SFMTA Starts ‘Pop Up’ Outreach for Sunset Neighborway

Liz Rogers, with her two dogs, told SFMTA she wants better stop signs and stop sign enforcement. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Liz Rogers, with her two dogs, told SFMTA she wants better stop signs and stop sign enforcement. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

There’s a problem with trying to do a pop-up meeting on the corner of 20th Avenue and the Ulloa in the Sunset District–and that problem is wind.

Yesterday, at 4, SFMTA’s Emilio Balingit and Dan Provence came to that corner of Larsen Park to set up a pop-up outreach tent and table as part of the launch of the “20th Avenue Neighborway Project,” a plan to make that street more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. They ended up using just the table, explained Provence, because the tent kept blowing away. That also didn’t work out at first, as seen below, until they managed to find enough paperweights.

Welcome to the Sunset.

Emilion __ and Dan Provence's meeting got off to a bad start when the wind started redistributing their paperwork. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Emilio Balingit and Dan Provence’s meeting got off to a bad start when the wind started redistributing their paperwork. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

The need for the project is obvious. Even with the gusting wind, there was no missing the traffic noise from nearby 19th Avenue, which is basically a street-level freeway. It’s an unpleasant place to walk and downright dangerous place to ride a bike. But since it’s the main thoroughfare between the Sunset and the Golden Gate Bridge, that’s unlikely to change. The problem is, according to neighbors, traffic spills over onto 20th–a neighborhood street that parallels 19th and is supposed to be a safer corridor for cyclists, as well as a place for neighbors to take a walk to shopping or parks, such as nearby Stern Grove.

Only about 20 people stopped by the pop-up table over the course of about the hour and change that Streetsblog observed. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
About 20 people stopped by the pop-up table over the course of about the hour and change that Streetsblog observed. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Provence explained that the project will use speed humps, traffic circles, bulbouts, traffic diverters, and more paint and signs, depending what the community wants, to try and make 20th Avenue a better route for people, and a less attractive route for cut-through traffic. Or, as the project flyer puts it, “The 20th Avenue Neighborway project will investigate a variety of traffic-calming measures aimed at creating a ‘neighborway,’ which is defined as a residential street with low volumes of auto traffic and low vehicle speeds, where bicycles, pedestrians, and residents are given priority over motor vehicle traffic.”

Outreach is scheduled for this summer with preliminary designs due out a few months later. Construction should start in the Fall of 2018.

Cars gridlocked across 20th Ave. on their way to 19th. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Cars gridlocked across 20th Ave. on their way to 19th. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

“It’s very scary as a pedestrian,” said Sherie Yazman, who lives a block away from 20th. “Cars will not stop–they treat it as a suggestion.” She pointed to the intersection of 20th Avenue and Ullola. “Cops could stand here and write thousands of tickets.”

Indeed, cars did mostly “California stops” at the intersection. Alison, who declined to give her last name, is another nearby resident who stopped at the table. “I would like a signal light on Taraval and bulbouts,” she said.

Liz Rogers, seen in the lead photo, also feels unsafe walking in her own neighborhood. “Sasha doesn’t walk too well,” she said, pointing to one of her dogs. “Someone whipped around 20th and Vicente and nearly ran him over.”

Only a handful of cyclists came through and none stopped at the pop-up table during the time Streetsblog was there. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Only a handful of cyclists came through and none stopped at the pop-up table during the time Streetsblog was there. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

From Streetsblog’s perspective, it’s certainly great to hear from local residents about what they want. But we hope SFMTA will drill-down and interpret what they’re saying–for example, Rogers said she saw a flashing stop sign treatment once while visiting Wisconsin. It seemed to work there, so she though it would be a good thing to install flashing stop signs on 20th Avenue. She may be right, but what she’s really saying is the same thing Alison and other visitors said: she wants cars to cross intersections in a consistently cautious and attentive manner. That might be better achieved by treatments that significantly narrow the entrance to intersections, or with traffic circles instead of stop signs, or even a raised table at the intersection or a raised crosswalk.

Or, Streetsblog hopes, SFMTA will consider going even more radical in its efforts to make intersections safe, and block automobile cut-through traffic completely on 20th Avenue. For example, this is how Vancouver, BC prevents cut-through traffic onto neighborhood streets off its busy West Broadway corridor:

An example of a neighborway street in Vancouver, BC.
An example of a a neighborway street in Vancouver, BC. Cars are physically prevented from using this street as a cut through. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Here’s Berkeley’s version of the idea:

Or, closer to home, here's a bicycle boulevard in Berkeley. Photo: Streetsblog NY/Naparstek
Or, closer to home, here’s a bicycle boulevard in Berkeley. Photo: Streetsblog NY/Naparstek

Balingit, meanwhile, is hoping 20th Avenue can become a more popular route for cyclists heading between the Sunset neighborhood, and popular destinations farther to the south, such as Stern Grove, the Stonestown Galleria, and San Francisco State.

The next pop-up meeting about 20th Avenue will be tomorrow, Thursday, June 29, from 4-6 p.m. on the corner of 20th Ave and Irving Street. Paperweights not included.

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