Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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:
Contact project manager, Javad Mirabdal:
(415) 701-4421

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


  1. A landscaped median will likely not discourage speeding. Rather, it will likely encourage it by making it more comfortable for drivers to go fast (this is why medians are required features of highways). Better to use the space a median would occupy to widen the sidewalks or add a landscaped buffer between the cycletrack and motor traffic.

  2. A median planted with trees will visually narrow the street which has been shown to reduce speeding; Masonic can be fast but it's not a freeway with all the visual and design cues for speed. Whether to install a median between the bike track and traffic lane is a consideration: that too would "narrow" the visual. Most of the sidewalks along Masonic are super-wide already.

  3. Hey Mike. With respect, I'm not sure I agree. Oncoming cars slow traffic and providing a buffer for drivers, even with landscaping, creates a more comfortable street for high speed, not withstanding other changes like chicanes and lane width. Trees planted close to a driving lane do narrow the street visually, but I don't see how they do so more in a median than they do at the curb.

    Most sidewalks on masonic are wide, which is great. I'd argue that there isn't such a thing as a too-wide sidewalk. Wide as they are, more room can still be used for landscaping, benches, etc. And a street wide sidewalks and narrow traffic lanes naturally has short crossing distances without needing the so-called "refuges" in the middle. IMHO those are really awful places to be stuck during a red light.