Pushback on Caltrans proposal to close Skyline in Daly City

Update June 8, 2017: Your emails and phone calls made a difference; Caltrans District 4 had originally planned to install “bikes prohibited” signs on a portion of Skyline Boulevard through Daly City, California, but relented after several people who use this route told Caltrans that the suggested alternate routes on local roads are not acceptable. Although Caltrans does not have a public input process when deciding bike access on state highways, the District quickly created an ad hoc method after meeting with cycling advocates from both local and state advocacy groups.

Caltrans District 4 now seeks input from those who bicycle or are interested in bicycling on the freeway segment of State Route (SR) 35, Skyline Boulevard, across the Highway 1 interchange, or along the SR 35 corridor using local streets between Daly City and Pacifica. Please take a moment to fill out this online survey and share the link with others who may be interested. This targeted survey will help inform Caltrans in developing both short and long term strategies for people bicycling along this corridor. The survey will be available until June 25, 2017.

Find the survey at https://goo.gl/forms/zmUejriBGtBLYJzq1

Read below for the original story and background.


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?

Update: Caltrans D4 met with Shiloh Ballard and Emma Shlaes of Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, Janice Li of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and Daly City’s public works director. Caltrans agreed to hold off on the bike ban and to take stakeholder suggestions on ways to improve this interchange. Watch this space for further details. In the meantime, read the full update here from SVBC policy director Emma Shlaes.

Background

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!

Backlash

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.

Skyline Blvd Daly City bikes banned

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.

Bikes on Skyline Blvd Google Streetview

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.

SWITRS bicycle crash heatmap 2006-2016 Daly City CA

switrs-dalycity2

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 sergio.ruiz@dot.ca.gov – 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.

10 Comments

  • Skip
    May 16, 2017 - 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I’d also like to point out that one of the key crossings on the alternate route (Westmoor Ave.) doesn’t have loop sensors that can detect cyclists and beg buttons that are broken. On this corridor, Caltrans is woefully negligent if you aren’t encased in 2 tons of metal.

  • Marco
    May 16, 2017 - 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I am a seasoned cyclist and racer. I have been living in Fairmont for over a year. On my first day commuting from Fairmont to SF i did the CA-35 north segment that is marked as banned. I thought that biking on that road was wrong and unnecessarily dangerous. The pavement was also kinda shitty. As alternate i use Gateway and Skyline Drive, right off of Hickey on the pacifica side. much safer and better pavement. i frankly think it’s the right thing to do closing that portion to bikes.

  • antislice
    May 16, 2017 - 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Key words, Marco: “seasoned cyclist and racer”. I used to bike down the peninsula on a regular basis, and Skyline Blvd/35 is noticeably easier than Skyline Drive. Restricting legal routes to the harder routes goes against stated goals of encouraging cycling, and will discourage a lot of people.

    Granted I can’t really speak to the northbound side as well, but given how much I rode the brakes going down Skyline Dr I doubt it’s any easier than 35 NB.

  • May 17, 2017 - 7:27 am | Permalink

    Bicycle use will not be successfully expanded by limiting choices of where bikes may be used. Developing, providing, and informing people about alternative routes and/or bikeway types is great.
    And, speaking up and sharing news about problems (via caboforum and others) helps us to marshal resources to improve conditions.
    Many thanks to Squeaky Wheels!

  • May 17, 2017 - 11:23 am | Permalink

    Skyline Blvd. is my route of choice for riding to SF from the South Bay. I’ve negotiated that Hwy 1 intersection with no issues, on weekends. It sucks but look at the suggested alternatives. Worse. Don’t ban bikes here. It will have the opposite effect — more accidents.

  • Brian Coyne
    May 17, 2017 - 12:55 pm | Permalink

    If you care about this issue, contact Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi at Bijan.Sartipi@dot.ca.gov and cc District 4 Bike Coordinator Sergio Ruiz at sergio.ruiz@dot.ca.gov and 510.622.5773. Sergio has been fantastic about answering calls and emails on this so far.

  • Jeffrey
    May 17, 2017 - 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I have bike every alternative to Skyline x Hwy 1.
    Suggesting a steep roller coastery ride as an alternative fatigues the rider. That is what both Skyline Drive and St Francis Drive will do. Moreover, St Francis goes through an apartment complex, and one must squeeze his / her bike through a pedestrian-only security gate on the north side. Caltrans definitely did not ride this route prior to recommending it. EVERYTHING looks easy when you are looking at a flat Googlemaps screen.

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