TagSan Francisco

SFO airport showed me some cool planes

I flew on Virgin American to Portland, Oregon, last year and had to stop in San Francisco on my return journey to Chicago. The layover was over 2 hours long, and I spent that time relaxed in the new Terminal 2. The terminal has great window coverage of the airfield.

I saw for the first time an Airbus A380, the largest of the so-called jumbo jets (is that phrase even used anymore?). It was flown by Lufthansa (see photo).a

I also saw a lot of Boeing 747s from different airlines, including United, OneWorld, Star Alliance, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific. I may have seen a Chinese airline.

I also saw President Barack Obama land in Air Force One. I recognized the plane from far away, as it was coming in for landing, but I wasn’t completely sure until it touched down. My camera was probably hanging around my neck; I was too dumbstruck to do anything about it. After it landed and I was positive that Boeing 747 was flown by the United States Government, I walked around the terminal until I could see it.

The plane had been parked far away from a terminal, near a hanger and two C-17 military cargo planes.

American airports should have viewing platforms. Not just plane spotters like to photograph them. Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) airport has a viewing platform and there was over 50 people up there, including lots of families.

Can we standardize rules about bikes on trains?

Every transit agency across the United States has different rules about bikes on trains.

I think every bus operator with front bike racks has the same rule: “all day, every day”. But taking your bike on the train is a different story.

In San Francisco, there’re three operators with three sets of rules:

MUNI, a city agency, doesn’t allow bikes on trains, ever. I almost learned about it the hard way. I was returning from downtown on Market Street to my temporary apartment in the Castro District and I took my bike into the MUNI subway. I entered the station without seeing a sign or a staff member that would indicate I couldn’t do this. While walking along the platform, I saw a rules board and noticed no bikes. The trains were not busy, but they’re also not very big. I can see where some people would say, “Oh, I’m new here and I didn’t know”.

But that’s not me. I went upstairs and rode the bike all the way home.

Update May 26, 2011: Streetsblog SF tells us that MUNI will now allow folding bikes on the light rail trains.

BART, a state-controlled transit agency, allows bikes on their trains most of the time. Just not at certain stations, at certain times, and in certain directions. You either memorize these restrictions or carry a brochure.

And BART trains run on broad gauge track making them wider than all other rail transit vehicles in the country. This makes for a lot of space – dedicated space!

Finally, there’s Caltrain, a commuter/regional rail system operated by a joint committee of three transit operators. They seem the least restrictive: every train has a bike car or two, capable of holding about 40, 48, or 96 bikes. “But by the end of 2011, every gallery train set will have two bike cars, allowing for 80 bicycles minimum.” (See last photo.)

In Chicago, the Metra (like Caltrain) and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA, like BART and MUNI) have their own rules that differ from each other and from above.

It’s quite simple to remember the rules of one transit agency, but to be subject to the rules of two or three makes bicycling with rail transit a bit more complicated. The size and design of train cars has a big influence on rule making, but so does politics – the Active Transportation Alliance, né Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, had to lobby the state and the transit agencies here in Chicago to open up their trains to bicycles, and to further liberalize the rules as the agencies became more comfortable.

National or regional planning efforts could ensure that the designs of future or upgraded transit systems follow guidelines that “standardize” the rules of bringing bikes on board. The first step in this direction could be a dialogue between BART and CTA about carrying bicycles onto escalators:

BART did its own study on the “safety issue” years ago and concluded that escalators and stairs were equally safe for cyclists to use in BART stations. (Via Cyclelicious)

The rule banning bicycles from escalators is expected to be lifted this year. The CTA, and other rail operators, could review BART’s study and come to the same conclusion.

Photo of a loaded Caltrain bike car by Richard Masoner.

You may have heard me on the radio this morning in Chicago

Here’s the audio clip of my interview with WGN 720 AM producer Rob Hart about biking in Chicago and the bike crash map I made. It aired this morning – I had no idea until someone left me a comment on a Flickr photo that they heard me.

Listen now: Steven Vance on biking and bike crashes in Chicago on WGN.mp3 (will play in your browser).

I am too nervous to listen to this. I’m sure I said something wrong or misspoke.

Biking in Chicago is fun and you should do it. You don’t need special gear or equipment and you can buy a cheap bike at Working Bikes in Pilsen, at 2434 S Western Avenue.

Transcript

[ding, ding]

A little bell may be what comes to mind when you think of riding your bike, but the reality is more like this.

[sounds of traffic]

A busy street full of cars, trucks, and buses. With drivers who are looking at something else.

Me: There’s a lot of driveways. A lot of drivers are making right and left turns and if you ride too close to the curb they will probably not see you, so you have to ride sometimes outside the bike lane if you want to be noticed.

Steven Vance ditched his car 5 years ago. He rides his bike all over the city and he says sometimes it’s a white knuckled experience.

Me: It can be. It does take a little bit of resolve. Sometimes your nerves will get frayed, but I think the benefit outweighs the cost.

After a newspaper [Bay Citizen] in San Francisco mapped out bike crashes on its website, Vance decided to plot bike crashes in the Chicago area on his.

Me: I saw that, and I thought, “You know what, I think I can do that.” I asked the Illinois Department of Transportation for the data and they promptly sent it over and I, as quickly as possible, put it online.

The diagonal streets are the worst, he found, and that includes Milwaukee Avenue.

Me: You could find Milwaukee just by the number of dots representing the crashes. You didn’t need a label to say that this was Milwaukee Avenue. You could tell simply by the string, the constant string of dots.

 

Curb connoisseur

My sometimes traveling companion Brandon makes fun of me thinking I only travel to check out the curbs in every city. It started when we visited Portland together and yes, my camera was often aimed towards the ground. Here is a roundup of what curbs look like in other cities – I could only find these five photos that really focus on the kerb. 🙂

Starting in Chicago, Illinois

A curb and ADA-accessible ramp in Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The City of Chicago, as part of a lawsuit, agreed to renovate thousands of curb cuts across town that did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1993. This particular location was more involved than others because of the real brick crosswalk. It had to be removed and then replaced after the level of the street was raised.

Moving west to Portland, Oregon

In a long walking tour of Portland, Oregon, with PBOT worker Greg Raisman, we came across my first ever mountable curb. It’s a raised part of the street and motorists in small vehicles will probably avoid driving on it. It was installed because this is part of a truck route and it’s easy for truck drivers to roll on top of it without driving on the sidewalk.

Jumping south to Tucson, Arizona

A typical bumpout or curb extension, as seen in Tucson, Arizona. This design is not unique to Tucson, but I point it out because this one comes with accompanying signage telling people bicycling and driving that they must stop when they see a person trying to cross the street.

Taking the train over to San Francisco, California

An atypical situation in San Francisco, California, (not the tracks, but the way the tracks terminate in a mound of danger) that I hope gets corrected right away. In downtown San Francisco, there are very wide crosswalks made with colored stone that sets it apart from the rest of the roadway. But the sidewalk ramps are still very narrow. Also, granite curbs are more slippery than concrete. This all just seems like a bad situation, but it looks pretty.

Flying the long way to Milan, Italy

I have it on good authority that Julius Caesar was at the curb dedication ceremony here in Milan, Italy, and saw far into the future people chatting about bicycles on the sidewalk.

Crawling a little north to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Curbs in Amsterdam, Netherlands, play a vital role in a calm and managed all-mode transportation system. Here the curb is a ramp up onto the sidewalk and separated bike lane that leads into a neighborhood street. Mounting the curb should signal to the driver that they are entering a different space that has different rules and responsibilities.

TransportationCamp West

TransportationCamp West was an unconference that took place on March 19th and 20th in San Francisco at Public Works SF and other locations (restaurants, the street, online).

I only went on Saturday and attended four topic sessions (view the full schedule with 28 topic sessions). These are the writeups of my notes and links to others’ writeups.

My writeups

Others’ writeups

Welcome to San Francisco

A panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the “gate” of the San Francisco Bay. Taken this past Sunday.

I had my Planet Bike SuperFlash attached to a slot near the bottom of my Deuter Trans Alpine 30 cycling backpack. I stopped riding, stepped on the pavement, and turned my body and backpack. The light was knocked out of the slot by the bike saddle and fell down… onto the bridge girder outside the sidewalk! I stood there and stared at half my light (the other half fell onto the sidewalk) thinking of my options. There weren’t any and I’m sure I picked the best one – moving on.

If I had more hair, you would see it blowing in the fast and heavy winds under and over the bridge deck.

Voting on bikeways in San Luis Obispo County

Session summary: A staffer at San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) wants to learn about ways to have residents learn about proposed bikeways in the jurisdiction, their costs, and possibly vote or rank them to prioritize installation. SLOCOG is also considering a referendum for a sales tax that would fund transportation improvements to pay for road maintenance, transit service, and bikeways. This tool could be used to decide how the sales tax revenue is spent.

UNEDITED

SLOCOG – what a funny name
250-300k population for the county.
slow-growth county, not affordable

GIS, web interface – routes of bikeways, identified by color
$30m over 25 years
bike plan
Oh, you want that class 1 to the beach? That’s $15m
survey of unmet bike needs

This is what we want to do, this is the money we have.
This is where 10k people want a bike lane.

passenger car sales tax (I missed how the sales tax would work)? county sales tax increase to fund transportation
quadruples range of options.

Adriel Hampton: Bright Idea – ideation, vote them up and down
Lot of marketing, moderation, outreach
Just cuz you build it, people don’t come
You have to market it hard.

Me: Will there be a soft side to this? In-person charrettes? No, but will consider.
Have the potential bikeways already been identified and have all had their costs estimated?
Yes, bikeways identified.
Costs will be estimated soon based on past construction projects.

Starting with bikeways, then complete streets modules, streetscapes.

Jeff Wood:
Phily Planning Organization, web interface – click on the projects you want
Portland
Sacramento – Willingess to pay game?

Matt: How do they frame sales tax? This is the touchiest subject for us.

OpenPlans GeoExt application.

Adriel: I think scenarios is better than open.
Matt: We’ve made the plan, have the network. We need the people to justify the funding decisions we make.
[email protected]

Leah: TechSoup – let county-wide bike coalition get grants to pay for software/application.
Google StreetView – have the trike feature your best bike route.
LA Times, if you do this in the budget, then this happens. Generated a lot of buzz.

Sean Hedgpeth: Capital and operating budgets.
I added about federal funding not paying for maintenance.

Matt: rideshare.org
Richard: 66% votes needed to approve the sales tax.
Sean: Have to sell sales tax with potholes.
Matt: Cycling will get 7% of sales tax.

What’s the county’s policy on open data? It’s not that it’s hidden, it’s just that the organization and outreach is not there.

SidewalkChalk (?, url)

Adriel: SeeClickFix – civic points – put a gaming aspect on things. participation rates are so low.
1-9-90 model. Create, read, do nothing to web content.
Look at
Adding some goofy elements to project.
So anti-Farmville until I found out about their special corn that would help Haiti

Going on a short break

I am rearranging my priorities.

I need to find a steady job in urban or transportation planning so I’m taking the next week off from social networking and instant messaging. No Facebook, no Flickr, no Twitter, and no blogging. (Actually, I’ll probably indulge for a maximum of 120 minutes each day in these domains – going cold turkey is difficult.)

You can hire me!

My life is too flooded with distractions.

I’ll also be preparing for my short trip to San Francisco on Thursday for Transportation Camp West.

On my way to San Francisco

Actually, I’m not leaving until Thursday, March 17th, 2011; I’ll stay through Tuesday, March 22nd. I’ll be going to San Francisco with Brandon to visit a friend who recently moved to Stanford, visit some new and old California friends, attend Transportation Camp West, and of course visit the San Francisco Cable Car museum and plant (this is my favorite place). I think I also want to visit the Yuba Mundo folks in Sausalito.

If I know that you live in SF or environs, I will try to email you beforehand, but if I don’t, please leave a comment so we can get together – after Transportation Camp on Saturday would be a great time. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos I took in San Fran myself – I was last there in 2001 or something. I lived in Benecia until the end of kindergarten.

Also, I would like to borrow a bike. Can you help me?

Photo of cable car in Nob Hill. Photo by Marcel Marchon.

Cyclist on Market Street. Photo by Richard Masoner.

Interview with Bay Citizen on bike crash map

Thank you, Tasmeen, for asking about my bike crash map that your newspaper inspired me to create.

Read the interview.

Read about the bike crash map for Chicago.

View the bike crash map for Chicago (2007-2009).

It’s not this sunny yet, but today it was 49°F in Chicago. This photo was taken on Milwaukee Avenue, where the most people bike, and where the most people have bike crashes.

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