Amelie Le Moullac: Cyclist's Death Highlights the Need for Segregated Bike Lanes

Categories: bikes

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Last week, 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac died when she collided with a big rig in SOMA. She isn't the first cyclist to be killed in that neighborhood this year: Dylan Mitchell, 21, was struck and killed by a garbage truck as he pedaled along 16th Street and Van Ness Avenue in May; and Diana Sullivan, 44, was died after a cement truck hit her as she biked along Third and King streets in February.

The biking tragedies underscore a scary reality: not even streets with designated bike lanes are safe for cyclists.

Recently the San Francisco civil grand jury recommended that Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors "support SFPD efforts to successfully enforce roadway laws by adopting a San Francisco Bicycle Enforcement Safety Agreement that would pursue the goals of zero bicycle fatalities and a 50% annual reduction in bicycle collisions."

That's certainly a fantastic goal, but is it possible?

The first step to preventing future deaths might be separating big vehicles and bicycles, but another strategy might be changing the trucks themselves. In London, 50 percent of cycling deaths are attributed to large trucks. In New York, 32 percent of cycling fatalities are due to large trucks, yet they only make up 5 percent of registered vehicles. In response to these statistics, the London Cycling Campaign designed and proposed a more bike-friendly truck that brings the drivers closer the ground and has more windows, giving drivers a better view of pedestrians and cyclists.

The San Francisco Bike Coalition has also launched a campaign called Safe SOMA Streets Now that urges the city to do something to improve Folsom Street and the rest of the neighborhood for cyclists. The coalition collected signatures for an open letter to Mayor Ed Lee, asking for both short and long-term changes to help improve safety for cyclists. In the already approved plan, which isn't set to be deployed for another year, Folsom Street would become a two-lane, two-way road with bike lanes and bus bulbs. The SFBC is asking that the mayor fast-track that project, given all the recent deaths.

For now, the organization is focused on SOMA as it contains some of the most dangerous and most-trafficked routes in the city by both cars and bikes. The updated Folsom Street plan will definitely improve safety conditions for cyclists on the road, it won't, however, include segregated bike lanes.

That seems like a missed opportunity to improve safety and make a route more comfortable for cyclists; the SFMTA reported that most cyclists felt unsafe on almost all roads, except those with segregated bike lanes, or areas where bikes are allowed, but cars are not.

Other high-risk streets that could use some improvements include Oak Street and Polk Street. Good news: Oak Street is getting a segregated bike lane. When that barrier, which will be a planter, goes up, Oak street should be the kind of place that anyone can feel safe riding. Separated lanes, like the one that will be on Oak Street, can help prevent the very kind of accidents we've seen this year, where a large truck hits a cyclists.

But these popular lanes haven't been widely deployed because of bureaucratic hurdles: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and state Departments of Transportation have yet to acknowledge this bike lane configuration in their road design guides.

Fortunately, the Federal Highway Administration may recognize segregated bike lanes as improvements to roadways. That organization is beginning a study to prove the safety of this setup. If the Federal Highway Administration gives segregated bike lanes its blessing guidelines would find their way into the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, giving traffic engineers an easy and proven template to follow.

As many neighborhoods like SOMA transition from a recent industrial past to the current milieu of commuter, residential, and commercial traffic, our streets will have to change. For many who have to ride down these busy, high-speed roads like Folsom, the change can't come soon enough.

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.





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22 comments
EssEffOh
EssEffOh

The obvious fact is that motorists do essentially ALL the killing on the roads. Everywhere. Day after day. Year after year.  Motorists kill virtually all the pedestrians, all the bicyclists, and all other motorists.  You simply can not blame the problem of deaths on the roads on bicyclists. It defies all logic. It defies all data. It defies common sense.

And motorists break traffic laws and exhibit dangerous behavior constantly. Everywhere. Day after day. Year after year.  Almost every motorist breaks the speed limit routinely. Motorists speak and text on their phones while driving. All the time.  Motorists run lights, roll through stop signs, take illegal turns, fail to signal turns, drive while intoxicated, double park, drive and park in bike lanes, etc. etc. etc.

Motorists on here pointing their fingers at bicyclists have an all too common, yet totally incorrect assessment of reality.

pembrokellc
pembrokellc

Or cyclists can just be more careful when they are close to a large truck! LOL

Point is many of the SF cyclists would rather be right then alive in such a situation and these are the same cyclists that always plow through a stop sign. How about we start there, cyclists start respecting stop signs and pedestrians in cross walks.

pembrokellc
pembrokellc

Or cyclists can just be more careful when they are close to a large truck! LOL

Point is many of the SF cyclists would rather be right then alive in such a situation and these are the same cyclists that always plow through a stop sign. How about we start there, cyclists start respecting stop signs and pedestrians in cross walks.

Recklesscyclist
Recklesscyclist

Dear Mayor Lee

I am the Executive Director of a special interest bicycle lobby and we are demanding our special rights. Cyclists are increasingly at the mercy of motor vehicles and we demand that you take action. Last week, someone was killed while bicycling on Folsom Street near 6th Street. Evidence would suggest that the cyclist was struck while attempting to outrun a moving truck that was making a legal right hand turn. We don’t really care about the facts behind this accident because motorists are clearly responsible for ALL collisions on city streets. As the Executive Director of a Special Interest group it is my job to demand special rights for our very special members.

Every time a cyclist ignores the traffic laws and engages in negligent behavior that causes them bodily harm we must fault the driver of the motor vehicle. The cyclist was the third resident to be killed on a bike in San Francisco this year, all in or near SoMa. Each victim was killed because cyclists and pedestrians are NOT responsible for their own safety. Cyclists who break the law — placing themselves and others in danger must be silently tolerated because people who drive death monsters are evil and cyclists are holy. It is our divine and God given right to weave in an out of traffic, roll through stop signs, and update our Facebook page at busy intersections

Last week I was cycling down Folsom while playing candy crush on my smart phone and I nearly was hit by a reckless motorist who was obeying all of the traffic laws. These types of tragedies can be prevented by spending a few million dollars to redesign Folsom street. As per our usual arrangement you should cut the SF Bike lobby a check for a couple hundred thou so that we can do outreach to the bicycling community.

Don’t you see Mayor Lee, we are in the Wild West of road sharing and the rules of the road do not apply cyclists. We need separated bike lanes because we really don’t want share the streets with motor vehicles or pedestrians. Trucks should be retrofitted with convex mirrors so drivers can more easily see vulnerable Twitter users. And the City should require that large vehicle operators take training courses in how to avoid collisions with Tweeting cyclists

It's a bloodbath out there Mayor Lee and you have the tools, the power (and thecheckbook) to prevent more tragedy on our streets. It is not acceptable to sitby while San Franciscans are killed on SoMa streets when you have the power to stop this

Samantha Gasper
Samantha Gasper

It's no secret that drivers get annoyed with bikers, but that doesn't mean the bicyclists are in the wrong.. People rely on their bikes to get around just as much as they do on their cars, especially in big cities. They both have an equal right to use the road, and the roads should be set up in a way that allows a safe route for each. This was my friend who was hit -- she was smart, responsible, careful, always wore a helmet and followed traffic laws... it was an honest accident, but one that could have potentially been prevented. Please try to be a bit more understanding, this could have happened to anyone, and unfortunately we're all suffering the loss of someone who left this earth too early.

Jeannette Valencia
Jeannette Valencia

They don't even stop or look both ways! I hate all the new bike lanes that take up an entire car lane! Causes more Traffic congestion.

Kim Kibler
Kim Kibler

some people have to drive for a living, so get off your high horse about less cars. how about bicyclists must pass a written test to get a bike license, and register their bike with the city- and pay a bike tax for getting a special lane. oh, and how about the cops hold them responsible for driving infractions. i think these things would help make biking in the city safer.

John Lilly
John Lilly

Fewer motor vehicles. How many fatal, solo bike crashes have there been?

Terry Rose
Terry Rose

If they weren't so selfish , self serving and self seeking

jeft
jeft

If the city designated a series of streets throughout San Francisco as "bicycle only" corridors, this would give cyclists a safety zone to navigate across town. It wouln't end the problem, but it would alleviate it significantly. The counter argument would likely come from the business community and those who use the city streets to commute, but I would argue that cyclists are more likely to patronize the affected businesses than drivers, and commuters would adjust over time to either mass-transit, or bikes...

Federale
Federale topcommenter

The problem is arrogant and unsafe riding by bicyclists.  Like most of the political movements in San Francisco, bicyclists exempt themselves from the real world, whether it is genetics or physics, the radical left to contest reality.  In this case the radical left tells cyclists that they are special, are better than others, will save the world, and should be treated in a special fashion by the law.  However, reality once again came crashing down on the arrogant.  The Greeks called this hubris.

EssEffOh
EssEffOh

"Or cyclists can just be more careful when they are close to a large truck! LOL" @pembrokellc Honestly, what sort of sick and depraved human being posts something like this? You're shameful and you're a disgrace. You're not worthy or fit to participate in public discourse. Go away.

opusthepoet
opusthepoet

@Recklesscyclist  The deceased was hit from behind by a truck that had not made a completed pass of the cyclist. How exactly is this the cyclist's fault?

EssEffOh
EssEffOh

@Kim Kibler Motorists commit "driving infractions" every bit as frequently as bicyclists. Did you drive today? Did you maintain the speed limit the entire time? If you did, you're one of only a tiny minority who did. Motorists run red lights, roll through stop signs, text and talk on their phones, take illegal turns, park illegally, fail to signal turns, drive over the blood alcohol limit, all the time, everyday with impunity.

Be careful what you wish for on cops holding folks responsible for driving infractions.

EssEffOh
EssEffOh

@Terry Rose You realize you're describing motorists to a "T"?

EssEffOh
EssEffOh

@Federale :  Who in god's name are YOU calling arrogant?!  This poor woman who died when a truck driver perhaps took an illegal turn and struck her while she was simply biking down the road?!  A matter, incidentally, that we may never know the full truth about because as is routine in this town when motorists wound and kill people, the police did not perform even a cursory investigation. Believe me, if anyone in this town (and country) gets special treatment it's motorists.

We get that you hate bicyclists. But your hatred is irrational. "The problem is arrogant and unsafe" behavior on everyone's part, not just bicyclists.

Motorists do not obey the law any more than bicyclists do.  The only difference is that cars have owned the roads and broken laws with impunity for so long that it's considered normal. The deaths motorists routinely cause on the roads are also, tragically, considered normal.

Motorists in SF break the speed limit, constantly, with impunity. Motorists in SF talk and text on their phones, constantly, with impunity. Motorists in SF run lights, roll through stop signs, park illegally, fail to signal turns, etc. etc. etc. all the time, and with 99% impunity.

But when motorists drive unsafely, they frequently injure and kill. That's the real difference between motorists and bicyclists.

LiveToRide
LiveToRide

@EssEffOh

For those who never have driven a bobtail , a bobtail truck is about eight feet wide and anywhere up to 30feet long, the way you need to see with two side mirrors, along with cat-eye mirrors which means you have a very narrow field of vision, with that being said, a bob alone with other truck need to have a wider turning radius he need to concentrated on that turn. If he is any sort of professional diver he was using is turn singles at the time. To me with appears to happen, is the driver was concentrating on making the right hand turn, again remember that truck handle some like the HMS Titanic, and driving in a three D world is relatively new. The bikee, who a this point was over taking the bobtail assumed she have the right of way, and in the mirrors, being a bicycle is a small object and that cat-eyes trend to distort images, so it would be hard to tell what is was. When you get into a scenario like that one, it best to crash the bike into the curb and jump up on the sidewalk. The one thing I learn from riding 200,000 motorcycle is don’t assumed you have the right of way, its easier to give up the right of way, leave yourself an out, that everything and everyone is trying to kill you, and if you want to lock horns with 3000 pounds you will loose. Other that that enjoy the ride. An oscillate light wouldn’t be a bad ideal either.

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