San Francisco tries to increase safety of streets for bicyclists

As drivers and bicyclists struggle to share the roads in San Francisco, many groups and individuals are finding ways to bring awareness to bike safety that could not only benefit bicyclists, but pedestrians and drivers too.


Source: San Francisco Municipal Transportation

According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s bicycle count survey for 2015, there was a drastic increase from 3.2 million bike counts in 2014 to 3.4 million bike counts in 2015. Between 2006 and 2015, at least 12,000 bicycle commuters have been added to the streets. With more bicyclists on the roads, the probability of an accident or fatality increases.

The Vision Zero reporting map shows that five people died due to being hit on their bicycle in 2015. Between January and September of this year, only two people have died in a bicycle collision.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health reported the amount of severe traffic collision on high injury corridors, or San Francisco’s most dangerous streets. Six percent of the city’s streets are the site of 60 percent of collisions while 12 percent of the streets holds 70 percent of all the city’s traffic collisions.

Ryan Schaub, the president of the San Francisco Cycling Club, rides his bike around six times a week and has his own frustrations with bike safety. “Riding in the city is very dangerous,” said Schaub. “The experience of riding with Uber drivers and Lyft drivers is dangerous because they don’t usually have a lot of experience with bicyclists on the road.”

He also stated that pedestrians and other cyclists can be a hazard during rides because they are not away of their surroundings.

According to data from Bay Area Bike Share—a company that allows bikes to be rented from one location and returned at another location—shows the busiest time of the day is between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. The second busiest time for rentals is between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. This is during the rush hour periods for San Francisco, meaning more people on the road increases the likelihood of more traffic related accidents.

Uber announced in September that the company was creating a bike safety campaign to solve some of the problems Schaub and other cyclists face with Uber drivers. While partnering with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Uber has decided to create several videos on how drivers can be more aware of cyclists.

Chris Cassidy, the communications director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, explained how the organization is educating Uber drivers on safety.

“Every taxi driver has to go through driver safety education. We train 1,000 professional drivers on how to stay safe on the road,” Cassidy said. “We are teaching Uber drivers how to navigate the city and how to pick up and drop off.”

The company also plans to send tips to riders to make sure they pay attention to cyclists when entering and exiting Ubers. Unfortunately, The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is unable to see how the safety education is affecting drivers and if it has caused the number of collisions to drop.

Although Uber just started its program for bike safety, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for the use of bikes over automobiles and safer streets for more than 45 years. When it first started, San Francisco had no bike lanes, but now 222 miles of bike lanes can be found in the city. As a non-profit organization, it has teamed up with several other groups and individuals to help make the roads safer for cyclists.

“We are trying to shape driver behavior and avoid blaming the most vulnerable people on the streets.” Cassidy stated. “There are five things that make streets more dangerous because of drivers: speeding, driving violations, not giving passengers the right of way, not yielding, and rolling stop signs.”

A poll held by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition displays that 72 percent of the 402 residents surveyed supported restricting private automobiles on Market Street. 57 percent of this group is likely to ride in unprotected bike lanes, but it increased to 65 percent if the bike lane is protected.

Data Source: SFMTA Travel Decision Survey Data for 2015

Both entities joined forces to support Vision Zero, a policy adopted by San Francisco in 2014 to make sure there are zero traffic related deaths by 2024. The policy has five core strategies for solving the traffic deaths: engineering, enforcement, educations, evaluation, and policy.

Data from the San Francisco Police Department shows that 11 percent of traffic related deaths are bicyclists.

As an avid bicycle commuter, Schaub has his own tips for keeping cyclists safe. “Driver’s need to be aware of their sides, especially where there is a bike lane,” stated Schaub. He also shared that bicyclists should try their best to stay away from locations that have frequent taxi and Uber drop-offs.

Cassidy also shared a few of his own tips for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. “Drivers: Try something else for a day. Try one of our free classes or try walking instead of driving. Expand your perspective.” Cassidy said. “Pedestrians: realize that if we pull together, we can make a difference.”