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Posts from the Pedestrian Infrastructure Category

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Noe Valley Gets Sidewalk Extensions and Decorative Crosswalks on 24th

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Photo: Aaron Bialick

City officials celebrated new brick-trimmed crosswalks and sidewalk bulb-outs on 24th Street in Noe Valley at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.

The changes will make for a more pedestrian- and transit-friendly environment on Noe Valley’s commercial corridor. At Castro and Noe Streets, the transit bulb-outs — curb extensions at bus stops — will help speed up Muni’s 24 and 48 lines.

Supervisor Scott Wiener speaking at the ribbon-cutting today. Photo: Scott Wiener/Twitter

Supervisor Scott Wiener speaking at the ribbon-cutting today. Photo: Scott Wiener/Twitter

“Property owners and merchants have invested heavily in streetscape improvements” on 24th in recent years, and the latest upgrades “keep the momentum going,” said Noe Valley Association Executive Director Debra Niemann in a statement. “That’s one of the reasons Noe Valley appeals to many as a place to live and as a shopping destination.”

“The commercial heart of Noe Valley is 24th Street, one of the great neighborhood corridors in San Francisco,” said D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener in a statement. “It’s a community destination to shop and eat and to catch up with neighbors. These streetscape improvements make 24th Street safer, more attractive and more welcoming for residents and visitors.”

Completion of the “24th Street Urban Village” project, led by the Department of Public Works, was delayed from last fall. The project also includes new benches and planters on the bulb-outs, and was paid for with $560,000 from the $248 million street re-paving bond passed by voters in 2011.

“One of the most important investments we can make in our communities is making our neighborhood streets safer,” said a statement from SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, who called the improvements “significant upgrades for pedestrian safety that will help us reach our citywide Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths.”

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North Beach Meeting on Sidewalk Bulbs Gets Tense; SFMTA to Paint Demos

A public meeting in North Beach became tense yesterday as residents and firefighters opposed to basic street safety measures continued to assert that sidewalk bulb-outs are dangerous. To appease skeptics, the SFMTA announced that the bulb-outs planned at four intersections on Columbus Avenue will be tested first by installing painted “safety zones” in August. Construction of concrete versions will begin next year.

A sidewalk extension on Columbus Avenue at Washington Square Park. One man complained yesterday that "there should be a warning saying that you are now much closer" to motor traffic. Photo: SFMTA

A sidewalk extension on Columbus Avenue at Washington Square Park. One man complained yesterday that “there should be a warning saying that you are now much closer” to motor traffic. Photo: SFMTA

The Columbus bulb-outs were approved months ago, and have already been heavily watered-down during a planning process that’s lasted years. The SF Fire Department signed off on them as safe for turning fire trucks.

The bulb-outs “being proposed for Columbus Avenue are not that scary,” said D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, who told attendees she convinced the SFMTA to implement the painted versions as a trial. “We’ve been looking at all these really carefully… modifications were made, and what we’ve got now is kind of a river stone that’s been smoothed over by all kinds of forces.”

“Nobody that I know is particularly freaked out by what we ended up with,” she added. “But just to make sure, we’re going to paint these on the street. And if somehow, something comes up with the templates, and the reviews, and the tens of hours of community meetings that was not brought to our attention, I guarantee I will go and fix it.”

It was the second recent meeting about bulb-outs held by North Beach Neighbors. At the first meeting on April 30, Hoodline reported, members of SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 protested life-saving curb extensions claiming they hinder fire trucks. Since that meeting, the union’s president also sent a letter [PDF] to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White calling the department’s approvals of bulb-outs “very troubling.”

Unlike the first meeting, officials from SFFD and the SFMTA made presentations and answered questions on the issue, which seemed to quell fears among some attendees.

A few people remained unconvinced, however, and raised their voices. Here’s one of the arguments between an opponent and SFMTA planner Oliver Gajda, about whether it’s safe to assume that trucks can turn around bulb-outs without conducting a field test:

Firefighter Tony Rivera also repeated an anecdote to scare people about the prospect of wider sidewalks that he told at the April meeting, according to Hoodline.

At Columbus and Union Streets, where the block of sidewalk along Washington Square Park was extended last year to make the bus stop more efficient, Rivera said he became alarmed when his six-year-old son bent down to pick up a penny at the curb.

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SF Firefighters Take Campaign Against Safe Street Design to North Beach

At a community meeting about bulb-outs in North Beach tomorrow evening, some residents and firefighters are expected to speak against the curb extensions on the grounds that they make streets more dangerous.

Image: KTVU

As Hoodline has reported, the leadership of the North Beach Neighbors and the SF Fire Fighters Union have drummed up opposition to bulb-outs proposed at four intersections along Columbus Avenue. NBN will hold its second public discussion on the issue tomorrow.

While the SF Fire Department’s top brass has shown signs of letting go of its opposition to curb extensions, SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 has maintained a campaign for wider, more dangerous roadways.

Now there’s tension between the union and the fire department about street design. In a June 18 letter to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White [PDF], Local 798 President Tom O’Connor protested the department’s “very troubling” approval of “obstacles” that “will require our members to knowingly drive into oncoming traffic” (yes, some firefighters still make that claim):

We further assert that any and all obstacles that have already installed [sic] should completely [sic] removed on the basis that they are a danger to public safety, to our members and to the integrity of our apparatus and finally as a violation of the California Vehicle Code.

NBN President Trish Herman has fueled the flames. She told Hoodline that “bulb-outs in the Castro have caused traffic back-ups,” presumably referring to Castro Street’s recent sidewalk expansion, which narrowed its excessively wide traffic lanes. She also complained about sidewalk space removing parking: “They’re not considering the vehicle public,” she said.

Bulb-outs improve the visibility of pedestrians, shorten crossing distances, and keep drivers from barreling around turns at high speed and hitting people. They are an increasingly common street safety measure in SF.

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Safer Path Could Help Untangle the “Alemany Maze” Highway Interchange

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

The “Alemany Maze,” the deadly Highway 101 and 280 interchange in the southeast city, could get a safer crossing for walking and biking. Funding to study a walking path and bike lanes through the junction was approved this week by the SF County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, comprised of the Board of Supervisors.

The Alemany Maze. Photo: Chuck B. / my back 40 (feet)

The study, set to be completed by next June, will look at creating a “multi-modal pathway” where residents already cross the “nasty mess of ramps” to reach the Alemany Farmers Market, SFCTA planner Colin Dentel-Post told an SFCTA board committee this week.

“People currently use an informal pathway and dangerous, unsignalized crossings through the interchange,” he said. The maze “creates a barrier between the surrounding neighborhoods, including the Bernal, Portola, Bayview, and Silver Terrace neighborhoods.”

The $100,000 approved for the study was requested by D9 Supervisor David Campos. Campos was apparently swayed by the Portola Neighborhood Association to push for a safer crossing, according to a recent post by Chris Waddling at D10 Watch.

Waddling, chair of the SFCTA Citizens Advisory Committee representing District 10, lauded the advancement of the project:

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SFMTA Plans to Install Painted “Safety Zones” at 40 Intersections This Year

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A painted bulb-out, a.k.a. “safety zone,” at Sacramento and Stockton Streets, where 78-year old Pui Fong Yim Lee was killed. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has ramped up its roll-out of painted curb extensions, which the agency calls “safety zones,” at some of the city’s most dangerous corners. Twenty-one have been installed at at least 11 intersections, and the tally should reach 40 intersections by the end of the year, said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose.

Painted bulb-outs are a low-cost measure to slow down turning drivers, using khaki-colored gravel and epoxy to expand sidewalk corners. When the bulb-outs replace parked cars at street corners, they also make people more visible to drivers approaching intersections, a measure known as daylighting. Once funding becomes available, they can be upgraded to concrete sidewalk extensions.

“We are installing painted safety zones on the city’s pedestrian high-injury network, where just 6 percent of city streets account for 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities,” Jose wrote in a recent blog post. “Painted safety zones are one of the elements we are quickly installing to improve safety in support of our Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic deaths.”

So far, most of the bulb-outs can be found along Howard Street in SoMa and as part of the first phase of safety upgrades on Polk Street.

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Parking-Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Division at 9th

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The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

Bike lanes on the block of Division Street between 9th and 10th Streets will get some much-needed protection this fall. Earlier this week the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a design that will put people on bikes between the curb and parked cars. The massive 9th and Division intersection will also get safety improvements like large painted curb extensions.

The upgrades would complement other bike and pedestrian safety improvements going in along Division, which becomes 13th Street as it runs beneath the Central Freeway.

SF’s first parking-protected bike lane on a city street was expected to be constructed this spring on westbound 13th, from Bryant to Folsom Street. SFMTA officials haven’t explained why that project has been delayed, though some of the other striping improvements included in the package have been implemented.

Altogether, the upgrades along Division and 13th, from the traffic circle at Eighth Street to Folsom, will create a continuous curbside westbound bike lane that could set a precedent for how low-cost redesigns can make dangerous SoMa streets safer.

“It’s turning out to be a really good cycling route,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the SFMTA board on Tuesday.

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

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Driver Kills Ai You Zhou, 77, at Clay and Kearny; Christensen Calls for Action

Photo: Parker Day

Yesterday at about 6 p.m., Tim Pak Wong, 59, ran over and killed Ai You Zhou, 77, in the crosswalk at the notoriously dangerous intersection of Clay and Kearny Streets near Chinatown. Safety improvements have been planned for the location, and today Supervisor Julie Christensen called for swifter action on pedestrian safety from the SFMTA and SFPD.

SFPD issued Wong a citation on suspicion of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and misdemeanor manslaughter, reports the SF Chronicle.

Zhou appeared to have the walk signal, according to Parker Day, who witnessed the crash from about a block away as he biked toward the intersection. He said Wong was turning left onto Kearny from Clay.

When Day took the photo of the scene above, Zhou “had just stopped breathing and [Wong] was about to pull her out from under the car.”

“It was a terrible thing to witness,” Day added. “I hope I don’t ever see something like it again.”

D3 Supervisor Christensen held a press conference at the site of the crash today to call on the SFMTA to expedite pedestrian safety improvements and the SFPD “to step up enforcement at our problem intersections along our high injury corridors.”

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Walk SF Gives City a Mixed Score on Street Safety Progress

A recently-completed bulb-out at McAllister and Hyde Streets near City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Walk SF today released its second annual Street Score Report Card [PDF], which it bills as the “only comprehensive review of the City’s progress towards improving pedestrian safety and walkability.” The report is the first thorough attempt to assess how well the city has followed through on the mayor’s 2013 Pedestrian Strategy.

SF agencies’ progress remained subpar on many of Walk SF’s nearly 40 metrics, though the city did exceed its goals in a few key areas, such as the installation of bulb-outs.

The report tracks progress in six categories: Reducing injuries, installing engineering upgrades, focusing enforcement on the most dangerous traffic violations, delivering education campaigns, adopting local and state legislation to enable safety measures, and reporting progress data to the public.

“We can’t measure what we don’t count,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara in a statement. And by the most important measure — fatal and serious injuries sustained in traffic — SF didn’t hit its mark.

Last year, 96 people were killed or suffered severe injuries on SF streets, higher than the goal of 82 laid out in the Pedestrian Strategy. Walk SF also notes that the share of pedestrian deaths involving seniors was higher than the city’s target.

Image: Walk SF's Street Score

Image: Walk SF’s Street Score

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Parking-Free Marina Path Plan Could Be Delayed By Boaters’ Parking Proposal

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The Marina path as it exists today. Photo: Department of Public Works

Updated at 11:38 p.m. with further response from the Recreation and Parks Department below.

The Marina Boulevard bicycle and pedestrian path was supposed to be car-free by now. The years-old plan to remove the 57 car parking spaces on the stretch between Scott and Baker Streets is scheduled to be implemented by this spring.

But the SF Recreation and Parks Department may hold off yet again — potentially for years — because the department is seriously considering a last-minute proposal from boat owners to carve curbside “parking bays” from the path to preserve some spots.

The Association of Bay Area Governments’ Bay Trail Project and the SF Bicycle Coalition sent a letter [PDF] Tuesday urging Rec and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg “in the strongest of terms to move forward with the current plan to remove the parking and driving lane… immediately.”

We believe that a proposal to provide a drop-off, loading/unloading zone with limited parking may have merit and should be pursued. However, the thousands of walkers, joggers, cyclists, families, roller-bladers and wheelchair riders who make up 98% of the users of the Marina Green Bay Trail cannot continue to wait for safety in this area.

[Update] Rec and Parks spokesperson Connie Chan wrote in an email that the department “is seeking funding for” the project to include “the construction of 3 new parking bays.”

“Each bay will provide 3 to 5 parking spaces: 2 white loading-only spaces, 1 blue ADA-only space, and 2 unregulated public parking spaces (optional),” she wrote. “One parking bay will be situated near each dock gate, with exact location determined by traffic code and/or other site constraints.”

When asked if the parking removal will no longer happen this spring as planned, she repeated, “At this time, the Department is seeking funding for the project.”

In addition to reducing space for people, lumping parking bays into the project could further delay it for years. Digging into the pavement would require securing funding, design work, and construction for a project that originally only involved removing parking bumpers and replacing signs and pavement striping. It would add an estimated $450,000 to a $60,000 project.

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“Walk [Your City]” Signs Take the Guesswork Out of Hoofing It in SF

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You may have gotten a kick out of some of the signs posted along Market Street in recent weeks telling people how long it takes to walk to destinations like Yerba Buena Gardens, Civic Center, and even the Pacific Ocean.

The signs are the doing of Walk [Your City], a national effort to facilitate what has been called “guerrilla wayfinding” — providing residents the means to “plan, design and install quick, light, and affordable street signs for people.” The campaign started in Raleigh, North Carolina, but the organizers received a grant in February to bring it to other cities, including San Jose.

The signs were featured as part of the three-day Market Street Prototyping Festival, a project of the city’s Better Market Street redesign. The dozens of sidewalk exhibits, which line Market until tomorrow, are intended to “do a lot more with these beautiful sidewalks that we have… they can be much more dynamic social spaces,” said Neil Hrushowy, program director for the SF Planning Department’s City Design Group, in a KPIX segment. Hrushowy said some of the exhibits could be made permanent with Market’s reconstruction.

SF did pilot pedestrian wayfinding signs along the Embarcadero during the America’s Cup races in 2012, but they weren’t nearly as attractive or cheeky. While most of the Walk [Your City] signs are functional and point to actual destinations, some are more whimsical. “It is a 5 minute walk to High-Speed Rail (soon),” one sign said. Another sign points the way to the “Twinkie defense” — presumably, City Hall.