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Posts from the "Central Freeway" Category

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Man in Wheelchair Killed by Freeway-Bound Driver at Market and Octavia

Image: NBC

A man in a wheelchair, reportedly in his 20s, was killed by a driver at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard around midnight last night. SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza said the crash is still under investigation, but that driver appears to have been heading south on Octavia at the entrance of the Central Freeway, where witnesses said the victim was crossing against the light. The man is the 13th known pedestrian to be killed by a driver in SF this year.

In shots from NBC’s television broadcast, the victim’s motorized wheelchair can be seen sitting several dozen feet south of the intersection on the freeway ramp. SFPD investigators have not determined how fast the driver was going.

As media reports have noted, a new enforcement camera was activated Friday to cite drivers making illegal right turns from eastbound Market on to the freeway ramp, but it doesn’t appear the driver was making such a turn in this case.

“News of another pedestrian death on Market and Octavia is truly devastating, and reminds us of the dangers pedestrian face when freeways intermix with city streets,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who noted that another pedestrian suffered “major injuries” after being hit by a driver last Thursday at a freeway onramp near Seventh and Harrison Streets in SoMa. “Not only are these intersections dangerous because of the high speeds of cars and trucks entering and exiting, they’re often dark, loud, uninviting, and segment our communities.”

Since the Central Freeway ramp opened at Market and Octavia in 2005, the intersection has seen a higher rate of traffic injuries than any other in SF, with 13 in 2011, according to the SFMTA’s 2009-2011 Traffic Collisions Report [PDF]. Although livable streets advocates and city agencies pushed for a tear-down of the Central Freeway back to Bryan Street after it was damaged in an earthquake, it was rebuilt to touch down at Market and Octavia at the behest of Caltrans and car commuters living in the western neighborhoods.

Schneider pointed to recent calls from John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, for a “freeway-free San Francisco.” At a forum in September, Norquist asked why SF, which protested its planned freeways and prevented most them from being built – and is considering removing another section – doesn’t just go all the way and take down the few that were raised.

“Freeways merging with city streets create a terrifyingly dangerous situation for pedestrians, bicyclists and truly all roadway users,” said Schneider. “Perhaps it’s time for San Francisco to seriously consider what ‘freeway-free’ could mean for public health, safety, and livability in our wonderful city.”

[Update] SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the new enforcement camera cannot capture video footage of crashes to be used as evidence in crash investigations, as it only takes still photos of drivers who make an illegal right turn.

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Planning Department Sets Out to Create “Living Alleys” Around Hayes Valley

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An example alley from Copenhagen. Image: Planning Department

The Planning Department held a community workshop yesterday to field ideas on how to turn the numerous alleyways in and around Hayes Valley into calmer, greener, more inviting respites from the major traffic-heavy streets.

The “Living Alley Project” is an effort conceived in the Market Octavia Area Plan to re-think the neighborhood’s alleys as people-oriented gathering spaces, where cars are allowed at low speeds, but street life comes first.

“We need more community spaces,” said Robin Levitt, an architect who lives on one of the alleyways and advocated for the removal of the Central Freeway. Patricia’s Green, the park that replaced a block of space formerly occupied by the highway structure, is often overwhelmed with demand, he said. “More than most neighborhoods in the city, we have a lot of through traffic on very busy streets like Gough and Franklin, Oak and Fell, which were once neighborhood streets.”

“The alleys can serve as a shared space, where traffic is calm,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity to re-envision what a street can be — a public space, where children feel like playing, rather than as something to just move through.”

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Park Areas Under Central Freeway Downsized to Retain Caltrans Parking

Left: The original vision for the conversion of a Caltrans parking lot into a dog run, basketball courts, and a playground. Right: The final plan, which will build only the dog run in order to retain most of the parking lot. Images: Department of Public Works

A plan to convert parking lots under the Central Freeway near Duboce and Valencia Streets into a skate park and dog run is moving forward, but it won’t include basketball courts or a children’s playground as originally envisioned by residents.

Because the city will have to lease the land from Caltrans, which owns and collects revenue from the existing parking lots, city officials involved in planning the long-delayed parks projects say budget constraints left them with no choice but to allow the state department of transportation to retain a large section of the parking lot at the expense of park space.

“The City Parking Area is a vital revenue component to making the entire lease structure with Caltrans feasible; thus helping to fund the projects and keep them moving forward,” wrote Gloria Chan, a spokesperson for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, in a February email to residents. ”Without this revenue, we would not be able to plug the funding gap needed for these projects.”

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim introduced legislation this week to establish agreements between Caltrans and city agencies to move the project forward, and construction on the skate and dog parks are expected to begin this summer. She praised the project planners, but made no comment on the downsizing.

The SF Examiner reported details of the deal last month:

Under the terms of the lease deal, Caltrans will receive $10,000 a month for 20 years, with rent increasing by 2 percent every year. The Recreation and Park Department — the agency in charge of maintaining the park — will pay $85,000 a year for the site. Public Works will pay $66,000 a year.

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Planning Commission OKs Car-Free Housing at Fulton and Gough

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A rendering of the new project approved for Gough and Fulton Streets. Image: David Baker + Partners Architects

A massive Hayes Valley parking lot, formerly occupied by the Central Freeway, will be developed into a car-free apartment building and Boys and Girls Club after the project was approved unanimously by the Planning Commission last week.

The six-story apartment building at Fulton and Gough will include 69 rental units, eight of them available at subsidized below-market rates, all without car parking. The adjacent Boys and Girls Club will include parking — six tandem spaces which drivers will access via Ash Street, an alleyway, where the project developer will add a raised crosswalk along Gough. Pedestrian improvements like sidewalk seating and bulb-outs at Fulton and Gough will also be added as part of the agreement, and the site will include 70 indoor bike parking spaces.

Occupying a corner just two blocks from City Hall, the project “continues the reparation of the neighborhood damage caused by the collapse and removal of the Central Freeway,” notes project architects David Baker + Partners on the firm’s website.

Jason Henderson of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association called the project “a key precedent” for the integrity of the Market-Octavia Area Plan, which sets limits on new parking to make room for people, not cars.

The project also marks what could be an upward trend of car-free housing being built in the city. In September, the Planning Commission approved a project with 12 car-free condos at 1050 Valencia Street.

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Eyes on the Street: A Livable Street Emerges Next to the Central Freeway

Elgin Park, old and new. Left: Google Maps. Right: Mark Dreger.

A nice little transformation has taken place on Elgin Park, a one-block residential street next to the Central Freeway touchdown at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard.

Streetsblog reader Mark Dreger sent in the above photo of the makeover, noting that “it looks like SF’s version of a woonerf” — the Dutch term for the pedestrianized streets common in the Netherlands, where cars are allowed, but priority is given to people on foot and children playing.

The project is a piece of the Department of Public Works’ West SoMa Improvements, which set out to create greener, calmer streets in the neighborhood around McCoppin Street, where the Central Freeway spur was reconstructed in the middle of the last decade. While the removal of the freeway north of Market revitalized Hayes Valley, Caltrans insisted on rebuilding the freeway on the south side of Market, despite a city-backed plan to remove it further south.

Elgin Park, which lies west of Valencia between Duboce Avenue and Market (where there’s a bike/ped-only entrance ramp from Market), is one of several alleyways that are being revamped with new pavement and greening, as well as traffic-calming chicanes and raised crosswalks. At the west end of McCoppin (on the opposite side of the freeway), which has been re-paved with planted medians, chicanes, and bike lanes, the McCoppin Hub plaza is set to be constructed by summer, according to the DPW website.

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Mayor’s Transpo Chief: “Let’s Be San Francisco and Take Down the Freeway”

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The 280 freeway looking from Potrero Hill, where it divides the neighborhood from Mission Bay. Photo: Michael Patrick/Flickr

The idea of removing the northern section of Highway 280 near Mission Bay is gaining more traction as planners look for ideal ways to usher in high-speed rail and transit-oriented development in downtown San Francisco.

At a SPUR forum yesterday, Mayor Ed Lee’s transportation policy director, Gillian Gillett, sketched out a proposal to follow in the footsteps of the removals of the Embarcadero Freeway and a section of the Central Freeway, which revitalized the neighborhoods the roads used to divide. As Adina Levin at Green Caltrain reported, Gillett argued that replacing the elevated portion of I-280 with a street-level boulevard, from its current terminus at 4th and King Streets south to 16th Street, would improve the livability of the area, open up land to develop new neighborhoods, provide funding through real estate revenue, and open up engineering solutions to facilitate the extension of Caltrain and CA High-Speed Rail to the planned Transbay Transit Center.

If the freeway is left to stand, its pillars would present an engineering obstacle to running the train tracks undergound, meaning the only other feasible way to allow rail tracks to safely and expediently cross 16th Street would be to dip 16th underneath the tracks. And that would make the intersection — a gateway to Mission Bay — even more hostile for people walking and biking than it already is.

As past cases have shown, creating a surface street where that part of I-280 now stands and integrating it into the neighborhood would actually reduce overall car traffic. In a moment that would make the city’s mid-20th Century freeway protesters proud, Gillett told the crowd, “Let’s be San Francisco and take down the freeway.”

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe called the proposal “an exciting opportunity to re-orient our city around sustainable public transportation and create a more walkable city.”

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[Updated] Driver Injures Cyclist in Midnight Crash at Market and Octavia

A man riding a bicycle was seriously injured by a driver at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard at about midnight last night, according to police and two witnesses.

Market and Octavia. Photo: sftrajan/Flickr

The bicyclist was sent to the hospital after the crash at 12:05 a.m., said SFPD spokesperson Michael Andraychak. He said more details won’t be available until the police report enters the department’s system.

[Update:] Christopher Schroeder said he witnessed the crash, and that the man on the bike ran a red light:

I watched from my bike at my red light as the cyclist ran his red light at the freeway entrance of Octavia and Market and was hit by the car. After his body hit the car grate it rolled up onto the hood, over the roof and flew 4+ lanes approx. 20 feet before it hit the ground and rolled three times to stop just steps for me. As I pulled out my phone I had seconds to decide whether I run into the intersection to stop his body from being ran over by another car or whether that put myself at too much risk. Luckily the car behind stopped which gave me a chance to run to him, protected from traffic. He was not conscious. He did not move. 911 immediately responded. While the ambulance was in route the cyclist started to sputter and spit. An off duty nurse came to hold his neck and suddenly he started talking. Not in a normal voice but in a high pitched daze. “I’m fine. I need to get up. Please let go of me. Please. I’m fine. Please.” The paramedics say his neck is not broken and he should recover. The police have my number. I gave my statement assuring them the [driver] was not at fault. It never could have seen him. He ran the light to a freeway entrance.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Lane, Raised Crosswalks, and More at McCoppin

Photos: Aaron Bialick

The ongoing streetscape transformation on and around McCoppin Street in recent weeks has brought a new bike lane, raised crosswalks, planted bulb-outs and medians.

Crews installing cobblestone pavement on Stevenson Street today.

The planted bulb-outs and medians being added to McCoppin and nearby alleys (Stevenson, Pearl, Jessie Streets, and Elgin Park) will help absorb rainwater and lighten the load on the city’s stormwater systems. Such treatments, which are called for in the city’s Better Streets Plan, also help narrow the view of the street, signaling drivers to slow down, as do the cobblestone pavement treatments in the alleyways.

The new westbound bike lane on McCoppin (which was included in the SF Bike Plan but coordinated with the Department of Public Works’ project) connects the one-block bike lane on Otis Street to Valencia Street and the McCoppin bikeway, which runs through the future site of the McCoppin Hub plaza toward Market Street and Octavia Boulevard.

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Eyes on the Street: McCoppin Transformation in Progress

Streetscape enhancements are transforming McCoppin Street. Photos: Aaron Bialick

Last summer, we wrote about a package of overdue streetscape improvements planned for the neighborhood around McCoppin Street, which would include a public gathering space called the McCoppin Hub adjacent to the Central Freeway.

Work on those projects is finally starting to make some profound changes to the neighborhood. Recently installed planted medians have had a noticeable traffic calming effect. Compare the above photo with the old McCoppin:

McCoppin Street last year.

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Driver Plows Through Bike Corral at Duboce and Valencia, Injuring Man

A car driver plowed through a bike corral on Saturday in front of Zeitgeist, a bar on the corner of Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street. The driver reportedly stopped and cooperated with police after crashing through 10 of the 11 curbside bike racks, breaking a man’s leg, and wrecking at least a dozen parked bikes, according to the Uptown Almanac, which posted photos of the carnage.

According to reports, the driver wasn’t intoxicated, and the cause of the crash is unclear. However, Duboce acts as a speedway whisking drivers through the neighborhood off the nearby Central Freeway. According to Uptown Almanac commenter P.D. Bird: “The driver of the car said that she lost control and was even using the emergency brake to try to stop. Also, not sure if she wanted to pull over, or her car could not go any further from the damage…This does nothing but prove that we need ALOT [sic] less cars and much more traffic slowing (calming).”

SFPD couldn’t say whether the driver will be cited. The victim’s injuries were reportedly non-life-threatening, and he is expected to recover.

According to police data, there were 11 crashes at the intersection in 2011, with 16 people injured. Four of those were driver-bicyclist crashes, and two of them were driver-pedestrian crashes. In one of those cases last July, a driver hit two pedestrians. Another crash was between a driver and motorcyclist, and the rest involved only automobile drivers and passengers.

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