Mark Christiansen, a former Masonic resident and founder of the grassroots group Fix Masonic, has worked on getting a better, safer street since 2003. He dreamed of a green median the length of the corridor with no speeding. Back then, he decided, “That’s never gonna happen.” When Christiansen sold his house a few years ago, he told potential buyers that the neighborhood was one of the safest in the city – “except if you try to navigate that street!” His daily experience of going out onto Masonic motivated him to seek changes. “Every time I thought, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this.’”
Christiansen concluded at the time that Masonic had all the design features that promote speeding and risky street use:
- Lanes that merge mid-block
- Wide intersections
- Tow-away zones along the curb that open the street even wider
- Blind turns against uphill traffic
- A posted bike route with no striped bicycle lanes
Safety has been a primary concern for many Masonic residents. One father of two young sons told BIKE NOPA last summer that he never allowed his boys to play or stay on the sidewalk outside their residence. When they walked out the front door, he immediately ushered them into the family car. Several months earlier his Cherokee Jeep was parked in front of the house on Masonic. A speeding driver struck it with enough force to push it more than 100 feet into the intersection. Another resident said a motorist struck her car while she was nearing her home at Golden Gate and Masonic. The car was totaled; she was fortunate to have sustained few physical injuries. That collision occurred just one week before Yannick Linke was allegedly struck and killed by a motorist at Masonic and Turk.
The 63-page Masonic report details the process used by city planners* to reduce the street’s traffic risks and transform the corridor into a more livable space. They considered various design options that would help the city meet numerous local, state, and federal standards for “complete streets” that serve all users and enhance community life. The goals and objectives of the process were ambitious and appear to reflect residents’ complaints about the current street design:
- Improve transit
- Enhance pedestrian access to transit
- Make crosswalks safer for pedestrians
- Increase compliance by motorists of rules and regulations
- Reduce the number of vehicular collisions, especially with pedestrians and bicyclists
- Increase quality-of-life features to make Masonic more inviting and accommodating
“It prioritizes neighborhood safety, livability, and mobility. Thanks to these efforts, families will be able to move around more safely and enjoy their neighborhood more fully. This is a good example of the community speaking up for better streets and the City listening and responding.”The next steps for the Masonic proposal involve ensuring that it meets environmental requirements, conducting a public hearing, and presenting the recommended design to the SFMTA Board of Directors. Staff will also seek funding and complete the project design. Javad Mirabdal, SFMTA Project Manager for the Masonic study, said “all the next steps will move forward at the same time.” The most optimistic estimate for taking the proposal to a public hearing is by the end of June this year. (The SFMTA will provide a two-week notice prior to the public hearing).
Even those who have followed Masonic developments closely will find the report enlightening. One new feature is a detailed illustration of the traffic calming measures for each block of Masonic between Fell and Geary. Individual addresses are noted along with location of new street trees, new sidewalk landscaping, bulb-outs, and separated bicycle lanes. (See pages 41-48 of report).
* The Masonic Avenue Street Design Study is an undertaking of the San Francisco Planning Department, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), and the San Francisco Department of Public Works.
For other articles in the A Better Masonic series, check here.