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Posts from the Pavement Quality Category


DPW, SFMTA Finally Streamlining Construction of Safer Intersections

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Poor coordination between city agencies has led to many a missed opportunity to build pedestrian safety measures when crews are already digging into a street corner for maintenance purposes. With the Department of Public Works ramping up its street re-paving work thanks to the Prop B Street Improvement Bond and upgrading many corner curb ramps to meet ADA standards, the agency says it’s finally starting to coordinate with the SFMTA to efficiently incorporate life-saving sidewalk extensions into its plans.

DPW crews rebuilding a sidewalk corner to install a curb ramp in the Excelsior. DPW and SFMTA say they’re starting to incorporate sidewalk bulb-outs into such projects. Photo: SFDPW/Flickr

“A process has been spearheaded by the MTA and Public Works to identify key locations where bulb-outs are either necessary or would be the best improvement,” John Thomas, DPW’s project manager for the street re-paving program, told a Board of Supervisors committee yesterday.

Safe streets advocates have for years criticized the lack of such coordination when crews dig into a street corner where a bulb-out could improve pedestrian visibility, shorten crossing distances, and cause drivers to make turns more carefully. Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich noted that DPW recently installed ADA-compliant curb ramps along dangerous Guerrero Street in the Mission, as well as the deadly intersection of Valencia Street and Duboce Avenue one block away, but didn’t extend any of the sidewalks.

“They demolished and rebuilt each street corner on Guerrero, but didn’t bulb out the curbs, even though they rebuilt the sidewalks, gutters, and catchbasins,” said Radulovich. “Yes, it would have cost more to provide some basic pedestrian safety improvements, but not much more. And now, because of the city’s five-year rule, DPW has made it even harder to improve pedestrian safety on this dangerous street.”

“The curb ramp program could’ve been a good ped safety program as well,” he said.

The five-year rule, according to Radulovich, is the city’s policy of not doing major street work on the same spot for five years unless it’s an emergency. While that rule seems to be adhered to for the most part, the same can’t be said of policies mandating that safety improvements like bulb-outs be coordinated with other street work were called for in the 2005 Complete Streets Ordinance and the 2010 Better Streets Plan.

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Eyes on the Street: Why Agencies Need to Warn Bike Riders of Construction

When street pavement gets torn up during construction, people on bicycles need fair warning, or else they’ll be in danger.

Daniel Erat sent in the above video he filmed on his bike commute on Golden Gate Avenue. At the Steiner Street intersection, he and another rider hit a patch of roadway where the asphalt had been removed for a construction project, busting his wheel and knocking the woman off her bike:

My front tube popped as soon as I hit the spot where the asphalt resumed, and while pulling over, I heard a noise behind me and saw that another cyclist had fallen in the road at the same spot (I think she was uninjured but pretty shaken up; she walked away)…

There’s a sudden 1″ lip where the asphalt begins at the east side of the intersection, and the spot is at the bottom of a hill where cyclists are likely to be moving quickly and to have most of their weight on their front wheels. I’m concerned that the spot has a high potential for damaging more bikes (my front hub is loose now and my handlebars got misaligned) and for injuring cyclists — it’s a popular commuting route to get downtown.

Had a driver been behind the woman when she fell, the situation could have led to serious injuries or worse.

It’s unclear who’s managing this construction — most commonly, it seems to be done by the Department of Public Works, the SF Public Utilities Commission, PG&E, or a contracting company. Erat said he phoned the problem in to 311, but the staff “apparently sees this as less urgent of an issue than I do.”


The Difference Some Sleek New Paint and Pavement Makes on Market Street

It’s remarkable how much more dignified bicycling on mid-Market Street feels with the fresh coat of smooth asphalt and green paint that crews put in over the weekend. The bike lane’s transformation from something like an abandoned trench to a green carpet is almost as refreshing as when it was first painted green (in fact, it’s brighter now than ever).

Crews made one neat change in the configuration at Market and 10th Street: Where there used to sit an empty traffic lane blocked by a sign since the forced right turn for cars was implemented in 2009, the bike lane was shifted to the left, which provides more of a straight shot for bicycle riders as they cross the intersection and makes the removal of that traffic lane finally feel official.

It also leaves a stretch of empty curb space to the right of the bike lane — no word yet on what that will be used for. Perhaps it’s time for Twitter to build the first parklet on Market Street?

Crews paint a fresh coat on the center bike lane on the eastbound approach to 10th Street, where cars must turn right. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Just past 10th Street, the bike lane has been shifted closer to the center of the street. Photo: Aaron Bialick


DPW to Re-Pave a Major Stretch of Market Street This Weekend

The outer lanes of Market Street will be re-paved between Van Ness Avenue and Sixth Street this weekend, the Department of Public Works announced today. The work is scheduled to start on Friday at 7 p.m. and finish within 24 hours.

“This will be a major improvement to the city’s most important bicycling street,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum in a statement. “For the growing number of people biking on Market Street — whether traveling to work or connecting to regional transit or visiting neighborhoods connected by our city’s main artery — this repaving could not come soon enough.”

DPW has patched up some of the most dangerous spots over the years — most recently last September — but the agency says the street hasn’t had a proper re-paving in about 30 years. “This repaving initiative will last longer and create a much safer and more comfortable experience for the thousands of people who use the street every day,” said DPW Director Mohammed Nuru in a statement.

DPW does have plans to re-pave the rest of Market’s curbside lanes east of Sixth Street in two phases: “The stretch between Steuart and Third streets is tentatively scheduled for June 21-22, and the section between Third and Sixth streets is tentatively set for mid-July,” said a press release from the agency. “Work on the intersections will be completed after the summer tourism rush and special events.”

The $700,000 project is funded with gas tax funds, according to DPW. During construction, bikes, automobiles and trucks will be detoured off of Market. Muni and other public transit vehicles will still run in Market’s center lanes, and all boardings will take place on the center islands.

There are no known plans to re-pave the center lanes, which are generally only used by trolley cars, buses, and autos, until the repeatedly-delayed Better Market Street project is completed in 2019.


DPW Begins Pavement Fixes on Market Street

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One of the hairier spots on Market Street at Fremont. DPW plans show that this spot will be re-paved. Photo: Steven Vance/Flickr

The SF Department of Public Works began making major pavement improvements along lower Market Street this week.

The awful state of Market’s pavement has for years made the street a labyrinth for bike commuters, who must often swerve to avoid potholes while looking out for motor vehicles and trolley tracks. Nonetheless, Market has become San Francisco’s busiest bicycling street. Not content to wait for the scheduled street reconstruction in 2016, the SF Bicycle Coalition has pushed DPW “for quite a while” to smooth out some of the most dangerous stretches, said Executive Director Leah Shahum.

DPW crews at work on Market Street Monday night. Photo: SFBC

“The terrible pavement quality on Market Street is one of the things we hear the most,” she said. “It’s more than an inconvenience — it really is a safety issue, because so many times, you look down and realize you’re about to go into a pothole that is literally so dangerous that you are forced to swerve in an unpredictable way.”

DPW is re-paving large patches on Market, which “sticks much longer” than just filling potholes, said Shahum. Crews are working at night to avoid disrupting commuters. DPW spokesperson Greg Crump said work began Monday and is expected to be finished by September 20. The agency is targeting 25 trouble spots [PDF] spread out along Market from Octavia Boulevard to the Embarcadero, with a total of 15,230 square feet to be paved. Ten spots have already been completed.

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DPW Repaves First 25 Blocks Using Prop B Bond

Twenty-five blocks of SF’s pothole-ridden streets have been repaved using the $248 million street improvements bond approved by voters last November, the SF Department of Public Works announced this week.

Crews repave Broadway between Davis to Front Streets on Monday. Photo: DPW/Flickr

The repaving, which began in April, should make the streets safer for all users — particularly bicycle riders, who face the greatest danger from cracks and potholes. DPW says it has also installed 167 curb ramps (of 800 planned) and repaired a number of sidewalks using the bond funds.

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe said she looks forward to wider sidewalks and calmer traffic from the bond improvements, which “will make walking in San Francisco safer and more inviting for everyone.” Sidewalk extensions aren’t being built in the re-paving projects, but DPW spokesperson Gloria Chan said they will be included in streetscape improvement projects which the bond will help fund.

In the first year of the streets bond program, DPW says it plans to use $44.1 million to repave more than 400 blocks, plus another 300 using non-bond money. Overall, the bond will help repave 1,400 blocks in three years, according to DPW.

In May, SFGate’s City Insider reported that San Francisco spends more money per resident on street maintenance than any other major city examined in a report by the City Controller’s Office, yet its pavement quality was the worst of any city except Oakland.

While the bond measure, approved as Proposition B last year, was favored by advocates like Walk SF, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and SPUR as a way to catch up with the city’s massive backlog of street repairs — which get more expensive to fix over time — others have criticized it as a short-sighted solution that’s not worth the debt. Livable City Director Tom Radulovich told Streetsblog last July that it also sent “the wrong economic signals,” since using general funds to pay for repaving shields motorists from the true costs of the wear-and-tear they exert on roads.

Here’s a list of the 25 blocks re-paved with the Streets Bond so far:

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Duboce/Church Re-Opens With New Boarding Islands, Green “Bike Channel”

Photos: Aaron Bialick

Muni riders, bike commuters and pedestrians passing through the re-opened Duboce and Church junction this morning were welcomed with wider boarding islands, fresh pavement, and a newly-painted, lime-green “bike channel.”

The bike channel, which runs between the sidewalk and the widened boarding island on the north side of Duboce, is coated with the same bright shade of green seen on the sharrows the SFMTA is rolling out on the rest of the Wiggle. The color, which was added using a grant from the Bikes Belong Foundation, should help clarify the right of way for bicycling and not to walk in the bike lane. The channel will be marked with bicycle stencils, and markings will also be painted to guide bicyclists over the rail tracks.

Car access onto westbound Duboce from Church is now closed. Few motorists will be affected: Left turns from northbound Church were already banned, and southbound Church begins just one block to the north.

Boarding islands were also widened on the south side of Duboce and east side of Church. The rebuilt islands, which appear to be raised higher than the old ones, received a new brick-lined treatment, as have curbs extended along Duboce. New railings are also being installed on some islands.

The junction feels a bit quieter with new tracks and smooth pavement carrying trains, cars and bikes. The center transit lanes appear to be set off more distinctly by new concrete surfacing, which also makes for smoother track crossings for bikes and strollers. The surface treatments, along with some new raised pavement bumps, should help deter drivers from using the transit lanes. New train signals also help operators take turns negotiating the busy intersection.

Crews were hard at work making the improvements during last week’s nine-day shutdown of the N-Judah and disruption of the J-Church lines. They’re part of the ongoing Church and Duboce Track and Street Improvement Project, expected to be completed in roughly a year. They also come as green-backed sharrows, ladder crosswalks, and daylighting are being implemented along the Wiggle.

More photos after the break.

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Parklets Begin Sprouting Up on Polk Street

The new parklet in front of Crepe House on Polk Street and Washington. Photo: Bryan Goebel

A parklet movement is springing to life along Polk Street. An installation completed last week in front of Crepe House near Washington has already been buzzing with activity while a second parklet began construction this week in front of Quetzal, a popular cafe with sidewalk seating on Polk Street between Sutter and Bush.

Although it’s surrounded by some of the densest neighborhoods on the West Coast, Polk Street lacks adequate public space. It’s also a major north-south bicycling corridor.

“I’ve been complaining all semester that there’s no place to sit down on the terrace. I’m ecstatic that this is here. I’ll be coming more,” said Claire Toussaint, who lives a block away from Crepe House, and was enjoying her lunch in the new parklet today with friends and fellow students from the Academy of Art.

“It’s great in any neighborhood,” said Lorris Williams, who was sitting alongside Toussaint. “Cars aren’t exactly beautiful on the side of a street. The less cars can park on the street is generally better for the street.”

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This Pavement Condition Index Map of San Francisco is Amazing!

Data_SF_map_of_pavement_quality_small.jpgClick image to enlarge SF's Pavement Condition Index map. Go to their website to use the fully interactive map feature.

The incredible design and data teams at SimpleGeo and Stamen, known among other things for Polymaps and Cabspotting, recently teamed up to tackle a data set only the wonkiest of us could love: San Francisco's Pavement Condition Index. I assume Neal and Michael at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalitions's Good Roads pothole fixin' Superhero HQ have already checked this out and gushed over the results. 

For best results, click through to the Polymaps website to utilize the fully interactive map feature that allows you to zoom in to your block. While there is some lag in PCI data on Data SF, i.e. Valencia Street from 19th to 15th and Divisadero's face lift don't show up accurately smooth, this is nonetheless an amazing map.

I wonder if the SimpleGeo and Stamen team would consider an even bigger challenge: How about mapping the real-time NextMuni data set? I don't know nearly enough about programming, but I would imagine it's geometrically more complicated. Tell us what you think of this map and what other hypothetical maps you'd like to see in the comments.