Monday, August 16, 2010

A Better Masonic: Neighbors Petitioned in 2008 For What They Still Want Today

Focus of Traffic Calming Plans for Masonic Avenue, 2010

500 Masonic Ave neighbors signed petition listing concerns about speeding traffic, 2008

Last Tuesday night more than 50 Masonic area neighbors gathered to discuss how to make the traffic corridor work better and safer for all road users. Three nights later a motorist struck and killed a 21-year-old man riding his bicycle on Masonic at the intersection of Turk Street. Friday night's fatality was a tragic event for the bicyclist's family and friends, for neighbors and for everyone in San Francisco. SFPD's Hit and Run unit has yet to determine the specific circumstances that led to the collision between the driver and the bicyclist, but for many the death of this young man makes traffic calming on our streets, especially on Masonic, all the more pressing.

Friday's sad loss reminded several neighbors of their efforts two years earlier to bring changes to Masonic. In early 2008 the grassroots group Fix Masonic circulated a petition among neighbors concerned about the condition of Masonic. More than 500 signed. The several pages of the petition were hand-delivered to Nathaniel (Nat) Ford, Executive Director of the Municipal Transportation Agency, on February 27, 2008. The process from then to now with a traffic calming process underway is either painfully slow or about right depending on your view of the MTA's response to making traffic design changes. In any event, it's instructive to look at the many issues neighbors identified and the recommendations they urged the city to take then. The following are excerpts from the Traffic Calming Request Form submitted to the MTA with the signatures (see image above).

Concerns about traffic on Masonic:
  • Speeding in a residential area, yellow light running
  • Frequent crashes
  • Reckless driving in curb lanes
  • Dangerous merges and turns
  • Inconsistent lane configurations and unexpected lane changes
  • Red light running
  • Failure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists
  • No safe passage for bicycles; bicyclists forced to use sidewalk
  • Signal timing encourages speeding
  • Some traffic signals are not visible
  • Poor visibility on hills, specifically at blind intersections
  • MUNI is slow
  • Fell/Masonic intersection is deadly
  • Double turn lanes from Masonic to Fell are dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists
  • Oak/Masonic intersection is dangerous for pedestrians
  • Wide intersections, specifically at Geary, Fell and Oak
Suggestions for improvements:
  • Lower speed limit, make it appropriate for a residential street
  • Reconfigure or remove lanes to calm traffic
  • Add a bike lane for bike safety and to slow traffic speeds
  • Add advanced stop lines for vehicles before crosswalks, pedestrian countdowns at crosswalks and bulb outs to decrease pedestrian crossing distances
  • Create a separate crossing phase for bicycles and pedestrians on the Panhandle path
  • Take out double right turn lanes from Masonic onto Fell
  • Improve Oak/Masonic intersection for pedestrian safety
  • Study effects of removing or closing curb lanes, placing cameras on traffic signals for speed enforcement, and changing the number of parking spaces
  • Convert bus island at Masonic and Geary to a pocket park
  • Facilitate faster, smoother MUNI service through synchronization with traffic signals
  • Add traffic calming art, murals and landscaping
Last week the MTA presented four options for traffic calming that incorporate many of these recommendations. The 50+ participants completed surveys to select the features they liked best. An option that MTA and Planning Department staff should especially consider is one that includes all of the suggestions above. To my eye, all of these could be implemented without limiting or contradicting other measures.

The Fix Masonic petition from 2008 included a note about the kind of street neighbors indicated they wanted. It reads especially poignant in light of the young man who died from crash injuries Friday night.

Check here for previous articles in the A Better Masonic series.

"Studies show that well-designed streets and sidewalks can dramatically reduce collisions, pedestrian and bicyclist risk, and can increase the number of people walking and bicycling."

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