Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bike Walk Oceanside Meets with North County Transit District

Mike Wygant (NCTD Deputy Chief of Operations, bicyclist and Oceanside resident) and Johnny Dunning (NCTD Deputy Chief of Operations) shared the following information related to bicycles and public transit within NCTD. 

1.  NCTD accommodates bicycles on all modes of public transit except the lift used for para-transit. Buses have a capacity of either 2 or 3 bicycles, depending upon the equipment. The Breeze bus line includes 161 buses that travel 6.5 million miles annually. A large number cyclists make use of those buses every weekend, he said.

(a) A primary barrier to increasing bicycle-carrying capacity of buses has been the extension of the on-bus bike rack from the footprint of the bus vehicle, for which there are legal limits that must be observed. Also of importance is the rack manufacturer’s recommendations.

2. NCTD drivers are trained to respect bicyclists as if they were cars. He cited Calif. Vehicle Code section 21750 as allowing vehicular passing of a bicyclist only when it can be done safely. Drivers are instructed that, if 3-4 feet cannot be accommodated, then they must wait to pass.

(a) Mike commented that SD County Sheriffs aren’t supportive of the sharrows lane because they believe the markings conflict with Calif. Vehicle Code sections 21202 and 21208, which he said mandates bicyclists ride as “far to the right.” Nevertheless, NCTD drivers are told to surrender the lane to the bicyclists and wait to pass them.

3. Accommodating bicycles on trains have created some disputes regarding interference with wheelchairs.

(a) The Coaster and Sprinter lines are heavily used by bicyclists, but not in the
quantities experienced on buses.

BikeWalkOceanside: Have any complaints been received from NCTD drivers about bicyclists on the roadway?

NCTD: There have been a few incidents in which bicyclists have punched windows of buses. All Breeze buses have cameras on all sides for verification of complaints and incidents. 

BikeWalkOceanside: What specific training do drivers receive, especially pertaining to wind blast hazards created by buses passing bicyclists? 

NCTD: The minimum buffer of 3-4 feet is required, with preference given to changing lanes whenever possible to avoid them. 

BikeWalkOceanside: Are there any procedures for reporting unsafe bicyclist behaviors? 

NCTD: There is NCTD's own internal reporting system, which launches an investigation of incidents. 

BikeWalkOceanside: Does NCTD driving training include education on bicyclists' right to use  the full travel lane and sharrows? 

NCTD: Yes, and instruction occurs annually and monthly. Sharrows are a regular topic of discussion during training. 

BikeWalkOceanside: How will traffic calming and lane reductions for the Pacific Coast Highway Vision Plan affect buses? 

NCTD: We don't have detailed knowledge about the Vision Plan, but roundabouts present turning radius concerns, while reverse-angle head out parking also presents challenges. 

BikeWalkOceanside: If there is a problem with buses cutting into bicyclists space when both pull to a stop at a traffic light, how can we report that? 

NCTD: Advise bicyclists to take down the vehicle (bus) number. All NCTD vehicles have multiple cameras- some with audio- so there are multiple perspectives from which to review an incidient. Bicyclists' safety is very important to NCTD. 

BikeWalkOceanside: Would NCTD be interested in one of the committee's League Certified Instructors presenting a class to staff and drivers as a guest instructor? 

NCTD: Yes, definintely interested. The NCTD meets weekly to discuss events, anticipate future issues, and general safety concerns. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mayoral Candidate Speaker Series Q & A

The Livable Streets Coalition* hosted a Mayoral Candidate Speaker Series in October to speak with them on important issues related to livable streets and to get specific answers on 5 questions. Three events were held, one each with candidates David Alvarez, Nathan Fletcher, and Kevin Faulconer. Results from the Q&A are below.
1.      How would you implement the goals of smart growth and provide a mix of transportation options amidst fears of parking loss and traffic congestion that arise from infill development, bike lanes, and pedestrian improvement projects?
D.A. – We must build up and not out. We can accomplish this through Specific Plans and through Community Plan Updates. We need to move forward with the remaining Community Plan Updates to ensure there is no impediment to development.
K.F. – We need new political will to move this forward and flexibility to know that one size does not fit all. We need to let communities know how this will benefit them. We have 30,000 residents in downtown currently, but the Downtown Community Plan calls for 90,000 residents. We cannot build enough parking spaces (to accommodate new growth). Downtown is one of the few areas where people don’t oppose growth, they embrace it. I want to encourage walkability and smart growth in our downtown, make the right decisions to make transit convenient so people will adapt. Another example is the Bayshore Bikeway. I worked on this and prioritized balancing business needs with bikeway vision.
N.F.— Smart growth is right on. It requires us to do things differently. We need to invest in our neighborhoods. I can talk about what other cities are doing, but no one is talking about San Diego. How do we get other cities to want to be like San Diego? Everything should align with these goals whether it be infrastructure, public safety, density. Land use policy is important in moving these things.
2.      As mayor, what goals would you set and what steps would you take to make San Diego’s streets safe for everyone and reduce the City’s higher than average pedestrian fatality rate?
D.A. We need to focus on implementing the Pedestrian Master Plan. The City needs to invest in small inexpensive projects with big impacts. I will adopt a Vision Zero platform with the goal of zero bike and pedestrian fatalities. We currently don't have the culture of a walkable and bikeable city but this is changing with the bike share program and sharrrows being added throughout the City. Walkability and bikeability go together, and together they tell drivers that they have to watch out for people not in cars.
K.F. – We need human scale (design) to interact with each other and our environment. I championed the North Embarcadero Plan, a portion of which is now under construction. This will make the waterfront more pedestrian friendly and help activate the public space we have there. I have also championed the new world class public park at Horton Plaza. This will be a major gathering space for our downtown. As much as we need the big projects, we also need smaller projects. I helped to install a new traffic light at Mission Bay to make it safer. It was not expensive, but it made a lot of sense to do it to promote greater safety.
N.F. – Without a goal there is nothing to measure success with. New York City said we are going to cut deaths in half. Others have said zero deaths. I’ll assemble a Mayoral dashboard to gather ideas. I’m willing to work with you. There will be a series of steps.
3.      How would Neighborhoods First fit into your administration?
D.A. I was the one who originally proposed neighborhoods first. The City must respect Community Planning Groups, make transit first, and build Safe Routes to School projects. I have supported the funding of these kinds of projects as a Councilmember and will continue to do so as mayor. The State of the City’s infrastructure, such as roads and public buildings, has been allowed to deteriorate. We have the opportunity, through smart planning, careful prioritization of resources, and a better long term vision, to rebuild San Diego into the world-class city we know it can be.
K.F. – The pension debacle was bad for our city and we are still paying it off. We need smart governing decisions to get our city back on track and I am doing this on the Council. We repaved 500 miles of street last year. We will continue to prioritize this work. We need simple economic choices. We have ignored critical issues like infrastructure, sidewalks for too long. I will prioritize bringing back funding back for these.
N.F. – Our city has neglected its neighborhoods. In the past several years, our roads have gone from the eighth worst in the nation to the fourth worst, responses to 911 calls were late more than 37,000 in the past 2 years alone, and sidewalk and pipelines are years behind on their repair and maintenance schedules. As Mayor, I will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the backlog of neighborhood needs, develop a way to consistently receive public input on needs, and implement the plan with city leadership in partnership with communities. It’s important that each neighborhood develop their own culture and identity yet that we find solutions for them together.
4.      What steps would you take as Mayor to ensure that a variety of projects in the Bike Master Plan are completed, in a timely fashion, and that bike ridership increases in the City?
D.A.— Steps include increasing expenditures on bike projects from $500,000 to $1 million and leveraging more grant funding for bike projects. I will lead an effort at the City to get people passionate about walking and biking.
K.F. – I’m a cyclist myself. Having a mayor who is also a cyclist will help. I understand the issues. We need new dedicated bike lanes and plans that are actionable. We have the Bike Share program coming to San Diego which is going to take off and promote more cycling. I will lead political will to make sure the Bike Plan is implemented.
N.F. – I will set clear goals such like doubling the miles of bike lanes in San Diego by 2020, and increasing the number of San Diegans choosing to commute by bicycle to 65,000. The failure to move common sense solutions for bike commuters forward is not from lack of funds, but from failure of leadership. I’m committed to bringing together the people and the organizations that are dedicated to improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians to get things done.
5.      Describe your vision for San Diego’s public realm and how you plan to catch up to other cities that have embraced Livable Streets as a way to improve the urban environment. Will you appoint a full time manager to oversee the transformation of San Diego’s public realm?
D.A.— San Diego's leadership has been lazy and relied on tools that made their jobs easy, for example redevelopment. We need to challenge ourselves to find other financial tools, especially in our neighborhoods and not only through major projects downtown. Every part of the City wants to see reinvestment in their neighborhoods. For example, we have wide streets that can be redesigned as public spaces. We can look at our trolley line and focus on Transit Oriented Development. I want to include neighborhood residents in the decision making process to make these things happen.
K.F. – I believe in world class public spaces. Yes, I will bring on great staff to create public spaces. I gave the North Embarcadero project example earlier – this is now funded and under construction. It will be a transformative project. We need to match this with more trees, innovative ideas like parks on rooftops. May be more expensive but it is worth the investment. Bottom line, let’s try something. Let’s see some action.
N.F. – I would consider appointing a manager to oversee the public realm. The City is more than its structures. It’s about the people. We want to create an environment where people feel connected. We are always going to have cars but we need to provide options. Our question is how do we support these options? Who are we as a city? We don’t want to build structures for the sake of building. We need a vision and the public realm is a big part of that.
* The Livable Streets Coalition is a coalition of transportation non-profits, planners and designers, representing thousands of San Diego residents passionate about rebuilding our city’s streets and neighborhoods. Read more about our vision for livable streets in our 5 in 5 Plan which outlines 5 strategies to achieve livable streets in San Diego.
To read more about the candidates’ platforms and visions for San Diego, click on the plans below.
David Alvarez, Blueprint for San Diego

Monday, November 4, 2013

Robert's Mini Bike Book Review: Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham

Half Man, Half Bike: The Life of Eddy Merckx, Cycling's Greatest Champion
by William Fotheringham

Review by Robert Leone

San Diego's bicycle racing fans are in for a few months of quietude before spring, or at least the Boulevard road race and the Red Trolley Classic criterium of 2014. Until the derailleurs start shifting in anger again, deprived sprint train junkies can find solace in Half Man, Half Bike: The Life of Eddy Merckx, Cycling's Greatest Champion by William Fotheringham.

It is part history, part hero-worship, with an occasional unfortunate, sometimes hilarious combination of the two (one example states Merckx was perhaps the only man who'd looked good wearing flared pants). There is good, solid stuff in here, including extensive commentary on the role of appearance money in athletes' race choices, a compelling but somewhat source-free narrative about the endemic bigotry and ethnic divide in the Belgian bicycle racing scene in the 1960s, and a numbingly long record of Merckx's phenomenal racing results. In the course of describing “The Cannibal” in the Tour de France, Fotheringham doesn't shy away from noting and criticizing Jacques Goddet's conflict-riddled combined role of race organizer, newspaper publisher and working sports journalist, The racer's hour record success, and the subsequent division of the hour track record into two separate events, is recounted with particular insight. Unfortunately Half Man, Half Bike is written with a hindsight-powered voice of pompous omniscience reminiscent of an NFL Films documentary, or an article by the overly-prescriptive Jacques Goddet.

The 2013 Chicago Review Press edition is edited and designed with those little touches that scream “enthusiast press” to the observant. These include printing the photo captions as fore matter (“List of Illustrations”) far from the two sections of pictures on glossy pages in the depth of the book, serially numbering that illustration list without noting one of the descriptions applies to a two picture sequence, and the frequent archaic use of “crutch” instead of “crotch” with reference to the human anatomy. Still, despite those criticisms, Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham is an enjoyable and illuminating book worth reading.

THE THREE FEET for SAFETY ACT: “Proving a Violation”

By: Richard L. Duquette, Esq.
© 2013 All Rights Reserved.

In an effort to increase Safety on California roadways, Governor Brown recently signed into law AB1371, effective September 16, 2014.  The new law requires a three-foot buffer by motorists passing a bicyclist.  It will be codified in California Vehicle Code Section 21760(b).

If a motorist cannot pass with three feet clearance, he must slow down to a reasonable and prudent speed before passing.  In other words, no tailgating or reckless passing is allowed.  This is critical as 40% of all fatal crashes between a bicyclist and a motorist are caused by collisions from behind.

So what does this mean when riding the streets?  Let’s walk through a few scenarios that allow you to enforce the law.

Assuming you’re riding single file and no bicycle lane exists.  In theory, any bus or vehicle that “buzzes” you or fails to decelerate before safely passing can be cited.  This clarification in the law is helpful because motorists often misjudge distance between their vehicle mirrors or a bicyclist’s speed when passing the bicyclist.  Instead of allowing to pass at a “safe distance without interfering with the over taken bicyclist” under CVC 21750, the new statute adds objectivity, a yard stick if you will, to the distance. 

Bicyclists know how frightening it can be to be nearly side-swiped (or buzzed) by a passing bus or a large vehicle.  Bus violations can be proven by recording the license plate, bus number, route and time.  Newer busses have windshield and side-mounted digital cameras as well as Zonar GPS data systems and black box electronics that record driving patterns.  If you are “buzzed” by a bus or if you witness a clear violation and have a witness to corroborate your story, write North County Transit or First Transit and demand the violation be placed in the driver’s personnel file.  Ultimately, these entities become liable for negligent retention of bad drivers.

A reasonable interpretation of the new statute is that the three-foot law may be applied when a motor vehicle unsafely passes a bicyclist, as well as when the motorist repositions himself into a lane.  A common situation arises when the motorist begins a pass, then prematurely moves back into the lane but fails to correctly judge the vehicle’s right rear quarter panel in relation to the bicyclist.

A three foot violation may also occur when the motorist fails to correctly estimate the speed of the bicyclist he passes, and then makes an illegal “right-hook” turn in front of a bicyclist.

In each of these cases, the new three-foot law is triggered in conjunction with other Vehicle Code violations, including unsafe turning movements and violating the right of way of the bicyclist.  Remember, bicyclists have the same rights and duties as a motorist, so it helps if the bicyclist is law-abiding when asserting his rights.  This includes lawfully riding as far to the right as practicable and not unreasonably impeding traffic behind you.

The legal effect of such Vehicle Code violations is to create a presumption of negligence when alleged in a negligence lawsuit.  This is a powerful tool in litigation because fault becomes easier to prove.

Another way to prove a three-foot violation, (besides using a Go-Pro or Contour helmet video camera or credible witnesses), is documenting physical evidence such as a scratch, dent, or a paint transfer on a motor vehicle to establish the vehicle’s unsafe position.  This proves a violation when the motorist is in denial.

Many expert Accident Reconstructionists also look for gouge marks in the roadway that correspond to scrapes on bicycle parts. Again, this shows the location of initial impact, thereby proving a violation of unsafe passing statutes.

This law has further legal ramifications.  Violators can suffer DMV points which implicate the negligent operator suspension laws.  Too many points means the loss of license.  If caught driving on a suspended license, the result is a misdemeanor with large fines and jail potential.

Should the crash be serious enough, the violator may also undergo a license re-exam, initiated by a reporting bicyclist or officer.  (See my article “DMV Justice – Motor Vehicle Re-Examination Process” explaining that procedure.)

In the end, this new three-foot law helps limit the defenses that insurance companies and violators can use to escape responsibility.  I hope the above analysis will assist you in obtaining justice and ensure that motor vehicles safely share the road with us.

Mr. Duquette has 30 years of Experience serving the Bicycling Community and has successfully settled and tried to Jury Verdict numerous cases. Visit for informative articles on Bicyclist Rights or give him a call at 760.730.0500, as he’s always happy to discuss your case free of charge.