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Posts from the Traffic Calming Category

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McAllister Street Set to Get Two Traffic Circles Instead of Signals

McAllister, a popular bike route, would get traffic circles to speed up Muni’s 5-Fulton line after a proposal for traffic signals faced opposition. Photo: Aaron Bialick

McAllister Street, a popular bike route where SFMTA’s Muni Forward planners want to speed up the 5-Fulton, would have stop signs replaced by traffic circles at two intersections under the agency’s latest proposal.

Under the plan [PDF], which must be approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors, McAllister would become the first street to get traffic circles on a bus route. Up for debate, however, is how well they’ll serve their intended purpose of calming traffic enough to ensure drivers yield to pedestrians and don’t squeeze out bike commuters.

The proposal for traffic circles at Lyon and Steiner Streets is a substitute for the SFMTA’s original proposal for traffic signals at five intersections. Neighbors protested the plans for signals on McAllister and Haight Street, arguing that they would encourage drivers to speed and hurt “neighborhood character.” Both streets carry major Muni lines that hit frequent stop signs as they head to and from the western neighborhoods.

On McAllister, transit-priority traffic signals are moving ahead at two of the five intersections — Broderick and Scott Streets. They were dropped at Baker and Pierce Streets.

“The idea is there’ll still be stop signs for the side streets, but McAllister would have no stop sign, and the circles would be the calming feature for vehicles heading along McAllister,” said Muni Forward Program Manager Sean Kennedy.

At Lyon and Steiner Streets, traffic circles would replace stop signs, and the Muni stop at Lyon would be removed. Images: SFMTA

At Lyon and Steiner Streets, traffic circles would replace stop signs, and the Muni stop at Lyon would be removed. Images: SFMTA

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As Long as Speed Is King, People Will Get Hurt at Oak, Fell, and Masonic

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Photo: Andy Bosselman

Photo: Andy Bosselman

There’s no mystery to why drivers continue to run people over where Masonic Avenue crosses the Panhandle, at Oak and Fell Streets. The three streets are designed like residential freeways, yet the city has no plans to remove traffic lanes to slow speeds and reduce injuries.

On Wednesday, a driver hit two joggers at Oak and Masonic in the Panhandle crosswalk at about 7:15 p.m.

Hoodline reports:

According to the SFPD, the pedestrians were running across the street against a red light when they were struck by the vehicle, a silver Toyota Prius.

One victim, a 36-year-old man, was left in life-threatening condition with bleeding to the brain. The second victim, a 34-year-old man, suffered pain and abrasions, but was not critically injured.

It’s the second such incident in just three months. Back in April, a jogger was struck by a car while running against the light at that same intersection. When we posted that story, many commenters noted that the busy intersection is poorly designed, with one going so far as to call it a “death trap,” and another warning that you “avoid this intersection at all cost.”

In response to victim-blaming in Hoodline’s comment section, Michael Smith, a co-founder of Walk SF, pointed out that the intersections see so many injuries because Masonic, Oak, and Fell are designed as speedways. Oak and Fell each have four one-way traffic lanes, and additional turn lanes at Masonic, which has six lanes on the stretch that bisects the Panhandle.

Masonic at Oak, looking towards the Panhandle. Image: Google Maps

Masonic at Oak, looking towards the Panhandle. Image: Google Maps

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Safer San Jose Avenue Advocates Fend Off Attacks From Angry Motorists

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Photo: SFMTA

Photo: SFMTA

The redesign of San Jose Avenue took a step forward a month ago when Caltrans removed a traffic lane on a Highway 280 off-ramp leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut. The plan is the result of decades of neighborhood advocacy for safer streets, but it is running into opposition from motorists who won’t stand for the road diet.

Supporters and opponents of the project are duking it out with online petitions, both launched a month ago. The opposition’s petition currently has a lead on the supporters’ petition. The SFMTA hasn’t released the results from its survey from last fall.

“There is a contingency of drivers that is working against this plan and are very active on NextDoor and talking to their supervisors,” said neighbor Collin Martin. They “seem to accept no alternatives to making this avenue safer and more sane for cyclists and pedestrians.”

Under the two-phase pilot project, Caltrans and the SFMTA are measuring how a road diet and better bike lane protection can help tame driving speeds and attract more people to bike on San Jose north of Highway 280.

A year after the first phase, in which San Jose’s third northbound lane was replaced by a wider, buffered bike lane, the SFMTA reported a 62 percent jump in bike traffic during morning peak hours.

The removal of San Jose’s third lane didn’t achieve the SFMTA’s goal of bringing the 85th percentile speed down to 35 mph. There was “a fairly minor drop” in speeds from 49 mph to 46 mph, the SFMTA reported, and morning peak hour traffic on San Jose dropped by 21 percent.

That result triggered the project’s second phase to meet the speed reduction target, and Caltrans removed the second 280 off-ramp lane, which was added as a supposedly temporary measure in 1992. Planners are now measuring the effect on traffic speeds.

Collins said Caltrans could have done a better job implementing the ramp lane removal, “as it is causing sudden stops” that may contribute to “part of the backlash.”

“The exit should just be one lane and not two merging into one on a curve in short distance,” he said. “This is almost certainly what caused the surge in support to the petition against the road diet.”

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SFMTA Retracts Report of 651% Jump in Bike Traffic on San Jose Avenue

The SFMTA has retracted its report last week of a 651 percent jump in bicycling on northbound San Jose Avenue after a traffic lane was removed to widen the bike lane.

The actual increase in morning peak-hour bike counts was 14 percent, said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose. In the evening peak hour, the reported 221 percent was actually 62 percent.

“A second analysis of the underlying raw data revealed a spreadsheet error overstating the bicycling increase,” Jose said in a statement. “We apologize for our error and will do our best to bring you accurate information going forward.”

The agency issued its correction statement late Friday. Streetsblog reported the 651 percent jump on Wednesday after receiving confirmation of the statistics from the SFMTA, following a blog post from the SF Bicycle Coalition highlighting the statistic last Monday.

The newly-released version of the SFMTA’s data spreadsheet [PDF] includes a note stating that there was “an equipment malfunction during the AM peak data collection period” on one of the post-implementation days when bikes were counted. The note says the data from that day was removed from the counts, which were averaged over 72-hour periods in January 2014 and January 2015.

The SFMTA says the bike counts were taken on the Monterey Boulevard ramp, just before it merges on to northbound San Jose.

All other data in the report remain accurate, including impacts on car traffic volumes and speeds, said Jose.

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[Corrected] San Jose Ave Bike Traffic Jumps; More Traffic Calming Goes In

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San Jose Avenue seen last June, just after bike lane upgrades and a road diet went in. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

Update 6/22: The SFMTA has retracted its report of a 651 percent increase in bike traffic on northbound San Jose Avenue in morning peak hours, which was featured in an earlier version of this article.

Evening bike traffic increased by 62 percent on northbound San Jose Avenue after a traffic lane was removed and the bike lane was widened with a buffer zone a year ago, according to the SFMTA.

As part of the ongoing traffic-calming project, Caltrans last week also removed a highway off-ramp lane leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut.

The “incredible change” in bike counts reported by the SFMTA “shows the power of streets that make people feel safe,” SF Bicycle Coalition community organizer Chema Hernández Gil wrote in a blog post on Monday.

San Jose, which divides Glen Park and Bernal Heights, is the most direct route to downtown from southern neighborhoods like the Excelsior and Ingleside.

The SFMTA compared 72-hour bike counts on the Monterey Boulevard ramp, just before it merges on to northbound San Jose. The average bike counts were taken during morning peak hours in January 2014 and January 2015, according to SFMTA data [PDF]. [Update: The SFMTA said the bike counts included in that spreadsheet were not accurate. A new version is available in this PDF.]

The data was collected as part of a two-phase pilot project aimed at measuring how a road diet and better bike lane protection can help tame driving speeds and attract more people to commute by bike on San Jose north of Highway 280.

“San Jose Avenue has long been a pseudo-freeway with huge negative impacts on the surrounding areas due to over-the-top speeding,” said a statement from Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pushed for the safety measures. “This pilot program is designed to reduce speeds, improve neighborhood quality of life, and allow for diverse uses of the road, including both drivers and cyclists. The pilot also allows cyclists to safely use the bike lane, and an increase in cycling on San Jose Avenue is a good thing. I look forward to the results of the pilot and to having a safer, multi-modal San Jose Avenue for all users.”

When the first phase was implemented last June, the SFMTA and Caltrans removed one of three traffic lanes on northbound San Jose to match the geometry of the street’s southbound side. The leftover space was used to upgrade the existing narrow bike lane with a buffer zone and plastic posts to separate it from motor traffic.

As part of the second phase, Caltrans removed the second Highway 280 off-ramp lane last week, and will measure its effectiveness in bringing down excessive traffic speeds, along with that of other measures in the coming months. Caltrans added the second ramp lane in 1992 after the Loma Prieta earthquake, as a supposedly temporary measure to accommodate traffic re-routed away from freeway repairs.

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Tomorrow: Support Car Restrictions for a Safer Market, Which Uber Opposes

Image: SFMTA

Image: SFMTA

You can email public comments on the “Safer Market Street” car restrictions to the SFMTA board at MTABoard@sfmta.com.

The SFMTA Board of Directors is set to vote tomorrow on whether to ban private auto drivers from turning onto mid-Market Street, part of a package of safety improvements and transit upgrades.

While the improvements seem to be backed by a wide coalition, Uber doesn’t belong to it. At the eleventh hour, the ride-hail app company launched a petition to exempt Uber drivers from the restrictions. Though Hoodline reported that the petition had gained 15,000 signatures after Uber’s email blast, the petition webpage was hacked and subsequently taken down by Uber, according to Business Insider.

The “Safer Market Street” improvements are short-term measures aimed at reducing injuries, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told reporters last week. “Our most iconic street should be our safest street.”

On Market between Third and Eighth Streets, where the turn bans would go into effect, private auto drivers make up just 10-30 percent of roadway traffic but were involved in 82 percent of the 162 injury collisions in 2012 and 2013, according to Maguire. Most pedestrians were injured in crosswalks.

The mid-Market stretch contains four of the city’s top 20 intersections for pedestrian injuries, and the two intersections with the most bicycle injuries citywide.

“These types of crash patterns are just not acceptable to us,” said Maguire.

“The Safer Market Street Project is a strong example of a data-driven proposal that is purely focused on safety,” SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post today. “It’s important that the project moves forward promptly in its strongest form to help protect the thousands of people who walk and bike on Market Street every day.”

Uber dismissed the data while demanding that its drivers be exempt from the turn bans, as taxis will. Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend told the SF Chronicle last week, “Market Street is a major artery of the city, and cutting off riders and driver-partners from accessing this thoroughfare will increase gridlock around town, with no improvement to safety.”

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim stands by the car restrictions, her aide told Hoodline:

When she championed the legislation to establish the Vision Zero policy citywide two years ago, this is the type of engineering change that she had in mind. Engineering to create safer streets, with a priority focus on the corridors and intersections with the highest rates of collisions between vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians, is a critical component of the Vision Zero policy. This change will target four of the worst collision intersections where drivers fail to yield to pedestrians.

Andy Bosselman, a transit activist who uses Uber regularly, blasted Uber’s opposition in an open letter to the SFMTA board.

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Fisherman’s Wharf Parking-Free Street Revamp Boosts Sales, Will Expand

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Two years after the city gave Fisherman’s Wharf a people-friendly redesign on two blocks of Jefferson Street, business is booming. Despite merchants’ fears that removing all car parking on the blocks would hurt their sales, they now say it had the opposite effect.

The second phase of the project, which will bring a similar treatment to three blocks of Jefferson from Jones Street east to Powell Street, is taking a step forward. D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen and other city officials announced today that $1.7 million has been allocated for design and engineering for the expansion. The rest of the funds for the second phase, totaling $13 million, haven’t been identified, but it could be constructed as early as 2017.

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman's Wharf CBD

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman’s Wharf CBD

In June 2013, the two blocks of Jefferson between Hyde and Jones Streets were made safer and calmer with wider sidewalks, textured pavement to calm motor traffic, and the removal of curbside car parking. One-way traffic was also converted to two-way.

Since then, sales on the street have risen. The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District surveyed 18 of the 33 businesses on those blocks, and they reported month-over-month gross sales increases between 10 to 21 percent on average:

From July through November 2013, these 18 businesses generated an additional $1.5 million dollars in gross sales from the previous year. This added approximately $140,000 more in sales tax for the city during this 5 month period.

“People are staying longer and spending more money,” said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf CBD. “Drivers are a little more cautious, I would say.”

Removing car parking to widen sidewalks provided more room for crowds and made storefronts more visible, said Campbell. “You look down the street, and you don’t have a string of cars that are part of the landscape. The businesses become the landscape.”

“A lot of the merchants came back to me and said, you know what, I thought losing the parking was going to be a problem, but I feel like people can actually see my windows now, and they’re engaging with us more.”

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Sup. Christensen: Make the Stockton Tunnel Better for Walking and Biking

Supervisor Christensen (left) listens as Richard Ow speaks, along with SF Planning Director John  Rahaim and Department of Public Works Director Mohammend Nuru. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Supervisor Christensen (left) listens as Richard Ow speaks, along with SF Planning Director John Rahaim and Department of Public Works Director Mohammend Nuru. Photo: Aaron Bialick

D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen wants to make the Stockton Tunnel more comfortable to walk and bike through. She announced today that she procured at least $100,000 in the city budget for a study of improvements in the next fiscal year.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Photo: Aaron Bialick

“Union Square is known all over the world. Chinatown is known all over the world,” Christensen told reporters today. “This is the wormhole that connects the two of them, and we’ve sort of left it as a transit afterthought.”

“Lots of us walk through the Stockton Tunnel, mostly out of necessity. I’d like people to do it because it’s safe and fun, if that’s possible… I know when I’m cycling, those flat shortcuts are really preferred.”

Christensen said the specifics of the study would be developed through community participation. But she suggested ideas ranging from public art and better lighting to removing a traffic lane, which could quell the roar of motor traffic and make room to physically separate cars from people walking and biking.

Richard Ow, a senior who lives in Chinatown, said he’s been walking through the tunnel since he was 10 years old. “This should’ve been done a long time ago,” he said. “We want to see some action.”

The idea of removing one of Stockton’s three traffic lanes already seems to have strong support. Pius Lee, chairman of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, told the SF Chronicle in February that local merchants and residents already agree it’s a good idea. He noted that it would skirt the merchant controversy of parking removal.

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Wiggle Safety Upgrades Delayed Over Turn Bans to Reduce Thru Traffic

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The Wiggle would become safer and calmer with upgrades like a traffic diverter at southbound Scott and Fell streets. But Lower Haight neighbors oppose left-turn bans aimed at attracting cross-town drivers to Divisadero Street. Image: SFMTA

Improvements that would make the Wiggle calmer and safer have been delayed after continued driver protests against three left turn bans on Divisadero Street proposed as part of the project. Approval of the project was removed from the SFMTA Board of Directors’ Tuesday agenda and postponed until June.

Hoodline reported that some members of the Lower Haight Neighbors and Merchants Association can’t stomach the all-hours left turn bans from Divisadero on to Haight Street, and peak hour bans for turns on to Hayes and McAllister Streets.

The SFMTA says the bans are intended to complement the Wiggle improvements, which include a traffic diverter on Scott Street. By keeping cut-through drivers moving on Divisadero, the main driving route, that street would become the more attractive driving option. “This will reduce Scott Street’s appeal as a cross-town route, making it a more pleasant place to walk, bike, and live,” says an SFMTA fact sheet [PDF] on the Wiggle improvements.

“We want people to get where they need to go safely while keeping heavier traffic on Divisadero,” Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire said in a statement. “The SFMTA’s proposals for Divisadero will improve traffic flow, cut down on congestion and reduce spillover traffic into the neighborhood. We have worked with the community extensively on this project, and we wanted to take a little more time to better understand the concerns of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association.”

A major feature of the planned Wiggle upgrades is a large sidewalk bulb-out which would physically block drivers from entering southbound Scott at Fell Street. That would reduce the car traffic on Scott, which runs one block parallel to Divisadero, that degrades the livability of the neighborhood and congests the intersection at Haight. The improvements also include raised crosswalks, bulb-outs with rain gardens, and textured pavement.

“Thousands of people bike and walk through the Wiggle every day, and they and the neighborhood residents deserve a street that works for them,” said Tyler Frisbee, policy director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. The SFMTA’s project “enhances the residential, family-oriented nature of the community and ensures that everyone is able to walk, bike, and enjoy the area in a safe, inviting place. This project will reduce the amount of water pollution and runoff from these streets, minimize traffic congestion for neighbors, and improve safety for people walking and biking. That is a clear win-win.”

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SFMTA Proposes Short-Term Safety Upgrades for Octavia Boulevard

SFMTA proposals in the works include sidewalk expansions and lane removals on and around Octavia. Image: SFMTA

Ten years after Octavia Boulevard opened in the footprint of the former Central Freeway, the SFMTA has proposed a package of short-term safety fixes for people walking and biking, especially along the cross streets.

The upgrades could be implemented by the end of 2016. Proposals in the works include a bike lane on eastbound Page Street, a fix for the poorly-designed bike “chute” at Octavia and Market Street, “shared street” treatments in the frontage lanes on Octavia, and even a memorial to the Freeway Revolt at Market. Motor vehicles lanes could also be removed on Fell and Oak east of Octavia to calm traffic, with angled parking added.

The first wave of improvements, mainly sidewalk bulb-outs and traffic islands, are expected to come up for public comment at an SFMTA engineering hearing on May 22.

SFMTA project manager Casey Hildreth said that some of the improvements are intended to be experimental, and that planners will measure the effects on safety, traffic speeds, and car congestion. “We don’t want to be frozen by the perfect,” he said in a recent presentation [PDF] at the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association.

The improvements are expected to be funded by development impact fees collected from housing built in the footprint of the former Central Freeway. A package of increased SFMTA funding highlighted by Mayor Ed Lee this week included $3.3 million in development fees earmarked for the Market and Octavia area to get bike, pedestrian, and Muni improvements. It’s not clear how much funding would be needed in total for the proposed upgrades.

Octavia is often cited as a model by other cities looking to replace a freeway with a boulevard. As Hildreth explained, it was intentionally designed to create “ambiguity” and counter the “freeway mentality” that drivers often have.

But problems remain at the intersections and on other streets affected by freeway traffic, which need improvements for walking, biking, and transit. High-traffic intersections remain dangerous, for instance, at Fell and Oak Streets, which were designed as one-way traffic funnels.

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