Closed Crosswalks Remain Even in Today’s Walkable Hayes Valley

Fell and Gough Streets. Photo: tracktwentynine/Instagram

Hayes Valley may be one of the country’s densest and most walkable urban neighborhoods, but believe it or not, it still has three closed crosswalks — vestiges of the mid-20th century’s cars-first planning.

“For many years, traffic engineers devised ways to pen people in, so that cars weren’t inconvenienced,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “Nowadays, the city realizes how foolish that thought was, especially in an urban environment which thrives on connecting people with people — not people with fast moving cars.”

Last week, a visiting transportation writer who was exploring many of SF’s otherwise-progressive recent livable streets efforts was surprised and ashamed to find pedestrians banned from crossing at one side of the intersection at Gough and Fell Streets. Instead, people walking there are forced to take a detour through three crosswalks instead of one, so that turning car traffic can whisk through unimpeded.

The SFMTA had previously approved re-opening that crosswalk, as well as another at Fell and Franklin Streets. That was over a year ago.

SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said the Fell and Franklin crosswalk is set to be re-opened next month, but that the Fell and Gough crosswalk is on hold and will be implemented late next year, in conjunction with “sewer, water, paving and signal enhancements” to “maximize efficiency.”

As for the closed crosswalk at Oak and Franklin Streets, which would cross three lanes of turning motor traffic, SFMTA planners looked at re-opening it but “decided to not move forward at this time,” said Jose. Opening the crosswalk, or removing a turn lane, would “result in traffic backing up into Market Street,” he said.

“Re-opening crosswalks is a basic walkers’ rights issue,” said Schneider, who pointed out that the Mayor’s Pedestrian Strategy has a goal of opening two crosswalks per year through 2021, and “notes that this is a quick, cost-effective way to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability.”

Robin Levitt of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, and a member of the Market-Octavia Community Advisory Committee, said he’s disappointed that the Oak and Franklin crosswalk won’t be opened any time soon, and that the Fell and Gough crosswalk won’t be opened for at least another year. Still, “It’s been that way forever,” he said, and another year isn’t a big setback.

Nonetheless, “If this was a bottleneck delaying cars, I think they’d probably get on it.”

  • murphstahoe

    Your counter argument in the end is countered by your own original argument. If we add cyclists and get no net loss of drivers, we then get a net addition of people going to work and increase the tax base. Jenga! I mean, if you can count 3rd order benefits… 🙂

    One could argue that the additional traffic capacity of Doyle Drive and the Bay Bridge will make it so much easier to get *into* the city, that it will overwhelm city streets and parking, a disadvantage to *drivers*. We can go on and on. Which we do because it is certainly a vexing problem. grist for the mill, my friend.

  • Dave Moore

    Ah, I never said that removing a lane of cars and replacing it with a lane of bikes resulted in a net increase in cars. I said that some of the claimed benefits of reducing congestion by removing drivers and replacing them with cyclists were possibly offset by this effect.

    So yes, if you add cyclists without removing drivers you would likely increase the tax base. But the things we typically discuss here are not that.

  • cwalkster

    Gezellig writes

    –> the city has a goal of 20% bike modeshare. It’s currently at about 3.6%.

    The logical problem with your statement is the word “goal”.

    Mayor Newsom said in 2007 the city’s goal is to use bicycles for at least 10% of all trips. The goal wasn’t met. Goals cannot be enforced by law.

  • jonobate

    It is actually far harder to divert people from driving for their regular commute. They have less tolerance for waiting and making connections than if they’re going to a ballgame…

    It is true that people have less tolerance for waiting when commuting, but this applies to both transit and driving. Reliability is a major factor in people’s mode choice for commuting, along with cost and speed. If you make transit more reliable, cheaper, and faster than driving, people will flock to it.

    and many individual employment locations aren’t dense enough to have direct transit service.

    This is absolutely *not* the case in Hayes Valley, or anywhere else in the northeast quadrant of SF.

    I don’t disagree with your criticisms of SFMTA and how they handled the concert, but that’s not the issue here.

  • Andy Chow

    The lights on those streets are synced together so whatever solution for the pedestrian crossing needs to be compatible with the synchronization to reduce traffic, collisions, speeding, as well as noise and pollution due to vehicles have to make a lot more stop and go.

  • Gezellig

    Not a logical problem at all, that was intended. Goals influence policy. And yes, exactly, the city is falling far short of its self-stated goals currently.

    In any case bike+ped+transit infrastructure projects are all interrelated. Any false pitting of one against the other is not borne out by reality nor is it anything other than that…false.

  • Andy Chow

    What about people who work in the Sunset District where a lot of them pass through Hayes Valley? Transit availability and speed is much lower compared to downtown.

  • keenplanner

    I think that it’s about time that a “neighborhood sign removal action” takes place. MTA has been dickering around since the 1990’s. It’s all too clear that moving cars is their priority.

  • keenplanner

    The “no ped crossing signs” predate the removal of the freeway and were, in fact, probably installed when the freeway was built, to make freeway access more expedient. Note: The world hasn’t ended since the sign was removed at Hayes/Gough. I don’t expect Armageddon at Fell/Gough either.

  • keenplanner

    Why should Hayes Valley suffer because people from the western neighborhoods want to drive everywhere? The inner neighborhoods deserve safe, calm streets as much as does the outer sunset.

  • keenplanner

    Puhleeze. Crosswalks are not exactly the death of car travel. Crossing streets are a dangerous part of being a pedestrian. Why should we have to wait and cross three times when we could cross once?

  • keenplanner

    And you know this for a fact because?

  • Gezellig

    Exactly. We have to get past this notion of neighborhoods existing so people can drive through them at the highest speeds possible.

  • murphstahoe

    In my world the answer is “improve the transit”, not “screw Hayes Valley”.

    Of course your reply is “once the transit is in place, then we can fix the roads”, but that is simply a strategy to make it more difficult to change the status quo and preserve your stated preference. Oldest trick in the book after “Madest thou look. Hah!’

  • jonobate

    They’ll have to slow down slightly as they drive to work. Big deal.

    Remember, we’re not trying to make everyone to switch to transit, we’re just trying to tilt the cost/benefit assessment of the various commuting options towards transit/cycling/walking and away from driving, so that people for whom transit/cycling/walking is a viable option are likely to make the switch.

    Someone driving from (say) Bayview to the Sunset for work will probably continue to do so; and that’s fine, because those people make up a relatively small number of commuters. We shouldn’t postpone safety and service improvements to transit/cycling/walking just because some people will have a slightly longer drive as a result and don’t have a viable transit alternative.

  • Andy Chow

    The Oak/Fell corridor was designated to protect the rest of the inner neighborhoods. If the idea is that there shouldn’t be any street designed to accommodate higher volume regional traffic, then the cars are going to flood onto other streets, impacting transit that use those streets.

  • murphstahoe

    [citation needed]

  • jonobate

    I doubt that opening one crosswalk at Fell and Gough would result in significant traffic diversions. But if you did end up with significant congestion across the wider street network, you could manage it with congestion pricing.

    The idea that we need to sacrifice certain streets to traffic in order to save other streets needs to be killed. Fell and Oak were built as residential streets, and were later converted into arterials. If you are concerned about traffic impacts, how about helping out the people who live on those streets and have been living with the impacts of high speed motor traffic for decades?

  • SF Guest

    Pedestrians already have the right-of-way even when they cross illegally. If pedestrians wanted to save 1-2 minutes all they would do is simply jaywalk in the middle of the street while cars are waiting at a red light. I have done it myself but never forced any motorist to wait while I jaywalked.

    As a pedestrian myself I witness much more waiting by cars for pedestrians illegally jaywalking than I see cars committing moving violations.

    I get the sense the main objective here is to slow down motorists and as such are to be treated as second class citizens. Walking is not known to be a time-saving method of travel.

    The main goal behind multi-turn lanes is to allow for more fluid traffic. With less fluid traffic it can result in several blocks of backage. Any idea that assists in more fluid traffic with less blockage is a good thing.

  • Filamino

    That’s a bunch of bull. Where is all the new auto infrastructure that you claim is being spent? I haven’t seen a road widening in SF for ages.

  • Filamino

    There are plenty of good (actually BETTER) alternative bike routes that are parallel to 19th Ave, Van Ness, Lombard and Doyle Drive.

  • Filamino

    It means there will be a domino effect at other intersections. Yes, motorists aren’t suppose to stop in the crosswalk, but if new congestion gets so bad, drivers may mistakenly block the crosswalk. Pedestrians then have to weave their way around the stopped cars who may not be stopped once traffic starts moving again.

  • Filamino

    Bull. It’s about looking at the traffic on the streets in the area as a whole. One change at one intersection can have a large effect on the entire area affecting all modes of transportation.

    Once again, another Streetsblog commenter showing their ignorant narrow minded view of how transportation works in the city.

  • Filamino

    No, it takes time and funding to look at all the impacts and the constructibility of crosswalk removals.

    It’s all clear that you don’t know shit and/or refuse to understand the transportation impacts in a city.

  • Your logical fallacy is tiresome inane off-topic irrelevant barftastic crap. (The formal label hinges on the Latin term for “barftastic.”)

  • p_chazz

    Nice attempt at wit. Better luck next time. You must be really bored, to be replying to six-month old comments.

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