Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SFMTA Releases Masonic Survey Results: Residents Favor Complete Streets Design for a Better Transportation Corridor

Improvements proposed for all Masonic corridor users and residents

Boulevard plan expects to keep vehicles and transit moving smoothly and safely

Bicycle improvements were considered in both design options

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the Planning Department, and the Department of Public Works released survey results this afternoon that confirm the preference of Masonic area residents for a full package of traffic calming measures along the corridor from Fell to Geary streets. The much-anticipated results indicate that more than three-quarters (76%) of the respondents either strongly liked or somewhat liked the Boulevard street design. More than half (55%) strongly liked it. The survey included another design treatment, the Gateway option, with fewer traffic calming measures. The data show that it was "a less desirable compromise" among the survey respondents with 64% of whom either liked or strongly liked it. Only 19% registered a "strongly liked" position. The survey data will help shape the final report and recommendations that city staff will complete by December 31st.

The Boulevard proposal includes streamlined traffic flow, pedestrian enhancements, Muni improvements, a separated bicycle lane, and a landscaped median. The new design will also remove round-the-clock street parking on Masonic, although SFMTA staff will propose creation of up to 80 new parking spaces nearby as a mitigation. In the survey, respondents favored the individual elements of the Boulevard design:
  • transit facilities (53% strongly liked the features and 31% liked them)
  • travel lane configuration including a median (47% strongly liked, 35% liked)
  • lighting fixtures for roadway and pedestrian areas (66% strongly liked, 24% liked)
  • raised bicycle track (54% strongly liked, 20% liked)
  • parking removal (42% strongly liked, 17% liked)
  • street trees (64% strongly liked, 21% liked)
In all the above categories, survey respondents favored the Boulevard treatments over the Gateway features. Written comments indicated the preferences were largely due to the extra enhancements in the Boulevard option. For example, a landscaped median the length of the Masonic blocks seemed to tip preferences for the travel lane configuration over the Gateway plan with intermittent medians.

The cycle track for bicyclists in the Boulevard design was much more popular than the striped bike lane proposed under the Gateway option. In the latter, only 15% strongly liked the lesser lane treatment with another 40% indicating they liked it. Not surprisingly, the removal of parking proved to be the issue that divided respondents the most. But, according to the report, "a stronger and larger majority (are) in favor of removing all parking." Even so, many respondents expressed strong reservations. The Gateway proposal contained removal of parking on just one side of the street, but 17% strongly disliked the idea and another 29% disliked it. The greater number of street trees proposed in the two plans (200 for the Boulevard, 125 for the Gateway) easily swayed the strongly liked response for the Boulevard.

Javad Mirabdal, project manager for the Masonic study, explained the process that led to the results released today.
This is basically what the community told us. We worked with the community during three community meetings and narrowed the options to these last two, the Boulevard and the Gateway. The majority are in favor of the Boulevard option, and we will include the data in our final report and recommendations.
Mirabdal added that the next step will be to legislate the proposal with public support. "Then we have a project," he said. With the approval in hand, city staff will complete the design, seek environmental review if needed, and begin the challenging task of securing funding.

For related stories, see the A Better Masonic series.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fix Masonic Group Seeks Interim Safety Measures on Busy Corridor

Small median island with traffic sign -- add 25 MPH sign too?

Northbound Masonic: traffic lanes and crosswalks faded

Hayes to Fell southbound faded as well

Fix Masonic wants the city to install interim traffic calming measures on Masonic Avenue during the long lead-up to the more comprehensive changes envisioned for the street. The grassroots group submitted a list of ten safety enhancements to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in mid-November. The agency is researching the proposals, a few of which would require legislative approval. The proposed changes range from re-striping faded traffic lanes to establishing a double-fine zone for speeding. Fix Masonic is comprised of Masonic area residents who use the corridor for all modes of transportation and who want to stop the speeding that regularly occurs on the street.

SFMTA staff expect to complete a final report for the Masonic Avenue Street Design Study by December 31st. The planning document will recommend a transportation design that incorporates many of the features of the Boulevard proposal supported by a majority of Masonic area residents during a series of three community meetings earlier this year. Next spring the proposal will be considered at a public hearing before a SFMTA hearing officer, followed by presentations before the SFMTA Board of Directors and the Board of Supervisors. Once approved, city planners will conduct an environmental review, if needed, and seek funding for the $20 million proposal. The full process from completion of the final report to start of construction could require two to three years. Construction will likely continue for 12 to 18 months.

Fix Masonic, individual neighbors, and parents with children at the San Francisco Day School are urging the city to undertake safety measures during the long waiting period for project implementation. On November 17, Fix Masonic submitted the following requests for interim measures to Ricardo Olea, SFMTA Livable Streets Manager:
  • Re-paint crosswalks at intersections and upgrade crossings with zebra stripes as needed
  • Re-stripe travel lanes on several blocks where paint has faded. Masonic's narrow traffic lanes might discourage speeding if they were more visible.
  • Paint 25 MPH on traffic lanes at several locations in both travel directions
  • Paint School Zone at appropriate locations near the several schools along Masonic
  • Re-define traffic lanes at specific locations where lanes currently widen or end abruptly
  • Install a thumbnail median -- or use existing island medians -- and post a 25 MPH sign
  • Install the long-discussed and promised red-light camera at Fell and Masonic
  • Add an additional block -- Fell to Oak -- to the current project
  • Seek a double-fine zone for the Masonic corridor to discourage speeding
  • Post notices along Masonic on existing poles that indicate the number of speeding citations given during a specific time period (for example, "33 citations during December")
For more stories in the A Better Masonic series, check here.

Readers' note: I am a member of the group Fix Masonic.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks To You All, Happy Holiday Weekend

Thanks for your interest, support, ideas, and tips.

See you again on Monday, November 29.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fix Fell Group Ends Protests, Leader Reflects on Impact & Activism

Stuart Matthews at BP/ARCO protest earlier this year

Weekly demonstrations attracted 10 to 100 individuals upset with oil spill and oil addiction

Fell traffic problems prior to additional traffic calming measures

Last spring when the country was reeling from news of the environmental disaster in the Gulf, local advocates for sustainable living organized the first of many weekly protests outside the BP/Arco service station at Fell and Divisadero. The activists named their group Fix Fell and announced their intent to continue the protests until the BP oil spill was stopped and the city designed a much safer westbound bike lane on Fell between Scott and Divisadero. Every Friday afternoon demonstrators appeared on the Fell sidewalk with signs calling for an end to oil addiction, protection of the country's natural resources, and a re-thinking of how the cheaper gas at Arco helps create a traffic maze that endangers bicyclists. On several occasions protesters blocked motorists from entering Arco. A few clashed with the station owner and police arrested several.

The oil leak has now been capped, and the city installed several traffic and bike lane changes that were in the works before the protests began. Nearby neighborhood associations, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and individuals had pushed for safety improvements at Fell and Divisadero for several months prior to the bike lane improvements. Fix Fell's protests added to the review -- and criticism -- of the changes. Few observers have been wholeheartedly satisfied with the current traffic design, but an initial study suggests some improvements have resulted. Although Fix Fell members believe the street remains dangerous for cyclists, they ended the protests after 14 weeks.

BIKE NOPA interviewed Stuart Matthews, one of the leaders of Fix Fell, last September about the group's intentions and viability. I asked him recently to explain why the protests stopped. His reply follows. Matthews also reflects on the realities of taking direct action -- a term activists have employed for 100 years to protest political, social and environmental injustice.
I have been appealing, through actions and words, both written and
spoken, for more folks to get involved in direct action. Direct action
can't be sustained when only five people are willing to risk arrest and
deal with the legal consequences.
People in a privileged class - whether it is white, middle/upper class,
male, American - need to take more responsibility for their class's
destruction. Folks in our city and around the world suffer because of
our excesses, and we need to use our privilege for good and make
sacrifices to work to fix the destructiveness of our culture.

So, what I am saying, is that we will continue to work on this issue,
and there will probably be more direct action. But we could do so much
more if more folks felt compelled to take their responsibilities to the
world seriously.
We all have better things to do - that is true. Myself, for instance, I am busy taking care of my Mom, protecting civil liberties at my day job, and taking care of myself. If we had more folks in our movement that were willing to do the things that are needed, it would be a lot easier to keep our protests going at a high level.
BIKE NOPA asked Matthews about the accomplishments of Fix Fell. He believes the greatest impact of the protests have been to influence the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) and the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA).
The SFBC has launched their Connecting the City campaign, with its
first priority being Fell/Oak, and their vision for Fell and Oak is a
good one. They didn't consult us on this, so I can't know for sure how
much of an impact we had on this, but I can't imagine it is a complete

The MTA has been paying more attention to the problems in that area (Fell Street between Scott and Divisadero), although clearly they haven't made any additional changes since the various paint treatments that they did.
For the future, Matthews anticipates a return to more visible advocacy.
The shift to behind the scenes stuff basically means that this is all
we, as a group, can afford (as far as time/energy) to take on right now.
In the new year we will be implementing an updated strategy and should
be able to invest fresh energy in it. It'll include more street
actions/direct action.
For additional stories on Fell Street changes and advocacy, search BIKE NOPA for Fell ARCO.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Majority in SFMTA Masonic Avenue Survey Favors Boulevard Design

Boulevard design "is going to be a major improvement" for Masonic

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) announced that a majority of Masonic area residents favor the more complete Boulevard street design for the corridor. The package of traffic calming measures in the plan is expected to make Masonic Avenue safer for all road users and improve the visual appearance of a ten block stretch from Oak to Geary streets. Implementation of the Boulevard design awaits a final report due by the end of the year, followed by an approval process and a search for funding. Actual on-site construction is unlikely to begin for at least two years. BIKE NOPA presented details of the Boulevard option in a previous story. Masonic Avenue residents who attended a September 30 community meeting took the survey to give their preferences between two design options.

Javad Mirabdal, SFMTA Director for the Masonic Traffic Calming Project, told members of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) on November 18th that survey results indicated a solid preference* (see note below) for the more ambitious and more complete street design. "This is the better option," Mirabdal said. "It's going to be a major improvement and it will re-shape Masonic Avenue, creating a better feeling for driving and walking."

More than 50 NOPNA members attended the bi-monthly meeting; only two expressed concerns about the Masonic project. They cited the proposed removal of parking, the installation of a bike lane "on a busy street," and the extent of outreach leading to the community meeting where the survey was conducted. Mirabdal replied that to make Masonic safer, changes have to be undertaken and "something has to give" to allow space for the center median, the Muni bus bulb-outs, and a separated bike lane. He noted that in a SFMTA daytime parking study, 60% of the parking on Masonic was for less than two hours. He believes these short-term users are students from the nearby USF campus and not Masonic residents. "Less than 20% park more than four hours." He added that the Boulevard project will also create 50-80 new parking spaces to partially mitigate the loss of Masonic parking.

Mirabdal emphasized that the traffic calming package for Masonic "is not a bike project." During other public meetings he has added that Masonic is the only direct north-south route in the area for bicyclists, just as it is for motorists. Regarding the adequacy of community outreach, Mirabdal described the door-to-door distribution of meeting notices prior to the first two Masonic community meetings and a mass mailing of 1400 notices for the final meeting. The announcements included information for how to contact Mirabdal directly.

Masonic Avenue and NOPA residents have, in fact, received a continuous stream of information about the Masonic project in addition to what the SFMTA distributed. Jarie Bolander, NOPNA president, confirmed that notices of the Masonic meetings and project updates have been included in several previous association newsletters that are distributed to 5000 individuals. The meetings were also announced in email blasts to 800 members and other interested parties, and speakers have regularly discussed the Masonic project at NOPNA meetings. Neighborhood blogs and city-wide media have also covered the traffic calming proposals.

In addition to NOPNA, Mirabdal said he has talked with other neighborhood groups in the Masonic Area, including the Ewing Terrace Neighborhood Association, the University Terrace Neighborhood Association, the San Francisco Day School, and Fix Masonic.

The SFMTA expects to release a full report on the survey findings within the next two weeks.

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

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

* November 3o note: Javad Mirabdal requested a change in my report of his description of the degree of support for the Boulevard plan. He believes his statements indicated to the NOPNA audience that there was a "preference" rather than a "solid preference" for the proposal. Today's post reveals the actual data which indicate that 76% of survey respondents "strongly liked" or "liked" the Boulevard option while 64% favored the Gateway alternative.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Panhandle Park Stewards Honored As "Outstanding Park Volunteer Group"

Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of SF Recreation & Parks Dept. (l), and Dale Danley,
Leader of Panhandle Park Stewards

Morgan Fitzgibbons (l) of Wigg Party nominated Panhandle Park Stewards for Award

Dale Danley with NEN Award, interviewed for NEN broadcast

August 2010 Workgroup, Panhandle Park Stewards

Volunteer groups help care for nearly 225 neighborhood parks in San Francisco, and last night one of them was honored for its exemplary work. The Panhandle Park Stewards received the 2010 Outstanding Park Volunteer Group award from the citywide Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN). Dale Danley, leader of the Panhandle volunteers, accepted the award during a City Hall ceremony that also honored eleven other community projects and recognized individual achievements.

Earlier this year Danley reinvigorated a lagging volunteer effort to care for the Panhandle. He organized monthly outings that now attract up to 20 neighborhood volunteers to work in the Panhandle with the park's city gardener. Accepting the award for his group, Danley said, "We want a park that's clean, green, safe and cool, but we're not there yet. We'll keep working until it is." Morgan Fitzgibbons, leader of the Wigg Party, nominated the Panhandle group for the NEN award. Last night Fitzgibbons applauded Danley's leadership with the work crews, his Panhandle web site, and his appreciation for the history and care of the Panhandle trees.

Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the Recreation and Parks Department, hailed the work of the Panhandle Park Stewards and the efforts of all volunteers who help care for San Francisco's parks and recreation facilities. "We simply cannot do it alone anymore," Ginsburg told the audience of more than 200 community activists and city officials. "We need neighborhood volunteers." Last year volunteers citywide logged more than 129,000 hours working with the department.

The North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) continues to be a primary supporter of efforts to improve its "neighborhood park." Last month Danley worked with NOPNA and several other neighborhood groups adjacent to the park on a proposal to upgrade the central area of the Panhandle. The Recreation and Parks Department is currently reviewing the application. The next work day for the Panhandle Park Stewards is scheduled for Saturday, January 8th.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

City Smooths Streets with Recycled Tire Product, Gets Cost Savings & Paves More Blocks

9th Avenue on either side of Balboa with new Flex Seal treatment

Darker color with Flex Seal but some residents describe surface as bumpier

The San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) is experimenting with a new street paving treatment that re-uses old tires and leaves surfaces smooth and, reportedly, safer. Flex Seal, according to its manufacturer, is a "revolutionary asphalt emulsion" that mixes the recycled tires with asphalt, polymers, and other agents. The new product is less expensive and helps stretch DPW's under-financed street repair budget to repave many more blocks. In San Francisco Flex Seal has been tested primarily on dozens of local, neighborhood blocks that receive less wear and tear. These blocks appear much darker than others with regular asphalt applications, and the surfaces are expected to retain their color longer. The Flex Seal blocks have a more textured feel than just-applied asphalt, and a few residents think the surface is bumpier than with asphalt.

The lower costs of the treatment are persuasive, but Flex Seal paving has won high marks from public works departments in other California cities for the product's effectiveness as well. In Los Angeles and San Clemente, street repair directors have found that the product yields significant protection from sun and water damage. The rubberized material inhibits oxidation of oils that give pavement surfaces their flexibility and deters the development of cracks. Keeping water from entering into cracks and seeping into the street sub-base is essential to preserving the integrity of the surface and preventing further damage. The pavement protection has a five-year life cycle, according to the manufacturer's marketing promotion. Although San Francisco is currently testing the treatment only on less-used streets, two other types of Flex Seal have been developed for use on busier collector streets and on high-volume traffic corridors.

The verdict is out on Flex Seal for use in San Francisco, but the treatment does seem to yield additional benefits:
  • traffic on road surfaces with the new seal are reportedly less noisy
  • the dark surface yields a greater contrast with lane striping, possibly resulting in greater safety
  • surfaces seem to give tires a better grip, even when wet
  • 100 discarded tires are re-used for each mile of product application, putting a slight dent in the 273 million tires that get tossed every year
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is encouraging its members to take test rides on streets with the new treatment to determine rideability and degree of tire grip when the surfaces are wet. Check the SFBC Good Roads page for a list of streets. We will report further on the surfaces and provide a more extensive list of city blocks with the Flex Seal treatment in the days ahead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Resounding YES to Sunday Streets by NOPA: 96.9% in Survey Want Car-Free Event in 2011

Kid-friendly blocks for biking, bike decorating, face painting and more

"I was blown away by how many people showed up to enjoy car-free space even in the rain."

Eleven car-free blocks an inconvenience? Not at all for 84% in NOPNA survey

Nearly 97% of survey respondents from the North Panhandle want the car-free Sunday Streets celebration to return to the neighborhood next year. The NOPA residents hailed the event that opened neighborhood streets to walking, biking, live music, and games on September 19th. One resident who identified herself as "Diana (driver, cyclist, pedestrian, citizen)" added a comment: "I support community use of the streets, and the more reason to come together the better." The online survey was conducted by the North Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) last month and sent to members. Thirty-two completed the survey. The survey was emailed to several hundred neighbors.

NOPA neighbors have been supportive of Sunday Streets ever since the prospect of bringing the event was first proposed early last year. In addition, Jarie Bolander, NOPNA president, said the association received only one complaint about the removal of parking and the restricted street access. Eleven blocks along Central, Grove, Baker, and Golden Gate were closed to parking from 11pm Saturday to 3pm Sunday. In the NOPNA survey, 84% said the removal of parking caused no inconvenience while 12% said the situation was manageable. NOPNA helped arrange for 200 free parking spaces for residents along the route, but only 20 of those were actually used. Similar high percentages of neighbors said they were "very satisfied" about event promotion, behavior of participants, and the quick and thorough clean-up.

Respondents suggested changes for next year's Sunday Streets in the Western Addition:
  • devise a less-fragmented route, perhaps from the Panhandle to Fulton to Fillmore streets
  • include Divisadero for a mix of residential and commercial activity
  • add more activities along the connection between NOPA and Fillmore
  • allow more food stalls and food trucks
  • add even more live music and give the route a music theme
  • get neighborhood more involved and inform neighbors that they can hold garage sales
  • "more sun next time please"
  • post No Parking Signs earlier-- 8 days rather than the 72 hours required -- as a courtesy to those neighbors who use their vehicles infrequently
One neighbor concluded, "Sunday Streets will get even better during the second year." All the routes for the 2011 program have yet to be determined, but a return to the Western Addition is definitely anticipated according to event organizers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Masonic Boulevard Plan Promises Park and Plaza to Make Masonic Neighbors Proud

Mini-park at Geary and Masonic: a forlorn bus stop of a green space

That's a lot of concrete and asphalt for a mini-park to balance

From the street it's all about hard surfaces and vehicles crowding along all three sides

New Masonic Boulevard plan will broaden the park, add trees & amenities
Image: San Francisco Planning Department

Right where Masonic and Geary tangle their traffic on the south side sits a little triangle of a park that really needs some attention and care. A grove of hardy New Zealand Christmas trees adds a touch of green to the otherwise all-concrete plaza. A bus shelter clings to Geary and offers some respite from the wind blasts from the west. No one has lunch there. No one says, "Meet me at the plaza." Entering or leaving the often dark and gloomy space is not for the faint of heart: double-checking the traffic flow is a must. But it doesn't have to be this way, and it won't once the city adopts the Boulevard design for the Masonic corridor.

As part of the Masonic Traffic Design proposal, the uninviting triangle at Masonic and Geary will be transformed into a welcoming spot for strollers, Muni riders, shoppers and anyone needing to stretch their legs after too many mahi mahi tacos at Hukilau across the street. Concrete will give way to trees, shrubs, and grasses and permeable surfaces that will cover 11,000 square feet. Benches will permit a rest. And public art will give the site the distinction it now severely lacks. Crosswalks will be upgraded and the street will be re-paved. Vehicle access to residences and businesses along the short stretch of westside Masonic will remain, but a quieter space and more attractive view will greet merchants and customers, homeowners and renters.

Strategic plantings will take advantage of the wind shadow created by the buildings on the west side of Masonic, and new trees will be selected to help block the wind. A full median of newly planted trees and addition street trees along the sidewalk will complement the new plaza. The greening of Masonic can begin right here.

City staff working on the Masonic Traffic Calming Project will complete a final report -- including the design for a revitalized plaza and art park -- by the end of December. Then Masonic area neighbors will get another chance to endorse a new green transportation corridor from Geary to the north and the Panhandle to the south.

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Bike Light Shield at Fell & Masonic: Small Change Might Reduce Crashes

With the shield, drivers see the no-turn arrow but not the green bike light to the left

The bike signal lights are obscured from the view of drivers in turning lane

Previously, drivers saw both red and green lights at the same time

Enforcement needed here: some drivers ignore all signals (1pm Nov. 9)

Without fanfare or even an announcement, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has installed a shield to the bike light at the intersection of Fell and Masonic. The small adjustment may reduce the risk of collisions for travelers who use the intersection. The shield -- actually metal slits within the housing of the bike light -- obscures motorists' view of the bike signal so they don't think a green bike light allows a left turn from Masonic even with a visible red no-left-turn arrow.

Several collisions occurred at the crossing involving motorists and bicyclists and motorists and pedestrians before the bike light was installed in September 2008, and crashes continued to happen afterwards. Pedestrian and bike advocates have suggested that motorists may get confused by the combination of a red turn arrow and the green light meant only for bicyclists using the crosswalk. They began urging an adjustment within weeks of the initial light installation. Two years later, cyclists noticed the new shield on Monday of this week.*

A stop at the intersection early this afternoon indicated that drivers waiting in the left turn lane were unable to see the bike light. (I asked two motorists waiting for the light since I traveled by bike and did not approach the intersection in a vehicle). However, as happens frequently at the intersection, a truck driver did not see or ignored the red turn signal and nearly hit two cyclists crossing with a green light. As much as the new light shield may reduce collisions, the real solution for safe passage for bicyclists and motorists is to install separated bikeways on Oak and Fell for east-west travel.

Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the date of the bike light installation as January of 2008; the light was installed September 2008.

* Thanks to Marc Caswell, Fix Masonic coordinator, Masonic resident, and SFBC staffer for sharing his sighting of the new shield.

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

200 Trees for an Urban Forest on Masonic

Panhandle trees looking east from Masonic Avenue

A new urban forest along Masonic with as many trees as the east-end Panhandle

Image: SF Planning Department, SF Municipal Transportation Agency

The Masonic corridor will become a linear forest with 200 additional street trees if the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) proceeds with the Boulevard design proposal. What do 200 trees look like? Imagine the east end of Panhandle Park, starting at Masonic Avenue and continuing east along the north or south trail. Strollers will be in the midst of the 100-year-old Eucalyptus trees, the redwoods, and cypress as they walk toward Central Avenue, then to Lyon Street, and finally to Baker Street at the McKinley Monument. How many trees stand in that large and lush green space three blocks long and a block wide? About 200. Consider transplanting that urban forest to a new landscaped median for the eight Masonic blocks between Fell and Geary. Step back and appreciate how a loud speedway gets transformed into a smooth travelling roadway that is greener, calmer and an antidote to air and noise pollution.

Of course the new Masonic median will not feature enormous 100 year old Eucalyptus trees of the kind that tower in the Panhandle. Instead, young trees of various types will define this new urban forest. Shrubs and grasses, pebbles and boulders will contribute to the mix. The street trees and the landscaping alone -- just one element of the Boulevard design -- will transform Masonic, much as the re-designed Divisadero now looks greener, more attractive and more to scale as a neighborhood thoroughfare.

Street trees function as more than a green softening of the urban environment. A less prosaic notion touted by green advocates is to think of them as "carbon sinks," living organisms that drain carbon dioxide from the air. One tree might remove a ton of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, depending on the size and age of the tree, the amount of pollution, and the length of the leafy season. But even a 1/2 ton removal is impressive.

Critics may argue that a re-designed Masonic will result in more traffic congestion with more frequent stop-and-go vehicles spewing more pollution than while speeding along, but the SFMTA has studied that possibility and thinks that won't be the case. BIKE NOPA will look at the concerns about congestion in an upcoming article. For now, 200 more trees -- equivalent to that half of the Panhandle's forest -- makes a persuasive argument for a better Masonic.

Check here for more stories in the A Better Masonic series.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Big #10 for Bike Film Festival Starting This Week

The Bicycle Film Festival is an arts and cultural event that celebrates, yes, the bicycle. This year's splurge offers film, music, parties and performance. All about the BFF here. Coming up fast: Wednesday this week.

Nov. 10: BFF Kick-Off party
Nov. 11: Bikes Rock party with live music
Nov. 12-14: Film Screenings & After-Parties

*All parties are free. Films are $10/each; $40/full festival pass - all film screenings at Victoria Theatre. (What more persuasion is needed, bikers?)

Film highlights:

“Birth of Big Air” (Dir. Jeff Tremaine): A documentary on BMX legend Mat Hoffman, produced by Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville, et. al.

“Riding the Long White Cloud” (Dir. Alex Craig): Seven professional skateboarders attempt to cycle New Zealand's North Island in this beautiful documentary.

“The Cyclocross Meeting” (Dir. Brian Vernor) Bay Area filmmaker Brian Vernor showcases the exploding U.S. and emerging Japanese cyclocross scenes. With musical performance by the Roots of Orchis.

Nov 13-14 Screenings: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street, San Francisco
Free valet bicycle parking

BFF 10 Trailer: Marco Mucig

DPW's New Bike Port Makes Biking to Work Even Better

A better place to park for employees and visitors

DPW amps up its support of alternative transportation with new bike port

Christopher McDaniels, chief of DPW's street repair bureau and a bicyclist

Just in time for the rainy season, the Department of Public Works (DPW) boasts a new bike shelter and parking station at its street operations yard on Cesar Chavez. Christened a "bike port" by Deputy Director of Operations Mohammed Nuru, the elevated, wood-frame structure was completed in time for the department's health fair a few weeks ago.

Chris McDaniels, Superintendent of the Bureau of Street & Sewer Repair, pointed out some of the features of the station after a monthly meeting of his operations crew and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Good Roads Campaign. He said the department was testing a gritty floor and ramp surface for durability and safety for cyclists using the port. Staff may also re-stripe the immediate area to draw more attention to the port. Kudos to DPW for selecting the inverted-U design for its seven new racks instead of the difficult-to-use spiral type installed at several facilities in the city. For this visitor, the new port offers a decidedly feel-good experience for biking to meetings.

Two related notes:

The performance of DPW's road crews -- some of whom bike to work or bike during off-hours -- is impressive, as noted in the recently released in DPW's 2009/2010 Annual Report (pdf document, see page 14). Staff responded to 15,000 roadway defects, resurfaced 133 street blocks, and patch paved 290,000 square feet of street surfaces.

An alert to city road users: the rainy season is a great time to report potholes, wide cracks, sinkholes and other surface defects. DPW's road crews shift to more street repair and less resurfacing during the winter. It's easy to report a problem to 311 by phone, online, and on Twitter. Be as specific as possible with location of the defect: street name, cross street, traffic direction, and, best of all, a nearby address. But most of all, report them for everyone's safety.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Install Bike Parking and They Will Come: CPMC Davies At Max With Year-Old Racks

CPMC Davies bike parking today: 13 racks

Room for expansion: space for another five or ten racks empty and waiting

Install bike racks in San Francisco and they will be used. So many more people are taking to the streets on two wheels that bike parking fills up fast. The Davies Campus of the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) is finding its modest five-rack expansion a year ago is hardly adequate to the demand. In November of 2009 the Davies Engineering Department installed an additional five bike racks at its covered bike station, and now the racks are full, or nearly so, on a regular basis. Fortunately, expanding the facility will be easy with available space adjacent to the current parking.

Last year BIKE NOPA congratulated CPMC Davies for responding to cyclists' requests for more parking with the additional racks. Medical center administrators said at the time they recognized the advantages of providing the extra accommodation. Increasing numbers of staff bicycled to work, and many of the center's outpatient population rode bikes to appointments. The advantages of increased bike parking were pretty clear at the time. In addition to the convenience for staff and clients, hospital directors wanted to keep bikes out of the building for all sorts of other reasons, from reduced liability to safer passage in the hallways. Medical personnel expressed concern about bikes possibly carrying germs on their surfaces. And the benefits of biking fit the health promotion and disease prevention messages of the institution.

Bring on the extra rows of racks, for the near term. An additional five inverted-U racks easily fit along last year's addition for an immediate improvement to the bike parking crunch. And the space accommodates ten racks if the short-term vehicle parking is moved elsewhere. But CPMC wants to enhance the Davies Campus with a new four-story Neuroscience Institute and a new parking garage. Long-range planning should anticipate a steady increase in the number of staff and patients bicycling to the center and provide facilities for them.

The five new racks installed a year ago

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween is Better Car-Free: NOPA Knows How

Hundreds gather along Grove and Lyon Streets for NOPA Halloween

Grove street in the North Panhandle hosts more car-free events than most any other neighborhood street in San Francisco, and Halloween night was one more walk-everywhere occasion. Hundreds of residents and visitors of all ages trick-or-treated along Grove between Baker and Central Sunday night while others approached on cordoned-off blocks of Lyon street. Kids competed for best costume prizes awarded from a trio of judges including a Frankenstein with a an uncanny resemblance to NOPA's district supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, Jarie Bolander, and Guitar Hero Purvi Sahu. Kids and parents peeked into dark garages, ducked into a special Halloween photo booth, and grabbed some time watching the Giants claim Game 4. The Halloween block party was the largest to date in the six years of the event.

"Eye on the Bay" Spins Into NOPA, Rides with Kristin of Velo Vogue and Stops at Mojo Bicycle Cafe

Kristin Tieche led Eye on the Bay crew to NOPA

CBS Channel5 broadcast a special edition of its hit Eye on the Bay last week, and the North Panhandle biking scene received camera time. Program host Liam Mayclem started out rolling along the new 2.2 mile bidirectional bicycle lane on the Bay Bridge, scheduled to open in 2013. "It's so cool to be on here and biking here," Mayclem announced. "We are the first film crew to ever film right here on the new Bay Bridge on the biking path."

In no time NOPA's Kristen Tieche of Velo Vogue, the bicycle fashion site, led Mayclem on a "noisy, kaleidoscopic adventure ride on Market Street," as the host put it. Once the pair reached Divisadero, they eased into seats on the city's first parklet outside Mojo Bicycle Cafe. Mojo owner Remy Nelson explained that his bike shop and cafe are geared to the "urban rider." Mayclem was more expansive. "It's like we're sitting in Paris or on the leafy lanes of Amsterdam." The cafe seating looks great, but Tieche stole the scene with her high spirits and enthusiasm in this first-of-four segments.

Next stop was nooworks on Valencia (formerly located in NOPA) for runway bike fashions and purchases and then off to AT&T Park where Mayclem thanked Tieche for an "awesome date" before leaving his bike with Liam Casey of SF Bicycle Coalition's valet parking service.

"Eye on the Bay" was "all about biking," and the program covered the scraper bike sensation in East Oakland that tries to "keep youth out of trouble," visited with mountain bike inventor Mike Sinyard in Morgan Hill, and then had Mayclem take trial spins with new rides at Mike's Bikes. The finale came with the bike messengers of Mission-based TCB Courier.

In the last two weeks both PBS and CBS have filmed segments in the North Panhandle. I think we're happy to share the neighborhood.