Caltrans District 4, which covers the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, celebrates Bike Month by banning bikes from the primary bikeway connecting the Pacific Coast side of San Francisco with the Peninsula. The hundreds of people who bike this way every week complain to the District. Let’s hope they listen.
I buried the lede on this story earlier, so allow me to make amends: Caltrans District 4 Office of Traffic decided to ban bikes from a portion of Skyline Boulevard (aka California State Route 35) in Daly City where Skyline has an interchange with Highway 1. The All Powerful Bike Lobby has pushed back, and maybe Caltrans will rescind this decision?
Skyline Boulevard is the primary bikeway connecting the Pacific Coast side of San Francisco with the Peninsula. Passing through Daly City, cyclists must traverse a highway style interchange with Highway 1, but people who routinely travel here say they go this way because it’s better than other nearby routes for several reasons, including personal comfort and safety. Because of this interchange’s proximity to I-280, very few motorists take the ramp from 35 to 1 and vice versa. Regular riders say they have to negotiate the merge very rarely if ever when they ride here.
Unfortunately, somebody died while cycling at this location in July of 2015, and litigation in that fatality is pending. The best way to limit liability from cyclists is to
design facilities for cyclists ban cyclists, and never mind how much danger and inconvenience this creates for us on the surface streets that are not under Caltrans control.
The pace of this decision to ban and implementation has been rushed due this these liability concerns. Yesterday morning, Caltrans D4 Bike Coordinator Sergio Ruiz learned of this pending closure and spread the word. Sergio’s office had nothing to do with this decision to ban bikes but was merely the bearer of bad news after the fact. “Bikes Prohibited” signs are scheduled to go up by the end of May. Happy Bike Month from Caltrans, you all!
After Sergio posted the bad news, he quickly received email and phone calls from dozens of people outlining the reasons this bike ban is a bad idea. CABO and SVBC both immediately registered their strong objections to Caltrans.
Caltrans D4 Bike Coordinator Sergio Ruiz met this morning with the Office of Traffic personnel who made this decision, and has forwarded along the objections that have already been received. I hope he can successfully convey the reasons the Office of Traffic made a bad decision.
Why do those crazy cyclists bike there?
This is more than about access to a public road. There’s a truism in bike facilities usage: We tend to ride on the best available facility. If we prefer to ride on a high speed expressway with freeway style interchanges, the nearby surface streets must be pretty bad.
Besides anecdotal evidence from people who travel across Daly City on their commutes, we can look at Strava. The Strava heatmap for this area shows about equal use between Skyline Boulevard and Skyline Drive , a surface street immediately to the west of the expressway and mostly parallel. Comparing Strava “segments,” we see 165 recorded their rides along Highway 35 over the past couple of weeks, versus 105 on Skyline Drive.
Let’s look at the bicycle collision heatmap as generated from SWITRS data from 2006 through 2016. SWITRS records five crashes involving cyclists on Skyline at Highway 1, one of which was our fatality, and one more that was a collision with a “fixed object.” The crash heatmap also shows collisions on the alternate routes recommended by Caltrans Office of Traffic, which up to now have less bicycle traffic than Skyline Blvd. The top map shows the 125 collisions involving cyclists in all of Daly City; I zoom into the Skyline / Hwy 1 interchange for the second heat map.
Besides the increased exposure to danger on these surface streets, the alternate routes recommended by the Caltrans Office of Traffic involve significant elevation, left turns across busy intersections, and very steep grades that are, frankly, unridable for casual riders. A few of us were amused to see Caltrans Office of Traffic recommend St Francis Drive as an alternate. This route takes you past a gate to a private driveway through an apartment complex.
Check out this intersection where northbound cyclists must make the turn on the proscribed alternate route. Good luck making that left turn across four lanes of heavy, fast traffic during the evening rush hour! Thank you Caltrans D4 for your concern for our safety!
Send your concerns to Caltrans D4 bike coordinator email@example.com – he wants to receive your concerns and forward them to the Powers That Be in the Office of Traffic which is ultimately responsible for this decision. If you know people at Caltrans D4 or Caltrans HQ, now is the time to let them know how uniformed this decision is.
H/T to Murph for bringing this to my attention. Thank you also to Sergio Ruiz and Emma Shlaes for additional background. Bike prohibition map provided by Caltrans. Map data: Google, DigitalGlobe.