Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cyclists Report Seeing the Ghost of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park

Forlorn ghost known to haunt Stow Lake searching for lost child

NOPA VELO bikers catch glimpse of ghost across the lake Sunday morning

For more than 100 years visitors to Golden Gate Park have spotted a ghostly apparition hovering around Stow Lake. Sunday morning a group of cyclists observed the woman-in-white during a ride through the park. Rick Helf, one of the organizers of the NOPA VELO cycling troupe, said they decided to circle Stow Lake off JFK Drive at about 10:30 in the morning when the sighting occurred.
Once we were half-way around the lake, someone shouted, 'There's the ghost, across the water near the pagoda.' We all stopped and sure enough a woman in a white flowing gown was pushing through the reeds like she was looking for something. We all heard a distinctive, eerie wailing as if someone was in deep distress or mourning. We knew the lake was supposed to be haunted, but we had no idea we'd actually see the ghost!
Helf said his group called out to the eerie woman who kept wailing and gesturing. They also saw tourists with small children approach the pagoda only to make a quick retreat once they saw the distraught ethereal presence. One child ran up the hillside for safety. After another ten minutes the ghost disappeared into the shadows.

The NOPA VELO cyclists spun out for Ocean Beach and munched on Twix bars in the sunshine to calm their nerves. Even Lenore McDonald was spooked, although she has a reputation among the group for disguising herself as a scary Patty Hearst and a chilling Maria von Trapp. The other cyclists -- including a new rider named simply Wolverine -- returned to the North Panhandle but purposefully avoided the lake. John Rogers, a cyclist who played Halloween tunes on his customized Rock the Bike ride, said no one wanted to re-visit The Ghost of Stow Lake. "It's distressing enough to play Thriller one more time."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bicyclist Injured in Collision on Masonic Friday Night; Witnesses Reportedly Saw Cyclist Run Red Light

Southbound traffic on Masonic approaching Fulton Street intersection

A male bicyclist was injured Friday in the intersection of Masonic Avenue and Fulton Street. He collided with a motorist driving a Volkswagen Touareg at 7:55 p.m, according to a North Panhandle resident who was at the scene. The cyclist is believed to be in his late twenties, wore a beard, and was riding a fixed-gear bicycle with curved handlebars. Witnesses reportedly saw the cyclist traveling southbound on Masonic run the red light at Fulton and then collide with the Volkswagen traveling eastbound on Fulton. The cyclist was injured and bleeding as a result of the crash but remained conscious. No further information on his condition is known at this time. The motorist and passenger were apparently not injured.

North Panhandle resident Tarik Ansari emailed BIKE NOPA late this afternoon that he was present at the scene of the crash after leaving Lucky grocery store at the intersection Friday night.
I heard a loud bang and saw from the corner of my eye an eastbound car crossing Masonic hit something. Turned out it was a cyclist. Me and my buddy quickly headed to the scene while I dialed 911; we were about 8 or so by-standers (including the car driver and passenger) blocking the intersection making sure incoming cars wouldn't run on the cyclist who was down on the ground bleeding but still conscious. 911 took about 2 minutes to pick up my call.
Ansari said witnesses told him that the cyclist "burned a red light" while going downhill (southbound) on Masonic. He and his friend stayed at the scene until the police arrived and as a fire department vehicle approached.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Autumn Weather, Scary Ride, Horrortrack On The Way: NOPA VELO Spins and Spooks on Halloween Sunday

You Don't Know Who Might Appear..... Flickr Photo: Steve Rhodes

Dead Man's Bones: My Body's A Zombie for You

When's the last time you biked to the accompaniment of Wayfaring Stranger, My Body's A Zombie for You, Way Down Hadestown, and People Who Died -- in your spook garb, scaring the early risers, and circling Stow Lake for the forlorn resident ghost? OK, but have you ever done it on a Halloween morning with friends and neighbors?

First-timers for a ghoul spin: mornings can be scary, especially on Halloween. It's better if you travel with your own kind. Join NOPA VELO, the North Panhandle's only bike rec ride for neighbors and friends.

NOPA VELO Monster Mash Halloween Ride
Sunday, October 31
Meet: 9:30 at Mojo Bicycle Cafe, 639 Divisadero, between Hayes & Grove

Start: 10 am sharp
(If you're running late, join the group in the Panhandle or call Lenore for location)
End: about noon with drinks and lunch at Duboce Park Cafe, corner of Duboce & Sanchez

Easy to moderate 8 mile ride
All level riders welcome; kids on own bike OK if with guardian

Spooky pets too if on leash or in bike basket
You Will Want to be in Costume! It's Halloween!
More info: Lenore @415-300-6744,

For previous rides and to appreciate again the previous posters, check the NOPA VELO Series.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dads on Wheels Set the Pace: Thanks to You All

Image by Meli of Bikes And The City

A salute to dads who bike with their kids

The men who shared their stories about biking with kids in our Dads on Wheels series are the kind of everyday leaders who help shape San Francisco into a better city. By their example they show friends and neighbors that bicycling is a real transportation option and a great way to spend time with the little ones. The responses of several to the question of what to tell other dads who think about biking with their kids say it all:

Seriously? Just do it (or at least try it). It's easy.
-- J.J. Strahle

If you're just starting, think of cycling as practical and efficient transportation, not sport.
-- Max Poletto

Do it! It's a great way to spend time with your kids and get some exercise to boost.
-- Doug Kadlecek

Try it. Start with a manageable goal.
-- Jason Beers

The sooner you embrace biking in NOPA, the sooner you realize you wish you had started earlier.
-- James Munden

Huge thanks to all the dads who participated in the series both here at BIKE NOPA and at Bikes And The City. (Great collaborating with you again, Meli!)

Check here for the Women Who Bike stories.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Carrotmob Crams Cafe: NOPA Gets More Green

Lauren Almeda-Reddell, relaxed for the pic, busy for the mob

Matching Half Cafe: lots of light, great art, and the stained-glass windows

The Carrotmob phenomenon roused mid-NOPA today and dispelled thoughts of drizzle and staying warm and dry indoors. During one brief stopover at about 3:30 this afternoon, more than 75 Carrotmob followers packed into the Matching Half Cafe located at McAllister and Baker streets. Proprietors Jason Wahlberg and Lauren Almeda-Redell and their staff looked a little dazzled, happy, and non-stop busy serving all the new and returning customers. The band Sufi (see clip above) kept the cafe bouncing. Outside on the extra-wide Baker sidewalk, two tents with seating offered respite from the light rain. Gathered round-about were several members of the Wigg Party, including Morgan Fitzgibbons and Ben Kaufman, who greeted all and boosted the event that their group organized. A PBS film crew captured much of the buzz for a feature on Carrotmob, planned for broadcast in a month.

All proceeds from this afternoon's mob mash will be matched by the cafe for a whopping 200% re-direct of funds toward purchase of a bike trailer for trips to the farmers' market. One less car on the streets, reduced oil consumption, and better air quality.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Safe Passage: Keeping the Bike Lane Open Through Construction

Polk from Bush to Pine
Flickr photo: geekstinkbreath

Here's a street scene we really like: a sewer project that keeps the bike lane open during construction, especially since the work is on a much-used north-south bike route like Polk Street. This block between Bush and Pine might easily have blocked the bike lane altogether; instead the Public Utilities Commission, or its contractor, has closed the street to all but bicyclists while the work proceeds outside the bikeway.

San Francisco streets need a lot of work above and below ground with sewer line reconstruction, concrete base renovation, and basic surface repaving. In our compact urban space any street construction can leave bicyclists -- and sometimes motorists -- scrambling to safely get from Point A to Point B along their usual routes or find detours.

The city's Blue Book of regulations governing street construction is being revised, partly to include new requirements that are more responsive to the needs of bicyclists. The recent difficulties during the Valencia Street upgrade are a good example of what can go wrong: bikeways can be left exposed to trenches, strewn with debris, diverted without notice, and be blocked altogether. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is working with the Department of Public Works and the Municipal Transportation Agency to add new safety measures and better enforce those that exist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Green Consumers To "Carrotmob" Local Cafe; New Bike Trailer in the Balance

Lauren Almeda-Reddell and Jason Wahlberg, proprietors of Matching Half Cafe

Carrotmob, the two-year-old San Francisco-born sensation, plans to swarm NOPA's popular Matching Half Cafe this Saturday afternoon to help the business adopt more sustainable practices. If enough customers purchase sweets and savories, coffee and brew, the cafe's proprietors will use the profits to buy a bike trailer to get food from farmers' markets without a car. They'll also kick in a, yes, matching half, to re-invest 200% of what they make during the event for the new transport.

Hatched by San Franciscan Brent Schulkin, Carrotmob is a straight-forward organization of purchasing power to promote a good cause. The idea, according to the group's website, is to "coordinate purchases to reward environmentally and socially responsible businesses with a mob of new customers." Begun in 2008, more than 100 Carrotmobs have sprouted worldwide.

The Wigg Party will host NOPA's venture into consumer mob potential. "It's a great opportunity to showcase what we are building here in the neighborhood," explained Wigg Party founder Morgan Fitzgibbons. The Wiggs organized a competition among local businesses to be selected as a Carrotmob beneficiary. Fitzgibbons said the Matching Half won the opportunity because of their 200% kick-in offer and their choice of realistic goals for the proceeds. The Wigg Party itself is all about sustainability. Taking it's name from the east-west bicycle route, the Wiggle, members work to make the community a leader in the sustainability movement.

Carrotmob regularly turns out a huge crowd of customers. When the group first selected the K&D Market on 16th street in the Mission, hundreds of shoppers lined up outside the grocery for hours and boosted sales to more than $9,000. The market's owners used the profits to re-do indoor lighting to be more environmentally friendly.

To make Saturday's mob scene even more compelling, PBS will film a segment on site for an upcoming feature on Carrotmob. Help get one more bike trailer and one less car on city streets while you grab some coffee,tea, beer, wine, baked goods and more.

Carrotmob @ Matching Half Cafe
1700 McAllister at Baker
Saturday, October 23, 3-6pm
cash purchases only

For Carrotmob theory and practice, check this:

How Organized Consumer Purchasing Can Change Business from carrotmob on Vimeo.

And for how Carrotmob played in the Mission:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dads on Wheels: James Munden, "Enjoy It While It Lasts"

Image: Meli of Bikes And The City

James Munden with Olive wearing her new green helmet!

A spin through NOPA on Fulton Street

One of the great things about biking in the neighborhood is how easily you can meet others and find fewer "degrees of separation" than you might expect. That happened for me when I met James Munden and his daughter Olive one morning while they were out for a ride. We chatted long enough to talk about this Dads on Wheels series. Later I learned that James had just started a new job with a good friend of mine who lives two blocks away.

How did you get started biking with Olive?
First of all, Bike or no bike, Olive loves wearing her new green bike helmet.

Up until a few months ago, Olive and I walked everywhere. We managed to purchase a second hand I-bert; a seat located between you and the handlebars, on C
raigslist. Not that we have biked many times (yet), but I find that our bike excursions are unique to us and a real bonding experience. It's an opportunity to spend personal time with my daughter. As it only happens once in their life time and yours – it makes me realize writing these words, ‘I need to get out on the bike with Olive more than I do’.

When did you start biking with her?
Olive and I have been biking since she was 19 months old.

How often do you bike with Olive?
We bike at least once a week, on Fridays or the weekend. Up until recently, I did not have a California drivers license so being able to cycle with Olive allowed us to travel further afield. As much as I like our local parks, its great to be able to visit other children play areas normally out of reach when on foot. However on that note, Olive is happiest on the bike journey and not when we arrive at our destination…it’s a tantrum I can relate too for sure.

What’s the best part of biking together?
The one-on-one time with each other. As all dads know, it takes time for the little ones to leave their mother's side, and so the bike experience gives us a unique experience that I will never forget and I hope Olive, albeit in the subconscious, will never forget too!

What do you say to people who think San Francisco streets are too risky for kids?
The streets are always going to be dangerous, but compared to other cities, like London, the awareness of cyclists in San Francisco is pretty high with more bike lanes being introduced and a large group of bike enthusiasts and supporters spreading the word. However, putting all that to one side, tourists driving on the wrong side of the road can be scary!

What makes a street OK for biking with Olive?
Kids playing on the street is often a good sign that a road is safe. Also, since San Francisco is so up and down, the rare flat straight road can be very appealing (to me) too.

Is it harder getting a kid ready for trips if you’re traveling by bike?
Olive really enjoys biking so the getting ready bit is easier than doing other trips. It’s a simple equation, she has more fun!

How often do you bike on your own?
Five days a week traveling to and from work.

Any advice for dads who might start biking with their kids?
The sooner you embrace the activity of biking in the NOPA area, the sooner you realize that you wish you had started earlier. Enjoy it while it lasts as there will come a time when your teenage daughter or son doesn’t want to hang off your handle bars anymore!


For previous BIKE NOPA posts in the Dads on Wheels series, check here. And find more dads on bikes at Bikes And The City.

Monday, October 18, 2010

SFMTA Installs Extra-Large Signals on Masonic Ave to Calm Traffic

New 12" lights on Masonic at Golden Gate intersection

Will the larger lights discourage speeding between signal changes?

SFMTA not alone with Masonic transportation studies

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) installed larger traffic signals along Masonic Avenue last week to improve visibility for motorists. The new LED 12" signals replace the previous 8" versions and are much brighter. The extra-large lights are intended to increase safety along the corridor by more clearly alerting drivers to signal changes. Javad Mirabdal, SFMTA transportation engineer, said the agency expects to install the larger signals on Masonic from Fell to Geary streets during the next several days.

Although the new signals may improve traffic conditions along Masonic, they are not the "signal upgrades" included in the Masonic Street Design Study currently underway. In those plans, the existing lights atop poles on the sidewalks will be replaced by mast arms that extend over the roadway for even greater visibility. Those installations will require new foundations and new poles at greater expense. Mirabdal of the MTA said the current signal replacements are "not very expensive" and are handled by in-house crews.

Masonic residents and users are especially interested in signal re-timing to discourage speeding. Mirabdal told a community meeting on September 30th that the MTA would complete the signal re-timing by the end of November. In conjunction with those adjustments, the larger signals might be expected to have greater impact.

In addition to the city's traffic study of Masonic, a private contractor has installed a camera on a utility pole at the southwest corner of Golden Gate Avenue. In response to a question by BIKE NOPA, Mirabdal said the camera posting was not part of MTA's study. Although not yet confirmed with the University of San Francisco (USF), that institution recently agreed to conduct a full transportation study of the streets surrounding its campus as part of negotiations with the University Terrace Association. UTA has been concerned with USF expansion that brings more students and their vehicles to the campus in the Masonic, Golden Gate, and Turk street area.

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

NOPA VELO Does the Monster Mash Halloween Ride

Image: Rick Helf

NOPA VELO riders will wend their way through the candy corn for a Halloween spin like no other on Sunday, October 31st. Riders will spook the early-morning Mojo Bicycle Cafe crowd and power-up on breakfast and coffee before rolling through the streets to the Panhandle. With sleek and smooth or flapping and ominous costumes, cyclists will continue bravely on their scary mission: spot the forlorn Ghost of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

For those unfamiliar with this spooky tale, the version we like best goes like this. In the late 1800s when the park was still in its early period of development, a young woman took her toddler on a boating excursion on Stow Lake. Somehow the little one fell overboard, the mother jumped in to save her child, and both drowned. Ever since, the distraught mother has been sighted by San Franciscans who all describe the same apparition: a young woman of forlorn expression in a wet and muddy white dress walking along the edge of the lake. For more than 100 years the Ghost of Stow Lake has searched for her lost child, often while wailing in despair. Our own NOPA Lore has it that the Ghost usually appears on Halloween mornings . . .

Following the very possible ghost sighting, riders will descend on JFK Drive to make the car-free zone really scary before entering the Panhandle and circling NOPA blocks -- all the while doing the Monster Mash and sporting their Ghostbusters cred. Spooks and ghosts and mashes really work up a Halloween appetite. Riders will repair to the Duboce Park Cafe and raise a toast to the Ninth NOPA VELO ride of 2010.

NOPA VELO Monster Mash Ride Halloween Ride
Sunday, October 31

Meet: 9:30 at
Mojo Bicycle Cafe, 639 Divisadero, between Hayes & Grove
Start: 10 am sharp
(If you're running late, join the group in the Panhandle or call Lenore for location)
End: about noon with drinks and lunch at
Duboce Park Cafe, corner of Duboce & Sanchez

Easy to moderate 8 mile ride
All level riders welcome; kids on own bike OK if with guardian
Pets too if on leash or in bike basket
Costumes of any sort really encouraged! It's Halloween!
More info: Lenore @415-300-6744,

For previous rides and to see the cool posters, check the NOPA VELO Series.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Everyone Loves Repaved Streets: Broderick in NOPA Going Smooth

Broderick: Hayes to Grove streets, northbound

Broderick: Grove to Hayes streets southbound

Broderick: Golden Gate to Turk to over the hill

It's hard to get much quarrel with clearing a street for re-paving, especially if done one to two blocks at a time. Today three blocks of Broderick street were car-free -- cleared of traffic and on-street parking. But this was no Sunday Streets-style celebration with pedestrians, strollers, skaters, and cyclists enjoying unrestricted use of public spaces. The road crews for the Department of Public Works (DPW) took to the streets and got down to business: scraping and grinding the roadway to get it ready for re-paving.

This week's work on Broderick is ahead of schedule according to the city's Five Year Plan: re-surfacing from Haight to O'Farrell had been slated to begin in early January 2011. The crews are hop-scotching some of the blocks now so a continuous new smooth ribbon of asphalt may still be weeks away.

Why re-pave Broderick street? With the city's woefully limited funds for upgrading its streets, preference usually goes to transit or bicycle routes or to main arterials. But DPW also tries to take care of the "local" streets, like Broderick, that are less-used but worn down nevertheless. When the blocks don't require sewer restoration -- the source of NOPA's re-appearing sinkholes -- a "mill and fill" paving operation is fairly easy to coordinate for the road workers.

In the next few days, take a walk or ride on Broderick and enjoy the difference. And then imagine if Masonic, Market, Polk, Folsom, and Mission were just as smooth.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Los Angeles CicLAvia on Vimeo: Another Look at Sunday's Event

CicLAvia, Let’s Go! from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

BIKE NOPA readers who include a daily stop at Streetsblog for more features about livability in San Francisco and the Bay Area already noticed this great new video of last Sunday's street celebration, CicLAvia. (The CicLAvia site has even more videos). Everyone else: take a look at what had LA buzzing far more than the Blue Angels over San Francisco. The Los Angeles Times estimated 100,000 people took to the streets on foot and skateboards, with strollers, and riding bikes. Great stretches of the city came together in a completely new way. Enjoy the latest production of Streetsfilms.

Note to Readers: BIKE NOPA is taking a light week. Perhaps it's the summer that almost never appeared. But I'm also working on more in-depth stories for the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday Streets in the North Panhandle: How Was It For You?

Seemed to be a good day at this doggie table

Sometimes bike decoration is essential

Drizzle didn't stop the music

UPDATE, 8pm, Oct. 12. A point of reference: Los Angeles held its version of Sunday Streets -- la cicLAvia -- this weekend. There was no organized programming along the full 7.5 mile route. 10,000 people joined in. Get the full story here at Streetsblog and scroll through the comments. People were amazed with the open streets. "Toni" reflected, "The cicLAvia allowed many of us Angelenos (to) rediscover our city."

On the morning of September 19th before the event got underway, I saw NOPA in a completely new way: completely open streets, 11 blocks cleared of vehicles for perhaps the first time ever. And then people came outdoors to play.


A warm drizzle kept the numbers down for the first Sunday Streets to come to the Western Addition three weeks ago, but thousands of NOPA residents and visitors took to the streets anyway. In the North Panhandle eleven blocks were opened to walking, skating, biking and dancing. From 10 am to 3pm, people roamed the neighborhood -- some perhaps for the first time taking a look at what the NOPA buzz is all about.

Before we race on to the next big events -- and the last Sunday Street of the year, scheduled for October 24th in the Civic Center and the Tenderloin -- take a moment and let other BIKE NOPA readers know what you're thinking. Here's a few questions and a bit of background to get things started:

Did you, your roommates, friends, or family enjoy the music, disaster prep demos, kids bike rodeo, roller skating, bike decorating, and being in the streets?
  • If this was your first Sunday Street, was it interesting enough to participate in again next year? (2011 routes have yet to be determined)
Do you live in the neighborhood ...or make a special trip here for Sunday Streets?

Did you travel the route across Golden Gate Avenue to the Fillmore and Japantown for activities there? If not, what kept you from doing so?

Would you prefer a different route through the neighborhood?
  • Selecting a route isn't easy, especially since Sunday Streets tries to avoid disrupting Muni lines. One possibility is to use Baker Street (instead of Central) between Fell and Grove, but that might restrict senior residents at Mercy Terrace too much. What about the Golden Gate hill between Broderick and Divisadero? Too steep to use or just a minor San Francisco hill?
What would you like more of next year -- or less?
  • Sunday Streets does not attempt to fill the streets with programs like a block party or street fair, but it does try to provide "activity stops" to encourage people to travel the full route.
How much inconvenience for you was the removal of parking on the eleven blocks?
  • Note: Sunday Streets and NOPNA secured 200 free alternative parking spaces for residents who had to move their vehicles. Every residence received a flier about the parking; about 100 requested a parking pass. Only two to three dozen actually used the free spaces.
Mostly, how was it for you? Leave a few comments here. Thanks!

Friday, October 8, 2010

10.10.10 Evening Band Blow-Out for SFBC

And now for something different that supports a good cause: Battle of the One-Man Bands (for Bikes). Promo provided by Charlie Cunningham:

"The Kestral Sound Review is a small collective of friends/artists in the city who are putting together our second event which benefits the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Our first event raised $2,000 for breast cancer awareness and this time we are trying to raise $$ for bicycle awareness in the city. Here is our website.

"The skinny for this event:
What: Kestral v.2 Battle of the One-Man Bands benefit for SF Bicycle Coalition
When: Sunday 10.10.2010
Where: Cafe du Nord 2170 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Cost: $5 for SFBC members , $10 regular entry, Free with signup for SFBC on the Spot"

Exotic musical tastes? Read on:

"The Kestral Sound Review Vol. II is at home in San Francisco which serves as the “home of the characters.” Benefitting the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition – this concert, or Battle of the One Man Bands, tries to encapsulate the exotic musical tastes made eligible by one person on a stage. Together, these artists are not a spattering of musicians pulled from the likes of the Cable Car turnaround on Market, or the sidewalks adjacent to Fisherman’s wharf, they serve as an insiders guide to what is happening in your backyard or alleyway. Curator Ted Folstad and Emcee Cold Steel Renegade (San Francisco’s Air Guitar Champion) promise to please even the most eclectic of tastes.

"Artists included: The Mallard | A Magic Whistle | Ricky Lee Robinson | Hanalei | Daniel Durrett. The event will be Hosted by SF Air Guitar Champion Cold Steel Renegade. Valet Bicycle Parking will be included."

"Panhandle Pathways Crying Out To Be Swept": Park Stewards Seek Help Saturday

Diagram showing Panhandle grassy mounds needing new turf

Panhandle Park Stewards at September workday

Panhandle neighbors and other park users will get together Saturday morning for the always fun and productive monthly workday under the park stewardship program. Dale Danley, leader of the Panhandle Park Stewards, announced today that the focus for volunteers will be the central zone of the park. "The Panhandle's gardener, Guillermo, brought in fresh soil and we'll tend to the children's garden just outside the playground fence," Danley said.

The playground isn't the only spot to get the stewards' attention. Danley added that the paths in the central area are in great need of help by regular and new volunteers.
The connections between the multi-use path and the basketball courts are crying out to be swept! It's time to get a jump on the fall leaves that are already beginning to collect. If you know how to use a broom or a rake, then there's a lot you can contribute. It'll feel good to see the fruits of your labor in the freshly groomed pathways.
After the program is over at around 11 am, Danley will share with the group the renderings and diagrams that illustrate features included in a rehabilitation plan for the central zone of the Panhandle. The proposal is being considered for implementation through the Community Opportunities Fund of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (RPD). Danley worked with North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) leaders, volunteer designers and other concerned neighbors on the proposal. A primary focus of the plan is to re-build and re-plant the turf areas in the Panhandle's central area between the playground and basketball courts.

The application to RPD included letters of support from Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, SFPD Park Station Acting Captain Mark Solomon, the Kevin Collins Garden Project, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and several neighborhood associations around the Panhandle, including the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, and the Cole Valley Improvement Association.

Panhandle Park Stewards Monthly Workday
Saturday, October 9, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Meet at bulletin board near Kids Playground and Basketball Court
Gloves, equipment, snacks and drinks provided; heavy shoes or boots suggested
For more information:
The Panhandle Park Stewards meet every second Saturday

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"I'll Never Do That Again," Bicyclist Tells SFPD After Trying to Beat Signal, Colliding with SUV Driver in NOPA

Scene of bicycle and BMW crash at Baker and Fulton streets Photo: Jignesh Desai

Trying to beat the light in the North Panhandle is obviously just as risky as many other parts of the city. Yesterday morning a bicyclist spinning southbound in the bike lane down Baker Street from McAllister thought he could clear the intersection at Fulton before the signal changed. Instead, he mis-timed his approach, entered the intersection against the light, and collided with a motorist driving a BMW on Fulton. SFPD and the Fire Department arrived soon after. According to NOPA neighbors Jignesh Desai and Leela Gill who happened on the scene independently after the crash, the cyclist appeared OK even if his bike was badly twisted.

Lt. Mark Solomon, Acting Captain of SFPD Park Station, told BIKE NOPA that the investigation of the collision was straightforward and easier than most. "The bicyclist admitted he was at fault," Solomon explained. "He told us, 'I'll never do that again.'" Solomon said he was uncertain if the cyclist was taken to the hospital. Another officer had already filed the collision report downtown.

In an earlier conversation Solomon said a different bicyclist involved in a collision at Fell and Masonic on September 21 was also found at fault. In that incident a motorist travelling southbound on Masonic entered the intersection at Fell and then stopped before the crosswalk linking the east and west ends of the Panhandle's multi-use path. Pedestrians had already entered the crosswalk with the green light and the right-of-way. Apparently, when the driver noticed a lull, she proceeded to cross the sidewalk. In those few seconds a bicyclist entered the crosswalk with the green bike light and collided with the vehicle.

Two independent witnesses, one of whom was a cyclist, gave statements during the investigation. They both stated that the motorist stopped in the intersection and proceeded when the crosswalk seemed clear. Both asserted that the cyclist was travelling at "high speed," perhaps 15 mph or more on Panhandle Path when he hit the vehicle. Solomon cited the California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21451 (b), for determining the cyclist's fault. He explained that the cyclist (or any "driver") should have yielded to the motorist who was lawfully within the crosswalk. Had the motorist tried to "beat the light" but got stuck in the intersection when pedestrians were already in the crosswalk? Solomon said the CVC considers the driver legally waiting for the crosswalk to clear. "It's looking for the lull that's important," Solomon concluded.

In the earlier report of this September collision, it appeared that the motorist may have been turning left from Fell onto Masonic against the light. The SFPD investigation found that was not the case: the motorist was travelling southbound on Masonic.

In other SFPD Park Station news:
  • Lt. Solomon confirmed that officers continue to ticket motorists for speeding on Masonic Avenue and making illegal left turns onto side streets. "Five days a week officers are out there on motorcycles, the other two days they're in cars."
  • The one-year federal allocation that financed pedestrian sting operations in the city expired September 30th.
  • Solomon will conclude his position as Acting Captain of Park Station on Sunday, October 10th. Captain Dennis O'Leary will take command of Park Station early next week.

Monday, October 4, 2010

40% Fewer Motorists Block Green-Painted Fell Street Bike Lane in SFMTA Study

Bike lane on block of Fell Street painted green in August 2010

Forty percent fewer motorists blocked the Fell street bike lane near the Arco service station once the city painted the lane green, according to a study conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Of all the motorists waiting to enter the gas station before the green paint was applied, 25% blocked the bike lane. After the green, 15% of all the motorists queuing up for gas obstructed the bike lane. The change represents 40% fewer motorists in the way of westbound bicyclists. As one traffic engineer observed, "In the greater context of it, that's a pretty effective drop in blocking of the bicycle lane for something as 'simple' as coloring it."

In June of this year the SFMTA removed several parking spaces along Fell near the entry and exit of the Arco station to create a curb-side queue for motorists waiting to purchase gas. In August the SFMTA painted the city's second green bike lane to encourage safer passage for cyclists. Anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of the interventions has been mixed. Removing the parking spaces opened up a long stretch of Fell and improved visibility for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Several bicyclists have observed greater ease traveling between Scott and Divisadero, but many others describe the traffic improvements as minimal and intermittent. No one would be hard-pressed to find instances of motorists partially or fully blocking the bike lanes, green or not. Every Friday during the evening commute, the grassroots group Fix Fell stages a protest on Fell with the intent of doing so every week until the city closes the Arco entry and exit. Now the SFMTA has presented data that, in effect, reflects both views: a 40% reduction is a considerable improvement, but much of the problem remains.

In the months ahead, more motorists may keep the green lane clear as they notice others doing so, but a cumulative effect it is difficult to predict. Little traffic enforcement has been observed on Fell near Arco -- at least none to keep drivers out of the bike lane. SFMTA interns informed motorists of the changes on Fell this summer, but the outreach has been discontinued. The only other major traffic design changes being discussed for Fell Street are the removal of the Arco curb cuts, the installation of a separated bikeway, or cycle track, from Scott to Stanyan streets, and the possibility of returning Fell to a two-way street.

The SFMTA study of this one block of Fell adds more data and local experience with the positive impact green bike lanes can bring to public safety and traffic flow. Market Street features the only other location of green-painted lanes in the city. The SFMTA plans to extend the green stripe on Market all the way to the Embarcadero, but not as quickly as the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has urged, as reported in Streetsblog.

A minor note: The description of the study of the Fell green bike lane on the SFMTA website (scroll to mid-page) inaccurately reports 10% fewer motorists blocking the bike lane since it was painted green. The mistake reflects a misreading of the 25% and 15% findings mentioned in the first paragraph above. The relevant equation, for those inclined, is 1-(15/25) x 100.
1:15 pm Tuesday update: The SFMTA description of the study has now been updated.

Thanks to BIKE NOPA reader "S.N." for alerting me to the SFMTA report.

B2B at 100: AEG Pitches Management Plan But Who Will Step Up for the After-Party?

2010 Bay to Breakers on Fell Street approaching Masonic Avenue
Bay to Breakers' 100th anniversary is only seven months and a few days away, and corporate manager AEG has stepped up with plans for a more closely monitored and controlled foot race. Yet the out-of-control "binge fest" atmosphere of the after-party of the last few years remains the trouble spot with neither AEG or, so far, the city assuming responsibility for full coordination of it. The 100th Bay to Breakers Neighborhood Task Force remains optimistic that both the foot race and the party will get the attention they require, but the group's leaders will protest granting B2B a permit if the sponsor or city doesn't follow through with a plan.

On September 16th, AEG representatives Angela Fang and Sam Singer pitched their management plan to the Task Force that has spearheaded a push to make the iconic celebration -- especially the after-party -- safer and more respectful to neighborhood residents along the route.* AEG had previously announced much of its strategy in community meetings and to the media. The major elements include prohibition of alcohol, required registration to be on the course, no floats, and all streets open to traffic by noon, additional fencing along the race course, increased private security and a greater SF Police Department presence. AEG will also conduct extensive marketing and community outreach to emphasize the fun and safety aspects of the race.

Neighborhood leaders were generally pleased with AEG's plans -- as far as they went. AEG's strategy primarily focuses on the race itself, while the groups want AEG to commit additional resources to help manage the tens of thousands attracted to the spectacle. Jarie Bolander, President of the North Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA), commented, "AEG still has some responsibility for the after-party." He added, with some frustration, "Someone has to step forward to manage the after-party. That can either be AEG or the city. We will protest B2B if the plan presented at ISCOTT does not include resources to manage the after-party." Bolander said the party time is the biggest issue before the stakeholder representatives and will be the topic of their next meeting.

Bolander said the group has primarily worked with Mike Farrah of the Mayor's Office as a contact for the meetings. He allowed that the November election and the possibility of getting a new mayor may slow planning for how to deal with next year's Bay to Breakers. The Neighborhood Task Force has yet to meet one of its own goals: to recruit a group leader to take its agenda to the city. For now, Bolander said leaders will meet more frequently in the months ahead and will increase their focus on neighborhood outreach and the after-party.

Participants at the meeting represented the following city offices, departments, and organizations:
  • Mayor's Office
  • SFPD Park Station, SFPD Northern Station
  • AEG
  • Citizens for Bay to Breakers
  • Alamo Square Neighborhood Association
  • Divisadero Merchants Association
  • Cole Valley Improvement Association
  • Haight Ashbury Improvement Association
  • Buena Vista Neighborhood Association
  • Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association
  • Lower Haight Merchants & Neighbors Association
** ISCOTT: the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation that discusses possible street closures for private or public events. For large events, like Bay to Breakers, the ISCOTT meeting serves as a public hearing.

For other articles in the B2B at 100 series, check here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

City Planners Propose "Once in a Lifetime Opportunity" for Masonic Avenue; Concerns Cited but Community Seems Supportive

More than 125 gathered to hear about the two traffic calming measures

Boulevard street segment on top; Gateway below

Both options add a new triangular parklet near Geary

Masonic Avenue is overdue for a traffic-calming and visual makeover, and last night city planners presented two different ways to get there. At the third of a three-part community planning process, representatives from the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), the Planning Department, and the Department of Public Works described two concepts for stopping the speeding, increasing the safety, making the corridor more attractive, and opening the street to all users. The design changes include removal of the tow-away zones during commute hours, bulb-outs at selected intersections, full or partial landscaped medians, a new parklet, bike lanes or bikeways, and removal of some or all street parking. During breakout sessions, a few individuals expressed concerns about traffic and the loss of parking, but overall the group of more than 125 neighbors seemed receptive to the measures.

Javad Mirabdal, director for the Masonic design study, told the group that many streets in the city need traffic calming, but now is the time for Masonic Avenue. In response to a Ewing Terrace neighbor concerned about negative impacts on her block, Mirabdal gave his most impassioned assessment of the project.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In order to get improvements, you have to give up something. We have limited space. We cannot maintain parking and do the other things at the same time. We're trying to use the existing space as best as possible. We will do our best.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi suggested Masonic could re-awaken much like Divisadero as a result of recent traffic calming and street upgrades on that corridor. He also reflected on the seriousness of what the Masonic project addressed. "It would be a dereliction of duty for me -- as well as for all of us -- to not pay attention to the recent tragedies that have occurred on the street."

The proposals are enhanced versions of two options favored by neighbors at the second community meeting held in August. Both Option A and Option C have previously been described here. When neighbors arrived at last night's meeting, they found block-by-block renderings of both treatments along the wall and draped the length of several tables. Now dubbed the Gateway (previously Option A) and the Boulevard (previously Option C), the two were described as hybrids that reflected the survey results from the last meeting.

"Driving along a street like that would be pleasant," Mirabdal remarked as he described the "completely different feeling" that the Boulevard treatment would bring to Masonic. Some of the advantages of this option over the Gateway include:
  • 200 new street trees vs. 12o trees
  • a full landscaped median vs. median islands along the corridor
  • pedestrian refuges at the median vs. bulb-outs on the east side of the street
  • a six foot wide , slightly raised bike track vs. a standard five foot wide striped lane
  • 125 new light fixtures vs. 100
The full treatment of the Boulevard comes with a projected higher price tag and period of construction: $20 million with 12 to 18 months of construction. The Gateway is expected to cost closer to $15 million with construction requiring 6 to 12 months. The greater cost of the Boulevard is due to a full-length median with more landscaping, the raised-surface of the bicycle track, grade adjustments to driveways, and greater use of lighting and landscaping.

Although the cycle track was not emphasized during the presentation last night, most bicyclists understand the considerable difference in safety between the cycletrack, with its wider, raised surface, and a striped bike lane. While striped lanes are sufficient for some city streets, few bicyclists would feel a simple striping on Masonic afforded them much more safety than the risky conditions now offer.

Removing parking remained a major concern for some, and one resident raised the issue in the discussion period. However, a written audience survey was distributed before the group discussion, and a large number of people left the meeting after completing it. Several in the audience who had attended all three of the community meetings remarked on how little discord and how few objections had been raised about the parking issues.

Last night's large turnout -- nearly twice as many participants as either of the first two community meetings -- was likely the result of the extensive outreach by the city. More than 1400 fliers with meeting information were mailed to every household on Masonic and to all those one-block deep on either side of Masonic. The audience appeared to have many more residents from the surrounding neighborhoods -- Anza Vista, Ewing Terrace, and University Terrace -- than previously.

The results of last night's survey will be published in a month, according to Mirabdal. He said the study would likely be completed by the end of the year. For those unable to attend the final meeting, the MTA expects to post the slide presentation online soon.

For further coverage of the meeting, the two traffic calming options, and comments from speakers and participants, check Streetsblog today.

For previous articles in the A Better Masonic series, check here.