue, with Ross Mirkirimi leading the way, the howls of protests came up on SFGate. And in the end, the world is still spinning and there are fewer plastic bags out there, and now the state - and other states! - are following the lead.

Some people just hate the concept of change, but it turns out that human beings are amazingly adaptive creatures (assisted by the fact that we also die, meaning that those who have the most invested in the "old way" have to deal with the "new way" for the least amount of time). History has plenty of examples.

For example, San Francisco has had a composting program for years. Food scraps soiled paper, and other compostable items are supposed to be put in a green compost bin instead of in the trash. Last year, Gavin Newsom decided to make it "MANDATORY". The biggest problem with the system was that in a lot of large apartment buildings, the apartment owner/manager did not provide green bins for their tenants, many of whom would prefer to put their compostables into the compost stream. This system is good for the city - the city sells compost, but pays to put trash into a landfill. Another big problem was that restaurants - which produce huge amounts of food scraps - were not participating.

The mandatory program required the larger apartment buildings to provide green bins, and included a system of warnings and eventual fines for noncompliance - for putting your banana peels into the green bin. I read about this and really thought Gavin was barking up the wrong tree again - and I say this as an obsessive composter (I have been known to move scraps my wife throws in the trash into the compost bin). My thinking is that a carrot is more effective than a stick. Perhaps we could increase the overall trash bill, then rebate SF citizens a "dividend" based on how much money the City made selling compost and recyclables (this would have the added benefit of giving all citizens a clear stake in preventing recycling theft). But whatever, Gavin got his photo op.

Needless to say, the howls on SFGate and even SFist were over the top. Our citizenry was going to be overrun with rats or risk huge fines from a money grubbing government.

Fast forward 8 months and check it out.

"People are dealing with it just fine," he said. "For most people, the green composting bin is just another part of life in San Francisco."

There were groans and worries aplenty when Mayor Gavin Newsom first proposed making composting mandatory as part of the city's ambitious effort to divert all its waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020.

"There certainly was a lot of concern that we were going to be garbage cops," Westlund said. "But we haven't fined anyone, and more and more people are getting involved."

Under the ordinance, no multi-family buildings or multi-tenant commercial properties will be fined until at least July 2011. But since Dec. 1, garbage collectors have left around 8,500 "contamination" notices to customers, reminding them to separate their trash.

"Our people don't dig through the trash, but they do see what's on top when they wheel the carts to the truck," said Robert Reed of Recology, which has the garbage-collection contract for San Francisco. "We're trying to encourage people to be more attentive."

Plenty of city residents are cooperating with the program. About 63 percent of city apartment buildings with six or more units now participate, compared with a little more than 25 percent last year, Reed said. More than two-thirds of the city's households now have the green composting carts, while more than 75 percent of San Francisco's restaurants are involved.

In April, for example, the city collected an average of 525 tons a day of plants and food scraps destined for the compost heap. That's up 22 percent from the 430 tons a day gathered the year before.

You can't argue with facts. Way to go Gavin.

Guess the Price of Gas on July 4.

In Today's Mr. Roadshow

Q It's time for another Roadshow gas contest — like predicting when gas hits $2.50 a gallon. Prices dropped about 10 cents in the Evergreen area of San Jose last week and I was totally thrilled. It would be nice if prices drop like they have in the rest of the United States. I don't believe for a minute that our gas is more expensive because it is more pure. That is a bunch of bunk and nothing is going to change my mind. Anyway, I am ready to win a contest.

Susan Creech

A Boy, are you hopeful. I don't think there's any chance that prices will fall to $2.50 gallon anytime soon, but I can handle another contest. I will buy a free tank of gas for the first driver who comes closest to predicting the statewide average for a gallon of self-serve regular on July 4 based on AAA's figures. The state average was $3.04 a gallon on Tuesday, down 8 cents from a month ago but much higher than the national average of $2.73. The contest deadline is June 15.

Guess away. If I win, I will ask Mr. Roadshow to either fill my nonexistent gas tank, or donate a suitable amount of money to the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition

Now, don't get me wrong - I am a HUGE fan of Gary Richards. He's taken a very tough stance on horrible things like drunk driving, texting/cellphone and driving, red-light running, etc... and his position re:cyclists is enlightened. I just think this would be a bit funny. If he disagrees I will happily cede my winnings to the second place guess.

Monday, May 10, 2010

An insult to actual activists everywhere...

In the Noe Valley Voice

The proponents of the plaza trial were led by 23rd Street resident John Murphy. Murphy, a father and local activist, hopes the neighborhood will give the project a chance.

"I support this plaza because it is the sort of big public space that suits the demographics of Noe Valley, that will bring customers for our businesses and will improve the quality of the intersection of 24th and Noe," he says.

Murphy says he and a loose-knit group of supporters are creating their own window signs and may set up a table at the farmers market as well. They've also been using email and Twitter to get the word out. "I think that viral approach is more effective in this day and age," he says.

Murphy's pro-plaza blog, yesnoevalley, rallied supporters to the first meeting at St. Philip's. "A lot of the supporters are parents with young children," he says.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Love Letter

On the Noe Valley SF Blog - I can't link the original LTTE that I wrote because it's not online (the Noe Valley Voice is online but always a bit behind).

I think perhaps Chris Daly has joined the plaza opposition. That can't be a bad sign.

Anonymous said...
This may or may not be a bit off topic. It relates to the proposed Noe St. plaza.

Did anyone read the letter from John Murphy pontificating and ranting on and on about the notion that the plaza is THE only solution, and that he is right. period. period.

Oh, and that we are "special" in our little valley. Fact is, we are no more "special" than Glen Park, or Bernal, or Twin Peaks, or Potrero Hill, etc. Each neighborhood is unique, with good and not so good qualities.

god, what a bunch of arrogant, self-centered bs. talk about feeling entitled.

As others have stated very professionally and eloquently, you don't just push a so called "trial plaza" on the neighborhood with the intent of circumventing legitimate and important planning and traffic studies. It's irresponsible and smacks of sweeping public due process under the rug.

Quite simply, the so called "trial plaza" is not, by any stretch of clever words a "bold experiment" as Mr. Murphy states.

It is a quick, sneaky attempt to close off a public street, paid for with public taxes, for the benefit of a few. Don't be mislead. Please continue to contact Bevan Dufty and Andres Power and express your opinion to oppose this project.


May 5, 2010 6:48 PM