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A Safer Masonic on the Way

Michael Helquist and Dale Danley looking pleased to see Maconic improvements finally happening. Photo: Streetsblog

Michael Helquist and Dale Danley looking pleased to see Masonic Avenue improvements finally happening. Photo: Streetsblog

Wednesday evening some 130 local residents and other interested parties dropped in at the San Francisco Day School to learn about the construction phase of SFMTAs Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project. To quote SFMTA’s own release about the project:

With construction starting in June 2016, the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project is an effort to improve safety for people walking, biking, taking transit and driving on Masonic Avenue between Geary Boulevard and Fell Street. It will bring a variety of improvements to the corridor including, wider sidewalks, a new median, new paving, landscaping, raised bikeways, better lighting and upgraded sewer infrastructure.

The meeting was primarily to let local residents know what to expect from the jack hammers and traffic delays they will experience from June through late 2017, when construction is scheduled to be completed.

Michael Helquist, an advocate with “Fix Masonic” who helped raise support for the changes over the years, was thrilled. “This took several years of going door to door to build support,” he said. “Safety is my biggest concern.”

And, indeed, this is a corridor that needed it. Also from SFMTA’s data:

From 2009 to 2014, there were 113 traffic collisions on Masonic Avenue between Fell Street and Geary Boulevard. This includes 14 pedestrian collisions and 24 bicycle collisions, including two fatalities.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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A Different Ride of Silence: Rich City RIDES

Riders gather at City Hall before the Ride of Silence begins. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Riders gather at City Hall before the Ride of Silence begins. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Last Thursday, May 18, was the day of the International Ride of Silence. In many cities—26 Californian cities, according to the California Bicycle Coalition—bike riders gathered to commemorate bicyclists and pedestrians who have died in traffic crashes. San Francisco was one such city. So was Richmond. But that city’s Ride of Silence was about a lot more than traffic violence.

In Richmond, riders gathered to remember four young people who died as a result of gun violence since 2016 began.

Najari Smith, founder of Rich City RIDES, wanted to create a Ride of Silence that acknowledged the serious problems that keep people not only from riding bikes in Richmond but that prevent young people from feeling safe in their own neighborhoods. “This event is part of the national annual Ride of Silence that brings attention to cyclists maimed or killed while riding on urban streets,” he wrote on the group’s Facebook page, “but Rich City RIDES is remixing it to address the needs of our community. In the Rich, my sisters and brothers are far too busy dodging beef and bullets to worry about car traffic and so for this, the fifth Annual Richmond Ride of Silence, we’re bringing the attention where it needs to be.”

Some people’s attention was still on car traffic. At Richmond City Hall, where the riders gathered before the ride, Alex Knox, representing the Mayor, pointed out that the city had seen no serious injuries or fatalities among bicyclists this year, “although we did have one dooring incident,” he said. The victim of the dooring spoke for a moment, reminding the gathered listeners that she was lucky. “Never assume that you are seen,” she said.

She was lucky, indeed. And she’s right—cyclists are safer when they are seen. But that is not always the case for everyone in the public space. For the four victims honored by Rich City RIDES this night, the problem wasn’t that they weren’t seen. All of them died as a result of the the kind of violence that won’t be fixed with traffic calming or bike lanes and road diets.

Which is why the community work being undertaken by Smith and Rich City RIDES is about much more than getting out on a bike on a balmy May evening and experiencing new, “safe” bike lanes. Smith spoke to the group of the importance of making biking safer, but also of making the entire city safe for all of its residents.

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SFSU Students Study How to Un-Suck Biking to BART

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Professor Jason Henderson's "Bicycle Geographies" class explores how infrastructure could make cycling from BART to class safe and fun. Photo: ???TK

Professor Jason Henderson’s “Bicycle Geographies” class (seen with additional university staff in this photo) explores how infrastructure could make cycling from BART to class safe and fun. Photo: Nolen Brown

Professor Jason Henderson’s “Bicycle Geographies” class wants the ride from Daily City BART to San Francisco State University’s campus to be comfortable and fun.

And why shouldn’t it be?

After all, it’s only a 1.6 mile trip that should take even a novice cyclist about 15 minutes. Given the proximity to BART, this should be a no-brainer. But thanks to some harrowing intersections, high-speed traffic lanes, and oddly placed and timed “safety measures,” it’s anything but.

“That route probably felt quite calm in a big group with 40-plus people in a group ride,” said Joshua Handel, one of five students in the class, during a presentation to administrators at the school. Handel is referring to a Bike to Work Day ride done earlier this month with staff and students.

“But when one does it alone, there’s a lot of traffic stress,” he continued.  Read more…

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A Time to Remember

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DylanMitchellThree years ago today, 21-year-old Dylan Mitchell was riding his bike east on 16th Street when a garbage truck traveling in the same direction turned on South Van Ness and collided with him. He died at the scene–a scene where flowers were left during Thursday night’s “Ride of Silence.”

Mitchell was one of almost fifty cyclists killed while riding the streets of San Francisco who were remembered that evening. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when one tries to sum up the pain caused by San Francisco’s deadly combination of unsafe streets and twisted priorities, where street parking is given weight over human life and limb.

Riders started to assemble in the Sports Basement on Bryant around 5:30 Thursday night. Despite the nature of the meeting, spirits were generally high. People were there to enjoy the company of other survivors, it seemed, as much as remember the dead. Devon Warner, the event organizer, stressed that everyone “gets used to close calls” riding a bike in San Francisco. Every rider knows it’s just a matter of luck who gets killed and who survives.

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Police Chief Resigns: What Does it Mean for Livable Streets?

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up at a stop light on Seventh Street on yesterday's bike-share celebration ride to City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up during happier times (in this case on a bike-share celebration ride to City Hall). Photo: Aaron Bialick

As Streetsblog readers have surely heard, police Chief Greg Suhr was forced to resign Thursday after the shooting of an apparently unarmed woman by SFPD. The police shootings of Mario Woods in December and Luis Gongora in April both seemed to show a department where officers are failing to deescalate situations and are too quick to resort to deadly force. As the Chronicle explained:

Mayor Lee had stood by the chief he appointed in 2011 through two controversial police shootings within the past six months and revelations that a number of officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. But at a late-afternoon news conference at City Hall, the mayor said that after Thursday’s shooting, he had “arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.”

It’s a tricky thing, taking a safe-streets perspective on the resignation. Obviously, the shootings, the texts, and other incidents have contributed to a heightened distrust between the SFPD and communities of color. But it would be remiss not to point out the overlap between vulnerable road users, the disadvantaged, and the way they are treated by city agencies, including the police. It’s no coincidence that the Tenderloin, in addition to all its other problems, is the district with the highest rate of pedestrian-versus-car injuries. And it is the last to get any bike lanes and safety measures. As Walk San Francisco’s director Nicole Ferrara put it:

The recent actions by SFPD have been deeply troubling and we support rapid reforms to ensure that black and brown communities in San Francisco are treated with respect, dignity and equity. We have been working with SFPD to ensure that they are sharing data on crashes and citations, including racial data.

Chief Suhr supported Vision Zero, San Francisco’s ambitious program to eliminate traffic deaths, publicly. But that didn’t seem to bear out on the ground. As Streetsblog readers will recall, just last month a tipster sent us a photo of Suhr’s car parked illegally in front of City Hall, blocking sight lines a few feet from where 68-year-old Priscila Moreto was mowed down by a motorist a few years before.

He was also at odds with bike community over the Bike Yield Law. Read more…

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The Taraval Boarding Island Question: Q&A with Katy Tang

Supervisor Katy Tang, at her desk at City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Supervisor Katy Tang, at her desk at City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Last week, Streetsblog brought you an editorial from Katy Tang about the issue of installing concrete boarding islands on Taraval as part of SFMTA’s Muni Forward project. This was in response to a headline in the SF Examiner, that declared “Supervisor Slams Brakes on L-Taraval Changes.”

As Streetsblog readers may recall, business owners were pushing back against the boarding islands because of the potential loss of parking in front of their shops; Streetsblog brought you the story of the rancorous public meeting about it, and other issues, back in February.

Is it true that Supervisor Tang was holding up safety improvements because of her small-business constituents and their objections? Streetsblog had reached out to Tang several times. Finally, Friday, Streetsblog was able to sit down with the District 4 Supervisor and get her perspective, face to face.

STREETSBLOG: The Examiner story was accurate, with the exception of the headline?

TANG: Factually, it was true. It just didn’t tell people all of what was going on.

SB: So what is going on? Let’s pick this up from that infamous meeting with the community at Dianne Feinstein Elementary about Muni’s proposed improvements to the L-Taraval.

TANG: At that large meeting, everyone was yelling at each other and not giving time to hear people. We heard from people that they were confused about what SFMTA proposals were on Taraval.  It’s not just about boarding islands. It might be about transit-only lanes. Parking removals associated with boarding islands. Traffic signals. Stop removals. So it was a whole host of things. You had to look at every intersection to know what’s going on. Because those meetings were just shouting fests, and it wasn’t just that one, there were several, we felt like, you know what? We’re not being productive. MTA wants feedback, and people aren’t providing feedback, they’re just yelling.

SB: So you arranged smaller meetings?
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SF Celebrates Bike to Work Day

Margaret McCarthy, Interim Executive Director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, gives a rousing speech in front of SF City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Margaret McCarthy, Interim Executive Director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, gives a rousing speech in front of SF City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

San Francisco has come a long way. That was the theme of a rousing speech delivered by Margaret McCarthy, Interim Executive Director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, at a ceremony this morning in front of San Francisco City Hall. “We’ve seen a 184 percent increase in cycling in the past decade,” she said with her trademark ebullience. “San Francisco is a biking city!”

Bike to Work day, of course, is a chance to grow those numbers and take a look at what still needs to be done to make cycling accessible to all. It brings together advocates and lawmakers and helps them focus on getting more and better bicycle infrastructure everywhere in the city. But for Julia Schaber, a graphic design intern with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the ride had a greater significance: it’s her first ride since a crash on April 7. “I hit the Muni tracks on Ocean and San Jose, behind Balboa Park BART–it’s one of the worst,” she said, referring to the cycling conditions at that dangerous intersection. “I went over the handlebars, went to the ER in an ambulance, and spent about a month recovering.” Read more…

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Let’s Make “Bike to Work Day” a “Check-Up Day” On Bay Area Bike Lanes

A sharrow on a dead end street? Photo: Streetsblog.

A sharrow at the end of a dead end street? Photo: Streetsblog.

Behold, in the photo above, San Francisco bicycle infrastructure, at the end of St. Charles way, where it deadends at Brotherhood Way in Oceanview. There’s a walking path at the end that leads to Brotherhood Way. There’s a large curb.

Exactly what this sharrow marking is supposed to accomplish is difficult to imagine. Perhaps a Streetsblog reader has an idea. Most likely, the sharrow is painted there simply because a crew was told to go paint some sharrows–because, cycling.

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day throughout the Bay Area. It’s an opportunity for everyday cyclists to encourage their bike-curious friends and for new cyclists to ride with a group. It should also be a great deal of fun. Streetsblog California did a great breakdown of all the events in the Bay Area.

It is, of course, all about getting more people into the healthy habit of cycling. But promote cycling all you want, if the infrastructure is sub par, we’re never going to turn cycling into what it could be–a hugely significant and perfectly safe transportation option for everyone, including children and the elderly. You know, like it is in much of Northern Europe. That’s why Bike to Work Day presents another opportunity for Streetsblog readers: let’s use it to take a look at how the Bay Area is doing.

What are you seeing when you ride your bike? Do you see signs of improvement all over? Or are things in your district not advancing the way they should? Send your observations to tips@sf.streetsblog.org or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter. Let us know, with photos preferably, where is Bay Area infrastructure working? Where is it failing? And what could be better?

Streetsblog will be riding from Oceanview to City Hall tomorrow morning with a commuter convoy. Come say hello.

After the page break, enjoy some examples of our favorite bike infrastructure fails (and a couple of successes).
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SFMTA Open House Gets Feedback on Bike Lanes and More

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SFMTA took public comment on three different streetscape projects Monday night. Photo: Streetsblog.

SFMTA took public comment on three different streetscape projects Monday night. Photo: Streetsblog.

Some 30 residents of the Western Addition, Lower Haight and Hayes Valley neighborhoods (plus some interested folks from outside the area) showed up Monday night to the auditorium at John Muir Elementary School to learn about SFMTA’s plans on three different, but related, projects: the Western Addition Community-Based Transportation Plan, the Lower Haight Public Realm Plan, and the Page Street Green Connections Project. From SFMTA’s release about the meeting:

  • The Western Addition Community-Based
    Transportation Plan’s overall goal is to
    improve the community’s transportation
    options and enhance access to more
    employment and education opportunities.
  • The Lower Haight Public Realm Plan is
    working to develop a community-based
    vision that will complement and enhance the
    neighborhood’s public spaces.
  • As part of the Octavia Boulevard
    Enhancement Project, the Page Street Green
    Connections Project is about making Page
    Street a more walkable, bikeable, and
    sustainable corridor in the Hayes Valley
    neighborhood.

Streetsblog readers can follow these projects and make comments via SFMTA’s web page. Two things immediately stood out. On a table at the center of the room, SFMTA had left the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) manual. The cover features what is now widely accepted as the preferred design for bike lanes: make them protected, either by bollards, curbs, planters, or–in this case–parking.
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L-Taraval and the Concrete Boarding Island Question

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Supervisor Katy Tang addresses a grumpy audience about proposed Taraval safety improvements back in February. Photo: Streetsblog.

Back in February, Streetsblog reported on one of three meetings about SFMTA’s planned “Muni Forward” improvements to the L-Taraval line. Since then, SFMTA has held various smaller meetings with local stakeholders, confirmed SFMTA.

But rumors have grown that, under the direction of Supervisor Katy Tang, the SFMTA was backing off safety improvements, such as adding concrete boarding islands. This was reinforced by a San Francisco Examiner headline “Supervisor slams brakes on L-Taraval changes.” Concrete boarding islands require the elimination of some parking spots on Taraval, and local business owners were objecting.

This follows a pattern, also seen on Mission Street, where local business owners complain that any elimination of traffic lanes or parking hurts business. This led to Supervisor David Campos calling for a rethink of the transit-only lanes on Mission. He confirmed that directly with a Facebook post.

But in the case of Tang, sources close to the goings-on say the rumors are wrong. Streetsblog reached out to Supervisor Tang’s office on several occasions but, most likely due to timing, hasn’t connected so far. That said, Streetsblog was able to obtain this response via email from Tang to the Examiner and, along with it, to the rumors that she’s for eliminating boarding islands:

With a single headline, “Supervisor slams brakes on L-Taraval changes,” the Examiner has completely misrepresented what has transpired with the L-Taraval Muni Forward Project. [The Examiner’s article] from May 5, 2016 attempted to provide readers with an update about SFMTA’s proposed changes to the L-Taraval to improve pedestrian safety and transit reliability. Instead, readers were led to believe that my office tried to stop the proposed changes from happening.

SFMTA presented our community with a set of proposals that included installation of boarding islands, stop removals, transit-only lanes, and traffic signals as part of the L-Taraval Muni Forward Project. Naturally, the proposal was met with opinions from all sides. Neighbors were invited to community meetings that turned into public shouting matches. Thus, our office suggested that we hold focus group meetings with representatives from all communities to move the conversation forward in a more productive manner. We included community members who represented youth, seniors, transit riders, drivers, merchants, bicyclists, pedestrian safety advocates, and those with disabilities. Through this forum, we were able to discuss in greater detail SFMTA’s initial proposal and where potential changes could be made or not be made. All of the detailed feedback will help SFMTA refine its initial proposal.

As with all large projects, community members will find that they share a diversity of opinions. But regardless of how people feel about specific proposals, most community members have acknowledged that we share common interests: safety and transit reliability. My job is to facilitate a productive dialogue to ensure that we meet our shared goals in the best way possible – not to interject my own opinions about a project. At no point during this process did I slam the brakes on any component of the L-Taraval Muni Forward Project. We are trying to move the conversation forward, and we hope the Examiner will do the same.

– Katy Tang, District 4 Supervisor, San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

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