Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Wishes for More

Decorations from the Tree of Hope

BIKE NOPA extends the best of holiday wishes to readers. May we end this year more engaged with our community, more aware of how we use public space, and more willing to listen and learn, inspire and embolden.

Thank you for your interest and support this year. I'm taking an end-of-year break starting today. Look for updates and new stories beginning January 4th.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Majority Who Voted for Masonic Re-Design Live On or Within One Block, Data Indicate Immediate Residents Are Informed and Engaged in Planning

Image: SF Planning Department
The 109 respondents reside on both sides of Masonic with a majority within a block

Image: SF Planning Department
Only a handful of survey respondents live outside the Masonic area or beyond the Western Addition

A majority of respondents in a recent survey of preferences for a Masonic Avenue make-over will be directly affected by the traffic calming features in the proposal. During the September 30 Masonic community meeting, 109 individuals completed the survey that rated primary features of the Boulevard proposal and the less-ambitious Gateway option. The survey asked where respondents reside. Of the total, 62 -- or 57% -- of the neighbors indicated they either lived on Masonic or within one block of the busy corridor. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) released the findings yesterday.

The data are important because they dispel concerns from a few individuals that the people who live on Masonic were either uninformed of the meetings and the proposed changes --especially the removal of parking -- or that they don't support traffic calming changes to the street. (The city notified by mail -- with more than 1400 postcards -- every household on Masonic and those within one block of the street about the September 30 meeting when the survey was conducted). In addition, the residency data suggest what many who actually attended the three community meetings noted: there were far more nearby neighbors present than the handfuls of members from transit, pedestrian, or bicycle advocacy groups.

Those who took the survey live on both sides of Masonic. On the westside, the Ewing Terrace and the University Terrace neighborhoods are well-represented among survey respondents. Those to the east of Masonic in the North Panhandle and Anza Vista neighborhoods indicated more scattered residences, but all are close enough to experience the proposed changes for the Masonic corridor. University Terrace neighbors participated as well in a separate survey, using the same instrument, following the SFMTA September 30 meeting. They supported the Boulevard proposal with a hefty majority, 60 to 40%.

In the Masonic survey, over three-quarters (76%) either "strongly liked" or "somewhat liked" the Boulevard package with its landscaped median the length of Masonic, 200 street trees, a mini-park at Geary, new street lighting, bus bulb-outs, a separated bike lane, and full repaving of the roadway. City staff expect to complete a final report with recommendations by December 31st.

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bike Counts in Three NOPA Locations Surge in 2010 Citywide Survey

Counting bicyclists at Masonic and the Panhandle Path for the 2009 Bike Count

Mariana Parreiras, an SFMTA intern at the time, counted bikes for the 2009 count

Three locations in or near the North Panhandle saw significant increases in the number of people on bikes during the 2010 Bike Count conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
  • The Golden Gate and Masonic intersection registered a 26% increase over last year's count during the evening commute, 5 - 6:30 pm
  • At the intersection where the mixed-use Panhandle Path crosses Masonic, the number of riders jumped 7% , from 228 to 244, during the morning commute, 8 to 9 am
  • The third location at Fell and Scott streets reflects much of the bike traffic that originates in NOPA or travels through the neighborhood. That pivotal intersection saw a 10% increase from 2009, registering 410 bicyclists during the evening commute.
All three NOPA locations saw a greater number of riders than the citywide jump of 3% for 2009. The SFMTA report cautions that the bike count reflects a snapshot of ridership during specific hours on a given day.

Two of the locations experienced remarkable increases when compared to the 2006 count:
  • Masonic and the Panhandle: from 152 riders in 2006 to 244 in 2010, a 61% difference
  • Fell and Scott: from 202 riders in 2006 to 410 in 2010, a 103% change.
On a city-wide basis, the percentage difference of cyclists from 2006 to 2010 is a rocketing 58%.
These high percentages are especially significant since the bicycle injunction kept the city from making virtually any improvements for biking in the city from 2006 through most of 2009. (The injunction was partially lifted in November 2009 and completely removed in August 2010).

The SFMTA conducts the annual bike counts in August when the weather is expected to be dry with moderate temperatures. This past August was unseasonably chilly, however, especially on the days of the bike counts. In NOPA the temperatures were in the low 60s with wind and fog that seemed "almost raining" to the SFMTA intern counting the bikes. How much the weather affected bike ridership is uncertain.

All three NOPA bike count locations are under scrutiny by neighbors, road users, and park advocates:
  • Golden Gate and Masonic sits at midpoint of the corridor that neighbors and the SFMTA hope to re-design to better accommodate all road users. The Masonic community review process culminated in selection of the Boulevard design option to keep traffic at the posted 25 mph speed limit while also enhancing transit, bicycle, and pedestrian uses.
  • The Panhandle Path at Masonic has been the site of collisions between motorists and cyclists. In addition, strollers using the path complain of sharing space -- and near-misses -- with high-speed cyclists, and cyclists counter that walkers often wander from their side of the path. In addition, Panhandle Park advocates and neighbors have called for installation of a new, separated bike lane on Fell Street to increase the safety for walkers and casual bikers on the multi-use path. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has proposed a preliminary design to Connecting-the-City with an east-west Fell Street component.
  • The block of Fell between Scott and Divisadero has been the site of protests against the Arco service station and the traffic configuration near Divisadero. At the same time, the SFMTA experimented with several design changes that seem to have reduced the traffic tangle and the blocking of the bike lane.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Panhandle Upgrade In Early 2011; City Chooses Proposal From Panhandle Park Stewards

Three of the turf mounds to be replanted and upgraded

Central area in the west-end of the Panhandle to be focus of improvements

Modernizing irrigation and drainage systems will help prevent frequent path flooding

The Panhandle Park will see new turf, new pathways, more native plants, and upgraded irrigation and drainage early in 2011 as part of a capital improvement proposal selected in a competition conducted by the Recreation and Parks Department (RPD). During a December 2 meeting, RPD commissioners approved the funding of several proposals, including one submitted by the Panhandle Park Stewards, a group of volunteers who live around the Panhandle and participate in monthly work days caring for the park. RPD agreed to finance the $89,000 proposal, and staff have indicated that they expect the implementation to begin early in the new year.

Dale Danley, leader of the Panhandle Park Stewards, said the proposal focused on the area near the basketball court, restroom, and children's playground to get the most impact from funds available. "Improving the central area is the best way to make the park a gathering place for neighbors, and will further improve people's perceptions of our neighborhood park," said Danley. (See this previous post for an aerial view of the project area). Danley said the work will also include a seating wall situated near the basketball courts, bike racks, and a new wood chip path leading to the Kevin Collins' Children's Garden and playground.

Park regulars know that the turf along several pathways frequently has deep ruts caused by service vehicles too large for the paths or operators not careful enough to stay on them. A key repair aspect of the project will be to re-route the trucks onto other, wider paths. The south side walking and jogging path requires upgrades along much of its length from Baker to Masonic streets, but Danley explained the funds available for the projects were insufficient for such a large undertaking. The multi-use path along the Fell street side of the Panhandle has become overwhelmed with users, both walkers and bicyclists. With a continuing surge in bicycling in the city, the most likely solution for the over-crowded multi-use path is an on-street, separated track for people on bikes.

Danley envisions greater community involvement for the betterment of the neighborhood park. On his website, Panhandle Park Stewards, he encourages more neighbors to join the monthly workdays and for the group to conduct more outreach to neighbors and park users. He also hopes to engage neighbors in the implementation phases of the upgrades by documenting the work, identifying the plants selected, and proposing re-use of materials removed from the park. The Panhandle Park Stewards received an award last month as the outstanding park volunteer group of the year.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Panhandle Path Notes: Hazard Repaired, Trouble Remains

For months Panhandle Path has bulged here close to Cole Street

When a driver blocks the crosswalk before stopping, it's never a good sign

Ignoring the red turn light and prompting the driver behind to follow

Not to be deterred no matter how many cyclists and pedestrians are in the crosswalk
And the license plate: CA 6LRE494

This afternoon was a good time to get away from the office for a quick bike ride. One of BIKE NOPA's "eyes-on-the-street"* alerted me earlier in the day that a tall pole was being installed on Masonic at Hayes and that a patch of the Panhandle Path was being repaired. Holiday lights were going up on the giant Monterey cypress outside McLaren Lodge too. All good reasons for an outing. Here's what I found.

A new, tall utility pole was already in place when I arrived. The towering tree nearby had been trimmed for the arcing mast over the travel lane, and a new and larger set of signal lights had been installed. The signal light replacements, reported going up at other locations here, are intended as another safety improvement along the Masonic corridor.

Tree roots had buckled the pavement of the Panhandle Path in the west end of the park just east of Cole Street for several months. Perhaps the Recreation and Parks Department delayed this repair given its slashed budget. Crews started the job a few weeks ago but then the work stalled. With the friendly prodding of the Panhandle Park Stewards (coincidental or not), work resumed and today the pathway is flat and smooth.

I decided to save the city's holiday tree for a night-time visit and chose instead to stake out the Fell/Masonic intersection. I hoped to report that the new shield on the bike light was working as intended and that people driving west on Fell and wanting to turn left on Masonic no longer confused the red stoplight and the green bike light for crosswalk users. I stood through two full signal changes, and all went smooth and safely although one cyclist cut the digital countdown for the crossing pretty short. Not the third time though. A clear sign of trouble ahead is when a motorist rolls into and then completely blocks the crosswalk on Fell before stopping for the light. When the Panhandle light turned green for people on bikes and on foot, the driver ignored the red and edged into the intersection ready to push right through the flow of crosswalk users. Which he did. The driver behind him followed suit. Both traveled slowly through their infractions of the traffic code. (Do take note of the license plate number).

This isn't a bicyclist / motorist conflict, in my mind. The situation seen all over the city is simply too many motorists not respecting the rights and vulnerability of someone using the crosswalk. The intrusions happen every day in all parts of the city, sometimes with people getting hit and occasionally killed. One driver nearly hit me this week on a clear, sunny morning. I was crossing Golden Gate Avenue at Lyon street in the crosswalk. Her excuse after slamming on the brakes,"I didn't see you!" My reply, "Then you weren't looking." Before peeling around me and driving on, she shouted, "Get out of the road." When do we -- walkers, drivers, bicyclists, San Franciscans -- say "Enough" and then do something about it?

*Thanks again, SN. Now I wish I had added the Holiday Tree to my ride.