Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fell, Oak Streets SFgo Signs Are Down and Out

From this ....on Fell Street

to this...all that remains of Fell Street Sfgo sign

Early Saturday morning the SFMTA removed the much-maligned SFgo "freeway-style signs" from Fell and Oak Streets near Divisadero. A contracting firm lifted, dismantled, and drove the sign standards to storage at the City Yard on Rankin Street. Neighbors in the North Panhandle and Alamo Square districts strongly objected to the placement of the "message display boards" (SFMTA's preferred description) nearly as soon as they were erected last summer, as noted in this first SFgo post last August. NOPNA and Alamo Square Neighborhood Association (ASNA) representatives worked with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's office and with SFMTA Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck and his staff to negotiate the removal of the SFgo signs.

"This is a great day for the neighborhood," cheered former NOPNA President Leela Gill when told of the sign removal Saturday morning. Gill and many other neighbors objected to the SFgo posts for several reasons as outlined in previous BIKE NOPA posts. Residents felt the design of the signs -- so similar to freeway message boards, if not the same size -- would give drivers one more visual cue that fast driving is expected. Others also felt the signs were completely counter to the revitalization of the Divisadero Corridor still underway through the neighborhoods. Most recently, the city capped the street lights along Divisadero to give a softer glow and more attractive look -- in stark contrast to the previous cobra-head design lights and the SFgo standards as well.

The Oak Street sign was abandoned by SFMTA relatively early during the protests, but the Fell Street sign was erected partly to advise motorists heading toward Golden Gate Park museums when the Concourse Authority garage is full. Inner Sunset residents have been frustrated by the traffic congestion as museum-goers sought street parking in their neighborhood. Supervisor Mirkarimi's office expects to negotiate a plan involving SFMTA, the neighborhood associations, and representatives from the Concourse Authority, the Academy of Sciences, and the deYoung Museum to place an experimental, portable street-level message board to advise motorists where to seek alternative parking when the Concourse garage is full.

A personal note: Thank you to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and his aides Vallie Brown and Jeremy Pollock for their research, receptivity to the neighborhoods, and persuasion with SFMTA on the SFgo issue. Thanks also to SFMTA staff: Jack Fleck and SFgo Program Manager Cheryl Liu and Assistant Manager Cathal Hennessey for their responsiveness and willingness to find alternative solutions. And, most importantly, to everyone from the Alamo Square and North Panhandle neighborhoods who signed petitions, attended meetings, and sent emails to have the SFgo signs removed. Much appreciation to this morning's "eyes on the street", Christian Nguyen, who alerted BIKE NOPA of the SFgo action.

Friday, February 26, 2010

NOPA VELO's "Duel by Death" All Over NOPA

This Sunday, Feb. 28th, NOPA VELO spins through the neighborhood and beyond for its second monthly bike ride for neighbors and friends. "Death by Duel" gives a nod to U.S. Senator David Broderick who gave his name to one of NOPA's streets ... and, yes, his life also to keep slavery out of California or, the less heroic version of his story, to settle a personal score with his one-time best friend, David S. Terry, California Supreme Court Justice. More details here on that deadly and explosive spat.

After a meet up at Matching Half Cafe, NOPA VELO riders spin a block to Broderick Street, tip our helmets to NOPA's own "Painted Ladies" and then glide into the Panhandle and through Golden Gate Park to the Great Highway. We'll ride south on the interior street, not the highway, and keep going to the shores of Lake Merced, the site of the infamous Broderick-Terry duel to the death. Expect a re-enactment with last month's Ranger Dale taking on the role of a U.S. Senator and Rick Helf, designer of NOPA VELO's outstanding posters, transforming himself into a Supreme (Court Justice).

We'll roll along the east side of the lake and head back to Golden Gate Park until we reach our drinks and lunch destination at Bistro Gambrinus. Everyone welcome. Kids with their own bikes and in the company of an adult guardian, please join us. A flat, easy ride for all with a cafe break and lake shore stop in the middle. Sunshine expected. Legislative and judicial attire optional.

Sunday, Feb. 28th
9:30 am meet at Matching Half Cafe, corner of McAllister and Baker Streets
10:00 am kick-off
12:00 noon or a bit after: drinks and lunch at Bistro Gambrinus, 1813 Fulton near Masonic
Questions: Lenore at or 415 300 6744.

One Very Good Reason to Keep Fell & Masonic Crossing Safe

SFBC hits the rush hour on the Panhandle Path to urge more SFPD enforcement

Every bicyclist, pedestrian, and motorist who crossed or traveled through the Fell and Masonic intersection late Thursday afternoon deserved safe passage, but one in particular caught my attention. Declan, a young NOPA resident, was out with his dad for a good spin on his Skuut along the Panhandle Path, including using the crosswalk at Masonic. He managed the crossing quite well.

For Declan's safety and for that of all bicyclists and pedestrians using the crosswalk, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition set up a "streetside outreach" station at the corner of Fell and Masonic late Thursday afternoon. SFBC has urged the SF Police Department to increase enforcement with ticketing of red light running, especially for drivers turning left from Fell onto Masonic against the light. Dozens of bicyclists signed a petition requesting such action from SFPD.

Cheryl Brinkman, an SFBC volunteer at the station, believes it's important to remind people to keep making this intersection a safety priority. "For myself, I watch like a hawk for cars making illegal turns when I cross through here," she said. NOPA resident Rose Johnson reported that she has problems with red light runners "all the time" at this location.

As reported earlier in BIKE NOPA, SFPD Park Station launched a special Task Force of motorcycle officers this week to monitor the district's most dangerous intersections.
Last weekend Captain Teresa Barrett said Park Station officers ticketed 13 motorists and one bicyclist for running red lights at the Fell and Masonic intersection.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Steiner Street on the Wiggle NOW Safer

Seth Fischer is all for a smoother, safer Steiner Street on his commute

Surprise for cyclists turning northbound on Steiner from Duboce

One smooth 1/2 block; the southbound lane still needs work

This is why SFBC Good Roads Campaign blew the whistle on unsafe surface

Seth Fischer knows a smooth surface and that's what he got Thursday morning for his regular Wiggle spin from Duboce and northbound on Steiner. This stretch between Duboce and Herman has been one eyesore and hazard for some time. The Department of Public Works (DPW) has filled hole upon hole here in the past, but after the rains and especially the SFPUC/Water Department's construction on the south side of the street, only one option remained. Grind it out and add new smooth asphalt.

Neal Patel, Community Planner for the SF Bicycle Coalition, might have been the first to fully appreciate the change in the surface. Last night his ride on Steiner brought one huge smile from the just-completed paving. Just last week he was on the block with DPW reps urging quick action for the street defects. "As soon as the rain stopped enough for them to get out there, work crews took care of the problem," Patel said, "and they did a great job."

So, cyclists, enjoy the northbound lane, and here's the story on the bumpy utility trench work on Steiner southbound from Waller to Duboce. SFBC is also pushing for this work to be either re-applied or smoothed out by some other means as soon as possible. DPW managers are working with SFPUC to address the problem. Normally if utility work involves a cut that is 25% or longer of the given block, the full length of the block from curb to mid-point needs to be repaved. In this case, the city allowed a waiver since these blocks are due to be re-paved curb-to-curb after August 1st of this year. Budgets are tight, and SFBC volunteers* report just the real hazards to the city, not the regular inconveniences of the road. Given the huge amount of bicycle traffic that the Wiggle gets everyday, a wait of seven months or more seemed unwise for either the cyclists or the city's liability status.

This morning I also walked the block of Sanchez south of Duboce. Cyclists know how bad this block has been as well. A neighbor and homeowner from that block stopped by to chat -- and complain about the terrible street surface SFPUC left in its wake once they believed construction was done. After he heard about SFBC's efforts to get these streets smoothed, he smiled and said, "It's great to work on these problems as a community together; I really appreciate that the bike coalition is working on this." He also said he was going to get his neighbors to call 311 requesting a better pavement job.

*Full disclosure: Along with several other volunteers, I am a member of the SFBC Good Roads Crew.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How We Talk About How We Travel: Vehicles Don't Injure, Motorists Do

Motorist, not Car, Claims Life of S.F. Pedestrian

Errant vehicles seem to be barreling and bumping along San Francisco streets injuring and killing pedestrians and bicyclists, at least according to much of the local media. Consider these reports from the last two days alone:
  • "A woman was seriously injured when she was struck by a vehicle on San Francisco's Mission Street early Tuesday morning." KCBS News report, Feb. 24, 2010
  • "A teenager was hit by a pickup truck in the Sunset district this morning and was transported to a hospital." report, Feb. 24, 2010
  • "A pedestrian running to catch a bus was seriously injured this afternoon when he apparently tripped and the bus ran over him." ABC7News report, Feb. 23, 2010
In these cases, the car, the truck, and the bus were operated by individuals; the vehicles were not running amuck of their own accord. A motorist, a truck driver, and a bus operator struck or ran over pedestrians and seriously injured them.

One or other of the parties may bear all or some of the responsibility when a collision occurs, but the individual operating the vehicle nevertheless was the one who struck and injured the non-motorist. Granted, reporters sometimes refer to the driver in follow-up sentences or paragraphs but the first impression and the emphasis is on the vehicle.

(It's the same for bicyclists who sometimes -- but not as often as many people think -- hit and injure pedestrians on the street or sidewalk. Whatever the right-of-way issue in these cases, the person on the bike hit the person on the street or on the sidewalk).

There's no need to argue about the "politically correct" way to describe collisions that disrupt lives, cause injury and sometimes kill other road-users. The issue is not correctness. The concern is the tendency to not hold motorists responsible for what they do with their vehicles. The goal proposed here is not to "police" news reports or deprive editors of their brief headlines. The intent is to describe accurately what occurs -- "motorist hits pedestrian."

Last September the collision that killed a young woman on a North Panhandle street was reported by the with this headline: "Car Claims Life of San Francisco Pedestrian." No, a 19-year-old man struck and killed the young woman on the street.

5:30 pm addition: Sometimes pedestrians have "accidents" that apparently don't even involve vehicles, as sfist noted about the South of Market collision cited first in the list above. That blog's headline reads: "SOMA Pedestrian Accident Blocks Mission Street." In the brief article that follows there's not even a mention of a vehicle or a driver involved.

Monday, February 22, 2010

SFPD Park Station Issues 14 Citations for Red-Light Running over the Weekend at Fell and Masonic

Pedestrians and cyclists crossing Masonic with green light; the motorist....

SFPD Park Station officers cited 13 motorists and one bicyclist for running red lights at the Fell and Masonic intersection over last weekend. Captain Teresa Barrett told BIKE NOPA this morning that eight of the thirteen motorists were ticketed for running the red left turn signal from Fell onto Masonic.

"These were regular officers," Barrett explained, "I decided to do this now even before a Task Force starts regular monitoring of dangerous intersections in the district." Barrett had earlier described the Task Force as a joint effort with Northern Station to cite drivers for running red lights. The officers will also set up pedestrian stings to ticket drivers who fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Although several intersections in Park District will be watched, Fell and Masonic will remain a priority location. Barrett said up to seven motorcycle officers will be part of the Task Force, and that it will begin this week.

Captain Barrett agreed with the idea that Fell and Masonic should get "a bad rep" among drivers as a location where red light runners are frequently ticketed. Extra enforcement can help accomplish that, she said, but installing a red light camera there might do even more. "The camera is a pretty powerful tool to make people aware of the surveillance," Barrett said. Jack Fleck, Transportation Engineer for the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), told NOPA residents last September that a red light camera would be installed at the intersection.

Captain Barrett said she also agreed with a reader's suggestion, posted on BIKE NOPA, that the traffic signals for westbound Fell Street traffic should be adjusted to remain red throughout the period that pedestrians and bicyclists are using the east-west crosswalks on Masonic. The current signal operation gives westbound motorists a green light while drivers wanting to turn left onto Masonic receive a red light. Several motorists have stated that the combination of a red and a green light is confusing and may lead to the illegal left turns.

One week earlier, as reported here, a taxi driver hit and injured a bicyclist after allegedly running this same red turn signal. Although the injured bicyclist and the taxi driver disagreed over who had the right-of-way, two independent witnesses (a driver and a passenger) told an SFPD officer on the site that they were certain the cyclist had a solid green light at the time of the collision. Nevertheless, the SFPD officer at the scene did not recommend a citation for the taxi driver. The officer told BIKE NOPA the day following the collision that there were conflicting reports and it was unclear that the cyclist had the right-of-way. Without a request noted on the incident report that a citation is merited, the SFPD Traffic Investigation unit seldom does more than file the report for insurance purposes -- especially in non-fatality cases -- according to officers who I spoke with after the collision occurred.

The increased SFPD enforcement comes at a time of heightened concern about making Masonic Avenue a safer corridor for all users. This Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 pm the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition will conduct "streetside outreach" at Fell and Masonic to inform bicyclists of efforts to increase safety at the crosswalk that links the Panhandle Path. Last week SFBC posted on its website an announcement that it was "ramping up a campaign to push the San Francisco Police Department to step up their officer education over cyclist rights and increase enforcement city-wide to make sure cyclists and pedestrians are safe."

In addition to the hazards at Fell and Masonic, bicycle advocates are concerned that some SFPD officers are uninformed or are misinterpreting laws that permit bicyclists to use city streets. Last week a NOPA bicyclist and resident informed several organizations and individuals that she had been harassed by an SFPD motorcycle officer while biking on Golden Gate Avenue near Van Ness Avenue. The officer reportedly told her via loudspeaker that she did not belong in the traffic lane. The California Vehicle Code permits bicyclists "full use of the lane" when a bicycle lane is not available.

Update, 2:30 p.m. A comment from Marc Caswell, Project Manager for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition: "Captain Barrett's quick response is a great sign, and we are very happy the Park Station is taking the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists so seriously. Hopefully, we can find a way to institutionalize these behaviors throughout the entire SFPD in every neighborhood and district."

NOPA's "Negative Spaces" Showcased in Light Installation: Artist to Reveal Hidden Features of Local Victorians

Photos by Tanu Sankalia of light installation test run last May

Golden Gate Avenue by a different light

Slots that define our neighborhood as much as the famous facades

"You Will Never See NOPA In The Same Way," according to a University of San Francisco press release announcing a unique art installation scheduled for later this week. Elaine Buckholtz, a Bay Area artist, will bring her vision and facility for revealing what is hidden in plain sight to Golden Gate Avenue in NOPA on Thursday and Friday evenings, February 25 and 26. Once the sky darkens the street, Buckholtz will shift viewers' gaze from the familiar facades to the seldom noticed spaces, "the slots," between the elegant structures. The buildings are located on the north side of the street between Lyon and Baker at 1906 to 1914 Golden Gate.

From 5:30 to 8 pm on both evenings, the "light-sculpted interstitial space" between the Victorians will be revealed. The staging will "foreground" the "geometry of negative space, revealing forms that are unnoticed by day." Buckholtz describes these largely unappreciated areas hedged between Victorians as "the smallest discernable spatial units of the city" that are repeated along rows of the Victorians on North Panhandle streets. She asserts that "the repetition of these spaces ... produces a pattern that is equally as intrinsic and unique to this neighborhood's urban form as the Victorians themselves."

As a light designer and installation artist, Buckholtz has distinguished herself with work throughout Europe and the Bay Area. She currently teaches at Stanford University. The University of San Francisco is sponsoring the light installation in coordination with the institution's Thacher Gallery. The on-the-street exhibit complements the on-campus show, "The Urban Unseen: Examining San Francisco's Interstitial Spaces," free and open to the public from February 21 to April 25 in the Gleeson Library/Geschke Center, 2130 Fulton Street at Parker Street. Tanu Sankalia conceptualized and curated the exhibition. An artist panel and reception are scheduled for Thursday, February 25 at the university. "All Over Coffee" artist Paul Madonna will also present his architecturally detailed work. Information here and at (415) 422-5178, A special thanks to NOPA neighbor Purvi Sahu for alerting BIKE NOPA to this special neighborhood event.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

NOPA In Pink

A huge thank you to all the neighbors who planted pink during the several tree planting efforts by NOPNA and Friends of the Urban Forest in years past. What's your favorite pink block at this time of year? Lyon between Fulton and Grove? Grove between Lyon and Baker? Or perhaps one special tree?

Friday, February 19, 2010

NOPA VELO Draws On Death-by-Duel Drama: Second Ride Set for February 28

Design by Rick Helf

NOPA VELO, the North Panhandle's much buzzed-about bicycling group for neighbors and friends, is geared up and ready for its second ride. More than 35 cyclists helped NOPA VELO launch its first outing, the wondrous Patty/Tania Hearst / Presidio tour. Organizers invite everyone to return for a trip just as memorable. Newcomers are definitely welcome.

On Sunday, February 28th NOPA VELO cyclists will meet at the Matching Half Cafe to get charged up and primed for the dastardly "Death-by-Duel" dash down the coast. Each month the group delves into the neighborhood's vast and arcane "NOPA Lore" to define its ride and determine its destination.

On the last day of February, VELO vibs spin their wheels in memory of the last days of David C. Broderick, the U.S. Senator from California who was shot and killed in a duel by a California Supreme Court Justice in 1859. Both Broderick and David S.Terry were Democrats, but they disagreed on abolition. Broderick was an anti-slavery advocate, and his one-time best friend Terry wanted to bring slavery into California. In the heat of arguments, they defamed each other's good name and then agreed to a duel near the shore of Lake Merced. Broderick's pistol fired prematurely, and Terry didn't wait for a second round. He shot and mortally wounded Broderick, who died three days later in a house at Fort Mason. The current resident reports that the house is haunted by the man who gave his name to a NOPA street.

February's ride will accommodate bikers of all levels with an emphasis on good times and pumped-up exercise. Kids with their own bikes who are accompanied by a guardian are definitely welcome. The death-by-duel ride will be a flat jaunt from NOPA through the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park to the Great Highway and then south to Lake Merced, a ten mile, one hour easy ride. Along the lake shore, the site of the deadly duel has been preserved for occasions like this. Memorial posts mark how far the two politicians paced before turning and taking their best shots. A re-enactment seems inevitable!

Flickr hoto by uzvards

After contemplating politicians who couldn't talk things through, NOPA VELO riders return by 12:30 pm for drinks and lunch at one of the North Panhandle's new restaurants, Bistro Gambrinus on Fulton near Masonic.

Heavy rain cancels; otherwise the ride is on. For more information contact Lenore at (415) 300-6744 or at Get all the NOPA VELO news and ride pics at the group's Google group here and look for future BIKE NOPA coverage of the Death-by-Duel ride.

Sunday, Feb. 28th
9:30 am Meet and Mingle @ Matching Half Cafe, 1799 McAllister at Baker
10:00 am Kick off for the ride
12:30 pm Drinks and lunch at Bistro Gambrinus, 1813 Fulton near Masonic

Site of Broderick-Terry Duel, California Landmark No. 19

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Soaked Surface Stalls Smooth Spins: JFK Drive Repave Update

Can't wait until all of JFK Drive is smooth like this to the Great Highway

The work stops here for now at 30th Avenue

If you've biked JFK Drive west of Crossover Drive these last few weeks, you never want the smooth spinning to end. And then it does, right about at 30th Avenue. In the midst of biking bliss, the old cracked, ridged, mogul-seeming surface re-appears. If you caught our recent post here, you know it's all about the weather and the winter rains. But haven't we had a clear and dry patch lately?

Rick Thall, Project Manager of the Recreation and Parks Department, provided BIKE NOPA with the back story. "I had hoped that we could get another section of paving done during this dry stretch, but no such luck," Thall wrote in an email.* He explained that both the roadway and the ground below is holding too much moisture. The soaked "under-surface" is an important factor because the repaving involves adding a layer of fabric to the road and then paving over it. "This fabric minimizes current cracks in the road that 'telegraph' through to the new layer of asphalt," Thall wrote. He added, "The main source of failure with this method is from moisture trapped under the fabric."

Recreation and Park is right with the city's cyclists (and motorists) in wanting the route to the Great Highway completed. "As much as I want to get the rest of this paved as soon as possible," Thall wrote, "Paving funds are limited so we need to make sure we follow the proper measures and make sure this paving lasts."

Check the weather forecast and note that rain is expected this weekend. What the repaving effort really needs is a stretch of sunny, clear days so the road bed, the surface and below, dries out. When conditions permit, Thall expects the repaving to be completed in three more stages. Celebrations pending!

* BIKE NOPA quoted Thall, with his permission, from an email he sent to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition in response to an inquiry about repaving progress.

SFPD Vows to Increase Monitoring of Illegal Red Light Turns at Fell and Masonic; Will Begin Pedestrian Stings Too Next Week

The busy, multiple-use, dual signaled crosswalk at Fell and Masonic

Captain Teresa Barrett of SFPD Park Station announced greater monitoring of the hazardous traffic conditions at Fell and Masonic -- including several reports of illegal left turns by motorists -- will begin next week. The operation will be a joint Task Force with SFPD Northern Station involving four or more motorcycle officers at intersections throughout the two adjacent police districts. Officers will ticket motorists who fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks and will target drivers who run red lights. The Task Force will be on the streets every other week.

Barrett readily agreed to provide statistics from the Task Force operation with a listing of intersections monitored, times of day, number of citations, and types of infractions. She noted that Tuesday of this week Northern Station cited 22 motorists at intersections in that district.

Barrett previously described the joint effort, reported here in BIKE NOPA, but she re-emphasized the focus on illegal left turns at Fell and Masonic after criticism of SFPD's handling of the collision between a taxi driver and bicyclist in the crosswalk there on February 13th. In that case SFPD decided not to cite the driver. Several pedestrians and cyclists commented on that report, noting the frequency of illegal left-hand turns at the intersection.

In a related development, North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) President Jarie Bolander has requested that Captain Barrett and MTA Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck describe what their departments are doing to reduce the hazards at Fell and Masonic during the organization's next general membership meeting on March 18th.

All users of the street, the path, and the sidewalks at Fell and Masonic are encouraged to report both sightings of stepped-up sting operations and illegal left turns to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition or here at BIKE NOPA.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No Citation for Taxi Driver in Fell/Masonic Collision that Injured Bicyclist

Crosswalk linking the Panhandle Path at Fell and Masonic Streets

Captain Teresa Barrett of SFPD Park Station confirmed this afternoon that there will be no citation for the taxi driver involved in a collision with a bicyclist in the crosswalk at Fell and Masonic Streets February 13th. Barrett told BIKE NOPA that officers often do not issue or recommend citations unless they witness the incident directly or unless there are no conflicting statements from witnesses at the scene.

In this case at least two independent witnesses stated that the bicyclist was in the crosswalk with the right-of-way. One other witness was a passenger in the taxi; that person expressed some uncertainty about whether the driver had a green light to turn onto Masonic from Fell, as reported in this earlier post. The officer who interviewed these individuals told BIKE NOPA that there were conflicting stories among the witnesses, leaving the responsibility uncertain. The officer also suggested the bicyclist might also have been crossing the street during the crosswalk warning period, but that appears to not be the case as reported here.

Captain Barrett advised that often the greatest consequences for motorists in cases like these are the increased charges from their insurance company. "A taxi company is going to have insurance," Barrett said, "and the company is going to look at collisions on the record." She also mentioned that even if motorists are given citations, the traffic court might toss them out.

Although the officer who completed the Incident Report said that the SFPD Traffic Unit would investigate whether a citation will be given, in reality the process appears to work differently. If the officer who completes the report does not indicate on the document that a citation is merited, the form will reach the Traffic Unit and only get filed for insurance purposes and for reference in any subsequent civil case. In effect, officers at the scene do determine the outcome of the case if they don't suggest a citation since further investigation is unlikely without that notation.

Capt. Barrett suggested that while no citation has been recommended to the taxi driver, the bicyclist injured in the collision "has a huge chance for obtaining damages in a civil case."

Note: Individuals can generally receive copies of the police/incident report once they follow the directions provided on a recorded message at SFPD Report Management Section (415) 553 1286. The case # for this collision is 100148285; Officer W. Wong filed the report. The date of incident: Feb. 13, 11:30 pm. You will need to provide your reason for requesting the report.

Getting Clear about Right-of-Way at Fell and Masonic Crosswalk: Different Signal Phases for Cyclists and Pedestrians

Operation of bicycle and pedestrian signals at Fell & Masonic, site of a collision on Feb. 13
Video: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition YouTube .

An observation by the SFPD officer who interviewed witnesses at the scene of a bicyclist/motorist collision at Fell and Masonic February 13th suggests a review is needed of how the California Vehicle Code (CVC) relates to the crosswalk signal operations at this site.

According to witnesses interviewed by BIKE NOPA the day following the incident, the cyclist was clearly in the crosswalk with a green light and had the right-of-way. One noted that the pedestrian countdown signal was at "6" (it runs from 15 to 1).

The SFPD officer also obtained this information from the witnesses. However, he suggested to BIKE NOPA that the cyclist might share some responsibility or fault if she had entered the crosswalk during the countdown. He explained that the countdown is meant as a guide and warning to those already in the crosswalk. This interpretation of the CVC is accurate for pedestrians but apparently not for bicyclists who have their own crosswalk signal.

Pedestrians receive a walk signal for crossing that holds for about three seconds before it begins the countdown from 15 to 1. Then the signal displays an orange hand. The bike light, however, has a different sequence. It turns green at the same time as the pedestrian signal, and remains green through the pedestrian's warning countdown. The bike light turns yellow for three seconds before turning red at the same time as the pedestrian light.

Why does this different sequence for bicyclists and pedestrians matter? The California Vehicle Code (CVC) states that pedestrians should not enter the crosswalk after the warning flash and/or the countdown has begun. However, for bicyclists the CVC states: "an operator of a bicycle facing a steady yellow bicycle signal is, by that signal, warned that the related green movement is ending or that a red indication will be shown immediately thereafter." (CVC, 21456.3 (b). The code does not prohibit the cyclist from being in the crosswalk during the warning phase.

In the case of the injury collision the night of February 13th, if the bicyclist was in the crosswalk during the pedestrian countdown, as witnesses stated, she had a full green bike light and, thus, legal right-0f-way when she collided with the taxi van and sustained injuries to her shoulder.

The crosswalk linking the Panhandle Path is unique in the city. Bicyclists have the legal right to ride, not walk, through the crosswalk according to a new state law reported previously here. The crosswalk is also unusual since it has the two different signals, one for pedestrians and one for bicyclists.

Bicyclists should take caution at this intersection where illegal left-hand turns by motorists occur frequently. Cyclists only get approximately three seconds of a yellow warning bike light before the red appears. At the same time, SFPD should be clear that cyclists retain the right-of-way throughout the green bike light sequence even while the pedestrian light shifts into a warning countdown.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Get Your Mojo But Park Your Bike?

Cool spin past Mojo Bicycle Cafe - but where to park the ride?

Trees, meters, rack -- still not enough parking at Mojo on Divisadero

Bike parking pile-up a half-block away from Mojo Cafe too

You can always walk to Mojo Bicycle Cafe and peds are always welcome, but, hey, it's a bicycle cafe. The always buzzing spot on Divisadero already has two basic inverted-U bike racks, but they're usually taken. And the bikes at trees and meters, and bikes locked double- and triple- wide only crunch the street's already skinny sidewalks. Something new, better, more practical, more sidewalk-friendly, more bike-on is so needed here.

So, that was the teaser lead: something new and better really is in the works, as reported today by Matthew Roth in Streetsblog with some great photo simulations of a proposed build-out along the sidewalk to accommodate pedestrians, cafe customers, and anyone who wants to sit a bit and appreciate the improvements on Divisadero. And, yes, there will be additional bike parking included in the design.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taxi Driver Apparently Runs Red Light at Masonic and Fell, Crashes with and Injures Bicyclist

Crossing with the green bike signal at Masonic

Green bike/pedestrian signal at Masonic; countdown at 6

UPDATE, 9:30 pm, Feb. 14th

This evening I spoke with Officer Will Wong of SFPD Park Station about the collision involving a bicyclist and motorist last night. Officer Wong was at the scene, interviewed the parties involved as well as witnesses, and filed the incident report.

Wong stated that "maybe" there was an illegal left turn by the driver of a taxi van onto Masonic Avenue. He said there were two conflicting stories about the collision. "The taxi driver and his passenger said that there was a solid green light on Fell for them to proceed, but then they weren't absolutely sure it was a green for going forward or for turning left," Wong explained. He added that the bicyclist and other witnesses at the scene said there was clearly a green light for proceeding through the crosswalk.

As noted in the earlier post (below), one witness saw, or caught a quick glimpse of, the collision and another individual noted that the crosswalk countdown was underway and was at the number "6" when she saw it immediately after the incident. The bicycle/pedestrian signal for crossing the crosswalk begins with a solid green for about six seconds and the continues with a countdown starting at fifteen.

Wong said that the bicyclist might have had some responsibility if she entered the crosswalk once the countdown had begun.* "If the light starts flashing and the countdown begins, you're responsible. The countdown is meant for people already in the crosswalk." He added that he understood that many people don't interpret the countdown that way and that he usually doesn't cite for entering once the count begins. Wong said he also realized that whatever the countdown status of the crosswalk signal, the taxi driver had a solid red during that time period.

"Now the determination will be up to the investigators," Wong concluded. "My job is to collect the information." He did not expect the witnesses in the case to be contacted further, which, he said, was not unusual in non-fatal collisions. Officer Wong's incident report has been sent to the Traffic Investigation unit of SFPD Central Command.

* California Vehicle Code, 21456 (b). Flashing or steady "DONT WALK" or "WAIT" or approved "Upraised Hand" symbol. No. pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the "WAIT" or "DONT WALK" or approved "Upraised Hand" symbol is showing.

NOTE: Bicyclists have the right to bike, not walk, across Masonic Avenue using the crosswalk since it is an extension of the bike path, as noted in this previous post.

ALSO, the bicycle light at Fell and Masonic follows this progression: solid green, yellow for 3 seconds, and then red. The bike light stays green until the pedestrian countdown light reaches "0" in its countdown from 15. If this injured bicyclist was in the crosswalk during the countdown, as one witness stated, she was travelling with a solid green light.

A 25 year old female bicyclist was injured late Saturday night when she collided with a blue taxi van that was making an illegal left hand turn from Fell Street onto Masonic Avenue, according to witnesses. The bicyclist complained of shoulder pain and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The driver of the van stopped mid-way in the block between Fell and Oak and was questioned by the police. Several bicyclists travelling the busy mixed-use Panhandle Path and a motorist and passenger stopped to help the injured woman. Three SFPD squad cars, two SFFD fire engines, and an ambulance appeared at the scene as well.

This morning the front desk officer at SFPD Park Station confirmed that an accident report had been completed, but he was unable to provide details of the ten page account because he "was busy with several other matters." He suggested the officer who filed the report might be available to discuss the case later today. He confirmed, however, that the motorist had not been cited, as of yet. He added, "We can do it (cite at the scene) but we usually don't do it." In several other collisions, SFPD has not cited involved parties pending conclusion of an investigation. Last week BIKE NOPA reported the details of a just-released accident report about a pedestrian fatality that occurred September 15th of 2009.

NOPA resident Mariana Parreiras and a friend, who was driving, approached the intersection last night at the time of the crash. "We were travelling northbound on Masonic and stopped at Fell at the signal; we were at the front of the queue and right at the crosswalk," Parreiras recalled. "My friend suddenly yelled and jumped out of the car to help the cyclist." Although she did not witness the collision, Parreiras said she immediately got out of the car and looked at the pedestrian signal countdown because she was concerned that she and her friend might get hit in traffic. "The countdown was at "6," she stated. Parreiras is a member of the neighborhood advocacy group FIX MASONIC and is quite familiar with the intersection and the pedestrian/bicyclist signal. "The light turns green for several seconds and then it begins the countdown; clearly the bicyclist had the right-of-way in the intersection." (Note: the bike/pedestrian light is green for about six seconds and then begins a countdown from fifteen). Parreiras rushed to check on the cyclist who had walked from the middle of the crosswalk and sat down on the sidewalk on the east side.

Parreiras' friend,Tom, was driving the car and spoke to BIKE NOPA, but requested that his surname not be included with his account. Tom said he and Parreiras were in the far left lane travelling north and stopped at Masonic for the red light. "Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bicyclist coming (from the west) through the intersection. It happened very quickly... I'm not sure if I saw or heard the collision first. I heard some crunching and realized the cyclist had been hit," Tom stated. "I shifted into park and turned on the blinker. I saw that others were with the cyclist and I got out to get the bicycle out of the way before something further happened." A few minutes later Tom returned to his car and moved it around the corner. He told a police officer what he saw and provided his contact information. He concluded, "It seemed as though the facts were fairly straightforward about what happened." By 5 p.m. this afternoon, he had not been contacted further by SFPD.

The Fell and Masonic intersection is considered one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, with multiple collisions between motorists and bicyclists or pedestrians. The mixed-use path coursing through Panhandle Park crosses Masonic, and hundreds of bicyclists use the east-west route every day. The high risks at the intersection persuaded the Superior Court to allow an exception to the bike injunction, and the city installed a bicycle/pedestrian light. Motorists traveling westbound on Fell and wanting to turn left at Masonic get a red light when the cyclists and walkers are crossing. Although the number of motorists running the red left-turn signal has dropped as motorists become more accustomed to the added signal, users of the Panhandle Path observe illegal turns regularly. Motorists have remarked that the left turn signal on Fell at Masonic is confusing. Whether the collision last night resulted from one more case of reckless red-light running or confusion about the turn signal is not known

This post was updated with new information at 5 pm, February 14th.