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Posts from the "Eric Mar" Category

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Supervisor Mar Wants to Study How Lower Speed Limits Could Improve SF

Reducing speed limits could have a big impact on saving lives. Image: PEDS Atlanta

Supervisor Eric Mar requested a city study last week about how lower speed limits could benefit San Francisco. Although lowering speed limits without implementing physical traffic calming measures isn’t a panacea for safer streets, the measure does hold promise as a first step toward saving lives and implementing Vision Zero. San Francisco would follow in the footsteps of New York City, Paris, and the United Kingdom in looking at major speed limit reductions.

Supervisor Mar with one of SF’s 15 mph school zone signs. Photo: Eric Mar

“We must do all that we can do to make sure that our streets are safer for our residents, and a speed limit reduction may have a significant impact on achieving this,” said Mar.

The study requested by Mar would add to a growing body of research showing how lower speed limits would reduce fatal crashes and save money. The UK Department of Transportation, which instituted a “20′s Plenty” campaign that set 20 mph speed limits as the default for residential streets, found that the chances of survival for a person hit by a car at 40 mph are half that of being hit at 30. Fatalities increase six-fold from 20 to 30 mph.

“Getting hit at 20 mph is like falling off a one-story building, but getting hit by a car at 40 mph is like falling off the fifth-floor,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who called major speed limit reductions ”one of the most important next steps we can take in achieving Vision Zero.”

“We need to look towards our partner cities that have done this successfully, and model our efforts on the best practices,” she said.

Last month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation requiring the installation of 20 mph “Slow Zones.” The New York State Legislature also passed a bill to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. The default speed limit for city streets in California, unless signed otherwise, is already set at 25 mph.

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Biking in SF Nearly Doubled Since 2006; Funding Push Gains Traction

Commute traffic on the Wiggle at Steiner Street and Duboce Avenue. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Despite the slow roll-out of safer streets for bicycling compared to cities like New York and Chicago, San Franciscans are making nearly twice as many trips by bike today as they did in 2006, according to a new count released by the SFMTA. Still, city leaders must significantly increase the paltry amount of transportation funds devoted to bicycle infrastructure in order to reach the SFMTA Bicycle Strategy‘s goal of 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020, according to the City Budget Analyst.

“We’ve been getting lucky for a long time,” said Amandeep Jawa, president of the League of Conservation Voters, at a Board of Supervisors hearing last week. “We’ve been spending less than 1 percent of our transportation budget on bicycling, but we’re already at 4 percent of trips. The opportunity before us is about funding the [bike] network… the more connected a network is, the better it does. If we really get serious about funding the full build-out, the improvements will be much more dramatic.”

As we’ve reported, bicycling has skyrocketed in the most bike-friendly neighborhoods like the Mission and Hayes Valley, where over 15 percent of commuters already get to work by bike, according to the 2010 census. As of 2012, bicycling comprised 3.8 percent of commute trips citywide, according to the SFMTA. Commute trips are only a fraction of overall trips and may not represent overall bike mode share.

Between 2011 and 2013, bicycling increased an average of 14 percent at 40 observed intersections, according to the SFMTA’s new report. At 21 intersections where the agency started counting bikes in 2006, the number has increased 96 percent within the full seven-year period.

Within the last two years, the corridors which saw the highest jumps in bike traffic, each around 35 percent, were Townsend, Second, and Polk Streets, according to the report. At specific points where recent bike improvements were made, the increases were even more dramatic:

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Supervisor Mar: Abysmal Funding for Bicycle Infrastructure “Not Acceptable”

It looks like Supervisor Eric Mar is ready to make some noise about the need to fund the SFMTA’s vision for a major expansion of bike-friendly streets — which Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t prioritized at all since the agency released its Draft Bicycle Strategy earlier this year.

Supervisor Mar speaking at last week's Bike to Work Day rally. Photo: Aaron Bialick

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Mar issued a request to the City Budget and Legislative Analyst and the Controller’s Office for a report on potential opportunities to increase the abysmal amount of funding currently devoted to bicycle infrastructure — 0.46 percent of the city’s capital budget.

“It’s time that the city walks the walk when it comes to funding bike improvements,” said Mar. “Less than a half of one percent is not acceptable.”

While pro-bike talk from elected officials abounded at last week’s Bike to Work Day rally, Mar noted that ”there were no commitments to step up and deliver the funding that our fledgling bicycle network needs.”

In February, when Mar asked Mayor Ed Lee how he planned to help fund the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy – a vision for making bicycling a mainstream mode of transportation – the mayor made it clear that he has no plans to back up his pro-bike rhetoric with a commitment to implementation.

With the SFMTA set to approve its next two-year budget a year from now, “Now is the time where we can start planning and working proactively to make these plans a reality,” said Mar.

Mar pointed to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin’s remarks at last October’s NACTO Conference in New York, reported by Streetsblog, when Reiskin stated that “the most cost effective investment we can make in moving people in our city is in bicycle infrastructure.”

The efficacy of bicycle infrastructure is already evident in neighborhoods like the Inner Richmond, which Mar represents, where bicycle commuting increased by 167 percent from 2000 to 2010. During that time, bike lanes were installed on Arguello Boulevard and Cabrillo Street. Mar also pushed for the recent implementation of the Fell and Oak protected bike lanes, which now provide a safer commuting route for District 1 residents. “I think the improvements to bike lanes, making them safer for families, has had a real impact in the Richmond,” said Mar.

“We know that improving the bicycle network in San Francisco leads to healthier communities, less car congestion, less pressure on Muni lines already at capacity, healthier commuters, and many other economic benefits,” he added.

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Sunday Streets Coming to the Richmond in October

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Clement Street will finally be opened up to people instead of cars. Photo: musicsack/Flickr

Later this year, for the first time, the Richmond District will be graced with Sunday Streets. The event in late October will run from inner Clement Street all the way out to Ocean Beach, D1 Supervisor Eric Mar announced at a Board of Supervisors meeting this week.

Organizers haven’t established the details of the route or the exact date, but an aide from Mar’s office said it will likely include inner Clement’s commercial strip and a major section of Balboa Street, running out to the Great Highway and including connections into Golden Gate Park, where eastern John F. Kennedy Drive is already car-free every Sunday.

Sunday Streets events in the western neighborhoods thus far have been limited to extensions of Golden Gate Park’s regular car-free route out to the Great Highway, and the Richmond event would be the first time it comes to the area’s neighborhood and commercial streets. Inner Sunset residents have made strides in establishing regular street openings, but the city’s sky-high fees have forced organizers to commercialize the event and limit it to one block.

Noting how much he enjoyed the Sunday Streets 2013 kick-off on the Embarcadero last Sunday, Mar said he hopes “people take the chance to explore other neighborhoods like the Richmond.”

While three other dates have been announced for this year, Sunday Streets organizers say they’re still finalizing the rest of the schedule before it’s released.

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Senator Yee’s Move to Enshrine Double-Fine Zones Could Get Supes’ Support

With a trial period for double traffic fine zones on 19th Avenue, Van Ness Avenue, and Lombard Street set to expire at the end of the year, State Senator Leland Yee hopes to extend them indefinitely, crediting the measures for drops in pedestrian injuries, despite results appearing mixed. Yee’s new proposal, SB 219, could get the backing of the SF Board of Supervisors, which is set to consider a resolution [PDF] on Tuesday introduced by Supervisors Eric Mar and Norman Yee declaring the board’s support for the bill.

Senator Leland Yee on 19th Avenue in 2008, announcing the trial for double-fine zones with then-Supervisor Carmen Chu. Photo: Office of Senator Yee

“San Francisco’s streets, as many of us know, need to be a safe place for everyone,” Mar told the board on Tuesday. “But we have a long way to go, and major thoroughfares that drivers treat like expressways — you all know many of those streets, from Masonic to 19th Avenue — but they still pose a major to pedestrians every day.”

Yee’s proposal would make double-fine zones permanent on the surface streets comprising Highways 1 (19th/Park Presidio) and 101 (Van Ness and Lombard Street), which fall under the jurisdiction of Caltrans. “Some of the most dangerous streets are those which also serve as state highways,” added Mar.

Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF, said the organization supports Yee’s proposal, and will be watching for the police department to step up traffic enforcement against dangerous driving violations on the corridors. ”There should be a penalty for speeding and driving dangerously in a densely populated urban area where you can hurt a lot of people,” she said. “That’s what this legislation ensures.”

The double-fine zone trial was instituted at the start of 2009 at the behest of Yee, who sought the measure to bolster pedestrian improvements on 19th. The Senate approved the experiment on the condition that the zones also be tried on Van Ness and Lombard, which didn’t see other improvements, as a baseline for comparison.

Results on the efficacy of the measure, however,  have been mixed: In 2009, while pedestrian crashes on 19th decreased from 17 to 14 compared to the previous year, they actually quadrupled on Van Ness. The next year saw injuries drop on all four streets, according to the SF Examiner, but they increased again in 2011 on each street except Van Ness, with 19th seeing a 67.6 percent increase from the previous year.

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Supes Urge Regional Funding for Complete Street Redesign of Masonic

Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed.

The plan to overhaul deadly Masonic Avenue with pedestrian safety upgrades and raised, protected bike lanes could get much of its funding from a regional grant program. The Masonic project has received a strong endorsement from three members of the Board of Supervisors, who sent a letter last week to the head of the SF County Transportation Authority, urging the agency to make Masonic a priority as it decides which projects it will recommend to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for funding.

Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

Chances that the $20 million project will get a substantial chunk from the MTC’s “One Bay Area Grant” are promising. When the SFCTA presented [PDF] its initial list of ten potential OBAG projects in December, Masonic was in the “upper tier.” It remains to be seen how much funding will go to Masonic, which along with other projects, such as the redesign of Second Street, is in the running for a limited pool of funds. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency applied for $16 million in OBAG funds for Masonic, but the SFCTA says only $35 million will be available for $54 million in funding requests citywide.

In their letter to SFCTA Acting Executive Director Maria Lombardo [PDF], Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed pointed to “a number of high-profile collisions and fatalities on this route in recent years,” asserting that “we must act fast to improve this corridor.”

We recognize there are multiple candidate projects with needs exceeding the total available funds, but we ask you to prioritize Masonic Avenue. We consider it a matter of public safety. The project will rectify what is now a fundamentally unsafe street design. It will also improve transit on a major north-south corridor, reduce environmental impact, and increase livability, thus meeting all the criteria established in the Transportation Plan.

Masonic is the only north-south bike route in the area, but is currently very unsafe and unappealing for most riders. The sidewalk bulb-outs, grade-separated bikeways, and tree-lined median are desperately needed on Masonic Avenue.

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Eyes on the Street: A Traffic Circle Sprouts Up in the Richmond

Photos: Aaron Bialick

A new traffic circle has cropped up at 23rd and Anza Street in the Richmond District as part of traffic calming measures being implemented by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency.

As KRON 4′s Stanley Roberts showed in his “People Behaving Badly” segment yesterday, some drivers are still getting used to the circle, since the treatment is fairly new in the western neighborhoods. But by changing the way motorists navigate the formerly wide-open intersection, the circle discourages speeding, and it’s added some greenery to a very grey neighborhood. With 23rd being the flattest north-south bike route in the area, and the intersection being in a 15 MPH school zone, the location was ripe for traffic calming.

D1 Supervisor Eric Mar, who visited the circle on a bike ride with staff from the SFMTA and the SF Bicycle Coalition while it was under construction, said he “enthusiastically supports traffic circles and other traffic calming improvements in the Richmond District and citywide. As an advocate for stronger pedestrian safety measures, I am pleased to see the first traffic circle implemented in the Richmond.”

“Research shows that traffic circles like this actually move traffic more efficiently through intersections than stop signs, yet have less high-impact collisions,” he added. The intersection has stop signs for traffic traveling along 23rd, but not Anza. That’s one reason this is a “traffic circle” and not a “roundabout,” where all entering drivers would simply yield to cars in the intersection.

On the bike ride, Mar said the SFMTA “needs to create better signage and street striping that will help residents become more educated about traffic flow in the intersection,” and that neighbors could have been notified that the circle was coming. “But overall, this is a great design that will also create a new green space in an area that had been pavement and concrete,” he said.

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Failing to Back Up His Words, Mayor Lee Won’t Fund SF’s Bike Strategy

Mayor Ed Lee has made it clear that he has no plans to take leadership on funding San Francisco’s vision for making bicycling a mainstream mode of transportation.

Mayor Lee will bike to City Hall on Bike to Work Day, but he refuses to make the necessary investments to put SF's bike infrastructure on par with other leading cities. Photo: Aaron Bialick

During a question-and-answer session at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Eric Mar asked the mayor how he will help fund the SFMTA’s Draft Bicycle Strategy, a compass to guide the city toward its official goal of having 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020. Essentially, as the Bay Guardian put it, Mar’s question “is simply asking the mayor whether he will put his money where his mouth is.”

But in the mayor’s tepid, convoluted answer (reprinted below), he never says that SF needs to invest more in bicycling.

In other words, Lee said “No.” He’s not going to put his money where his mouth is. All those feel-good statements about building 100 miles of protected bike lanes? Apparently, Lee has no intention of following through.

Instead of embracing calls to allocate a relatively modest sum to help put SF on par with cities like New York and Chicago — which are getting safer streets and better economic outcomes out of their investments in bike infrastructure — Lee asserted that the city is already doing enough to encourage bicycling.

According to the Bike Strategy, the “20 percent” vision would require an investment of $500 million in infrastructure like protected bike lanes — which would still amount to less than 8 percent of the SFMTA’s capital spending, according the SF Bicycle Coalition. With a smaller investment of $200 million — the scenario deemed most realistic by the SFMTA — the city could reach a bike mode share of 8 to 10 percent by 2018. Currently, the agency only has $30 million in funding secured for bicycle improvements during that time period.

To put the $500 million citywide network of safe bicycle infrastructure in perspective with other SF transportation projects, the 1.7-mile Central Subway costs $1.6 billion, the replacement of Doyle Drive with the Presidio Parkway costs roughly $1 billion, and BART’s newly proposed expansion of Embarcadero and Montgomery Stations would cost an estimated $900 million. As Bikes Belong’s Martha Roskowski noted during her San Francisco visit last week, “It’s a drop in the bucket of the ‘great big spending’ of the city. It’s really a question of priorities.”

But in his statement, Mayor Lee failed to even acknowledge the need for increased investment in bicycling — a turnaround from his occasional pro-bike rhetoric, and a huge disappointment to San Franciscans who took it to heart.

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Supes Seek Answers on Bike/Ped Strategy, “Better Market Street” Delay

Supervisors Avalos, Kim, Mar, and Wiener.

Members of the SF Board of Supervisors are calling attention to the need to fund the SFMTA’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Strategies, as well as the delayed Better Market Street project, which suddenly looks like it might not include space for bicycling.

The Market Street situation concerned Supervisors Scott Wiener and John Avalos enough to call separate hearings and release statements on the issue. Both are troubled by the new completion date of 2019 — a four-year delay — and the idea of building protected bike lanes on downtown Mission instead of Market, which was recently added as a potential option to the surprise of advocates and supervisors.

Avalos called for a hearing at the next meeting of the SF County Transportation Authority Board on February 26. In a statement, he said, “Market Street is the most bicycled street West of the Mississippi, and I believe it deserves dedicated cycle tracks along its full length. The current state of Market Street with the ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ zig-zagging bike lane is unbecoming for the premiere thoroughfare of one of America’s premier bicycling cities… We, as city officials, can’t squander this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Wiener’s hearing would take place at an upcoming meeting at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee. “The Better Market Street project should be the best example of improving our streets through creating safer pedestrian and bike access and making thoughtful transit decisions,” he said in a statement. “The plan should encourage people to make better use of public space and to advance our city’s Transit-First policy. We need to carefully scrutinize any changes to the plan that could impact that goal.”

On funding the Pedestrian Strategy, D6 Supervisor Jane Kim called a hearing with city staffers about how to fund the safety improvements needed to reach the plan’s goals, which include cutting pedestrian injuries in half by 2020. She didn’t say if Mayor Ed Lee was expected to attend.

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