Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Masonic Residents Vent Frustration with Speeding,Urge City to Make Bold Changes to Street Design for Safety

Many fear the simple act of crossing the street...in the crosswalk, with the right-of-way

Masonic neighbors want the speeding stopped

San Franciscans frustrated and fearful of dangerous speeding on Masonic Avenue are writing to the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) and other city officials with their complaints about current conditions and support for bold changes to the street. Most of the messages come from residents who live on Masonic, within a block or two of the corridor, or travel it often. Several endorse the Option C set of traffic calming measures proposed by the city, including the removal of on-street parking. The messages have been made available to the grassroots group FixMasonic. Excerpts follow to document the public support for getting the speed on Masonic to 25mph and ensuring safety for all road users.

From Rick Boardman, a resident from Hayes & Masonic:
“The speeding situation on Masonic is out of control…Last week, I myself was nearly hit walking across Turk southbound by a driver turning left at (high) speed off the northbound lane of Masonic. Even as a driver, I regularly feel unsafe due to the inappropriate speeds of many cars and the poorly-designed road layout.”

Boardman urged the MTA to implement immediate measures to slow traffic on the downhill side of Masonic where “the signage is very easy to miss.”

From Dale Danley, a resident on Golden Gate Avenue near Masonic
“The principal factor causing the unacceptable safety problems on Masonic is speeding. The speed limit is 25, but speeds frequently exceed that, into the 40s.”

Danley called on the MTA to implement immediate changes:
“Install a sign showing car drivers’ actual speed. Re-time the signal lights: the current sequence of green lights encourages people to reach speeds of 30-35 mph so they can catch all the greens. SFPD should ticket speeding motorists by assigning one officer day shift per week. Repair missing or damaged signs. Implement a bike lane between Ewing Terrace and Fulton Streets by removing the car parking, converting the parking lane to a bike lane, and installing soft hit posts to separate the bike lane from the other traffic.”

From Maria Comstock, a resident on Hayes near Masonic
“As a driver with a 100% clean driving record, I avoid driving and cycling on Masonic whenever possible, as the situation had deteriorated …to the point where I consider it too dangerous to risk. On the occasions when I have driven down the road, 40 mph seems the flow of traffic, however I have yet to see anyone being stopped or the speed limit enforced by the police. The only time I have seen law enforcement on this road has been in response to accidents that would have been avoided had drives not been driving at high speeds or making illegal and dangerous turns into traffic.”

From Elias Zamaria:
“For as long as I have lived in San Francisco, Masonic has been a scary street to bike on, with no convenient way around it. I have had several close calls riding on it. I generally ride on the sidewalk, which I don’t like to do, but in this case I feel it is the only reasonable option.”

From Rachel Sher:
“I have had many near collisions, and I have seen many terrifying altercations between drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists on Masonic on my daily commute to work. Commuting on Masonic is incredibly stressful as I have the daily experience of drivers honking their horns, speeding, and yelling for me and other cyclists and pedestrianst to get out of their way instead of sharing the road.”

Sher recounted her personal connection to the tragic death of
Nils Yannick Linke in August. Linke had been visiting a mutual friend, and he borrowed Sher’s bicycle the night he was struck and killed by an allegedly hit-and-run driver on Masonic.

“When I heard of Nils’ death and saw the subsequent pictures of my own bicycle bent out of shape and destroyed on Masonic, I was heartbroken for my friend but also could not help but envision myself in Yannick’s place.”

From Ryan Kushner and Amanda Ravenhill:
Ryan was a first-hand witness to the recent death of Yannick Linke.
“I bike everywhere in this city, and do so to reduce my carbon footprint and get exercise. The reward for this, as we have seen, can be death. Masonic desperately needs a bike lane.”

From Dan Nguyen-Tan, North Panhandle Neighbor:
“Masonic Avenue is the poster child of a bad street that doesn’t work for anyone…the conditions are bad especially between Fell and Geary, with fast moving vehicles, confusing lane changes, and topography that encourages unsafe driving….I wholeheartedly support OPTION C that will be presented at the next community meeting. The addition of a median will encourage everyone to move slower. Parking removal will allow Masonic to become a safer and more accessible north/south bicycle corridor.

Recipients of the emails from Masonic area residents:

  • Bond Yee, Ricardo Olea, and Javad Mirabdal of the SFMTA
  • Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Eric Mar, and Michela Aliota-Pier
Masonic Avenue Street Design Study
Community Workshop #3
Thursday, September 30, 2010
6:30 to 8:30 pm

San Francisco Day School
350 Masonic at Golden Gate (enter at Golden Gate)
bike parking indoors, Muni #43 and nearby Muni #5 options

For detailed project information: www.sfmta.com/masonic
Contact project manager, Javad Mirabdal: javad.mirabdal@sfmta.com
(415) 701-4421

For other stories in the A Better Masonic series,
check here.

Dad on Wheels: For Robbie Socks, San Francisco Is One of the Safer Cities to Ride Bikes with Kids

Image by Meli of Bikes And The City

Starting with an iBert: Robbie Socks and Son All Photos: Robbie Socks

On one of NOPA's busy bicycling blocks: Robbie Socks and sons

When did you start biking with your sons?
I started my oldest boy biking when he was about 2. Eli, my oldest, started on a Skuut. He can ride a bike without training wheels but often prefers to ride on a tandem bike with me. I've since started my younger boy biking with me in an iBert front-style bike seat at about 13 months. My boys are currently 4.5 and 16 months old. I bike with them because it's fun. Also, my oldest boy has a lot of energy, and biking is a great way to burn that energy in a positive way.

How often do you bike with your kids and where to?
I try and bike with them at least once a weekend, and i do take them on errands. I dropped off my youngest this morning to his nanny. It was about an 8 block ride; then i went to work.

What’s the best thing about biking with your kids?
The act of biking itself. Moving our legs, enjoying fresh air and exercising together.

What do you say to relatives or friends who think the streets of San Francisco are too risky for kids to bike?
I tell them that SF is one of the safer cities to ride bikes with kids. Motorists are more conscious of bicyclists here than in most places. Furthermore, the city and organizations like the Bicycle Coalition have recently made a lot of great improvement to the bike infrastructure.

What makes a route or street OK for your kids to bike?
I would say having a bike lane is very important. I try to only take my kids on streets with bike lanes. However, even streets with a bike lane can be scary, like Fell street. I don't think I would take my kids on it. There is just too much traffic on that road.

Is it even harder getting kids ready for trips if you’re traveling by bike?
No, not really. In fact it might be easier. My kids are never very excited about sitting in their seats in a car. They love to go on bike rides.

How often do you get to bike on your own?
I ride to work everyday, rain or shine, 5 days a week. It's one of the things that has keep us in the city. I couldn't imagine driving to work everyday in a car. It would be like death to me.

Any advice for other dads thinking about biking on their own or with their kids?
It's funny. A dad friend of mine who recently moved out of the city to Marin was complaining to me how his kids did not ride bikes yet. I couldn't understand his point. I mean we live two blocks from the Panhandle, a place I consider very kid and bike friendly. Fell street still scares me a little because it's like a highway in our city, but until gas reaches 10 bucks a gallon I don't think that's going to change much.


For previous
BIKE NOPA posts in the Dads on Wheels series, check here. And don't forget more dads biking at Bikes And The City.

Remembering Sunday Streets. A real San Francisco experience: walking, biking, skating in the streets, sometimes up hills and even if it was drizzling. Great to see so many dads, moms, and kids on wheels on our neighborhood streets.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NOPA VELO Bikes the Park Just Like in the 1890s

Cycling in Golden Gate Park in the 1890s

NOPA VELO on the way to the park from the North Panhandle

Crossing Masonic with the right-of-way, in the crosswalk, and riding across legally

Bridge-and-tunnel stop in the Park

Dawn D'Onofrio checks Golden Gate Park history notes

In the 1890s Americans took to bicycling in a very big way -- and often on very big wheels. San Franciscans were part of the new spinning craze, and Golden Gate Park became a favorite destination.* No doubt a good many fashionable residents of the Western Addition pulled their bikes out garages and alleys along Fell and Fulton, Grove and Golden Gate and headed for the Panhandle. Just like this Sunday when the North Panhandle's only bike group for neighbors and friends, met at Matching Half Cafe, rolled down Baker street, and started the Secret Paths of Golden Gate Park ride.

Our troupe of about 20 included first-timers, young Ben and his dad Peter, a just-married-last-weekend couple, and Smoky the dog. A great day in the park with stops at Alvord Lake, one very old bridge and tunnel, the velodrome (Polo Field), Beach Chalet, and all those secret paths in between. Thanks to Dawn D'Onofrio for planning the route, Lenore McDonald for helping test-run the ride, and Rick Helf for the great ride poster.

* For more history of bicycling in the late 19th century and cycling's popularity in San Francisco, check this article by Chris Carlsson in Streetsblog.

For stories on the seven previous NOPA VELO rides, check here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tom Ammiano Weighs In on Masonic Traffic Calming, Urges MTA to Adopt "Option C"

Ammiano Family
Tom Ammiano with his daughter and grand-daughter

Tom Ammiano, California Assemblymember from the 13th District, urged the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) to adopt the currently-named Option C to transform Masonic Avenue into a livable corridor to benefit all. In a September 23 letter to Javad Mirabdal, MTA project manager, Ammiano noted that the street has been "long overdue for improvements" and "the recent tragic death of Yannick Linke has brought new attention to the dangers of Masonic Avenue."

Ammiano suggested that a full package of traffic calming measures for Masonic could have the same kind of impact found in other areas of the city.
Option C offers the type of sweeping changes needed to make Masonic a safer, calmer, and more livable street, one that would bbetter serve pedestrians, cyclists, MUNI, drivers and the surrounding neighborhoods. In doing so, the plan would enhance th entire Masonic Avenue corridor in much the same way that the redesign of Octavia Boulevard did for the Hayes Valley area.

At the 9/30 meeting, city staff will show design treatments for all Masonic blocks
The San Francisco Assemblymember cited the proposed improvements that Option C offers, including:
  • a landscaped median with trees
  • a series of bulb-outs to improve pedestrian safety and benefit Muni users
  • a separate bikeway on both sides of the street
  • removal of the tow-away zones
  • removal of on-street parking with expected new parking nearby
Note: the reference to "expected new parking nearby" is likely essential to acceptance of this option by nearby neighbors. Community members have previously urged the MTA to consider installing new angled parking along the north side of Turk Street to help mitigate the loss of parking from Masonic.

Ammiano wrote that he hopes SFMTA "embraces this opportunity to show a long-term vision for the transformation of Masonic Avenue from a heavily trafficked, dangerous street to an improved, livable corridor that reflects San Franciscans' desire for well-designed great streets and complete neighborhoods."
In the last few weeks other organizations and individuals have also endorsed Option C for the long-awaited makeover of Masonic, including FixMasonic, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and a number of residents who live on Masonic or within a few blocks of it. City planners will present two options -- both will be renamed and one will include the Option C features -- for consideration at a community meeting on September 30.

Masonic Avenue Street Design Study
Community Workshop #3
Thursday, September 30, 2010
6:30 to 8:30 pm

San Francisco Day School
350 Masonic at Golden Gate (enter at Golden Gate)
bike parking indoors, Muni #43 and nearby Muni #5 options

For detailed project information: www.sfmta.com/masonic
Contact project manager, Javad Mirabdal: javad.mirabdal@sfmta.com
(415) 701-4421

For other stories in the A Better Masonic series, check here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

MTA Installs Permanent Radar Speed Displays on Masonic

One element to the traffic calming needed on Masonic

Installation of northbound display today

Southbound display board to be mounted on light pole Monday

The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) started installing permanent speed radar displays on Masonic Avenue today to inform motorists when they are driving at unsafe speeds. The southbound display is mounted between McAllister Street and Golden Gate Avenue while the northbound board will be placed Monday closer to the McAllister intersection. According to Javad Mirabdal, MTA manager for the Masonic traffic calming project, the locations were selected to notify motorists just as they might be inclined to start speeding with the change in grade. Other considerations were availability of a power source and tree clearance.

Mirabdal has a good read on driver behavior on Masonic. In a 20 minute period this afternoon when traffic was relatively light, the most common speeds reflected on the board were in the mid- 30s to mid-40s. Speeds in the low-20s to mid-20s generally occurred when the signal light ahead had changed to yellow or red -- or perhaps when drivers noticed the new display. The posted speed along the Masonic corridor is 25 mph.

The speed radar displays were installed in response to calls for immediate safety measures on Masonic, especially following frequent collisions, injuries, and a fatality last month. MTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, FixMasonic, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association have urged city staff to study and implement safety changes to Masonic while a full review of the street traffic design is underway. Another measure yet to be implemented is a temporary bicycle lane between Ewing Terrace at the north and Fulton Street to the south, a stretch of several blocks where bicyclists are at most risk due to increased motorist speed and reduced visibility due to the grade of the street.

The speed radar display boards installed on Masonic do not include photographic capabilities similar to red light cameras, and they do not rely on speed enforcement. Lt. Mark Solomon, Acting Captain at SFPD Park Station, explained that the display boards are "informational only." Traffic officers cannot use them for issuing warnings or tickets. "We use radar guns, and those have to be certified. Officers who use them also must be certified as trained in their proper operation." Solomon said the display boards are effective on their own, however. "You can watch drivers hit the brakes when they go by and notice they're speeding."

One study has found speeds reduced 5 to 6 mph where baseline speeds averaged 35 in 25 mph zones like those on Masonic. More significant reductions were found on streets where speeds exceeded the speed limit by 10 mph or more. Masonic residents, bicyclists, and pedestrians often complain of speeds they judge to be 35, 4o, 45 mph or more.

MTA has regularly added traffic calming features to Masonic. The most recent prohibited left turns onto Golden Gate Avenue during the morning and evening commutes. MTA engineers are also studying whether signal light timing can be adjusted to discourage speeding between signal changes on the street. Progress on that effort has yet to be disclosed.

Note: The display board mounted today may require fine-tuning, according to the electricians who installed it. The grade of the street, the slant of the sidewalk, and the angle of the board on the pole -- all make accurate placement more challenging. The work should be completed on both displays by early next week.

For more stories in the A Better Masonic series, check here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Second Bicyclist in Two Days Injured in Collision; Crash with Taxi Driver at Duboce and Church

A bicyclist was struck and injured this evening in a collision with a taxi driver at Duboce and Church Streets where several rail tracks converge. The injury collision is the second in two days in San Francisco. Last night a motorist struck and injured a male bicyclist on Masonic Avenue at Fell Street; the condition of that cyclist has not yet been revealed by SFPD.

In an odd and upsetting development for the observer, the same cyclist who reported last night's crash to BIKE NOPA also witnessed this evening's incident. "John B" wrote at 9:19 pm:
I was riding home tonight and saw the aftermath of another car vs. bike collision. It wasn't in the nopa (ed.: North Panhandle), but at Duboce and Church where all those train tracks converge. It was a taxi who had hit the bicyclist. EMTs were stabilizing him on one of those straight boards when I showed up. I've been riding my bike in the city now for 5 years and these are the first two accidents i've seen. What is going on around here! Seriously though, hope everyone is OK.
We have contacted SFPD Media Relations for further information.

FixMasonic Urges "Get to 25" to Stop Speeding, Endorses Option C as Most Effective Traffic Calming Package

For the grassroots organization FixMasonic*, it all comes down to speeding and how to stop it. Mark Christiansen, a founder of the Masonic advocacy group, explained to BIKE NOPA how plans for traffic calming must include several individual measures to stop the speeding.
25 mph on Masonic Avenue is a perfectly appropriate speed on a residential street. Unfortunately, only a minority of automobiles currently obey this posted speed limit. The answer isn't stricter law enforcement; nobody, including the department itself, wants to dedicate more precious SFPD time to writing speeding tickets to compensate for a poorly designed street. Instead, with Option C, the city is proposing a sweeping set of changes which would make it apparent at first glance that Masonic was a safer, calmer, more attractive and more complete street. Such a corridor would better serve pedestrians, cyclists, Muni riders and even drivers.
The Option C that Christensen refers to is one of two alternatives that city planners are expected to present at the next community meeting on September 30. That gathering will be the third and final in a series to engage nearby residents in the design of a street that works better, and safer, for all users. The two choices will be given new descriptive names at the upcoming meeting, but the essential features of Option C are expected to include:
  • a landscaped median with trees, to change the speedway appearance of the corridor and to discourage speeding
  • a series of bulb-outs to reduce the distance crossing the street for pedestrians and to ease access to buses
  • a separated bicycle lane with a slightly raised surface, also known as a cycle track, on both sides of the street
  • removal of the tow-away "third lanes" during commute hours to reduce lane changes
  • removal of on-street parking with expected installation of new parking nearby

FixMasonic has worked with the city for five years to get safety measures installed on the corridor. Today the group officially announced its endorsement of Option C as the most promising route to a more complete street that works for all users.

Ben Caldwell, another long-time FixMasonic member, urged community members and city staff to select Option C as the best chance of making Masonic more livable:
Adding a simple striped bike lane will not be enough by itself to keep drivers from speeding. Neither will adding bulb-outs alone. As long as Masonic looks like a wide-open speedway, we'll continue to have people getting injured or killed. If the city makes the changes to stop the speeding, Masonic residents will have a quieter, safer street. Parents won't be scared to have their kids on the sidewalks, Muni can keep to its schedule, bicyclists won't have to ride on the sidewalks, and motorists can avoid the collisions and near-misses that occur way too often.
FixMasonic has also urged city traffic engineers to convene another community meeting in late October or early November to present short-term, interim safety measures. These measures can be installed during the lengthy period between getting the final street design approved and obtaining financing for it. Nathaniel Ford, executive director of the MTA, directed his agency to consider immediate safety improvements after the recent bicycle fatality on Masonic. Renee Rivera, acting excecutive director of the the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), told Streetsblog that her organization favored "buffered bike lanes" installed on an immediate trial basis in the middle section of Masonic that has the steepest grades. SFBC has also endorsed Option C among the long-term choices.

For previous stories in the A Better Masonic series, check here.
Note: I am also a member of FixMasonic.

Masonic Avenue Street Design Study
Community Workshop #3
Thursday, September 30, 2010

6:30 to 8:30 pm
San Francisco Day School
350 Masonic at Golden Gate (enter at Golden Gate)
bike parking indoors, Muni #43 and nearby Muni #5 options

For detailed project information: www.sfmta.com/masonic
Contact project manager, Javad Mirabdal: javad.mirabdal@sfmta.com
(415) 701-4421

* Blogger resists a direct link from BIKE NOPA to FixMasonic. The url is, not surprisingly, www.fixmasonic.org

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Bicyclist Hit By Vehicle" at Fell and Masonic Early This Evening; Bicyclist Injured, Condition Not Known At This Time

Fell and Masonic intersection is often the site of collisions or near-misses
This photo was not taken this evening at the time of the latest collision

UPDATE: Sept. 22, 3:30 pm
SFPD Media Relations Officer, Samson Chan, said this afternoon that no further information about the collision or the condition of the injured bicyclist was available, pending completion of a Traffic Collision Report. Chan explained that the Traffic Division often conducts a more thorough investigation that is more time consuming, including diagrams and witness statements. A report may also require extra time to complete when a serious injury is involved, but Chan advised that the condition of the bicyclist was not necessarily a factor delaying release of the report. He suggested such information may be available by the end of the week. Observers at the scene of the collision (see comments below) suggest that the cyclist was male and was conscious and moving after the collision.


A motorist struck and injured a bicyclist at the troubled Fell and Masonic intersection earlier this evening at about 6:30 pm. BIKE NOPA reader "John B" wrote that he was riding home on his bicycle when he saw the aftermath of the collision.
Some sort of newer model Honda was sitting on Masonic (pointed south) just past Fell with a huge dent on the passenger's side and a jacked-up rear view on the same side. The bike was morbidly sitting there behind the car completely bent out of shape. There were a couple of cop cars/cops surveying the scene/questioning someone who was not the driver. The driver was still sitting in her car. No ambulance and no victim, so they obviously left before I got there. Hope they're okay.
The dented passenger side of the vehicle that was facing southbound on Masonic just past Fell suggests the bicyclist was struck while crossing the street on the Panhandle Park multi-use path, but the circumstances of the collision have not been determined.

At 9pm an officer at SFPD Park Station said a report had not been completed at that time, but that the information available matched what John B had reported. At 9:45 pm Samson Chan, of the SFPD Media Relations Office, confirmed that SFPD received a call at 6:21 pm regarding "a bicyclist hit by a vehicle, a blue-colored Honda Civic." Medics arrived and transported the bicyclist to San Francisco General Hospital. He had no further information on the condition of the bicyclist, the Honda driver, or the condition of the vehicle. Chan confirmed that a Traffic Division officer was filing the a Traffic Collision Report, case #100877315, but it was unlikely to be completed until tomorrow. At that time, the officer was already off-duty. Chan said he may have more information about the collision Wednesday afternoon.

The Fell and Masonic intersection has been the site of several collisions involving two or more motorists, motorists and bicyclists, and motorists and pedestrians. The city installed a bike light at the intersection that has been the second most dangerous in the city for bicyclists getting hit by motorists. Even with the bike light installation, motorists continue to run the red light. This latest injury collision occurs just five weeks after bicyclist Yannick Linke was killed after being struck by an alleged hit-and-run driver on Masonic at Turk Street. As previously reported, city planners are in the midst of a community planning process to bring traffic calming to the Masonic corridor.

NOPA VELO Reveals Secrets of Golden Gate Park -- Sunday, September 26

Image by Rick Helf rickhelf.com

NOPA VELO powers up to greet San Francisco's sunny summer weather for our September ride. Where better to ride than a lengthy spin through Golden Gate Park, discovering the little-known and seldom-used paths and back roads? Dawn D'Onofrio and Lenore McDonald trekked throughout the park to find the out-of-the-way places -- the oldest bridge, one of the city's hills right in the park, observatory ruins nearby, and the park's only velodrome. Lakes, waterfalls, and tree ferns -- the city's best treasure almost in our back yards.

After a good pumping ride, we're stopping at Rancho Grande on Divisadero for drinks and lunch. It's a busy weekend coming up. Be sure to add NOPA VELO to the mix.

NOPA VELO Secret Paths of Golden Gate Park
Sunday, September 26
9:30 am Meet at Matching Half Cafe, 1700 McAllister @ Baker
10:00 am Start ride (lagging behind a bit? catch up with us in the Panhandle)
Lunch at Rancho Grande Restaurant, 855 Divisadero
Anyone can ride this one: easy to moderate, mostly in the park, 2 hours ride time

First-timers encouraged, friendly group here
Kids always welcome if with a guardian and wearing a helmet
Pets too if on bike or on leash
Info: Lenore, 415- 300-6744 , lmcjunker@gmail.com
Join the NOPA VELO Google Group: //groups.google.com/group/nopa-velo

For previous NOPA VELO rides, stories and pics, check here.

Sunday Streets Comes to NOPA: 330 Parking Spaces Removed, Expected "Terrible Inconvenience" Not So Much Afterall

No parking here on Grove Street or anywhere else along 11 blocks

74 Free Spaces Waiting at City Center Plaza

Open but empty, 7am Sunday morning

The Quick Read:
  • Sunday Streets coursed through 11 blocks of the North Panhandle
  • 330 parking spaces removed for car-free streets
  • 200 free alternative spots offered at nearby parking lots
  • All households along route notified of free parking
  • 100 households obtain passes
  • Fewer than 20 actually used them
What happened? Where did everyone park? Maybe parking isn't so tight after all.

Sunday Streets promoters like to tout the unique features of the event: block after block opened to people to play and stroll, visit and bike, hear live music and sell lemonade, if they wish. Tens of thousands of San Franciscans endorse that view, repeatedly, by taking to the streets for every Sunday Streets event of the year. But a smaller number of residents complain about the streets closed to cars -- the block-after-block stretches closed to traffic and cleared of parking under threat of towing. An opportunity to see and use our public streets and public parking spaces in a new, exuberant way? Or, an inconvenience and hassle for residents who rely on the parking lanes to store their private vehicles? How did it play out in the North Panhandle?

The Sunday Streets route encompassed eleven blocks -- a diagonal wiggle from the Panhandle at Central Avenue to Divisadero Street at Golden Gate Avenue. Although corner groceries, popular cafes and restaurants, are sprinkled along the blocks, the route is mostly residential. The blocks, day and night, are usually full of parked cars -- an approximate count tallied 330 parking spaces along both sides of the 11 blocks. That's a lot of parking for one neighborhood to relinquish. Especially when SFPD's standard operating procedure for big events like Sunday Streets is to clear the streets beginning at 11pm the night before. From that time until 3pm on Sunday, no privately-owned vehicles were allowed to stop on the blocks.

No one wanted residents to get their vehicles towed -- not the Sunday Streets organizers, not the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA), and certainly not neighbors with cars, trucks, or vans. (Perhaps some churlish sorts hoped the cash-strapped city would get some bucks from tickets and fees for towing and storage). The point of Sunday Streets is to enjoy our public streets in a new way. No one who shelled out a few hundred bucks for a towed car in the early hours of the morning is going to enjoy the car-free event.

NOPNA and Sunday Streets developed an outreach strategy and an alternative parking plan for the neighborhood:
  • NOPNA and Sunday Streets began outreach in the spring with talks at meetings and articles in the NOPNA newsletter, hand-delivered to each of 3500 households, and periodic email blasts
  • Central City Plaza at Masonic and Geary and City College San Francisco, John Adams Campus agreed to open three free parking lots to neighbors with special parking passes*
  • NOPNA copied and hand-delivered 800 fliers to every household along the Sunday Streets route . Fliers warned of tow-away hours and offered free parking passes via online
  • Volunteers posted Sunday Streets signs in laundromats, cafes, and grocery stores
  • NOPNA volunteers contacted each church, care center, and housing center about the parking restrictions; each was offered free parking passes in advance
  • Sunday Streets volunteers posted SFPD No Parking/Tow Away Signs every ten to twenty feet along both sides of every block on the route: attached to utility poles and, if necessary, tree trunks at least 72 hours before the event began
  • Volunteers placed No Parking notices under windshields of parked vehicles along the route as much as possible
Nearly 100 neighbors requested and received parking passes to use at one of the three lots. At 10 pm Saturday night, the evening before the event, only five vehicles were parked in the City College lots. One-hundred twenty spaces remained empty. At 7 am the morning of Sunday Streets, five vehicles found spaces among the 74 available at the City Center Plaza lot. Eight more were at City College. Perhaps there was coming and going between 10 pm and 7 am, but, really, not many over a Saturday night.

Why weren't the 200 spaces used? We emailed the question to the pass holders; two dozen responded. Six used the lots, several expressed their appreciation, a few found it "super convenient" with no hassles. Although one neighbor found alternative parking nearby, he found it a "huge hassle" and he saw several neighbors' vehicles getting towed from streets that were "poorly signed." (One irate resident telephoned at 3am to vent her frustration over being towed. On Sunday afternoon, another neighbor said his vehicle was towed from a block that had no signs or none that were visible).

Lessons Learned? Arranging alternative parking, notifying residents, and managing the parking pass distribution was a time-consuming undertaking. Was it worth the effort? Yes, this time. No one knew how great the need or use would be on this first outing. NOPNA wanted people to enjoy the event, and made the effort to mitigate the difficulties. (Whether people used the free lots or not, everyone received advance notice of the parking restrictions, resulting in fewer tickets and tow-aways). But based on the experiences of other neighbors, those 20 or less who used the lots could likely have found parking after a search on nearby streets. Providing alternative parking for churches and for those with special needs remains important, helpful, and ... neighborly.

Much appreciation to all who helped bring Sunday Streets to the Western Addition and our neighborhood, including
Susan King, Sunday Streets Coordinator -- for her always impressive contribution
SFMTA, SFPD, Recreation and Parks, Dept. of Emergency Management, the Mayor's Office
NOPNA Board of Directors and President Jarie Bolander
City College of San Francisco, John Adams Campus and John Rizzo
City Center Plaza, Adam Miller and Doris Liang McDowell, Lubert Adler Mgmt. West, Inc.
Daniel Frattin, Attorney, Reuben & Julius
NOPNA volunteers
SF Bicycle Coalition, YBIKE, the Wigg Party, St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church -- staff and volunteers -- and so many others for all their work to make Sunday Streets a success

* Note: For many the most convenient parking option would have been the DMV lot on Fell street, but the state agency seldom makes use of their lot easy or free. It was not available for Sunday Streets.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday Streets Surpass Summer Skies

Purple accessories found at St. Cyprian's busy deco corner

3 chocolate chip cookies for $1: best deal of the day from ruby & sam

Huge crowd gathered here: no one cared about the drizzle

At the top of Baker street at McAllister: just another biking day?

Heavy fog, mist, and drizzle along with warm temperatures greeted Sunday Streets on its first foray into the Western Addition and the mostly residential North Panhandle neighborhood Sunday. Everyone who ventured out into the gray expanse took the weather with exasperated shrugs and sighs and then got on with the business of having a great time in the streets. Here's a few photos of what we especially liked -- with a caveat. BIKE NOPA was so engaged with activities in the neighborhood that we never managed to travel east of Divisadero. Our loss for missing the fun in Japantown, Kimball Park, and the Fillmore.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

NOPA Streets As Never Seen Before

Looking east on Golden Gate Avenue from Broderick

Grove Street before it wakens, from Broderick

Grove at Baker, soon to be full of kids and adults on bikes

Baker Street looking north from Grove

Early morning for Central Avenue looking toward the Panhandle

Sunday Streets came to the North Panhandle today for thousands of people to walk, skate, bike, visit, lounge, play and listen to live music. They romped on car-free streets, eleven full blocks open to whatever else people wanted to do on them. Anything but drive and park for five hours on a Sunday. Before the staging for activities got underway, I took a look at our neighborhood streets opened in a new way on a relaxed and quiet morning.

Friday, September 17, 2010

No Matter the Weather Sunday: NOPA Welcomes You for Sunday Streets

Sunday Streets is coming to NOPA and we'll be waiting for and welcoming you!

Variation on a theme at Baker and McAllister

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Epicenter Shake-Up in Sunday Shake Shack

Step Right Up, Settle In, and Get Ready for the BIG ONE
Photo: SF Dept of Emergency Management

I think they want YOU to get prepared
Photo: SF Dept of Emergency Management

Almost, but not quite, prepared for the Big One? One of these days you really will stock food and water, plan your family's meet-up plans, and secure emergency clothes and shoes near your bed? The city's Department of Emergency Management will be on the street Sunday to give you a hand --actually a jolt.

Stop by Grove Street between Baker and Broderick at the Preparedness Pavilion for the shake of your life between 10am and 3pm. Step into the Shake Shack for a simulated 8.0 earthquake. After that, you'll want to visit the mobile "Command Van One" and the cyber cafe (herbal tea suggested for rattled nerves and bones).

Expect to return home at the end of the day with more resolve and a lot more information about how to protect yourself, your friends, neighbors, and family when emergency strikes our neighborhood.

Find out how you can manage emergencies Thursday night at the meeting of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA).

NOPNA General Meeting, Thursday, Sept. 16th
Oasis Cafe, corner McAllister and Divisadero
7pm meet neighbors
7:30 meeting begins
Agenda: Emergency Management, Bay to Breakers, Fix Masonic, Sunday Streets and more

Sunday Streets, Sunday Sept. 19th, 10am to 3pm
Western Addition (NOPA, Alamo Square, Japantown, the Fillmore)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

1,400 Masonic Residents Receive 9/30 Meeting Notice -- Options Narrowed to Two

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has direct-mailed 1,400 Masonic area residents an invitation to the upcoming third and final community meeting to determine traffic-calming measures for the neighborhood corridor. Every household along Masonic Avenue from Geary to Fell Street has received the flyer as well as neighbors who live one block deep on the side streets east and west of Masonic. The mailing is the agency's latest effort to engage area residents in the planning process to bring traffic calming to the prime north-south street used by motorists, Muni riders, and wary bicyclists and pedestrians.

As previously reported, city planners will present two options for traffic-calming at the meeting to be held on September 30th. The two will include all or some of the following:
  • addition of a landscaped median
  • improved pedestrian crossings
  • installment of bike facilities (either a bike lane or a slightly elevated cycle track)
  • partial or full removal of existing on-street parking
  • increased landscaping and tree planting
  • enhancements to transit stops (including bulb-outs)
  • removal of day-time tow-away restrictions
At the upcoming meeting, community participants will discuss and complete a survey to indicate their preference between the two options. Their input will help determine the final plan to be submitted to the public for review and adoption.

Masonic Avenue Street Design Study
Community Workshop #3
Thursday, September 30, 2010
6:30 to 8:30 pm
San Francisco Day School
350 Masonic at Golden Gate (enter at Golden Gate)
bike parking indoors, Muni #43 and nearby Muni #5 options

For detailed project information: www.sfmta.com/masonic
Contact project manager, Javad Mirabdal: javad.mirabdal@sfmta.com
(415) 701-4421

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunday Streets Route: East End Will Be Jazzed & Hopping

San Francisco's new SFMTA commissioner, Cheryl Brinkman, at Sunday Streets
Photo by Rich and Cheryl on Flickr

For three years Susan King has coordinated the increasingly popular Sunday Streets for other neighborhoods. She organized the routes through the Bayview and the Mission, along the Embarcadero and the Great Highway. But this Sunday she brings the street celebration closer to her District 5 home. "This time we'll be in the virtual heart, the center of the city," she said during a recent community meeting. "Our other routes have been mostly along the periphery." King added that she was excited to see such diverse programming for the upcoming event.

Monday's BIKE NOPA post highlighted street-rocking activities planned for the North Panhandle, the western end of Sunday Street's route (see map). Today east of Divisadero with the Fillmore, Japantown, and points nearby get the buzz.

Golden Gate Avenue, Divisadero to Laguna
  • Live Music with SF Creative Arts Charter School parklett (near Pierce) with music by the Monkeybutts
  • Hula Hoops, kids' games at Hayward Playground with Buchanan YMCA
  • Teens and Tweens get their own stuff, hosted by La Casa de Las Madres
Fillmore Street, Golden Gate to Post
  • Rock the Bike pedal-powered stage and live music at Fillmore Mini Park near Turk)
  • Church of St. John Coltrane celebrates 41st Anniversary near Eddy
  • So many promotions, music and arts by Fillmore merchants
  • Artists of all ages: paint away on the Free Wall sponsored by DPW and SF Arts Commission (all graffiti is good here on a 10 x 40 foot wall)
Kimbell Athletic Field Grand Opening Celebration at O'Farrell and Steiner
sponsored by City Fields and SF Recreation & Parks
  • Tiny tot agility course
  • Free batting cages
  • Trash Mash-up Parade
  • Community BBQ and picnic
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • live music with Bobby Webb
Japantown Peace Palace, Post at Buchanan
  • Bike Rentals from Blazing Saddles (free 1st hour, requires drivers license & credit card)
  • West Coast Lion Dance Troupe
  • Hawaiian Dance performances
  • Yoga and Meditation with Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center
East end, West end: This is a Sunday Streets not to be missed. Look for a complete program in Wednesday's San Francisco Examiner, on signs posted along the route, and from handouts from Sunday Streets volunteers.

Dads on Wheels: Douglas Kadlecek, His Daughter, and the Breeze in Their Faces

Image by Meli of Bikes And The City

Photo by Douglas Kadlecek

Photo by Douglas Kadlecek

I first met Douglas when we worked together on the Future of the Plaza Coalition, a North Panhandle group that negotiated for extensive changes in the development of Falletti Plaza at Fulton Street and Masonic Avenue. We crossed paths again during the recent Sunday Streets through Golden Gate Park and on the Great Highway.

When did you start biking with your daughter?
I have two children; one is almost 3 years old, and the other 5 months. I’ve biked with our daughter since she’s been a one-year-old.

Where do you bike when you're out with your daughter?
We bike together once or twice a week, and it will probably increase now that school has started. We also bike for fun as well as to get places, such as to swim lessons. I don’t own a car currently so biking is my primary form of transportation.

What do you like most when you're biking with her?
The best thing about biking with my daughter is getting to spend quality time together with no distractions. We are able to talk about what we see along our ride and enjoy the breeze in our faces.

What do you say to relatives or friends who think San Francisco streets are not safe for kids to bike?
Well, I agree with them. I definitely try to stay off the streets when traveling with my daughter. We focus on rides in Golden Gate Park and either ride on non-busy streets or the sidewalk (on Masonic, for example).

What makes a route or street OK for taking your daughter on it?
If there is a bike lane, minimal traffic, or a dedicated bike route (like in Golden Gate Park).

Is it harder getting kids ready for trips if you’re traveling by bike?
I don’t think it is any harder, and it may even be easier. I just plop her in the bike seat, strap her in and put on her helmet and we’re good to go.

Do you also bike on your own?
I bike every day to work and to get to appointments. I’ll take the ‘long way home’ a few times a week to get in some extra exercise.

What would you tell other dads who are considering biking on their own or with their kids?
Do it! It’s a great way to spend time with your kids and get some exercise to boot.


BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City: every Tuesday, more Dads on Wheels.

For previous posts in the Dads on Wheels series, check here.

Dads and kids: This Sunday so much to do in NOPA and the Western Addition. Bike in the streets, try out the skating rink on Golden Gate Avenue, decorate your bikes, dance to live music, try to hold on in the quake shack on Grove Street, try the kids bike rodeo on Grove. And even more: read about more Sunday Streets programs here at BIKE NOPA and in Wednesday's special pullout in the San Francisco Examiner. Sunday, September 19, 10 am to 3pm, 11 blocks of NOPA open to walking, biking, visiting, dancing, yoga, games.