Skip to content

Recent Comments



    Where I grew up, near the tracks in East Oakland there are plenty of UP freights whizzing by every hour.



    I’m not intended to present a dichotomy. The street is designed to move cars, and not designed to protect lives. That’s the actual conditions. Whether or not, you still move cars, protecting lives should be the first goal every time.



    Haven’t been to Cheesecake Factory in years, don’t shop American apparel. But I remember what it was like in late 70s, and it was dead. A couple smoky bars to avoid. The New Varsity where the waiters at the cafe were so stoned they’d forget to bring you your order and a downtown that felt deserted at night. Much like MP still does.



    So what do you think should be done instead? Ban private buses so even more people drive? Build more parking garages which are effectively subsidies for the rich? BTW, SF Park has worked exactly as intended-in fact, meter prices are on average LOWER than before.



    Yes but it’s not like the sensors were 100% accurate either. IMO it’s more important to have a general picture of how many open spaces are on each block. Especially considering that sensors are extremely expensive for the additional data.



    Only a competing development plan has a hope of improving this situation. Suggesting less or no development is simply a non-starter to leaders with money to spend. The lure of literally creating a concrete result and putting people to work is too great.

    The best hope is to get a portion of this development dedicated to first class bike parking unlike anything found in Palo Alto, or the U.S. for that matter. The photo below is an example from Basel, Switzerland. This bike garage is fully sheltered from sun and rain, has bike lockers, basic bike maintenance facilities, security cameras, even an attendant. More pics here:

    This is something Palo Alto didn’t bother with in their parking garages so cyclists have to cram their increasingly expensive rides in the increasingly crowded parklets. Doing that in the rain with groceries is off-putting to committed cyclists, much less newbies.

    Making cycling to downtown Menlo Park so deluxe (at least by U.S. standards) would give Menlo Park a way to leap frog Palo Alto on its way from car-centric 1965. It would give Menlo Park a unique and modern shopping experience that would distinguish it from rival business districts. Last but not least, it might encourage more cycling to downtown.


    Upright Biker

    At 20 mph.


    Upright Biker

    “Caltrain tracks have at-grade crossings.” Yep, and there are how many Caltrains per hour vs. how many cars without all the safeguards Caltrain has, whizzing by with impunity at any moment of any day in SF?

    Of all the crap usually put out there by defenders of Motordom, this goes _way_ out on the logical limb.


    Upright Biker

    @p_chazz:disqus is not _missing_ the point, he’s belaboring his particular point.

    What he’s missing is perspective: The streets used to belong to the people. They now belong to the motorist. Taking them back will be a long and bloody struggle, unfortunately.


    Upright Biker

    Why not? Make the economic and social case, and we’ll all gladly feed the meters.

    Problem is, you can’t.


    Upright Biker

    Backpedal. Backpedal. Backpedal.

    You should just ride a bike, for all the pedaling you’re doing.



    What a tragedy for the family and friends of Seana Canavan. Happy birthday, wherever you are.


    Fran Taylor

    In fall 2013, following hip replacement surgery, I spent a week in rehab in the tall building on the right in the photo, on Pine between Larkin and Hyde. Trying to get into the passenger seat of a cab to come home, wrestling with a walker on the traffic side as not one car slowed down, was scarier than going under the saw at Kaiser.


    Upright Biker

    No it isn’t exactly what that means, unless you wrote the definition.


    Upright Biker

    Sorry to hear this. My condolences to family and friends.

    The unimpeded movement of automobiles, which had become the sole reason for being for a lot of transportation agencies, has hopefully begun to change. We have to prioritize a life saved over a few minutes saved.


    Andy Chow

    One of the ways to achieve Vision Zero is to ban automobiles, but that’s not one of the strategies because people do want and value mobility. The end result is a balancing act.

    If drivers are asked to obey the law and respect the right of ways for peds and bikes, at least peds and bikes can do is to act predictably. In reality, it may be impossible because of human factors. We need to recognize that some of the traffic deaths are due to those human factors. Some of the factors can be mitigated but not all of them.

    Suicides may be intentional, but for many it is one of the mistakes that a lot of us would want to give people a second chance. Why would we put up suicide barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge? If we think that suicide is an acceptable option we should encourage people to use the bridge since it doesn’t impact anyone else around them.

    We build and improve ped/bike facilities so that peds and bikes are accommodated and be able to act predictably. While all transportation facilities can and should be built to allow some mistake tolerances due to human factors, harm proof infrastructure will require significant trade offs.



    Heck, it would be a huge improvement if all cars had to pay even $1 per hour.



    That, and people with handicapped placards, which are probably quite numerous.



    I think the greater point was to adjust prices based on occupancy, and that after two years of adjustments, the prices would have stabilized at an appropriate amount. It was also an “experimental” program, funded by grants, and designed to be temporary.



    Downtown Palo Alto is a mess. Horrible traffic, creepy homeless meth addicts, and most interesting local businesses have been driven out. If you want a cheesecake factory, American Apparel, and whatever chain store du jour, then emulate Palo Alto.


    Dark Soul

    Well… Some dont want protected bike lanes to cause ubalanced safety over parking rights…. mostly want Balanced Safety



    And yet, enough people are hit by trains (about one ever three hours) that there is a program called Operation Lifesaver whose mission is to change people’s behavior around railroad tracks and crossings. Why? Because they go around the crossings that have been put up for their safety to get across the track before the train. Imagine that! Pedestrians similarly must accept responsibility for their actions when crossing a street with a speed limit of 30 mph or higher.



    There’s a solution for all of Menlo Park’s transit woes everyone seems to overlook: a fleet of bulldozers. The entire city is a transit ghetto and there’s really no other way to bring it out of the 1950’s.

    Start over, and do it right this time.



    They are absolutely not the same. If you every have lived near train tracks, you know that trains blow their horns, having ringing bells, the brightest lights on the planet and other safety measures to warn people of the presence of a train. Not to mention that there are cross guards and signs warning of the impending approach of a train.

    We simply couldn’t tolerate the same kind of noise and light pollution in a city that we do near active train corridors. But, for whatever reason, we seem to tolerate the same level of danger for people (vehicles of metal traveling at speeds that will kill) to exist within feet of where people walk across streets on a regular basis.

    It is absolutely *not* permissible to allow these corridors to exist unless we expect that it will be a statistical certainly that people will get killed along them. When you say “unreasonable for people to dart into traffic” you are saying that it should also be unreasonable to have air bags, seat belts, guard rails, and other safety measure that protect drivers from harm.

    The quick answer is simple – lower vehicle speeds. At 20 mph, the changes of getting killed by a car is far less than at 30 mph. Longer term, let’s rebuild the streetscape to get rid of these kinds of corridors in our dense, urban spaces.



    “It is now official policy to have zero pedestrian deaths on our streets. Not one, not two, not 0.01%, but zero.”

    It is also official policy to have 20% of all trips be made by bicycle.

    It’s nice to have goals to aim for, but realistically I don’t see either one happening.



    Let’s not forget that much of the high-speed traffic on Pine is cutting through the neighborhood. Very few residents in that area own cars, and most destinations are within walking distance.



    “a few hundred parking spaces” serve thousands of neighbors who walk, bike and drive. My 91yo older neighbor runs errands on Polk for groceries and other stuff and needs her car. She’s not the only one. Polk Street is a city village that was not designed to be a bike corridor and The Polk Street proposal was very unbalanced against the neighborhood. At least there was some compromise. We love our neighborhood and we live in it, unlike the bikers who speed though, not always so safely. EVERYONE needs to compromise and everyone needs to be safe.



    Boone is right to cite Shoup … Menlo Park should try pricing its parking correctly. More garages and/or time-limits won’t be necessary that way. As Menlo seems ignorantly hell-bent on proving, making a scarce and costly resource such as parking available for “free” is very expensive in more ways than are immediately obvious to the average businessman or policymaker … as anyone can read about in Shoup’s seminal “The High Cost of Free Parking”.



    Eh, it’s Menlo Park. The families and seniors Councilman Mueller wants to attract to local businesses aren’t going to start taking non-existent public transportation, and the area doesn’t have nearly the density to support Muni-style transit all day every day.

    There’s a lot of value in managing parking spaces and establishing demand management programs, but Menlo Park isn’t going to magically turn into a transit-oriented community (and its residents don’t seem to want that), so it has to make plans grounded in its reality.

    This proposal isn’t about ruining downtown with parking garages. It’s about replacing existing parking lots with larger garages. Not ideal, but it’s not bulldozing playgrounds either.



    Palo Alto and Redwood City have both added parking garages over the past 30 years and that has greatly improved both of their downtowns. The lack of parking, as well as low height limits which block multi use buildings, have kept Menlo Park stuck in 1965.



    Menlo park is not SF. There isn’t much of an alternative to driving, and in that case, garages are superior to on-street parking as they take up smaller footprints and leave space for other uses. Complaining about “clogging streets with more traffic” is silly and right out of a NIMBY playbook.



    I believe the central subway construction project is converting Townsend to 2-way once the rail line is put in.

    The U-turns aren’t legal, SFPD supposedly cracked down on them a year or two ago but obviously only constant supervision will keep the taxi drivers in check. Obviously their customers get quite upset about having to pay the extra fare for them to go the roundabout way on 3rd street.



    Possible, true. But with our leadership? Improbable. Given that I have such little faith in achieving that goal, the only rational move is to try to get that leadership to optimize with what they *can* achieve.



    That’s a nice thought and all, but in a dense city like SF, there are very few win-wins left anymore.



    A city committed to Vision Zero would ensure that even a pedestrian “in the wrong” needn’t die for it. Even short of changes like road diets there’s a major factor helping to determine likelihood of survival:

    The truth is that Pine’s official 30mph speed limit–already probably too high–is exceedingly often exceeded exceedingly.

    And as the stats show even 30mph is far more dangerous than 20mph. Streets like Pine–with their dense nature serving many residents–shouldn’t be public spaces where both the official high speed and unofficially accepted even higher actual speeds are the norm.



    Caltrain tracks have at-grade crossings.



    That’s a false dichotomy. The two are not at odds. It is possible to protect lives and move cars.



    On an expressway, sure, people don’t belong there, but why is a city street designed to move cars instead of protect the lives of citizens of the city using that road.


    Andy Chow

    Caltrain and other light rail lines have legal crossings too for pedestrians and vehicles. We are not about to shut those systems down because people have gotten themselves killed when they stayed on the train crossing for whatever reason. People who trespass may have legitimate complaints that legal crossings are too far apart.

    A lot of cars got hit by light rail trains when turning left illegal in front of the trains, especially in Southern California. If the burden is harm-proof, then light rail should be discontinued. Instead we rightly blame the driver of not following the signal lights and the law.

    It is one thing to improve design and offer safer options for pedestrians to cross through traffic, but to offer them a harm-proof environment would be another.



    Faster-moving streets are no different from rail lines that have at grade crossings in residential areas. Passenger trains travel much faster than 20 mph, weigh over 200,000 lbs and have 8,600 hp engines. As Andy Chow stated above, the issue is about balancing demand and reducing risk. To my way of thinking, it is permissible to have higher speed limits on some streets in residential areas to efficiently move traffic through those areas. Expecting pedestrians to not dart into traffic is not an unreasonable demand, just as it is not an unreasonable demand to expect them to stop and look both ways when crossing a train track.



    People aren’t supposed to ever be on a Caltrain or BART track. Streets on the other hand – have crosswalks.



    “The issue about balancing the different demands and reducing risks, rather than creating a harm-proof system.”

    I don’t disagree with this general idea. When something provides a benefit to society, then we weight the costs and decide if those costs are acceptable.

    But, in the case of our city streets, a couple things:

    1) Regardless of how feel about it, it is now official policy to have zero pedestrian deaths on our streets. Not one, not two, not 0.01%, but zero.

    2) When you have put effort into minimizing the costs (which in the case of cars, are pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths), then we can have a conversation. Instead, nearly all our streets (save a few which have been redesigned in recent years under the Livable Streets movement) are designed almost exclusively for vehicles and not for pedestrian safety. We have forced pedestrians off the street, only allowed them to cross at certain points often only after “begging” (hitting the walk button), and basically told them:
    “Danger, stay away from the infrastructure that you need to use to get anywhere … unless you too want to get a car and drive down it. If you enter the street, it’s at your own risk. And if you make a mistake, you could die, but it’s your fault.”
    This is not acceptable. When you design a street around pedestrian safety, and put the legal structure in place to accompany it (i.e., motorists are acknowledged to have the most responsibility and get severe punishment when they mess up and hurt somebody), then we can talk about accepting some injuries or even deaths. But we aren’t even *trying* right now and we have put motorist *convenience* (and safety) above pedestrian safety.

    3) Caltrain is another beast. Very few of the incidents are because people messed up. Most are suicides where people intentionally went out of their way to get hit. You know that, and that is irrelevant. Further, there is ONE train track in the entire Peninsula whereas there are thousands upon thousands of roads.
    But, you can be damn well sure that, if Caltrain was designed so that tracks ran right along streets with no barriers and people kept messing up and accidentally stepping in front of them and getting killed, we as a society would be outraged and would fix it. But with cars, that some logical mental process evaporates and we just throw our hands up and say, “Oh well, the pedestrian screwed up. Nothing we can do here. Move along.” That is the sign of irrationality and addiction to cars. Not a good way to make policy decisions.



    I agree about freeways: there are some places where pedestrians just cannot be, and that is one. So are subway tunnels. We have to acknowledge that some places truly are dangerous for pedestrians, and these are such examples. You’ll note though, that both of these are designed to keep pedestrians away. So I think that is appropriate.

    But I disagree about Pine or any other route that is freeway-like smack in the middle of a city. These roads should not be in our cities and they blast right through residential areas. If one wants to operate a 3-ton, 200 hp machine anywhere near a pedestrian, then they must be going 20 or less and paying attention. And we must create the roads so that it’s very difficult to do anything else and so it is made clear, both through design and the law, that the repsonsibilty is on the driver. You see kids milling about, slow way the hell down and be ready to stop. We all exercise such caution in all other parts of our lives and it’s past time this caution was applied to our streets.


    Andy Chow

    The issue about balancing the different demands and reducing risks, rather than creating a harm-proof system.

    I think that a lot of people living in these areas want some level of vehicle and transit access, so either eliminating all vehicle traffic or slowing them down too significantly would not be acceptable options. One may argue that we don’t need motor vehicles at all, but it is more in the same line as other behaviors that some people also disapprove of: drink soda, eat meat, smoke, etc

    With the recent deaths in Caltrain and BART, a sure way to cut it is to stop running trains, or run them at 5-10 mph where either the trains can stop in time or not fast enough to cause death, but I doubt that would be acceptable to riders. That can also lead to intended consequences that can be more unsafe.



    I take your point. As I commented to @gneiss123:disqus, I agree that more pedestrian-friendly streets and roads are needed. It’s telling that the pedestrian who survived was struck on the 400 block of Castro Street, which was recently redone to make it a more pedestrian-friendly street.

    But not all streets and roads can be so designed. One of the pedestrians who was killed was on the freeway, The other was on Pine Street, which has timed signal lights to move traffic quickly. These places carry more risk and consequently more care should taken



    @p_chazz:disqus Come on, you know better to know what I’m talking about. The problem here is that if, as a pedestrian or cyclist, you don’t pay attention, you effing *die*! Is that fair punishment for somebody not paying attention?! People who murder other people intentionally sometimes get the death penalty, and you think the punishment for not paying attention on a street where, for thousands of years, pedestrians were allowed to be, should be the same? Really?

    We shouldn’t be designing our streets so that 2-ton vehicles with 200 hp and drivers with dulled sense going too fast (even if under the speed limit) are anywhere near pedestrians. And much of the time it’s the damn parked cars that are blocking the motorists views as to what is going on at the side of the street to be able to better anticipate when they are near enough to a pedestrian who could make a sudden movement to slow down and give them the pedestrian space.

    This is just utterly insane that we have so redesigned our streets around these dangerous vehicles in the last 100 years and people like you continue to defend it. It is ridiculous that people find it acceptable that pedestrians should pay for not paying attention with a brutal death or serious injury. You may have been convinced by the auto industry that is acceptable, but I and many others will continue to fight this battle because it is not only inhumane, but completely unnecessary (not to mention unhealthy for people sitting on their ass all day in a car instead of actively transporting themselves, unhealthy for the planet, noisy, and dehumanizing for livable streets).

    In just about every other aspect of our society, when we see a design that is causing great harm, even if technically somebody made a mistake, we put in safety measures. For example, why have guard rails on highways like Route 1 that run along a cliff? I mean, after all, the only reason you are driving off the road is if somebody screws up. So by your logic, we should remove the rails and let people fall to their deaths because, hey, they messed up, right? But of course not, because we acknowledge people make mistakes and try to minimize the harm in the *design*. It’s just utterly amazing to me that some (i.e., you) don’t think this same logic should apply to urban streets when it involves vulnerable road users (though we’ll be happy to put in safety measures if they protect those in the massive steel cages who already pay nothing when they screw up and hit a pedestrian or cyclist).



    I agree that engineering streets and roads to make them more pedestrian friendly is necessary where that is appropriate. However, in one case the accident occurred on the freeway, in another case, on Pine Street, which has lights that are timed to move traffic quickly. In all the cases, these collisions could have been prevented if the pedestrian had exerted a modicum of care.



    You’re missing the point. We’ve created places where mistake by the vulnerable party ends in death. Wouldn’t it be far better if we slowed down traffic and re-engineered our streets so these kinds of tragedies would be less likely? You read this blog. Stop acting like we can’t change the existing infrastructure to make it more forgiving for people walking and biking rather than those who drive.



    “Or perhaps, due to pedestrians not looking where they are going? In the cases above, the motorists do not appear to have been at fault:

    “SFPD tells us that the man walked out into the street on the 400 block of Castro (not using the crosswalk), where the collision occurred.”–Hoodline

    “The pedestrian may have been under the influence of alcohol, according to CHP. The driver of the Freightliner was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and did not suffer any injuries.”–Palo Alto Online

    “The taxi had been traveling west on Pine Street when the pedestrian reportedly ran out into the street and was struck by the vehicle, Esparza said.”–SF Examiner



    Theoretically you can still see occupancy, albeit with less accuracy. This means that it cannot distinguish people parking with expired meter from actually free spot.