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More Grumbles at Final Hearing on Taraval Changes

Some 60 people came to address a Friday morning hearing on proposed changes to the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog.

Some 60 people came to address a Friday morning hearing on proposed changes to the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog.

SFMTA, at long last, held its final hearing on the proposed Muni Forward safety and speed improvements to the L-Taraval. The two-hour meeting, which started at 10 a.m. at City Hall, was attended by some 60 people.

Streetsblog readers will recall the last large hearing for Taraval was held in February and, as with many of these big public hearings, there were outbursts, groans, and grumbles.

This meeting was more under control, thanks to Mike Hanrahan with the hearings section of SFMTA. “Two minutes is plenty of time if you’ve thought about what you want to say,” he said to the audience, prepping them for the comment period. He then introduced Michael Rhodes, who gave some brief background on the project and explained some amendments. Almost immediately, grumbles came from the audience and someone tried to ask a question. Hanrahan reminded them the comment period is coming up and, “We can’t have interruptions.” Read more…

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Streetsblog Talks with Supervisor Jane Kim, Part II

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D11 Supervisor Jane Kim at her desk in City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim at her desk in City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Two weeks ago, Streetsblog did a Q&A with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. Kim was on a trip to New York and arranged to do the interview by phone. Unfortunately, the connection was intermittent, there was some miscommunication, and the interview had to be cut short. A few days later, Kim asked Streetsblog if we could continue the conversation. Fair enough. (Since Kim is in a tight race for the California State Senate seat for District 11 with Supervisor Scott Wiener, Streetsblog will do another interview with him as well).

In this follow up, Streetsblog talked with Kim about the State Senate, the search for a new police chief, Transbay and more topics of importance to livable streets advocates. But first on her mind was Tuesday night’s marathon budget negotiations, which didn’t turn out entirely as she would have liked.

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Streetsblog: So the Board was here past 10 pm–the budget passed and there will be a sales tax increase on the November ballot.

Jane Kim: I supported the point-five sales tax measure, because it’s a swap out of our existing sales tax.

SB: But not the .75 percent increase that passed?

JK: I wanted the city to look at alternative revenue. It [a sales tax] is ultimately a regressive tax. I don’t want to depend on that for essential city services,

SB: What else then?

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Eyes on the Street: Tenderloin Sunday Streets

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Nathan Woody of the San Francisco Yellow Bike Project pauses while working on this slick little two-wheeler during Sunday Streets in the Tenderloin. Check out those tassels! Photo: Streetsblog.

Sunday from 11 to 4 p.m. it was the Tenderloin’s turn to enjoy its streets free of car traffic. The route followed Fulton St. between Hyde and Larkin, Larkin to Ellis St., Ellis to Jones St., Jones to Golden Gate Ave., and Golden Gate back to Larkin St. The streets were filled with various activities and opportunities, including a “kid’s bike swap” with the San Francisco Yellow Bike Project, seen above, where families could bring their children’s bikes to have them repaired or, if necessary, replaced for free (or with a donation).

That wasn’t the only thing available for Tenderloin families. A petting zoo was set up in the new bike lane on Golden Gate. Note: that’s the only time anything should be parked in that bike lane.

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Usually it gets our goat when some turkey hogs the bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog.

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Streetsblog Talks with Supervisor Jane Kim

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Jane Kim during Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC

Jane Kim during Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC

Supervisor Jane Kim represents San Francisco’s District 6, which includes the Civic Center area, Mission Bay, South of Market, and the Tenderloin. Kim also sits on the SF County Transportation Authority’s Vision Zero Sub-Committee, where last week she took SFMTA to task for not moving fast enough to install safety measures that might have saved the lives of Kate Slattery and Amelie Le Moullac, two cyclists killed in her district on a route she cycles herself.

Streetsblog did a phone interview with Kim, who is currently traveling on the East Coast, to find out her hopes and vision for how San Francisco can make its streets safer and less dominated by automobiles.

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Streetsblog: You may have seen a photo circulating around—I saw it on the SF Bike Ride Crew’s Facebook page—of SFPD cracking down on cyclists on the Third Street bridge for riding on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, during the vigil for Kate Slattery, safe-streets advocate Randall Dietel tracked a car with a radar gun blowing through a red light at 65.  How do we get SFPD to focus precious resources on stopping deadly activities?

Jane Kim: We have been asking for more enforcement from SFPD and SFMTA but that’s just one way of changing behaviors. Speed was a factor in the case of the two recent fatalities. This is something the board has been asking for since 2014. I do see southern station [officers] a lot on Folsom, between Sixth and Seventh. I see them ticket cars in the mornings, but it’s not consistent throughout the day, and these [the speeders that killed Slattery and the one that sped past her vigil] occurred late at night. And that’s probably when the speeding is really occurring; we need to see this enforcement at night. Read more…

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Two San Francisco Cyclists Killed: What Now?

Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the intersection where Kate Slattery was killed, and Supervisor Norman Yee at the Vision Zero Sub-Committee.

Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the intersection where Kate Slattery was killed, and Supervisor Norman Yee at the Vision Zero Sub-Committee.

The deaths of Heather Miller and Kate Slattery highlighted the obvious: San Francisco is not on track to Vision Zero, a commitment to eliminating all traffic deaths by 2024.

That was echoed by Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, as well as advocates from the public who spoke at Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the SF County Transportation Authority’s Vision Zero Sub-Committee.

“While I’ve been impressed with the progress the city has been making with temporary work we really need to see movement with long term projects such as protected bike lanes,” said Kim. “I bike regularly and pass by where Slattery and Amelie Le Moullac died. As we encourage more people to walk, bike and take public transport we have to assure our residents it is safe to do so through design and enforcement.”

Scott Wiener expressed similar thoughts. “I attended the vigil for Ms. Slattery at Seventh and Howard; I don’t want to attend more vigils,” he said. “I don’t want them to happen. They are all 100 percent preventable. This does not have to be how our city is.”

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Outrage Over Bicycling Deaths is Not Enough

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Kate Slattery and Heather Miller died Wednesday while riding their bikes in San Francisco. Photo: San Francisco Bike Coalition.

Kate Slattery and Heather Miller died Wednesday while riding their bikes in San Francisco. Photo: San Francisco Bike Coalition.

The deaths of Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, two more people killed riding on San Francisco’s dangerous streets, has left the entire safe-streets community rattled and heart broken. Cycling advocates took San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and SFMTA head Ed Reiskin to task for a tone-deaf press conference held Thursday about the carnage. The mayor said he was “outraged” at the deaths. Reiskin said to the Examiner that “the best bike infrastructure in the world would not have prevented these collisions.”

There weren’t enough facepalms to go around.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mayor Lee said the city’s tireless work and the millions of dollars it has spent to make streets safer was undermined by the “incredibly irresponsible actions” of the drivers involved in the crashes.

Was Lee talking, perhaps, about the “millions” that went to build infrastructure (paint and plastic posts) such as this:

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San Francisco’s bicycle infrastructure is defeated by its own employees. Photo: Streetsblog.

By the way, that’s a city owned Prius blocking the bike lane on Market at 9th.

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Two Hit-and-Run Killings Last Night Plus Another Death This Morning

Three more people killed while cycling in the Bay Area in just the past 24 hours. Photo: SFBP Community Vigil Ride.

How many more vigils are needed before we get real change to our streets? Photo: SFBP Community Vigil Ride.

Editor’s note: it’s positively numbing that I can’t finish writing a piece about two cycling deaths in 24 hours, when a third cyclist is killed, this morning, this time in Pleasanton

Wednesday evening, word came down that a woman was killed in Golden Gate Park while riding her bike. And in a separate incident, a woman was killed in SoMa at 7th and Howard Streets.

The names of two three more beautiful people will be added to the sites visited in the next Rides of Silence. Speeches will be given. There will be vigils.

Two three more families and groups of friends will endure unbearable absences. For them, the agony never ends.

And yet, the legislative priority is to slash fines for motorists blowing through red lights.  Tone-deaf law makers boast about making it easier for law-breaking drivers to restore suspended licenses. And every time hard-fought safety measures are put in, our politicians and city planners cow to angry motorists clamoring to roll them back.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, in a statement, put it this way:

We know what our city’s streets need; we need the SFMTA to deliver. Ultimately, we need leadership at the top, and Mayor Ed Lee is failing as a leader. Where we need transformative safety improvements and transformative leadership, we have vague promises and a void of action… We need protected bike lanes on JFK Drive. And across SoMa, we need physically protected bike lanes and intersections. These crashes were preventable, and the city should urgently act to see that such tragedies are not repeated.

San Francisco State University geography professor, writer, and Streetsblog contributor Jason Henderson summed it up too:

There are too many cars in the city and it is too easy to drive them fast and violently. Every day I observe it getting worse. Every single day is worse than the previous. This is a political problem with a political solution. Golden Gate Park could and should be completely car free. South of Market should have fully-separated and wide cycletracks on every street. But the SF mayor-BOS-SFMTA-SF Planning Commission simply pander to angry motorists and give them more parking.

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Streetsblog Talks With SF Bicycle Coalition Incoming Director Brian Wiedenmeier

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BriansmilingEarlier this week, the SF Bike Coalition announced it is tapping its development director, Brian Wiedenmeier, as its new executive director. Wiedenmeier takes the reigns from Margaret McCarthy, who had served as the organization’s interim director during a search to replace Noah Budnick, who resigned last year.

Streetsblog sat down with Wiedenmeier to find out more about him and his goals for the organization.

Streetsblog: So why bike advocacy?

Brian Wiedenmeier: I associate cycling with joy and freedom, I began riding a bike as a child and as someone who grew up in a small town in the Midwest. It’s not cool after 16, so I bought a car to get to my job. But when I went to college at the University of Minnesota a car was not something I could afford, so I started biking again out of necessity. But then I realized what a freeing, amazing thing it was–this simple machine that let me experience the city in a new way.

SB: Tell us about cycling in Minnesota.

BW: Minneapolis is a great city that’s blessed with a network of fully separated bike paths that run through parks. And they have the midtown Greenway which is an old piece of rail infrastructure, a freight line that ran in a trench through the city. It’s been re-purposed exclusively for the use of bicycles and pedestrians. It’s a magic thing with bicycle on-ramps and off-ramps that get you cross town in no time flat.

SB: But you decided to move to San Francisco. How was that, cycling-wise? Read more…

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Mission Madness: How Effective is the Big Meeting Format for Outreach?

SFMTA's Matt Brill addresses a boisterous crowd on Mission Street. Photo: Streetsblog

SFMTA’s Matt Brill addresses a boisterous crowd about Mission Street. Photo: Streetsblog

Roberto Hernandez, the “Monarch of the Mission,” didn’t put down the microphone when his two minutes were up. Heavy set, with his trademark fedora, he had already gone several minutes past the cut-off alarm, shouting about how someone with seven children can’t possibly ride the bus, reminiscing about riding a bike before there were bike lanes in San Francisco, and generally cursing SFMTA and the Mission Street transit-only “red lanes” that he connected with the ills of gentrification. At least, that seemed to be what he was saying, in addition to something about lowriders. It was difficult to understand, thanks to all the boos, hisses, and cheers, with roughly half the crowd shouting, “your two minutes are up!” or “cut off his mic” and the other half shouting, “Let him speak!”

It’s a scene that seems to play out every time SFMTA holds one of these large community meetings about whatever fill-in-the-blank project. Someone will take over the mic, break the rules, and whip the room into a lather.

But Monday night’s meeting was especially bad.

It must have been 85 degrees at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. That’s probably because 200 people crammed into the space to support–and bemoan–the SFMTA’s transit-only “red carpet” lanes installed last March on Mission. Or maybe the heat was from the smoldering rage, seemingly intensified by the thudding noise from a dance class above that vibrated throughout the meeting room, which is also an art space.

That said, before the raucous meeting officially got underway, Streetsblog was able to talk one-on-one with a few of the attendees and presenters.

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Balboa Park Station Open House

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BART Planner Tim Chan explaining station plans and hearing comments from morning commuters at Balboa Park Station. Photo: Streetsblog.

BART’s Tim Chan explained station plans and took comments from morning commuters at Balboa Park Station. Photo: Streetsblog.

This morning from 7 to 10 am BART officials, consultants, and even a legislative aide for Supervisor John Avalos’s office answered questions and heard comments from the public about plans to modernize Balboa Park Station, one of the busiest in both BART and Muni’s networks.

From BART’s webpage on the project:

The goal of the project is to develop and prioritize potential station improvements to upgrade and modernize the station’s function, safety and security, capacity, sustainability, appearance, and improve the customer experience. BART is also partnering with the City to identify plaza improvements to support the Upper Yard Affordable Housing Project.

It would be hard to argue that Balboa Park station doesn’t need improvements. A confluence of three Muni trains, seven buses, and the southernmost transfer station for four BART lines, it seems an obvious place for intense transit-oriented real estate development. But with I-280 on one side and a Muni Light Rail maintenance facility on the other, developing the area is challenging. “It doesn’t work for cars, pedestrians, or cyclists,” said Frances Hsieh, the legislative aide for Supervisor Avalos.

“It’s an aging station desperately in need of an upgrade,” said Tim Chan, manager of station planning and development for BART.

Members of the public who stopped by seemed to agree.

“It’s generally dirty and it feels unsafe,”  said Edward Anaya, a lawyer who commutes through Balboa Park from his home in Excelsior. “There are walkability and safety issues competing with the traffic from I-280.”

Jennifer Heggie takes the bus from Sunnyside to pick up BART at Balboa. She said the station has already improved and it used to “smell like urine,” but she wishes there were a shelter on the Geneva side for people connecting to buses there. “It’s cold at night.”

Chan said that’s one of the things they want to fix, by adding “more weather protection” for people transferring between BART and Muni. They also want to “extend the canopies at the ends of the BART platforms” so people don’t have to bunch up when it’s raining.

Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development is working on the Upper Yard affordable housing project, planned across from the old car barn and powerhouse. It’s currently used as a parking lot.

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