Plan for a Safer Masonic Gets Final Approval from SFMTA Board

Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

A plan for sweeping safety improvements on deadly Masonic Avenue was unanimously approved by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors yesterday. It’s the final decision needed to move the project forward, though the SFMTA says planners still need to finalize the design and secure funding before it’s implemented. The agency doesn’t have a timeline for that yet, but construction is likely still a couple years off.

Michael Helquist, a member of the neighborhood group Fix Masonic, called the approval “a huge accomplishment for grassroots organizations” like the SF Bicycle Coalition and the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association working with the SFMTA in pushing for the improvements. “This has been six years or more coming, and this is a big hurdle,” he said.

The plan would revamp most of Masonic, from Geary Boulevard to Fell Street, with features like raised bike lanes, reduced traffic lanes, a tree-lined median, sidewalk bulb-outs for pedestrians and buses, and more. The transformation is expected to calm motor vehicle traffic and help reduce injuries on the street, which residents say they’re afraid to travel on by any mode. The plan would also bring a plaza to Masonic and Geary.

The physically raised bike lanes would be San Francisco’s first, adopting the kind of bicycle infrastructure proven to make bicycling safer and more comfortable for a broad range of people in cities where they’ve been widely implemented, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

Roughly a dozen neighbors and advocates spoke at yesterday’s hearing, most in support of the project. Two speakers were opposed to the removal of car parking, including a store owner who said he had a petition signed by 300 people in opposition. However, surveys conducted throughout the widely-praised outreach and planning process have found broad support for the design, which was developed through community meetings aimed at creating a more livable corridor.

In the last five years, 131 people have been injured on Masonic, and two were killed from 2009 to 2011, according to the SFMTA. Another woman was killed this year on Masonic north of Geary in an area which would not be improved under the plan. Praising the project, Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe said its only shortcoming is the lack of safety improvements on the remaining stretches of Masonic. “People live along Masonic, it’s a neighborhood street, and it should be a place where people can walk in safety and comfort,” she said.

“Two deaths are too many along Masonic Avenue,” said Stephanie Tucker, an aide for D5 Supervisor Christina Olague, who said the supervisor “strongly supports” the project, as do her constituents. An aide from D1 Supervisor Eric Mar’s office also spoke in favor of it. “It’s the right thing to do for San Francisco,” said Tucker.

The plan was initially approved at a public hearing in May of last year, and the SFMTA says the approval is on schedule. Planners have been developing the design and drafting an addendum to the SF Bike Plan, which originally included a less-ambitious plan for painted bike lanes on Masonic. The addendum was approved along with the project in yesterday’s board vote.

For Fix Masonic advocates, the process “took longer than we wanted it to,” said Helquist. Calls for near-term improvements ahead of the redesign resulted in some changes, but none that were effective in slowing drivers and curbing the number of injuries on the street.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the estimated $18 million needed for the project could come from sources like the regional One Bay Area Grant, which will be awarded for walking and biking improvements starting next year, as well as a citywide vehicle registration fee approved under Prop AA in 2010.

“Finding the funds will take some time, and we’ll have to stay on top of it,” said Helquist. “It’s going to be essential for the city to continue to have strong leadership on this project to take it to the next phase.”

Read more on the hearing from Bay City News at CBS.

  • i guess i’ll take it, but two car lanes in either direction _plus_ a raised center median? 

    bikes have to slalom around all over the place and get squeezed into some little bike lane where we can’t even ride two abreast.

    even cars have to slalom around instead of just requiring buses to stop right in their lane — problems solved. we shouldn’t have to do all these incredible feats of engineering just to continue to accommodate the car cancer pumping thru SF’s veins.

    a very car-centric design.

    this road should have, at most, one general car travel lane in either direction with a center/left turn lane, and no raised center medians. the two side-by-side car lanes increase speeds and speeding, making the street louder/less pleasant and more dangerous. the raised medians increase car travel speeds, too, and prevent pedestrians and cyclists from turning around when they want to.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed for all the same reasons. We got to get past this suburban median thing.

  • Gneiss

    Agreed – it’s why Valencia works so well.  The center turning lane on that street gives everybody a bit of wiggle room to get around obstructions in the travel lane, calming traffic and forcing drivers look both to the left and right as they go down the street. 

    As a contrast, just look at the mess they made of Divisidero, where the center media does nothing except give drivers license to move faster in the center lane and weave in an out of traffic to get around cars turning left.  Not safe at all for cyclists or any other road users who happen to be moving slower than the prevailing speed.

  • bike-to-transit-nopa

    I’m glad to see two travel lanes + median. There is quite a bit of traffic on Masonic, and very few parallel street alternatives (likely Divisadero; maybe Stanyan or Arguello, depending on where you’re going). Most traffic uses the center two lanes during tow away hours anyway, plus most left turns are prohibited during peak hours anyway (rendering the suggested center left turn lane null). The design seems to strike a good balance consider all the user that Masonic needs to serve (transit, bikes, vehicles, pedestrians). Going to one lane sounds idealistic, and there are substantial trade offs, such as delays on the 43 (because of one travel lane) and the 24 (because of increase traffic on Diviz).

  • The reason there is so much auto traffic on Masonic is because it was designed (in its current state) to accommodate so much auto traffic — at the expense of every other mode of transport, of course. This project marks a very small shift — I would argue too small — towards accommodating other forms of transport.

    Though the word ‘accommodate’ has an ‘inviting’ connotation to it — when really, for pedestrians and bikers, this incremental project is really only possibly allowing them to occasionally use the street without quite as much stress and fear, with slightly less risk of being injured/maimed/killed. I’d argue the primary goal of this project, like many others in the city, including all the BRT projects, Cesar Chavez, etc., is to maintain the automobile-centric character of the corridor. We can drop in a couple of narrow bike lanes, paint up some stuff, etc., but we have to maintain high automobile throughput. Anything that compromises that primary objective substantially is just off the table completely — it is ‘idealistic,’ we’re told, to presume that people don’t want to drive everywhere.Left turns are prohibited for a reason — because we have decided that car throughput is more important than every other consideration — all of which, of course, happen to be vastly more important for and beneficial to society than car throughput.Car highways through the city — what traffic engineers call ‘boulevards’ — must forever be a car highways. Because. And yes, there are trade-offs. Quiet for noise. Clean air for dirty. Calm instead of stress and fear. Health instead of injuries/maimings/deaths. Independence instead of transit dependence. etc.

  • voltairesmistress

    I think the Masonic plan looks fantastic for cyclists and pedestrians and residents.  Its abundance of trees on both sides of the street and on the median will probably help create a canopy and a sense of place. That in itself will should slow down drivers who would perceive a neighborhood there, not just a throughway.  That’s my theory, at least.  Let’s see how it works out.

  • that’s counter to prevailing theory. Trees are not things that you have to worry about hitting or being hit by, so you can go faster.

  • I also want to go on record as saying…”raised bike lanes?” 

    Yes, better than non-raised bike lanes.

    Are they protected bike lanes? No.

    We could ‘traffic calm’ the entire city, but unless and until we get physically protected bike lanes on all the major corridors throughout the city, we’ll still only ever achieve a small to very small biking mode share. 

    So if we have to build a raised bike lane to find out that it is only slightly better than a painted, buffered, unprotected bike lane — fine — so be it — hopefully it’ll be a learning experience and we’ll do what is actually required next time.

    Love trees, but I love hot fudge sundaes too, and I wouldn’t put them in the middle of a highway.

    If we learn that raised medians are for the primary benefit of cars and keeping cars ascendant, then we’ll be better able to ward off raised medians in the future. Wars have certain benefits too, but that doesn’t mean you want to run around ‘building’ them.

    “Raised medians are a racket.”
    — General iDeclareWarOnCars

    “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.” 

    Sounds about right.

  • mikesonn

    Double parking on a higher level!

  • Tem

    Maybe everyone in the city could be a tech support technician and work from home like a blogger. No need to worry about delay caused by peter’s vision for masonic then.

  • Anonymous

    Not only cars utilize traffic lanes; so do buses.  Muni’s 43 Masonic line carries a high passenger load, so if you slow traffic on Masonic, you’ll also slow down the 43, increasing the headway between buses and making it necessary to put more buses on the line.  I think we can all agree that the plan, as approved represents a significant improvement over what is there now.

  • Seems like a modest improvement – but not clearly even that. Separated bike lanes work best on long blocks where you don’t have a lot of curb cuts, because this limits the bike/car interactions. Unfortunately, Masonic fails on those grounds. Once completed, this will not be a pleasant street to bike down. Cyclists are going to constantly have to deal with intersections where cars are not expecting them because they are not in the street, cars backing out or pulling into driveways, and pedestrians who have to cross through the raised bike lane to wait for the bus. These may make the experience more dangerous than just riding in a moving vehicle lane currently – at least in the current state cars will have no trouble seeing cyclists and won’t be surprised by them. 

    It’s true that there aren’t a lot of alternative streets nearby going north-south, but it’s also not much of a corridor and I don’t see a lot of cyclists on this street. Ultimately, I think the city’s efforts would be better spent on segregating cyclists onto slow streets where cars are discouraged – an approach Portland has done well. These streets would have 20mph speed limits, roundabouts at intersections to calm traffic, and would be made narrower with wider sidewalks to make cars feel less comfortable speeding. There are tons of streets that would benefit from this sort of makeover and the result would make for an enjoyable ride and benefit pedestrians as well. 

  • there would probably be an increase in average traffic speed, but that might be something we’d be willing to bear if we could reduce reckless top-end speeds.

    a simple green wave for cyclists would, of course, be the ideal solution to making the street serve at its highest efficiency as a transportation corridor. 

    bicycle highways are defensible. car highways, not so much.

    Obamacare is a significant improvement over what was there before, but even before the ink from Obama’s pen was dry, it was important to be critical of the new legislation and start working to improve it.

    just as with cars, there is far too much focus placed on buses, and on the techno-gibberish of buses like ‘headways’ — as if the world would just end if buses, like Carmageddon, couldn’t continue to blaze down some street as they could previously. we know now, if we didn’t before, that is just ‘ZOMG-doomer’ stuff. 

    we need to focus more on ‘curing’ people of their transit-dependence, not on addressing some of the worst symptoms of that transit dependence. the cancer is cars (and, somewhat ironically, buses too). we need to restrict those cancer IV drips running into and through SF.

    if SF had a bike share system, cars and buses could all stop running tomorrow and we’d have a few days of hard adjustment, and then we’d decide to keep things that way forever because everyone would be able to get around under their own power safely, conveniently, inexpensively, with dignity intact, and we’d all be healthier and happier.

  • I don’t see a lot of cyclists on this street 
    where’s dick cheney when i need someone to shoot me in the face…

  • it’s also not much of a corridor

    How does this dovetail with pchazz’  assertion that the 43 carries a high passenger load? With the handwringing over this project over the amount of auto traffice?

    It is *the* corridor, but since it has this perception of danger, less people use that corridor on bikes and more people in cars. In order to flip that paradigm, we need to change the road. Alternate streets do not flip the paradigm, cycling more so than driving is subject to dismissal of mode because of inconvenience of route. And every person who bikes/walks instead of drives (and even takes transit) is a win for all of us.

  • Anonymous

    Buses carry more people than do bicycles, Peter.  There were over 12,000 daily boardings on the 43 Masonic during a one year period in 2006-07, the most recent date for which I could find data.  It was the 20th most used line.    Advocates for bicycles, pedestrians and transit are all supposed to be in one big, happy, anti-private car family.  Peter’s post puts the lie to that rosy picture. When push comes to shove, bicylists only care about themselves.

  • >>> Buses carry more people than do bicycles, Peter. 

    apparently, after Dick Cheney shoots me in the face, i also need to be waterboarded by one of Obama’s goons.

    anything but this type of tortured argument.

    walk, then bike, then transit, then whatever else, in that priority order, always. 

    not complicated, and not, obviously, what is offered or going to be offered on Masonic.

    so, wrong — Gitmo for you! i like to imagine that’s where GM executives get to spend their afterlives. oh wait, goblins don’t have afterlives.

    p.s. what’s up with Disqus sucking?

  • Anonymous

    I doubt that Muni bus riders would agree that “there is far too much focus placed on buses” considering the number of missed runs, bunching and other annoyances.   Buses are by far the most democratic form of transporation; they go more places than rail transit, anyone can take them, even handicapped people. Let’s consider everyone’s needs, not just a small subset of people who are wealthy and fit enough to bicycle.

  • Anonymous

    ” And every person who bikes/walks instead of drives (and even takes transit) is a win for all of us.” 

    Thanks for exposing the lie of the big, happy, anti-private car family of transit, bike and pedestrian advocates.  When it comes to bicyclists, it’s all about looking out for number one.

  • mikesonn

     “Wealthy enough to bicycle”?

    Come on pchazzz, you can do better than that.

    Also, who says all cyclists speak with one voice? Want to talk about actions louder than words? Today on 3rd Street, the entire length of the BUS ONLY lane was packed with single occupied private vehicles. I think that is drivers saying to transit riders, it’s my road so deal with it. Now, want to talk about who disregards transit? Give me a break.

  • mikesonn

    “Thanks for exposing the lie of the big, happy, anti-private car
    family of transit, bike and pedestrian advocates.  When it comes to
    bicyclists, it’s all about looking out for number one.”

    Says @pchazzz:disqus while hiding behind buses to secure traffic lanes for private autos. This can go on all day.

  • “a small subset of people who are wealthy and fit enough to bicycle.”
    I bet Sean Rea $10 that you weren’t just a troll. Hey Sean – I owe you ten bucks.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, checking prices at Mike’s Bikes, the average price for a road bike is about $700.  Add onto that the cost of a helmet, light, etc., and it’s obvious that bicycling is not for the poor. 

  • mikesonn

    Average cost of a car? You are really trying to make this argument, huh?


  • Anonymous

    @yahoo-5G5LK2SBCUQVSGZQSZY4OE7ZFI:disqus wrote: “but it’s also not much of a corridor and I don’t see a lot of cyclists on this street”

    So how come they build bridges over rivers when I don’t see anybody swimming across them? Bicyclists don’t take this corridor exactly because it’s horrible for their safety. Change that, and they will take it. You got the argument backwards.

    “Ultimately, I think the city’s efforts would be better spent on
    segregating cyclists onto slow streets where cars are discouraged”

    Why not do both? That way, you give cyclists lots of options, which makes it more convenient, which means more people will do it, which makes our city more livable for all. Nobody likes having a huge, freeway-like thoroughfare through their neighborhood (and not just because of the danger, but the noise, pollution, and overall dehumanizing effect it has) anyway, so it’s not like this is being done just for bicyclists. It’s being done to also calm traffic, improve public transit speeds, and make it safer and more pleasant for pedestrians and locals who liver there.

  • Hey, checking prices at Mike’s Bikes, the average price for a road bike is about $700.  Add onto that the cost of a helmet, light, etc., and it’s obvious that bicycling is not for the poor. 
    Whatever, troll

  • Anonymous

    @pchazzz:disqus So you pay $800 for a bicycle that lasts you, what, at least 10 years? Add $100 a year in maintenance, new tires, whatever. So in 10 years, you spend $1800. Let’s call it $2000, or $200 per year.

    How much would you spend on public transit in that time? Muni passes are $74/month. That’s $900 a year. Compare to a bicyclist at $200/year. After walking, bicycling is the cheapest form of transit there is. And of course, there are no externalized costs (even buses still create pollution and run people over, and you don’t get anywhere near as much exercise on a bus as riding a bike).

    And if you really are tight on the budget, you can get a really nice bike on Craigslist for less than half of what you would pay new.

    A well-designed city prioritizes transit in this order: walking, bicycling, public transit, cabs, private autos. This is also the order they fall from cheapest to most expensive (not a coincidence). They all are needed and all complement each other, but to try and say that bicycling is for the wealthy and elite is nonsense.

  • I love comparing average costs of various modes of transportation!  Let’s compare the yearly cost of walking, biking, electric biking, Muni and car ownership, for bikes and cars based on a five-year depreciation schedule and resale after five years. (This is how AAA does it.)

    Walking:  Costs, maybe an extra nice pair of walking shoes.  Let’s say $120/year. Parking costs: $0.

    Muni:  For the average person who buys a fast pass, $768/year.  Seniors and youth, $264/year.  Lifeline pass for the very poor, $384/year. Parking cost: $0.

    Car:  $10,141/year (AAA)  (SUV $12,830/year )  This includes gas, maintenance, tires, insurance, license, registration, taxes, depreciation and finance charges, but doesn’t include costs for parking or tickets.  Even if someone gave you a free car(!) operating costs would be $5749/year.  Parking costs in San Francisco:  $0 – infinity

    Bicycle: let’s choose a very nice new 7-speed Public bicycle (nicer than the bicycle I currently ride!) with a rack, a basket, a helmet, u-lock and front and back lights. ($852) This bike will last at least 10 years, but let’s assume after 5 years you can sell it on craigslist for $200. Let’s assume you’re pathetic like me and need to go to a bike shop for tune-ups, replacing worn parts, fixing flats: $100/year. Annual cost of bike ownership:  $230/year. Parking cost: occasional valet bike parking tips–$15/year.

    Electric Bicycle:  Let’s say you live up a ginormous hill, or you’re not fit, or you’re over 60, or your knees trouble you.  A very nice e-bike will run $2000 and you’ll probably have to replace the battery after 2 and half years for another $600. Your brushless electric motor will easily last ten years. Resale value after 5 years: $1000. Annual maintenance plus occasional part replacement: $150/year.  Annual electricity costs:  $15. Total annual cost of ebike ownership:  $485. Parking costs:  occasional valet biking parking tips–$15/year.

    Walking is the cheapest!  Biking is cheaper even than the cheapest Muni pass!  E-biking is cheaper than a standard fast pass!  Biking is 2% the cost of car ownership!  Biking is 4% the cost of even a free car! A brand new e-bike is 8% of the cost of a free car!

    Biking is 4 – 5 times faster than walking. For distances under 2 miles biking is twice as fast as taking Muni (including walking and wait times.) In the evenings, after Muni frequency reduces substantially, biking is three times as fast taking Muni. For distances between 2 and 4 miles, biking is as fast to 50% faster than Muni. I find e-biking is generally 25% faster than regular biking. E-biking is probably 1/3 the exercise of regular biking (more equivalent to a leisurely walk than a brisk one) but 100% more exercise than riding Muni and 1000% more exercise than car driving.

  • Karen – you just proved pchazzz’ point. Cycling IS for the wealthy and fit – because cycling SAVES YOU MONEY, which makes you wealthy, and cycling IMPROVES YOUR FITNESS.

  • Anonymous

    @murphstahoe:discus definition of a troll:  Anyone who disagrees with me.

  •  Murph, yes, I imagine Benjamin Franklin would’ve adored bicycling because it makes you healthy and wealthy.  I bet there’s even a way to figure out the “wise” bit.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Karen.  That’s a very good analysis. After the initial cost, bicycling is a low cost transportation alternative.  But what about the medical costs and lost wages from bicycling accidents?  The more you bike, the more likely you are to suffer a serious injury. 

  • pchazzz – the argument that cycling is something only for the wealthy is absurd on its face. You only make that argument to drag this discussion into the gutter. That means you are a troll. 

    Now you try to pull up medical costs and lost wages due to bicycling accidents, trolling us to go off and research and find study after study showing the medical costs of automobile accidents, the costs of a sedentary lifestyle, the costs of atmospheric pollution in terms of increased medical problems. You aren’t interested in having a discussion, you are just pulling stuff out of your butt to see if we’ll take the bait and research a refutation.


  • anyone know what software the City is using to do that image up top?

    be cool if it was inexpensive and easy to use.

    and why is finding the City’s Masonic project page so difficult? it seems like it’s on the SFMTA site but not on the Planning Department’s site? Who works on what? I just want to see bigger renderings of that cross-section. 

    And I realized that for that particular pictured intersection, at least, bus stops on both sides of the street are on the right/south side of the street, which means that the northbound buses stop before the intersection instead of after. Por que? I thought this was a no-no.

    But it’s also the reason why bikers are forced to do their slaloming action — there’s just not enough room for two bus bulbs and 4 car/bus/truck traffic lanes without re-routing cyclists. Seems the easy answer is to locate the northbound bus stop to the north/left side of Fulton, after the intersection. 

    What reason would we want to do this current design — with both bus stops on the south/right side of Fulton/Masonic?

    That report, in a section called ‘Traffic Flow,’ says:

    “Boulevard: Full-length planted median to calm traffic”

    where it should say:

    Boulevard: Full-length planted median to speed traffic, make businesses and residences less accessible, inconvenience pedestrians and cyclists, increase maintenance costs, and promote longer driving distances.

    I’m also kind of curious why there are so many trees in a median but not at the edge of the sidewalk.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think so.  I see a lot of white people on expensive bicycles that cost upwards of $1,000 with expensive looking helmets and gear, so bicycling never struck me as affordable.  I truly appreciate Karen’s breaking down the cost and I see that after the entry cost of purchasing a bicycle, it’s not so expensive over time. 

  • Sprague

    With all due respect, Peter Smith, when one speaks about “curing people of their transit-dependence” it sounds like a disregard for those with mobility impairments who are not able to bicycle.  Furthermore, the travel patterns of the Bay Area involve regular transbay trips of distances too great for many to cycle – unless combined with transit.  Efficient and reliable transit benefits all.  I think most cyclists appreciate having the option of riding a bus or train in case of a rainstorm, injury, or a bicycle in need of repair.   Transit is part of the solution for that which both ails our society and our planet. 

  • all due respect, @2c232dd069922070a01c69ae4849c3fa:disqus , but the biggest mobility impairment most people have is the “Evil Traffic Engineers and Community” impairment.

    Instead of designing for the lowest common denominator in terms of physical/mental ability — children, elderly, handicapped, etc. — we design for near the highest common denominator, or just disregard the human-powered-transport factor altogether.

    John Pucher makes a convincing case that we should design for the lowest common denominator — that is, for everyone, and when he says everyone, he means everyone:  
    Well as you can see from the title of my presentation I would like to present to you some ideas of policies and programs that cities in Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark use to promote cycling – to make cycling safe, convenient, attractive and possible for everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.For women, as well as men, for either young for the old for the middle aged for adolescents — even for people to some extent with disabilities to the extent that it’s possible we need to also facilitate cycling for people with disabilities. Various income levels, various degrees of skills.
    Most handicapped people I’ve either met or had any on-the-street/bus/whatever experience with, they don’t want to be coddled – they want to be treated like normal human beings. They don’t like having to have caltrain and crappy buses lower special gates, having a bus driver have to strap them in like they’re little kids, etc. They’re handicapped, not incompetent and/or helpless. The only thing we have to do as a society is make sure they can lead a life of dignity, and it’s not that hard. Like life itself, riding a bike, being a pedestrian, and being handicapped in SF is a life filled with one indignity after another – and we design it that way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
    In fairness, the new corner curb cuts on the new Masonic do not seem as onerous/oppressive/dastardly as typical SF curb cuts, but i’m not convinced they’re anywhere as good as what they could and should be. and this particular design issue is one of the very few for which i don’t have an expert opinion on. most stuff is common sense, but protecting the china from the bull can get complicated sometimes.

    There is the concept of the ‘design cyclist’ (I think that’s the term) in designing bicycle facilities. That is, imagine the person most unlikely to ride a bike in existing conditions, then design your roads specifically to accommodate that person. The thinking is, if you can provide that prototype person with a safe, comfortable, direct, dignified access to their destination via bike, then most people if not everyone will be able to do the same. I heard the design cyclists for the Netherlands was a 53 yo mother with two bags of groceries and a child. She’s probably coming back from the grocery store. Design your bike facilities for that user/those users and you will have successfully accommodated 99.9% of people or more.

    Think of ADA compliance. People had to start spending some money and actually putting some thought into how they designed access to various facilities — restaurants, elevators, bathrooms, ramps, etc. — and the world because a _much_ better place because of it, and not just for handicapped or wheelchair-bound or blind people or whatever — but for _everyone_. We all benefited.
    The main reason we don’t see more handicapped and other folks not out riding is the same reason it’s true for everyone else — we don’t want them out there. As a society, we continue to give them the middle finger. We have to change that.

    And these comments are somewhere cycling-centric, but the lessons apply elsewhere. Imagine how fast/far/easily/conveniently someone in an electric wheelchair could get if we actually designed streets to better accommodate them.

    I mean, people think of cycling as tough. Cycling. And they’re not wrong. Through our wicked ways, we’ve managed to turn the lowest form of energy-consuming transport mode into one that requires intense concentration, skill, and energy output. Brilliant. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Look up BORP, adaptive cycling, universal access, etc.

    Not saying this is you, @sprague:disqus , but in my experience in these comment sections, it’s always the able-bodied folks who are far too willing to treat those with physical limitations as inherently incapable of doing ‘x’. Sometimes it’s genuine belief, but often or mostly, it’s just that they don’t want to take responsibility for their/our efforts – or lack thereof – in designing a malignant transportation system.

    As for the Transbay Bridge, cyclists have been begging to cross it for years. Decades. We’ve said no and continue to say no. Maybe one day we’ll let the roadies ride it. Then maybe commuters. Then maybe everyone else. We’ll see.

    And I didn’t say we had to get rid of transit tomorrow, i said we focus too much on transit (and cars and other motorized transport, of course), instead of focusing on what actually matters most to most people — being able to get around under our own power.

  •  @shmooth:disqus  The odds of a 53-year-old woman having a child small enough to fit on the back of her bike are extremely low.  Otherwise, your points are well taken,

  • In regards to safety, I do hear that as the number one concern about biking from my peer group–women between the ages of 40 and 60. I think this is at least partly due to the fact that to someone in a car, a bicyclist looks extremely vulnerable, but bicycling is much safer than most people realize and there are easy ways to make it even safer.

    As the number of cyclists on the road rises, the absolute number of accidents and fatalities drops, largely due to car drivers expecting and knowing how to interact with bicyclists. The fatality rate for bicyclists per 10 million trips has fallen in the US from 5.1 (in 1977) to 1.8 (in 2008). There is evidence that in New York City, as protected bike lanes are installed the absolute number of injury crashes for all road users– in cars, on bicycle or on foot–typically drops by 40%. Indeed, a study of 24 California cities showed that cities with high bicycling rates have a much lower risk of fatal crashes for all road users as well. In addition, there is evidence that countries with excellent bicycle infrastructure (the Netherlands) have extremely low injury and fatality rates.

    Fatality rate per 10 million trips (2008):
    US auto:  1.36
    US bicycle:  1.8
    Netherlands bicycle: .33

    Note: the Netherlands has extremely low injury bicycle injury and fatalities despite the fact that almost no bicyclists (less than 1%) wear helmets.

    The Netherlands have had an extraordinary reduction in traffic fatalities of all modes in the past 40 years. In the 1970, 3500 people (drivers, car passengers, cyclists, pedestrians) died in traffic accidents. In 2010 only 640 did. (This while their population increased by 27% over the same period of time.)

    If you do bike, there are easy ways to cut your chances of death or injury in half. Ride on streets with bike lanes (significantly safer than streets without bike lanes), ride on streets where lots of other cyclists ride, ride with traffic (riding the wrong way against one-way traffic significantly increases your chances of death), and at night ride with front and back lights (riding at night without a light significantly increases your chances of death.) Also, If you’re really worried about injuries, ride at moderate pace. (Cyclists going over 18 mph are 5 times more likely to receive head injuries than slower riders.)

    A study done by the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in 2010 found that bicycling increases one’s life expectancy through better health by 3 to 14 months, while it reduces one’s life expectancy via the chance of a fatal bicycle accident by only 5 to 9 days. So even in the US with worse bicycle infrastructure and greater chance of a fatal accident, you will live longer bicycling than not bicycling.


  • @KarenLynnAllen:disqus , lol. point taken. i should have said ‘female’ instead of ‘mom’. tho, maybe mom has good genes. maybe mom is “Mighty Mom on a Bike.” maybe mom is actually grandmom. or adoption. maybe kids want to ride in front, bakfiets-style. babysitting. 

    and, if kids are bigger than, what, 7?, we should be able to put them on Masonic and know they’re going to be safe, at least with a parent.

    i was in east bay last night a bit – fremont/newark – what a hole that place is. i thought the west side of the bay/silicon valley was bad – sunnyvale, santa clara, etc. – but the east side is on a whole ‘nother level of wicked. 

    you could stand on one side of a residential street and not see the house on the other side due to the curvature of the earth. (zing/stolen quote from JHK) it’s like the masters of the OC street grid just picked it up and plopped it down in the east bay. there’s seemingly not a single street over there that does not have a raised center median. it’s incredible.

    here’s an FHWA pdf about the “design user”/”design bicyclist”: 

    to me, the design user of our sidewalks should be something like:
    * elderly person
    * very young child
    * non-powered wheelchair user
    * powered wheelchair user

    i’m always skeptical of the safety statistics. we could, in theory at least, have zero deaths and zero serious bike injuries and still have close to zero bike mode share. there’s only ever going to be a very small percentage of the population who voluntarily jumps out of airplanes, no matter how statistically safe it may be. if it doesn’t feel safe, most people won’t sign up to do it.

    if folks want to make the argument that most Americans/San Franciscans don’t bike because we are weak, fearful, cowardly, etc. — that’s an argument i’m willing to let them make.

  • Sprague

    Peter Smith, this comment is in reply to your comment elsewhere in this thread.  Not sure why disqus wouldn’t let me reply directly in the appropriate spot.

    Thank you for your comprehensive response and the link you provided. I am well familiar with BORP. Despite their best abilities, some individuals are unable to operate cycles, no matter how well adapted. And, the range of electric wheelchairs is limited by their batteries. When travelling with wheelchair users for distances greater than about twenty blocks, I am thankful for Muni and its lift equipped buses. The only alternative would be vans. Low floor light rail vehicles do not require any special accomodation, not even a ramp, and they provide virtually everyone with independence.Another advantage of good transit is its accomodation of baby strollers. As any mom or dad the world over will tell you, you don’t want to wake a sleeping baby. The ease of travelling in European cities with their first class transit and pedestrian friendly streets help make them wonderful environments to raise young children. There may be a bicycle attachment as convenient as a stroller (that can be taken into stores, museums, and apartments), but I’m not familiar with it.Until there is a marked improvement in car driver alertness, parents like me will opt to let their eleven year old kids travel by Muni and not by bicycle for most of their independent trips in SF. We need both improved bike infrastructure and better transit.

  • Filamino

    I agree that this is the best design given the constraints of space and costs that Masonic has. This is far from the auto-centric design that Peter Smith posts in his typical anti-car rant. Sidewalks are wide (22′ in some areas), bikes now have their place, transit can pick up/drop off without going in and out of traffic, and yes, cars are part of the equation, can get around the buses when they stop or when another car makes a left turn. Reducing the street to one lane will only spread traffic to the neighborhood streets who will likely disapprove of it. Peter Smith’s rant does nothing move this forward except divide everyone in the city uses Masonic to get from neighborhood to another whatever form of transportation they use.

  • Reducing the street to one lane will only spread traffic to the neighborhood streets who will likely disapprove of it. 
    i’d guess this never happens in any significant numbers. 

    That said, I believe it’s possible to design a street malignantly in a way that Jane Jacobs always advised against — reduce the ability of a road to carry cars just for the sake of it. The most significant form of this today that I can think of is BRT. It just destroys transportation corridors and helps destroy the livability of cities. Nobody is given the option to get around another way – people are still stuck driving or riding the bus. So traffic gets worse, spills over into neighborhoods, etc. But even then, in this worst case scenario, the spillover traffic into neighborhoods is negligible — a person will experiment one time, and then never do it again.

    The new Masonic tho will do a little bit to allow people to get around easier by walking and biking . People are so desperate to walk and bike that even small changes can have a relatively large impact. That impact can, for instance, prevent any increased car traffic through streets that neighbor Masonic.

    Note that Masonic is getting bike lanes because it’s not getting BRT. The BRT folks lost Masonic, but they’ll never stop trying to get it. And they’re intent on capturing the _most_ major avenues of the city – Van Ness, Geary, etc.

    Peter Smith’s rant does nothing [to] move this forward except divide everyone in the city [who] uses Masonic to get from neighborhood to another [with] whatever form of transportation they use.

    That whole “I’m a uniter, not a divider” stuff has always been, and remains, completely meaningless.

  • Anonymous

         “In the last five years, 131 people have been injured on Masonic, and two were killed from 2009 to 2011, according to the SFMTA.”

    “People” covers pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers. Many will read the above sentence as “131 pedestrians have been injured on Masonic,…”. In that case the injury number is incorrect.

    Safety is very important. We’d like to have zero pedestrian injuries and zero deaths on streets.

    SFMTA issues collision reports. Data from 2005-2010 shows there were 12 pedestrian injuries on Masonic Ave between Geary and Fell. The difference between what is written in the article and SFMTA’s data is 119.

    Good job on inflating the number of pedestrian collisions on Masonic by 11 times, from 12 to 131.


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