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Posts from the "Traffic Calming" Category

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SFMTA Unveils Wiggle Plans, Including Traffic Diverter at Scott and Fell

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Image: SFMTA

The Wiggle is set to become a calmer, safer, and greener route after proposals presented by the SFMTA yesterday, with improvements like raised crosswalks, bulb-outs with greenery, textured pavement, and a traffic diverter at Scott and Fell Streets.

The diverter, which would prevent drivers from entering the block of Scott between Fell and Oak Streets in the southbound direction while allowing bike and foot traffic, is expected to lighten car traffic on Scott and facilitate the left turn into the Fell Street bike lane. Although the SFMTA has installed a protected left-turn signal there, some bike commuters continue to make the short-distance turn against a red light, when drivers have a green light to turn left on to Scott into their path. Under the SFMTA’s plan, an “extra-large bulb-out” with planters would physically block drivers from making that left turn.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, called the traffic diverter “a great tool for safer, smarter movement on our streets.”

“It’s exciting that we’re not just thinking of the traditional designs of yesteryear,” she said. “It’s great to be thinking outside the box.”

Concerns voiced by some neighbors at a meeting about traffic diverters on Scott in September seem to have been largely assuaged. The diverter even has support from many Scott residents, according to attendees at yesterday’s open house meeting. Although some neighbors on parallel streets remain concerned about drivers using their streets as an alternative, SFMTA planners say they plan to adjust traffic signals to make Divisadero flow more smoothly for motor traffic, including the 24-Divisadero, making it the most attractive option for drivers. “In fact,” says an SFMTA FAQ sheet [PDF], “some cross-town traffic on” neighborhood streets such as Steiner, Pierce, and Broderick “may switch to Divisadero as well.”

“It seems like there’s huge agreement that this neighborhood has so much more potential to be a great walking, biking, living environment,” said Shahum. “I think the city’s put forward some really strong proposals.”

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SFFD Not Sure What Delays Responses: “There Might Just Be More Cars”

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SFFD doesn't have any data on what delays its vehicles, but as Stanley Roberts' latest "People Behaving Badly" segment shows, drivers routinely fail to make way for ambulances. Image: ##http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1hPs8i5V84##KRON 4##

SFFD doesn’t have any data on what delays its vehicles, but as Stanley Roberts’ latest “People Behaving Badly” segment shows, drivers routinely fail to make way for ambulances. Photo: KRON 4

An official from the SF Fire Department explained SFFD’s position on bulb-outs and road diets last week to the SF Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee. According to Assistant Deputy Chief Ken Lombardi, the department’s main concern isn’t about curb extensions, but raised “hardscape” structures like planters or railings that can prevent a fire truck from mounting them.

Although SFFD hasn’t publicly called for increased police enforcement against drivers who double park — a major impediment to fire trucks and ambulances — Lombardi said he agrees that enforcement should be stricter, but that double parking is “a reality.”

“We’re dealing with it every day, where if there’s a delivery truck, there’s a construction job going on, there’s a double-parked car,” Lombardi said. “If it’s a 20-foot street, we can easily go around that, but if all of the sudden it’s a 14- or 16-foot wide street, that becomes an issue.”

Lombardi stressed that SFFD is “not dead-set against bulb-outs,” and that the department approves them on a routine basis. “But when it creates a situation where we can’t legally make a turn, it’s hard for us to just say okay,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’ll make it safer for pedestrians, I’m just saying for our fire operations, it makes it tougher.” Lombardi also denied a recent report from SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin that SFFD officials said they were worried about getting tickets from police when entering an oncoming lane to make a wide turn.

According to data presented by Lombardi, response times for stations in the Mission and the Castro have increased an average of 19 seconds in the past four years, compared to 10 seconds citywide. While Lombardi noted that “a lot of traffic calming measures have been put in place in the past two years” in those neighborhoods, SFFD says it doesn’t have a way to determine what’s causing response delays.

“We have other things to think about” when responding to an emergency, said Fire Marshall Michie Wong.

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Parking-Protected Bike Lane Coming to West End of Bay Street

Image: SFMTA

A new type of bike lane design for San Francisco, and perhaps the whole country, is coming to a four-block stretch of Bay Street in the Marina next fall. The street is set to be redesigned with a road diet [PDF] that includes a parking-protected bike lane on one side of the street, with a novel touch — back-in angled parking.

The project will run between Fillmore and Laguna, alongside Marina Middle School and the Moscone Park. It will be the first parking-protected bike lane installed on a typical city street in SF, the only other one being on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. While that project included a bike lane placed between the pedestrian walkway and parallel parking spots, the new Bay bike lane will be combined with a back-in angled parking arrangement.

Ben Jose, spokesperson for the SFMTA’s Livable Streets section, said the project prompted by calls for traffic calming improvements from residents along the western end of four-lane Bay Street and near Fort Mason and “assisted-living facilities.”

The redesign “will narrow the roadway, which should reduce speeding and improve pedestrian safety by shortening the crossing distance,” Jose wrote in an email. “Slowing speeds and improving safety by narrowing the roadway is especially important given the nearby school, park, and assisted living facility.”

Currently, that stretch of Bay sees rampant speeding. It has four traffic lanes despite drawing far less car traffic than the rest of the street east of Laguna, where most drivers turn off towards Marina Boulevard and the Golden Gate Bridge. The redesign will remove two of the four traffic lanes west of Laguna, and result in a net addition of one parking space.

The parking-protected portion will include a five-foot buffer between parking spaces and the bike lane. On the other side of Bay, the existing unprotected westbound bike lane will remain alongside parked cars, with a new, painted four-foot buffer to separate it from moving cars.

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Columbus Safety Plans Vetted By Community, Opposed By Merchant Leader

The SFMTA is looking to implement plans based on the concepts approved in a Columbus Avenue study three years ago, such as this vision for the Green and Stockton intersection, but removing traffic lanes may still face some opposition. Image: SFCTA

Over two-thirds of the space on Columbus Avenue is devoted primarily to cars, yet only one-third of the people on the street are typically in automobiles.

That’s according to a 2010 study of how to improve the design of Columbus, in which residents and transportation planners came to the conclusion that North Beach’s thoroughfare needs calmer traffic and more space for pedestrians, transit, and bicycling. Now, three years later, as the SFMTA looks to finally implement the ideas laid out in the plan, some merchants and residents are pushing back, dismissing the extensive analysis and community planning already done.

Columbus is set to be re-paved next summer, presenting an opportunity to cost-effectively implement the concepts in the SF County Transportation Authority study, which include bulb-outs on Columbus’ narrow, crowded sidewalks and an on-street plaza — dubbed “Piazza St. Francis, the Poet’s Plaza” — on an adjacent block of Vallejo Street. At the intersection of Columbus, Green, and Stockton Streets, traffic islands would be added to simplify motor vehicle movements, diverting traffic off westbound Green and southbound Stockton (converting it to a one-way street north of Columbus).

With a road diet, one stretch of Columbus, between Green and Union Streets, would get transit-only lanes, while 8-foot-wide buffered bike lanes would be installed between Green and Washington Streets (although the bike lanes weren’t included in the SFCTA study, the traffic impacts of a road diet were).

“Columbus is being re-paved, and probably won’t be re-paved for another 20 years,” SFMTA planner James Shahamiri said at a meeting with the Telegraph Hill Dwellers in October. “We have some funding, and we want to see what level of improvements we can make based on the community plan that was adopted by the TA.”

The “primary liaison between the [SFCTA] and the many stakeholders” involved in the development of the study, as described in the study itself, was Renew SF — Revitalize and Energize the Northeast and Waterfront of San Francisco. Wells Whitney, the organization’s founder, said neighborhood support for the plan still seems strong. “Almost everyone I’ve talked to is enthusiastic about wider sidewalks, more bulb-outs, bike lanes, and calming the traffic and making it more of a neighborhood boulevard than a thruway,” he said.

Leading the opposition to the safer street design is Daniel Macchiarini of the North Beach Business Association. Macchiarini told Streetsblog he doesn’t believe a road diet on Columbus will result in the kind of boost in livability and business that came with a similar, widely-lauded project on Valencia Street because, unlike Valencia, Columbus lacks alternative parallel routes for drivers. “This is another project that will stall traffic on Columbus Avenue,” he said.

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SFMTA Unveils 6th St. Proposal With Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Wider Sidewalks

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Sixth Street today, and as envisioned in the new proposal. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA unveiled a proposal last week to redesign northern Sixth Street by trimming traffic lanes from four to two, widening sidewalks, and adding unprotected, green-painted bike lanes. Intersections on the stretch between Market and Howard Streets could also get features like raised crosswalks, speed tables (like speed bumps, but wider), and textured pavement to tame driving speeds.

“This is super exciting,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. While the plan already calls for converting many curbside parking spots to pedestrian space, Kim would like to see the plan for Sixth go farther, especially between Market and Mission Streets, because residents complain that parked cars are often used to obscure illegal behaviors like drug dealing. “Our residents don’t have cars, so they don’t feel the need for the metered parking,” she said.

Adam Gubser, project manager for the SFMTA, said environmental review on the project is expected to begin in January, which will flesh out how the redesign would affect street safety, car congestion, and the diversion of traffic to other streets. That process is expected to take 16 to 18 months, but there’s no firm construction timeline set yet.

When asked about including parking-protected bike lanes in the plan, SFMTA planners said the unprotected lanes in the proposal should be sufficient since traffic will be calmer and much of the lane will be curbside. They also said greater separation from motor vehicle traffic could potentially be added in the future if more parking is removed on Sixth.

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Packed Meeting About Future of Oakland’s Latham Square Shut Down Early

Two design proposals for Latham Square — one with cars (left) and one without (right). Image: City of Oakland

After public pressure, the City of Oakland held a second community meeting Wednesday about the design of the Latham Square pilot plaza, where a lane of car traffic was reinstated prematurely at the behest of Planning and Building Director Rachel Flynn. Despite a standing room-only crowd of attendees showing up to weigh in, the meeting was shut down 45 minutes early.

For city officials, the proposal to widen sidewalks but permanently reinstate two-way car traffic at Latham Square appears to be a done deal — though no pedestrian usage data was presented to the public after a six-week car-free pilot period.

“I don’t see us going back to the closure” of Telegraph, said Brooke Levin, interim director of the Oakland Public Works Agency. In fact, she added, it is likely the city will reopen the northbound traffic before construction begins on the final design next summer.

Before Wednesday’s public meeting, city staffers held an invitation-only meeting on November 15 with City Manager Deana Santana. Invitees included several business owners who oppose the car-free plaza, along with representatives of the Downtown Oakland Association (which supports the pedestrian plaza), Popuphood, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, and Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

But attendees who packed the public meeting, which was not announced on the city’s website until the day before, appeared evenly divided between supporters of the car-free plaza and those who want to bring back two-way car traffic. “We’re not going to satisfy everybody,” Levin told the crowd.

City planners’ recommended permanent design for the plaza includes restoration of two-way traffic on Telegraph with narrower auto lanes and an expansion of the existing sidewalk in the triangle between Broadway and Telegraph. Opinions and suggestions for the design were mixed among the 50-plus Oakland residents, merchants, property owners, and downtown workers at the meeting.

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NYC DOT Shares Its Five Principles for Designing Safer Streets

At Madison Avenue and 135th Street, a mix of additional pedestrian space and crossing time, turn restrictions, clearer markings, and tighter corners led to an 18 percent reduction in injuries. Photos: NYC DOT

Earlier this month, NYC DOT put out a major new report, Making Safer Streets [PDF], that collects before-and-after data from dozens of street redesigns and distills five key principles to reduce traffic injuries. The excitement of election week overshadowed the release, but this is an important document that livable streets supporters will want to bookmark. It’s an accessible guide to how DOT approaches the task of re-engineering streets for greater safety.

Under Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT has elevated safety as a departmental priority, and it often follows up a redesign by reporting on the change in traffic injuries after six months or a year. After six years of implementing these projects, the department now has an especially compelling data set – multiple years of before-and-after safety records from dozens of redesigns. Reviewing these projects and what has worked best, the report authors distilled DOT’s approach to safety improvements into a design philosophy.

Deputy Commissioner for Traffic and Planning Bruce Schaller, the lead author, says Making Safer Streets is “the most comprehensive data-driven report on safety we’ve put together.” What makes it especially notable for New Yorkers and residents of other major cities, he said, is its focus on urban streets. “When we look at safety and the elements of design that make safe streets, [other studies] are still not a clear guide to what we should expect to work in NYC.”

The DOT team hopes the report will serve as a reference not only for planners and engineers, but for any city resident who cares about street safety and wants to evaluate how streets are functioning and what would make them better. It’s written in accessible language and comes in at under 30 pages, with a raft of graphics and photos doing much of the communication.

The guiding idea in the report is that greater simplicity, order, and predictability will make streets safer:

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SFPUC Unveils New Green Designs for Holloway, Plaza at Mission/Valencia

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SFPUC’s rendering of the plan for a new plaza at Mission and Valencia Streets, created by converting two traffic lanes.

The SF Public Utilities Commission unveiled final redesign concepts last week for two projects that would mean more space for pedestrians and stormwater-absorbing greenery. One project will bring traffic-calming bulb-outs and “rain gardens” to the eastern stretch of Holloway Avenue, a major east-west bike route in Ingleside. The other would convert two traffic lanes at Mission and Valencia Streets into a new plaza with green bulb-outs that would extend to the entrance of the Tiffany bike boulevard, altogether creating what planners call a “Green Gateway.”

Both projects appear to have garnered broad support among neighbors who participated in the design processes, though they each require the removal of a handful of car parking spaces — the usual point of contention in street redesigns. It’s a refreshing outcome compared to the battles over re-allocating car space typically seen in other city-led planning efforts.

“These projects are perfect examples of smart solutions to our city’s pedestrian safety problems,” said Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk SF, who applauded the projects for “connecting safety with sustainability.”

“These are excellent models for how we can support holistic changes to our public spaces that tackle multiple problems,” she said. “We often see that the most dangerous streets also lack green space — picture Sixth Street or Folsom. We’d like to see more projects like these prioritized on our most dangerous streets.”

“We need more efforts where we have community space,” said D9 Supervisor David Campos, who noted that the Mission and Valencia plaza could serve as a “centerpiece” for the neighborhood south of Cesar Chavez Street. “That neighborhood hasn’t been getting enough attention.”

Only minor tweaks to the Mission and Valencia plan have been made following the last community meeting. Changes include the removal of greenery along the curb that faces Mission to make room for a bus stop to be moved there from across the street. Only 10 parking spaces will be removed for the sidewalk expansions, with some replacement spots added by converting parallel parking spots on the east side of Valencia to back-in angled parking.

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SFMTA: Fell and Oak Bike Lanes Are Yielding Promising Safety Results

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An SF Bicycle Coalition volunteer thanks commuters for "biking politely" on Oak at Scott Street. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The SFMTA has released some preliminary survey results showing that the three-block bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets, along with other safety measures, have resulted in calmer motor traffic, an increased sense of safety among bicycle commuters, and a decrease in illegal bicycling behaviors.

On Fell and Oak, between Scott and Baker Streets — the connection from the Wiggle to the Panhandle — the SFMTA removed car parking lanes to install curbside bike lanes, separated by buffer space and plastic posts, along with bicycle traffic signals and more visible “continental” crosswalk stripes, while also lowering the synchronized traffic signal speeds from 25 to 20 MPH. The block of Baker between Fell and Oak was also put on a traffic-calming road diet with a buffered left-turn lane to make it easier for bike commuters to pass stopped cars and reach a new left-turn bike box. Parallel parking spots on the block were also converted to back-in angled parking spots.

Although not all of the planned bike and pedestrian improvements are in the ground yet, the SFMTA posted the following results on its website:

Since the bikeways were completed in May of 2013, SFMTA staff have been conducting observations and collecting data about the project’s effects on behavior and attitudes. So far, we have seen some promising trends:

  • A 3-5 mph reduction in motor vehicle speeds on Oak Street as a result of modest changes to traffic signal timing.
  • A reduction in sidewalk bicycle riding now that bicyclists have buffered bike lanes to seperate them from traffic.
  • An increase in bicyclists’ compliance with traffic signals as a result of improved bikeways and traffic signals.

Additionally, an intercept survey was conducted of people riding their bikes on Fell and Oak streets in August of 2013. Preliminary tallies of the results found that many of the project’s goals are already being achieved:

  • Because of the bikeways on Oak and Fell streets, 98% of riders surveyed said they feel that the safety of bicycling on Oak and Fell has increased, and 90% feel that drivers’ awareness of people biking on Oak and Fell has increased.
  • Around one in six respondents said they would have used a different route on their bikes before the bikeways were implemented; About 7% said they would have used a different mode all together (driving, walking etc)
  • Around one in five people said that because of the Oak and Fell bikeways, how often they ride a bike overall has increased. Among women only, it is closer to one in three.

Good stuff. I’ve also noticed, while riding in a car or bus down Fell and Oak, that the eye-catching bike lanes seem to act as a sort of billboard for bicycling. It’d be helpful to know how many commuters have been drawn to try out the Wiggle option since the bike lanes appeared.

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Han Cheng Li, 62, Killed by Driver at 16th and Potrero

Sixteenth Street at Potrero Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Han Cheng Li, 62, was struck and killed by a driver on 16th Street at Potrero Avenue in the Mission at about 11:38 p.m. Saturday night, according to reports. Police have not released details about how the crash occurred or the name of the driver, but he has been identified as a 54-year-old man. Li is the 12th pedestrian to be killed in traffic in San Francisco this year.

Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk SF, pointed out that between 2005 and 2010, five pedestrians were injured at 16th and Potrero, about one per year. “We are deeply sorry for Han Cheng Li’s family and friends,” she said. “While we still don’t know how the collision occurred, each of these deaths are preventable.”

Sixteenth and Potrero both have four traffic lanes and few measures in place to tame driving speeds. Although a plan to redesign a section of Potrero is in the works, it would only encompass the stretch south of 17th Street. On 16th Street, the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project calls for two traffic lanes to be converted to center-running bus lanes — which could have the added benefit of calming motor traffic — but that project is several years away from implementation.

“We know that a pedestrian hit by a car traveling 40 mph has a 30 percent chance of surviving, but by reducing speed to 30 mph, that chance of survival goes up to 80 percent,” said Schneider. “The city has the tools needed to calm traffic on our streets, and we want to see those tools implemented before any additional families have to suffer the loss of a loved one.”