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TransitMix: A New App for Your Fantasy Map

I’m a little intimidated by sharing my first fantasy transit map with an audience that I know to include some ardent and accomplished fantasy transit mappers. But here goes: my first attempt.

It’s a little circuitous, but it connects neighborhoods that don’t have great connections right now. I didn’t bring it all the way into downtown, which is only another few blocks south, but they’re slow blocks, and everything already connects to downtown. Now that I think about it, I could probably start the route a little south of Takoma Park and shave off a little time. When I increased frequency and weekend night service, the cost jumped. As you can see, I’m beginning to realize the tradeoffs that go into transit planning.

I made this map using Transitmix, a new tool from Code for America. By the way, the route name and number — 38 Starfighter — were their idea, and better than anything I would have come up with.

Here’s what a more talented fantasy mapper than myself designed for Seattle:
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Could DC Add Bike Lanes to Its Traffic Circles?

London is adding a bike lane to one of its famous traffic circles. Image: City of London via BeyondDC

Roundabouts can have big safety and environmental benefits, but can they be adapted to be great places for bicycling as well?

“DC’s big traffic circles are notoriously difficult places to bike,” writes Dan Malouff at BeyondDC. “They have multiple lanes of intimidating and zig-zagging car traffic, and sidewalks too packed with pedestrians to be good bike paths.”

Malouff says a city of London plan to add bike lanes to the busy Queens’ Circus traffic circle, pictured above, is interesting but has some drawbacks.

This is sort of a good design. It’s better than nothing. But with so many crossings, it’s still pretty confusing what’s the bike lane and what’s for cars. It seems likely there will still be a lot of intimidating cross traffic.

In fact, the actual design doesn’t even have the green paint; I added that to make the rendering clearer.

The other big problem with the London example is that pedestrians are mostly absent. Unlike DC’s circles that typically have popular parks in the middle, this London circle is just a road. The central grassy section isn’t a useful park, and there are no pedestrian crossings into it. That obviously changes how the entire thing functions.

Malouff says an older example from the Netherlands might actually provide more protection, by placing the bike lane on a wide sidewalk. But the London example might be a more politically realistic goal for DC, he says.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Architect’s Newspaper reports that Detroit has broken ground on its long-awaited 3.3-mile M1 light rail system. Price of Sprawl attempts to calculate the public cost of a newly approved sprawling development in Palm Beach County, Florida. And Human Transit explains how to develop a liberating transit system in a smaller city.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Mayor Lee’s Lash at Supes Over Transit Funding Shows It’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (SFGate)
  • Mi’yana Gregory’s Great Grandmothers Disagree on Charges for Aunt Who Left Her in Crosswalk (ABC)
  • Cathedral Hill Neighbors Fight Proposed 262-Unit Tower With 262 Parking Spaces on Post (Curbed)
  • Some Uber Services Now Accessible Through United Airlines App at SFO (SF Examiner)
  • CHP Cracks Down on Tech Buses, Tour Buses Speeding on Peninsula Highways (PBB)
  • San Mateo Continues Planning for Highway 101 Ped/Bike Bridge at Hillsdale Blvd (SM Daily Journal)
  • Growing Redwood City Considers Development Fees to Fund Programs to Reduce Driving (PTA)
  • Atherton Adds Green Paint to Bike Lane Merging Zone on Middlefield Road (Almanac)
  • Street at Woodside School Gets Crosswalk Upgrades, Narrower Traffic Lanes, New Foot Path (Almanac)
  • Suspected Driver Arrested in San Jose Hit-and-Run That Killed Man Crossing Senter Road (KTVU)
  • Santa Clara Neighbor Says Dangerous Intersection Needs to Be Fixed By Adding Lanes (KRON)
  • Back to School: San Leandro Police Yell at Students for “Distracted Walking” (KTVU)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Personal Garages Become Cafes in the Castro, Thanks to Smarter Zoning

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This used to be a garage. Photo: Tom Radulovich

Three new cafes and restaurants in the Castro have been created in spaces formerly used as personal parking garages. Driveways and dark garage doors on 18th Street have been replaced with storefronts and inviting patios filled with people.

A few years ago, this would’ve been illegal.

Reveille Coffee Company and Beso, a tapas restaurant, were able to move in and convert these garages this year, thanks to changes in the SF Planning Code’s zoning laws in 2011 proposed by Livable City and former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. The provision to allow garages to be converted into shops, housing, and service spaces in “Neighborhood Commercial” zoning districts was part of a package of parking-related reforms.

In addition to the first two garage-to-business conversions on 18th, a third is currently under construction nearby.

“These new businesses are helping make a more walkable (and sittable), vital, and convivial 18th Street,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. He pointed out that the curb space in front, formerly reserved to ensure private garage access, have also become public street parking spaces.

The idea seems to be spreading: Radulovich said the Ocean Avenue Merchants this week endorsed allowing conversions of garages to storefronts in their district, which is zoned as “Residential.”

Radulovich said the 2011 ordinance “also allows the addition of a single [residential] unit to an existing residential building without a new off-street parking space, so long as that unit meets the other requirements of the code, including density limits.”

The entrance to Beso. Photo: Tom Radulovich

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SFPD Cites Light-Running Driver in Crash at Speed-Plagued Oak and Octavia

The SFPD cited a driver for running a red light at Oak Street and Octavia Boulevard on Tuesday night, then crashing into a van and sending three vehicle occupants to the hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the blue Infiniti was traveling north on Octavia when he broadsided the van and sent it into a utility pole, which flipped the van over onto its side.

The intersection is known for high-speed vehicle crashes and light-running drivers, and neighbors have been asking the SFMTA for years to re-configure it and other Hayes Valley intersections to reduce the danger posed by high-volume, high-speed motor traffic. Just last month, a Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association meeting focused on street safety fixes, where D5 Supervisor London Breed told Hoodline that she “got an earful about some of the challenges around traffic in the area,” noting that “we’re hoping to implement some changes sooner rather than later.”

Much of the discussion at the meeting “centered around the contrast of drivers’ freeway on- and off-ramp mentality with the residential nature of the neighborhood,” Hoodline reported. “One concerned mother noted that children play at Patricia’s Green while drivers barrel north up Octavia.”

Oak and Octavia saw a particularly horrific crash in 2011, when a car-carrier truck hit a UCSF shuttle van — the driver of which reportedly ran a red light while traveling eastbound on Oak. Dr. Kevin Mack was ejected from the UCSF van and killed.

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Study: Transit Commuters Have Less Body Fat Than Those Who Drive

Those who commute by car are piling on the pounds faster than people who ride bikes — and take transit — to work, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal.

Those who take transit to work in the UK have less body fat, according to a new study. Photo: Wikimedia

The study looked at health and commuting data over time for about 7,500 people in the United Kingdom. When controlling for factors like income, level of activity at work, and age, researchers found that commuting by foot, bike, or public transit was “significantly associated” with lower obesity metrics.

This finding might not be all that surprising, but researchers say scientific evidence that active commuting helps maintain a healthy body weight has been scant. The study also found that transit riders had slightly better numbers than those who walked or rode bikes to work.

After adjusting for other factors, researchers found that men who used public transportation to get to work had about 1.5 percentage points less body fat than men who drove. For men who commuted by foot or bike, the advantage was 1.35 percent. For women, transit riders had about 2 percent lower body fat, and bike commuters had 1.4 percent less.

The results were similar for another important measure of obesity: body mass index. For men, active commuting and transit use were associated with a lower body mass index of about 1 point — that translates to 10 pounds for a man who is 5′ 10″ tall or a woman who is 5′ 5″. In women, active or transit commuting translated to about .75 points lower BMI.

“There are potentially large population-level health gains to be made by shifting to more active modes of travel,” researchers said.

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Is Your City a Great Place to Raise Kids? Could It Be?

Jennifer Langston of the Sightline Institute in Seattle has so far published eight articles in a series called Family-Friendly Cities. She shows that while Seattle has a lower share of the population under age 15 than the rest of the state of Washington, that gap is closing. The number of kids in Seattle is growing far faster than in the rest of the state.

Image: Sightline

Image: Sightline

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Sioux Falls Builds Sidewalk-Free School, Tries to Stop Kids From Walking

Stories like this one help explain why we have a childhood obesity epidemic in the United States.

Sioux Falls’ George McGovern Middle School is close to many students’ homes, which is probably why kids want to walk there. Image: KSFY

Network blog the MinusCar Project reports that a new school recently opened in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, along two busy thoroughfares that have no sidewalks. A local TV station explains that children are still walking to the middle school because it’s close to their homes, which has parents concerned for their safety.

Here is the principal’s solution:

“[W]e’re trying to problem solve and trying to figure out how to best bus 100% of our student population.”

Principal [LaVonna] Emanuel wants all students to be safe and if anyone is walking to school, wants to find out why.

“We would definitely want to work with the family find out what’s going on, did the child miss the bus? Just what’s going on,” she said.

Granted, Principal Emanuel likely had no say as to whether sidewalks were installed — the school district says that was up to the city — and to her credit she says she wants the school to function as a “neighborhood school” soon. But parents wonder why proper infrastructure wasn’t built at the outset. Said one: “I’m glad they have school buses for everybody, but they should still have it set up so kids can walk. They did take the time to pave the roads and everything around this area that have been dirt and gravel roads. So I think they should take the time to at least put up some sidewalks.”

Elsewhere today: Delaware Bikes reports that a study ranked the First State the country’s most dangerous for pedestrians. The author of Transitized explains how he moved across the country with the help of Amtrak. And Better Cities & Towns offers 12 steps for cities looking to reduce pedestrian deaths.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Runs Red Light, Crashes Into Van at Oak and Octavia; Three Injured (Hoodline)
  • Muni 71 Bus and CPMC Shuttle Crash at Haight and Scott Streets (Hoodline)
  • Family of Crash Victim Mi’Yana Gregory, 2, Launches Fundraiser for Funeral (SF WeeklyKTVU)
  • SFBG ”Street Fight” Columnist Jason Henderson on Prop L, Amtrak, Portland, and Bike Touring
  • Creator of App That Fights Parking Tickets Complains SF’s Parking Rules Are “Unethical” (SFBG)
  • Bike Service That Delivers Leftover Food to Clinics Gets More Business From Tech Companies (SFGate)
  • Arizmendi Launches Indiegogo Campaign for Second Parklet at Its Bakery on Valencia (Mission Local)
  • Transit-Oriented Development in the Avenues Envisioned in the “Sunset Blueprint” (Curbed)
  • BART Civic Center Station Stairs Still Littered With Poop (SFGate); BART SJ Extension Funded (KTVU)
  • Caltrain Takes a Closer Look at Level Platform Boarding (Green Caltrain)
  • East Bay Officials Celebrate New Trail From Concord to Pleasanton, Pitch Transpo Measure BB (PW)
  • More on the Pedestrian and Bike Projects to Be Funded by CA’s Active Transportation Program (GJEL)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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SFPD Arrests Aunt for Leaving Two-Year-Old Mi’yana Gregory in Crosswalk

SF police have arrested 25-year-old Lorysha Gage for leaving two-year-old Mi’yana Gregory in the downtown crosswalk where she was run over and killed last Friday night. Even as police seek the driver who struck Gregory and fled the scene, Gage is set to be arraigned tomorrow on charges of “felony child endangerment, with an enhancement allegation for causing death.”

Media reports initially quoted family members saying Gage had the walk signal when she crossed Mission in the crosswalk between Fourth and Fifth Streets, with Gregory and her twin brother in tow. The SFPD now says Gage was crossing against the signal, had left Gregory in the street unattended to retrieve her brother from the sidewalk, and that the driver had a green light.

“The investigation showed some evidence that there was some child neglect that resulted in the death of the two-year-old toddler,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told KTVU.

On the day of the arrest, SFPD Sergeant John Bragagnolo targeted citations towards “jaywalking” pedestrians at the crosswalk where Gregory died, telling KTVU he pointed to Gregory’s memorial when ticketing them.

“Pedestrians feel their speed and their hurry is more important than their safety,” Bragagnolo said.

Putting aside generalizations about the feelings of people who walk, this is an unusual case among pedestrian crashes: The SFPD’s data show that the top five causes are all driver violations, which the SFPD has pledged to focus enforcement on. In May, however, we reported that although SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” citations were reportedly increasing, its tickets issued to people walking and biking were increasing far faster. After a peak of 723 citations issued to pedestrians in March [PDF], the monthly number dropped at 444 in June [PDF], the latest month for which citation data has been reported.

Police say it’s unclear whether the driver who caused Gregory’s death was even aware he or she had run over an infant.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Scheider said “it’s a really challenging case, in that the arrest is broader than just an issue of pedestrian safety at this point.”

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