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Experience the Joy of the Dutch Woonerf

When I posted I was headed to The Netherlands once again to visit (and for my first time to Utrecht,) as usual I got a lot of recommendations on what to look at. One of the first people to contact me was Rebecca Albrecht, who moved there with her husband Paul from Boston about three years ago and couldn’t be more delighted to live there.

She mentioned she lived on a Dutch play street (woonerf) and when I looked at the photos she had snapped from the window of her bed & breakfast, my first thought was: maybe this would be an opportunity to get a unique angle from residents since I had ridden on so many similar streets in Amsterdam and in Copenhagen but didn’t want to be too nosy.

When I arrived the street was full of neighbors and children and they wanted to talk to me about their lovely street. But this is not something exceptional as over 2 million Dutch people live on play/living streets. So take a gander but be warned: you will want the same thing for your block.

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Uber Drivers “May Choose” Whether or Not to Endanger Cyclists

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Frustrated by Uber drivers blocking bike lanes? The company has informed its drivers that they “…may choose to avoid pickups or dropoffs in bike lanes.”

This was communicated via an email sent out Friday to Uber drivers (it was forwarded to Streetsblog by a tipster):

The graphic from an email sent Friday to Uber drivers (forwarded to Streetsblog by a tipster)

Got that? Uber wants its drivers to know they have the option of not endangering cyclists. Or they can continue to break the law. Apparently to Uber, it’s their choice.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier reacted this way in an email to Streetsblog:

The SF Bicycle Coalition has been pushing Uber and Lyft for years to take some responsibility for the safety of people who bike. With tens of thousands of additional vehicles on San Francisco’s streets everyday, it’s encouraging to see some steps like this email being taken. The contradiction in wording here (“it is against the law” vs. “you may choose to”) is consistent with both companies’ inability to require their drivers to do much of anything because of their employment status. The more they direct drivers to do or not do certain things, the stronger the driver’s case is that they are employees, not contractors. It’s certainly been a frustrating barrier when it comes to driver education.

Streetsblog reached out to Uber public affairs to ask why they are telling drivers that they “may choose” to avoid pickups and drop-offs in bike lanes, rather than simply telling them they will be deactivated if they break the law and endanger people?

“We believe awareness is critical and it starts with education to encourage safe practices by both riders and drivers to help ensure the safety of everyone on the roads. We know there is more work to do and we are continuing to work with bicycle coalitions and road safety advocates on ways we can help contribute to safer streets,” replied a spokesperson for Uber.

Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz, meanwhile, writes that Uber’s failings are a symptom of a larger problem with how the state licenses drivers. “Ride-hail driver training hasn’t been our focus in part because there is so much turnover, and nothing more than the state driver training standard required. As such, for more consistency there has to be increased…training requirements on the state level to apply to ride-hail operators or preferably to all drivers.”

“Although this is a step in the right direction, and it appears that Uber is making efforts to educate their drivers about the rules of the road, they are still riding a fine line by not mandating that their drivers avoid (un)loading in the bike lane altogether,” wrote Catherine Orland, former District 9 representative to the SFMTA’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and a longtime bike advocate who was instrumental in documenting bike-lane violations on Valencia Street. “If Uber continues to abdicate their responsibility to properly train their contractor drivers, how does this bring our city any closer to accomplishing Vision Zero?”

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Protect Yourself! Separated Bike Lanes Means Safer Streets, Study Says

Cities that build protected lanes for cyclists end up with safer roads for people on bikes and people in cars and on foot, a new study of 12 large metropolises revealed Wednesday.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and the University of New Mexico discovered cities with protected and separated bike lanes had 44 percent fewer deaths than the average city.

“Protected separated bike facilities was one of our biggest factors with being associated with lower fatalities and lower injuries for all road users,” study co-author Wesley Marshall, a University of Colorado Denver engineering professor, told Streetsblog. “If you’re going out of your way to make your city safe for a broader range of cyclists … we’re finding that it ends up being a safer city for everyone.”

Marshall and his team of researchers analyzed 17,000 fatalities and 77,000 severe injuries in cities including Denver, Portland, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City and Chicago between 2000 and 2012. All had experienced an increase in cycling as they built more infrastructure.

Researchers assumed that having more cyclists on the street was spurring drivers to slow down — a relic of a 2017 study that found that cities with high cycling rates had fewer traffic crashes. But it turned out that wasn’t the case.

Instead, researchers found that bike infrastructure, particularly physical barriers that separate bikes from speeding cars as opposed to shared or painted lanes, significantly lowered fatalities in cities that installed them.

After analyzing traffic crash data over a 13-year period in areas with separated bike lanes on city streets, researches estimated that having a protected bike facility in a city would result in 44 percent fewer deaths and 50 percent fewer serous injuries than an average city.

In Portland, where the population of bike commuters increased from 1.2 to 7 percent between 1990 and 2015, fatality rates fell 75 percent in the same period. Fatal crash rates dropped 60.6 percent in Seattle, 49.3 percent in San Francisco, 40.3 percent in Denver, and 38.2 percent in Chicago over the same period as cities added more protected and separated lanes as part of their Vision Zero plans.

“Bike facilities they end up slowing cars down, even when a driver hits another driver, it’s less likely to be a fatality because it’s happening at a slower speed,” Marshall said.

Perhaps even more important: Researchers found that painted bike lanes provided no improvement on road safety. And their review earlier this year of shared roadways — where bike symbols are painted in the middle of a lane — revealed that it was actually safer to have no bike markings at all.

*We found they’re worse than nothing. You’re better off doing nothing,” Marshall said. “It gives people a false sense of security that’s a bike lane. it’s just a sign telling cyclists it might just be there.”

Not all protected bike lanes provide the same level of security for cyclists and drivers. In Denver, for instance, some protected lanes have plastic bollards that are interspersed through the roadway, allowing cars and trucks to park in the bike path and forcing cyclists to swerve into the street.

“When you have them designed like that, even if it’s protected lane, that might create a more dangerous situation because cyclists are merging in and out of the road versus places with foot-wide concrete planters,” Marshall added.

New York was not included in this longitudinal study because of the high number of cyclists and lanes would have overwhelmed their models, but will be a focus of a future study, Marshall said. New York’s Department of Transportation consistently touts how its protected bike lanes improve safety for all road users — but often denies neighborhoods the full protection of such infrastructure when some car owners complain of lost parking.

Sometimes, it’s not always “safety first.”

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