Saturday, February 26, 2011

Largest Survey Yet Confirms Strong Support for Complete Masonic Re-Design; NOPNA Finds Members Back the Boulevard Plan

One traffic calming measure already in place on Masonic

North Panhandle neighbors gave significant support once again for a complete re-design of Masonic Avenue in an online survey completed by 377 residents. Of the total, 87% favored the Boulevard option as the best way to make Masonic a safer street for all users. The plan offers a complete package of traffic calming measures, including a fully-landscaped median, bus bulb outs, a separated bicycle lane, improved traffic lane configurations, and sidewalk upgrades for pedestrians. To make the improvements, the Boulevard proposal removes parking from both sides of Masonic between Geary and Fell. The other option, dubbed the Gateway, would employ less extensive measures to improve safe travel on Masonic. Compared with the Boulevard’s 87% support, the Gateway garnered significantly less with 54% preferring it. The North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) released the results of the survey along with the raw data yesterday.

In an executive summary, NOPNA President Jarie Bolander noted that “the vast majority of respondents want to see Masonic safer and feel that something must be done.” He added that most survey respondents (66.4%) had not attended the community meetings organized by the SFMTA last year. Thus, the NOPNA data reflect the preference of a great many residents not previously tallied and indicates even greater support for the Boulevard plan.

Image: NOPNA Masonic Survey Analysis

At the conclusion of last year’s Masonic meetings, 76% of participants who completed a SFMTA survey chose the Boulevard over the Gateway option. Based on that input, city staff recommended adoption of the Boulevard measures in a final report completed in January. The proposal has already been endorsed by the Ewing Terrace Neighborhood Association, a majority of University Terrace Neighborhood Association members, and Fix Masonic. The NOPNA board previously stated that they wanted to undertake the survey to obtain greater input from members before deciding what action to take.

In addition to the decided preference for the more ambitious street design, the NOPNA survey revealed other information pertinent to the discussion. Of the 373 who completed the survey, the greatest number of Masonic area residents heard about the proposals from three sources: the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) (46.9%), the NOPNA newsletter (41.4%), and BIKE NOPA (36.2%). More than 58% of respondents indicated they live within the NOPNA boundaries (Fell, Turk, Divisadero and Masonic) while 80% reside within or just one block beyond these streets.

Of the 477 residents who started the survey, 45 live on Masonic, and 81.8% of them strongly like or somewhat like the Boulevard proposal compared to 44.1% for the Gateway plan. Of the 127 who self-identified as being NOPNA members, 86% strongly liked or somewhat liked the Boulevard versus 59.9% for the Gateway.

When it comes to discussions about driving and biking in NOPA – as in other neighborhoods -- residents sometime adopt an “us vs. them” approach, suggesting that motorists don’t care about road safety for others, that bicyclists only favor improvements for themselves, or that peoples' modes of travel define their identity and affiliations. But the NOPNA survey shows much the opposite. Although the vast majority of respondents indicated that they belonged to the SFBC and 43% identified themselves as NOPNA members, a very high number (42%) actually belong to both groups. Other group affiliations mentioned include Fix Masonic (14.2%), NOPA+ (12.6%), Wigg Party (7.1%), and WalkSF (7.1%).

The removal of street parking for a safer Masonic was included in both proposals, although the Boulevard takes away parking on both sides of the street, while the Gateway removes it from just one side. Not surprisingly, those who support the Boulevard largely like the plan’s removal of parking to allow space for improvements. But Gateway advocates are almost evenly split on liking or disliking removal of half the parking.

The strong feelings of residents about changing Masonic are apparent in the large number of written comments for each proposal and for the overall situation. Nearly 300 comments were added to the survey. As can be expected, observations cover the range from enthusiasm to dismay for the proposed changes, but the tone was generally more positive than not. The plea of one neighbor is especially poignant:

Please fix Masonic. I’ve lived at Fulton and Masonic for less than a year and I regret moving here every day. The noise and speeding vehicles and honking horns is overwhelming. The crosswalks are terrifying. I drive occasionally and something about this street encourages aggressive behavior.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mayor Lee Calls for SFMTA to Move Quickly on Fell Street Protected Bikeway by Bryan Goebel and Michael Helquist

The current bike lane on Fell Street would be transformed into a curbside cycletrack. Image: RG Architecture for SFBC.
The current bike lane on Fell Street would be transformed into a curbside cycletrack.
Image: RG Architecture for SFBC

Mayor Ed Lee's comments to Streetsblog earlier this week that he would like to "quickly" see a physically-separated bike lane trial on Fell Street along The Wiggle came as exciting news to bicycle advocates who are proposing a continuous green stretch along the curb from Scott to Stanyan Streets.

"I want to get to that experiment on Fell Street quickly because I’d like to see how these lanes that we are dedicating would be away from the open doors, and away from fast traffic," the Mayor told Streetsblog.

Both Fell and Oak, which run adjacent as one-way arterials, present an ideal opportunity to build San Francisco's first parking-protected bike lane, and to begin restoring some of the safety and civility the neighborhoods knew before traffic engineers began turning the quiet streets into residential freeways.

"We're encouraged to hear Mayor Lee's interest in making Fell Street safer and more inviting for everyone, and look forward to working with the city to help get this bikeway on the ground," said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum."Creating a physically separated bikeway on both Fell and Oak Streets will be essential to connecting our city with safer streets and helping more people of all ages to feel comfortable and confident biking."

Bicycle advocates have urged the SFMTA to experiment with a physically-separated lane on Fell Street, especially on the three blocks of Fell between Scott and Baker. Those blocks currently connect the popular Wiggle bike route with the multi-use Panhandle Park path for points further west, as well as connections north and south.

Cyclists cite the ongoing hazards of traveling along fast-moving traffic and maneuvering around vehicles that fully or partially block the bike lane, especially at the entry to the Arco gas station at Divisadero. Although car and bicycle traffic moves more smoothly through that area since the SFMTA installed new lane configurations, difficulties remain. Bike riders also have to watch for car doors swinging open on other portions of Fell.

A rendering of one recommended option on Fell Street from www.connecting the

Despite those conditions, the route has become very popular since being striped over a decade ago, because it is a major east-west connection. Ridership has nearly doubled on that portion of The Wiggle in recent years. According to the latest SFMTA data, 52,055 people rode on Fell Street between Scott and Divisadero last September. Most of those rides took place in the evening commute hours, when the street is busiest and the bike lanes are most often obstructed.

The very popularity of the route has caused some consternation among other users of the Panhandle Path, especially older pedestrians and parents with young kids. Fast-spinning bicyclists and walkers easily get in each other’s way and conflicts appear regularly on the narrow mixed-use path. In this case, non-bicyclists are becoming strong supporters of a separated bike lane on Fell, if the new facility reduces fast bike traffic on the multi-use path.

"A physically separate bikeway up Fell street would be a tremendous benefit to the Panhandle," said Jarie Bolander of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA). "Not only would it provide a safe way for bicyclists to commute east and west, but it also calms traffic and would make it more pleasant to stroll in the Panhandle. In addition, the Panhandle needs some major upgrades and this project is a great way to bring focus on those efforts."

The SFBC is urging the SFMTA to install a green physically-separated bike lane from Scott to Stanyan on Fell and Oak, acting as a couplet for bike traffic. The changes would look similar to the several blocks of green separated bike lanes on Market Street, but could utilize parked cars instead of soft-hit posts to separate vehicle traffic from bicyclists.

The SFBC proposes two options for addressing the safety problem. The first would be to remove the parking on the south side of Fell and the north side of Oak to permit space for bike lanes, using a design almost identical to the popular bike lanes on Market Street.

The alternative would be to keep the parking but convert the curbside space into a bike lane, reduce the number of lanes on Fell and Oak from three to two between Scott and Baker, and from four to three lanes between Baker and Stanyan. It would allow cars to park along the outside of the bike lane with a five-foot buffered space between the bike lane and parked cars.

Grand Street in Manhattan. Photo:

It took a matter of days to install a similar treatment on Grand Street in New York, which now has 14.8 miles of protected bikeways, compared to less than a mile for San Francisco. The Grand Street lane is about a mile long and provides a crosstown connection leading from downtown Manhattan to the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. The Fell and Oak improvements would be similar and just as easy to do.

The option to maintain parking is one that will probably be favored most by residents concerned about tight parking in the neighborhoods. It would also benefit people on foot because it could be accompanied by bulbouts and other pedestrian-friendly treatments at intersections, making it easier and safer to cross Fell and Oak Street.

The area is a prime location to experiment with the proposed design, which has also been successful in Vancouver and Portland. It also works well because there are generally few residential curb cuts and driveways along the proposed green bike lanes. In spots where curb cuts do exist, the bike lanes would become dashed.

The Arco station presents several complications, and any solution will likely yield less-than-perfect results, but advocates believe city officials can eventually get rid of the curb cuts at the troublesome location. For now, though, the SFBC's recommendation is to have the curbside lane bike become dashed where it crosses the curb cuts, and allow drivers to queue up in a left turn-lane on the outer side of the bike lane.

The city has recently shown more willingness to experiment with innovative projects and avoid the great-study-on-the-shelf syndrome. Mini-parks and parklets throughout the city have earned rave reviews among early skeptics and changes to lane configurations have always been a feature of traffic in the city.

The SFBC, neighborhood leaders, and other livability advocates hope – and urge – the city to adopt the separated bike lanes on Fell and Oak to improve safety and traffic flow for all road users.

This story is a collaborative piece from Streetsblog San Francisco and BIKE NOPA.

World's Fair NOPA VELO Ride this Sunday Morning

Maidens, lions, sphinxes, and a cider press -- just a few of the sites NOPA VELO riders will see on the first spin of the year during its Lions to Maidens World's Fair Tour Sunday morning. After days of snow on city streets -- or, well, maybe not -- the sun will come out for this special ride through the neighborhood and into two of San Francisco's favorite scenic spots.

Everyone welcome for this NOPA-based biking group. Join us for a brisk morning spin.

Check out our previous rides here.

NOPA VELO Lions to Maidens World's Fair Ride
Sunday, February 27
9:30 am - Meet at Central Coffee, Tea & Spice, corner Central & Hayes
10:00 am - Ride begins
All level riders welcome. Kids on own bikes OK if with guardian.
Pets too if on bike or leash.
Info: Lenore at 415-300-6744,

Join NOPA-VELO Google Group:
Updates and pics @ BIKE NOPA:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BIKE NOPA Reader Can't Wait for Bike Parking in the Panhandle, Installs His Own

Until the official bike racks are installed in the Panhandle Park, this one helps

Bike parking at the bulletin board near the restroom west of Masonic

Impatient for the official, authorized bike racks to be installed in the Panhandle Park, one of BIKE NOPA's readers decided to provide secure parking for himself and any of the other thousands of bicyclists who use the Panhandle Path in the interim. Yes, the bulletin board posts are public property, but instead of any admonition, how about saluting the public spiritedness of the stealthy bike parker?

I appreciated that Dale Danley -- with his eyes-on-the-Panhandle everyday -- had yet to notice the bike parking addition in the midst of the proposed make-over area that he is helping to coordinate west of Masonic. "I'm glad that someone else realized how badly we need bike parking in the Panhandle," Danley remarked. "Getting real racks installed can't happen quickly enough for me either." When will the Panhandle project get underway? Danley said he was optimistic about the timeline, but ventured only a vague "Sometime this year."

For all the news on the Panhandle, check Panhandle Park Stewards.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Repaving Finally Set for MLK Drive in Golden Gate Park

Western section of JFK Drive used to look like this -- how soon we happily forget

Worn-to-concrete-base pothole on MLK Jr. Drive was first tagged a long, long time ago

Part of the "treacherous section" of MLK Jr. Drive in Golden Gate Park

At long last repaving is coming to the south side streets of Golden Gate Park, primarily to Martin Luther King Drive. While a repaved western section of JFK Drive has delighted bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians since last spring on the north side of the city's premiere park, MLK has posed a dodge-and-swerve guantlet to travelers for years. Body-rattling and sometimes jaw-dropping craters have plagued the long stretch between the Great Highway and Kezar Drive. Even the Recreation and Parks Commission's Capital Committee referred to the "treacherous eastern section of MLK Drive" in a memo last month to General Manager Philip Ginzburg.

The repaving project includes the MLK roadway between Kezar Drive and 19th Avenue, including Bowling Green Drive and Stow Lake Drive. Additional options include segments of MLK Drive west of 19th Avenue to the Great Highway. The $2.5 million resurfacing will rely mostly on Proposition 40 funds along with a half million dollars from the Open Space Fund.

The scope of work will include a process familiar to BIKE NOPA readers who followed the stages of repaving JFK Drive last spring:
  • grinding off the top 2 inches of asphalt
  • cutting away of damaged areas and more repair as needed
  • adding new curb ramps
  • installing new paving fabric
  • applying 2 inch overlay the full length of the roadway
  • road and crosswalk striping
Work is expected to begin this Spring.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NOPA VELO'S Lions to Maidens World's Fair Ride Sunday February 27

Image: Rick Helf

Celebrate two of San Francisco's great World's Fairs in one awesome bike ride as NOPA VELO launches its second year of distinctive, thematic spins through the neighborhood and beyond this Sunday morning. Join the NOPA VELO cyclists at one of our favorite cafes for the much-needed power-up and then kick off seeking the lions and sphinxes of Golden Gate Park.

On August 24, 1893 San Franciscans gathered to cheer the first shovel-full of earth turned for the start of construction of the California Mid-Winter International Exposition. Michael de Young, publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, hoped to attract new settlers by extolling the midwinter climate of California, the land of sunshine. (Ummm, ok). Today's Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park featured four exotic exhibition halls with the style and design of the Middle and Far East. More than 72,000 people flocked to the park for opening day ceremonies on January 27, 1894. NOPA VELO riders will stop by the few reminders of the city's first world's fair: the bronze lion and pair of sphinxes near the de Young Museum, the Wine Press statue, the bronze Roman Gladiator, and the Japanese Tea Garden.

Spinning out of Golden Gate Park riders will head cross-town to the site of the even grander Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) of 1915. When fair organizers proposed returning to Golden Gate Park once again, local folks objected in their very San Francisco way. The city had barely recovered from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire with refugee camps situated all over the park, and advocates wanted to protect the city's prize park. Instead, the promoters filled in the mudflats of what was known then as the Harbor View District -- and today is the Marina District -- to construct an architectural fantasia with a 43-story Tower of Jewels in the center. One of the most beloved structures was the Palace of Fine Arts designed by Bernard H. Maybeck. NOPA VELO riders will visit the newly renovated Palace 95 years and seven days after the official PPIE opening.

If you haven't stopped by either World's Fair site lately, this ride will be a treat, especially to see the makeover at the Palace. Join NOPA VELO for a fine ride through the city with one long climb and one sweeping descent (but all very manageable) followed by lunch at NOPA's own Ziryab Grill on Divisadero at about noon.

NOPA VELO Lions to Maidens World's Fair Ride
Sunday, February 27
9:30 am - Meet at Central Coffee, Tea & Spice, corner Central & Hayes
10:00 am - Ride begins
All level riders welcome. Kids on own bikes OK if with guardian.
Pets too if on bike or leash.
Info: Lenore at 415-300-6744,

Join NOPA-VELO Google Group:
Updates and pics @ BIKE NOPA:

Special thanks to Robert Ehler Blaisdell's fine evocation of these expositions in San Francisciana Photographs of Three World Fairs. (Marilyn Blaisdell, Publisher, 1994, San Franicsco).

City Streets Get Stuck With Middling Scores, Residents Can Check Pavement Status

Broderick Street, recently repaved in NOPA

San Francisco streets sometimes seem smoother, especially if stretches of your regular route get resurfaced. But anyone who bikes 2nd street in SOMA or bumps along Hayes in NOPA knows too many city streets are stuck in a delayed maintenance mode. In fact, San Francisco streets can’t get out of the middling range of smoother, safer streets, and the current budget crunch offers little hope of major change anytime soon. The city’s average remains at 64 -- below the state average and not close enough to the best practice level of 70 where regular maintenance can minimize repair costs.

A new digital map lets residents check the surface status of the nearly 850 blocks that the city maintains. Anyone who travels along blocks with recurring sinkholes, multiple utility cuts, and too many potholes repaired too many times can expect to find those blocks in the red zone. Blocks in black have recently been paved or remain in good condition years after the resurfacing. Orange and blue blocks are in-between. The map reveal a block's pavement condition and an accompanying chart (below) indicates the likely cost of repair, paving, or reconstruction.

For NOPA readers, the several orange blocks of Hayes between Shrader and Broderick would likely cost just under $100,000 to "mill and fill." But the four red blocks of Fulton from Masonic to Broderick bring a tab ranging from $138,000 to $436,000 each. Right there is reason enough for not letting orange blocks turn red through delayed maintenance.

PCI ScoreMap colorAssociated TreatementCost/Block
100-85BlackNo action needed-
84-64BlueMaintenance: crack or slurry seals are used to repair distress and reinforce weakened pavement$9,000
63-50OrangeResurfacing: surface layer is grinded and filled with a new layer (mill and fill)$97,800
49-0RedReconstruction: surface layer is grinded, base is repaired, surface layer is replaced (mill and fill w/base repair)$138,000 – $436,400
Image: ONESF, Building Our Future

BIKE NOPA’s first few posts focused on condition of our neighborhood streets in the summer of 2009. Since then the Divisadero makeover with new pavement has made the greatest difference in the neighborhood. The smoother, quieter, and safer travel there reflects some of the benefits that will come to Masonic when the Municipal Transportation Agency approves the Boulevard street design proposal.

A few blocks of Baker and Broderick have also been re-paved since 2009, although Broderick between Fell and Hayes has languished between the usual "mill and fill” phases. The Public Utility Commission finished underground repairs in December and left the surface scraped, or milled, but the fill with new asphalt has yet to occur two months later. DPW has made the re-paving a priority.

Everyone can help keep city streets in better shape by reporting problems they encounter. Better to get a simple pothole or wide crack filled now than wait until the damage increases and the costs spiral further. Call 311 to report street defects or file reports online.

* Second Street between Market and King has one of the worst PCI scores in the South of Market, and the city plans to repave it in the summer of 2012. Since 2nd is frequently used by bicyclists, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Good Roads Campaign has urged the city to patch-pave large sections of the street to reduce the current hazardous conditions. The Department of Public Works expects to begin the repairs during the next several days.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

MTA To Adopt Traffic Calming Urged by Fix Masonic, Traffic Engineer Manito Velasco to Guide Effort

Re-striping faded lanes is one of several traffic calming measures planned

The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) will adopt several traffic calming measures on Masonic Avenue in the next few months to reduce speeding on the corridor from Fell to Geary Streets. Traffic lanes and crosswalks will be re-striped, 25 MPH and School Zone advisories will be applied to the street surfaces at a number of locations, and travel lanes will be more clearly marked for merging traffic. The changes are among several proposed last November by the grassroots group Fix Masonic to make the corridor safer during the many months leading up to a re-design of the street. They complement others that the MTA has already implemented.

Javad Mirabdal, project manager for the larger Masonic Avenue Street Design Study, said the re-striping and painting measures could be implemented within a month while other requests, such as installing a red light camera at Fell and Masonic, establishing a double-fine zone for speeding, and adding thumbnail medians with signs posting 25 MPH will take longer or require further review. He added that the interim traffic calming measures will be implemented under the guidance of veteran MTA traffic engineer Manito Velasco.

Fix Masonic representatives met with MTA staff on November 9, 2010 and submitted a dozen recommendations for discouraging speeding and increasing pedestrian safety. Although neither the community group nor the traffic engineers expect the traffic calming measures to eliminate all speeding on Masonic, they do hope the changes will reduce collisions and encourage drivers to stay within the 25 MPH speed limit.

In January city planning staff completed a final report for transforming the Masonic corridor into a safer, more attractive thoroughfare for all users. The document includes recommendations to adopt a set of changes dubbed the Boulevard, an option that resulted from a series of community meetings last year involving Masonic area residents.

In the months ahead the MTA will take the Masonic project to the next level – fine-tuning the design, conducting an environmental review, if needed, and seeking approval of the plan from an MTA public hearing officer and the MTA Board of Directors. Javad Mirabdal is a likely candidate to lead the process since he has steered the Masonic study through the community planning process and the drafting of the final report. Although Mirabdal did not confirm this possibility, he did suggest that "all steps of the approval process will move forward at the same time.” He also added that he hoped the hearing could be scheduled by the end of June.

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

Thursday, February 10, 2011

NOPNA Board Stumbles on Masonic Safety Proposal, Requests Neighbors Take Survey

One of the improvements proposed for Masonic: mini-park at Geary

After years of urging the city to stop the speeding and improve safety on Masonic Avenue, the Board of Directors of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) decided in January that it was unprepared to support an actual plan to do so. Instead, the board has asked neighbors to take the Masonic safety survey developed by city transportation planners. The NOPNA directors stated that the results of that instrument will guide their decision about improving Masonic.

NOPNA seeks to represent all residents who live within the association's border streets: Masonic to Divisadero and Fell to Turk. Everyone who lives within those 30 square blocks is eligible to take the survey whether they attend NOPNA meetings or have paid dues.* The board selected a relatively brief period of time for neighbors to complete the survey, from February 6th to February 15th.

It is important for anyone who wants to stop the speeding on Masonic and make the corridor safer for all users -- pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists -- to take this survey.

More than 200 neighbors participated in the community planning for a better Masonic last year. That three-meeting process narrowed the options for the corridor from four to two to one. A majority of the Masonic neighbors selected the Boulevard plan as the best way to stop the speeding and increase safety while making Masonic a street that residents and neighbors will appreciate. As previously covered, the Boulevard proposal will provide a full-length landscaped median, a mini-park at Geary, landscaped sidewalks, bus bulb outs at intersections, 200 new street trees, and a separated bicycle track. To allow space for these safety measures, street parking will be removed between Fell and Geary.

The NOPNA board is late to engage in the process, and the survey it has now presented asks neighbors to select between the last two options: the less-complete Gateway version and the Boulevard proposal. City planners have already incorporated the community's preference for the Boulevard into its final report and its recommendations to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The Ewing Terrace Neighborhood Association, Fix Masonic, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have already endorsed the Boulevard proposal. A majority of University Terrace neighbors who participated in a separate survey last year also favored the Boulevard.

Nevertheless, it is important for neighbors who consider safety the top priority for Masonic to take this latest survey, to register their support, and to send a message to the NOPNA Board. The most important factor for people interested in safety for bicyclists is Question 5:
  • to ensure that the separated bicycle track is installed, select "strongly prefer" for the Boulevard Option's bike facility AND for the parking plan. The bike facility is not possible without adopting the parking (removal) plan.
For those who have followed the Masonic planning process, the survey will require less than five minutes. Others are strongly encouraged to read the final report -- or at least the most relevant sections -- that details the extensive outreach to Masonic neighbors, the community process, the survey responses, and block-by-block images of all the improvements to come under the Boulevard plan.

* The NOPNA Board also seeks opinions from those in other nearby neighborhoods and encourages those residents to take the survey as well.

Disclosures: Several years ago I served as NOPNA president for two terms and was a member of the board of directors for six years. I have urged members of the current board to conduct greater due diligence and real engagement with the community process to make Masonic safer.

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

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Go "Gritty" on Street Date with SFGate, Maybe to "Alamonte Square"

One of the floating ped islands on Divisadero; this one stays within the crosswalk

Residents in Divisadero's "gritty" neighborhoods love the Farmers' Market

The SF Chronicle and SFGate feature "Divisadero Street, SF" for its Street Date in its Thursday through Sunday 96 Hours pull-out today. Right in the midst of its positive, little two-line intro we get "This thoroughfare traverses gritty neighborhoods that..." Guess the Chron just can't let go of the gritty when it comes to Divis or the Western Addition. No matter the make-over of the corridor with all the street trees, landscaping, bulbouts, parklet, new bike parking, funny thumb-nail-protruding medians, and so much energy that the street throbs day and night. But hey, we get all Divisadero and its neighborhoods have to offer and gritty too? Works for me.

Thanks, Chron folks for highlighting Little Chihuahua, Yoga Garden, Swankety Swank, Mojo Bike Cafe, Plant'It Earth, Green Earth Natural Foods, and the Divis Farmers' Market.

Two suggestions though, Chron: Add biking directions to the "Getting There" column for Street Date. It's the mode many of us choose for getting around. And add "bike parking" under the Parking. Because...well, you get it.

The Chron (hard-copy, not on SFGate) adds a mini-map to locate the featured businesses. You can't miss them: they're just one block west of Alamonte Square.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pedestrians Deserve A Better Masonic: Look What They Have Now

Pedestrians must cross several lanes of traffic on Masonic today

Crossing Masonic can be better than this

Critics of street design changes like those recommended for Masonic Avenue often charge that the proposals punish motorists or favor bicyclists. They fail to recognize that the “Complete Streets” standard established by local, state, and federal agencies addresses the needs of all users of a thoroughfare. The Boulevard option preferred by a majority of Masonic area residents is a good example of changes intended to benefit everyone, whatever means of transportation an individual chooses. But since public discussions often focus on people who drive or bike, this article considers people who walk at least some of the time.

In the final report of the Masonic Avenue Street Redesign Study, city planners describe the pedestrian experience. Most blocks between Fell and Geary offer an expansive 22 foot width, but the “pedestrian experience is degraded by wide crossings across multiple lanes of motor traffic” on Masonic and on east-west cross streets. With the frequency of speeding on the corridor, pedestrians must judge the time needed for crossing as well as determine whether approaching drivers are slowing to a stop. There are no medians to give them safe refuge part-way.

People with physical challenges find 29 corners along Masonic without any curb ramps or with sub-standard centered curb ramps. Few benches or any kind of outdoor seating exist along the corridor. Anyone strolling in the evening – although it’s difficult to imagine anyone choosing to stroll along Masonic – takes place under the glare of tall, cobra-head lighting designed to illuminate the roadway.

With so few amenities for pedestrians, it’s surprising that Masonic has such high volumes of people walking and crossing the street. According to the Masonic report, a recent count of pedestrians found an average of 1,013 people at the Masonic and Fulton intersection between 5-7pm. The next highest volume was at Masonic and Geary with 938 people.

The number of collisions on Masonic involving motorists and pedestrians is high enough for concern and adoption of risk-reduction measures. Between 2004 and 2009, 12 collisions involving motorists and pedestrians were recorded. These aren't the highest collision statistics for pedestrians in San Francisco, but the livability of city streets is not determined solely by the numbers of injuries or deaths. The perception of risk takes its own toll. As mentioned in yesterday’s article about the Masonic study, a father of two young sons thought even the sidewalk outside their residence on Masonic was to too risky for his kids. A neighbor on Golden Gate at Central told BIKE NOPA a few months ago that he chose to drive the three blocks to the USF gym rather than risk crossing Masonic on foot. For these neighbors, the danger posed by the corridor greatly diminishes their sense of the neighborhood’s livability.

More people will likely choose to walk along Masonic -- and enjoy it -- when the changes included in the Boulevard proposal are implemented. A landscaped median with street trees will run the length of Masonic between Fell and Geary and make crossing the street easier and safer. Removal of street parking and tow-away zones will increase visibility for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Bulb-outs will make access to buses easier. Benches, landscaped sidewalks, and a mini-park at Geary and Masonic will make the street more attractive and user-friendly. And pedestrian-scale lighting will create a more pleasant experience for strollers.

The Boulevard plan will transform Masonic into a street that works for everyone. Motorists who keep to the speed limit will find a smooth, steady traffic flow on the corridor. Bicyclists will have a much safer route. Muni riders will get easier access. And people who walk will finally receive equal consideration with a Complete Streets design.

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