Friday, July 31, 2009

BIKE NOPA window sign now available

Please post this BIKE NOPA sign in a window facing the street to encourage more bicycling in our neighborhood -- and show your neighbors how many cyclists live and ride in NOPA. Go ahead and post the sign on community bulletin boards too. Basic B&W or any bold background color works.

The only agenda for BIKE NOPA is bike-friendly streets in a more livable neighborhood and city.

Huge thanks to Beth Byrne for her keen designer eye in developing our graphic.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Freedom from Training Wheels

Hey Kids, Get your parents off those training wheels. Here's a safe and easy way to help your kids (or parents) ride their bikes without training wheels. All you need to bring is your bike, a helmet, and a snack to share for for a great early Sunday afternoon. Join the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition in this fun event in Golden Gate Park.

When: Sunday, August 2nd, 1pm to 2:30 pm

Where: JFK Drive, west of Conservatory Drive

Questions: call Neal at SFBC at 415-431-2453 x312. (Heavy rain cancels, just in case)

If you can't make this outing, several others will be offered throughout the summer. Check for upcoming Freedom from Training Wheels opps sponsored by SF Bike Coalition.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Seen While Biking #3

The sun finally appeared this afternoon motivating us to bike into Golden Gate Park via the Panhandle.

BikeManBen took the day off. He often appears beside the Panhandle Path just west of Masonic ready to repair bikes on the spot. (Here's a bit on Ben's mobile bike clinic from Velo Vogue's blog). Say hi to Ben next time he's out.

Instead seven cyclists spread out their wares ....hmmm...for an impromptu bike parts sale. An agreeable bunch with just one suggesting a 5 buck charge per photo.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seen While Biking #2

Great Architecture. Sidewalk Gardens. Blooming Street Trees. NOPA looks pretty good, but sometimes while riding I also see something like this building to the left. Intervention, somebody, please.

Share the Path, Love the Panhandle

Once proposed as an extension of Interstate 80 to cut through Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle Park today calms the city as an oasis between the busy Oak and Fell corridors. Pedestrians, bicyclists, parents with strollers, dog walkers, sun-seekers, tai chi enthusiasts, neighbors and lucky tourists enjoy this leafy flourish every day.

A scan through yelp reviews of the Panhandle Park and path remind us how cherished this strip of park and asphalt is to so many San Franciscans. Bicyclists revere the path as a haven on their daily commute. Lauren W. posted her praise a year ago: "I didn't love the panhandle until I got my bike." Another cyclist extolled the eight block ride in the Panhandle as a huge respite from negotiating the traffic (often speeding) on Fell and Oak.

Sometimes cyclists enjoy the rush of spinning fast on the Panhandle Path as one of the extremely few opportunities in the city to be free of car and bus traffic -- sometimes so much they lose sight that they're travelling a SHARED, MULTIPLE USE PATH with peds having as much right to walk or jog there. The much greater problem are the roadies envisioning themselves as Alberto Contador owning the Tour de France on our humble Panhandle Path. recently highlighted a traffic calming visual* used in London to temper cycle speed on pathways shared with pedestrians. Might this lead to vertigo attacks, infants grabbing the edge of their strollers, and some cyclists actually SLOWING DOWN?

I'm embarrassed that a few cyclists suggest walkers should keep to their own dedicated path on the south side of the Panhandle. That bumpy, cracked, never-maintained strip of aged asphalt should never be wished on anyone who wants a decent, safe walk. It's not suitable for strollers or anyone a little unsure of their footing. Better to suggest that Rec & Park give the southside route a makeover or that a parallel walking path accompany the current shared use strip.

In the meantime, be mindful of others, enjoy the century-old Eucalyptus trees, the cyclists, the peds, the strollers, the picnickers and optimistic sun seekers.

* photo courtesy of Daily Mail UK

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Renegade Bike Striper Strikes Again

First there were the "Keep Clear" stencils and bicyclist-with-antlers icons on Fell Street approaching the ARCO station at Divis. (see July 1st post). Then this past Sunday morning new bike-friendly messages appeared on Oak just east of Divisadero advising motorists (and cyclists) "BIKES ONLY" in the outer lane and the cyclist icon sports a distinctive unicorn look.

A prankster with a message? A distraction for drivers?

For bicyclists in NOPA the few blocks of Oak Street between Baker and Scott provide a crucial link for east-bound travel. Slalom through these risky blocks and reach relative safety turning right on Scott and ride the Wiggle, the much-loved, much-used bike route connection between NOPA, Duboce Triangle, Market Street and the Mission.

Motorists sometimes get annoyed when cyclists take the full lane on Oak Street to get to the Wiggle. Why don't bikers share the road here? One big reason: getting doored. Motorists all too often open car doors, after parking, without checking oncoming bike traffic. The only way cyclists can avoid door collisions, is to travel outside the door zone even if that means in the center of a busy traffic lane. No renegade action here. State law grants full use of the lane to cyclists.*

Not many Oak Street motorists are likely to yield the full lane to cyclists even with the new, temporary striping. But over on Fell Street, I noticed on Saturday that a driver pulled away from the bike lane back into the traffic lane to await the next open slot at ARCO. Sometimes even pranksters get a safety message across.

* Calif State Vehicle Code, Div. 11, Ch.1, Article 4, 21202.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pedaling Revolution

Book cover: A cyclist waving a huge red flag....(Bicyclists really are up to something!)

Book Title: Pedaling Revolution

Book sub-title (today all books have sub-titles):
How Cyclists are Changing American Cities.

Author: Jeff Mapes, senior political correspondent for The Oregonian in Portland

Cover art: David Drummond

Disclosure: I hope this artist designs my book cover.
Full disclosure: I may get a book contract with this same publisher.

I haven't read many "bike culture" books; actually this is my
first and I'm glad I started with it. The author combines an intriguing mix of reports on making our cities more interesting and livable along with doses of bicycling history and advocacy. He also helps us dream about how things could be someday in San Francisco with accounts of walking and bicycling safely in Amsterdam, New York, Davis, and Portland.

When he's not bicycling, Mapes makes a living by reporting on politics in Portland and beyond. He has a good eye for the quirks and inconsistencies in policy making, and he describes well the interplay of interests when something like a new bike lane is proposed.

My friends in Portland complain about the endless rounds of meetings and hearings required to get anything done in the city. (San Francisco doesn't have a monopoly on this?) So how does Portland move through that tortuous process and still reach the Platinum level -- the very highest pinnacle -- for Bicycle Friendly Community? Mapes gives an insider view.

Mapes recently appeared in San Francisco before a SRO audience at Green Arcade Bookstore to read from Pedaling Revolution. There's a lot of buzz about this book, especially after David Byrne reviewed it for the New York Times.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bike Parking in NOPA

Bicyclists have to be creative when it comes to parking. Until the city installs more bike racks, we make do with makeshift structures, often cluttering the sidewalks and sometimes obstructing pedestrians. Here's some coping strategies in NOPA.

Before Concrete, Before Asphalt

A quick bike ride east of Divisadero yesterday revealed some usually hidden history: paving stones. With the repaving underway on McAllister and a few side streets, I found on one block of Pierce Street large blocks of stone previously used for the street surface exposed with the concrete and asphalt usually covering them removed. Today we complain about potholes but earlier residents in these "Outer Lands" coped with some very bumpy rides.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No One Likes This

The Fell Street entry to the ARCO station at Divis is a hazard for everyone: pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. To queue in line and get out of the traffic lane, motorists straddle the sidewalk or the bike lane. With more than 2 or 3 vehicles waiting, a full traffic lane on Fell is obstructed with drivers either stuck or dodging into the right lanes as vehicles rush the light at Divis. No one is particularly safe but the more vulnerable -- pedestrians and cyclists -- get stuck with the greater risks. (For cyclists to move into the traffic lanes to the right is seldom safe given the speed of motorists).

Sunday morning a few independent-minded cyclists* tried to get the message to motorists by adding stencils in the bike lane, with a bit of whimsy. The unapproved "Keep Clear" warnings are accompanied by a modified cyclist icon sprouting antlers. The city expects to paint their own messages (the same words and icon minus the antlers) sometime soon. That's sure to work! See the photos taken this afternoon: situation the same as any other day.

To alleviate a similar situation on Masonic -- the backed-up vehicle access to Trader Joe's -- the city finally changed the parking lane into a holding lane for vehicles. Parking spots were given over to a safer street. And, yes, another solution is to rely less on cars, especially for the short trips around town.

Update: As of July 23, the "KEEP CLEAR" stencils have been painted over by the MTA (but the cyclist with antlers remains). The city has indicated an intent to stripe official similar some point.

A Smoother McAllister

Relief on McAllister Street.
McAllister Street is the most direct route to and from NOPA and the Civic Center and
Market St., but the prolongued utility construction on this corridor east of Divisadero has made biking difficult and risky. Today contractors began "mill and fill" operations (removing old asphalt and replacing with new), and the result should be a big help for a smoother safer ride.

Why only the north lanes? If utilities tear up more than 25% of a lane, they must repave the complete lane when work concludes. (But they're not required to do the same for the other lane). For McAllister that means much of the north lane will be repaved but not the south. The exceptions, so far, are the blocks between Divisadero and Steiner. Both lanes were torn up, so both get resurfaced.

NOPA Play Blocks

Not many kids ride bikes on NOPA streets.
Could they safely ride through the neighborhood if they wanted to? Are there any blocks that parents feel are safe for their kids to bike?
Last night I had the chance to talk about scheduled car-free days for neighborhood streets with Susan King, a Cole Valley resident who works for Walk SF, the pedestrian advocacy group. She also coordinates "Sunday Streets," the exuberant car-free days celebrated on selected streets throughout the city this summer. (This Sunday take a walk or bike through the Mission, and experience Dolores, Valencia, and 24th Streets in a completely different way!)

Fortified with a Green Chile Kitchen dinner special, Susan explained her vision for a series of summer afternoons that offered car-free blocks open for play with kids biking, everyone walking, maybe a garage sale, perhaps a barbecue, etc. Very much like NOPNA's annual block party and the Golden Gate Neighbors' July 4th celebration. But more often and in several neighborhoods. Susan imagines something like the Open Studios where San Franciscans get to see great art and visit with artists where they work in specific neighborhoods. In this case, people could bike or walk to different play blocks close-by.

What about traffic and parking? We seem to manage in NOPA with the street closures without great inconvenience now -- when Bay to Breakers removed parking from Fell, only a handful of motorists used the free and open DMV parking lot as an alternative. And let's consider the question, Do we want our kids to have safe streets for bicycling in NOPA, ever?

What NOPA blocks are best suited to be play blocks? Probably blocks without a MUNI line that aren't too steep and don't have too much traffic. That eliminates Fell, Hayes, Fulton, McAllister, Turk, Divisadero and Masonic and the upper blocks of our north/south streets. Grove and Golden Gate pop out as options along with parts of Broderick, Baker, Lyon and Central.

Perhaps NOPNA's parents group would be interested in securing more opportunities for their kids to literally play in the streets. Susan King has offered to help with the planning and getting city permits.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Seen While Biking #1

One of the things I like best about biking through NOPA is the chance to see so many architectural and decorative details on our streets.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

NOPA's Bumpy Streets, Part One

Bicyclists and motorists know our city streets are mostly in a sorry state with potholes, cracks, utility cuts, and all sorts of surface hazards. San Francisco streets average a score of 64 on a scale of 1 to 100. That 64 hovers between pavement that requires a preventative treatment (filling cracks and seams and repairing potholes) and those surfaces that are so degraded from wear that they sorely need resurfacing or more fundamental reconstruction.

How do the 30 square blocks* of NOPA fare in the distressed pavement world? Our street surfaces are worse than you might expect:
  • 24% of our blocks require major repair or reconstruction now.
  • 43% of our blocks need resurfacing before they worsen.
  • 20% of our blocks need preventative repairs before they degrade further.
  • 13% of our blocks are fine for now (due to recent re-surfacing mostly)
With the first two categories combined, fully two-thirds of our blocks need basic and extensive make-overs.

How does your NOPA block rate?
Check the three basic categories below. Note that blocks on the San Francisco Paving Database map (scroll to page 31 for the map) are grouped by color and correspond to the degree of wear and tear of the surfaces (aka Pavement Condition Index scores):
  • Red = 0 - 49 These blocks need reconstruction and/or major repairs.
  • Blue = 50 - 63 These blocks can get by with resurfacing.
  • Green = 64 - 84 Preventative work can extend the life of these surfaces.
NOPA's RED Blocks: 24% of total 71 blocks need reconstruction or other major repair
Divisadero All 6 blocks, Fell to Turk, seriously degraded condition.
Broderick Fulton to McAllister
Central Grove to McAllister
Masonic Fell to Hayes and Grove to McAllister
Hayes Central to Baker and Broderick to Divisadero
Fulton Masonic to Central and Broderick to Divisadero

NOPA's BLUE Blocks: 43% of total 71 blocks need resurfacing
Masonic Hayes to Grove and McAllister to Turk
Central Hayes to Grove and Golden Gate to Turk
Lyon Fell to Golden Gate
Baker Grove to Turk
Broderick Fell to Grove and McAllister to Turk
Hayes Masonic to Central and Baker to Broderick
Grove Central to Baker
Fulton Central to Broderick
McAllister Masonic to Baker
Golden Gate Masonic to Baker

NOPA's Green Blocks: 14% of total 71 blocks need preventative treatments
Central Fell to Hayes and McAllister to Golden Gate
Lyon Golden Gate to Turk
Baker Fell to Hayes
Fell Lyon to Divisadero
Grove Masonic to Central and Baker to Broderick
McAllister Baker to Divisadero
Golden Gate Central to Lyon
Turk Baker to Divisadero

What does this mean?
NOPA streets are not in imminent danger of catastrophe -- although we get occasional sinkholes. But NOPA has a signficant number of blocks that are more rapidly deteriorating due to delayed maintenance, and the cost of repairing these increases exponentially if delayed too long. For example, a block with a score of 50 can be repaved for about $95,000, but allow that block to deteriorate to below 25, and the cost could soar to $430,000, according to the SF Department of Public Works.

How do NOPA streets compare with those in other neighborhoods?
Check the city paving map to view NOPA blocks and those of other neighborhoods.

Please post your own observations here about NOPA's streets or comparisons with other neighborhoods.

If you check the site for the map, you might notice it is part of a report on a Safe Streets Bond measure that the city is expected to place on the ballot in November. More on that in an upcoming post.

Remember: potholes can be reported to 311 online or call 311. All you need to provide is the street and the cross street and, if possible, the nearby address.

* For this analysis, I'm looking at the area defined by Masonic and Divisadero, Fell and Turk; this is a 30 block area with 71 separate blocks.

Coming up in Part Two: Which NOPA streets are scheduled for repaving and when?