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.


  1. I bike to work everyday - and the same can be said of bicyclists. There seems to be no sense of following the rules of the road by anyone - cars, bikes, pedestrians. Pedestrians jaywalk without looking and then curse you (driving or biking) for "crowding them out of the middle of the street." Bicyclists riding in the dark of winter with no helmet, no flashing lights, no reflectors and driving up on sidewalks, showing no arm signals and behaving militantly. and motorists - from the car radio to the cellphone, they are more distracted than ever. I believe more and more that interactive navs, and other toys should simply be outlawed in cars rather than encouraged.

    Bicyclists rightfully claim that they don't get respected on the streets of our cities. But - blowing stop signs (not following basic traffic rules) and disrespecting pedestrians and daring vehicles by splitting hairs distance wise and "running lights" by milliseconds doesn't help our cause.

    I've learned a lot in the last year since I sold my car and became a cyclist. I enjoy your viewpoints a lot.

    (and having just been through the Panhandle this weekend, and witnessed these very things - - appreciate your activism as well)

  2. Thanks, Bob. I appreciate that you recognize the problem that exists with many of us, no matter how we travel.

  3. I believe that a complete lack of traffic enforcement in San Francisco for literally decades has resulted in a culture where drivers, cyclists, and even pedestrians completely ignore the rules of the road. In some cases, they are not even aware of them, since it's so easy to get a driver's license (and who knows how many drivers aren't even licensed.) I've been forced to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit by a car while legally in the crosswalk numerous times, and I've been hit once (with only damage to my clothing, fortunately.)

    Drivers think that it's perfectly okay to shoot through crosswalks mere inches from crossing pedestrians. It's apparently all fine so long as they don't actually hit someone. Actually, of course, it's illegal to enter a crosswalk if there's a pedestrian anywhere within it.

    But Parking and Traffic doesn't actually do any traffic enforcement, so far as I can see, and the SFPD is too busy with "real crime" to care. So the free-for-all continues.

  4. as a cyclist, driver and pedestrian, I often wonder why lights are set up to put vehicles in conflict with peds and bikes. Especially left turns- cars are trying to get through a small time window, just as pedestrians are instructed to cross in their paths. Why???

    Surely there is a more intelligent way to organize traffic, so we don't have to hate each other depending on which mode of transportation we are using at the moment.

  5. I'm pretty selfish: As a pedestrian, jogger, cyclist, passenger car driver, and transit rider, I'm much more concerned with behavior that is dangerous to me than I am with uncivil behavior. If I'm walking/running/biking while distracted, I'm of very little danger to anyone but myself compared to if I'm driving my passenger car while distracted for only a short period of time.

    I'm a pretty 'follow the rules' sort of guy, and I get annoyed by the bikes that blow through a stop sign that I've stopped at--I even shout obscenities at them when they take my right of way. But I don't think it is humanly possible to display that same amount of anger to every car that doesn't follow the rules of the road. And they threaten my safety, no matter how I'm traveling.

  6. Let's hope that the authorities would consider putting up necessary materials for the safety of the neighborhood's cyclists. Through this, people will be safe.

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