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Posts from the San Francisco Neighborhoods Category

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Upper Market Street Gets First Phase of Safety Upgrades

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The SFMTA has completed its first wave of safety upgrades on Upper Market Street. The changes include painted sidewalk extensions (a.k.a. “safety zones”), high-visibility crosswalks, and signs prohibiting drivers from turning right at red lights.

SFMTA officials and Supervisor Scott Wiener held a press conference today to mark the completion of the improvements between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street.

The 10 newly-installed safety zones narrow the roadway and reduce crossing distances, which should help calm motor traffic at the three Market intersections where they were installed: 16th/Noe, 15th/Sanchez, and 14th/Church Streets.

Most of Upper Market’s intersections converge with two other streets. The legacy of cars-first design at these complex six-point intersections is a disaster for public safety. Pedestrians must traverse long stretches of pavement in crosswalks regularly blocked by drivers, while drivers often speed up to beat the light.

Upper Market has six wide traffic lanes and a median strip that seems to encourage speeding. Walking and biking were an afterthought in its design.

From 2007 to 2012, motorists injured pedestrians in 27 crashes and injured bicyclists in 32 crashes on Market between Octavia and Castro, according to the SFMTA. During the same period, an additional 102 crashes involved only motor vehicle drivers and passengers.

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SFMTA Approves 2nd Street Protected Bike Lane Redesign, Ponders Car Bans

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Second Street will get raised, protected bike lanes, sidewalk extensions, and Muni boarding islands with a redesign approved yesterday. But SFMTA Board members wonder if car restrictions are needed, too. Image: DPW

The SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday unanimously approved a redesign of Second Street which will remove traffic lanes and add safety upgrades like raised, protected bike lanes and sidewalk extensions. After years of delay, SFMTA Board members and some attendees at the meeting said it may not go far enough, and that the agency should consider car restrictions to prevent private autos from clogging the street.

The redesign [PDF] will remove two of Second Street’s four car traffic lanes and bring one of the city’s first routes with raised bike lanes protected from motor traffic by curbs and parked cars. Muni boarding islands will also be installed to allow buses to make stops in the traffic lanes and passengers to alight without conflicting with bike traffic.

The approval is “a resounding victory for safer SoMa streets,” wrote SF Bicycle Coalition Business and Community Program Manager Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, in a blog post. The SFBC submitted support letters from nearly 100 residents and a dozen businesses on the street, Cosulich-Schwartz told the SFMTA Board, noting that it’s the only north-south bike route in that area of SoMa.

Walk SF’s new policy and program manager, Cathy DeLuca, also lauded the plan. In addition to safer crossings (including removal of dangerous double-turn lanes at Harrison Street), and more room for pedestrians, she noted that the protected bike lanes will “make it easier for pedestrians and motorists to navigate” Second, which is “in the heart of such a fast-growing part of our community.”

The redesign “will give the residents, employees, local business, and visitors who use Second Street the great street they deserve,” Davi Lang, an aide for D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, told the SFMTA Board.

DeLuca noted that the plan for Second is the first street redesign to come out as part of the citywide Green Connections plan.

Second’s redesign has been delayed for years. Most recently, completion was pushed back a year from its previous schedule, to fall of 2017, apparently due to delays in completing the environmental review. Before that, the year-long construction was scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

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Major Car Restrictions, Large “Safety Zones” Come to Lower Market Street

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin announcing private auto restrictions on Market yesterday. Photo: SFMTA

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin announcing private auto restrictions on Market yesterday. Photo: SFMTA

At long last, private automobiles are prohibited from turning on to most of lower Market Street downtown. City officials implemented the change yesterday with a press conference in front of one of two large “safety zones” — painted bulb-outs — that were also completed as part of the “Safer Market Street” project.

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said broad support for getting cars off Market “shows how far we’ve come in San Francisco.” Even the SF Chronicle called it “a sensible shift” in an editorial today. “San Francisco’s downtown needs to be a safe place that accommodates more than just cars zipping through intersections.”

“I think there’s been an incredible amount of consensus in City Hall and around Vision Zero and Safer Market Street,” said Judson True, chief of staff for Assemblyman David Chiu, who pushed for a car-free Market on the Board of Supervisors. “We have to take more and more steps in this direction.”

Parking control officers were out enforcing the turn bans today, as ABC 7 reported.

The city’s largest “safety zones,” as the SFMTA calls them, were installed on corners at Grant and Mason streets.

See more coverage of the turn restrictions from ABC, the SF Examiner, the Chronicle, NBC, and Hoodline.

A "safety zone" at Market and Grant Streets. Photo: SFMTA

A “safety zone” at Market and Grant Streets. Photo: SFMTA

Another at Market and Mason Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Another at Market and Mason Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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City-Approved Flyers Shame Pedestrians on Mission Sidewalks

"#pedshaming #carfirstcity," writes Twitter user BluTarp.

“#pedshaming #carfirstcity,” writes Twitter user BluTarp.

Flyers warning people not to walk across the street while looking at their phones, or against traffic signals, were recently posted on corners along Mission Street in the Mission District.

The flyers, which sport the official “Vision Zero SF” logo, feature messages like, “Attention pedestrian: Look up from your phone. Your text can wait.” Another reads (in Spanish), “Careful. Stop. Crossing without sufficient time can kill you.”

The flyers taped to the ground on Mission were produced by the Mission Economic Development Agency using a $9,000 “mini grant” from the Department of Public Health, which signed off on them. The flyers came in four versions, which MEDA staff said were also posted on mediums like bulletin boards. One version told drivers to respect crosswalks, and one told people of all modes to obey traffic signals.

The pedestrian-shaming message differs from the SFMTA’s “Safe Streets SF” ad campaign, which has primarily targeted dangerous driving, which police data shows causes the plurality of pedestrian injuries citywide.

On Mission Street south of 20th Street, where the flyers were spotted, it’s unusually common for pedestrians to be struck while crossing against the signal, according to a map that summarizes the data on the city’s WalkFirst website. But as many crashes are caused by drivers who fail to yield while turning left, the map shows.

Teresa Morales-Phillips, MEDA’s community engagement manager, said the campaign wasn’t based on data. The messages were developed based on anecdotal evidence and feedback from SFMTA planners through public outreach by “promotoras/es” from the Mission Promise Neighborhood initiative.

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Eyes on the Street: Twitter’s Alley-Turned-Plaza Bustles Near Civic Center

City transportation staffers enjoy the astroturfed plaza created on the Stevenson Street alley as part of the Twitter building's renovation. Photo: Jessica Kuo

City transportation staffers enjoy the astroturfed plaza created on the Stevenson Street alley as part of the Twitter building’s renovation. Photo: Jessica Kuo

A plaza is bustling with life several months after its creation on a segment of the Stevenson Street alleyway at 10th Street, next to the Twitter offices.

The “Market Square” plaza is a privately-owned public open space built as part of Twitter’s office construction and renovations. That intersection of the mid-Market, SoMa, and Civic Center areas was relatively dead just a few years ago before unoccupied buildings and lots were filled by condo buildings like NEMA and tech companies like Twitter and Uber. Occupying the floor of Twitter’s building next to the alley is “The Market,” a grocery store and food hall complete with tech-salary prices.

Today, the plaza serves as a gathering space filled largely with a mix of tech workers and city government employees coming from nearby offices to enjoy some coffee. (Is there any more effective way to populate a pedestrianized alley than by opening a Blue Bottle?)

Stevenson's previous iterations, as seen in 2007 (left) and 2012 (right). Photos: Google Street View

Stevenson’s previous iterations, as seen in 2007 (left) and 2012 (right). Photos: Google Street View

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SFPD Tickets Bike Commuters Trying to Get By Car Queue on Page Street

Here’s today’s edition of egregious waste of SFPD resources used to harass people on bikes.

SFPD officers were posted at the bottom of the hill on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard this morning ticketing bike commuters who squeezed to the left of stopped cars. Freeway-bound drivers routinely queue up to turn right, occupying several blocks of Page’s only eastbound traffic lane.

Tickets were issued to people headed downtown who are essentially given no safe, legal, or practical alternative to use this official bike route. It’s one more sign that the department has no plans to stop targeting innocuous, common-sense behaviors by people on bikes while violations that hurt people remain under-enforced.

“It’s adding insult to injury,” said Jason Henderson, a board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association and author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

“Bicyclists don’t want to be doing that,” Henderson said. “It’s because the city has shirked its moral responsibility and left bicyclists to fend for themselves at that intersection.”

Squeezing to the left on Page, where the oncoming westbound traffic lane is mostly empty, has been normal for years and hasn’t been known to cause any crashes. The SFMTA has actually proposed a partial center-running bike lane on Page to legitimize the behavior as part of street improvements on and around Octavia.

A typical queue of cars on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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SoMa Freeway Ramp Mistake Fixed at Nearly Twice the Estimated Cost

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Image: SFCTA

Image: SFCTA

SF agencies opened a newly re-aligned freeway ramp yesterday that lands on Fremont at Folsom Street. The ramp fix came in at a cost of $5,274,000, nearly twice the original estimate of $2,883,900.

The design of the original Highway 80 off-ramp, installed after the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway to whisk drivers from the Bay Bridge into east SoMa, was widely considered a mistake.

The purpose of the realignment project, as stated by the SF County Transportation Authority, was to change “the off-ramp configuration to function better as a gateway into a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood,” as well as to reduce the footprint of the ramp to make room for a building development.

The old ramp configuration, which shot car traffic diagonally into the intersection of Fremont and Folsom, represented the type of 20th-century freeway engineering that has made for deadly intersections along Highway 80 through SoMa. The ramp forked as it touched down, consuming additional land and encouraging drivers to merge onto Fremont without stopping.

The new ramp doesn’t split in two, instead landing mid-block at a perpendicular angle to Fremont, where there’s now a traffic signal.

The ramp fix was originally supposed to wrap up in January, but crews discovered that the soil was more heavily contaminated than expected with lead and motor oil [PDF], much of it likely from the heavy motor traffic passing by. That drove up the costs, along with “unexpected” changes in Caltrans engineering standards, planners said.

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SFPD Charges Trucker Who Killed Rose Kelly, 61, in Richmond Crosswalk

33rd Avenue at Cabrillo Street in the Outer Richmond. Photo: Google Street View

33rd Avenue at Cabrillo Street in the Outer Richmond. Photo: Google Street View

Updated 6/22 with the name of the driver.

The SFPD has filed misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the truck driver who killed 61-year-old Rose Kelly in a crosswalk in the Outer Richmond yesterday afternoon. It’s now up to District Attorney George Gascón to follow through with the prosecution.

Kelly was walking east in a crosswalk on Cabrillo Street at 33rd Avenue when she was hit by a GMC truck driver at 1:21 p.m, SFPD told the SF Chronicle and Bay City NewsKelly died from chest and head injuries at SF General Hospital.

Kelly was killed at an intersection with four-way stop signs, where pedestrians always have the right-of-way in a crosswalk. [Update] SFPD officials confirmed that the charges were filed against the driver, Bing Zuo Wu, a 62-year-old SF resident.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara said the organization “sends our regards to the family and friends who are mourning the loss of Rose Kelly, who was killed by a large vehicle driver who failed to yield.”

“It’s a stark reminder that large vehicles result in more severe crashes than smaller vehicles,” Ferrara noted, pointing out that the SFMTA is in “the final stages of developing a large vehicle training curriculum” announced in February. “It’s in the best interest of companies that use large vehicles to require that all employees take this training.”

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SFMTA Wants to Remove King Street Bike Lanes, Won’t Improve Alternative

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The ghost bike at King and Third is for Diana Sullivan, who was killed on the stretch where the bike lane disappears. Photo: Google Maps

The SFMTA wants to remove bike lanes and sharrows on King Street in SoMa’s South Beach area to discourage bicycling on the truck-heavy street, Hoodline reports.

The agency wants to divert bike commuters to the parallel stretch of Townsend Street, but has no plans to improve the bike lanes there, which are unprotected and routinely blocked by drivers near the Caltrain Station.

The SFMTA originally proposed extending King’s striped bike lanes (one of its 24 Vision Zero projects). But the agency instead decided to remove all bike infrastructure on the street until concrete changes can be made.

The existing bike lanes are narrow and disappear suddenly, which “is not comfortable for people biking,” said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose. “By directing people to bike on Townsend or the Embarcadero Promenade, we can improve safety for people biking and reduce confusion in the area.”

“In the long-term,” said Jose, the agency “will be examining how biking can be improved in the area through the larger-scale Embarcadero Enhancement Project,” which could bring protected bike lanes along the waterfront years down the road. In the meantime, the agency’s “goal is to encourage people biking in the area to use Townsend when appropriate.”

The SF Bicycle Coalition isn’t fighting the removal of King’s painted bike lanes. But Communications Director Chris Cassidy said it “highlights the importance of protected bike lanes on Townsend.”

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Protected Bike Lanes Finally Coming to Folsom Street Near Transbay Center

Image: Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure

Image: Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure

The city will hold a public meeting on Thursday evening to present updates on a plan to install protected bike lanes on Folsom Street near the Transbay Transit Center, east of Second Street.

Construction on the project was previously expected to start this year, according to a city staff presentation from last June [PDF]. At the time, an interim version of the streetscape redesign would have included only a protected bike lane in the eastbound direction, with three lanes for cars, converted for two-way traffic.

The plans are now set to be constructed in 2016, and they’ve been upgraded “because of Vision Zero,” according to Paul Chasan of the Planning Department.

“The new design calls for a two-lane street and a cycle track, which is going to make it a much safer pedestrian environment,” Chasan told a supervisors committee at a recent meeting. (“Cycle track” is the city’s term for protected bike lanes.) “It’s going to make it a high-quality space.”

As part of the project, a protected bike signal phase would be installed at the harrowing Essex Street intersection, which has two right-turn lanes for drivers headed to a Bay Bridge onramp.

For some reason, no information on the time and location of Thursday’s meeting has been posted online by the Department of Public Works or the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, which are leading the project. The SF Bicycle Coalition posted info on its website about the meeting yesterday.

The meeting will be held on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at 701 Mission Street.