NOPNA Survey Confirms Support for ‘Boulevard’ Redesign of Masonic Ave

"The Boulevard." Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

North Panhandle neighbors gave significant support once again for a complete re-design of Masonic Avenue in an online survey completed by 377 residents. Of the total, 87 percent favored the Boulevard option as the best way to make Masonic a safer street for all users. The plan offers a complete package of traffic calming measures, including a fully-landscaped median, bus bulb outs, a separated bicycle lane, improved traffic lane configurations, and sidewalk upgrades for pedestrians.

To make the improvements, the Boulevard proposal removes parking from both sides of Masonic between Geary and Fell. The other option, dubbed the Gateway, would employ less extensive measures to improve safe travel on Masonic. Compared with the Boulevard’s 87 percent support, the Gateway garnered significantly less with 54 percent preferring it. The North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) released the results of the survey along with the raw data Saturday.

In an executive summary, NOPNA President Jarie Bolander noted that “the vast majority of respondents want to see Masonic safer and feel that something must be done.” He added that most survey respondents (66.4 percent) had not attended the community meetings organized by the SFMTA last year. Thus, the NOPNA data reflect the preference of a great many residents not previously tallied and indicates even greater support for the Boulevard plan.

At the conclusion of last year’s Masonic meetings, 76 percent of participants who completed a SFMTA survey chose the Boulevard over the Gateway option. Based on that input, city staff recommended adoption of the Boulevard measures in a final report completed in January. The proposal has already been endorsed by the Ewing Terrace Neighborhood Association, a majority of University Terrace Neighborhood Association members, and Fix Masonic. The NOPNA board previously stated that they wanted to undertake the survey to obtain greater input from members before deciding what action to take.

In addition to the decided preference for the more ambitious street design, the NOPNA survey revealed other information pertinent to the discussion. Of the 373 who completed the survey, the greatest number of Masonic area residents heard about the proposals from three sources: the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) (46.9 percent), the NOPNA newsletter (41.4 percent), and BIKE NOPA (36.2 percent). More than 58 percent of respondents indicated they live within the NOPNA boundaries (Fell, Turk, Divisadero and Masonic) while 80 percent reside within or just one block beyond these streets.

Of the 477 residents who started the survey, 45 live on Masonic, and 81.8 percent of them strongly like or somewhat like the Boulevard proposal compared to 44.1 percent for the Gateway plan. Of the 127 who self-identified as being NOPNA members, 86 percent strongly liked or somewhat liked the Boulevard versus 59.9% for the Gateway.

When it comes to discussions about driving and biking in NOPA – as in other neighborhoods — residents sometime adopt an “us vs. them” approach, suggesting that motorists don’t care about road safety for others, that bicyclists only favor improvements for themselves, or that peoples’ modes of travel define their identity and affiliations. But the NOPNA survey shows much the opposite. Although the vast majority of respondents indicated that they belonged to the SFBC and 43 percent identified themselves as NOPNA members, a very high number (42 percent) actually belong to both groups. Other group affiliations mentioned include Fix Masonic (14.2 percent), NOPA+ (12.6 percent), Wigg Party (7.1 percent), and WalkSF (7.1 percent).

The removal of street parking for a safer Masonic was included in both proposals, although the Boulevard takes away parking on both sides of the street, while the Gateway removes it from just one side. Not surprisingly, those who support the Boulevard largely like the plan’s removal of parking to allow space for improvements. But Gateway advocates are almost evenly split on liking or disliking removal of half the parking.

The strong feelings of residents about changing Masonic are apparent in the large number of written comments for each proposal and for the overall situation. Nearly 300 comments were added to the survey. As can be expected, observations cover the range from enthusiasm to dismay for the proposed changes, but the tone was generally more positive than not. The plea of one neighbor is especially poignant:

Please fix Masonic. I’ve lived at Fulton and Masonic for less than a year and I regret moving here every day. The noise and speeding vehicles and honking horns is overwhelming. The crosswalks are terrifying. I drive occasionally and something about this street encourages aggressive behavior.

This story is republished from BIKE NOPA, a website that’s “all about bicycling and livability in San Francisco’s North Panhandle neighborhood.”

  • So 373 people get to screw up traffic on a major north/south city street, which is used by more than 32,000 vehicles and 12,000 passengers on the #43 bus every day?

  • jd


    Reading through the plan, I don’t see how this plan will “screw up” anything for MUNI riders. In fact, it sounds like it will *improve* MUNI transit down Masonic. Form the plan, the city is clearly prioritizing MUNI transit as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

    And, by the way, the way you get more than 373 (or whatever) people to bicycle is by *improving* bicycle infrastructure. It’s not fair to design a road for autos (like Masonic has been designed) and make it extremely dangerous for cyclists and then go, “Look, no cyclists are riding on this road! Why should we add more infrastructure for them?” That would be like designing a road only wide enough for bicycles and then going, “Hey, look, no cars ride down this road?!” As the plan mentions, Masonic is the only north-south corridor in that part of the city, and this is the same reason cyclists want to be able to use it. Further, it goes through just about the flattest part of the city in that area, which is even more important for cyclists than cars.

    To prevent cyclists from riding on Masonic (by making it very dangerous for them) and then saying, “See, cyclists don’t use it … why should we make it safer for them?” is not only unfair, it is not the way we improve our city and get people out of their cars.

  • Shawn Allen

    Yes, Rob. It’s kind of like one person “screwing up traffic” for tens of thousands of San Francisco cyclists for the last 5 years.

    NOPNA residents have spoken, and they value the safety and comfort of pedestrians, bus riders and cyclists over the ability of motorists to speed through their neighborhood.

  • Caleb

    This design looks great! It is about time we started implementing complete streets using some of the Dutch/Danish techniques, like raised cycle tracks that aren’t just lanes stapled onto the dangerous edge of parking as an afterthought. The pedestrian space actually looks wide enough to be comfortable, too. I’m willing to bet this redesign improves things for businesses along this corridor, now that it will be much more pleasant to walk along. Also, the bus bulb-outs should make a difference in speeding up the 43, as a huge amount of time is lost on the bus pulling in/out of the flow of traffic.

    Way to go, SF Planning Department! We need more redesigns like this one.

  • Even if you accept the Bicycle Coalition’s claim that 6% of all trips in the city are by bike now, that still makes them a small minority in SF. And the docment I linked above shows that there are very few accidents involving cyclists—or anyone else—on Masonic now.

    The way Masonic works now: the city bans parking on one side of the street or the other to deal with the morning and afternoon commute hours. The “improved” Masonic will cause traffic jams during rush hours by taking away street parking permanently on both sides of the street.

    I ride the #43 often, and it now moves well between Geary and the Panhandle. All the talk about improving “transit” with this plan is bunk, a figleaf to cover up a makeover that will mainly benefit cyclists.

    What the city is planning to do to Masonic was analyzed in the EIR for Bicycle Plan, which found that doing this will have “significant impacts” on both Muni and traffic.

  • Syzlak


    Rush Hour constitutes only a minority of a day. This redesign will be beneficial more often than not by your logic.

  • “Beneficial” to only the city’s cyclists, not the 44,000+ people who now use Masonic every day.

  • jd


    What percent of people are handicapped, yet we go around added all this infrastructure (which costs a lot of money) to make sure everything is handicap accessible? Why would we do that if it’s only a tiny percent? Well, there’s this thing called the “tyranny of the majority” — democratic countries seek to prevent it. Never do the majority get to trounce on the basic rights and safety of the minority. Slavery was once very popular: does that make it right?

    We don’t decide policy just because something is popular. Now, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have weight in the argument, but it can’t be the only reason we make decisions. Otherwise, little progress would be made since all new ideas, by their very definition of being “new”, start from a small minority. Take smoking. Somewhere (and I don’t know the exact history), some government said, “Hey, we’re banning smoking because it’s unhealthy, especially for those who choose not to smoke but are forced to inhale’s the fumes of those that do.” And people like you would have said, “But you can’t: look at how many people do it? You can’t just let a minority of people dictate to the rest of us?” But yet, here we are, in 2011, and smoking is now banned in *every* public place in the entire country when only 30 years ago it was allowed everywhere.

    Again, the point here is: you can’t make your argument based on a popularity contest. What we base it on is the merits of the argument. Is everyone driving cars (mostly solo, no less) healthy? Most people, especially in the SFMTA, would argue that it does not. So how do we change this? And what are the healthiest (both for people and the environment) ways for people to get around? And the answer to the latter question is: walking, public transit, and cycling. Yes, cycling. The city’s own stated goals are to make SF “the North American city with the highest per-capita bicycle use”. You don’t do that by arguing that a road which has zero bicycle infrastructure shouldn’t get any improvements. MUNI (public transit) also needs to be prioritized, but not cars. Why should we put one group of people’s (motorists) CONVENIENCE (ie, how much parking there is, or how much traffic there is) over other group’s SAFETY? That is the tyranny of the majority at work.

    Also, what you seem to be forgetting is that, as you build better bicycle infrastructure, more people start riding, which means less people are driving, which means there is less traffic and need for parking. Same goes for public transit. So you improve those things at the expense of cars (because it needs to be at the expense of something, and it only makes sense to take it from the most inefficient and unhealthy form of transit), and then naturally people start using them rather than driving. Look at NYC.

  • “Popularity contest”? No, the people of San Francisco will never get a chance to vote on this sort of thing, any more than they’ll get a chance to vote on the Bicycle Plan itself. Our PC rulers in City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition will make sure of that.

  • Rob needs a hug.

  • Adam G.

    Rob said, “The way Masonic works now: the city bans parking on one side of the street or the other to deal with the morning and afternoon commute hours. The “improved” Masonic will cause traffic jams during rush hours by taking away street parking permanently on both sides of the street.”

    How does this statement make any sense at all? There will still be no parking in the peak direction with the re-design.

  • jd


    And it’s a good thing that every damn policy, law, or measure doesn’t go to the voters. That would be a popularity contest at it’s worst. The reason we have a *representative* democracy is because we elect officials to represent us, and their full-time job it is to be open-minded, logical, consider all points of view, and spend the time researching all these things (which they can do since this is their job). When you dole everything out to the populace who simply does not have the time to adequately research issues (since we all have day jobs) and hence to hear all sides of an issue, and since many people do not have what it takes to be fair, you end up getting little accomplished. Which is why CA ballot propositions drive me nuts: rather than the politicians doing their jobs and working amongst themselves to figure out the nitty-gritty details of an issue, they dole it out to the people and feed them emotional garbage about the issue so we get a huge populace, who are clearly unqualified to be deciding such complicated issues, making ignorant choices. And this includes me. I mean, when there’s a ballot measure to cut funding for a children’s hospital, the side for it says, “But you love children, right?” But the thing is, when looking at budget issues, for example, I can’t make the proper choice without considering the *whole* picture. I don’t know: maybe the children’s hospital should not get funding cut because there is another segment of society also in need that could use the money. The point is: there is no way I can make an informed choice without literally making it my job to research the issue. That’s the job of elected officials, not the people. And that’s why we should never decide complicated issues (such as designing our cities to be livable) by doling it out as a popularity contest to people who aren’t aware of the big picture and aren’t trained on how to run cities.

    Again, we have a *representative* government for a reason. If you want each and every person to be involved in each and every decision that every government makes (local, state/regional, and federal), you are in the wrong country. I want people educated on the issues who use logic and science and fair-mindedness to make decisions for me. Which is why I ask the neurosurgeon for advice on a brain injury and don’t take a poll of my engineering co-workers, for example, when deciding what treatment I need. And why I ask my elected officials and the experts on urban design to make choices about how to improve our cities. Of course, as citizens, we all get to make our case to them, but we certainly don’t decide the finally result by a popularity contest of having each citizen vote.

    I’m starting to get off-topic, so to bring it back in, we don’t decide how to improve our cities based on a popularity contest, just like we don’t decide whether to ban smoking by polling everyone in 1970, or ban slavery by polling everyone in 1770.

  • jd, you haven’t interacted with Rob before, have you?

    Good luck.

    On the note of Masonic, I still don’t favor a median and would rather see that space used as separation between the car lane and the raised bike lane. I’m still very much against “pedestrian islands” as well. They are demeaning in principle and promote overly wide roads that aren’t easily crossable in one light cycle. Along with the perceived “safety” that drivers feel that promotes speeding

    Adam G., this shows what the flex lane looks like. During rush hours, one side of the street has it’s parking removed and that lane then becomes a third travel lane. However, this promotes speeding and lane changing and also makes the pedestrian cross 5 travel lanes and one parking lane.

    The new Masonic will provide bulb outs that will shorten the distance traveled, but Rob would rather frame the argument that the bikes are taking away the car lane.

  • Adam G.

    Ah ok, thanks Mikesonn

  • triple0

    Rob: You could have been one of the 500 people who voted on this option — but instead you skulked out of the Community Meetings after the first 20 minutes, rather than stay and participate.

    Why complain now on the internet when you didn’t bother to stick around and help us build a better city in person?

  • I understand that the bike people think city traffic is all about them and their “mode” of transportation, but I don’t believe this is about me, triple0—why are so many of you anti-car folks anonymous!—it’s about thousands of people who have to use Masonic every day, including thousands of passengers on the only bus line on Masonic.

    “jd, you haven’t interacted with Rob before, have you? Good luck.”

    Sonn has trouble “interacting” with me only because he never has his facts right.

    “Rob needs a hug.” You can hug this, Murph.

    “How does this statement make any sense at all? There will still be no parking in the peak direction with the re-design.”

    Because that space will be occupied by bike paths. Hence, there won’t be any way the city can adjust during commute hours.

  • Mark D.


    There are no such people as “bike people” nor “their mode of transportation”. One would think we could move beyond this childish “us vs. them” mentality.

    I really hope to see you riding down Masonic on a bike one day and you can be sure I will be occasionally driving along it myself. We are all just people getting around in various different ways, and people should have the freedom to travel as they choose. As of today, only the very brave (myself not included) feel comfortable riding their bikes on Masonic.


  • triple0

    Rob: There were over 100 people at those meetings — none of them were anonymous. All contributed to their vision of the community; you left and went home to complain about it in comment sections.

    This project isn’t about bikes or ‘bike people’ – it’s about a street where people who live on the street can feel safe being outside, where people can shop at Lucky’s (where you say you shop) and Trader Joe’s without having to drive. Where the kids at the Day School can cross to use USF’s playground. Where the 43 can move faster and smoother and cars don’t speed over the 25 MPH. This isn’t a bike project — it’s a community project, designed by the community and for the community, and yeah, it happens to have a bike lane.

  • “I don’t believe this is about me, triple0—why are so many of you anti-car folks anonymous!—it’s about thousands of people who have to use Masonic every day”

    Martti Ahtisaari, Barack Obama, Liu Xiaobo, Rob Anderson.

  • John Murphy: the Bicycle Coalition’s bike commuter of the year and all-around-know-it-all! Good grief.

  • The love abounds.

    Rob isn’t worth engaging because he has an agenda and is very vested in it. The world is black and white, “bike nuts” vs “regular SF folks”, etc. You can’t reason with that.

    Let us talk about this project and how we can now help the surrounding area to build off these improvements.

  • Walter


    No decision was made by 377 people here, as far as I can see. It was simply the results of a poll of those who live on or around Masonic. and conducted by a very local group. So I simply took that at face value.

    They are a constituency who are entitled to express an opinion about the project. But they’re certainly not the deciders and, as you note, such changes have a city-wide implication of far more people than just those who live nearby.

    Masonic moves well at this time and if the supporters of this project can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that traffic speeds and throughput will not be unduly compromized, then I’m certainly willing to look at this proposal.

    But, as with Octavia Boulevard, I think a much broader constituency of people should be invited to influence the decision. The folks polled here have an obvious NIMBY agenda that needs to be balanced by other factors and groups.

  • jd

    Looking at the diagram of the proposed changes, it occurred to me: are they going to paint the cycle track green? They really should. And more importantly, they really should make sure the paint goes across the intersections so that cars turning right or left across the bike lane can see the bike lane and are reminded to look out for cyclists. I worry that if the bike lane isn’t made crazy visible (I really like the blue paint they use in London, but green works for me too), cyclists traveling down the bike lane across an intersection are going to get slammed by a motorist not carefully looking for cyclists in the intersections where there are bus bulb-outs. They also need to make sure the intersections are daylighted so everyone can see everyone else.

    I agree with mikesonn and, just like with the Folsom and Cesar Chavez plans, they should get rid of the median, split it in half, and use each half to protect the bike lane. The damn suburban median thing (and not using that real estate to protect the bike lane) is the main fault I have with SFMTA’s planning ….

  • “Rob isn’t worth engaging because he has an agenda and is very vested in it. The world is black and white, “bike nuts” vs “regular SF folks”, etc. You can’t reason with that.”

    Whereas your elitist agenda is to impose this on the people of SF. All of these anti-car projects, including the Bicycle Plan itself, have been passed by a Board of Supervisors elected by district, most of whom could never be elected in a citywide election. Unfortunately, voters citywide will never get a chance to vote on these projects that are going to be implemented before they have a chance to understand what’s at stake.

    A real danger for you folks: you could overreach and screw traffic up so badly that it will cause a backlash against your great anti-car cause. Also we have a mayoral election this year; if just one candidate picks up on this as an issue, the people of the city would finally get the opportunity to take part in a full debate on these policies, along with the other “smart growth” nostrums.

  • EL

    While I don’t always agree with Rob, I do believe he has a point about the impact to the #43.

    Currently during the peak hours, there are 3 lanes on Masonic, with the buses in the rightmost lane serving transit users. There’s no need for a bulb-out in this scenario because the bus is already along the curb. Under the proposed plan, there are only 2 lanes on Masonic, with bulb-outs so a bus doesn’t need to pull into the curb or worry about bikes. There’s no way a traffic signal system on Masonic is going to be able to compensate for delays caused by the loss of one traffic lane in each direction.

    In fact, the Planning Department’s final report (on page 14) estimates at least 43 seconds of additional delay on southbound Masonic. Interestingly, there’s no estimate for the northbound direction. Hmmmm…..

    43 seconds doesn’t sound like a lot, but it certainly adds up when you consider how many trips Muni makes each day.

  • New Mayor

    Why don’t you run for mayor, Rob? After all, you’ve already proven yourself to be proficient at throwing a lot of money and time at something you’ll ultimately lose.

  • Where Rob and I disagree is whether multi-lane, high speed lanes are good or bad for drivers. I contend in addition to having the unfortunate side-effect of killing pedestrians and cyclists, they’re actually bad for drivers as well, not only for safety but also for creating additional congestion on feeder streets.

    So with that in mind, I propose keeping drivers on their toes is actually the best way to discourage lack of alertness. Here’s my proposed redesign:

  • I didn’t “throw” any money at the Bicycle Plan litigation; my lawyer did it pro bono and was then paid for her time by the losing party, the city of SF. By the way, I hope someone besides me asks candidate Dennis Herrera why he dragged the Bicycle Plan litigation out for a couple of years longer than it should have lasted, thus wasing a lot of taxpayers’ money in the process. Once we got the injunction against the city way back in 2006, he knew that the city would end up doing an EIR on the Plan. You can’t get an injunction like that without convincing the judge that you’re likely to prevail on the merits when the hearing is held. Herrera’s calculation: he planned to run for Mayor, and he didn’t want to alienate the progressive/bike vote. If a lawyer in private practice had done that, he would have been guilty of malpractice by his client. Since his “client” in this instance is the city’s taxpayers and he and his staff are all on the clock, he will get away with it.

  • “Whereas your elitist agenda is to impose this on the people of SF.”

    And you proved my point. Elitist? Sure Rob.

  • Walter


    I do agree with you about the need for city-wide (or even BayArea-wide) transportation solutions.

    It’s ridiculous that district supervisors can be elected with a few thousand votes. And then decide things like this.

    LA has more people than the Bay Area and it’s one unitary authority with 7 Supervisors. Why does SF have 11 Supervisors and, moreover, each one district-elected? Why does the Bay Area have 9 different fiefdoms (sorry, Counties)? It’s a recipe for parochialism, NIMBYism and piecemeal policies.

    It’s as if the decisions about Fell, Masonic, CalTrain, BART to OAK and SJ, and so on are all unrelated and independent of each other. AFAIK, there is NOBODY planning and designing an integrated transportation policy for the Bay Area. It’s just a tweak here and a bike lane there and a 1.5 billion dollar subway extension while nobody is looking and a dozen agencies fiddle and burn.

    Europe gets this stuff done because they have unitary bodies and a clear chain of command. We deserve everything we get. Or don’t get.

  • Walter/Mick/JohnB,

    MTC. It’s been pointed out to you many times before.

    And supe’s getting elected by district voting is what gives each area of the city a voice instead of downtown’s money ruling the roost. But I’m sure Big Brother would have our best interests at heart.

  • Walter


    That’s great.

    Can you point to exactly where the MTC have decision-making power on this?

  • On Masonic? You want a multi-county organization to micromanage a 6 block street redesign? My goodness man!

  • Walter


    Well, YOU were the one who initially cited MTC, so I assumed you could see how their role would help here.

    Rob’s point was that this isn’t an issue just for the 377 people who live on those 6 blocks, but rather that Masonic is a major city-wide transit conduit.

    More generally, many of those who travel on the main thoroughfares like Fell/Oak, 19th Avenue, Bush/Pine, Gough/Franklin, Masonic, Geary, Lombard and so on are from outside of the city.

    Point being, SF is an artificially small jurisdiction but such decisions have ramifications that ripple out across much of the Bay Area.

    You see this as just a “6 block” decision, but that’s a problem. It isn’t. Just like the Central Subway isn’t just a “8 block decision”!

  • Oh JohnB,

    Would you prefer a medal or a chest to pin it on?

  • “And supe’s getting elected by district voting is what gives each area of the city a voice instead of downtown’s money ruling the roost. But I’m sure Big Brother would have our best interests at heart.”

    I’ll take “downtown’s money” over PC progressivism SF-style any day. The good thing about citywide votes is that it weeds out the fringe-lefties, like Daly and Mirkarimi.

    The whole kerfuffle over Masonic is bunk based on nothing but the bike people’s discomfort at how well the traffic moves on that street. Too fast! A traffic sewer! Next the neighborhoods near Franklin and Gough Streets will be shanhaied into a bogus movement to “calm” those streets.

    “Where Rob and I disagree is whether multi-lane, high speed lanes are good or bad for drivers. I contend in addition to having the unfortunate side-effect of killing pedestrians and cyclists, they’re actually bad for drivers as well, not only for safety but also for creating additional congestion on feeder streets.”

    Let me say this again: according to the city’s own numbers, Masonic Avenue isn’t unsafe for anyone. The only cyclist to be killed on that street in years was hit by a drunk driver late at night, and he might have survived if he’d been wearing a helmet.

    Making traffic worse—that is, jamming it up—on Masonic will naturally encourage drivers to venture onto other streets in the neighborhood, like on Octavia Blvd., another fiasco created by progressive traffic engineering supported by all good city progs, including the Bicycle Coalition. If you think Octavia Blvd. and its surrounding neighborhood is a Good Thing, then you’ll surely like the “improvements” the city is determined to make to Masonic.

  • jd

    I think it’s clear that what happens in Masonic affects others outside the neighborhood (though it still affects those who live there the most … even if you use Masonic daily, you are only on it for 10-20 minutes, whereas people who live there have to deal with the consequences of its design all day, every day). However, I can guarantee you that most of the people who don’t live in the neighborhood but travel through it in their car regularly would be all for keeping it essentially a highway.

    But here’s the rub: I bet the vast majority of those *same* people, if it was now *their* neighborhood we were talking about, would vote for similar traffic calming measures to what the Masonic neighborhood has clearly voted for over and over again. But it’s not that people in the Masonic neighborhood are any better: I’m sure the people in the Masonic neighborhood would vote against a similar traffic calming plan in another neighborhood through which they regularly drive. Classic nimby-ism (arghggh … I hate that word, so I won’t use it again). So now what?

    I would argue that since most people are always going to vote to essentially trash other people’s neighborhood’s (turning roads into essentially a highway) but protect their own (by implementing traffic calming measures), then we decide policy based on the what the local neighborhood wants since, after all, it is what everybody truly wants when they stop being selfish. So you can argue that people driving from the southern reaches of the city to Marin get some say in this, but I would think that only leads to everybody being unhappy since that means everybody gets their own neighborhood screwed up by everybody else, everyone acting on selfish impulses. We can’t possible think that is the correct way to design our cities.

    I think that, at a more regional level, if people need to be commuting through the neighborhood, then we need to figure out how to do it *not* at the expense of the livability and safety of the neighborhood. This is my problem with solutions that favor the car: while it might make life more inconvenient for motorists to have less lanes for traffic or parking, the alternative kills many more people not just via collisions with cars, but through pollution, heart disease via car’s contribution to the obesity epidemic, all kinds of death and destruction to fight wars in the Middle East to fuel our inefficient cars, destruction of the environment, etc., etc. There are many ways to fix the problem, but as I see it, none of them revolve around encouraging car driving.

    So I agree that the needs of those passing through must be considered. But I do not think that means those people get what essentially amounts to an unlivable highway. Instead, what it really should mean, is that they deserve much better public transit (and bicycle infrastructure, though that will remain secondary to public transit with regards to those who are commuting through the area, at least for the near future). Right now, it is ridiculously how many people drive to get around this city rather than walking, cycling, or taking public transit. We can’t possibly expect to satisfy the demand of having everybody driving cars nearly solo to get around. City planners the world over are realizing this. It is a harsh reality for a generation that is used to getting everywhere via inefficient cars in sprawl that was created by these cars, but we can’t possible continue like this. The future lies in figuring out how to get people and goods around *without* cars.

  • Walter


    “Would you prefer a medal or a chest to pin it on?”

    Neither. I’d prefer you resisted cute little one line asides when you know you’ve lost a debate. If you don’t have a refutation, be man enough to admit it.


    You’re right. I drive Masonic twice a day and – it works. You can actually travel from Geary to Haight in maybe 5 minutes. Meanwhile, the 43 does it’s thing efficiently too.

    And the fact that I almost never see a cyclist on Masonic (apart from lost, ill-fated Europeans) shows that, as I think Pete was saying a few weeks ago, that there are plenty of north-south alternatives that are leafier, quieter and safer. But which probably won’t be if I am compelled by congestion to make up time on them because the “new” Masonic is snarled up with traffic and ideological smugness in about equal measures.

    Can we resist the temptation to re-engineer EVERY street in the city? But rather accept that some streets work better for cars and others work better for bikes? If the SFBC truly wants segregation, then let’s have it! Even with a bike lane on Fell, many take Hayes for a quieter ride. We can all win here. It doesn’t have to a “them versus us” battle. There’s a better way.

  • The comments about traffic getting “jammed up” by this plan don’t seem very credible to me. I expect the same people would have had the same objections about the plans to redesign Arguello or Valencia before those streets had vehicle lanes removed to make room for bike lanes.

    Most likely, this plan will be implemented and it will be an improvement for people who live in the area (especially ped people), and traffic won’t actually get jammed up at all.

  • “Most likely, this plan will be implemented and it will be an improvement for people who live in the area (especially ped people), and traffic won’t actually get jammed up at all.”

    No, that’s actually not likely at all. The city’s own traffic numbers say otherwise. The EIR on the Bicycle Plan said otherwise. “Significant impacts” is what’s going to happen on all the intersections on Masonic between Fell Street and Geary. You’re taking away all the street parking—167 spaces—to essentially make bike lanes. But that parking on both sides of the street double as extra lanes during rush hours in the morning and the afternoon. Masonic has traffic all day long, but of course it’s worse early in the morning and early in the evening when people are going and returning from work.

    I often shop at the Lucky Market at Fulton and Masonic, I often use the #5 Muni line at that intersection. As a pedestrian I never have any trouble crossing Masonic. The lights work well, and they give you enough time to cross the street.

    Masonic Avenue is not broken. It does not need to be fixed. It’s working well for more than 44,000 people a day. Leave it alone.

  • Sprague

    Well put, jd. Few of us readily concede that, when travelling by car, our mode of travel is not only damaging to the environment but also to the people in the neighborhoods we pass through. The Masonic “Boulevard” proposal would create a street where all road users can feel safe, something that isn’t the case today. Because of the layout of adjacent streets in the Anza Vista neighborhood, there is no topographically logical alternative to Masonic for cyclists travelling along that corridor.

    The main reason why many people choose not to bike in SF (be it to work or even on shorter rides in their own neighborhoods) is because they do not feel safe doing so. The Masonic “Boulevard” proposal is a win for all road users. With inviting and safe cycletracks and improved bus stops and crosswalks, alternatives to driving become more attractive, resulting in fewer cars. That is the beauty of designing streets for all road users.

    Rather than clinging to the status quo of loud streets that discourage modes of travel other than driving, we can help enable the transformation of our streets into ones that serve us all.

  • “Because of the layout of adjacent streets in the Anza Vista neighborhood, there is no topographically logical alternative to Masonic for cyclists travelling along that corridor.”

    If I was traveling south on a bike—an unlikely eventuality, admittedly—I would take Masonic to Turk, make a left to Central, and then make a right down the hill on Central, where there is very little traffic. Central takes you to Hayes and Grove, which leads to Baker to cross the Panhandle there or whatever.

    “The main reason why many people choose not to bike in SF (be it to work or even on shorter rides in their own neighborhoods) is because they do not feel safe doing so.”

    Riding a bike has certain innate dangers; if something goes wrong and you take a spill, you’re going to get hurt, which is something I’m not willing to risk in my daily rounds; I’ll stick to muni and walking. And if you get hit by a motor vehicle riding your bike, you get hurt even worse, though only 1.8 cyclists die on city streets per year. Some cyclists are in denial about the dangers and seem to think the city should make it perfectly safe, which is impossible.

    “The Masonic ‘Boulevard’ proposal is a win for all road users.”

    No, that’s simply not true. It benefits only cyclists; it will delay traffic for everyone else, which is what the city’s own numbers show.

  • icarus12

    I know that some folks find Rob Anderson and some of the other commenters egregious. I, however, found this debate very enlightening and the comments extremely well-written. Thanks to all.

    As a weekend driver on Masonic and a cyclist who weekly finds Masonic unnecessary for getting from the downtown/Nob Hill to the Haight (I use the side streets), I expected I would oppose the Masonic redesign. But I have to say it looks pretty usable.

    And a reality check: after nearly four years, I convinced my wife to ride with me from Nob Hill to Ocean Beach (her fifth ride overall in that time). I continue to do everything I can to make cycling more inviting for her. (That’s a lot of tune-ups, bike gloves, maps, coffee & book browsing stops along the way!) But her main concern as a beginner is the traffic which she is convinced is going to hit her. She avoids all busy and all narrow streets and is frightened of sharrows. So for her and many other novice riders, green bike lanes, separated cycle tracks, and the flattest possible routes are her ticket to venturing out on a bike. Her perception of danger makes me look at Masonic quite differently.

  • Walter


    I do feel strongly that this should not be a local decision, and certainly not restricted to the residents of a few block of Masonic. (I don’t think anyone is suggesting that, but the poll was narrowly focused).

    Masonic is the best north-south route across the city between Gough/Franklin and Park Presidio. And the only vehicular route that crosses the Panhandle. As such, it’s a transportation asset for the entire City, and beyond.

    Moreover, those residents of Masonic CHOSE to buy ot rent there. and now they’re there, perhaps having bought or rented their place more cheaply as a result, they want to move the goal posts and get a windfall uplife in home prices. So – not exactly objective.

    And as I argued before, I think decisions need to be made broader not narrower. NIMBY’ism rarely works out in the public interest.

    I’m fine with beautifying some of the uglier streets in SF. And a tree-lined median looks green and calming. But I’d need to believe an analysis of the real impact of this on vehicular speeds and volumes before rubber-stamping it. And removing that many parking spaces is a factor too.


    You’re right about cycling being intrinsically dangerous. I won’t let my children ride bikes anywhere in the City except GG Park. I don’t care what kind of bike lane or path we have – there will always be vehicles turning and parking in them. Not to mention potholes, skateboarders, homeless people with carts and so on.

    Cycling is great for the minority who are young, fit, able and risk-averse. It can never be a total transportation solution for the rest of us, for moving bulky items or for those of a nervous disposition.

  • I dunno about you guys but I love seeing Rob on the losing side of an issue. I feel no need to convince or educate him, much as he didn’t really care if we changed our minds about the bike plan. Educate the people in the middle. They are on our side – no matter Rob Anderson, the New York Post, or SFGate’s commenters.

    Note Rob says there is an election coming up where people will get to vote on the consequences. Note that Mayor Bloomberg and JSK had been striping lanes and closing streets for a while, and despite the New York Post complaining about the “WAR ON CARS” – Bloomberg was easily re-elected. The dream Mayor for Rob would probably be Alioto-Pier. She won’t top 2%.

  • jd

    Rob, cycling is NOT intrinsically dangerous. In fact, it is intrinsically healthy. The only danger when cycling comes from cars (okay, if you’re mountain biking downhill really fast, that’s a different story, but we’re talking about city commute bicycling). You can have whatever opinion you want on this issue, but the experts (health researchers) repeatedly have shown that, EVEN with the dangerous due to cars, the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks. See, for example,

    Now, in case you haven’t noticed, what many people are trying to do is remove the danger from cars by adding much better bicycle infrastructure. And in this case, hands-down cycling is safer and more healthy than driving. Not to mention it’s better for the environment and the livability of our cities. How can you argue that sitting on your butt and hardly moving (especially in light of our obesity epidemic), creating all kinds of pollution, inefficiently using limited natural resources, and driving thousands of pounds of metal at very fast speeds is possibly safe? To argue that bicycles are more dangerous than cars/buses is irrational. The only thing safer than a bicycle is walking (which has risks too … how many people get hurt in falls while walking?). In order of increased health, minimizing environmental footprint, and contributing to livability of cities, the best transit modes are, from best to worst: walking, cycling, public transit, cars. That’s an established fact. That isn’t to say that therefore we can’t ever use cars (after all, there are certain things that cars do best … though driving to work everyday solo in an over-sized car is most certainly not one of them), but it means that we should be trying to minimize their usage.

    Walter wrote: “Cycling is great for the minority who are young, fit, able and risk-averse. It can never be a total transportation solution for the rest of us, for moving bulky items or for those of a nervous disposition.”

    False. This is an anachronistic position which needs to change. Look at northern European cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, etc for proof that this is not true. Sure, bicycling can not handle huge loads, or very long distances, or does it work for certain people with physical handicaps, or even severe weather (although, as the Norwegians say: “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing”). But guess how many people have those issues who are driving on our roads today? A small minority. Most people are driving solo with nothing in their car but a bag, are certainly healthy enough to ride a bike (if a little overweight … but that’s just one problem the bicycle is good at solving), and 40% of all trips are two miles less, perfect distance for bicycling. If the only people who were using our roads were those who had loads too large for a bike, had physical limitations, or traveling too far, our traffic problems would be SOLVED. The harsh reality is, the vast majority of people who drive in our urban environments can certainly replace many of their trips with cycling. Nobody wants to get rid of cars, but most people are coming to realize that they have many negatives that have been long neglected, and hence their usage should be minimized to only those cases where they are absolutely necessary.

    Walter, regarding the viewpoint that others from outside the neighborhood should have a say, I’ve already made my point previously and stand by it. If you have everybody from other areas deciding everybody else’s local policy, you end up with a mess. That process brings out the worst in human behavior (selfishness, ie, nimby-ism) and represses the best (working together and having empathy for one another).

    Rob, unfortunately, it’s easy for you to suggest how a bicyclist should travel through that point of the city. The reality is, if you don’t do it regularly, you don’t truly understand the trials and tribulations and dangers of trying to get around by bicycle in a city dominated by 3000lb, fast-moving cars with drivers whose senses are dulled. On the other hand, just about *every* cyclist I know also drives (and of course, we all walk). For me personally, I once was one of those people who drove everywhere and used to get really annoyed at cyclists. And it wasn’t that I was a bad person, but I had no understanding and hence empathy towards what cyclists face, and I also was completely oblivious to the problems with driving (thanks to a culture that glorifies the car).

    In order to come up with a solution to any issue, you must have understanding of, and hence empathy towards, another person’s viewpoint. You can’t just tell bicyclists how they should ride if you haven’t experienced it. Just like you can’t have elected officials who don’t ride public transit trying to solve public transit problems. Or like you can’t have arm-chair doctors telling a surgeon how to do his job. In this society, thankfully, we put the opinion of those who are experts and directly involved in the issue over those who are not. That doesn’t mean your opinions aren’t valid on other issues (say, for example, MUNI), but it does mean that you don’t have understanding of and hence empathy towards cyclists, and I think most people are going to be skeptical of your viewpoint on bicycle issues.

    I always make this claim to people who don’t ride: try it. I don’t mean once. I mean, try commuting regularly by bicycle for, say, a month or two. Give it enough time that you can say you’ve really done it and experienced what’s it’s like, day after day. You have to do it enough days to have a large enough sample set to experience some of the crazy shit that happens out there to cyclists. And also, play with your route and see what it’s like trying different roads: ones that have great bike lanes but are way out of the way, or ones that don’t have great bike lanes but are direct routes, or ones that have big hills, or ones where the traffic is moving fast, etc. See what it’s like to arrive to work invigorated. See what it’s like to actually watch the weight drop on the scale. See what it’s like to actually interact with others (though being a pedestrian you also experience this). I can *guarantee* you that doing so will provide you with a perspective you had not seen before. And I think it will give your opinions on these issues greater respect.

  • John, exactly. Rob isn’t worth the breath. He has an agenda and is deeply vested.

    JohnB, now those people who live near or on Masonic are trying to cash in this? How about they want a more walkable, viable neighborhood? Side note, you commute twice a day on Masonic? I thought you rode the J? Or does your commute change with your name? I don’t see how you can expect anyone to take you seriously

    Rob, “It benefits only cyclists”. No, no it doesn’t. Curb bulbouts and better sight lines will make it safer for pedestrians as well. Bus bulbouts will mean the bus doesn’t have to dip in and out of traffic at every stop, not just speeding the trip but also making for a more pleasant ride. However, you need to frame this as “bike nuts” taking over the city because that is what you have been chirping on your blog for 5+ years. This will be built and life will go on and more people will be biking.

  • I think this touches on the hyperbole of the car fanatic, albeit from a NYC perspective. I’d love to see an analysis of SF streets. Hell, even add in Fell and Masonic (even though they aren’t done yet) and I bet you’ll still see barely any of the street space has been touched.

  • It’s not done yet, and screwing up Masonic comes with some political risk to the supervisors. The city’s claims about benefits to Muni passengers and pedstrians are nothing but bunk, window-dressing for caving in to the Bicycle Coalition and the oh-so-fashionable anti-car movement.

    Bloomberg’s push on bike lanes in New York came before his re-election, which was a lot closer than he thought it would be.

    No, Alioto-Pier ran with the lemmings on the Bicycle Plan and the city’s attempt to rush it through illegally without any environmental review. But David Chiu is a bike zealot, which puts the whole anti-car issue in play in the mayoral race. He should be asked about what the Bicycle Plan is doing to city streets and whether he supports Congestion Pricing, Critical Mass, etc.

    On bike safety: even bike experts like Robert Hurst, John Forester, and our own Bert Hill say that most cycling accidents are “solo falls” that have nothing to do with other vehicles.

  • jd

    Rob wrote: “On bike safety: even bike experts like Robert Hurst, John Forester, and our own Bert Hill say that most cycling accidents are “solo falls” that have nothing to do with other vehicles.”

    I’m not going to be baited into a tangential discussion of what causes bicycle accidents.

    However (and regardless of what causes bicycles accidents), what I (and the experts) stand by is this statement: bicycles have a net health benefit to those that ride them (and as a corollary, also to those who don’t ride them since they get to reap the benefits of less cars and hence less traffic accidents and pollution). That doesn’t mean people don’t get hurt on bikes. They most certainly do. And people get hurt walking. Hell, people get hurt doing just about anything! But the statistics show that many less people are hurt by bicycles than cars. It’s simple physics: bikes weigh less and travel slower than cars. Plus, in addition, whereas the motorist is sitting still getting zero exercise, the bicyclist is getting exercise, which is healthy. Especially since heart disease, of which a huge contributor is lack of exercise, is the #1 killer in the US.

    Again, read the study I linked to above. And try to show one that says the opposite. And then imagine the same study done without cars being in the mix; the net health benefits to everyone would be phenomenal.


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