From the ill-timed driver's right turn to the wandering vehicle encroaching on a sharrow, bicyclists say their precarious relationship with motorists makes navigating San Francisco's streets challenging enough, but poor infrastructure is another dangerous culprit.
More than 100 infrastructure deficiencies were identified during the past year from the personal experiences of bicyclists who are part of the 10,000-member bicycle advocate group the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
The data paints a picture of some of the roadway dangers of bicycling in San Francisco — potholes, gapes in bike lanes, poor timing of traffic lights, slippery surfaces — and highlights the need for small improvements that may not always gain the attention of city departments, which tend to focus on larger-scale capital improvements.
In one data set there are 161 requests for specific improvements, with dates ranging from December 2013 until November. The San Francisco Bicycle Advisory Committee is expected to review the data next month and possibly establish a clearer process for vetting, monitoring and tracking the outcomes of such requested improvements by relying on issues reported through The City's 311 hotline.
Bike advisory committee member Kevin Dole said the volunteer committee “has been looking for a way to get a better response from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority to smaller repairs throughout The City.” Dole said that while San Francisco is among the leaders on bicycling infrastructure, “we are not the avant garde leader here.” Other cities, he said, are implementing more innovative and dramatic measures to increase bicycling and improve roadway safety.
Among the coalition members' various requests, one rider said there is a need to improve Page Street, describing gridlock in the area.
“I watched a bicyclist get T-boned by a car today on Page Street,” the cyclist said.”Bicyclists ride to the left of the cars since there is no room on the right.”
One bicyclist requested widening the narrow sidewalk underneath the Broadway tunnel to allow for safe passage of both cyclists and pedestrians. Another complained that Uber drivers are not familiar with the rules of the road and there should be better ways to indentify such vehicles to report bad driving. A simple paint job would satisfy some requests: “Please, please, please paint the bike lane between Golden Gate Park and the Presidio green.”
In some cases, it's a matter of the roadway surfacing.
“The manhole or utility cover just south of the intersection, on Scott [Street's] west side, is very slick,” notes another. “When wet, it is the perfect trap: cyclists entering the Wiggle from Fell [Street] are moving fast, leaning into a turn, and cannot see the manhole cover around parked cars. Because it's not textured, it's very easy for wheels to slide across it. I've seen at least one major wipeout because of this.”
Some bicyclists hope to see specific routes improved.
“I cannot figure out a safe way to safely get from the Cortland side of Bernal Heights into the Mission and beyond,” one requested.
The data could assist the ongoing effort by city officials to stamp out all traffic-related deaths involving pedestrians and bicyclists by 2024, a campaign called Vision Zero, which is a growing effort among cities around the world. In San Francisco, there were 28 vehicle collision fatalities in 2014 between January and Dec. 3, of which three were bicyclists. The same number of deaths occurred during the same time in 2013, with four bicyclists killed, according to the Police Department's third-quarter traffic enforcement and collision data report.
Police reported that nonfatal injuries decreased during the same time period. Severe or other visible injuries declined from 955 in 2013 to 784 this year. Total reported collisions, regardless of injury, decreased from 2,703 to 2,285, while reported vehicle collisions with bicyclists decreased from 467 to 392.
The Bicycle Coalition is also turning to data to crack down on drivers for blocking the box or double parking, two maligned behaviors of motorists that cyclists say jeopardize the safety of both pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Post a photo of the offense on Twitter using hashtag #ParkingDirtySF. Don't forget to include information on where the dirty deed is happening,” the campaign announcement says.