Skip to content

Posts from the The Wiggle Category

23 Comments

Double-Parked Driver Chokes Wiggle Intersection; SFPD Nowhere to Be Found

Yesterday evening I returned to the Wiggle, where reports continue of SFPD officers targeting bicycle commuters rolling stop signs. To my surprise, there were no police to be found during their typical shift at about 6:45 p.m., but I did find a driver double-parked right behind the crosswalk on Waller and Steiner Streets. In the exact same spot where officers can usually be spotted admonishing bike commuters for doing an “Idaho stop,” the driver of this car pretty much put every passerby in danger for at least the ten minutes I was there, and faced no consequences.

There’s hardly a more hazardous place for someone to park: He was forcing all the drivers and bicycle riders behind him to pass in the oncoming lane, right at a crosswalk, blocking the visibility of people crossing the street. (Perhaps he could have done more damage by parking in the crosswalk itself, but another motorist I spotted beat him to that at the corner of Haight and Pierce Streets. When I pointed out to that driver that he was blocking a crosswalk, he simply told me, “I’m waiting for someone,” and didn’t move.)

In the last few minutes of the scene above, you can watch the driver refuse to move from this dangerous spot even as other drivers honk and argue with him. Three other drivers can be seen waiting behind for a chance to pass safely — and with the frequency of motor vehicle and bike traffic turning into their path, it’s a wonder no one crashed.

“Enforcing double parking should be high on SFPD’s list for a way to make our streets safer and more convenient for all,” said Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk SF, who said the organization has gotten behind Supervisor Scott Wiener’s recent efforts to bring more attention to the abysmal state of enforcement. “Double parking is not only an inconvenience, it’s a safety hazard. Pedestrians’ visibility is threatened, bikes have to swerve into oncoming traffic, and it aggravates drivers, creating an unsafe condition for all.”

Read more…

96 Comments

SFPD Still Targeting Bike Commuters Rolling Stop Signs on the Wiggle

Bicycle commuters on the Wiggle continue to be confronted by SFPD officers posted at intersections issuing warnings and tickets for what police deem to be dangerous violations of stop sign laws. Police claim they’re obligated to respond to complaints from neighbors who apparently see the behavior as a threat to public safety.

But there have been no known crashes on the Wiggle recently. Posting officers there to ticket and chastise bike commuters who slow down and yield to others while not coming to a complete stop is a waste of precious enforcement resources and doesn’t make streets any safer.

“Everybody wants to eliminate the about five percent of cyclists who violate other people’s right-of-way,” said Morgan Fitzgibbons of the Wigg Party, which advocates for environmentally sustainable practices in the neighborhoods around the Wiggle. “Nobody wants to defend those people, but trying to put a constant police presence on the Wiggle to make people follow a law that really doesn’t make any sense is not the right way to go about it.”

“It will never solve the problem — it’s patently absurd.”

As in every state except Idaho, in California, the letter of the law calls for people on bicycles to come to a complete stop at stop signs, just like people operating multi-ton motor vehicles. The application of that law to bikes is so impractical, however, that most people who bike — including police officers — treat stop signs by slowing, checking for traffic, and proceeding. Idaho changed its stop sign law 30 years ago to legitimize normal bicycling behavior, and it’s not hurting anyone.

To address the issue of bicycle riders who actually violate others’ right-of-way, the SF Bicycle Coalition has recently posted up at spots along the Wiggle holding signs encouraging commuters to “bike politely.”

“We urge the police to prioritize their limited enforcement resources on the known, dangerous problem areas and behaviors, which means the high-injury collision areas and actions,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “The Wiggle is not one of those areas.”

Last Wednesday evening, I was bicycling home on the Wiggle when I spotted two officers standing next to their motorcycles on Waller at Steiner Streets, an intersection busy with drivers, pedestrians, and westbound bicycle riders who mostly make a left turn to follow the flattest route. I parked my bicycle and stood between two parked cars to record the scene on video, when officer L. Henderson (who declined to give his first name) told me to get on the sidewalk.

I complied, and then introduced myself and asked the officer for an interview, which he granted. The entire audio recording of the interview is below.

Read more…

18 Comments

New Options Arise for Greener, Calmer Streets on the Wiggle

A rendering of what the Waller and Pierce intersection would look like with raised crosswalks, greened bulb-outs, and water-permeable pavement in the parking lanes. Image: SFPUC

Plans to create calmer, greener streets on the Wiggle came into clearer focus Tuesday after the SFMTA presented more refined proposals for raised crosswalks and intersections, bulb-outs with greenery, traffic circles, traffic diverters, and other safety improvements.

The proposed treatments [PDF] are aimed at improving stormwater drainage while also calming motor and bicycle traffic. One newly proposed measure to help address the growing number of complaints that an increased number of bicycle commuters are making the streets uncomfortable to walk across is “in-pavement speed reduction bars” on approaches to crosswalks. Those, planners explained, would be strips of colored material much like the green-backed sharrows already along the Wiggle aimed at signaling bicycle riders to prepare to yield to pedestrians.

A example of "in-pavement speed reduction bars" shown along the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Image: SFMTA

“We can’t force anyone to stop, but there are physical improvements we can do to make it so that you can see what’s coming sooner and act accordingly,” said Miriam Sorrell, a planner with the SFMTA’s Livable Streets team.

While the original aim of the project was to add greening improvements along the traditional Wiggle bicycle route — topographically, the flattest way across the lower Haight — the SFMTA and Public Utillities Commission are now considering deviating from the route for two blocks, placing improvements on a block of Pierce and Page Streets instead of the corresponding blocks of Haight and Scott Streets. That’s because permeable pavement treatments that would go underneath the parking lanes on Haight wouldn’t be able to bear the loads of Muni buses and delivery trucks which often stop there. Sorrell said the pavement treatments are mostly intended to absorb stormwater, though they can contribute to calming traffic by narrowing the visual width of the roadway.

“We have the most potential for stormwater management” on Pierce and Page, said Sorrell, “compared to on Haight Street where we might be limited in terms of some of those green infrastructure improvements.”

The other reasons to consider the two-block deviation, SFMTA planners say, are that many bicycle riders have said they deviate on to Page and Pierce anyway, and that Scott would still have reduced car traffic if the street is blocked off to cars in at least one direction, as the agency proposes to do. The motor traffic diverters could be added on Scott at Oak or Fell Streets, creating a dead-end for drivers in one or both directions, preventing them from using Scott as a cut-through route. People walking and biking would still be allowed to filter through in both directions, and the SFMTA has also proposed adding a traffic circle at Scott and Page to calm that intersection further.

Although the proposals to divert motor traffic raised concern from some pro-parking activists at a recent meeting (even though little if any car parking would be removed), the Wiggle proposals seem mostly well-received.

Read more…

111 Comments

As SFMTA Looks to Calm Traffic on Scott, Parking Warriors Get Loud

One vision for Scott as rendered by the SF Bicycle Coalition.

The SFMTA held a public meeting last week about how to calm traffic on three blocks of Scott Street along the Wiggle. On the table are design features that would signal drivers to slow down and possibly prevent them from using the street as a cut-through route. Even though planners say the project may remove few, if any, parking spaces, a familiar handful of pro-car activists showed up to fume about the agency’s livable streets projects in general.

The SFMTA held the meeting to get feedback on various treatments to slow car and bicycle traffic on Scott — and there was consensus among attendees that slower traffic was needed to make the street more comfortable for pedestrians, particularly as growing numbers of bike commuters use the crosstown route. Treatments on the table include traffic diverters, which filter out motor vehicle through-traffic but allow for free-flowing bicycle and pedestrian movement and retain access for local car trips. Also under consideration are raised crosswalks, roundabouts and bulb-outs with greenery, and other design changes that calmed residential streets in other cities but aren’t widespread in San Francisco.

“As we’ve been looking into this, we definitely find that there are some [characteristics] that make [Scott] a good candidate to do something a little bit different,” said Miriam Sorrell, a planner at the SFMTA’s Livable Streets subdivision.

Most residents said that crossing streets around the Wiggle was often an uncomfortable experience, and some welcomed a significant change to the status quo. But a few people criticized the diverters because car owners would have to change their routes to access their block when driving, and seemed to believe that most residents own cars (which is not supported by census data).

When the meeting opened up for comments, Jung O’Donnell stood up to loudly denounce what she perceives as the SFMTA’s “war on cars” that she sees as essential to family life: “It makes it so much harder for people like me to live in the city when you’re so anti-car,” O’Donnell told SFMTA staffers. She did not refer specifically to the Scott project.

Read more…

42 Comments

City Sets Out to Create Safer, Greener Streets on the Wiggle

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The Wiggle could be transformed into a greener, more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly route in the coming years thanks to a new planning effort launched by the SFMTA and the SF Public Utilities Commission.

At an open house community meeting yesterday, planners shopped potential treatments like traffic diverters, traffic circles, bulb-outs, and raised crosswalks that could be used to calm motor traffic while adding plants and surfacing treatments to absorb more storm runoff.

“We want to think about how we can make the streets for people,” said Luis Montoya, a planner at the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Subdivision. “We’ve been hearing for several years about several issues going on on the Wiggle, whether it be cut-through traffic, bikes and cars speeding and not yielding to pedestrians, and people wanting to see more green on their streets.”

Bicycle traffic has grown dramatically in recent years on the Wiggle, the flattest central route connecting the eastern and western neighborhoods by zig-zagging through the Lower Haight. During that time, the SFMTA has added green-backed sharrows and more visible crosswalks, and the agency plans to remove parking spaces at corners (a.k.a. daylighting) this summer to improve visibility at intersections.

Connections to the Wiggle have also seen major improvements recently, with the installation of the Fell and Oak protected bike lanes on the west end, and an overhaul of Duboce Avenue on the east end that included a new green bike channel.

The SFMTA is now able to embark on more intensive changes to the Wiggle’s streetscape thanks to a partnership with the PUC, which is looking to replace the sewers and add water-absorbing treatments (similar to the project under construction on western Cesar Chavez Street), planners said.

The PUC is providing $4.2 million in addition to $800,000 from the Prop B street improvement bond. By combining projects and funds, both agencies can save time and money, planners said. The project is currently scheduled to be completed in mid-2016.

Ambitious visions for the Wiggle have been sketched out by city planners and livable streets advocates. In 2011, bicycle planners from the SFMTA joined planners from the Netherlands in a workshop called ThinkBike, where they set out to re-design major SF bicycle routes for walking and biking first. The conceptual plans that came out of the workshop depicted on-street greenways with chicanes and traffic lane closures, as well as green-backed sharrows and bike channels like the ones which were later implemented. Last year the SF Bicycle Coalition created more detailed renderings of a Wiggle greenway based on those visions.

Read more…

22 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Oak Street Protected Bike Lane Ready to Ride

The Oak Street protected bike lane was opened to bicycle traffic today — the SFMTA finished striping and bike traffic signals just in time to welcome commuters on Bike to Work Day tomorrow, according to the agency’s Livable Streets Facebook page. Crews got the job done at an impressive pace once it became a top priority, completing nearly all of the work since the first signs of construction appeared last Thursday.

At long last, west siders (including myself) have a safer path between the Panhandle and the Wiggle in both directions.

“Every year, biking to work and to school is becoming more commonplace in San Francisco, and we need to meet the rising demand for bikeways fit for anyone from an 8-year old student to their 80-year old neighbor,” said SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan in a statement.

While we’re still waiting for protective concrete planters to be installed in the buffer zone later this year, maybe some “interested but concerned” San Franciscans who give biking a try tomorrow will stick with it thanks to this upgrade.

Photo: Bryan Goebel

6 Comments

Oak Street Protected Bike Lane Still Held Up by Paint Shop Renovation

This post supported by

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The protected bike lane on Oak Street may not be constructed until some time after May 19, when the permit for renovation work on the Kelly-Moore paint shop on the corner of Oak and Divisadero Street ends, according to planners from the SF Muncipal Transportation Agency. Because the permit allows the paint shop to occupy the parking lane where the bike lane will go, the bike lane can’t be completed until after it’s done, agency staff said.

The project was originally promised this past winter, then delayed to February. SFMTA planners said they are now looking at ways to work around the renovation to start preliminary work on the bike lane, but that the agency’s hands are largely tied until it’s finished. Agency staff also said the paint shop owners have indicated they’re unlikely to need an extension of the permit.

The main cause of the delay seems to be of lack of coordination between the SFMTA and the Department of Public Works, which issues permits to occupy street space for construction.

SFMTA staff has said that unlike the Fell lane, installing the Oak bike lane will require crews to re-stripe all of the traffic lanes on the three-block stretch, in order to fit it into the street’s geometry.

The SF Bicycle Coalition is counting, down to the second, how long it's taking city agencies to install safety upgrades on Fell and Oak Streets.

Read more…

4 Comments

Eyes on the Street: New Bike Markings and Crosswalks at Market/Octavia

Photos: Mark Dreger

The SFMTA installed some green-backed bike stencils and upgraded ladder-style crosswalks at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, the intersection that sees the most pedestrian and bicycle injuries in San Francisco.

Mark Dreger and I were pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the improvements yesterday while riding home from an awesome Sunday Streets in the Mission. The markings should help call attention to people walking and biking through the intersection and reduce crashes while San Franciscans wait for camera enforcement against drivers who make illegal right turns on to the freeway (the use of enforcement cams there was deemed legal in January).

This particular use of green-backed stencils paired with dashed lane markings may also be a sign of the SFMTA’s continued experimentation with intersection markings to improve bike safety. Though the agency has used these types of markings at Market and Van Ness Avenue17th and Church Streets, and several intersections along the Wiggle, SFMTA staff has said that their primary purpose is not to make people on bikes more visible to drivers, but to help guide bike riders through intersections. The reason, an SFMTA staffer told me, is because the agency doesn’t have sufficient data to show that bike markings stenciled through intersections are effective at reducing crashes.

The two Market and Octavia stencils are placed only in the eastbound direction at the spot where illegally-turning drivers would intersect with bike traffic, and they seem designed specifically to call drivers’ attention to passing bicycle riders, much like crosswalks do for pedestrians. Or, as Mark put it, the new markings are “cross-bikes.” Perhaps we can expect to see more of this treatment throughout the city.

Update: According to a Facebook comment from a staffer who runs the SFMTA Livable Streets page, the bike markings are intended for both visibility and guidance: “One key goal here is to further discourage illegal right turns by providing an additional visual clue to any motorist contemplating the illegal turn.”

After the jump, photos of another bike upgrade at Baker and Oak…

Read more…

18 Comments

SFMTA Adds Temporary Posts to Separate Fell Street Bike Lane From Traffic

Photo: SF Bicycle Coalition via Facebook

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency brought the Market Street treatment to Fell Street yesterday, installing some plastic “safe-hit” posts along its three-block bike lane as a temporary safety measure, after the agency announced last week that concrete planters may not arrive until the end of the year.

While the project delays continue to frustrate San Franciscans who’ve been waiting years for these blocks to be tamed, the posts in the buffer zone should help provide bike commuters an improved sense of protection from motor traffic in the meantime.

“The Oak and Fell Pedestrian and Bike Safety Project is an essential component in both San Francisco’s bicycle network and in the SFMTA’s strategic vision to support and encourage bicycling as an important commute option,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin in a statement. “The installation of safe hit posts on Fell Street demonstrates the agency’s commitment to finding effective solutions to ensure the safety of those who ride a bike on busy roads, such as Fell Street, while we continue to coordinate the completion of the ultimate project.”

The SFMTA website now says planners “did not initially anticipate the significant additional capital cost of repaving portions of Fell Street,” and that “the SFMTA will investigate additional funding sources for this work and coordinate with the Department of Public Works as part of their ongoing street repaving prioritization.”

The Oak Street bike lane, slower traffic signal timing, and more visible crosswalks should be in by May, according to the SFMTA website.

Here’s what I’ve got my eye on: Will the posts overcome drivers’ temptation to park in the bike lane to use the Bank of America ATM, instead of pulling into the parking lot around the corner?

26 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Parking Progress on Baker at Fell and Oak Streets

Baker Street between Fell and Oak Streets. The parallel parking spaces on the right will be converted to back-in angled spaces. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA's plans for Baker. Click to enlarge.

After the SFMTA last week announced another delay for safety improvements on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets, work began today on another aspect of the project: a reconfiguration of Baker Street between Oak and Fell, which is used by eastbound bicycle riders to connect from the Panhandle to Oak and the Wiggle. As of this afternoon, the previous striping had been removed and temporary markings put in place.

The SFMTA’s plans for Baker include converting car parking on the west side of the street from parallel spaces to back-in angled spaces, which will partially offset the roughly 100 spaces to be removed by the Fell and Oak protected bike lanes. By making that change, along with perpendicular space conversions on Baker between Oak and Haight Streets and Scott Street south of Haight, 43 parking spaces will be added (another 14 spaces are being created by removing two bus stops on Hayes Street at Broderick and Lyon Streets).

The work on Baker between Fell and Oak also includes an adjustment to traffic lanes: Previously, Baker consisted of four lanes along the entire block, with the two center lanes both reserved for left-turning vehicles. Now those left turn lanes will be shortened to make room for the angled parking spaces. The SFMTA’s plans also call for green-backed sharrows, bike boxes, and pedestrian bulb-outs along this block of Baker.

With this work to ensure that car owners aren’t too heavily inconvenienced by safer streets now well underway, the question is whether bike commuters will actually have to wait until the end of the year, as SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said last week, to see a three-block protected lane on Oak and protective concrete planters.