As SFMTA Looks to Calm Traffic on Scott, Parking Warriors Get Loud

One vision for Scott as ##http://sf.streetsblog.org/2012/05/30/envisioning-the-wiggle-as-a-people-centered-greenway/##rendered by the SF Bicycle Coalition##.

The SFMTA held a public meeting last week about how to calm traffic on three blocks of Scott Street along the Wiggle. On the table are design features that would signal drivers to slow down and possibly prevent them from using the street as a cut-through route. Even though planners say the project may remove few, if any, parking spaces, a familiar handful of pro-car activists showed up to fume about the agency’s livable streets projects in general.

The SFMTA held the meeting to get feedback on various treatments to slow car and bicycle traffic on Scott — and there was consensus among attendees that slower traffic was needed to make the street more comfortable for pedestrians, particularly as growing numbers of bike commuters use the crosstown route. Treatments on the table include traffic diverters, which filter out motor vehicle through-traffic but allow for free-flowing bicycle and pedestrian movement and retain access for local car trips. Also under consideration are raised crosswalks, roundabouts and bulb-outs with greenery, and other design changes that calmed residential streets in other cities but aren’t widespread in San Francisco.

“As we’ve been looking into this, we definitely find that there are some [characteristics] that make [Scott] a good candidate to do something a little bit different,” said Miriam Sorrell, a planner at the SFMTA’s Livable Streets subdivision.

Most residents said that crossing streets around the Wiggle was often an uncomfortable experience, and some welcomed a significant change to the status quo. But a few people criticized the diverters because car owners would have to change their routes to access their block when driving, and seemed to believe that most residents own cars (which is not supported by census data).

When the meeting opened up for comments, Jung O’Donnell stood up to loudly denounce what she perceives as the SFMTA’s “war on cars” that she sees as essential to family life: “It makes it so much harder for people like me to live in the city when you’re so anti-car,” O’Donnell told SFMTA staffers. She did not refer specifically to the Scott project.

O’Donnell complained primarily about the recently-approved and funded redesign on Masonic Avenue, where pedestrian safety improvements, greening, raised bike lanes, and fewer motor traffic lanes are poised to reduce injuries on a street where studies show parking occupancy is generally low. Even though the plan would remove all parking on that stretch of Masonic, the plan was chosen with broad support at an extensive series of community meetings. Flyers were recently posted on Masonic mocking the rhetoric from the group trying to stop the plan.

“I know the Bicycle Coalition has five well-paid executives who are there lobbying, and that’s wonderful, but think about the people who live here too,” said O’Donnell, eliciting applause from some attendees.

O’Donnell was among a handful of speakers who have protested against other projects like the bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements on Polk, Fell and Oak Streets, and the expansion of parking meters in the eastern neighborhoods. Others included Howard Chabner and Ted Lowenberg, who filed an appeal against the Fell and Oak plan, and Robert Francis, who makes a plethora of unsupported claims about SFPark’s motives on his misleadingly labeled website, SFPark.info.

Not all attendees were so opposed to changes like traffic diverters if it would make the street more livable. One man, who noted that he didn’t ride a bike himself, said he welcomes the increase in bicycle traffic because “bicycling is a way to help solve some of the city’s problems,” though it has to work well for the pedestrian environment, too.

Beverly Best, who bikes, drives, and lives on Page Street between Scott and Piece Streets, said she favored “something on the more aggressive side at Page and Scott, diverting [traffic] both ways.”

“We’ve got to slow it down,” she said.

Planners from the SFMTA and the Netherlands sketched out a conceptual idea for redesigning Scott as part of the ThinkBike workshops in September 2011. That proposal included many of the features which the SFMTA is considering now, including restricting some blocks to one-way car traffic.

Street improvements on Scott would be incorporated into the broader Wiggle project lead by the SFMTA and the SF Public Utilities Commission.

  • Anonymous

    People don’t get frightened by cars going 10 MPH, they just get killed and that’s that. Even if they are sunbathing on the grass in a park.

  • Anonymous

    I guess that’s the real difference between you and other people who
    post here is that you seem to think that if only we’d obey laws that
    make little sense on bikes we’d get more support making our streets
    safer. I couldn’t disagree more. People would just make other
    arguments for why we shouldn’t have good cyclist infrastructure like
    they’ve always done.

    +1000000

    Face it – the lift to get someone who could give a rat’s ass about riding a bike to support spending money on bicycle infrastructure is a hell of a lot higher than getting random cyclists to stop at stop signs. It should be very clear that an educated public is a very worthwhile goa – yet every time a school bond comes up for a vote, it is always a heavy lift because people who do not have school children vote heavily against it.

    The only way to convince someone who will never cycle to support cycling is to get them to be empathetic to those who do, or to understand the value that accrues to everyone by replacing car trips with bike trips. And that’s not a very heavy lift in general. Anyone who is capable of understanding those concepts will overlook the scofflaws, anyone who cannot will simply use the scofflaws to backstop their illogical position.

  • I cross at Market and Van Ness (and nearby streets all along Market) many times per week on foot. The number of times any bicyclist blocks my way, takes my right-of-way, or does anything to inconvenience or threaten me: basically never. (If someone has stopped in a crosswalk, there’s generally still room to walk by them).

    Having said that, I don’t tend to have problems with cars, either…

  • NoeValleyJim

    When we have driverless electric cars we can talk. For now, you are imagining something that does not exist.

  • Completely agree, although I would also suggest changing all intersections in the Wiggle to shared spaces with large clear, “always yield to pedestrians”signs but no other traffic markings. See this video, “Poynton Regnerated,” for how such a shared space calms traffic, increases safety, and improves the very character of a neighborhood/town (a town that incidentally has much, much more traffic than the Wiggle.)

    And if the police want to do something useful to promote safe bicycling they would stop wasting their time ticketing bicyclists for rolling through stop signs at low speed when there are no pedestrians or other traffic around (a labor intensive enforcement measure that does nothing to improve safety) and instead ticket bicyclists for failing to yield to pedestrians and other traffic when they do exist at an intersection (a labor-intensive enforcement measure that does improve safety).

    Both as a pedestrian and as a bicyclist, I don’t want bicyclists blasting through intersections at high speeds heedless of everyone else who got to the intersection before them. But forcing bicyclists to constantly stop just for the sake of stopping is idiotic. Bicycles are not cars, and the fact that even police officers on bikes roll through four way stops when there is no other traffic should make the absurdity of treating bikes exactly the same as cars plain.

  • And yet collision statistics show that cars are the far greater danger, so “very much justified” isn’t referring to any sort of objective fact. Worrying about bikes more than cars is a misperception, probably a result of a lifetime of unconscious adjustment and acceptance of the constant danger that cars are constantly putting us in.

  • Anthony R

    Relieving traffic and offering citizens an alternative to inconvenient, expensive, polluting auto travel IS thier job. Oh, and traffic slowing and bumpouts are integral to improving muni efficiency.

  • The Overhead Wire

    Though the pavement along the wiggle right now is a defacto rumble strip. Need to fix that soon.

  • Mike

    Dear gneiss, murphstahoe and others, I have NEVER said cyclists should not get better infrastructure, or that cyclists are a greater danger than drivers. Please don’t put words in my mouth or assume that someone who is mildly critical of your opinion must be wholly critical of your position. My whole point was and continues to be to not be dismissive of what people speaking from the point of a pedestrian have to say about their experiences with people on bikes going too fast, cutting them off, etc. By being dismissive, you are not creating any bridges in the discussion and act in the same manner as hot-headed anti-cyclists whose minds are set.

  • Anonymous

    Dear gneiss, murphstahoe and others, I have NEVER said cyclists should
    not get better infrastructure, or that cyclists are a greater danger
    than drivers (under this one of my several nom de plumes)

  • Don Marshall

    @Mike…the pedestrian has to get around them…there is no point about whining or making a fuss about these little things. When I am a pedestrian and I see a cyclist blocking my way, it only takes one second or half a second to get around the cyclist so I do not see what the big deal is–other than the whining or nitpicking against cyclists.

    The cyclist has to be seen by the motorist and the best thing to do is to get in the very front while waiting for the light to turn green, and not hide in the back or go side by side with the cars. Motorists are in a hurry and are always impatient, therefore, they will tend to forget the cyclist next to them and may even right hook them. But if the cyclist is in front of them, there is a better chance of safety for the cyclist. Give us a break, we are just trying to stay alive out there.

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