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Posts from the "The Wiggle" Category

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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…

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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?

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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.

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SFMTA Delays Ped/Bike Safety Measures on Fell and Oak Yet Again

Nearly two years after Mayor Ed Lee took a ride on Oak Street in a convoy of city officials and bike advocates, San Franciscans are still forced to mix with cars on the motorway. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The partially completed project to add safety measures like protected bike lanes and pedestrian bulb-outs on three blocks Fell and Oak Streets has once again been delayed by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. Though the project was originally scheduled to be completed by spring or summer, the agency now says components like the protected bike lane on Oak, bicycle traffic signals, slower signal timing, and concrete planters separating the bike lanes from motor traffic may not go in until the end of the year.

Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA had previously said that work on the Oak lane was set to begin in February — after it was originally promised by winter — but only minor changes in striping have been made (the street may appear untouched to the casual observer). The SFMTA continues to cite construction work on the Kelly-Moore paint shop at Oak and Divisadero, which has been occupying the site of Oak’s future bike lane, as a source of delay.

With bicycle riders on Fell left to wait the better part of another year for concrete planters, the SFMTA says it will install soft-hit posts as a temporary measure to help keep drivers out of the bike lane until the Department of Public Works gets the planters designed, funded, and constructed. The SF Examiner has more:

Ed Reiskin, transportation director of the transit agency, said temporary “soft-hit” pylons will soon be added to separate the Fell bike lane from traffic. However, the Oak part of the plan is much more labor-intensive and includes installing signage, removing parking meters and painting new traffic stripes.

Construction at a private business at Oak and Divisadero streets has hampered those efforts, and the Oak project might not be completed until the end of the year, Reiskin said.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said that’s unacceptable.

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SFMTA: Work on Oak Street Protected Bike Lane to Begin This Month

Oak and Divisadero Streets. The Kelly-Moore Paint Store is currently undergoing renovation work, and the SFMTA says it could delay the installation of the bike lane on Oak. Image: Google Maps

Since the striping work on the Fell Street protected bike lane was finished last November, little progress has been seen on the Fell and Oak safety upgrades. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency, which has promised completion of the project by this spring or summer, says it will begin work on the Oak bike lane this month, though there could be delays due to ongoing construction work on a paint store.

“Weather permitting, bike and pedestrian improvements to Oak Street between Baker and Scott Streets and Baker Street between Fell and Oak Streets will begin in February and continue through April or May,” said Ben Jose, public relations officer for SFMTA’s Livable Streets subdivision, in an email. “Final completion of the Oak Street bike lane implementation is contingent on the Kelly-Moore Paint Store’s construction efforts on the corner of Oak and Divisadero Streets.” Cones to set aside space for workers at the scaffolding-covered paint store have been occupying part of Oak’s south-side parking lane, where the bike lane is set to be striped.

Jose said the remaining work on Oak and Baker Streets, which includes striping the Oak bike lane and converting parallel parking spaces on Baker to back-in angled parking spaces, will be “more labor intensive and requires more coordination between SFMTA shops than the improvements seen on Fell Street in late 2012.”

“SFMTA crews will need to install new signs, remove parking meters, remove and replace all traffic striping on these street segments, and modify the traffic signals before the separated bikeway can be installed on Oak Street,” he said. “This work will be phased to ensure the safety of bike and motor vehicle traffic during construction.”

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Eyes on the Street: Parking Enforcement Needed in Fell Street Bike Lane

Photos: Gisela Schmoll

Since the Fell Street buffered bike lane was partially implemented in November, drivers have continued to block it. Mostly, they seem to be customers using Bank of America’s sidewalk ATM and truck drivers from Ted and Al’s Towing.

The SFMTA and SFPD don’t seem to provide much enforcement against the practice, even though it endangers people on bikes by forcing them into the buffer zone. While the installation of the curbside buffered bike lane has improved the situation overall (before, bicycle riders would be forced into moving traffic), the lane is meant to be protected from motor vehicles, and until hazards like this illegal parking and the queue at the Arco gas station are fixed, they will remain a deterrent for many San Franciscans.

The SFMTA has said concrete planters will be installed along the Fell lane in the coming months, which should more effectively signal to drivers that they don’t belong in the bike lane at all.

We’ve put in a request with the SFMTA about when work on the project will resume, but have yet to hear back.