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Posts from the San Francisco Neighborhoods Category

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Chinatown Program to Turn Kids Into Safe Streets “Investigators”

Jean Parker Elementary School students at the Chinatown CDC’s Safe Walks to School workshop in 2011. The school will now have a similar regular after-school program. Photo: Deland Chan

A new after-school program will teach kids in Chinatown not just how to survive on car-centric streets — but also how to redesign them.

Students in grades 3 to 5 will learn to act as “city street investigators” in a program launched by the Chinatown YMCA, the Chinatown Community Development Center, the SF Safe Routes to School Partnership, and Walk SF. It will be held in conjunction with a more conventional program teaching students, including grades K-2, how to avoid getting run over by drivers.

“This approach is unique because we’re not stopping at education, we’re thinking of additional ways to empower kids and families with the knowledge they need to assess their transportation system and determine needed improvements to truly achieve Vision Zero and end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara in a statement.

Six schools are participating in the program, including Jean Parker Elementary School, which is on Broadway Street, identified by the city as a “high-injury corridor.” A plan to redesign Broadway with pedestrian improvements was completed in 2012, though a construction timeline hasn’t been announced yet. None of the four traffic lanes would be removed, but the plan includes sidewalk bulb-outs and raised crosswalks at some alleys.

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Why Townsend Street Needs Protected Bike Lanes at 4th and King Station

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Anyone who uses Townsend Street’s eastbound bike lane to commute to Caltrain is sure to run into a litany of obstacles: Taxis, shuttles, private autos, and Muni buses obliterate the poor bike lane in the fight for curb space. (Much of the curb is reserved as a taxi stand.)

Sam McCandlish sent in this video, filmed by a friend of his, showing the chaotic scrum faced by bike-to-Caltrain commuters. The often-impassable conditions cause some people to resort to riding on the sidewalk. In 2011, the SFPD targeted sidewalk riders at the Fourth and King station while ignoring drivers blocking the bike lane.

In the video, a few Bay Area Bike Share users can be seen walking their bikes in the bike lane in the opposite direction to get through the mess. Fourth and King is the busiest bike-share hub in the city at peak commute hours.

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As Tenderloin Crosswalks Get Safer, KPIX Weeps for Lost Parking Spots

At Jones and Ellis Streets today, drivers yield to pedestrians at a corner clear of parked cars. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA recently implemented a simple measure to improve visibility at crosswalks in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood with very high concentrations of both pedestrian injuries and children.

Corners at 80 intersections got the “daylighting” treatment, which improves visibility by clearing parked cars that obscure sightlines between drivers and people in crosswalks. It’s one of the latest efforts in the city’s Vision Zero campaign, which is targeting the 12 percent of city streets that account for 70 percent of severe and fatal traffic injuries.

To hear KPIX reporter Ken Bastida tell it, these measures to reduce traffic violence are just an annoyance for people who need to find a curbside parking spot right now

Ken Bastida solved the mystery of the "vanishing meters." Image: KPIX

Ken Bastida solved the mystery of the “vanishing meters.” Image: KPIX

“Think it’s getting harder to park in San Francisco? Well, it is,” Bastida said by way of introduction alongside the text, “Vanishing meters.”

Here’s how Bastida explained daylighting (a “fancy word”) in his best muckraker voice: “The curb gets painted red, the meter disappears, and we’re left with what the city calls ‘a safer intersection.'” Truly a devious plan by the city.

Bastida didn’t cite any safety statistics or interview anyone on camera who uses the crosswalks, but he did find a driver to complain about how hard it is to find a parking space. With testimony from that one guy in the bag, Bastida then declared, “Frustrated drivers say they’re all for safety, but they’re quick to point out, visibility is a two-way street.” Apparently, we’ve all got to wear more DayGlo.

What Bastida didn’t mention is that drivers’ failure to yield in a crosswalk is among the top five causes of pedestrian injuries citywide (the other four are also driver violations). That’s according to the SFPD data behind the department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign.

Tenderloin Station is actually the worst SFPD outpost in the city when it comes to focusing enforcement on those five violations. In September, the most recent month for which citation data is available, officers didn’t issue any tickets to drivers violating pedestrians’ right-of-way. However, they did manage to issue 245 tickets — 43 percent of their total — to pedestrians.

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Mayor Lee Won’t Say Saving Lives Is More Important Than Car Parking

Mayor Ed Lee at a press conference today with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin and Supervisor Eric Mar. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Mayor Ed Lee shocked safe streets advocates when he told Streetsblog two weeks ago, “We shouldn’t promote bicycle safety over pedestrian safety over cars and parking” on Polk Street. “I think they’re all going to be important.”

The Vision Zero Coalition sent a letter [PDF] last week asking Lee to clarify his statement, saying it gave “the impression that convenience trumps concern for the lives and well-being of vulnerable road users.” (You can listen to the audio of the interview below.)

“Your comments,” the letter to the mayor said, “undermine your own stated commitment to Vision Zero and suggest to City staff that the City’s leadership is willing to slide when it comes to safety and our city’s Vision Zero goals, wavering in the face of first resistance.”

But the mayor’s response letter [PDF] received by the coalition yesterday didn’t state that saving lives is more important than car parking. The mayor wrote that he’s “proud to lead” the Vision Zero effort, but that “we must be balanced in our approach,” and pointed to his recent efforts to pass a transportation funding bond measure and the city’s release of a two-year action strategy.

The coalition was “disappointed that the content of this letter does not address our request,” but “instead reiterates the Mayor’s belief that the safety of all modes are equally critical,” SF Bicycle Coalition Policy Director Tyler Frisbee wrote in an email response. The Vision Zero Coalition is lead by Walk SF and the SFBC, and includes nearly 40 local organizations.

At a press conference on Vision Zero today, SF Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez pressed the mayor on his Streetsblog quote concerning Polk, even before I could get the questions in myself.

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SFMTA to Study Safety Upgrades for the Richmond’s North-South Bike Routes

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The SFMTA plans to study safer walking and biking routes on five of the Richmond District’s north-south streets, which connect the Presidio and Golden Gate Park.

The Richmond’s north-south streets like Arguello Boulevard could be better for bicycling and walking. Photo: Hum of the City

At the behest of D1 Supervisor Eric Mar, the SF County Transportation Authority recently granted $100,000 in Prop K sales tax revenue for the SFMTA to launch the study. Over the next year, planners will conduct walking and biking tours, as well as community meetings, to survey conditions on Eighth, 15th, 23rd, and 34th Avenues, and Arguello Boulevard.

Those routes “should be made safer,” Mar said at a recent SFCTA Board meeting. “It will provide access not just to the park, but also the different corners of our neighborhood.”

While these streets are already relatively calm, planners could identify ways to make them more inviting and easier for everyone to bike on, including families with children. One difficult spot to traverse on bike is the link from 23rd, a designated bike route, into Golden Gate Park, which requires people on bikes to travel a block on high-speed Fulton Street and navigate onto a narrow sidewalk ramp toward a park path.

The greatest danger on these routes seems to lie at the major cross-streets — Fulton and Geary Boulevard — which are notorious for dangerous driving. Today, a man was hit by a driver in a crosswalk at Geary and 26th Avenue.

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Painted Bulb-Outs Arrive at Howard Street — Are More Coming Soon?

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One year and four months after SF’s first painted curb extensions came to Sixth Street, the SFMTA has implemented its second set at three intersections on Howard Street, in tandem with a wider and greener bike lane.

But for such a seemingly simple safety measure — using low-cost gravel and epoxy to expand sidewalk corners and slow drivers’ turns — the question remains: Why does it take SF so long to implement?

Expectations were raised when deadly Sixth Street received the city’s first six painted bulb-outs at the intersection of Market, Mission, and Howard, even if SF’s extensions were much smaller in size and number than painted curb extensions in NYC.

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who grew up in Manhattan, said at the time that “it’s been amazing to see the difference they’ve been making for the quality of life of pedestrians and cyclists.”

A painted bulb-out in New York City. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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Howard Bike Lane Gets Wider and Greener — Will Protection Come Soon?

The Howard Street bike lane in SoMa, between Sixth and Tenth Streets, was widened and got some green paint this week. While it’s no protected bike lane, we’ve already heard from bike commuters who say the buffer zone and contrast make the ride a bit more comfortable.

For the SFMTA, these improvements are low-hanging fruit to pluck while shaping bigger plans protected bike lanes on Howard and Folsom Street, a couplet of one-way streets. Howard’s new buffer zone, which isn’t as wide as Folsom’s, was created by narrowing a 15-foot wide traffic lane, which didn’t require a lengthy environmental review.

Folsom’s bike lane was widened with a buffer zone between Fourth and 11th Streets in late 2013 by removing a traffic lane, and was fast-tracked as a pilot project after Amelie Le Moullac was killed by a trucker at Folsom and Sixth. The bike lane on Eighth Street also replaced a traffic lane in 2013.

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Driver Kills Cyclist Charles Vinson, 66, at 14th and Folsom

14th and Folsom Streets. Photo: Google Maps

Update: SFPD issued a response below.

Charles Vinson, 66, was struck by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets in the Mission yesterday and died from his injuries today. A witness saw the driver of a Honda Civic “blow through a red light and strike the bicyclist as the bicyclist waited for the light to turn green,” according to the Examiner. Vinson suffered traumatic head injuries, and was wearing a helmet.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick called for a moment of silence for Vinson today at an SFMTA Board hearing on the redesign for a safer Polk Street.

“Mr. Vinson’s passing is sadly the latest example of the growing public demand for safe cycling that’s outpacing the city’s work to provide that space for them,” said Budnick.

When asked for confirmation of the witness report and information on any charges filed against the driver, SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan issued this statement:

I don’t have any information yet on any citations or charges, but with any investigation, should the facts lead to an arrest/citation of one party, the officers will do just that. As far as the witness reports, the investigating officers are still working on determining who was at fault and I cannot confirm if the driver ran the red light.

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Planning Dept Releases Design Guide for “Living Alleys” Around Hayes Valley

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The SF Planning Department’s new guide lays out concepts like “living zones” for SF’s alleyways. Image: Planning Department

The SF Planning Department released a design guide this week for “living alleys” [PDF], providing a template to transform SF’s narrow, low-traffic streets into places to gather and play.

Inspired by the Dutch “woonerf” concept, the “Living Alleys Toolkit” lays out proven design measures that make smaller streets more inviting to stay and play on, giving street life priority over drivers moving through. The guide states:

The “Living Alleys Toolkit” cover, featuring the Linden Alley project implemented in 2010.

A living alley is a street designed as a place for people. It can be considered an “Urban Living Room”. Its design can reconfigure the geometry and surfacing of the street, or simply add low cost amenities for residents while maintaining the traditional curbed right-of-way. Whatever approach, living alleys prioritize the entire public right-of-way for pedestrians and bicyclists with alternative but clear physical boundaries. A living alley also has areas of exclusive pedestrian use and areas where vehicles are allowed to share space with pedestrians and bicyclists.

While the concept has been implemented more widely in northern Europe, the guide notes, similar ideas have been applied in Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. In SF, a section of Linden Street was redesigned as a living alley in 2010, and plaza projects have been implemented in SoMA on Annie Alley and Mint Plaza. In Oakland, two alleys in the Temescal neighborhood were converted into pedestrianized retail streets that delivery vehicles can enter.

The new guide, which started development in mid-2013, focuses on the potential for living alleys in Hayes Valley and just south of Market Street near Octavia Boulevard, since it was conceived in the Market-Octavia Area Plan with the removal of the Central Freeway. But in the future, as those initial alley transformations are implemented, the city will look at expanding them citywide, said the Planning Department’s David Winslow.

The guide includes prototype street designs. One is a plan to convert Ivy Street, between Gough and Franklin Streets, to a shared-space zone where cars are still allowed to pass through, as seen on nearby Linden.

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Eyes on the Street: Embarcadero Bike Lane Gets Greater Priority at Battery

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The southbound Embarcadero bike lane was re-aligned and painted green this week to smooth out a tricky junction where people on bikes have to merge with right-turning drivers between Sansome and Battery Streets.

Previously, the bike lane disappeared on that block, and people biking were left to battle it out with fast-moving drivers. SFMTA Livable Streets staff wrote in a Facebook post that they “repurposed the third travel lane and shifted the location of the bike lane near the intersections of Sansome and Battery (southbound Embarcadero) so there is a continuous path of travel for people riding bikes.”

Before this project, there was a significant gap in the bike lane which created a merge that wasn’t very comfortable. Now, we’ve eliminated that gap so that vehicles, not people biking, must merge,” SFMTA staff wrote.

While the bike lane still won’t attract as many risk-averse riders as the proposed two-way protected bikeway, regular Embarcadero bike commuter Bruce Halperin said he had long pushed the SFMTA to at least make this fix. He launched an online petition on Change.org, which gained 58 signatures, and raised the issue to SFMTA planners at public meetings as well as through emails and phone calls.

Photo: Bruce Halperin

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