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Posts from the "Pedestrian Infrastructure" Category

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Fell and Oak Safety Features to Finally Be Installed By April

Bulb-outs, rain gardens, and planted traffic islands on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now set to be completed two years late. Image: SFMTA

The final pieces of the protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety upgrades on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now due to be finished by April, according to the Department of Public Works. Assuming this timetable holds up, construction of the project will conclude two years after the originally promised date in spring 2013.

Crews have been at work for months installing the sidewalk extensions and rain gardens on Fell and Oak between Baker and Scott Streets. There have been no signs yet of construction of the planted traffic islands that will separate the bike lanes from motor traffic (except in locations where there are driveways or turn lanes).

The buffered bike lanes on Fell and Oak have mostly remained the same since they were striped without physical protection in September 2012 and May 2013, respectively. One exception was the installation of short-lived plastic posts in April 2013, which were removed after the bike lanes were re-paved less than a year late and never replaced.

At some points during construction, the Fell and Oak bike lanes have been blocked. Photo: Jonathan G/Twitter

Without the traffic islands, the bike lanes remain unprotected, keeping riders exposed to three lanes of heavy motor traffic and discouraging risk-averse people from biking. Drivers often park in the lanes, though Supervisor London Breed has convinced the tow truck company on Fell to reduce that practice.

While most of the basic bike safety improvements are in place, the project delays have been numerous and, in most cases, baffling. During the planning process, the original construction date of spring 2012 was pushed back a year to create more parking on nearby streets to compensate for spaces removed for the bike lanes. In October 2013, the SFMTA and DPW said construction wouldn’t happen that year because the agencies wanted to tweak the designs of the bulb-outs and islands.

Until recently, a sign was posted at the site promising construction would be finished in January 2015. When asked why the project still isn’t finished, DPW staff didn’t answer the question, only providing the new date. 

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Momentum Builds to Eliminate Dangerous Gap in SF Bay Trail

Officials hope to secure funds from San Mateo County’s 2012 Measure A program to extend the San Francisco Bay Trail through Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, eliminating a stressful detour. Photo: Andrew Boone

Prospects for a safer and more convenient San Francisco Bay Trail are looking brighter as momentum builds for strengthening environmental protections along the bay in San Mateo County.

On Tuesday, Menlo Park planning staff reported that the city, in partnership with neighboring East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, as well as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD), will seek approval from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to designate their many San Francisco Bay shoreline parks and wildlife refuges as a new priority conservation area.

The designation was created by ABAG in 2007 “to attract funds to support the long-term protection of regionally significant open spaces about which there is broad consensus for long-term protection.” The conservation area would include Bedwell Bayfront Park, the Ravenswood Salt Pond Restoration Area, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve, Cooley Landing, and the Baylands Nature Preserve.

One upshot of this development could be a better Bay Trail. “The PCA designation would expand funding opportunities for enhancing the current Bay Trail around Bedwell Bayfront Park and connections from the Belle Haven neighborhood to the Park,” wrote Menlo Park Assistant Community Development Director Justin Murphy in a report presented to the City Council [PDF].

Murphy cited the long-planned $2.2 million Ravenswood Bay Trail, a missing 0.6-mile section of the San Francisco Bay Trail from University Avenue to the Ravenswood Regional Open Space Preserve in East Palo Alto, as a high-priority regional project more likely to receive county and regional grants with the PCA designation. This gap in the Bay Trail forces pedestrians and bicyclists on a detour along a section of busy, four-lane University Avenue that includes narrow bike lanes but no sidewalks.

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Stockton Street “Winter Walk” Plaza to Return Next Holiday Season

The incredibly popular (but temporary) “Winter Walk” plaza will return to Stockton Street in Union Square for another holiday season in December, the local business improvement district announced.

The news isn’t a huge surprise, given the boost to business brought by the plaza and the fact that the one-block section of Stockton is already filled with machinery for the construction of Central Subway, as it has been since 2012 and will be until at least 2016. But it’s a promising sign that when construction is over the street may not be surrendered to cars.

Katy Lim of the Union Square BID said a visitor poll found that 96 percent of respondents would return to Winter Walk plaza if it were brought back, and that 88 percent would like to see it made permanent. Twenty-six percent of respondents were SF residents, 40 percent were from the Bay Area, and the rest from elsewhere.

No word on just how much foot traffic the plaza saw, but Philz Coffee reportedly sold over 6,000 cups from its stand during the month it was open.

So San Franciscans and visitors have clearly embraced the idea of devoting at least one block in SF’s bustling downtown shopping district to people, though it’s also clear from the detours for Muni’s 30 and 45 lines that surface transit needs greater priority.

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When Streets Are Torn Up, SF Agencies Are Failing to Build Them Back Safer

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Even after this corner at 19th and Dolores Streets was torn up, a five-year-old plan for sidewalk extensions was not implemented. Photo: Tom Radulovich

Opportunities to expand sidewalks and make streets safer go to waste too often when the pavement is torn up in SF. A year ago, the city announced efforts to improve coordination between agencies so that when a street undergoes repairs, safety measures are added, saving time and money in addition to saving lives.

But agencies still haven’t got the hang of it. Even longstanding safety proposals for at least two streets in the Mission have sat on the shelf while sidewalks are torn out.

Livable City Director Tom Radulovich pointed out an especially egregious case this week at 19th and Dolores Streets, a major entrance point to Dolores Park, where plans for sidewalk extensions to make it safer to cross the intersection were adopted in the Planning Department’s 2010 Mission Streetscape Plan. The sidewalk on the southeast corner was recently re-done for the conversion of a church into an elementary school, but the refurbished corner doesn’t have the curb extensions called for in city plans.

Radulovich brought up the wasted opportunity in an email to several city department heads:

I noticed that the curbs, gutters, and sidewalk had been completely removed.

Mostly I knew better, but some part of me hoped that my City might have seized the opportunity reconstruct an important street corner to the Better Streets standards and in so doing implement one of its own plans, and that we might see a long planned and hoped-for pedestrian safety improvement at this heavily-traveled intersection. Alas no; this morning, a new curb had been laid in the exact same location as the old one, without the bulbouts or any other improvements called for in the Mission Streetscape Plan.

This is all incredibly disappointing.

Radulovich referred to the citywide Better Streets Plan, also adopted in 2010, which calls for sidewalk bulb-outs to be standard at most intersections whenever the opportunity arises to install them.

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SFMTA’s Tom Maguire Promises Reforms to Streamline Safe Street Fixes

Tom Maguire, the SFMTA’s new Sustainable Streets Director, said he’s working on reforms that will fast-track implementation of numerous street safety fixes that will help SF accomplish Vision Zero.

Tom Maguire. Photo: SFGovTV

Maguire, who started at the SFMTA two months ago after serving in an executive role in New York City’s Department of Transportation, told the supervisors’ Vision Zero Committee last week that he’s taking on the 10 “primary challenges” [PDF] that delay small infrastructure projects. The primary challenges were identified in last year’s SF 2040 Transportation Plan.

Street safety advocates have long pushed for the SFMTA, and other agencies, to cut the red tape and lack of coordination that result in the painstakingly slow roll-out of pedestrian and bike safety measures.

“I certainly walked into a situation here where project delivery was the primary challenge,” Maguire told the committee. As a veteran of NYC DOT, where safety projects seemingly appeared overnight under former DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Maguire is expected to both bring a fresh perspective and improve the SFMTA’s tempo.

While SFMTA officials haven’t set specific targets that would measure progress on bureaucratic reforms, their current goal is to implement safety fixes on at least 13 miles in each of next two years. Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider pointed out that that falls well short of the 18 mile goal (targeted to “high-injury” streets) requested by the Vision Zero Coalition of advocates at a recent rally. However, it does best the SF Pedestrian Strategy adopted last year, which calls for fixes on five high-injury miles per year.

Tim Papandreou, SFMTA’s director of strategic planning and policy, said a goal of 13 miles annually — not necessarily along high-injury corridors — seems to be a realistic expectation. ”At least there’s one bar that we can cross, and say ‘we did that,’ ” said Papandreou. “Anything above that would be great.”

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Union Square’s “Winter Walk” Plaza on Stockton a Hit – Why Bring Cars Back?

Stockton Street, between Ellis and Geary Streets, has temporarily been transformed into well-loved “Winter Walk” plaza. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Flickr

Families are loving “Winter Walk SF,” the temporary holiday plaza filling two blocks of Stockton Street in Union Square. As CBS reporter John Ramos put it, the on-street downtown play space “represents the San Francisco everyone wants it to be.”

“I didn’t expect to see this,” one smiling girl told Ramos, standing on the green astroturf. “I thought it would be cars.”

Even former Mayor Willie Brown — not exactly known as a livable streets visionary — called it “spectacular” in his latest SF Chronicle column. “While you’re walking, think about what it would be like if the change were made permanent when the subway construction is complete.”

Brown was referring to the fact that the plaza will only be in place during a holiday construction hiatus for the Central Subway. After the new year, Stockton between Geary and Ellis Streets will once again fill with machinery, its use from 2012 until at least 2016.

Afterwards, cars, buses, and bikes are scheduled to once more clog Stockton — but even Brown suggests it shouldn’t go back to the way it was:

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Stockton Street in Union Square Becomes a Plaza for the Holidays

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Two blocks of Stockton Street in the bustling Union Square shopping district are being converted into a pedestrian plaza for the holidays. The roadway has been occupied by Central Subway construction machinery for a couple of years now, but now crews are taking a break and covering up the site with turf for what’s been dubbed Winter Walk SF, “an inviting open plaza in the heart of Union Square” that will run until the new year.

The two blocks “will be open for winter merriment with a nightly light art show projected on the Macy’s Men’s Building featuring Jack Frost’s adventures as he spreads festive icicles throughout San Francisco,” states the Union Square Business Improvement District on its website. “Expect caroling, demos and other wintery surprises.”

The pedestrianization project should boost the bottom line for Union Square merchants during the big holiday shopping season. When Stockton was closed to cars in 2011, and remained open to buses, taxis, and people walking and biking, they said they saw a jump in business. However, ever since construction ramped up with cranes, and pedestrians have been corralled into a narrow passage, some merchants have complained that they’ve lost business.

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Neighbors Celebrate the New “McCoppin Hub,” Dog and Skate Park

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The McCoppin Hub, along Valencia near Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Neighbors near McCoppin Street recently celebrated the completion of the McCoppin Hub, a plaza created from a street stub that sits against the Central Freeway ramp towards Market Street. The plaza, a nearby dog run, and skate park have been in the works for years as a package of newly depaved public spaces planned after the freeway’s partial reconstruction.

“We couldn’t be happier,” said Lynn Valente, a neighborhood activist, at the plaza last month. “This was a true grassroots effort. The neighbors worked on this for ten years with the city to have some amenities in our neighborhood, for pedestrians and traffic and bicycles… It would kind of mitigate the effect of the Central Freeway ramp which goes over the neighborhood.”

“I couldn’t be prouder, because it was a lot of people really sticking to it and making sure we got these amenities,” she added.

Waiting for the spaces has certainly required patience among neighbors. When we wrote about the neighborhood in July 2011, the projects were already considered a long overdue follow-up to the freeway’s completion in 2005. At that time, construction on the McCoppin Hub was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.

Other improvements in what’s officially called the SoMa West Improvement Projects included traffic-calming revamps of side streets like Elgin Park and Stevenson Street, as well as greenery, bike lanes, and raised crosswalks along McCoppin Street.

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Boat Owners Gripe as Car-Free Marina Path Moves Forward

Attendees at a community meeting last night in the Marina. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A community meeting held yesterday about plans to remove car parking from a stretch of the Marina pedestrian and bike path was attended by just a couple dozen people, most of whom appeared to be boat owners protesting the move. The Recreation and Parks Department does appear to be moving forward with the plan, despite complaints from some well-connected Marina boaters who have delayed the project for months.

Photo: Matt Dove

Several harbor tenants repeated mostly baseless arguments heard at previous meetings, defending the 51 often-empty parking spots by instead complaining about the behavior of people who bike on the path.

This stretch of path along Marina Boulevard, between Scott and Baker Streets, sits alongside four wide traffic lanes. It’s the only segment of the 500-mile Bay Trail that has car access on it. Only two percent of people using the path park cars on it — the rest walk or bike. Most of those biking appear to be pedaling leisurely on rental bikes, and many of them are children.

But that doesn’t jibe with the narrative of menacing road-hogs told by those like Paul Manning, a harbor tenant.

“I think it’s important that, when bicyclists ask for sharing the road, that it be a combination and not an exclusive use of the road,” Manning told Streetsblog. “In this project in particular, they want to obliterate all the cars and have exclusive use for pedestrians and cyclists, which seems unreasonable.”

“That’s their modus operandi,” said Allen Cavey, in response to Manning. ”They want everybody off, but they can’t get the pedestrians off because they’re on the sidewalk.”

Cavey, who identified as a harbor tenant since 1963, said he’s long fought efforts to take cars off the Marina path, which “really started” in 1996. Cavey was unabashed in his contempt for the SF Bicycle Coalition and in his celebration of keeping cars on the path.

“As a member of the Harbor Tenants Association, I had to rattle down the testy, belligerent, arrogant Bicyclist [sic] Coalition. We won, we prevailed. And we’re still parking on the esplanade. And we’re going through the same thing again.”

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SF Officials Tout School Zone Safety Upgrades on Walk and Roll to School Day

Mayor Lee squeezes down a SoMa sidewalk with students headed to Bessie Carmichael Elementary School yesterday. Photo: Richard Carranza/Twitter

On another record-breaking Walk and Roll to School Day, Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials held a press conference to tout recently-completed pedestrian safety measures on streets surrounding Bessie Carmichael Elementary in SoMa, and three schools in the Avenues. Almost 90 schools and 14,000 children citywide were estimated to have participated in the event — over 85 percent of SF Unified School District students.

“Today reminds us: children deserve to walk to school safely, not only on Walk and Roll to School Day, but every day,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider said in a statement.

Bessie Carmichael Elementary, located at Fourth and Harrison Streets next to a highway 80 on-ramp, is surrounded by some of the city’s most dangerous, freeway-like streets.

“This is not just any kind of traffic on the streets. This is freeway traffic,” said Fred Rutger, who said he’s been injured three times by hit-and-run drivers during his eight years as an SFMTA crossing guard for Bessie Carmichael Middle School, located at Harrison and Seventh Streets, three blocks away from the elementary school and next to a different set of freeway ramps. Each driver who hit him had made an illegal right turn from a far traffic lane, he said. There are no signs telling drivers headed to and from the freeway that they’re entering a school zone.

The SFMTA completed installation of 15 MPH school zones at 181 schools in 2012, but a Walk SF press release pointed out that “Bessie is one of a handful of schools in the city which do not qualify for slower 15 mph school zones, as state law precludes these slow zones on wide, fast streets where they’re needed most.”

Plans for a road diet on Sixth Street are in the works, and painted bulb-outs were recently added on street corners. The SFMTA also plans to add a signalized crosswalk at Sixth and Minna Streets this month, among other smaller improvements that don’t have a timeline yet.

Rutger said he’s been hit at Seventh and Folsom Streets, which he called one of the most hazardous intersections. The SFMTA recently re-timed traffic signals there to give pedestrians a head start, which could mitigate the danger somewhat, while students and parents wait for a more substantial transformation of the car-dominated intersection. Some pedestrian bulb-outs and daylighting are planned, but it’s unclear when they’ll come.

In a statement, Mayor Lee pushed Prop A, the $500 million general obligation bond to fund transportation improvements — which was originally supposed to be on the ballot alongside a vehicle license fee increase until Lee abandoned support for it.

“Walk and Roll to School Day grows every year, as more and more families choose to walk, bike or take Muni to school,” said Lee in a statement. “Whether they are in the Sunset District or in the heart of SoMa, we want every student to be safe when they are walking to school.”

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