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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category

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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.
Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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El Camino Real to Remain Deadly

San Jose reconstructed the southern 0.5-mile end of El Camino Real with wide medians, pedestrian refuges, and sidewalk curb extensions in October 2014.

San Jose reconstructed the southern 0.5-mile end of El Camino Real with wide medians, pedestrian refuges, and sidewalk curb extensions in October 2014.

On Tuesday, Menlo Park’s City Council postponed a pilot project to replace parallel car parking with buffered bike lanes on El Camino Real, deciding that neighboring Palo Alto and Atherton should also agree on a common design for bike lanes before proceeding with the permitting process required by Caltrans. Despite strong community support to fix the urban highway’s safety hazards, the city remains content with today’s configuration, after 11 public meetings held since April 2014 on the topic.

In late 2014 Atherton approved a similar conversion of two of El Camino’s six lanes through the town into bike/ped paths physically separated from auto traffic. But Atherton’s Town Council put the critical next step to conduct a traffic study with Caltrans of the proposed six-to-four lane conversion on hold in February 2015–just four months after approving it. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District remains staunchly opposed to bike paths and bike lanes on El Camino Real, claiming they’ll threaten residents’ lives by slowing emergency vehicles.

El Camino Real remains the most hazardous street on the San Francisco Peninsula, killing five and severely injuring 20 people in car crashes each year between 2005 and 2014, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). A traffic safety report published by the San Mateo County Health System last month showed that 18 percent of all collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists occur on El Camino Real, despite the street making up only one percent of total roadway miles in the county. Read more…

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Oakland’s New Parking Protected Bike Lanes Are Challenging to Some

There is a lot going on in the street. Bicyclists now have a safe place to ride without having to mix with car traffic. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

There is a lot going on along Telegraph Avenue, and now bicyclists have a safe place to ride without having to mix with car traffic. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

With a road diet, new parking configuration, and protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue, Oakland is saying to its car drivers: slow down, take it easy. And to its bike riders: you’re welcome here and safe.

Not everyone is listening. The new parking-protected bike lanes have been in place for a week. In that time, it’s been easy to find cars parked in them, driving in them, and blocking bus and loading zones. It will take some time for people to get used to how the new street works, but it’s important to note that bad behavior is old hat on Telegraph Avenue.

Until a week ago, Telegraph had two travel lanes in each direction, plus parking at the curb, with some yellow-painted loading zones and red no-parking zones near crosswalks and at bus stops. During several afternoons of observing travel behavior prior to the changes, I saw a lot of illegal and dangerous maneuvers. At times the right-side travel lane was no more than a defacto double parking lane. Drivers would pull over, get out of their cars, and go into nearby businesses, spending five minutes or more inside. Other drivers, seeing those cars stopped, would pull up behind or in front of them and stop.

Buses still pull up to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Buses still pull up to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Yellow zones were frequently blocked by parked cars, and delivery vehicles double-parked. Meanwhile traffic, including bikes, buses, trucks, and cars, did not slow down, but flowed around obstacles by using the middle lanes. There were no turn lanes, so anyone turning left blocked the through-traffic if it couldn’t go around on the right.

Meanwhile pedestrians had to cross four lanes of moving traffic at intersections with simple crosswalks but no traffic lights. It was a long way, and drivers frequently did not stop. Crossers had to wait until traffic in both directions was clear, and there was no place to pause in the middle of the road.

In other words, it was a busy, chaotic scene that flowed because it had a rhythm to it, but involved a fair amount of bad behavior and danger. It sort of worked for through-traffic because people found a way around obstacles, but it put everyone, especially pedestrians and bicyclists, at risk.

As of last week, with the changes almost complete, there is only one lane of through-traffic in each direction. There’s also a painted median with turn lanes at many—though not all—of the cross streets, so left-turning cars can get out of the way of moving traffic. Cars no longer park at the curb—that is, they are no longer supposed to park at the curb. Instead a bike lane lines the curb, with a three-foot painted buffer to its left. Cars park left of that buffer, leaving a wide space for bikes to travel without having to mix with fast car traffic. Read more…

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San Francisco Needs to Get Out of the Car Storage Business

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Free private automobile storage on transit routes makes for inherently dangerous conditions. Image: Wikimedia

Free private automobile storage on transit routes makes for inherently dangerous conditions. Image: Wikimedia

Marco Salsiccia is a blind resident of the Sunset District. Last month, while stepping off an L-Taraval train at a stop without a boarding island, he got his cane stuck in the wheel well of a car as it illegally passed the train. His cane snapped in two. The motorist stopped briefly and then took off. Salsiccia emailed his San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang about the incident:

Today’s situation could easily have been much worse. I could have been injured, maimed, or even killed. If this happened to me, I imagine similar—if not worse—things have occurred to others in the highly-trafficked area.

Indeed, worse things have happened. Salsiccia had his foot run over by a driver a few years earlier while he crossed Taraval from Safeway (fortunately, he only suffered some bruising). As Streetsblog previously reported, SFMTA data shows that 22 people have been hit getting off trains on Taraval just in the past five years.

Streetsblog reached out to Tang’s office to get her take on the rate of improvements on Taraval under SFMTA’s Muni Forward program. Streetsblog will update this post if a reply is received. But this was part of her reply to Salsiccia’s email:

Please know that there is currently an intensive planning process happening to plan for future safety improvements along the L-Taraval, including proposals for boarding islands. Along with that have been other ideas for how we can properly train/educate drivers about slowing down near trains where passengers are getting on/off the trains, and stopping behind the train when this occurs.

If that seems a bit wishy washy, there’s a reason. As previously reported, there’s resistance to boarding islands because they require taking away (or relocating) street parking. And this gets local merchants up in arms.

Read more…

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Parents Restrict Toy Guns, Why Not Restrict Toy Cars? #StreetsR4Families

If only all cars were as puffy and harmless as this one. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

If only all cars were as puffy and harmless as this one. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Many parents, including me and my mother, don’t let their kids play with toy guns. We believe that guns aren’t good for kids. They inure children to the danger inherent to guns.

But what about toy cars?

I write about transportation, so I am no expert on guns. From a little online research, here’s what I found. On an annual basis in the United States, cars have killed more people than guns. Since the 1960s, car deaths are trending downward. Gun deaths are trending upward. For the past half-decade, though, cars and guns each killed more than 30,000 people per year in the U.S.

U.S. Car deaths have historically been greater than gun deaths. Currently each accounts for roughly 30,000 deaths per year. Image via Bloomberg

U.S. Car deaths have historically been greater than gun deaths. Currently each accounts for roughly 30,000 deaths per year. Image via Bloomberg

But whether cars or guns kill more isn’t the question. It doesn’t matter which serial killer has the lower body count. Both kill.

We restrict our kids from playing with guns. We allow our kids to cuddle with, read about, and watch cartoons about cars.

Car toys are ubiquitous. Cars are in movies, on television, in video games, and books. Kids play with toy cars, ride in toy cars, clutch stuffed toy cars as they fall asleep. My mom encouraged my siblings and me to play car-race video games as an alternative to shoot-em-up video games.

What messages are all these toy cars giving to our children? Read more…

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Mission Businesses Tussle with Transit Advocates over Bus Lanes

SFMTAs newly painted transit lanes on Mission are raising the ire of many. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA’s newly painted transit lanes on Mission are raising the ire of many. Image: SFMTA

Businesses in the Mission are complaining to Supervisor David Campos about the new “Red Carpet” painted transit lanes. And there’s already talk about taking them out. The San Francisco Transit Riders Union (SFTRU) reacted in an email blast last week:

Starting in March, after a decade of numerous community discussions, planning and studies, Muni finally started installing transit priority treatments on Mission Street. Just a month in and despite flagrant violations by drivers, they are already benefiting riders by making their rides faster and more reliable.

However, there has been a major backlash against these changes, and some, in particular Supervisor Campos, have called for rollback of this major progress. It is a betrayal of the 65,000 riders who are served by the 14, 14R and 49 buses, as well as a betrayal of the Transit First charter of this city.

This is what Campos had to say about the lanes on his Facebook page:

While I understand the intention was to enhance the commute of 65,000 transit riders, the changes look better on paper than in practice. I have heard from many of you–car commuters frustrated by traffic jams that stretch multiple blocks…That’s why I’m calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make a radical shift in the program. We look forward to announcing a solution shortly. In the meanwhile, please email your concerns to the SFMTA at matthew.brill@sfmta.com.

The SFTRU is pretty peeved that Campos is even suggesting undoing the results of all their hard work. They’ve set up a web page, letting transit-supporters know how to stop this roll back. As the SFTRU put its outrage:

The paint has hardly dried. Yet the transit only lanes on Mission Street may go away soon. If prioritizing transit is not possible on Mission Street, one of Muni’s key corridors, then will we ever see Muni become world-class system in our lifetimes?

But let’s back up a second. Do the business owners who say the transit lanes make it harder to drive to their shops and are keeping away customers, really have a basis to complain?

Read more…

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Planning for the Future of San Francisco’s Hub Neighborhood

Map of the HUB. Image: SF planning department.

Map of the HUB. Image: SF planning department.

About a hundred planners, developers, neighbors, and interested citizens crowded into a conference room at One South Van Ness yesterday evening for a presentation from the San Francisco Planning Department on their plans for the area immediately around the intersection of Market and Van Ness, also known as the Hub.

The Hub, of course, got its name back in the 1800s, when four trolley lines converged there. And, as John Rahaim, Planning Director for San Francisco, reminded everyone at the start of the meeting, it remains a major transit hub for bikes, Muni trains and buses, and BART.

“We felt it was time to take a fresh look at this portion of the plan,” he said to the group, noting the the Hub neighborhood is also part of the larger Market and Octavia Area Plan adopted in 2008.

So why is the planning department paying special attention to the Hub and, in effect, creating a plan within a plan? Rahaim said they hoped to move more quickly with this area that is such a focus of activity, with its many transit lines, including dedicated Bus Rapid Transit coming to Van Ness, and its proximity to the Opera House and Symphony.

“We felt this part of the plan needed another look to create new open spaces and improve sidewalks,” he explained.
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