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Posts from the "Walking" Category

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In Case SFPD Doesn’t Ask for Crash Footage, New Website Can Help Find It

Image: CommunityCam

A new online platform called CommunityCam provides a crowdsourced map of surveillance cameras on the streets that could help investigators and the public find video footage that may prove useful after a traffic crash.

As we saw last week, San Franciscans can’t rely on the SFPD to do their jobs when a pedestrian or bicyclist is injured by a driver, including taking a quick survey of nearby buildings for surveillance cameras that could provide key evidence in determining the cause of the crash. Instead, SFPD too often blames the victim by default.

CommunityCam currently lists the locations of more than 1,000 “outdoor, public-facing security cameras,” said Ellen Arndt, communications manager for VideoSurveillance.com, which hosts the map. “If a cyclist is hit and the driver fails to stop, he or she can look at CommunityCam’s map to determine if a nearby camera may have caught the incident on video.”

Sadly, it has indeed come to the point where the public may have to do investigative work on traffic crashes for the SFPD. At least now, it’s easier to find these cameras.

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How Will SF Fund the Sustainable Transport System a Growing City Needs?

Within a few decades, San Francisco’s streets will be even more clogged with cars, more dangerous for walking and biking, and Muni will burst at the seams as more people try to get around. That’s the future city officials warned about at a hearing yesterday, painting a grim picture of traffic-choked streets if nothing is done to change the status quo of paltry funding for walking, biking, and transit.

“The growth is coming to San Francisco, the people who are here aren’t leaving, and more jobs are coming,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. “I think we got away for a few decades with not making investments in our transportation system” and other infrastructure, he said, “but we’re beyond a point where we can get away with it anymore.”

As we’ve reported, the city’s transportation and street infrastructure has $3.1 billion in unfunded maintenance needs over the next ten years, $2.2 billion of which is to bring Muni up to a “state of good repair.” Looking at all of the transit systems in the Bay Area, the budget gap is $18 billion over the next 25 years, and that’s just maintenance — adding the capacity to transport a larger population will cost more.

Those numbers don’t include funding to implement the SF Pedestrian Strategy, the Bicycle Strategy, the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, traffic signal upgrades, and other street redesigns, each of which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, said Reiskin. None of the measures currently in the works to increase transportation funding would come close to meeting the projected needs.

Over the next 25 years, San Francisco is projected to add 92,410 housing units and 191,000 jobs, said Planning Director John Rahaim. Those figures come from Plan Bay Area, a strategy to focus regional population growth near transit and job centers that was approved last week by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and is set to be updated every five years.

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SFMTA Tests Bike/Ped Wayfinding Signs During America’s Cup

A sign spotted on Polk Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has installed 40 temporary wayfinding signs at 27 locations to guide people walking and biking to the America’s Cup races starting next month, according to agency spokesperson Ben Jose. Though the SFMTA installed wayfinding signs for walking during the preliminary races last summer, this may be the first time the city has provided estimated travel times and distances for people on bikes.

The signs were installed as part of the People Plan, billed by Mayor Ed Lee as a transportation strategy to avoid inundating the waterfront with car congestion during America’s Cup by encouraging visitors to come by foot, bike, and transit.

The temporary signage could also be a precursor to the wayfinding systems called for in the SFMTA Bicycle and Pedestrian Strategies. In New York City, the department of transportation unveiled its pedestrian wayfinding system yesterday.

Jose said planners are “testing out some concepts that will inform the SFMTA’s development of more robust permanent wayfinding” systems.

“The signs were designed to be useful regardless of whether or not people are going to the America’s Cup events or not,” he said. “This reflects another one of the People Plan’s core values — that our transportation strategies should support San Franciscans in their regular travel around the race areas in addition to race visitors and participants.”

Jose said “certain signs are race days-specific while others offer distance and time information for pedestrians and bicyclists.” He said they will be taken down in September once the races finish.

See a map of sign locations after the jump.

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Draft CA Budget Ups Bike/Ped Funds, Leaves Safe Routes to School in Doubt

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The budget proposed yesterday by Governor Jerry Brown and state lawmakers includes a new “Active Transportation Program” that would increase overall funding for walking and biking improvements but may put California’s Safe Routes to Schools program at risk.

A family makes a car-free commute to school in Berkeley. Photo: EBBC/Flickr

Under the proposed ATP, currently separate funding streams would be consolidated into one larger program, increasing the overall pot of bike/ped funds from $100 million to $134 million. Details on how that money will be doled out have yet to be defined, however, and unless SRTS is guaranteed at least the same amount of funding it currently receives — $46 million — the SRTS Partnership won’t support the ATP, said Jeanie Ward-Waller, the organization’s California advocacy organizer.

“We’re very much in support of the concept” of the ATP, said Ward-Waller. “We just want to see more clear details spelled out, and more security before we can get on board with this program.”

SRTS funds could be protected with State Assembly bill AB 1194, which was passed by the Assembly in late May, and must still be approved by the Senate and Governor Jerry Brown. The Assembly already removed a provision that would have retained the current $46 million minimum in combined state and federal funds set aside for SRTS, but the bill could “protect it from consolidation in the ATP if the ATP does not guarantee funding to SRTS,” said Ward-Waller. She explained in a blog post:

In order for AB-1194 to come off suspense, the Appropriations Committee struck a line from the bill that would ensure $46 million (level funding from state and federal sources) be guaranteed for future years for Safe Routes to School. Instead, level funding for the program will have to be approved through the state budget process each year.  Though the amendment removing the $46M guarantee makes more work for advocates in future years, the bill still effectively simplifies and continues the structure of the program.

Governor Brown and the state legislature must approve a state budget by Saturday, June 15, and it would go into effect on July 1. But AB 1194 isn’t expected to pass the Senate and go to the Governor’s desk until September, and during that time, Ward-Waller said lawmakers decided to put ATP funds on hold while an agreement regarding their use is worked out.

Although advocates will have a challenge in ensuring the SRTS program isn’t shorted, California Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Dave Snyder said the ATP will be an overall positive step toward increase walking and biking funding in the state, as well as creating a more efficient and centralized program to move projects forward.

“We do support the ATP, and we want to see the consolidation of those programs as soon as possible,” he said, while adding a note of caution. “We do need to have a better idea of what the California Transportation Commission wants to do with those funds.”

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With Help From Mayor Quan, Oaklavia Returns With a Bang

When Walk Oakland Bike Oakland hosted the city’s first Ciclovia-style event in downtown Oakland in 2010, onerous city fees meant plans for a second Oaklavia that year proved too ambitious for the small organization. “We thought we wouldn’t be able to do it again,” said Jonathan Bair, WOBO’s Board President.

Three years later, the city brought Oaklavia back, closing the streets around Lake Merritt to cars yesterday and opening them up for people. This time, organizers estimate 10,000 to 15,000 people turned out, compared to the 4,000 at the 2010 event.

Key to the event’s success this year, advocates said, was the newfound support from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Since she took office in 2011, Quan has championed open streets events as well recently-completed renovations at Lake Merritt. To celebrate the lake improvements, yesterday’s Oaklavia was tied with a festival called Love Our Lake Day.

“This was the transformative moment for Oakland,” said East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera, who invited Quan to visit Sunday Streets in the Mission in June of 2012. ”Mayor Quan came back from that event with a clear understanding of why Sunday Streets would be great for Oakland and an appreciation for the work and investment it takes to make it happen,” she said.

Quan told Streetsblog that Oaklavia “is part of my overall economic development plan,” and promised another Oaklavia in Fruitvale this fall. “I want to do these bicycle/walking events in different parts of the city and introduce people to different neighborhoods,” she said.

On the wide streets circling Lake Merritt, yesterday’s Oaklavia seemed akin to the Sunday Streets events held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Walkers mostly chose to stroll on the new pathway near the water, while the roads provided lots of room for bicyclists to move freely. The route was longer than that of the first Oaklavia — 3.3 miles vs. 2.4 miles – and acres of adjacent grassy areas and pathways gave room for people to spread out.

Skaters, bicyclists, and walkers came from Chinatown, East Oakland, and Grand Lake, and from as far as San Francisco and San Mateo. But the ethnic diversity on the streets gave the event a definitively Oakland feel.

If there was any shortcoming, it was the fact that only one side of the roadway was closed to traffic, which may have kept some people on the sidewalk, said WOBO board member Chris Hwang. “To not have [the street] fully closed is a shame,” she said.

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Maker Faire: A Model for Encouraging Car-Free Transportation to Big Events

Bike Valet Parking at Maker Faire.

Space for parking up to 2,000 bicycles was provided at Maker Faire this year. Photos: Andrew Boone

The runaway success of Maker Faire, the annual San Mateo festival that celebrates do-it-yourself technology and crafts, has led organizers to get creative in encouraging attendees to come without a car and avert a traffic mess.

Fire Sculpture at Maker Faire

One of the ever-popular fire sculptures on display at Maker Faire.

Since Maker Faire’s debuted in 2006, organizers have developed a model program for managing traffic demand for the growing number of attendees — estimated at more than 120,000 this year — who flock to the two-day event to see the eccentric and occasionally practical inventions of 1,000 “makers.”

At this year’s event, held last weekend at the San Mateo County Event Center, the valet bicycle parking lot “had 735 bikes at 1 p.m., and about 1,000 bikes at 3:30 p.m., which was about the peak,” said bike parking organizer Gladwyn de Souza.

“It’s also part of the attendee experience. We want people to have a good time, so we want to provide them with choices that don’t involve driving,” said Katie Kunde, Maker Faire’s senior sales manager.

Maker Faire’s website provides comprehensive details on how to get to and from the event by transit, bicycle, walking, car-share, driving, paratransit, and even combinations of those modes.

Maker Faire also coordinates with local bicycle clubs to organize group bike rides to the event on Saturday from San Francisco and San Jose, and gives riders free copies of Momentum, an urban cycling magazine along with a free “I Rode My Bike to Maker Faire 2013″ patch. Read more…

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“Street Fight”: The New Guide to SF’s Transportation Politics

On the Sunset District’s 19th Avenue, a street transformed into an urban highway environment in the mid-20th century, Muni buses jostle for room on a car-clogged six-lane roadway, where residents put their lives in the hands of long-distance car commuters every time they cross. And all but the exceptionally adventurous can forget about bicycling on the motorway.

SFSU students cross 19th Avenue. Photo: San Francisco Sentinel

Those types of conditions are common throughout dense, car-dominated San Francisco, and they’re what Jason Henderson describes as a “mobility stalemate, whereby everyone using the street has an unpleasant experience, but any improvement to one mode of transport comes at the expense of others.”

That’s how Henderson explains it in his new book Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco. Henderson is a geography professor at SF State University, which happens to sit on the southern end of 19th Avenue.

When it comes to getting around and allocating street space in San Francisco, there are three primary ideologies battling it out — and sometimes working together — to shape decisions, according to Henderson. It’s these three conceptions of mobility — progressive, neoliberal, and conservative — that jostle to determine “how the city should be configured, for whom and by whom,” said Henderson at a talk on his book at SFSU yesterday. And while San Francisco has a national reputation as a walkable, progressive bastion, outsiders may be surprised to find that influential political forces in the city can be just as car-centric as, say, those in the American South (where Henderson hails from).

Henderson’s framework can be very useful for understanding why, say, a group of merchants would fiercely oppose the removal of car parking on Polk Street even if studies show that 85 percent of people on Polk arrive without a car. It’s a reaction rooted in a conservative paradigm that views the automobile as essential to family life and commerce, and which assumes space for cars can’t be sacrificed for safety.

As Henderson put it, transportation is typically thought of as an issue that transcends ideology. Yet while the conventional divide between Democrats and Republicans may have little to do with merchants who fight tooth-and-nail to preserve parking even in SF’s most socially liberal neighborhoods, the use of street space is as political a topic as any.

San Francisco’s social values have become a bellwether for progressivism nationwide, but there remains a deep strain of car-centric ideology concerning streets and transportation in the city, said Henderson. “When it comes to mobility and the car, there is a very conservative discourse that essentializes the car.”

For decades, transportation planning in American cities prioritized the movement and storage of cars should above just about everything else. This way of thinking became so entrenched that car-centric engineering tools like Level of Service — a metric that treats the movement of motor traffic as pretty much the sole purpose of a street — were generally regarded as apolitical. As a result, it’s now normal for the vast majority of street space to be devoted to cars.

Henderson, borrowing a quote from the author of an oral history of car-centric transportation planning, described the conventional engineering mantra like this: “On the eighth day, there was LOS.”

“In transportation, engineers and planners do have normative visions of how the city should be configured and organized, and do have ideas and beliefs about who should be making those decisions,” said Henderson. “It is not unbiased.”

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At 40 Years, San Francisco’s Transit-First Policy Still Struggles for Traction

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Four decades after San Francisco's transit-first policy was adopted, Geary Boulevard remains designed to give priority to auto drivers over people walking, cycling, and riding Muni's busiest bus line. Photo: jivedanson/Flickr

The first private automobile users on early 20th-century American streets were generally accorded no special privileges on the public right-of-way. “The center of the road was reserved for streetcars, and the new automobiles had to move out of the way,” as Renee Montagne describes it in the 1996 documentary Taken for a Ride, which chronicles the decline of American public transit over the 20th century.

When the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a transit-first policy on March 19, 1973 — 40 years ago this week — a return to the early 1900s streetscape may not have been what they had in mind, but the city’s intent to undo decades of urban planning and governance geared towards promoting driving at the expense of public transit was clear. A key provision of the policy reads, “Decisions regarding the use of limited public street and sidewalk space shall encourage the use of public rights of way by pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, and shall strive to reduce traffic and improve public health and safety.” (The policy was amended to include pedestrians and bicyclists in 1999.)

Yet today, the vast majority of San Francisco’s street space remains devoted to moving and storing private automobiles, making the public right-of-way hostile to walking and bicycling. Muni remains underfunded, with vehicle breakdowns and delays caused by car traffic a daily part of riding transit.

“When there’s excess road space that cars don’t need, it’s given over to bikes, peds, and transit,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich, “but where there’s a real shortage of road space, in the most congested parts of the city, the car is still the priority.”

“It seems like the transit-first policy is just a recommendation,” said Jason Henderson, a geography professor at SF State University and author of the upcoming book Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco. “There’s no requirement for the city’s decision-makers to actually follow it.”

Since Ed Reiskin became director of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency in July of 2011, he’s helped develop a new strategic plan for the agency that sets a five-year goal of reducing driving to 50 percent of all trips, down from the current estimate of 62 percent — a number that hasn’t changed significantly since the 70s.

“We haven’t really moved the needle that much,” said Reiskin. “In the big scheme of things, a lot of people are still relying on their own single-occupant automobile to get around the city.”

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Advocates Call on Gov. Brown to Prioritize Biking, Walking in State Budget

This article is cross-posted from the blog of former Streetsblog SF editor Bryan Goebel, who’s aiming to launch a new website ”devoted to sustained coverage of biking, walking and transit issues in Sacramento, both at the Capitol and locally.” You can also follow Bryan on Twitter.

A proposal in Governor Jerry Brown’s budget that would change how the administration doles out federal and state money for biking and walking improvements could imperil critical street safety programs such as Safe Routes to School at a time when California is facing a growing health crisis and trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“It does not reflect a serious sense of purpose by this Governor’s Office or the transportation bureaucracy to really make bicycling and walking a central part of California’s transportation system,” said Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition.

The move by the administration is a response to the federal transportation bill passed by Congress last year. MAP-21 ended some dedicated funding for biking and walking programs.

States are also receiving less money under Transportation Alternatives, the federal program previously known as Transportation Enhancements, which historically granted the bulk of bicycle and pedestrian funding to state transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations.

The League of American Bicyclists is encouraging state transportation agencies to make up for the cuts by seeking funding for street safety projects from other eligible pots of federal money.

California is receiving $80 million in TA funds, $13 million less than last year. In its current form, Brown’s budget, which has been widely praised for being balanced, would not kick in any other money to make up for the loss.

Under the administration’s proposal, the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which oversees Caltrans, would combine five funding programs, including Safe Routes and the Bicycle Transportation Account, into what’s being called the “Active Transportation Program.”

The combined total in the account would be $134 million, compared to $147 million last year.

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How Do You Share the Wiggle?

With a growing number of new bike commuters on the Wiggle — and more on the way with the imminent arrival of separated bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets — the route is a kind of petri dish for a maturing culture of respect between people walking, bicycling, and driving.

In a new video, a group called Neighbors Developing Divisadero surveyed some regular Wiggle users at last month’s Sunday Streets in NoPa about what they see as the etiquette for each mode of travel.

While the Wiggle is actually very safe, with relatively calm traffic and very few crashes, negotiating intersections can get hairy when people are in a rush. The SFMTA has been adding green-backed sharrows, continental crosswalks, and daylighting treatments this year in a bid to improve visibility and navigation along the route. And reducing through car traffic would no doubt provide more breathing room for pedestrians and bicyclists as well. But sometimes, it seems, people simply just need to be more considerate.

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