Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MTA Ready to Slow Traffic on Fell and Oak Streets, Will Re-time Signals, Shorten Green Phase

Change in signal times coming to Fell and Oak

The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) will slow traffic on the "residential freeway" that courses through the North Panhandle and Alamo Square neighborhoods. The agency will re-time signals along Fell Street in the next two weeks and will undertake similar changes on Oak Street later in April. Residents along the two corridors have urged the MTA to implement these and other traffic calming measures for several years.

"The amount of green time for Fell will be shortened to reduce the potential for speeding by motorists at the tail end of the green wave trying to catch up to the front," according to an MTA staffer who is familiar with the project but does not work directly on it. Another benefit from the change will be increases to the green times for the north-south cross streets. The #24 Divisadero and #22 Fillmore Muni lines should experience fewer delays as a result.

Other ripple effects will include safer passage for pedestrians with longer "walk" periods for crossing Fell and Oak and an updating of "all-reds" (the brief period when all signals have a red light) to meet current standards.

Although Bond Yee, MTA's long-time traffic engineer, advised westside neighbors last October that the Fell and Oak signal changes would apply only to the evening hours, the adjustments ready for implementation will be in force during all periods of the day, including AM, PM, and off-peak periods, according to the agency representative who spoke with BIKE NOPA.

North Panhandle and Alamo Square residents have complained for years about the speeding traffic on the two busiest streets through the neighborhoods. Ever since the corridors were switched from two-way streets to three and four lane thoroughfares decades ago, speeding motorists have treated Fell and Oak like freeways.* Neighbors were especially upset when MTA erected sign standards for its SFgo mobile displays on Fell and Oak that many thought gave additional visual cues that freeway driving was expected on the streets. Responding to concerns by neighbors and by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, MTA removed the SFgo signs last month.

At a North Panhandle neighborhood meeting last September, MTA's Jack Fleck promised to study the speeding problem on the two streets. The project about to be implemented results from that pledge and the steady advocacy of residents, the North Panhandle and the Alamo Square neighborhood associations, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, WalkSF, Streetsblog, and Supervisor Mirkarimi's office.

*For additional coverage of neighbors' concerns, see this Streetsblog post.

Special thanks to Janel Sterbentz for her tenacious urging to get MTA to conduct the studies that led to the traffic signal changes. Individuals can affect policy changes with persistent, positive work on their own as well as supporting group efforts.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Small Improvement for Divisadero Eyesore: It's a Start

The old tarps and scraps now removed

View from Monday's blog post

Apparently Clear Channel Outdoor got the message: the neighborhood wants this eyesore removed or cleaned up. Today the hanging tarps and scraps from the previous advertising were gone. On Monday BIKE NOPA used CCO's online message form to request action on the derelict sign above Divisadero at Grove Street. That afternoon Russ Mason, Corporate Director of Digital Services, in the company's Los Angeles office responded:

"Thanks for the heads up on this problem, I am forwarding your email on to the appropriate persons. Someone will be out to take care of it as soon as possible."

Keep your eyes on the street and on the billboard. Today's change might be the first step to another neighborhood improvement.

Divisadero Deserves Better Than This

Eyesore along revitalized Divisadero corridor

With all the city-wide buzz about the much-improved Divisadero corridor and its smooth pavement, roadside enhancements, Sunday Farmers' Market, and new parklet, the ragtag, graffiti- marred billboard that looms over the Grove Street intersection seems a throwback to a less-well-cared for thoroughfare.

The problem billboard has been reported to Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising, both to the company's corporate headquarters and its Oakland office. A representative of the company told BIKE NOPA that she thought someone would take a look at the situation within the next two days. How about a pro-bono display advertising the Farmers' Market or the Divisadero Art Walks or the upcoming Sunday Streets through the neighborhood?

Monday, March 29, 2010

JFK Drive West-End to Feature Traffic-Calming Stripe

JFK Drive west-end striping will follow this model but without as much width

Solid stripe narrows and presumably slows vehicle traffic while giving space to cyclists

The now-smooth west end of JFK Drive from Crossover Drive to the Great Highway in Golden Gate Park will offer yet another benefit to bicyclists and motorists: a traffic-calming solid stripe that will narrow the traffic lane and, in some areas, create a de facto bike lane. The striping will be similar to the treatment on the east end of JFK, from Crossover to Stanyan, but with a much narrower roadway. In addition, the center line has been shifted to widen the lane in downhill portions of JFK to give cyclists more room and a better chance to avoid dooring. No parking will be removed as part of these enhancements. An extra benefit: as a traffic calming feature, the striping is not affected by the bicycle injunction.

According to Rick Thall, Project Manager for the Recreation and Parks Department, the east-bound lane of JFK from the Great Highway to Crossover will have a solid stripe outside the parking lane. This section of the roadway is narrower and does not permit similar treatment on both sides of the drive without removing the parking lane. Andy Thornley, SFBC Project Director, likened the treatment to a "floating bike lane" that permits safer bike passage where the road widens and when long stretches of the parking lane are unoccupied as often happens in the west end of the park.

The narrower traffic lane is intended to slow traffic through the park. That's an important feature since motorists might be tempted to drive faster on the newly-repaved surface. Last Wednesday a member of the Esquivel Construction crew that was completing the resurfacing of JFK suggested the park road "might become a freeway" once drivers no longer have to dodge suspension-wrecking potholes. Rec and Park hopes the new striping will keep that from happening.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

NOPA VELO Climbed Every Mountain for a Perfect Sunday Morning Spin

41 NOPA VELO cyclists before they took to the hills of NOPA

The prospect of pedaling up a few San Francisco hills encouraged even more neighbors and friends to join the 3rd monthly NOPA VELO outing. Forty-one cyclists gathered Sunday morning for a perfect day of bicycling in the city. Manaf, the owner of Apollo Coffee, helped the biggest turnout yet get buzzed with coffee, tea and sweets. Among the cyclists were two dogs (one travelling proudly in a bike basket; the other with a steady gait the full ride), four young pedalers, and ... guest appearances by Maria von Trapp and the Storm Trooper who stepped out of the perenially playing Sound of Music.

Intrepid musicologist and cyclist John Rogers displayed perfect timing with everyone's SOM favorites (but he understandably declined to play "The Lonely Goatherd"). For the tougher climbs up Page and Parnassus Streets, "Climb Every Mountain" lifted everyone's spirits while the choice of John Coltrane's version of SOM was pure inspiration. Riders took on Alamo Square, Buena Vista, Panassus Heights, the de Young Tower, and even the steep Lone Mountain, with only a few huffs and puffs along the way. Treats at the Divisadero Farmers' Market were in springtime abundance when NOPA VELO returned to the flatlands.

Any NOPA residents identify the North Panhandle block that inspired NOPA VELO's March ride poster by designer Rick Helf? It's an imagined block with a bit of Broderick, Fulton, and Golden Gate Avenue all together.

NOPA VELO ride 3

What NOPA-lore will inspire April's ride? Clue: "TR." Last Sunday of the month;
Next up: April 25th with a kick-off breakfast and coffee at Mojo Bicycle Cafe and the
new Divisadero parklet.

Join the NOPA VELO Google Group for the latest ride and bicycling NOPA info here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

JFK Drive Smooth to the Ocean Early Tonight

What we've been waiting for: a smooth and safer spin to the ocean

4pm today and two hours to go for both lanes to the Great Highway

Smooth the way we like it along the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden

Last minute breakdown at asphalt plant led to delay

Twilight ride through Golden Gate Park anyone? Plan on one long smooth spin from the start of the Panhandle all the way to the Great Highway. The final repaving work should be completed by 7 pm this evening, give or take a half hour. One of Esquivel Construction's crew members told BIKE NOPA this afternoon that they had expected to be finished by four or five pm today, but then the city asphalt plan broke down. "Now we have to get the asphalt from a plant down the peninsula," he said. But the crew is just as anxious to get the job done as bicyclists are for their first ride all the way to the ocean on smoother, safer asphalt. At 4:30 today the crew needed about 15 more truck loads of steaming asphalt to fill a strip from Bernice Rodgers Way to the tulip garden. After leveling and compacting, the roadway will be open.

Although rain fell in the city Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the total wasn't enough to interrupt the work schedule. Another member of the Esquivel team explained that they could still lay the treated fabric on the roadway since it wasn't soaked through with the small amount of moisture.

One of the first bicyclists to ride the new asphalt lane at the Great Highway was a NOPA neighbor named Shannon, who just happened to appear when I needed a photo for the occasion. A week ago she cleaned out her garage and resurrected her bike which she hadn't used for four years. "Now it's so fun to be out and riding today," she said with all indications that the bike won't be stored away again.

NOPA neighbor Shannon was the first
Shannon near the Great Highway

Spring Climb (just a bit) with NOPA VELO on Sunday

What's better for a bright San Francisco morning than a spring spin to a few "Peaks of NOPA"? Don't worry that NOPA VELO's third monthly ride will be too much for your biking ability. Last weekend we tried the route and pared it to a very reasonable outing.

Power-up with coffee and sweets at Apollo Coffee at 9:30 Sunday and be ready to roll by 10 a.m. Alamo Square, we like your views. Buena Vista, so good to behold. And Parnassus, we're awe-struck. Glide back down into Golden Gate Park** and take the Panhandle Path to NOPA's own Divisadero Farmers' Market for all sorts of treats to enjoy at a few tables reserved just for us. (Thanks SF-Grill and Dmitrius of Farmers' Market!).

Costumes encouraged, sing-along biking very possible. All neighbors and friends welcome. Kids OK if with own bike and accompanied by adult guardian. Heavy rain cancels...but rain on Maria von Trapp's special day? We don't think so.

Sunday, March 28th
9:30 am -- meet at Apollo Coffee, Turk & Divisadero (say hello to Manaf, the owner)
10:00 am -- mountain climbing gear ready, we're taking off, grab your lederhosen
90 minute ride
11:30 am or so -- drinks and lunch at Farmers' Market, Grove & Divisadero

** We're dropping the stop at the de Young Museum tower; too much of a logistical challenge for us. But for the real "Climb Every Mountain" riders, an optional ride is Lone Mountain Campus just north of the Park. One of us will lead.

How popular is NOPA VELO? More than 75 cyclists have joined our Google Group. Don't be left out, join here. See you Sunday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Bike Thief on Foot, A Cyclist, and an SFPD Captain: One Good Crime-Fighting Day

The Bicycle thief Ladri di biciclette by lwtclearningcommons.

How's this for collaboration between bicyclists and SFPD? Captain Teresa Barrett of Park Station described for BIKE NOPA a "great arrest" that she had last week at Page and Masonic. Here's how it went down:

"A bike rider who works at a downtown bike shop was following a suspect who stole two bikes earlier in the week. The suspect was on foot and the witness on his cell phone on his bike, broadcasting the suspect's location."

"I was able to arrest the suspect with Lt. Frost from the night watch. He confessed to stealing two bikes....the bikes were worth over $2500 each."

"A good crime-fighting day and great job on the part of the biker."

Park Station shines.

In addition to snagging a bike thief, district officers cited another 13 motorists for running the red light at Fell and Masonic. The special pedestrian sting Task Force would have been at the intersection too if a demonstration in town hadn't pulled them off regular duty.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chile Pies (& ice cream): The Buzz Begins

Breaking Story: Chile Pies (& ice cream) makes NOPA more cool than it thought it could be.

Today at 3pm the neighborhood's newest business sparkled and smiled and welcomed its first two customers, both longtime NOPA residents who couldn't wait for a sampling of the treats spread before them. Trevor Logan, Chile Pies' owner, nodded to his staff and suggested, "Let's make this a learning experience," since they weren't absolutely ready for us. But opening day jitters settled amid a palpable eagerness to share the namesake pies and ice creams.

There we were gazing over calorie and carb abandonment. Ice cream will wait for the second visit; all our attention centered on the pie selection. How to choose among Mexican Chocolate Pecan, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Lemon Buttermilk, and the house specialty, Green Chile Apple? Two out of four seemed wise: yes to the Mexican Chocolate Pecan and, definitely, the Green Chile Apple. Why not ala mode with Straus Family Creamery vanilla and a drizzle of red chile honey?

We happily offered the first dollar bill for posting by its mate from this location's previous occupant: Green Chile Kitchen, the more-than-popular New Mexican restaurant also owned by Logan that relocated to a larger space at Baker and McAllister. With this addition to the neighborhood, BIKE NOPA's earlier notice of the new "Baker Street Beat" seems right on target.

How were the pies? Dale Danley, customer #1, favored the Green Chile Apple for being "tart, savory, and sweet," and gave a thumbs-up to the Mexican Chocolate Pecan: "nice and fresh and not too sweet like pecan pies often are."

Neighbors started streaming in. JoshRichardson ordered the Classic New Mexican Frito Pie (Niman Ranch ground beef, organic pinto beans, red chile, lettuce, tomatos, onions, cheese -- all inside a split-open bag of Fritos). (Vegan version offered as well). "It's so good," Josh beamed after the first bite.

We don't think Chile Pies needs to advertise much: word-of-mouth will do just fine. It's already begun.

Chile Pies (& Ice Cream)
601 Baker (at Fulton)
Tuesday - Sunday, noon to 9:30 pm; closed on Mondays
(but open this afternoon and tonight for celebrating)

For more info on Chile Pies check this fine review from SFWeekly's blog of March 18th.

JFK Drive Paving: On to the Tulip Garden

Roadbed ground, milled and swept all the way to the Great Highway

Buds and blooms and bike at Queen Whilhemina Tulip Garden

Riding the ribbon of fabric, ready for asphalt

Somebody really likes the work of the Esquivel construction crew (not my tag)

The tulips in the Queen Wilhemina garden are ready for their close-up as the repaving of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park gets closer to them with a new surface makeover. Today the Esquivel Construction crew will fill in new asphalt as far as Bernice Rodgers Way with their sights on the stretch along the tulips and a sprint to the Great Highway itself. Workers said they were determined to reach the highway by Friday night.

On Monday the long segment from near the Bison Paddocks to the highway was ground, milled, and swept. That was the hard work, according to one of the construction crew, the paving is the easy part. All that will remain after today is to lay treated fabric that acts as a sealant over the roadway and then to fill in with the fresh asphalt and compact it. When I asked one of the crew about the impact of possible rain on Thursday, he shrugged and said, "If it rains Thursday, we'll be out here Friday." Well, maybe. Ideally the fabric needs a dry surface or it will trap too much moisture underneath the layer of asphalt. But the crew manager was clear about the objective, "We want to get this job done!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Panhandle Access Riles NOPA Neighbors

Panhandle Park access at Central Avenue and Fell Street: a chronic condition

Panhandle Park Stewards scraped wide swath of mud of the sidewalk earlier this month

Unnecessary eyesore and maintenance expense goes untended by Rec & Park

The deep, swampy ruts and muddy mess at the Central Avenue entry to the Panhandle have long annoyed NOPA residents and other park users whether on foot or spinning on two wheels. Neighbors complain that repeated requests for maintenance and long-term solutions go unanswered by Recreation and Parks Department administrators. What gripes many people the most is that Rec & Park cause the problems.

Michael Varner is a long-time NOPA resident who lives a half block from park entrance. He recently described in an email his frustration with the chronic conditions. "The main problem is Rec & Park. Their own vehicles continually drive off the paved walking/biking paths when working in the area, chewing up the soil on the verge, generating mounds of mud." Varner believes Rec & Park could address the problem by simply making sure department employees only use paths that are wide enough for their vehicles. He also suggests not transporting materials in such large trucks to the park.

Varner notes that the Central Avenue access is much more than just one of several entrances to the Panhandle. "It's a major crossing point for lots of people coming down from the Haight as well as those going to the shops and restaurants in NOPA. Given the amount of foot traffic on Central, it should be considered an entrance to Golden Gate Park itself. Also tourists frequently use this route coming from downtown and going to the park and museums."

The much-loved and greatly used Panhandle presents any number of problems for visitors. Most of them are due to delayed maintenance or inadequate planning. The south-side pedestrian-only path has not been fully repaved for years, although several stretches were recently patched.* The north-south cross paths feature similar deep ruts and muddy stretches as along the Central entry. Overall, the Panhandle gives every indication of needing a reconsideration of the pathways, the widths of each of them, and the uses. Without such a plan, repair work becomes more expensive through repetition, when it comes.

NOPA residents recognize that the city's dire fiscal situation prevents an overhaul of the park, one that might include a widened multi-use path on the north side and a more expansive, level and smooth surface on the south with cross paths wide enough for necessary vehicles. But being understanding only goes so far when the city is unresponsive about many reports of problems. Michael Varner notes that he has tried to deal with the Manager of Golden Gate Park for years with little or no response. Earlier this month I registered a 311 request about the muddy overflow on the Central Avenue entry and checked the box for wanting a reply. So far, no reply and no fix.

The Panhandle Park Stewards, a revitalized community group devoted to park improvements, recently shoveled back the mud flow from many of the paths as part of its monthly workday. NOPA neighbor Dale Danley leads the Stewards, and he offered suggestions for how to deal with the park access issue. "I think this problem can be solved, and it may be by reducing the number of vehicles that enter the park or by changing which paths are used for park entry or by fortifying the soil and surface next to the paths."

The Central Avenue entry will play a significant role in upcoming events planned for the Panhandle or along Fell Street including Bay to Breakers, the Tour of California, the April 11th Sunday Streets through the park to the Great Highway, and the September 19th Sunday Streets when thousands of people are expected to start the open-street route from the Panhandle and head north on Central Avenue.

Currently North Panhandle neighbors are discussing how to improve the Panhandle for all users, from parents with kids in strollers or on Skuut bikes to commuting bicyclists. They're committed enough to the effort to also seek funding for needed projects. The irony is that these willing and energetic park advocates have not yet been able to forge a partnership with Rec and Park itself.

* Dale Danley confirmed with Rec & Park that the south patch paving resulted from a 311 request. In a different area of Golden Gate Park -- the JFK repaving now underway -- I have found the Park and Rec Project Manager to be consistently responsive to inquiries.

Monday, March 22, 2010

JFK Drive: Smooth to the Bison Paddocks

Phase one ended here at 30th Avenue and then the rains came

The fabric over the roadbed: surface had to dry before this could be laid out

Fabric overlay, now ready for the asphalt

Fabric down on the right; asphalt being spread on the left

One big long-awaited operation

Bicyclists drawn to Golden Gate Park over the weekend found a long-awaited development: smooth spinning on JFK Drive from Transverse Drive all the way to the Bison paddocks. With the run of dry, sunny days the city has recently enjoyed, the repaving of the prime roadway through the park got underway last week. By Friday, the old asphalt had been scraped away and crews laid treated fabric to seal the surface and help prevent future cracks. Right afterwards, fresh asphalt was delivered, spread, and smoothed over one long stretch to where the buffaloes sometimes roam.

With good weather forecast for the next few days, the new surface will be extended even further west. According to the work crews who took a quick break to talk with BIKE NOPA on Friday, repaving will begin Wednesday of this week. There's now a very good possibility that the job will be completed by April 2nd -- just in time for the start of the six-month long Healthy Saturdays in the park with partial closure of JFK Drive to vehicle traffic. Plan now to take a long, vastly safer and smoother ride from the Panhandle to the Great Highway on your own, with friends, and with the thousands of San Franciscans on the next Sunday Streets on April 11th.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ride with NOPA VELO, SUNDAY March 28th

Haven't taken a NOPA VELO ride yet? You missed out on Patty/Tania Hearst and the Duel-t0-Death Re-enactment that gave Broderick Street it's name. But, hey, how about joining Julie/Maria and the rest of us riding the "peaks of NOPA"? We might be stretching the "Climb Every Mountain" aspect but we do include (as an option for hardy spinners) Lone Mountain just to the west of NOPA.

We meet-up at at 9:30 am at Apollo Coffee at Divisadero and Turk. Get powered up with some fine coffee or drinks and morning carbs. Manaf, the exceedingly friendly owner of Apollo, is looking forward to our group stopping by. Kick-off at 10 a.m. We'll make the ride safe and smooth and mostly easy; a few moderate climbs included.

After Alamo Square Park, the Buena Vista foothills, Parnassus Heights for the best view, and a walk or bike climb up Lone Mountain, we'll roll down to the hugely popular Divisadero Farmer's Market where all sorts of treats wait for us. Say hello to Dmitrius, market manager, and to Seni and Ryan, the great guys at SF-Grill for sandwiches you have to try. (They've also reserved three tables and seating for us). Or try Juicy-Lucy right across from the grill for a good cool-down smoothie. Pastries, fruits, nuts, Mojo coffee on the spot.

Take a stroll down the block a bit and see if you can snag a table at the new, hot parklet in front of Mojo Bicycle Cafe...or at least see what all the buzz is about.

For more information: Lenore @ 415-300-6744;
Join NOPA-VELO Google Group:
Heavy rain cancels ride. All level riders welcome.
Kids on their own bike OK if with adult guardian.

Challenge to NOPA neighbors: can you name that block of houses in the poster above?

Bikes Abound, Irises Bloom at de Young

Two of my favorites: Bikes and Irises

Perfect days for spinning into the Golden Gate Concourse. When you do stop and take a look at the multiple beds of Dutch Iris in front of the deYoung. (Thanks NOPA neighbor Cynthia for helping plant these just a few weeks ago!). Go early and take a free trip to the top of the de Young tower for a great view of the city. (Is this the Spring and Summer some of you decide to get back on a bike?) See you in the park.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fell/ARCO Traffic Plan Well-Received by NOPNA Members

Drivers would queue along curb and out of the bike lane and off the sidewalk with new MTA plan

The new, proposed design for traffic on Fell Street between Scott and Divisadero was well-received by members of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) Thursday night. James Shahamiri, Assistant Traffic Engineer for the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), presented the plan to an audience of sixty neighbors. A few members asked questions about the number of parking spaces to be removed, but no one voiced opposition to the proposal.

The outreach to NOPNA represented the start of MTA's outreach to residents most directly affected by the planned shifting of motorists waiting to enter the ARCO gas station to a curbside queue. Shahamiri said the agency would also distribute information to the households along the block of Fell Street. A public hearing will be scheduled to consider the removal of the four parking spaces directly east of the ARCO driveway. Shahamiri told BIKE NOPA before the meeting that the MTA would also post a sign at the ARCO entry on Fell that advises drivers to not block the sidewalk. (The current sign directs motorists to keep the driveway clear with no mention of the sidewalk). As reported here earlier, the MTA plan may include the city's first green bike lane to guide both bicyclists and motorists on the block. Implementation of the new design could occur in June of this year.

Green bike lanes-4.jpg by
Portland already has several green bike lanes. Flickr photo by BikePortland

Thursday, March 18, 2010

City Celebrates First Parklet, 100 Gather on Divisadero

Leela Gill, former president of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association

More than 100 neighbors, city officials, and livability advocates gathered on Divisadero Street today to launch and celebrate San Francisco's first "parklet," a miniature version of the Pavement-to-Parks projects being developed in the city. Mayor Gavin Newsom hailed the installation of the sidewalk extension as well as the nearly completed Divisadero makeover with the new landscaping, median, lighting, and street paving. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi recalled that when he first took office in 2005 he predicted that Divisadero would be the "comeback kid corridor" and now that appears to be the case. "This 44 foot template is a pilot for projects that others will want in their neighborhoods," Mirkarimi suggested, establishing a new prediction with its fulfillment already in the works. Another parklet is expected to be completed in three weeks in the Mission district.

Ed Reiskin, Director of the Department of Public Works, praised the work of Synergy Construction and city staff for completing the Divisadero revitalization seven months ahead of schedule. He added that he was pleased to see the new mini-park in the North Panhandle. "My daughter goes to school two blocks from here, I ride the 24 Divisadero nearly every day, and bike through the neighborhood," he said. Rijad Ghannam, of RG-Architecture, who provided pro bono services for the design of the parklet, touted the inspiration that he feels from working on the project. "No one ever said 'Meet me at the two non-descript blocks in front of Mojo,' but now this space will be a destination."

The installation of the mini-park involved a collaboration of several city departments and the Mayor and Supervisor's office with solid input and guidance from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Great Streets Project as well. Volunteers from the SFBC program provided essential assistance for the installation, even during a drenching rain last Friday.

With expectation of fine media coverage elsewhere today -- this was one well-covered event! -- BIKE NOPA is focusing on the remarks of former NOPNA President, Leela Gill. Leela especially praised the collaboration of NOPNA, the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, and the Divisadero Merchants Association.

Find a good reason or none at all and take a relaxing break at NOPA's first parklet!

Mojo Bicycle Cafe's Remy Nelson and Divisadero's New Parklet

Sommer Peterson, (l), president of Divisadero Merchants Assoc., and Remy Nelson

Sunshine makes it all even better

Much-needed bike parking along Divisadero

Cooperative effort brings San Francisco's first parklet to NOPA

This morning Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, other elected officials, livability advocates, Divisadero merchants, and neighborhood leaders will celebrate the city's first "parklet" outside Mojo Bicycle Cafe. Newsom previously described the mini-pavement-to-parks initiative as a chance to "slow down the day" and allow people to "pause and reflect and connect with one another." For Remy Nelson, owner of the hot spot cafe on the busy Divisadero corridor, those ideals led him to devote the last three years to get to this point.

On a warm, sunny afternoon earlier this week, Remy recalled for BIKE NOPA how the cafe and bike shop came to be and why it had to be on Divisadero. We sat outdoors in front of the cafe but not on the new sidewalk extension, the parklet -- it was already filled with neighbors and customers chatting, reading, and texting with cups of coffee nearby.

"It all sort of started when John and I were sitting at Zeitgeist several years ago," Remy said, referring to John McDonnell, co-founder of Mojo Bicycle Cafe and one of the operation's top-notch mechanics. "We thought wouldn't it be cool to have a place like that and repair bikes for customers too." Remy completed his college studies and began his career as a hydrologist working for a large corporation. He was living at Grove and Broderick Streets then, but he wasn't happy with his everyday routine. "I got tired of the commute, the setting was too corporate," he explained, "and I didn't like never seeing how my work affected anyone."

Remy left the corporate world and the neighborhood to travel for a year in 2004. After he returned to San Francisco, a casual conversation with his dad about his plans for the future led to thoughts of starting his own business. "I thought wouldn't it be cool to be a good boss and make a difference." A realtor friend of his dad's found the building where Mojo Cafe is today. "I told them it had to be on Divisadero." Remy had returned to the North Panhandle neighborhood, and it was important to him to locate his business nearby.

The building, located on the west side of the street between Hayes and Grove, originally had a plumbing store in its storefront and later a beauty parlor and an architect's office. "It needed a lot of work," Remy recalled. "We put a year and a half into the remodeling." (Photos of the cafe and remodeling here). Today Remy says he had no idea what he was doing, but he was the architect and the project manager for the project and steered the work through all the bumps along the way, including the maze of city permits. "I thought 'how do I do the next three steps? Let me get those done and then I'll see what's next." Mojo Bicycle Cafe opened in 2007 just as a revitalized Divisadero corridor was in the works.

Both Remy and John brought related experience to Mojo. John was previously the manager of the Pacific Bike Shop on Geary Street, and, for awhile, Remy worked for him as a mechanic. Remy also undertook a cross-country bike tour and served as the mechanic for 120 other cyclists. Although he hadn't operated a business before, he had racked up a lot of experience managing people during his corporate stint.

Remy also serves as vice-president of the Divisadero Merchants Association, a group that has helped encourage new businesses on the street as well as the makeover near completion today. "I think it's fun to work with the board," Remy remarked, "but I'd like to see more cohesion among the merchants on the street."

As for today's focus on the new sidewalk extension, Remy said the main reason the wooden platform, the landscaping, and the bike racks are outside his business is because it is a good location with a cooperative business willing to maintain the space. Remy also brought to the project his work with the merchants' group, his involvement with NOPNA, the neighborhood association, and early, collaborative relationships with Supervisor Mirkarimi and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. " But Remy emphasized that anyone can sit a spell at the new mini-park, "even if you bring your coffee from somewhere else."

Remy gives a lot of credit to the city for making it all happen so quickly with cooperation from the Mayor's office, the Planning Department, the Public Utilities Commission,and the Department of Public Works, the SFBC Great Streets Project, and the generosity of RG Architecture, Bison Deck Supports, Flora Grubb Gardens, and dozens of volunteers. "Just a few months ago," Remy recalled, "Ross (Mirkarimi) pulled everyone together and said let's do it." And they did. Stop by the cafe today for the mayor's press conference at 11:30 and linger awhile "to slow down the day."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MTA Revises Fell/ARCO Traffic Design with Curbside Queue for Vehicles

UPDATE at 4:30 pm, March 16


San Francisco will get its first green bike lane if a proposed design for dealing with the traffic tangle on Fell Street near the ARCO gas station is approved. As reported earlier today, the MTA hopes to increase safety for users of Fell Street leading to the Divisadero Street intersection.

James Shahamiri, Assistant Traffic Engineer for MTA, notified a working group of interested westside residents by email this afternoon of the agency's plan and provided a graphic of the proposal. In his message, Shahamiri wrote:

"The new proposal removes four parking spaces on the south side of Fell, just east of the gas station entrance. This space would be used for vehicles to queue to enter the gas station. Importantly these vehicles would be to the left of the bicycle lane. We are also proposing to color the bicycle lane green. This would be the City's first green bicycle lane. "

Shahamiri also noted that if community outreach and a subsequent public hearing for the removal of parking proceed without major setbacks, MTA staff "could take this to the MTA Board on May 4th for legislation and install shortly thereafter."
Today's earlier post:

The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) has revised its traffic plan for the troubled stretch of Fell Street near the ARCO service station. "We have a design hashed out to take out parking on the south side of Fell Street," James Shahamiri, MTA Assistant Traffic Engineer, told BIKE NOPA. The new design would designate the former parking spaces as a curbside queue for motorists awaiting entry to the gas station. Shahamiri said the agency had not yet determined how many parking spots to remove. MTA has recently undertaken observational studies to determine what times of day and night the line-up begins, how many vehicles are in line, and where the access to the queue would be most appropriate. Shahamiri noted that the agency hopes "eventually" to use colored bicycle lanes to guide both cyclists and motorists.

Other elements of the MTA plan include a bicycle lane to the right of the queue, narrower lanes for all traffic, and a well-defined visual cue at the point that motorists cross the bike lane to enter the queue. Shaharimi described the traffic lane configuration left-to-right (travelling west on Fell) as the queue of vehicles, the bike lane, three lanes of traffic, and curbside parking on the north side.

The MTA decided to abandon its previous proposal, according to Shahamiri, that included soft-hit posts along the bicycle path as reported here. Shahamiri said he expected to share the design proposal with an informal working group of interested NOPA and Alamo Square residents by Wednesday morning. He is also scheduled to present the plan at the upcoming meeting of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) Thursday night.* In addition, Shahamiri emphasized that the MTA will conduct "targeted outreach" to residents of Fell between Scott and Divisadero.

BIKE NOPA asked Shahamiri if MTA intended to wait until the bicycle injunction is finally lifted, possibly in June of this year, before implementing the new traffic design for Fell Street. "We expect to do it sooner," he replied. Bicycle and pedestrian advocates have urged additional traffic design improvements on Fell Street for several years with heightened interest since last summer.

*NOPNA General Membership Meeting
Thursday, March 18th
Jannah Restaurant, 1775 Fulton Street, between Central and Masonic Avenues
7:00 pm, visit with neighbors
7:30 pm, meeting begins
9:00 pm , meeting ends