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Posts from the San Francisco Neighborhoods Category

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SFMTA Proposes Short-Term Safety Upgrades for Octavia Boulevard

SFMTA proposals in the works include sidewalk expansions and lane removals on and around Octavia. Image: SFMTA

Ten years after Octavia Boulevard opened in the footprint of the former Central Freeway, the SFMTA has proposed a package of short-term safety fixes for people walking and biking, especially along the cross streets.

The upgrades could be implemented by the end of 2016. Proposals in the works include a bike lane on eastbound Page Street, a fix for the poorly-designed bike “chute” at Octavia and Market Street, “shared street” treatments in the frontage lanes on Octavia, and even a memorial to the Freeway Revolt at Market. Motor vehicles lanes could also be removed on Fell and Oak east of Octavia to calm traffic, with angled parking added.

The first wave of improvements, mainly sidewalk bulb-outs and traffic islands, are expected to come up for public comment at an SFMTA engineering hearing on May 22.

SFMTA project manager Casey Hildreth said that some of the improvements are intended to be experimental, and that planners will measure the effects on safety, traffic speeds, and car congestion. “We don’t want to be frozen by the perfect,” he said in a recent presentation [PDF] at the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association.

The improvements are expected to be funded by development impact fees collected from housing built in the footprint of the former Central Freeway. A package of increased SFMTA funding highlighted by Mayor Ed Lee this week included $3.3 million in development fees earmarked for the Market and Octavia area to get bike, pedestrian, and Muni improvements. It’s not clear how much funding would be needed in total for the proposed upgrades.

Octavia is often cited as a model by other cities looking to replace a freeway with a boulevard. As Hildreth explained, it was intentionally designed to create “ambiguity” and counter the “freeway mentality” that drivers often have.

But problems remain at the intersections and on other streets affected by freeway traffic, which need improvements for walking, biking, and transit. High-traffic intersections remain dangerous, for instance, at Fell and Oak Streets, which were designed as one-way traffic funnels.

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SFPD: Car Was Reported Stolen After Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Caught on Video

The car used in a pedestrian hit-and-run caught on video was reported stolen by its registered owner the morning after the crash, according to the SFPD.

Screenshot from ColdFire/Youtube

As we reported this week, video was posted online after a crash that occurred at Second and Howard Streets in the early morning hours of April 18. The driver was seen making a left turn from a right-hand lane, hitting a second vehicle and striking a man in a crosswalk. The driver has not been found.

Although SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan initially said the crash wasn’t reported, information on the case was uncovered after she was given the case number provided by the YouTube user who posted the video. Details from police were consistent with the comments posted by the YouTube user, who said he was driving the car with the camera and that he’d reported the crash to Northern Station the next day. The pedestrian has not reported the crash to the police.

​The Infiniti SUV was reported stolen by the owner at 10:52 a.m., the morning after the crash, said Gatpandan. The owner told police her car could have been stolen between 6 p.m. April 17 and 10 a.m. April 18, when she discovered it was missing. The crash was reported to police, apparently by the driver who took the video, at about 7:10 p.m.

“The pedestrian victim is vital for further investigation, as that victim will have to identify the driver of the suspect vehicle,” said Gatpandan. “The registered owner, especially in this case since the car was stolen, is not always the person driving the car. The case is being investigated by the Hit-and-Run Collision Investigations unit, but again there’s only so far the investigators can go without that victim ped information.”

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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.