A Warning to People Who Bike: Self-Driving Ubers and Right Hook Turns

By Brian Wiedenmeier : sfbike – excerpt

Before the surprise launch of Uber’s autonomous vehicles on San Francisco streets this week, I rode in one. I can tell you firsthand: Those vehicles are not yet ready for our streets.

I was at one of the demonstrations covered in the SF Examiner, along with others who Uber hoped to impress with their new technology. None of us were told that just two days later, Uber would be releasing this technology on our streets on a large scale. I did tell Uber some things about the shortcomings of that technology, however.

In the ride I took through the streets of SoMa on Monday, the autonomous vehicle in “self-driving” mode as well as the one in front of it took an unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane. Twice. This kind of turn is one featured in a 2013 blog post that is known to be one of the primary causes of collisions between cars and people who bike resulting in serious injury or fatality. It’s also an unsafe practice that we address in all of the safety curriculum we offer to professional drivers, including the videos we consulted on for Uber as recently as this fall.

I told staff from Uber’s policy and engineering teams about the safety hazards of their autonomous vehicle technology. They told me they would work on it. Then, two days later, they unleashed that technology on San Francisco’s streets. Your streets…(more)

RELATED:
What was Uber’s endgame in the first place?

Forget Parking: Number Of Cars In The Bay Area Rising

cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — It might not be rising as fast as the population, but the number of cars in San Francisco competing for a finite amount of land on which to drive and park is going up.

The number of vehicles registered in San Francisco and its surrounding counties has been climbing over the past five years, according to the DMV.

At the end of 2015, 494,000 were registered in San Francisco alone, and 1.3 million in Alameda County.

“There’s still an increase in the number of cars in the city. That concerns us because we need that land for housing. We need that land for jobs, and for public space,” Ratna Amin, Transportation Policy Director with SPUR, told KCBS.

Amin says the city’s Transit First policy is gaining traction with new residents.

“The majority of new residents in San Francisco are not bringing cars, or buying cars, and that’s because we do have pretty great transit,” Amin said… (more)

Where does Amin theorize the cars are coming from to declare that new residents do not own cars? Where else are they coming from? Clearly a lot of new residents are car owners. Since when does SPUR decide how to use the land? Isn’t it up to the citizens who live here to decide?

RELATED:
Port Of San Francisco Signs Deal To Process Car Shipments

There is clearly some confusion at City Hall since the Port of SF just signed a deal to process car shipments, guaranteeing an influx of more cars. They claim they plan to process up to 200,000 vehicles here per year. How will they get them from Pier 80 to San Rafael? We can only think of two ways to go. Bay Bridge or Gold Gate Bridge. Either way, they will be adding major traffic to the city streets from an area that is already congested while the SFMTA has the city under a new round of street disruptions. Whoever came up with this nonsensical plan needs to be retired.

California unveils amnesty program for unpaid traffic tickets

By Kurtis Alexander : sfgate – excerpt

Millions of California motorists with suspended licenses have a chance to win back their driving privileges at a discount, starting Thursday, under a state amnesty program for unpaid traffic tickets.
The state is cutting fines by at least half and waiving late fees for payments on tickets that were due before Jan. 1, 2013, an effort to eliminate what Gov. Jerry Brown called a “hellhole of desperation” for those who can’t afford penalties and lost their licenses as a result.
Brown signed the amnesty legislation in June. It takes effect Thursday and runs until March 2017… (more)

Great idea but, they have to be kidding. They are waving fees for payment on tickets that were due before January 2013? Who is still around after that long? How will this help the poor folks who were desperate in 2013? Two years late. Sort of like the brand new affordable houses they are building for future residents long after most of those who need them have left. Who is going to get on a lottery for a home that will not be on the market for two or more years? And who is going to benefit after losing their car and or license two years ago?

Uber’s surge pricing backfires during Sydney hostage siege

Jennifer Booton : marketwatch – excerpt

Prices automatically surged as part of ‘peak demand’ policy

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Uber has found itself embroiled in yet another PR disaster: spiking prices as a hostage situation unfolded in Sydney, Australia…

Uber customers have long complained about Uber’s peak demand prices. But this is the first widely-reported instance where the hike has occurred during an emergency situation.

The app is facing extreme backlash from the move, with Twitter user Tyson Armstrong calling it a “shameful disgrace” and others using far harsher expletives. Uber responded to angry tweeters by saying that the surge pricing is automated. The fares, it said, were increased to “encourage more drivers to come online [and] pick up passengers in the area.”.

Uber “does not profit off crises,” it said…  Uber’s ‘surge pricing’ surprises some users: Variable-pricing model increases the rates for rides with the limo-booking service, surprising many New Year’s Eve revelers…(more)

Complaints About Uber Surge Pricing Caused The Better Business Bureau To Give The Company An ‘F’:  On Thursday, Uber received an “F” grade from the Better Business Bureau, the New York Times reports. It’s the lowest rating that the independent organization assigns to businesses… (more)

Uber’s #357 Crosstown L.A. Ride Highlights Controversial ‘Surge Pricing’… It wasn’t snowing; it wasn’t raining; it wasn’t New Year’s Eve. It just happened to be 7pm — not 9pm where most people are prime to go out nor 2 am when bars are closing. There was absolutely no excuse whatsoever to be charged the surge price — not even their “supply and demand” cop-out justification, which falls short in this instance. On a clear night with near-perfect weather and at least 10 Uber vehicles within my proximity at the time of the reservation, there was plenty of “supply.”… (more)

Uber CEO mocks ‘surge pricing’ complaints on Facebook(more)

While the surge pricing during the hostage crisis caught everyone’s eye, we know there are numerous complaints around the world. Send us your surge pricing stories, and copy them to Mayor Ed Lee and the supervisors: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/letters-and-comments/san-francisco-officials/
Uber is so good with their computers, I am sure they can send a warning message to their customers during “surge times” to warn people before they accept the “surge price ride.”

Political push needed for reopening bridge lane

By Dick Spotswood : marinij – excerpt

A gullible public is frequently told regarding proposed legislation and general plan changes something to the effect of, “Don’t worry. It’s just a plan. The proposal isn’t an authorization to do anything specific.”

While literally true, the whole truth is that such moves are often time bombs. When they finally explode, we hear, “That was done years ago. It can’t be changed. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Here’s another example demonstrating that intense scrutiny is needed when we hear that a new law or a change in a planning document is just a flexible guideline…

MTC effectively is saying that for motorists to get the third traffic lane reopened, that project must be simultaneously coupled with construction of a hugely expensive trans-bay bikeway. Not only is it expensive, the bike segment will take years to design, obtain environmental permits and then build…

The argument is based on Section 888.2 of the California Streets and Highways Code.

Enacted in 1993, it mandates that the Department of Motor Vehicles shall “incorporate nonmotorized transportation facilities in the design of freeways on the state highway system along corridors where nonmotorized facilities do not exist, upon a finding that the facilities would conform to the California Recreational Trails System Plan … or upon a finding, following a public hearing, that the facilities would conform to the master plans of local agencies for the development of nonmotorized facilities and would not duplicate existing or proposed routes, and that community interests would be enhanced by the construction of the facilities.”…

It’s a bad law that needs to be amended. Under its language, all that needs to be shown is that vague “community interests would be enhanced.”

Even strictly interpreting the statute, there’s nothing in it prohibiting Caltrans or MTC from “decoupling” the lane reopening from the bikeway.

The proper strategy is to first reopen the third auto lane and then, if the law can’t be changed, build the bikeway.

Marin’s representative on MTC’s board, Supervisor Steve Kinsey, has joined the call for decoupling the two projects. So far that has not led to any action.

Kinsey could do much for his 2016 re-election chances if he can convince his colleagues, and more importantly MTC’s powerful executive director Steve Heminger, to promptly decouple the auto lane effort from the bike project and get traffic moving again… (more)

This is a perfect example of how the lobbies control Sacramento, and why the voters need to take it back.

RELATED:
Taxpayers paying for bike riders’ ‘entertainment’?   Since you are printing many letters from the bicycle advocates, and not many of us take the time to comment, I have appreciated all of Dick Spotswood’s informative columns. He is very astute and tells it like it is… The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been taken over by the bicycle lobby and has managed to tie all new improvements to our highways, railways and bridges to demands for multi-million-dollar bicycle paths that are used by few, if any commuters… Bike coalition needs to get riders to obey the law…