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Posts from the "Traffic Calming" Category

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SFMTA Shops Folsom Buffered Bike Lane at Crowded Community Meeting

The SFMTA’s proposal to widen the Folsom Street bike lane with a buffer zone and remove a general traffic lane drew significant turnout at a community meeting in SoMa yesterday evening. The project, set to be installed by the end of the year, seems to have strong support from residents and livable streets advocates as a short-term measure to make Folsom safer.

Supervisor Jane Kim speaks at yesterday's community meeting on the Folsom bike lane pilot. Photo: Patrick Valentino/Twitter

Angelica Cabande, executive director of the South of Market Community Action Network, helped bring its members out to the meeting. The organization hasn’t taken a stance on the project yet, but she said the neighborhood has a dire need to make streets safer for families and elderly residents to walk on.

“A lot of cars, after they exit the freeway, they’re flying through Seventh Street,” said Cabande, who noted the danger is especially apparent outside Bessie Carmichael Elementary, located at Seventh and Folsom. “The school had put a crossing guard there, but a lot of drivers are not adhering to them. If anything, they actually cuss at the crossing guard and yell at families and honk at them to hurry up so they can make that turn right away.”

The SFMTA announced the pilot project on October 1 as a way to expedite safety improvements after 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac was killed on her bike by a truck driver who police determined made an illegal right turn at Folsom and Sixth Streets. The city has also proposed redesigning the one-way SoMa stretch of Folsom for two-way traffic with a parking-protected, two-way bikeway, but that plan may not be built for several years.

“We’re really pleased to see that the city acted quickly, though unfortunately, ideas of reforming Folsom Street have been in the works for more than a decade,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Kristin Smith.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Lanes, Road Diet on Folsom in the Mission

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The Mission’s stretch of Folsom Street, between 19th and 24th Streets, just got safer with bike lanes and a road diet striped along with a road-repaving.

Formerly two general traffic lanes in each direction, the street now consists of one bike lane and one general lane on each side, resulting in a calmer environment and extending the northbound bike lane all the way from 24th to the Embarcadero (Folsom turns into a one-way street at 11th Street).

The redesign was approved back in spring 2011, and these improvements are intended to be “short term” measures in the Mission Streetscape Plan, laying the groundwork for the long-term construction of green medians, though that median space doesn’t appear to be included in the new layout (there’s only a double yellow line down the middle of the street). It could be that the geometry will be re-arranged again once the medians are constructed — we’ll check in with the SFMTA and Planning Department.

Additionally, this stretch of Folsom is set to get bus bulb-outs at six corners, and green wave traffic signal re-timing is set to go in on Folsom between 15th and 24th by next spring.

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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.

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Caltrans Installs Small Road Diet on Outer San Jose Where Man Was Killed

San Jose Avenue looking south near Alemany Boulevard. Photo: Brian Coyne

Caltrans has converted two general traffic lanes to bike lanes and a center turn lane on a deadly stretch of San Jose Avenue just south of highway 280, where 69-year-old Hector Arana was killed by a driver while crossing the street in March.

Instead of six speed-inducing through lanes, the five-block stretch of San Jose between Alemany Boulevard and Flournoy Street, near the Daly City border, now has four lanes, the same configuration as San Jose to the south. However, it appears that only three of those blocks have bike lanes. Because the street is part of a state highway route, Caltrans has jurisdiction over its design.

“It’s only a few blocks, but hopefully it’s the start of a real commitment by Caltrans to making all of State Route 82 more bike and pedestrian friendly,” said Brian Coyne, who stumbled upon the road diet.

The improvements should have some calming effect on motor traffic on the stretch where Arana was run down in March. In the photo Coyne submitted, it’s unclear if any crosswalk markings were added on San Jose at the intersection with Leibig Street, where Arana was reportedly struck, though “sharks teeth” markings can be seen at the Rice Street crosswalk a block away.

Treatments like road diets and shark’s teeth have been shown to increase the chances that drivers will yield to pedestrians and prevent crashes like the one that killed Arana, which police at the time deemed nothing more than an “unfortunate accident.”

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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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Without Traffic Calming, Sunset Blvd. Project a Missed Chance to Save Lives

Sunset Boulevard at Ortega Street. Photo: Google Street View

Six-lane Sunset Boulevard is one of the city’s most dangerous streets to cross, but that won’t change under plans being developed by the SF Public Utilities Commission.

Intersections along Sunset where pedestrian deaths and injuries occurred between 2005 and 2010. Image: SFDPH

The SFPUC’s Sunset Boulevard Greenway project is aimed at replacing the underground sewer system and re-landscaping the corridor’s grassy medians, which are half a block wide and separate the motorway from parallel streets, to better absorb stormwater. While traffic and safety improvements aren’t the focus on the project, digging up the street — a rare and major city investment — offers a chance for the SFMTA to make changes that could reduce pedestrian injuries, says Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe.

“The SFPUC’s current greening designs fail to address the conditions on this wide, fast street that make it so deadly,” said Stampe. “This is a real missed opportunity.”

Between 2005 and 2010, 28 people were hit by cars on Sunset – many suffering severe injuries, according to data from the Department of Public Health. Three victims were killed, including an 83-year-old man at Taraval Street in 2005, a 20-year-old woman at Vicente Street in 2008, and 81-year-old Yee-Sung Poon, run over in a crosswalk at Santiago Street in January, 2009.

Poon’s death was deemed nothing more than “a tragic accident” by police, according to the SF Chronicle.

But such tragedies can be prevented with smarter design. Stampe suggests removing two of Sunset’s six traffic lanes, which would help tame car traffic. The only change made to Sunset in recent years was the installation of a traffic signal at Quintara Street, which, unlike redesigning streets for slower speeds, doesn’t necessarily make streets safer.

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SFMTA Looks to Tame Sixth Street With Road Diet, Temporary Parklet

Sixth at Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Sixth Street, which has one of the highest rates of pedestrian injuries in the city, could receive a road diet after the SFMTA analyzes the impacts of removing two of its four traffic lanes to improve safety.

In the meantime, the agency is planning a pilot project this fall on the street’s northern end at Market Street, likely in the form of a parklet-style installation in the parking lanes, to test out “gateway” treatments to signal freeway-bound drivers to slow down.

“There’s nothing telling you so much that you’re entering someone’s neighborhood,” said Mike Sallaberry, a planner at the SFMTA’s Livable Streets subdivision, at a community planning meeting yesterday. “It just looks like a continuation of a freeway that leads to another freeway. So maybe we can do something really soon that announces to people that, hey, you’re coming into our front yard.”

Though the SFMTA won’t present proposals for the pilot until the next community meeting in the coming months, planners said it will likely occupy parking spaces for roughly two months on one or both sides of Sixth between Market and Stevenson Street, an alleyway. Sallaberry said the pilot would help inform the larger plan to redesign Sixth for the long term. In addition to calming traffic, removing two of the street’s travel lanes will open up space for improvements like sidewalk expansions, bike lanes, and greenery.

“Lowering the speed saves lives,” said SFMTA project manager Adam Gubser. In response to residents’ calls for police to issue more tickets to drivers violating Sixth Street’s 25 mph speed limit, Gubser said, “It is enforcement, but it’s also engineering and education. We can’t rely on one leg. The facility should be designed for the speed we want.”

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Planning Department Sets Out to Create “Living Alleys” Around Hayes Valley

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An example alley from Copenhagen. Image: Planning Department

The Planning Department held a community workshop yesterday to field ideas on how to turn the numerous alleyways in and around Hayes Valley into calmer, greener, more inviting respites from the major traffic-heavy streets.

The “Living Alley Project” is an effort conceived in the Market Octavia Area Plan to re-think the neighborhood’s alleys as people-oriented gathering spaces, where cars are allowed at low speeds, but street life comes first.

“We need more community spaces,” said Robin Levitt, an architect who lives on one of the alleyways and advocated for the removal of the Central Freeway. Patricia’s Green, the park that replaced a block of space formerly occupied by the highway structure, is often overwhelmed with demand, he said. “More than most neighborhoods in the city, we have a lot of through traffic on very busy streets like Gough and Franklin, Oak and Fell, which were once neighborhood streets.”

“The alleys can serve as a shared space, where traffic is calm,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity to re-envision what a street can be — a public space, where children feel like playing, rather than as something to just move through.”

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City Agencies Unveil Final Design for Bartlett “Mercado Plaza”

Images: Planning Department

The final designs for a people-friendly block of Bartlett Street in the Mission were presented [PDF] last week by the Planning Department, Department of Public Works, the SFMTA, and the design firm Rebar. The plan retains the sidewalk extensions that are key to calming traffic and inviting social activity outside of events like the weekly Mission Community Market, when the block is closed to cars.

The project still depends, however, on the SF Fire Department’s approval of the 14-foot roadway. SFFD has opposed narrowing the road below the state Fire Code minimum of 20 feet of unobstructed roadway. Department officials say it could inhibit emergency vehicle access, even though a number of other states and cities use 12-foot minimums without problems. The curbs on the lightly-trafficked block would also be less than six inches high — easily mountable by emergency vehicles — which will no longer be considered an obstruction by the city under legislation recently passed by the Board of Supervisors, set to go into effect at an unknown date.

A few residents at last week’s meeting re-stated their complaints about the plan’s removal of 21 on-street parking spaces on Bartlett to make room for more public space. City staffers, however, displayed a chart showing that the 350-space garage and parking spots on Bartlett are rarely full. A few other residents voiced continued support for the replacement of car parking with pedestrian space.

A future Barlett Street on a regular day.

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SFCTA Board Approves Funding For Masonic, Second Street, and More

The Masonic re-design will now be fully funded. Image: SF Planning Department

Federal funding for street redesigns on Masonic Avenue, Second Street, and other improvements was unanimously approved yesterday by the Board of Supervisors, acting as the board of the SF County Transportation Authority.

The projects selected to receive a chunk of the regional One Bay Area grant also include a bike/ped path on Mansell Street in McLaren Park, pedestrian safety improvements on Broadway in Chinatown, and bike and pedestrian upgrades on streets around the Transbay Transit Center. Altogether, $35 million in OBAG funds will go toward projects in SF.

A crash between a car and a fire department truck seen last week, after the car driver reportedly ran a red light. Photo: Michael Helquist

The most anticipated project in the package — and the most contentious – was the overhaul of Masonic, a deadly street which is slated to get raised bike lanes, reduced traffic lanes, a tree-lined median, bus bulb-outs, and other pedestrian safety upgrades. Of the estimated $18 million needed for the project, OBAG will provide $10 million, while the SFMTA is expected to provide the remaining $8 million.

SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Kristin Smith wrote in a blog post yesterday:

This is a huge win for safer, more complete San Francisco streets — especially on Masonic Avenue, one of San Francisco’s most deadly streets. In the last five years, 122 people have been injured and two people killed, just on 2/3 of a mile of Masonic. Thanks to today’s funding decision, this deadly corridor will be transformed into a safer place for all road users.

Even though the Masonic project was approved last September after several years of planning and extensive outreach, a few dozen residents at the hearing told the board to reject funding for the plan because it would remove all on-street car parking on Masonic. They claimed that the safety upgrades were actually dangerous, would add congestion, and that they weren’t notified about the planning process. Almost as many speakers who backed the project attested to the long-overdue need to save lives and make the street more accessible to bicycling.

Supervisors — including Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed, who penned a joint letter in February urging funding for the project — gave a sympathetic nod to the complainers, but didn’t budge on their commitment to safer streets.

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