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Posts from the "SoMa" Category

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Eyes on the Street: This Is Not a Sidewalk, It’s Parking

At first (and second) glance, this block in south SoMa appears to have cars parked across what clearly looks to be a sidewalk. The area in question is up on a curb, has curb-level sidewalks leading to it from the streets that intersect on either side of the block, and even has both a trash can and fire hydrant on it. If there’s somehow another a sidewalk there, it’s nowhere to be found.

The block in question is on Henry Adams Street, also known as the north end of Kansas Street where it meets the roundabout at Division Street. Patrick Traughber called attention to it on Twitter, perplexed by a scene of what could be easily mistaken as pedestrian space overtaken by careless automobile storage.

But the SFMTA assures us: ”What looks like a sidewalk is not; it is actually valid parking,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose after I presented the photo and location to him.

“It is an odd configuration (curbed), but you can see the signs in the background that say 2-hour time limit,” he said. “The location is enforced for the time limit. In front of the public parking is a private business with their own parking spaces.”

Could’ve fooled me. It appears that this side of the street functions as a “shared” space for both pedestrians and drivers. The only sidewalk to be found is on the opposite side of the street, and it’s both elevated and separated by a guard rail.

Perhaps some folks with deeper historical knowledge of this area could fill us in via the comments. But one guess of mine is that this was a sidewalk decades ago, which was informally taken over for parking, then legitimized for that use by a past generation of city officials who would actually do such a thing.

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SFMTA to Add Bike Lane Buffer on Howard, Fix at Folsom On-Ramp

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Howard Street’s bike lane will be widened with a three-foot buffer zone this year. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The SFMTA plans make upgrades to the Howard and Folsom Street bike lanes, a couplet of one-way bike routes that run through SoMa. A section of Howard will get a three-foot buffer zone added to its bike lane, as well as painted sidewalk bulb-outs. On Folsom, an intersection with the Bay Bridge on-ramp at Essex Street will be re-configured with a new bike traffic signal.

On Howard, the three-foot-wide bike lane buffer will come from narrowing the street’s three traffic lanes, one of which is about 15 feet wide, down to roughly 11 feet, SFMTA staff said at a community meeting yesterday. That differs from last year’s pilot project on parallel Folsom, in which one traffic lane was re-purposed to expand the skinny bike lane to 10 feet, including a buffer zone.

The Howard project can be implemented this year, much more quickly than most bike lane projects because the SFMTA won’t remove traffic lanes and thus incur a lengthy environmental review, said SFMTA Livable Streets Section Leader Darby Watson. The inner section of Howard east of Sixth Street, however, is narrower, and traffic lane removal would be necessary. Watson said that the SFMTA plans to look at improving that section next year.

A handful of painted sidewalk bulb-outs, similar to those installed on Sixth Street, will also be added at corners on Howard at Sixth and Tenth Streets, to slow drivers’ turns. SFMTA staff noted that they won’t include fixtures within the painted bulb-outs, like the boulders and concrete planters that were placed in the painted bulb-outs along Sixth Street in November. In fact, those fixtures will be removed, since they’ve been trashed and are too costly to maintain.

The Howard improvements are branded as one of the 24 Vision Zero projects the SFMTA pledged to implement over 24 months. “These are targeted improvements to help safety where we know there are a lot of collisions,” said Neal Patel of SFMTA Livable Streets.
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SFMTA Adds Two Left Turn Bike Boxes in SoMa

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New left-turn bike boxes at Eighth and Folsom Streets (top) and 11th and Howard Streets (bottom). Photo: SFMTA

The SFMTA installed left turn bike boxes at two SoMa intersections this week. This type of bike infrastructure, new to SF, debuted at Market and Polk Streets last month with the new contra-flow Polk bike lane.

The new green-backed bike boxes were placed at two intersections where bike commuters often make ”two-stage” left turns between bike lanes: Eighth Street for turns on to Folsom Street, and Howard Street for turns on to 11th Street. They provide guidance and visibility, to show where people on bikes should stop and wait for traffic signals to change.

“Making a left turn across several lanes of traffic isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially for people who are less confident on their bike,” said SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. The turn boxes should make two-stage turns “more easy, safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.”

The SFMTA said the boxes were funded by a grant from People for Bikes, a national bike advocacy organization. Left-turn bike boxes are featured in the SFMTA’s “Innovative Bicycle Treatment Toolbox,” drafted two years ago, and largely based on the National Association of City and Transportation Officials’ Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

Jose said the SFMTA “will be evaluating the measures on the ground, and observations will guide future implementation.”

A left turn at Eighth and Folsom in action. Photo: SFMTA

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Fifth Street Bike Lane Plans on Hold for Central Subway Construction

Plans for bike lanes on Fifth Street, which would connect Market Street to the Fourth and King Caltrain Station, are on hold at least until the Central Subway is completed in 2019.

Fifth Street near Mission Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Originally, the 2009 SF Bike Plan called for conventional bike lanes on Fifth, painted between parked cars and moving cars. But during subway construction, Muni buses on the 30-Stockton and 45-Union have been detoured on to Fifth, meaning buses would have to jostle in and out of the bike lanes to make stops, a less-than-ideal situation. Instead, the SFMTA plans to revisit the plans “to determine what innovative approaches are feasible on Fifth Street,” said Ben Jose, spokesperson for the agency’s Livable Streets division.

Fifth is badly in need of protected bike lanes. Currently, people biking on the street must mix it up with motor vehicles, with only sharrows painted on the broken asphalt. Fifth is a key connector for commuters headed to and from Caltrain and other destinations in SoMa. Neighboring Fourth and Sixth Streets carry even heavier, faster freeway-bound motor traffic (Fourth is a five-lane, one-way street).

In the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy, planners ranked Fifth Street as having the ninth-highest demand for bicycle safety upgrades among streets within the existing official bicycle network. The SFMTA said that ranking was based on bike counts, focus groups, and bicycle crash data.

Years down the line, other streets in this area of SoMa are poised to get protected bike lanes. The Central SoMa plan (formerly the Central Corridor Plan), expected to be adopted later this year, calls for protected bike lanes on Third and upper Fourth Streets, as well as one-way and two-way bikeway options on Folsom, Howard, and Brannan Streets. There’s no timeline set for those projects yet.

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Eyes on the Street: Third Street’s Abused Muni-Only Lane Gets Red Paint

Third Street approaching Bryant. Photo: Jessica Kuo

Update 6:09 p.m.: SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said “this is a low cost measure to remind and prevent auto drivers from using transit only lanes,” and that the agency will implement the treatments on these street segments this week:

a. 3rd Street between Townsend and Jessie streets
b. Geary/O’Farrell streets between Market and Gough streets – (Note: segments between Grant and Powell will not be painted due to ongoing Central Subway construction)
c. Market Street inbound between  5th and 12th streets and outbound between 8th Street and Van Ness Avenue.

The transit-only lane on Third Street, which tends to have an awful lot of cars in it, got some red paint this week to emphasize what the stenciled paint already says: “Bus Only.” The paint was added to a stretch approaching Bryant Street, where drivers are allowed to cross the bus lane to make a right turn, but not sit in it and block the 30, 45, and 8X lines.

The dashed treatment appears to denote a “merge zone,” similar to the green paint treatments added to bike lanes where drivers can cross, signaling to watch for people on bikes. It’s the first time the SFMTA has added such a treatment to a transit lane. Solid red paint has been used to highlight rail-only lanes on Church Street and the southern stretch of Third where the T-line runs.

We’ll see how far this goes to getting drivers to respect the transit lane. Certainly, it won’t happen without serious enforcement. The blockages are a real problem for Muni riders headed from SoMa to the Financial District and North Beach. Last July, Streetsblog reader Mike Sonn tweeted that he was waiting for his bus near this location when the bus passed him because drivers were blocking the path to the stop.

Drivers were still found blocking the lane. Photo: Jessica Kuo

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Eyes on the Street: Folsom Buffered Bike Lane Goes Green

Photo: SFMTA Livable Streets/Facebook

The new, wider buffered bike lane on Folsom Street in SoMa is getting finishing touches this week as the SFMTA adds green paint where drivers are expected to merge with people on bikes.

“We pushed for green paint at the intersections, and we’re thrilled to see that safety element being added today,” the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in its newsletter. “We’ll continue to monitor this pilot to see how the design works.”

Folsom commuters: How has your experience been? Does it feel safer? Are drivers using the bike lane, as has been often reported with the similar bike lane on Eighth Street? Let us know in the comments.

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SFMTA Crews Installing Buffered Bike Lane on Folsom Street

Photo: SFMTA Livable Streets via Facebook

SFMTA crews are currently installing a widened, buffered bike lane on Folsom Street between 11th and Fourth Streets.

The SFMTA got to work quickly on this bike lane expansion — crews hit the street as early as Friday, just a few days after the project was approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors. It should be finished next week, according to the agency’s Livable Streets Facebook page.

As we reported, the pilot project was well-received when it was presented at a community meeting a month ago. With the space for moving motor vehicles narrowed by one lane, the project is expected to result in a safer, calmer street for everyone using it.

The project is also an example of how quickly the city can implement street safety upgrades when it comes down to it. The death of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac and the shocking response from the SFPD resulted in a surge in public pressure on the SFMTA to take immediate safety measures in SoMa.

“The Folsom pilot is the result of thousands of San Franciscans, fed up with the tragedies caused by poorly designed streets, emphatically demanding a safer South of Market for people biking from city leaders over the past months,” the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in its member newsletter today. ”Our next goal is to persuade the city to expand the pilot beyond Fourth Street to the waterfront and to duplicate the effort on Howard Street, another dangerous SoMa corridor.”

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SFMTA Unveils 6th St. Proposal With Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Wider Sidewalks

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Sixth Street today, and as envisioned in the new proposal. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA unveiled a proposal last week to redesign northern Sixth Street by trimming traffic lanes from four to two, widening sidewalks, and adding unprotected, green-painted bike lanes. Intersections on the stretch between Market and Howard Streets could also get features like raised crosswalks, speed tables (like speed bumps, but wider), and textured pavement to tame driving speeds.

“This is super exciting,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. While the plan already calls for converting many curbside parking spots to pedestrian space, Kim would like to see the plan for Sixth go farther, especially between Market and Mission Streets, because residents complain that parked cars are often used to obscure illegal behaviors like drug dealing. “Our residents don’t have cars, so they don’t feel the need for the metered parking,” she said.

Adam Gubser, project manager for the SFMTA, said environmental review on the project is expected to begin in January, which will flesh out how the redesign would affect street safety, car congestion, and the diversion of traffic to other streets. That process is expected to take 16 to 18 months, but there’s no firm construction timeline set yet.

When asked about including parking-protected bike lanes in the plan, SFMTA planners said the unprotected lanes in the proposal should be sufficient since traffic will be calmer and much of the lane will be curbside. They also said greater separation from motor vehicle traffic could potentially be added in the future if more parking is removed on Sixth.

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For Cheng Jin Lai, Bicycling Was a Necessary Means to an Active Life

Safe streets advocates, family, and friends of Cheng Jin Lai gathered yesterday for a memorial service of the 78-year-old man who was killed by a Muni driver on October 18 while making a trip on his bicycle at the crash-prone intersection of Bryant, Division, and 11th Streets.

Cheng Jin Lai. Photo courtesy of the Lai family

The bicycle was Lai’s primary mode of transportation, “out of necessity and his passion,” said Mark Fong, an attorney for Lai’s family. Fong said Lai was making his regular trip from his home at a senior housing center in SoMa to deliver his and his family’s recyclables to a recycling center when he was hit by the Muni bus driver, who appeared to make a right turn into Lai’s path, though SFPD is still completing the crash investigation report.

“I guess you would call him an original, ahead-of-his-time kind of guy,” said Fong. “It’s part of Chinese culture to be very frugal and conservation-minded — to waste nothing. That was part of his thing.”

A retired Vietnam native who in 1996 moved to San Francisco from China with his wife of 60 years to live near his daughter, Lai became a U.S. citizen in 2003. Lai lived on a fixed income without a car, frequently traveling by bike to other neighborhoods like Chinatown and Fort Mason, where he loved to fish, said Fong and members of Lai’s family.

“It’s pretty amazing — I hope I’m that healthy and active when I’m 78,” said Fong.

Lai was the fourth bicycle rider to be killed on San Francisco streets this year — the third in SoMa (a fourth occurred in the Mission). All deaths appear to have been caused by drivers of trucks and buses who illegally made right turns into the victims, though none have been charged.

“These deadly and serious crashes on SoMa streets are not one off ‘accidents,’” says a website set up by the Lai family where the public can donate to a memorial fund. “These deaths are preventable and within the power of the city to change immediately.”

The couple dozen who attended Lai’s memorial service included reps from community organizations like the Chinatown Community Development Center and the SF Bicycle Coalition. Supervisors Jane Kim and David Campos were also there.

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SF’s First Painted Sidewalk Extensions Come to Sixth Street

Six new curb extensions were installed using temporary materials, as seen here and Sixth at Mission Streets. Photos: Aaron Bialick

A deadly stretch of Sixth Street received the city’s first painted sidewalk extensions last week, created using low-cost, temporary materials to help make pedestrians more visible. The SFMTA implemented the pilot project between Market and Harrison Streets — four blocks dense with residential hotels and shops — to help curb injuries while the agency develops plans for a road diet.

The six sidewalk bulb-outs replace car parking spaces, marked using a red and white gravel surface and plastic posts, with boulders and portable concrete planters set inside. The measures are expected to make pedestrians more visible to drivers as they enter crosswalks, and send the signal that the street isn’t just an extension of the freeway, but a gateway to a dense neighborhood street that drivers are expected to share with residents.

“We’re hoping that pilot programs like this can be a model for the city, knowing that [pedestrian safety] is an issue for every corridor,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. “People are already, anecdotally, talking about some safety improvements from these very affordable pilot designs that we’re putting out just to see what we should be doing to make Sixth Street safer.”

Sixth is designed primarily to speed drivers between the Tenderloin and the 280 highway through the dense SoMa neighborhood. Between 2005 and 2010, 93 pedestrians were injured and five were killed by drivers on this stretch, according to data from the Department of Public Health.

“If we don’t make our streets safer, if we don’t have proper enforcement, if we aren’t designing our streets to be shared by multiple users, people actually die or lose important parts of their body,” said Kim, who noted that in District 6 alone, pedestrian injuries have racked up a cost of $13.5 million in the last five years in costs for medical treatment and emergency services.

Although many pedestrian injuries occur while drivers are making a turn, neighborhood residents also say pedestrians are often hit on multi-lane streets like Sixth when, as they make their way through a crosswalk, some drivers stop to yield the right-of-way, but others attempt to pass, apparently not expecting a person to be in their path.

“It is not a pretty picture when you see a senior citizen going up in the air and coming down,” said ”Mother” Elaine Jones, a senior tenant organizer who lives at a single resident occupancy hotel at Howard and Sixth. “You’ve got some people laughing. They’re not caring. Enough is enough.”

Sixth and Market Streets.

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