2014年4月29日火曜日

Bicycle Rules in San Francisco

This is the bicycle accident map of San Francisco that was created by Sep Kamvar, researcher in MIT Media Lab. His team is actually releasing one map per day, for 10,000 days, with 10,000 maps of 100 cities x 100 maps each.



As a cyclist living in San Francisco, I am excited that those accidents are visualized, and am interested in clarifying the reasons for those accidents, and working to fix it so that San Francisco becomes a safer city for cyclists. May 8th is 20th anniversary of Bike to Work day in San Francisco, and May is the Bicycle Month in San Francisco. What a perfect timing ;)

Also note that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) released its 2013 Bicycle Count Report, which shows that the number of people biking in San Francisco increased a dramatic 96% since 2006.



So I went to one of the workshops that San Francisco Bicycle Coalition puts together to explain about the rules of biking in SF. If you're new to SF and are biking, I highly recommend you do so too, because the rules and regulations differs country to country, and what was common sense in Japan is not the norm here.

SF Bicycle Coalition

Rules of the road:

Some important snippets from California Vehicle Code, you can find the information to the links to related codes here.

SF Bicycle Coalition

SF Bicycle Coalition

PEDESTRIANS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY 

In the crosswalk or not, bike riders and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians. (CVC 21954 (b))

STOP BEHIND THE CROSSWALK 

Leave crosswalks free and clear for pedestrians. Always stop behind the line. (CVC 21950, 21455)

If not, you can get expensive ticket (looks like more than 200 USD fine...) I see many cyclists every day blocking the pedestrians by going to the first white line, not the second line. They're all subject to 200 USD fine? Wow...

Bike

MIND THE SIGNS AND LIGHTS

Stop at stop signs and obey red lights, just like all other vehicles. (CVC 21200) 

In California, a person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division.... Stop at stop signs and obey red lights, just like other vehicles. In other countries if you are biking you are not treated the same as people driving cars- but here in California, you are subject to provisions similar to a car driver. Wow. Violation of $85.00. BTW, in California, bikes can ride on highway by law.

Also, at cross sections, many of bikers are sort of wiggling their way during red lights- according to this workshop, police can fine you for not obeying the red light- putting your feet on the ground is safest way to prove you were obeying the red light. Wow.

STAY ON THE STREETS 

It’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 13. (SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12)

Repeat, IT IS NOT LEGAL TO BE ON SIDEWALK in San Francisco. In some countries, since car lanes are dangerous, bicycles ride on sidewalks. Beware, don't do that in SF!

GO WITH THE FLOW 

Ride the same direction as traffic. Walk your bike on the sidewalk if you find yourself on the wrong block of a one-way street. (CVC 21650)

There's lots of one-way streets in SF, so be careful which way you go.

TAKE THE LANE 

If you’re next to parked cars or you’re riding in a narrow lane — if you feel safer, take the lane and ride outside the door zone. (CVC 21202)

Door zones is one of the common hazards for bike riders in SF.

SF Bicycle Coalition

When they say "take the lane" what do they mean? Reading the CVC21202:
21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations: (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway. (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. (b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.
Does this cyclist seem to be doing the right thing?

SF Bicycle Coalition

In California, yes. In Tokyo, no. In California, yes because it is bicycle riders' responsibility to ride far enough from the automobile doors to open. In Tokyo, this bicyclist is riding too much into the car driving zone and unsafe.

On this photo, which bicycle is doing the right thing?

SF Bicycle Coalition

In California, the woman in the left, because she is taking necessary distance from the parked car. In Japan, probably the man in the right, since he is avoiding getting hit by the moving cars. In Japan, bike riders are assumed weaker on the road and meant to protect themselves. In California, bike riders are assumed stronger on the road and meant to protect others (such as people coming out of the cars, etc.) The woman in the left works for SF Bike Coalition and the man in the right is mayor of SF, by the way.

Also, look at the picture below:

In San Francisco, car drivers are required by law to merge into bike lane when turning right (CVC 21717). So what happens is that bike riders needs to pass on left of the cars.

SF Bicycle Coalition

So a bike rider, if you stay in the far right (that you usually try to stick), you're doing it wrong.

SF Bicycle Coalition

By the way, do you know how to make left turns in San Francisco? You go all the way to the center of the crossway, and turn left. (Or, you cross the lane forward, and wait for the other traffic signal to change, and cross left.) This is prohibited in Japan, but legal in SF...








Source: Metropolitan Police Department, bicycle rules

IT’S OK TO LEAVE THE BIKE LANE 

If you feel safer outside the bike lane, you can ride in other vehicle travel lanes. Merge when safe and signal when changing lanes. (CVC 21208)

Wow, I was amazed there's a provision for that. I thought that was a matter of course.

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT 

Reflectors and a front white light are required by law. We recommend you use a rear light as well. (CVC 21201)

KEEP AN EAR CLEAR 

Even when using hands-free devices, bike riders and drivers are required to keep one ear free of headphones. (CVC 27400)

BE A FRIEND TO DISABLED NEIGHBORS 

Sometimes people with disabilities need access to the curb. Paratransit carriers (including taxis) may have to enter the bikeway to drop them off. Be a good neighbor and give them room. (SFMTA Policy)

Also, I was reading more on CVC and found this provision: CVC 21963 Visually Handicapped Pedestrian "A totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a predominantly white cane (with or without a red tip), or using a guide dog, shall have the right-of-way, and the driver of any vehicle approaching this pedestrian, who fails to yield the right-of-way, or to take all reasonably necessary precautions to avoid injury to this blind pedestrian, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both."

Other tips:

So what is the advice to avoid accidents? SF Bike Coalition says "Ride predictably". Make your movements predictable to others on the road, so that you can ride more safely.


-Make yourself visible
-Use turn signals with your hands
-Eye contact with the drivers

SF Bicycle Coalition

When you see this mark, do you think this is a bike lane?

San Francisco

It has a bicycle picture, so coming from outside SF, you'd probably think yes. The answer is no. This is called shared lane, both for bicycles and cars.

Bike lanes look like the following here.

San Francisco

SF Bicycle Coalition

Other tips they mentioned:


Avoid riding parallel to train tracks - In San Francisco, there are light rail and train tracks. Try to cross on 90 degree angles, don’t change angle while crossing the rail - go across then turn. Try to avoid riding parallel to the rails- your wheel can get stuck.

San Francisco

Helmet is required by law for people under 18, and violation of this law can result in a $25 fine. But helmets are recommended for everyone including adults.

Buy the U Lock key, and lock your bike!!! There are lots of bike theft in San Francisco. This is how to lock your bike. Make sure you register your bicycle to the bike registry system.

SF Bicycle Coalition

In San Francisco, weather change a lot. Have layers of cloths, scarf is convenient.

Bike safely in SF!

SF Bicycle Coalition

BTW, they had the road rules in Chinese and Spanish as well.

SF Bicycle Coalition


SF Bicycle Coalition

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect those of my employer. -Fumi Yamazaki