Gateway or Boulevard? SFMTA Narrows Options for Fixing Masonic Avenue

Option C would remove all parking and provide a 6-foot wide cycletrack. Image: SF Planning Department
"The Boulevard" option, which many advocates have endorsed, would remove all parking and provide a 6-foot wide cycletrack. Image: SF Planning Department.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA) options for fixing Masonic Avenue, a major north-south traffic sewer that was the scene of the city’s first and only bicycle fatality this year, have been narrowed to two designs. While each option would calm auto traffic in slightly different ways and offer different amenities for bicyclists, both would significantly transform the street into a greener, friendlier corridor for all users.

The “Masonic Avenue Street Design Study [pdf],” a collaboration among the SFMTA, the San Francisco Planning Department’s City Design Group and the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW), was presented at the third and final community workshop last night, a meeting that drew more than 100 people. City planners said the spirit of cooperation between the agencies has been unprecedented.

The first option, or “The Gateway,” would feature four traffic lanes, parking on the east side of the street, a standard 5-foot wide bike lane and “bus bulb plazas” that would place the bike lane between the bus stop and the sidewalk to eliminate conflicts between buses and bicyclists. “The Boulevard” option has similar features but would remove all 167 parking spaces and add a 6-foot wide raised cycletrack and a landscaped median, an ambitious design that has been endorsed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, among others.

The Boulevard would cost approximately $20 million and take 12-18 months to complete, compared to the $15 million price tag for The Gateway, which would take 6-12 months to finish. Capital funding has yet to be identified, however. SFMTA project manager Javad Mirabdal said most of the funds would be sought from state and federal sources.

While the SFMTA hopes to have a final option selected by the end of the year, it could take until 2012 to begin the capital construction and that’s only if the approval and funding processes go smoothly.  The final option will need to undergo an environmental impact report (EIR) before it winds its way to the SFMTA Board for public hearings and final approval.

Bus bulb plazas would be included in both options. They were designed to eliminate conflicts between buses and bicyclists and would be a first for San Francisco. Image: SF Planning Department.
Bus bulb plazas would be included in both options. They're designed to eliminate conflicts between buses and bicyclists and would be a first for San Francisco. Signs would be added warning pedestrians and bicyclists to look out for each other. Image: SF Planning Department.

While the conceptual designs in each option have significant streetscaping elements, The Boulevard would create a greener pedestrian environment by adding more street trees, sidewalk greening and “bus bulb plazas.” It would also include more roadway and pedestrian light fixtures.

Both designs also include an 11,000 square foot plaza that would be erected at the southwest corner of Geary Boulevard and Masonic Avenue, across the street from the planned Target store. It would replace the existing triangular median that serves as a bus stop and allows a right-turn for drivers headed south.

“We would take that space and capture a large pavement area and introduce a plaza while still allowing the residents who actually live along there access for their homes and their parking,” SFDPW’s Martha Ketterer told the crowd. “At the same time, of course, that gives us a huge opportunity to have a really nice sculptural art element that we would bring in and work with the Arts Commission.”

Ketterer said the plaza could also be used for recreational activity such as bocce ball or volleyball. A driveway would be included on both sides but limited to delivery trucks and residents. In front of the Target store across the street, the sidewalk would double in size and feature two rows of tree plantings, along with other streetscape elements.

SFBC program director Andy Thornley said he thought The Boulevard option was better from the perspective of bicycle facilities. “It really is the superior option for bicycle traffic and it is equivalently good for Muni.”

“Just striping a regular bike lane is not going to make bicyclists feel safer or be safer being right next to the traffic that way,” said Michael Helquist of BIKE NOPA. “I think the cycletrack and The Boulevard option presents a greater possibility for safety and I think the traffic is going to flow pretty much the same for either option, so I think that’s kind of a neutral factor for the two.”

This new plaza would be installed at Geary and Masonic boulevards. Image: SF Planning Department.
A new plaza would be installed at Geary Blvd and Masonic Ave. Image: SF Planning Department.

Manish Champsee, the president of Walk San Francisco, liked both options but was concerned about the median in The Boulevard design.

“Medians generally tend to encourage speeding as compared to just two solid lines. The idea being that if you’re a car in the middle lane, you’re likely going to slow down for the car coming the other way,” he said.

Ketterer had a different take. “A median really changes the character of the street. It really changes the sight line, it changes the vehicular traffic, it slows it down,” she said. “It adds a whole other dimension to the street.”

While last night’s crowd featured a large number of advocates and residents who applauded the city’s proposed improvements, there were also a number of residents who were concerned about the loss of parking. In an interview with Streetsblog, one group of residents said they preferred The Gateway option because they feared eliminating all parking would cause drivers to veer away from Masonic and park in their neighborhoods.

“I think we need parking. We can’t eliminate all the parking. The neighborhoods cannot absorb it. We’re all filled up now,” said one man, who nevertheless acknowledged he never parks on Masonic.

Graphic: SFMTA
Graphic: SFMTA

To address the parking complaints, the SFMTA presented a study that demonstrated scant competition for spaces. The average daily occupancy rate was about 60 percent, and most who parked along the heavily-traveled corridor only stayed for one or two hours, indicating a majority of drivers are people who work in the area or do business, not residents.

“The overall benefit far exceeds the fear of ‘I’m going to lose my personal parking space,'” said Quintin Mecke, an aide to Assemblymember Ammiano. “We can navigate that. I’m very confident about that. If that’s the only objection to this issue then I think we can sit down and fix that.”

When parking was brought up during the question-and-answer period, SFMTA’s Mirabdal said transforming Masonic would be the opportunity of a lifetime and he sought to minimize the concerns.

“In order to get improvements, you have to give up something. We have limited space. We cannot maintain parking and do the other things at the same time. We’re trying to use the existing space as best as possible,” he said.

Image: SF Planning Department.
Image: SF Planning Department.

Several people expressed concerns that no significant near-term improvements were slated, especially in light of the death of Nils Yannick Linke, a German tourist who was killed by a drunk driver while riding a bicycle on Masonic at Turk Street.

“I think there needs to be a series of stopgap measures because planning a long-term vision for the street is going to take several years, but we actually can’t wait for that, and I think that whatever short-term implementations that can be made, the MTA needs to do them immediately,” said Mecke.

The SFBC has called on the SFMTA to immediately install a trial bike lane along the steepest section of  Masonic Avenue from Ewing Terrace to Fulton Street.

“I do think there are benefits to be had from trying some of the changes. We’re certainly seeing this on Market Street,” said the SFBC’s Thornley. “Try it, learn from it, and then make a really great project.”

Although the SFMTA has made some near-term improvements, including the placement of radar speed signs, as well as signal upgrades and signal timing adjustments, the agency feared that a piecemeal approach would diffuse support for the project as a whole.

“This is a complete package. It’s not just about bicycles,” said Mirabdal. “It’s about pedestrians, it’s about transit and we want to keep the whole package together as much as possible and we don’t want to separate them because once you start separating things from the package, the package would lose momentum.”

District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi hasn’t endorsed an option yet, but he said it was important that community groups keep up the pressure to make sure funding is secured and the long-term vision is realized sooner than later.

“I think there is a political component to this that requires organizing amongst the neighborhood, community and advocacy groups to demand swift response in infrastructure developments on the capital improvements. I know it can happen because it was only blocks away [on Divisadero] that we demonstrated it could happen,” he said.

More than 100 people attended last night's workshop. Photo: Bryan Goebel.
More than 100 people attended last night's workshop. Photo: Bryan Goebel.
  • Hey Rob,

    Why don’t you sue the city to stop changes on Masonic. You know you want to….

  • Sprague

    I do not have any statistics that show allowing left turns on Divisadero makes for a safer ride for bicyclists. As an occasional bike rider on Divisadero, I am thankful that automobile traffic is fairly slow. With no bike lane or shoulder, higher speeds would make for a more intimidating experience. On the other hand, I recognize that there is more lane changing occurring (as drivers switch lanes to get around turning cars) and this might be putting cyclists at greater risk.

    The Masonic plan seems to be a more complete approach to redesigning a street with the interests of all users being addressed (unlike Divisadero). A separated cycletrack for the bicyclists makes that mode of transport subjectively safer along that stretch and the bus bulbouts make transit more attractive (and a wee bit faster). And car drivers stand to win, too, since other travel modes may increase their numbers (as some drivers switch to the newly improved bike or bus options) and thereby reduce auto congestion.

  • Some “lane-changing” is due, as I say, to motorists caught behind Muni buses at those great new bulb-outs. Please provide any evidence that this makes Muni go faster. While you’re at it, please provide some evidence that jamming up traffic is going to convince a significant number of people to give up on driving and take up riding bikes. Of course as a bike guy you prefer “calmed” traffic, because it’s all about you and your bike, not everyone else—the people who drive and the people who ride Muni. If you slow down traffic for motorists, you’re going to slow it down for Muni, which—this bulletin just in—uses the same streets as those wicked “death machines.” You have no evidence for anything. You’re just another bike guy with a pompous prose style.

  • According to the SFMTA guy, any slowdown of motorized traffic will be small and limited to a few hours a day. Hardly enough to make anyone give up driving, but the new separated bike lanes might be awesome enough to convince a few to take up biking 😉

  • Of course city agencies always say something like that. Five years ago when the Bicycle Plan was before the Board of Supervisors, people from Planning and the City Attorney’s office assured the supervisors that making the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan and implementing it with no environmental review was perfectly legal. No one in a position of authority in MTA—or any city agency—is going to say or do anything to contradict the bike zealots who are making city traffic policy.

    Riding the #43 from Cole Valley to Fulton Street yesterday around 4:00 p.m., the rush hour traffic was already beginning to slow traffic on Masonic. It will be interesting to see the impact on traffic when the city no longer uses the parking spaces to provide an extra lane for commute traffic.

  • Mick


    I’m not sure I believe the SFMTA guy’s claim the delay will be “small”. An average of a minute was cited earlier. But since by his own admission there won’t be a delay most of the day, that implies a much greater delay during rush hours.

    Moreover, Masonic from Geary to Fell only takes about 2 minutes right now at the limit with decent lights, so even an extra minute is a significant percentage increase in delay, and therefore of course congestion.

    The problem will be what is currently the problem witb Divis. If you only have 2 lanes, then a single left-turner can block the left lane, while any number of waiting taxi’s, delivery trucks and double-parkers will block the right lane.

    That is a big part of why the only streets that have decent road speeds in SF are those with 3 lanes (Geary, Pine, Bush, Franklin, Gough, Fell, Oak and of course Masonic). On all those streets, if you don’t take the middle lane, you’re going to get delayed.

  • @Mick – define “decent”. Some would argue that in a dense city, 45 MPH is “indecent”.

  • Mick


    Actually I don’t know what the speed limit is on Masonic and the other “fast” streets in SF but as a practical matter, the prevailing speed is determined by the phasing of traffic lights and the speed all other vehicles are doing.

    I would guess on Masonic most flows are around 30 mph which, although it isn’t that high, enables reasonable progress to be made in a fairly compact city such as SF.

    A safe speed is whatever the road will reasonably bear. So it would be higher on, say, Bush than it would be on Sacramento.

    Most major cities have speed limits in the 25 to 40 range, outside of freeways and State highways.

  • Sprague

    Other countries and the state of Oregon, I believe, (and I recall a trial project was conducted in California that may still be in effect?) require motorists and bicyclists to yield to any city bus that is merging back into traffic from a bus stop. In Austria, for example, after a bus’ turn signal blinks four times it has the right of way to reenter the traffic flow. Such statewide legislation would go a long way to speeding up transit at minimal cost (other than the expense of a PR campaign, such a measure would probably reduce costs with faster transit speeds = more productive use of public transit). If such a law were in place, the need for bus bulbouts would not be as great. But since Muni buses now must wait for a clearing in traffic before they can continue, bulbouts are a significant improvement that reduce Muni bus stop dwell time. Furthermore, all passengers (but most especially those with mobility impairments) benefit from being able to access the bus from the height of the sidewalk rather than having to step down from the curb and then up into the bus as is often the case at many bus stops. This also speeds boarding.

    The Masonic plan seems to be a “complete street” that balances the interests of all users. I look forward to its implementation.

  • I often ride the #43 Masonic line, and it has no problems on Masonic between the panhandle and Geary Blvd. What the city plans doing to Masonic Avenue will slow the #43 line and more than 32,000 vehicles a day that now use the street. According to the city’s own numbers, Masonic now works well for more than 44,000 people every day. It’s mainly the city’s bike people who don’t like Masonic, which is an important north/south traffic artery in the middle of San Francisco.

  • @Mick –

    “I would guess on Masonic most flows are around 30 mph which, although it isn’t that high, enables reasonable progress to be made in a fairly compact city such as SF.”

    For better or worse – that is 5 MPH above the speed limit.

  • People who live near Masonic don’t like the current design, and the proposed design looks like a big improvement, while hardly slowing MUNI (if at all).

    Too bad about the 44,000 happy campers, but their tail pipes are not entirely stinkless in this matter.

  • Yes, never mind those 44,000 people. It’s what the ciy’s bike people want that really matters to our bloated, featherbedding city workforce. Bikes uber alles. (Last time the information was available—the MTA took it off its website—the city had 10 people working on the Bicycle Project.) People who live on Gough, Franklin, Fell, and Oak Streets probably don’t like all that traffic, either. Are those streets next on the “calming” list?

  • It’s too mind-boggling to think that normal people might have a problem with all that blameless traffic.

    A much simpler explanation is that bike zombies from Mars ate the brains of the city supervisors. After all, when every other explanation has been ruled out, what remains, no matter how implausible, is the truth!

  • Mick

    SF Man

    OK, 25mph. But cops will generally give a 5mph leeway (10 MPH for higher limits) and 30mph “feels” about right on that stretch, so my guess remains that most vehicles there are going around 30 or so, which means about 2 minutes from Geary to Fell.

    Of course then it often takes another 2 mintues to get across Fell and Oak, and this project will do nothing to help with that. For 20 million, we ought to be getting a tunnel under the Panhandle.

  • @Mick –

    You need a time machine. You can go back and straighten out those crazy San Franciscans who rebelled and nullified your chance at having freeways running over under and around the city.

    You’re arguing – if I get it right – that we shouldn’t be slowing down Masonic because people need to get from Geary to Fell faster – in fact that we should not be slowing it down but we should be speeding it up. The residents of that neighborhood aren’t down with that.

    The whole point of the redesign is that it is a dense area where 25 MPH is appropriate, but people are driving faster because is “feels” right to go faster. It needs to be redesigned so that it feels right to go 25 MPH, an appropriate speed for a residential area.

    20 Million and you want a tunnel? For 20 Million you *might* get the EIR on a tunnel.

  • Mick


    I wasn’t arguing that Masonic traffic should be going either faster or slower. I was discussing what the average speed on Masonic typically is for the purpose of showing that an average one minute delay, meaning 2 minutes for many, could be a 100% increase in travel time on that stretch for many drivers.

    That’s not nothing, and whether you “feel” that traffic should be going slower doesn’t matter any more than whether the residents of Masonic are “down” with it either since that street doesn’t exist only for the residents but for all people of the city, the businesses that they serve, and the economy.

  • @Mick

    You are using Rovian tactics. If the tax cuts expire, is that a tax increase, or just an expiring cut?

    The city has decided that the speed limit on that street should be 25 MPH for the safety of the users of the street – all users. The drivers would not be “delayed” by reducing the prevailing speed to 25 MPH – they are currently *speeding* and thus getting to their destinations faster than the city has deemed is safe.

    Arguing against the changes is a de facto statement that you think the speed limit should be higher. If that’s your statement, make it, don’t couch it in double talk.

  • Mick


    Again, I was not advcating a change in the speed limit on Masonic. I was informing the constituency here, or at least those who don’t drive on it regularly as I do, what the prevailing speed of traffic is which, presumably, has the implied assent of the police who don’t ticket drivers for doing 26 or 28 there.

    And it was in specific response to an earlier statement that the average delay will be “only” 1 minute. Well that is fairly Rovian itself since the same guy said most drivers will not be delayed at all, implying that a minority will be quite significantly delayed.

    Finally, the “it’s only a minute” argument is a lot like the “for only a buck a day, you too can have this finely embossed encyclopedia set” which in fact costs thousands, payments being spread over years. A minute a day each way about 8 hours to an annual commute time. So if we’re going to be honest, then let’s be honest on both sides. How d’ya like dem apples?

  • The way I read the statement from the SFMTA guy, outside of rush hour there would be no delay. During rush hour, it would add around a minute between the panhandle and Geary.

    I feel your pain about the added minute. Currently my commute takes an added 2 minutes because I take a longer but nicer route that avoids Masonic 😉

  • The city doesn’t really know for sure what’s going to happen after they “calm” Masonic. They’re just speculating, based on traffic volumes. “Outside of rush hour”? There are two rush hours, one in the morning and another in the evening.

  • Mick


    Yes, since the SFMTA “project manager” did not explain the methodology he used to determine it is “only” a one minute delay, it is impossible to independently validate whether his data is correct or merely politically convenient.

    But experience on 2-lane streets like Divis, with left turners blocking the left lane and stopped cabs and delivery trucks blocking the right lane, is that taking out 33% of the lanes will cause an increase of more than 33% in delays and congestion.

    While if PeterNatural is correct, and cyclists can take a much “nicer” route for “only 2 minutes extra” then what the hell are we paying 20 million for? So that the one bus that runs every 20 minutes can save 10 seconds at the handful of stops there? So that the residents who can no longer park near their home can at least gaze at a tree during their long walk home?

  • A point that would have been good to cover in the article is that any road needs periodic repaving anyway… presumably if the city didn’t choose either the “boulevard” or “gateway” designs, and instead just kept the current design, Masonic would still need to be repaved in the not-too-distant future at a cost of more than $0 (and probably less than $15 million). So the costs of the two proposed designs should be compared to that number, not zero.

  • Mick:
    The #43 bus on Masonic runs about every 10 minutes and, according to the city, carries more than 12,000 people a day. If you delay traffic in general on Masonic, of course you’re going to delay the #43 bus. The bulb-out for buses is touted as a measure to speed up the #43, but those effects will be so small as to be unmeasurable. I ride the #43 often, and as it is now it has few problems getting back into traffic after stopping. What the bulb-out proposal really represents is putting a fig leaf of concern for Muni over a redesign of Masonic that only favors cyclists.

    The new bus bulb-outs on Divisadero have had zero effect on the #24 line on that street, except for trapping vehicles behind buses in intersections. What has speeded up the #24 between Geary and Haight: removing unneeded bus stops at Fulton and Diviz and Ellis and Diviz.

  • “Again, I was not advcating a change in the speed limit on Masonic. I was informing the constituency here, or at least those who don’t drive on it regularly as I do, what the prevailing speed of traffic is which, presumably, has the implied assent of the police who don’t ticket drivers for doing 26 or 28 there.”

    This is ridiculous. The fact that the law is not enforced does not mean that the posted speed limit is “wrong”. The reason that the cops don’t enforce 26-34 MPH is that would be logistically infeasible.

    If people are driving faster than the speed the city wants people to drive on the street, and enforcement is not a feasible remedy, the proper remedy is to design the street such that the prevailing speed matches the desired speed limit.

  • Mick


    But don’t you realize that you are trying to control and micromanage everyones’ behavior here? Can you not see how some might perceive that as a tad above your station?

    The 25 limit is a lowest common denominator figure. It applies to most urban streets whether it is a windy lane in Potrero Hill or a 6 lane arterial thruway like Masonic.

    And just as it isn’t safe to do even 24 on the windy part of Lombard, it can be perfectly safe to do 26 on Masonic. The cops don’t enforce people going 28 on Masonic because, in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter except to the odd control freak here and there (mostly here, it might seem). The public and the voters wouldn’t support that misuse of police resources.

    Again, the police cannot be everywhere and so try and enforce those laws like DUI (which was actually what killed the German cyclist, and not the topology of Masonic). If society thought that doing 28 on Masonic was the most reckless and dangerous behavior, it would be enforced. But it isn’t and so the cops rightfully look elsewhere.

    Now if you want to argue that every SF street should have its own indivualized speed limit, with some at 15 and some at 35, then fine, suggest that. But then Masonic would surely be upped to 35 becuase it is one of the few streets in SF where 35 is reasonable.

    20 million to satisfy a few control freaks and killjoys doesn’t strike me as money well spent. There is only one bus route while there are better routes for cyclists. This project is a lard-filled crock.

  • Lard filled crock implies that it is being pushed by the people who will get paid. The pictures of people at the Fix Masonic meetings say otherwise.

  • Mick


    By definition, the people at a “Fix Masonic” meeting are going to be folks who want to change it. That says nothing about whether the tens of thousands of people who happily use it every day and don’t even know about these plans, agree with you.

    And if your performance here is any guide, then the plan is a crock – you haven’t forwarded a single solid, tangible reason why this plan won’t make things worse while costing the taxpayers 20 million.

    I can only hope that either the voters get a chance to speak on this or the money is not forthcoming, or else this will be the triumph over a few left-wing busybodies over the vast majority of tax-paying voters.

    Don’t make me start going to these meetings to put you right.

  • John R.

    The idea that 35MPH is a reasonable speed through any urban residential neighborhood with cross streets, schools, shops, markets, and numerous pedestrian crossings, is absurd. Particularly when plenty of drivers would feel no compunction about nudging it up to 40. Those days should be over in SF.

    I was driving on Fulton along the park the other day, and saw a sign declaring the speed limit to be 35. I looked down at the speedo, saw I was “only” going 25MPH and kicked it up to 35. I backed off after a couple of blocks, saying to myself that it was too dangerous. I have a nice old sports car and like to drive fast, but I have come to accept that the larger good will be best served by slowing auto traffic: fewer collisions, less severe injuries, and improved quality of life for peds, cyclists, and inhabitants of the neighborhood. I for one am willing to slow down.

  • Mick,

    “By definition, the people at a “Fix Masonic” meeting are going to be folks who want to change it.” That’s not true, Rob goes.

    “you haven’t forwarded a single solid, tangible reason why this plan won’t make things worse while costing the taxpayers 20 million.” Don’t think that rests on Murphy to do that. Also, like peternatual said earlier, it is going to get repaved anyway, so the $20 mil should be compared to $5 mil (or whatever paving would cost) not zero.

    “Don’t make me start going to these meetings to put you right.” You should go if you feel you have such a stake in the matter. The neighbors are going because they live with it every day. If you only use it for a minute twice a day then you need to decide if that minute is worth you going and speaking up. If you don’t go, don’t be upset when the outcome isn’t what you would have preferred.

  • Actually, I think the voters tend to like this kind of thing. It doesn’t make much sense to argue that a tiny minority (Rob’s “bike people”) somehow induce the elected city supervisors to implement policies that the majority of voters don’t like. Especially since those supervisors tend to keep getting re-elected.

  • @Mick

    “Don’t make me start going to these meetings to put you right.”

    The thing with internet wizards is they don’t go, no matter how hard they blather. Rob Anderson – he shows up. I don’t respect his views but I respect his diligence, dammit.

  • Mick


    As I said, the reason half-baked, ill-thought out plans like this sometiems go through is because these meetings are packed with every transit activist and other random “progressive” who wants to control everything.

    While the vast majority who use the road every day and have jobs, families etc that prevent them from being rent-a-mob at the meetings never get heard and prbably, like me, don’t even know about any meetings.

    You haven’t advanced a single cogent argument for this plan nor refuted any of the points I made. All we have learned is that you think you should control the behavior of everyone else. And that you think 30 mph is a dangerous speed on a 6-lane thruway.

    And on that basis we should spend 20 million?

  • Sprague

    The beauty of streetsblog and the livable streets movement is the promotion of streets that work for all users, rather than the car first status quo. Many San Franciscans continue to feel too unsafe to pedal to and from work. The safety improvements incorporated by this plan (a cycletrack for cyclists) also offer motorists the benefit of not having bicyclists in traffic lanes. This, of course, also benefits Muni.

    Having had the good fortune to have lived and worked in traffic calmed European cities, I know that San Francisco will benefit from more redesigned streets that account for the desires of kids to (safely) bike to school, calmed traffic speeds that invite walking along quieter boulevards and bus bulbouts that improve the waiting experience and ease of boarding for Muni patrons. Masonic works great for car drivers today, but some of those drivers would love to safely be able to bike to their destinations (or have their kids do so without their parent chauffeur). Some of those drivers would rather ride Muni if its reliability were improved. The Masonic plan is an important step in this direction.

  • Hoosier

    Let’s see, San Francisco’s only about 7 miles across, iirc. So if you could actually cruise tat 25 mph without having to stop, you could get from 49th Ave. to the Ferry Building in only about 20 minutes.

    Seems to me drivers should be less concerned about traffic speed and more concerned about traffic flow.

    And to those commenters here who are so bitter about making changes to make the streets more bike-friendly. It’s not just about favoring bikes over cars, but about saving lives. You’re worried about being inconvenienced, but you don’t have to worry about the actual danger on the street. Bicyclists do. When I was a bike messenger, from 88-91, I was hit by cars several times. Fortunately I was never seriously injured, but until you’ve been in that position, you can’t appreciate just how much separating car and bike traffic is a safety measure first, and a lefty-hippie-commie-feelgood thing second (and as a libertarian, I hate lefty-hippie-commies). And every extra biker is one less car blocking your way–and cars take up a hell of a lot more space than bikes–so encouraging more bike ridership aids your commute even if you’re a confirmed car driver.

  • Mick

    “As I said, the reason half-baked, ill-thought out plans like this sometiems go through is because these meetings are packed with every transit activist and other random “progressive” who wants to control everything.”

    If you feel so strongly, then you need to attend. You can also write emails, letters or call.

    “While the vast majority who use the road every day and have jobs, families etc that prevent them from being rent-a-mob at the meetings never get heard and prbably, like me, don’t even know about any meetings.”

    All meetings are public knowledge. You may have missed the first meeting for whatever reason, but now you know they are taking place so either attend or write. I have a job that prevents me from making Board of Supervisors meetings, but I write emails whenever something important comes up. I also am on the board of my neighborhood group. There is time in the day, you just have to prioritize. Maybe you can TiVo Dancing with the Stars next time.

    “You haven’t advanced a single cogent argument for this plan nor refuted any of the points I made. All we have learned is that you think you should control the behavior of everyone else. And that you think 30 mph is a dangerous speed on a 6-lane thruway.”

    What John thinks or doesn’t think isn’t the issue. Attacking him won’t change the outcome to something more of your liking. Write a letter to the MTA or SFCTA (or the BoS) and raise your concerns. I’m sure your supervisor would be very interested in hearing from all sides of the issue. That is why we have district elections.

    “And on that basis we should spend 20 million?”

    The cost of re-paving the street should be taken into consideration when you toss around “$20 million” as the difference in cost should be what you are quoting. It’s really more along the lines of $10-$15 million.

  • “What John thinks or doesn’t think isn’t the issue. Attacking him won’t change the outcome to something more of your liking.”

    In fact, it might make the outcome less to his liking. Generally Masonic is of no personal concern to me – I think I used it for a brief stretch to get to some new parenting classes at CPMC once, and I do occasionally deal with the Fell/Masonic intersection. But I have other fish to fry.

    However, if Mick were to really tick me off, I just might throw my hat in the ring, adding voices to the forces of evil opposing Mick’s worldview.

    There’s a reason secret cabals are secret.

  • Mick


    I think everyone understands and supports the idea of cyclists feeling safe on the road. But the question here is more whether cyclists have to feel safe on every single last street in SF, including the handful that are actually car-friendly right now.

    I am sure most drivers would join me in supporting bike lanes on many more SF streets, and even closing some streets altogether to non-local vehicular traffic, in return for keeping a very small number of high-volume arterial routes open in full.

    All road users are entitled to consideration, but not necessarily exactly the same consideration on every single street. Why not keep some fast routes for vehicles only (e.g. Pine/Bush, Gough/Franklin, Masonic) while cyclists do what Peter suggests above and have safe, pleaant alternatives as little as one black away?

    If we genuinely want to give equal rights to all road users, then let’s think of ways of increasing traffic speeds and volumes on a few major thruways, while investing in safe bikeways, walkways everywhere else.


    You’re right, I should show up and make these very same points. But I still think the current process favors the squeaky minority over the silent majority, and I’d personally like to see voter propositions on things like this, like we had on Octavia Blvd.

  • Mick,

    If by “silent majority” you mean drivers, seems to me they have had carte blanche for the last 60+ years. Some of the wonderful things we have to show for it – obscenity epidemic, obscene dependence on oil (mostly foreign now, but makes no difference), and the loss of prime agricultural land near population centers.

    And this “silent majority”, if attacked so often as you suggest, should rise up and partake in the political system. You don’t like how Masonic is being handled, then speak up at a meeting or write a supervisor (and as much as we’d all like, streetsblog comment section doesn’t carry any political weight).

    And it’s not like it is a huge time commitment, it is just several hours maybe once a month. And how long have you committed to writing comments on here, put them in letter form and send them off to your supervisor. I really don’t know why I am pushing you to speak up, but you can’t keep complaining about not having a voice since you have one, you just aren’t using it.

  • Mick,

    I’m wondering what the safe, pleasant bicycle alternative is to Masonic that’s just a block away? Maybe you know of a little-known route that we bicyclists would be all ears to discover. On my bicycle map there are no through roads from Fell to Geary for a half mile in either direction of Masonic. Broderick and Parker are the nearest and both have some significant hills. Stanyan is just as terrible for bicycles as Masonic and Divisadero could hardly be called safe and pleasant.

    Now, to put on my car driver hat, I fully agree that I find it astounding bicyclists will take Fulton (so dangerous) when both Cabrillo a block north and GG Park a block south offer bicycling ten times safer and more pleasant. And why would a bicyclist fight buses on Mission when Valencia a block away is the bicycling nirvana of the city? I never see bicyclists on Pine or Bush, so I think they must be happy enough with Post and Sutter. And Polk, being much flatter, slower and bike-friendly, seems to be a very well accepted alternative to Franklin/Gough. Given how crowded the Panhandle is these days, I see why some bicyclists who don’t mind going 30 mph take Fell/Oak, but it seems to me they are taking their lives in their hands to do it.

    To continue with my windshield perspective, I drive down Masonic probably three or four times a week. It’s great–timed lights, good traffic flow. In my opinion it is second only to Franklin/Gough as the best north/south route in the city. (This city is designed to accommodate traffic east/west, so decent north/south alternatives are sorely lacking.) Divisadero is terrible, pathetic, execrable! Left hand turns clog it so miserably, I avoid it at all costs! I would rather drive pokey little Scott Street! (And I do.)

    But, switching hats, as a bicyclist, Masonic scares me to death. I avoid it at all costs, except when I can’t. Then I ride on the sidewalk (and feel very, very guilty.) And if I lived anywhere near there, avoiding it would be very tough indeed since there is just nothing else that goes through to Geary.

    It’s unfortunate that there are some pathways, created either by nature (hill to the east) or by design (USF to the West) that forces cars and bicycles to share the same space. But when it happens, I don’t see how there’s much help for it. Perhaps making Divisadero a reasonable street with timed lights and no left turns would take some of the load off Masonic and make the reduction in lanes far less problematic.

    The reasons for encouraging bicycles in the city even at the expense of cars are so numerous and pressing (health care costs! asthma and cancer avoidance! reduction in obesity and diabetes levels! cost of owning and maintaining a car in a faltering economy! making our city less vulnerable to oil shocks! avoiding oil from ecologically-devastating tar sands! avoiding fertile farmland going to gasoline/ethanol rather than food! avoiding reliance on other people’s oil! avoiding wars to get other people’s oil! reducing trade deficit due to oil imports! preparing for peak oil! slowing climate change resulting from tailpipe emissions! perhaps avoiding the extinction of 50% of all species from climate change! perhaps avoiding the deaths of 4 billion people due to climate change!) that continuing with the status quo that preserves the convenience of car drivers over everyone else is no longer tenable. And no, car drivers are not going to like this one bit. Who ever likes giving up privilege?

    For the status quo of cars ruling our streets to continue, the economy would have to return to its bubble glory (goodness knows the Federal Reserve is trying–just look how commodities are inflating), four new Saudi Arabia’s worth of oil would have to be found (that’s what all the drilling in difficult and expensive places such as five miles below the sea is for. Unfortunately, we’re stilling using up oil four times faster than we’re finding it), and some miracle, incredibly cheap carbon-capture technology that doesn’t exist yet would have to appear on the scene. Oh, and some magic pill would also have to arise that would make everyone thin and healthy without any exercise whatsoever. And then we would have it! Cars forever!

  • “every single last street in SF, including the handful that are actually car-friendly right now.”

    This thread has officially jumped the shark.

  • The idea that there’s a nice route a block over from Masonic probably came from my remark that my current commute would be 2 minutes shorter if I took Masonic, but instead I take a nicer but less direct route. Mick may have figured that means I take a route 1 block over, but actually I scoot 1/2 mile over and take Arguello heading north (which has a bike lane) into the Presidio.

    OTOH, if Masonic was bikable instead of the hellish death trap for cyclists that it is, I would often use it for more local trips, like to visit Trader Joe’s near Masonic and Geary. (I live near Masonic and the panhandle). As it is now, I go there about once a year.

  • Mick


    Yes, I was referring to the remark you made about an alternative taking only a minute longer. I didn’t know which route you meant but, yes, I would take a low-numbered avenue too as that way you can traverse from Fulton to Frederick via the park.

    As for Tao’s other comments, most of them were “global” points to do with pollution, global warming, etc but that is way beyond the scope here – all that matters for this project is the traffic flows on Masonic, using “traffic” it is’s broadest sense.

    And my argument, as before, is that we can’t afford to lose any of the very small number of high-volume arterial routes in the NW part of the city.

  • Dave

    I’ve read all of these comments with interest, and there are good points on both sides. I do tend to believe that it makes sense to have a handful of higher-speed feeder streets, like Masonic, which may not be appropriate for bikes. I ride on Masonic, and it’s not a great bike street. Yes, it could be, but all of those vehicles need to get where they are going too. I’m for leaving Masonic to the cars, and putting Bikes on Arguello.

    But the real purpose of my comment is to remark on Mikesonn’s last posting, in which he states that we have an “obscenity epidemic” in America. I believe that is true, though I’d never heard it put quite that way before. On an unrelated topic, we have lots of fat people too. 😉

  • Hoosier


    I’m back in the flatlands of the Midwest now, where your proposal makes some sense, as just about any street you can name in my region is flat enough for anyone, including kids and elderly people, to pedal.

    But San Francisco is more difficult, with all the hills, and alternate bike routes that will suit most people just aren’t that readily available in all areas. I was a bike messenger, and I could pretty much take any hill, but you can’t ask the average commuter to do so.

    You’re complaining a lot about the cyclists’ being too demanding, but you sure ooze a mean ol’ entitlement attitude of your own, what with your “let the cyclists be inconvenienced, not us car drivers’ attitude.”

  • Dave, thanks for the catch. I’ll blame that on the iphone’s wonderful touchscreen though I was more then likely typing too fast and didn’t reread it.

    Hoosier, the “entitlement attitude” is a huge problem that needs to get dealt with. Drivers feel as though the whole world is out to get them when in fact the last 60-70 years have been nothing but car centric. It is a situation where the addict can’t see straight anymore. Either that, or this nation is a bunch of two year olds screaming “NO, it’s mine!” Probably safe to say it’s both.


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