Open Letter to Mayor Breed: Who’s Going to Be Fired?

SFMTA 'stages' buses in new Chase Center bike lanes, endangering lives and directly violating Mayor Breed's order. So what's going to be done about it?

Someone decided to "stage" SFMTA buses in the bike lane. Who was it? And when will they be shown the door? Photo: from Kyle Grochmal's twitter
Someone decided to "stage" SFMTA buses in the bike lane. Who was it? And when will they be shown the door? Photo: from Kyle Grochmal's twitter

“City vehicles should never block the pedestrian right-of-way or bicycle lanes,” Mayor Breed’s directive, Aug. 29, 2019.

To the Honorable Mayor London Breed:

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to Vision Zero, the city’s promise to end fatalities and serious injuries on our city streets. You’ve given great speeches and continually affirmed your dedication to this goal.

We believe you are sincere.

But, as you know, we’ve had 22 fatalities already this year. Our city’s policies simply aren’t working. Officials and advocates seem to rarely talk about the deadline to achieve zero traffic deaths by 2024 anymore, since it’s obvious we’re not going to make it without serious and immediate change.

But we can do it, and here is a test for you.

You recently gave an order on safety. Here it is again, from your office’s official press release:

“Mayor Breed has directed City departments to model safe habits on our street and has established guidelines that, unless responding to an emergency, City vehicles should never block the pedestrian right-of-way or bicycle lanes.” [emphasis added]

That’s not ambiguous. It also reaffirms existing law: it’s illegal (with a few exceptions) and dangerous to block a bike lane.

And then this happened Wednesday evening:

Thank you, Kyle Grochmal, for your tireless activism. But no thank you, SFMTA, for this response:

Talk about missing the point.

Whoever signed off on using bike lanes as a staging area for buses has to go. It wasn’t the agency that let this happen. It wasn’t a computer program. It was a city employee. And when a public employee ignores your directive and sh*ts on Vision Zero, they need to go.

Mayor Breed, you sacked SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin for failing to get the agency to shape up. Reiskin wasn’t the only culprit. You can’t fire all of them, but you also don’t need to. You just have to send a clear message that if a city employee disobeys your directives and disregards the safety of the public, as they often do, then proceedings will begin the next day to terminate that employee.

If you don’t act, you send a message that safety, as well as complying with your directives, are optional.

Sincerely,

Streetsblog San Francisco

  • “Who’s Going to Be Fired?” is pretty extreme for the very first event, don’t you think?

    Out of anger, you might fire the wrong person.

    I see a more productive process might potentially go something like:

    1. “OK SFMTA point person on the matter, WTF do you think went wrong, and what are you doing about it?”

    2. With whatever extra PCO and Muni staffing – and the supervisors on hand with the authority to immediately respond to any situation endangering cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists at the next few events – have you identified patterns? Asking, at each event’s post-mortem, “It might be early, but any insights into long term fixes?”

    3. If the patterns which emerge aren’t quickly dealt with (we only need a second data point here) but not so quickly and reactionary with just extra staffing that will slack off over time and no infrastructural changes, then you figure out both who’s responsible, and what’s going wrong.

  • Andy Chow

    It may have been that a bike lane there isn’t appropriate at all or just at that moment. If the buses are going to load and unload there, you can’t have the passengers to cross the cyclists riding at higher speed.

  • mx

    The issue for me is that, of the dozens of staff on-site that night, nobody apparently said “this is wrong and we need to fix it.” In and of itself, well that’s why there are tests like this one was, and I understand that the Mayor’s office is aware of this incident and working on it.

    But there’s a broader context, which is years of watching city workers, including SFMTA employees and SFPD officers at every level, who think nothing of ignoring blocked bike lanes and sidewalks all over the city. DPT cruises past cars in bike lanes so they can write more street cleaning tickets, while SFPD, aside from the handful of Traffic Company officers on duty at any given time for the whole city, largely ignores even egregious illegal turns and unsafe driving let alone double parking. I recently found the bike lane on Howard at Moscone completely blocked by five giant catering vans, with a DPT employee standing by doing nothing. I had to repeatedly implore him to even get him to turn his head in the right direction, and even then he only said the vans would be cited, not made to move. And this was the very city employee assigned to that exact location to ensure the safe and unobstructed flow of traffic and pedestrians.

    I’m not worried that something went wrong at this spot Wednesday night, because that’s hopefully solvable. I’m worried the people responsible for transportation and enforcement in this city don’t even consider this a problem, that SFMTA and DPT staff have so little regard for Vision Zero that they ignore unsafe conditions and actively create hazards. That’s the pattern, and it’s already been identified all over the city.

    And the lanes need to actually be protected.

  • Steve Lax

    The persons responsible are long gone. They are the ones that designed/approved the design of the Chase Center without giving thought to how buses, both public and charter, would serve the facility, including an off-street staging/loading area.

  • Victoria Fierce

    MUNI has an entire department that manages service reroutes for protests, matches, parades, emergencies, whatever. They, and many other people in the organization, are charged with adapting service to reality, and the reality is there’s a bike lane and it’s illegal to park a bus in it. When the area was planned, it was implied that MUNI would not be violating the law.

  • sf in sf

    Did you watch the video? When you realize it’s not just one bus, and see just how serious of an obstruction this is, it’s not that extreme of a reaction.

  • JustJake

    Perhaps circle back to the point that “vision zero” is and always has been a PR program/campaign. Evidently, one that allows pundits to opine on the outrage that it is indeed, a PR campaign.

  • Bruce

    This happened again at last night’s Metallica/SF Symphony concert.
    When I asked a Muni supervisor why, he said “the street is blocked off to car traffic” (which it was) and so it didn’t matter where the buses parked.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/329613c94afb88c27da72659d526aa587b7ee05ebb5f1b010f07426dd347075c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f1a3d7af6a093b266161e1ccfd6ddbcd24f523f300979bb036729793ab817bf9.jpg

  • Kim Mizono-Scott

    I am going to stick up for SFMTA/MUNI. Did ANY of you stop to think that the earlier power outage had anything to do with this change?! Let’s see… I count ZERO! The SFMTA has put in a ton of work and thought into this project. With their main focus on delivering the best service to the public and safely. All the while, they are making sure to make it pretty hard and very expensive to drive and park a car down there. All efforts including Chase Center parking garages are OFF limits to the public and UCSF has also joined in that effort.
    All of you who are so quick to point the finger at someone, should remember this – “When you point a finger at someone, take a look and notice you are pointing three back at yourself.”
    I agree, SFMTA could have possibly found a safer spot to park the buses (temporarily). Yes they could have had some supervisors down there explaining the reasons. They could do a lot of things and so can YOU.
    San Francisco has the BEST transportation system in the Bay Area, in the State, let’s go with: In the Nation. Let us all remember, we, they, us are not playing with Hot Wheels, Matchbox or Tonka Toys. Without the operators, the sign shop, signal shop, DPT, security, bus/rail maintenance, operations, employee volunteers and the rest of SFMTA, the first event would have been a traffic nightmare of the century. We touch every person who rides a bike, takes a bus or train, drives, or walks in SF and we do it 24hours,7days, 365 days! WE NEVER STOP RUNNING, there is always a bus, train, taxi, bicycle, etc. to get YOU to your destination.
    So next time you find something appalling, illegal, or just plain wrong with what SFMTA/MUNI is doing, please let us know so we can fix it, but at the same time – Maybe you could help us? The person at Streetblog and Kyle Grochmal should apply for the DOT position, or any open position within the SFMTA? Did you go and look for a Parking Control Officer to point out the danger? Did you go look for a police officer to find out the reason? Or anyone else that COULD have or MIGHT been able to explain this? Just maybe if you went to ask a PCO who their supervisor was and told them, they could have put in a call to alert the correct staff, and maybe had ALL those buses moved until the event was over. Mindset should be PRO-active instead of RE-active.

  • Shades of Mayor Newsom’s “museum bus” pet project. SFMTA had it staged every day for years from the Howard Street bike lane where it waited between it’s largely empty runs. Why wouldn’t they? Cyclists? Huh? Hard to change the culture of an organization.

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