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.