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SPUR Talk: The Election and the Bay Area’s Future

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David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics and Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting Discuss the Election. Photo: Streetsblog.

David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics and Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting discuss the election with a packed house at SPUR SF. Photo: Streetsblog.

Wednesday afternoon SPUR sponsored a discussion about the previous day’s election and what it could mean for the Bay Area. The panel consisted of Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics. It was attended by some seventy people, with at least ten more standing in the back.

First, Clemens gave his initial impressions. “In the greater scheme of things this was a crap election,” he gibed. Turnout, their charts showed, has fallen from a historic high of forty percent in 2008 to thirty percent in more recent years “which we should all be rightfully ashamed of,” he said. But, he added, perhaps the low turnout shouldn’t be a huge surprise. “We had five local elections that had no opposition, [and] a presidential race and a state senate race that won’t get decided until November.” Latterman explained that turnout figures would improve as the final counting is completed. Read more…

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SPUR Talk: Dancing on the Grave of “Level of Service”

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Sarah Fine and Jeff Tumlin talked about the implications of the life and welcome death of “Level of Service.” Photo: Streetsblog.

Wednesday evening, SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, sponsored a talk entitled “Reconsidering Transportation to Create Better Urban Spaces” at their new downtown Oakland location. The talk focused on the history and damage done by the almost mindless adherence over the years to Level of Service (LOS) on urban spaces throughout California.

“We’re wearing black,” joked Jeff Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy with Nelson\Nygaard, “because we’re talking about the death of LOS.” LOS, for Streetsblog readers who might not be aware, is a way to measure traffic impacts of development projects that made its way into California environmental law. Although ostensibly designed to protect the environment, most livable streets advocates blame it for destroying urban spaces and actually making traffic and air pollution far worse.

Tumlin explained that LOS wasn’t originally part of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). “It was something the courts came up with,” he said. “They fixated on this single metric that measures the average seconds of delay that a car experiences—just in the peak fifteen minutes of the peak hour.”

In other words, if an intersection is all but unused, but analysis shows that a project would cause delay during the most congested fifteen minutes of the busiest hour of the day, the project would have to do something to mitigate that delay—typically, widen the nearby intersection. The result is well known to livable streets advocates—the state is now littered with streets that are wide and unwalkable. Meanwhile, thanks to induced demand, traffic has only gotten progressively worse. Read more…

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SF Budget: Better Muni and Vision Zero…But November Tax Has to Pass

Additional funding for the Van Ness BRT Project, depicted here, was one of the projects highlighted in the Mayor's proposed budget. Image: SFMTA.

Additional funding for the Van Ness BRT Project, depicted here, was one of the projects highlighted in the Mayor’s proposed budget. Image: SFMTA.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee released his 455-page budget proposal on Tuesday. It includes $9.6 billion in fiscal year 2016-17  for transportation, police officers, and street cleaning, a $700 million increase in funds. The fiscal year runs from July 1 of this year until June 30 of next year.

The transportation section runs from pages 315 to 322–here are some highlights:

The proposed budget includes an additional $15 million in FY 2016-17 and $62.2 million in FY 2017-18 in new transportation funding. Once fully implemented in FY 2017-18, these investments will provide $28.7 million for Muni fleet, infrastructure upgrades, and transit optimization, $9.6 million for equity and affordability initiatives, $14.3 million to support regional transit projects and fleet needs, and $9.6 million to fully fund street safety projects that are consistent with the City’s Vision Zero policy.

Lee was presenting the budget as a step forward for the city’s transit programs and safety initiatives.

“The result is the SFMTA’s first-ever $1 billion operating budget to improve transit performance and reliability. The SFMTA operates the nation’s eighth largest public transit system and it serves every neighborhood,” said Lee in his Proposed Balanced Budget Speech, on Tuesday.

“To invest in the future of Muni, my proposed budget also includes significant investments in capital improvements, including nearly $26 million for new hybrid buses and light rail vehicles, and $5.9 million in street and pedestrian safety projects to move the City closer to its Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities by 2024,” he added.

Lee also noted that the budget maintained funding for Muni’s free programs for seniors, youth, and people with disabilities.

“This budget contains very robust investment in a number of critical transportation needs,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose Proposition B is responsible for much of the growth in the transportation and safe streets portion of the budget. Prop B instituted a city charter amendment mandating annual increases in the share of general funds set aside for transportation, based on population growth. In this budget, Prop. B is “pushing $30 million or more over to transportation,” he said.

Over the next two weeks, the Budget Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will be taking a look at the document and making further recommendations. Read more…

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Litter and Livable Streets

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Why are some neighborhoods covered in litter? Photo: Streetsblog.

Why are some neighborhoods covered in litter? Photo: Streetsblog.

A few weeks ago, I found an apartment in the Outer Mission. It had a view of Twin Peaks, plenty of room, and it was in my price range. It is a short bike ride to the great transportation links at Balboa Park Station. It also was a half-block from a stop on the 14-Mission bus. There’s a nice cafe down the street, a couple of small markets within a few blocks, and pretty much everything a Livable Streets advocate could ask for, except for bike lanes, but hopefully those will come.

As I negotiated with the owner, I started hanging out in the area as much as possible, to see how I liked it. Almost right away, I noticed a lack of pedestrian traffic. Despite Lincoln Park and the Cayuga Playground, both a few blocks away, a large supermarket on Alemany, and some nice restaurants, and a fair amount of car traffic, I saw virtually nobody out walking.

And there was a whole lot of trash. At first I thought it was because of the powerful winds that came through a few days prior; perhaps they had blown over some trash cans. But the litter stayed. Nobody swept up in front of their shops. As I explored further, I noticed even more trash.

What struck me even more was the stark contrast with the neighborhoods on the other side of I-280. Less than two miles to the west I could find litter if I looked for it, but I wasn’t tripping over it. On the weekends, I saw people outside cleaning up their front yards and sidewalks with rakes and brooms. Same with graffiti: to the west of I-280, it’s there, but harder to find. East of I-280, it’s pretty prominent.
Read more…

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Breaking News: Cyclist Assaulted on Market

“BBnet3000” posted this video of an assault on a cyclist on Market Street on the Streetsblog website this morning:

The video shows a confrontation between a cyclist and a motorist who parked his car in the bike lane on Market at Van Ness. It’s a disturbing incident and unfortunately all too common. Other commenters are already taking the cyclist to task for being aggressive, but wherever you stand on that question, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s against the law to park in the bike lane, even to discharge passengers. It’s also against the law to drive a car at a cyclist and get out and spit at them. This is a case where SFPD can do something, but they need your help.

Streetsblog has been in touch with Supervisor Jane Kim’s office and the SFPD about the incident. Here’s part of what SFPD Commander Ann Mannix had to say in an email to Streetsblog:

Terrible event. Does the video come from the woman the driver spat at? She would have to sign a citizen’s arrest for the incident then the district investigations can follow up on the incident. The passenger did the right thing to calm the situation…Let me know if she [the cyclist] is willing to sign a citizen’s arrest and then we will attempt to identify the driver (not necessarily the registered owner of the car). I have cc’ed the captains of both the Mission and Southern Stations as the event likely occurred in both of their districts.

So if somebody out there knows the victim, please email tips@sf.streetsblog.org

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A Safer Masonic on the Way

Michael Helquist and Dale Danley looking pleased to see Maconic improvements finally happening. Photo: Streetsblog

Michael Helquist and Dale Danley looking pleased to see Masonic Avenue improvements finally happening. Photo: Streetsblog

Wednesday evening some 130 local residents and other interested parties dropped in at the San Francisco Day School to learn about the construction phase of SFMTAs Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project. To quote SFMTA’s own release about the project:

With construction starting in June 2016, the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project is an effort to improve safety for people walking, biking, taking transit and driving on Masonic Avenue between Geary Boulevard and Fell Street. It will bring a variety of improvements to the corridor including, wider sidewalks, a new median, new paving, landscaping, raised bikeways, better lighting and upgraded sewer infrastructure.

The meeting was primarily to let local residents know what to expect from the jack hammers and traffic delays they will experience from June through late 2017, when construction is scheduled to be completed.

Michael Helquist, an advocate with “Fix Masonic” who helped raise support for the changes over the years, was thrilled. “This took several years of going door to door to build support,” he said. “Safety is my biggest concern.”

And, indeed, this is a corridor that needed it. Also from SFMTA’s data:

From 2009 to 2014, there were 113 traffic collisions on Masonic Avenue between Fell Street and Geary Boulevard. This includes 14 pedestrian collisions and 24 bicycle collisions, including two fatalities.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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A Different Ride of Silence: Rich City RIDES

Riders gather at City Hall before the Ride of Silence begins. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Riders gather at City Hall before the Ride of Silence begins. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Last Thursday, May 18, was the day of the International Ride of Silence. In many cities—26 Californian cities, according to the California Bicycle Coalition—bike riders gathered to commemorate bicyclists and pedestrians who have died in traffic crashes. San Francisco was one such city. So was Richmond. But that city’s Ride of Silence was about a lot more than traffic violence.

In Richmond, riders gathered to remember four young people who died as a result of gun violence since 2016 began.

Najari Smith, founder of Rich City RIDES, wanted to create a Ride of Silence that acknowledged the serious problems that keep people not only from riding bikes in Richmond but that prevent young people from feeling safe in their own neighborhoods. “This event is part of the national annual Ride of Silence that brings attention to cyclists maimed or killed while riding on urban streets,” he wrote on the group’s Facebook page, “but Rich City RIDES is remixing it to address the needs of our community. In the Rich, my sisters and brothers are far too busy dodging beef and bullets to worry about car traffic and so for this, the fifth Annual Richmond Ride of Silence, we’re bringing the attention where it needs to be.”

Some people’s attention was still on car traffic. At Richmond City Hall, where the riders gathered before the ride, Alex Knox, representing the Mayor, pointed out that the city had seen no serious injuries or fatalities among bicyclists this year, “although we did have one dooring incident,” he said. The victim of the dooring spoke for a moment, reminding the gathered listeners that she was lucky. “Never assume that you are seen,” she said.

She was lucky, indeed. And she’s right—cyclists are safer when they are seen. But that is not always the case for everyone in the public space. For the four victims honored by Rich City RIDES this night, the problem wasn’t that they weren’t seen. All of them died as a result of the the kind of violence that won’t be fixed with traffic calming or bike lanes and road diets.

Which is why the community work being undertaken by Smith and Rich City RIDES is about much more than getting out on a bike on a balmy May evening and experiencing new, “safe” bike lanes. Smith spoke to the group of the importance of making biking safer, but also of making the entire city safe for all of its residents.

Read more…

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SFSU Students Study How to Un-Suck Biking to BART

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Professor Jason Henderson's "Bicycle Geographies" class explores how infrastructure could make cycling from BART to class safe and fun. Photo: ???TK

Professor Jason Henderson’s “Bicycle Geographies” class (seen with additional university staff in this photo) explores how infrastructure could make cycling from BART to class safe and fun. Photo: Nolen Brown

Professor Jason Henderson’s “Bicycle Geographies” class wants the ride from Daily City BART to San Francisco State University’s campus to be comfortable and fun.

And why shouldn’t it be?

After all, it’s only a 1.6 mile trip that should take even a novice cyclist about 15 minutes. Given the proximity to BART, this should be a no-brainer. But thanks to some harrowing intersections, high-speed traffic lanes, and oddly placed and timed “safety measures,” it’s anything but.

“That route probably felt quite calm in a big group with 40-plus people in a group ride,” said Joshua Handel, one of five students in the class, during a presentation to administrators at the school. Handel is referring to a Bike to Work Day ride done earlier this month with staff and students.

“But when one does it alone, there’s a lot of traffic stress,” he continued.  Read more…

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A Time to Remember

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DylanMitchellThree years ago today, 21-year-old Dylan Mitchell was riding his bike east on 16th Street when a garbage truck traveling in the same direction turned on South Van Ness and collided with him. He died at the scene–a scene where flowers were left during Thursday night’s “Ride of Silence.”

Mitchell was one of almost fifty cyclists killed while riding the streets of San Francisco who were remembered that evening. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when one tries to sum up the pain caused by San Francisco’s deadly combination of unsafe streets and twisted priorities, where street parking is given weight over human life and limb.

Riders started to assemble in the Sports Basement on Bryant around 5:30 Thursday night. Despite the nature of the meeting, spirits were generally high. People were there to enjoy the company of other survivors, it seemed, as much as remember the dead. Devon Warner, the event organizer, stressed that everyone “gets used to close calls” riding a bike in San Francisco. Every rider knows it’s just a matter of luck who gets killed and who survives.

Read more…

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Police Chief Resigns: What Does it Mean for Livable Streets?

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up at a stop light on Seventh Street on yesterday's bike-share celebration ride to City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up during happier times (in this case on a bike-share celebration ride to City Hall). Photo: Aaron Bialick

As Streetsblog readers have surely heard, police Chief Greg Suhr was forced to resign Thursday after the shooting of an apparently unarmed woman by SFPD. The police shootings of Mario Woods in December and Luis Gongora in April both seemed to show a department where officers are failing to deescalate situations and are too quick to resort to deadly force. As the Chronicle explained:

Mayor Lee had stood by the chief he appointed in 2011 through two controversial police shootings within the past six months and revelations that a number of officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. But at a late-afternoon news conference at City Hall, the mayor said that after Thursday’s shooting, he had “arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.”

It’s a tricky thing, taking a safe-streets perspective on the resignation. Obviously, the shootings, the texts, and other incidents have contributed to a heightened distrust between the SFPD and communities of color. But it would be remiss not to point out the overlap between vulnerable road users, the disadvantaged, and the way they are treated by city agencies, including the police. It’s no coincidence that the Tenderloin, in addition to all its other problems, is the district with the highest rate of pedestrian-versus-car injuries. And it is the last to get any bike lanes and safety measures. As Walk San Francisco’s director Nicole Ferrara put it:

The recent actions by SFPD have been deeply troubling and we support rapid reforms to ensure that black and brown communities in San Francisco are treated with respect, dignity and equity. We have been working with SFPD to ensure that they are sharing data on crashes and citations, including racial data.

Chief Suhr supported Vision Zero, San Francisco’s ambitious program to eliminate traffic deaths, publicly. But that didn’t seem to bear out on the ground. As Streetsblog readers will recall, just last month a tipster sent us a photo of Suhr’s car parked illegally in front of City Hall, blocking sight lines a few feet from where 68-year-old Priscila Moreto was mowed down by a motorist a few years before.

He was also at odds with bike community over the Bike Yield Law. Read more…