Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clipper Street/Portola Drive area neighbors: public comment on the Bicycle Plan EIR

Clipper Street/Portola Drive area neighbors
January 11, 2008

Bill Wycko
Environmental Review Officer
San Francisco Planning Department
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103
bill.wycko@sfgov.org

Dear Mr Wycko:

This letter contains our response to the release of the San Francisco Bicycle Plan update and associated EIR. This letter is prepared and sent before the closing of the comment period of January 13, 2008.

The inclusion of 60 projects as a “project” in this document is inappropriate, as each project should be should be carefully designed with community participation through a detailed process and documented separately. A document this large is not only awkward, but also does not allow for adequate discussion of bicycle safety. For example, a current controversy at Octavia Boulevard and Market Street is an example of how unsafe and messy results can occur when bicycle projects are rushed without careful design.

Several of the proposals in this report significantly disrupt local traffic and buses, greatly increase greenhouse gas emissions due to delayed and rerouted vehicles, and have not been studied in sufficient depth to justify the proposed designs; others are simple, logical projects. There are many intersections not studied (especially in the A.M. peak hour) which should be studied as these projects will significantly affect the neighborhoods where the new delay will be created. Each project should be designed and evaluated carefully.

To comply with the requirements of the EIR comments and responses, we are addressing specific technical concerns and mistakes identified in the EIR. Addressing these will likely require major changes to the EIR document, and we suspect that a recirculation will be likely. One alternative may be to remove the “projects” from this document, and present those as separate studies. This would allow for more adequate studies to be made on the proposed projects and for better designs to evolve.

General Comments on Project Level Analysis of the EIR

Reports of delay at Level of Service F at “>80” seconds for traffic inadequately describes the actual delay being induced by the project. This is also inconsistent with the transit analysis methodology in the EIR, which discusses use of intersection delays of up to 100 seconds in those calculations. The Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines for Environmental Review requires disclosure of all volume-capacity ratios at Levels of Service E or F; these are not provided and should be to bring the document into compliance. The use of “>80” is inaccurately portrays the impacts of the lane reductions on traffic. The EIR should be recirculated to show the actual estimated intersection delay, and not merely the anticipated delays as “>80” seconds.

We also request that the comment and response specifically disclose the amount of anticipated delay to the nearest second so that the decision-makers and citizens in San Francisco have full knowledge of the actual delay that they will soon experience. The Highway Capacity Manual and accompanying available software analysis packages report actual anticipated delay significantly over 80 seconds. The City Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines for Environmental Review posted by the Planning Department require the reporting of volume-to-capacity ratios at Level of Service E or F; these are not reported, recognizing that high delays should be further illustrated---while this EIR introduces LESS technical descriptions of the effect of congestion. The EIR further discloses on Page V.A.3-15 through V.A.3-17 (transit impacts discussion) that intersection delays of 100 seconds are discussed as central to the analysis; more detailed delay information IS AVAILABLE AND IS USED IN OTHER PARTS OF THE EIR. Further, Figure V.A.3-3 (referencing the relationship between volume/capacity ratio and taken from the 2000 Highway Capacity Manual, suggest that the analysis should be able to report delay of up to over 700 seconds (over 11 minutes), so that the vehicular traffic results ARE NOT CONSISTENT WITH THE METHODOLOGIES PRESENTED IN OTHER SECONDS when they are presented as only “>80”.

The Planning Department Guidelines require that any “project” that affects any intersection over Level of Service D must have a published report that fulfills the requirements of these guidelines (page 1) of the Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines for Environmental Review at:
http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/planning/projects_reports/SF%20Transportation%20Impact%20Analysis%20Guidelines%20Oct%202002.pdf

These guidelines also require that the volume-capacity ratios be reported for every intersection that operates at Levels of Service E or F. There are many intersections in this report that indicate that this objective is met. The quantitative effect of the reduced capacity on to the intersection Level of Service must be more extensively documented, as set forth in the published City Guidelines for traffic studies and EIRs.

The impacts should be recirculated to the public with the actual intersection delays reported for the wider public. These delays must be reported at least 100 seconds to be consistent with the transit impacts, and should be reported to be at least at delays greater than two signal cycle lengths of the approaching intersections (which suggest that delays of up to 180 seconds should be reported if the intersection has a 90 second cycle). Otherwise, the analysis reported in this Draft EIR are inadequate, inconsistent with the City’s own Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines for Environmental Review, and do not accurately disclose the true environmental impact of the Bicycle Plan.

Queue lengths are a required consideration in the design of any street project. This EIR does not report these lengths, and is thus an inadequate Project Level report for discussion and decision-making purposes. Disclosure of traffic queue lengths of approaches with lane reductions should be reported, especially where the reductions are significant and lead to Level of Service F operations. Adjacent property owners have the right to know whether or not the bicycle plan will result in queued traffic being introduced past the front of my property. The public cannot determine any additional queue lengths that would result from the reduction of lanes. The public cannot determine whether or not the additional queues will disrupt adjacent intersections. Idling vehicles results in significant carbon monoxide emissions, which have been shown to have detrimental health effects. The introduction of additional feet of carbon monoxide represents an additional hazard, not only to adjacent properties, but to pedestrians, bicyclists and other users that must wait in the additional idled traffic. The project level analysis should report queue lengths that result from lane reductions.

The transit delay threshold of 6 minutes is too high, arbitrary and inadequately reports the impacts of additional traffic on Muni routes. Further, this is inconsistent with the analysis methodology in the Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines for Environmental Review published by the City Planning Department, which requires the reporting of effects on the overall system capacity, and defined Transit Levels of Service. The EIR should be modified and recirculated to report the additional delay impacts on system capacity and Transit Levels of Service, and should use Transit Level of Service based-threshold (which would be substantially less than 6 minutes). There is a direct relationship between transit speed and capacity. If a bus route is forecast to experience additional delays and the number of buses assigned to a route is fixed, then the additional travel time will effectively reduce the capacity of the bus system. For example, a 60-minute round trip route with a 10-minute headway would normally have 6 buses assigned to that route during that peak hour. If delay was only an additional 5 minutes for that hour (50 seconds per bus), this would represent the need to add “a half of bus” to the route or to reduce the headways of the current buses. This represents 19 percent DECREASE in the carrying capacity of that Muni route. The Planning Department Guidelines require that any “project” that affects any intersection over LOS D must have a published report that fulfills the requirements of these guidelines (page 1 of the Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines for Environmental Review at:
http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/planning/projects_reports/SF%20Transportation%20Impact%20Analysis%20Guidelines%20Oct%202002.pdf

There are many intersections in this report that indicate that this objective is met. The effect of the reduced capacity on the Transit Level of Service must be documented, as set forth in the published City Guidelines for traffic studies and EIRs.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions of the additional delay and increased VMT that result from the significant lane reductions across the City is not discussed, and could represent a significant increase in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions created by mobile sources within San Francisco. This EIR fails to address Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors have indicated that this is an important priority for the City, yet there is no analysis within the EIR of how the additional idling and more circuitous routing of vehicles will increase these emissions within San Francisco. The negative impacts of additional traffic congestion to Greenhouse Gas Emissions should be disclosed.

All affected property owners should be notified of projects directly in front of their homes, which appears to be a Sunshine Ordinance Violation and Planning Department procedures. We did not receive notice of how my street would change. Our neighbors would have not known had we not actually studied the plan in detail. Planning Department EIRs require notification of all affected persons within a certain distance. This qualifies as a project, and is thus subject to these requirements.

Cluster 6 Project 6-2 Option 1 Analysis Comments

We believe that Project 6-2 Option 1 is an ill-conceived, badly designed, and congestion-inducing change to a major constraint point within the City’s transportation system, and is inadequately studied within the EIR. Strategies to provide a Class 1 or Class 2 bicycle lane are available without removing a traffic lane. Specific comments on this project and the accompanying EIR analysis are provided on the following pages.

Project 6-2 Option 1 should be removed from the San Francisco Bicycle Plan because it was developed AFTER the Notice of Preparation was issued and has not been presented in any neighborhood meetings or workshops, or scoping of appropriate intersections that should be studied. Project 6-2 Alternative 1 represents a significant modification to the Bicycle Plan made after the Notice of Preparation was issued on June 5, 2007. The change was not published until January 15, 2008. The first introduction of this project appears to be reported here:
(http://www.sfmta.com/cms/bnews/documents/Bicycle_Plan_Update_Jan_2008_000.pdf)

As affected property owners, we have been given no notice about this proposed change which directly affects the roadway in front of my home. This project has not been properly developed, and has not been screened in widely-publicized public meetings in our neighborhood. Further, the impacts from Option 1 have been woefully unreported and have mistakes, and the significant impact of Option 1 should be more extensively studied, as presented below.

Project 6-2 Option 1 represents a major change to San Francisco’s transportation system and it not a minor modification to the Bicycle Plan. The reduction of the traffic movement from northbound Clipper Street to westbound Portola Drive is the sole traffic location that traffic directly can use between 18th Street (in the Castro Neighborhood) and O’Shaughnessy Boulevard (in the Glen Park neighborhood). Avoiding this intersection will require drivers to drive at least two miles of additional travel to use alternative routes, increasing local vehicle miles of travel and greenhouse gas emissions. This is THE single “bridge” across the Twin Peaks area between the east central and west central areas of the City. This intersection frequently has back-ups and queued traffic at both the AM and PM peak hours. A reduction of capacity by 50 percent at this intersection should be considered a major reduction in the overall capacity of the street system. It is similar to what would happen if 2.5 lanes of the Bay Bridge were removed for a 500 segment of roadway between Treasure Island and the remainder of San Francisco. The effects are profound for upstream traffic! Clearly, Project 6-2 should be considered in relation to the overall impact on the Citywide Circulation System. Further, drivers seeking to avoid the newly-created bottleneck will have to travel up to 3 miles out of direction (through either the Castro or Glen Park neighborhoods), increasing the impact of this project on greenhouse gas emissions contributed by the City of San Francisco.

Project 6-2 Option 1 is a discontinuous piece of the Bicycle Plan and is unsafe for bicyclists. Project 6-2 is an isolated set of bicycle lanes that are quite short and do not extend to a distance even as far as vehicles will be queued at this intersection. Bicycles will need to weave through queued traffic to reach them if Option 1 is implemented! As shown in diagrams in the Appendix of the EIR, they do not connect to proposed bicycle lanes on Clipper Street and they are running in only the westbound/northbound direction. The purpose and need for these lanes is clearly illogical because they do not connect to any other lanes and rather than encourage bicyclists sharing the roadway with vehicles, it will instead encourage bicyclists to weave between queued vehicles. Many of these vehicles will be queued through two signal cycles, encouraging more impatient behavior by the drivers in the vehicles.

Project 6-2 Option 1 does not analyze a newly-affected intersection currently operating at significant delays---Clipper Street/Diamond Heights Boulevard. The EIR is incomplete without studies at this intersection. This intersection, which currently has significant queuing, will likely experience much greater queuing and delay as traffic from Portola Drive/Clipper Street/Burnett Avenue intersection backs up into it at the PM peak hour. This will significantly increase idling delay for both vehicles and buses that travel through this intersection. It was not initially reasonable to request studies on this intersection, as the Notice of Preparation did not include the segment of Project 6-2 Option 1 between Diamond Heights Boulevard and Portola Drive, so that this intersection has not been identified as critical. The anticipated queues are not reported, so a reader is unable to determine the magnitude of the impact at this intersection. The EIR should be recirculated with this significantly-impacted intersection included.

The adoption of the Option 1 recommendation will likely lead to back-ups into and through this intersection and into adjacent neighborhoods. One probable outcome may be the requirement that this intersection also have a new traffic signal installed at this intersection. The cost of installing a traffic signal here, as well as the cost of operating the signal, and the cost of developing a coordinated signal system with signals at these two closely-spaced signals, must be disclosed as a probable outcome. The costs of installing a signal here will be significant, and can easily be avoided by lower-cost design mitigations, or by removing Option 1 from the bicycle plan. (Potential low-cost mitigations are presented below.)

Project 6-2 Option 1 should be considered in light of the effects during the A.M. peak hour at both affected intersections. The EIR is incomplete without an A.M. peak hour analysis, and the A.M. peak hour congestion appears to be much worse than the PM peak hour congestion. As a neighbor, I routinely witness vehicles needing 2 or 3 cycles to clear this Portola Drive/Clipper Street/Burnett Avenue during the A.M. peak hour. It appears that this movement has more congestion in the A.M. peak hour than in the P.M. peak hour. Traffic from the signal at this location backs up at least two to three blocks, and often extends past Duncan Street on northbound Diamond Heights Boulevard, and almost reaches High Street on westbound Clipper Street---well through the Clipper Street/Diamond Heights Boulevard intersection. This has not been previously identified as needing study as the Notice of Preparation issued for the plan did not include the lane reduction in this option. There is a significant impact to traffic flows at the A.M. peak hour when reducing this lane, and this has not been studied or reported in the EIR. Studies at the AM peak hour should be presented.

Project 6-2 Option 1 appears to have a significant transit impact for Projects 6-2 Option 1 and 6-5, and mistakes in the calculation are presented in the EIR; this section must be corrected and the corrections should include a more detailed discussion of how the impact was calculated to fully understand where the error is located. The transit impacts discussed in the Bicycle Plan EIR on Page V.A.3-645 and V.A. 3-546 are in error. The report indicates that delay is 3.4 minutes “for each route” (Routes 48 and 52) then proceeds to report a cumulative delay also at 3.4 minutes. If each route is forecast to experience a 3.4 minute delay, the combined impact would be 6.8 minutes---which then becomes a significant impact.

The report inaccurately states that the Route 52 operates at a 15-minute headway, when it actually operates at a 10-minute headway during the time period used for the analysis (P.M. peak hour). (The 15-minute headway is the condition during the A.M. peak hour.)

Further, the analysis states that it is based on delays in one direction. However, the level of service for the adjacent intersection is reported as an average for all movements in the intersection. It is improper to discuss transit delay only in one direction for what is an average condition at the intersection. The delays should either be analyzed for that specific approach (in which case one direction would be fine) or the delay should be calculated as if the bus route passes through in both directions. This is a significant math error in this instance, as the author is mixing overall intersection delay with approach delay; this significantly underreports the impacts to the transit system. Correcting this math error would result in a peak hour impact of either 6.8 or 13.6 minutes for transit service, depending on how the inconsistency in the report presented in the above paragraph is explained.

As defined in the Highway Capacity Manual, if the LOS goes from E to F, queued traffic will not be able to clear the intersection, including buses. If every bus will miss an entire signal cycle, this will result in at least 60 seconds of delay per bus to allow for the Portola Drive traffic to move through the intersection. If there are 11 buses at peak hour having to wait 60 additional seconds, this is an impact of 11 minutes total at peak hour, which exceeds the 6 minutes of delay at peak hour criteria established in the methodology. Clearly, this impact in the EIR is underestimated and the analysis of the potential delays from this project are clearly too little, and this represents a significant impact well above and beyond the artificial 6 minute threshold presented in the EIR criteria.

Transit will also be impacted by additional delays discussed previously at the Clipper Street/Diamond Heights Boulevard. This intersection, which currently has significant queuing, will likely experience much greater queuing and delay as traffic from the Portola Drive/Clipper Street/Burnett Avenue intersection backs up into it at both the AM and PM peak hours; this will significantly increase idling delay for buses that travel through this intersection. This additional delay should be reported in the transit impacts and a determination of whether or not this will further deteriorate transit speed and reliability should be further disclosed.

The impacts of this project to the Transit Level of Service, required in the Planning Department Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines for Environmental Review, are not discussed. As noted in the general comments above, additional delay has an effect on transit capacity, and this effect is not presented for this project. The Transit Level of Service calculations should be presented in order to fulfill the requirements of these guidelines.

The three routes in this area---Routes 37, 48 and 52---have packed buses at peak hours. Standees are common and sometimes riders are actually unable to board buses. Increasing bus travel times would increase overcrowding on these line, as the slower speeds would mean that bus frequencies would have to be decreased. This could also jeopardize the recent Muni restructuring proposal, which has bus routes carefully designed to be able to operate within certain headways; this plan would jeopardize the extensive work already done to set up the new routes in the restructuring. For these reasons, the Transit Level of Service Analysis, required in transportation impact studies, should be examined in this EIR.

There is no attempt to mitigate Alternative 1 for Project 6-2 when low-cost, feasible design alternatives exist. There is no reason to take one of the left-turn lanes from northbound Clipper Street to westbound Portola Drive for bicyclists. Available low cost, feasible mitigations are clearly available that would provide a Class 2 bicycle lane at this same location! Further, the project may create the need to install a signal at the Diamond Heights Boulevard/Clipper Street intersection (not evaluated in the draft EIR), which would be more costly than other mitigations available.

Possible mitigations include:

1. Conversion of the southbound receiving lane to a single lane at the Portola Drive/Clipper Street/Burnett Avenue, accomplished by shifting the very small concrete median further westward/southward, adding the additional northbound left-turn lane back into the intersection, restriping southbound/eastbound Clipper Street to be one lane, and to remove one through movement on the southbound Burnett Avenue approach. In fact, removing one southbound/eastbound lane could provide enough pavement for a bicycle lane in the other direction!

2. Widening of the northbound approach to the Portola Drive/Clipper Street/Burnett Avenue intersection to allow for bicycle lanes to be added, but without eliminating the second left turn lane. There is adequate right-of-way (the parcel diagram attached is from SFGIS files showing the property line follows this comment).

3. Creation of a Class 1 bicycle path directly between Noe Valley and the Portola Drive Corridor. A Class 1 bicycle path facility would enable bicyclists to completely avoid the need for Project 6-2. Alternative routes could be a path that uses (a) the “scenic overlook” property between High Street and Portola Drive (1 blocks north of the Clipper Street intersection), or (b) the Market Street underpass at the top of 24th Street, which would tie into Portola Drive at Corbett Avenue. This would be a more desirable and attractive Class 1 bicycle facility connecting Noe Valley to the Portola Drive corridor, improving the bicyclists connectivity to the Noe Valley business district.

Comments to Other Sections

We have restricted our comments to one general and one specific project in the bicycle plan. However, as San Francisco residents, we believe that there are serious design mistakes made in this plan. There are many instances where the turning radii of buses (both Muni and tour buses) cannot be met in the narrow lanes, so that buses may sideswipe other vehicles or bicycles on the roadway. Examples include Project 6-5 where Portola Drive curves are so sharp that Muni and tour buses will be unable to stay in their lane if they are narrowed. We already witness this problem on Portola Drive and several other streets today. The designs of these projects suggest that turning radii are not an issue when they are.

There are examples where the “projects” are not fully diagrammed in the report, but are only described as cross-sections (such as Project 5-6 on Cesar Chavez Street between US Highway 101 and Valencia Street). This does not represent an adequate project description and thus should be not considered for acceptance within the EIR.

We are disappointed that the Bicycle Plan does not “seize the moment” to provide separate Class 1 bicycle facilities, enabling a safer and more desirable experience for residents and inspiring new bicyclists. Bicycle routes in other Bay Area counties and bicycle systems in European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands are increasingly geared to separating bicycles from traffic, rather than merely aligning bicycle lanes on streets next to vehicles placed in narrow lanes. Bicycle lanes provide dangerous situations to bicyclists, including risks from people opening doors from their parked cars, or people driving into the bicycle lane from the narrowed traffic lane.

One lost opportunity is with Portola Drive. The entirety of Portola Drive (which has frontage roads and remaining open space) could be completely redesigned from property line to property line to turn this facility into a signature parkway for San Francisco. Instead, bicyclists are only given a narrow corridor while higher-speed vehicles travel by them. This does not encourage more people to become bicyclists, but merely satisfies requests of existing bicyclists to have the lane! This plan clearly is avoiding adequate consideration of improvements which could require the City to do more than restripe lanes.

Conclusion

To address the myriad of impacts and issues with the projects in the Bicycle Plan should not be studied and environmentally cleared at a citywide level. The plans should be implemented in coordination with Neighborhood Circulation Plans, or detailed design discussion studies for each of the project “clusters.” The appropriate design and implementation of the projects in this EIR should be as a neighborhood or cluster document, rather than a single citywide EIR for the 30 proposed projects. Finally, the public deserves to be informed of the real costs or benefits of lane reductions for every project---to not only vehicles, but to transit and to greenhouse gas emissions.

Sincerely,

Clipper Street/Portola Drive area neighbors

Labels:

22 Comments:

At 4:36 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Interesting.

While I appreciate the interest of the Portola/Clipper neighbors, this statement shows a little lack of research.

"the Market Street underpass at the top of 24th Street, which would tie into Portola Drive at Corbett Avenue. This would be a more desirable and attractive Class 1 bicycle facility connecting Noe Valley to the Portola Drive corridor, improving the bicyclists connectivity to the Noe Valley business district."

1) 24th St is a 25%+ gradient. While not difficult for a properly powered automobile, this is difficult even for very fit cyclists. The traditional route over the top is Clipper because even though Clipper is steep, it's not silly steep like 24th. Even worse than going up 24th would be going DOWN 24th. That block ends in a stop sign at Hoffman. It would be a challenge for a very skilled cyclist to stop there. Elizabeth, 23rd, 25th, all the same. In fact there is a pedestrian overpass at this spot and cyclists prefer to use clipper because it is so hard to get up the hill to the overpass.

2) The underpass would be dark and unsafe, and attract homeless people. I prefer that the homeless stay in District 5 where they belong.

3) This option puts cyclists onto uphill Portola at Corbett! I would perhaps accept this option if the City were to take a lane off of Portola and put in a bike lane. That would be, of course, completely ridiculous - Portola carries far more traffic than Clipper and has no shoulder, it is not a very sane place to ride.

I don't necessarily think a bike lane is needed at the Clipper turnoff. I typically just take the lane. The real issue to me is going down Portola towards Twin Peaks, and the primary problem there is the poor pavement on the shoulder requiring me to go into the lane.

I'm a little confused about the level of protest regarding the backup, but I don't have enough research to contradict it.

 
At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, I agree with you that the main danger riding bikes is dangerous due to cars. Its great that the City is getting rid of car traffic more and more - disposing of some of the city fleet and also seriously considering banning cars from Market Street. Excellent leadership!

here's a piece from the Examiner you'll appreciate:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/Market_Street_plan_picks_up_speed.html

Market Street plan picks up speed

By Will Reisman
Examiner Staff Writer 1/13/09

Cars and buses travel down Market Street, which some officials are proposing to close to automobile traffic completely from Embarcadero to Van Ness Avenue. Cindy Chew/The Examiner SAN FRANCISCO – The oft-mentioned proposal to ban automobiles on Market Street is again being considered.

Unlike past efforts, however, advocates for the latest plan say they have a wide swath of support for the controversial measure.

At the behest of Supervisor Chris Daly, who suggested the idea last summer following the orchestrated closures on The Embarcadero backed by his main political adversary, Mayor Gavin Newsom, local planners are studying the possibilities for restricting private vehicles from The City’s historic main thoroughfare.

The idea has been posed by politicians before, most famously from former Mayor Willie Brown, as a way to speed up public transit and improve safety on the street. Each time, the project has been scuttled by downtown business leaders, who argue the lack of traffic would hurt commerce.

However, Daly said the renewed push for restrictions has the broad support the past plans lacked.

“This is 2009,” said Daly. “I think the heightened awareness of climate-change issues and updated notions of what makes a city livable makes this project politically viable now.”

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority started a preliminary study to review the possibilities of restricting cars. A final draft is expected by early summer, at which time the transit authority’s board, comprised of city supervisors, could vote to move forward with further analysis.

“I don’t think anyone is proud of the state of Market Street, and I think we need to do something to improve that,” said Jose Luis Moscovich, the transit authority’s executive director. “Whether that translates into a ban of cars on Market Street remains to be seen.”

Last summer, Daly called for Market Street to be shut down to automobile traffic 24 hours a day from Justin Herman Plaza to Octavia Boulevard, but the transit authority’s study, or strategic analysis report, will look into the possibility of “restricting” cars on Market Street, and will focus on the stretch between Van Ness Avenue and The Embarcadero, Moscovich said.

“We’ve all heard this before,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “But unlike 10 years ago, I’m seeing a serious consensus amongst a broad group of interests. We have the Chamber of Commerce and traditional business standing there with us.”

Caroline Diamond, executive director of the Market Street Association, countered Shahum’s notion, saying businesses in the corridor are pining for improvements, but taking cars off the road will still likely draw opposition from area merchants.

Car-free thoroughfare

The idea of banning private autos from using Market Street is nothing new.

1997: First strategic analysis report is conducted on restricting vehicles on Market Street

2005: Market Street Action Plan, a study on improving thoroughfare, is completed, although few recommendations from it have actually been implemented

April: Estimated completion date of rough draft of second strategic analysis report on restricting vehicles on Market

May/June 2009: Estimated completion date of final draft of second report; vote on whether to move ahead with further study

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Rob, I agree with you that the main danger riding bikes is dangerous due to cars. Its great that the City is getting rid of car traffic more and more---disposing of some of the city fleet and also seriously considering banning cars from Market Street. Excellent leadership!"

Getting rid of the city's fleet of cars is a good idea only because it saves money. In fact the greatest threat to cyclists isn't other vehicles, since most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that have nothing to do with other vehicles. Banning cars on Market Street---especially as we go into a recession, when downtown businesses want all the traffic they can get---isn't going to happen soon, if ever. It's been a pipe dream of the bike people for years.

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"In fact the greatest threat to cyclists isn't other vehicles, since most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that have nothing to do with other vehicles."

The greatest threat to my financial security is my couch, because pennies keep falling in there on a daily basis, yet a 401k crushing 50% decline in stock market values is relatively infrequent.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Just out of curiousity Rob, how did you get this letter? Did they send you a courtesy copy? I would guess that the public commentary is available to the public.

I'd love to see all the commentary, this one was definitely interesting reading...

 
At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that have nothing to do with other vehicles."

Rob, did this delusory statement come to you in a vision, or do you have some reference to back this up? Seems like a rather dumb thing to believe, but I bet you have rarely ridden a bike as an adult. Many bike riders have excellent physical and mental coordination and do not injure themselves :-)

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I have some citations to back up that statement. Knowledgeable bike people know that most cycling accidents don't involve other vehicles but don't like to talk about it because it undermines their anti-car agenda.

The SFBC's favorite bike safety guy, Bert Hill, tells us that 45% of all cycling accidents are "solo falls" and that only 18% involve another vehicle ("Mission: Not Impossible," Paul McHugh, Feb. 17, 2005, SF Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/02/17/SPGGJBCK5Q1.DTL).

And Robert Hurst, a lifelong bike rider and cycling advocate, in his book on urban cycling, "The Art of Cycling," tells us that collisions with vehicles "account for no more than about 15 percent of all cycling accidents." (page 161)

Hurst on the dangers facing cyclists: "The most important lesson to be learned here is a bitter pill to swallow: There is no greater danger to the cyclist than the cyclist's own incompetence...The majority of cycling accidents are embarrassing solo incidents, with the cyclist sliding out on turns, stacking it up after ramming potholes, curbs, and other obstacles, or just generally losing control...About half of car-bike accidents are instigated by cyclists who ride into traffic without looking, ride on the wrong side of the street, blow lights and stop signs, or otherwise ride in an unpredictable and lawless manner."

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Diamond Hts Resident said...

"1.) 24th St is a 25%+ gradient. While not difficult for a properly powered automobile, this is difficult even for very fit cyclists. The traditional route over the top is Clipper because even though Clipper is steep, it's not silly steep like 24th. Even worse than going up 24th would be going DOWN 24th. That block ends in a stop sign at Hoffman. It would be a challenge for a very skilled cyclist to stop there. Elizabeth, 23rd, 25th, all the same. In fact there is a pedestrian overpass at this spot and cyclists prefer to use clipper because it is so hard to get up the hill to the overpass.

>>>> This was just one sub-suggestion to consider. There were several others in the letter. Maybe there should be different routes for up-hill and downhill? Maybe there should be different routes for "steep" and "gradual"? Maybe bicyclists should be routed to 22nd Street? The whole notion that there is ONE right answer is just wrong, and I think that this is at the crux of the discussion: The Bicycle Plan advocates a specific solution as THE right answer rather than identify problems that need to be presented and discussed with the people who live on these streets!

The best design solution to avoiding steep grades is to develop some sort of "virtual switchback" on less steep hills. As you note, Clipper Street is steep already. What's the slope? Surely it's over 10 percent -- so maybe it's best to encourage bicyclists to NOT use Clipper Street. It's more dangerous going downhill! A bicyclist almost T-boned my car one day because they did not stop after flying downhill towards the Douglass stop sign! In fact, Clipper Street downhill is so steep that bicyclists probably should have full use of lane for their own safety -- rather than being pushed up against parked cars.

2) The underpass would be dark and unsafe, and attract homeless people. I prefer that the homeless stay in District 5 where they belong.

>>>> This is an EXISTING UNDERPASS. There is already a pedestrian sidewalk with steps there today. The neighbors monitor this area pretty well, and I've never seen homeless hanging out there. The neighborhood has had some homeless encampments in years past, but this area is so steep that no homeless person is likely to want to push their cart up the hill 300+ feet for an overnight place to sleep. In fact, a winding, well-lit bicycle path could go a long way to discouraging any sleeping homeless people.

3) This option puts cyclists onto uphill Portola at Corbett! I would perhaps accept this option if the City were to take a lane off of Portola and put in a bike lane. That would be, of course, completely ridiculous - Portola carries far more traffic than Clipper and has no shoulder, it is not a very sane place to ride.

>>>>> Project 6-2 extends bicycle lanes to almost Corbett already. The Bicycle Plan appropriately notes that Portola is extra-wide most of the way between Burnett and Corbett, so that there is plenty of room without a "lane take". Note the letter's comments on the lost opportunity to rethink Portola Drive.

PS. Us neighbors copied Rob on the letter because there are obvious legal problems with the DEIR. Since Rob led to the procedural challenge on the plan in the first place, he should be made aware of how the City continues to have a double-standard about the Bicycle Plan. Develoments and projects are routinely subject to rigorous studies with neighborhood participation, while the Bicycle Plan is supposed to be exempt from it all.

 
At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In fact the greatest threat to cyclists isn't other vehicles, since most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that have nothing to do with other vehicles."

No, because most solo falls do not result in serious injury. It's the collisions with motor vehicles that result in serious injury or death.

When people talk about why they don't ride bikes in the city, they don't say, "because I'm afraid of falling off my bike." No, they say, "too many cars." And for most people this fear is justified (especially where the city has insufficient bike facilities).

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

@Diamond Heights: Great to hear from you - it's useful to discuss local issues with someone who lives there.

I have lived on Clipper at Grandview and live at 23rd and Hoffman now. I was able to use Google streetview to check out the spot you are talking about, I see the stairs. I don't think there is any value in retrofitting it as a bike path as it won't get used that way - the access is just too steep and the placement is too obscure. I live a few blocks from there and I never noticed it - blinders put on because I knew about the overpass 2 blocks away. The homeless comment was mostly snark - I understand full well a key benefit of living so high up on 23rd is that it's too much work to walk up to the top of the hill to cause trouble!

On days when I am pooped out, I follow the route of the 48 bus down Hoffman to switch back on Grandview, because Douglass from 25 to Clipper or Clipper from Diamond to Douglass are quite steep. The primary section of Clipper from Douglass to Portola is steep but does not exceed 10%.

I had trouble parsing your other options because "North/South/East/West" are a little convoluted there. If I have the first one straight, the turn from Portola onto Clipper reduces from two lanes to one, then using that space for an additional left turn lane from Clipper onto Portola? That turn - with stop sign - to me seems to be a bigger backup already.

I agree with you regarding taking the lane going down Clipper. I race bikes, but take that stretch very carefully, taking the lane and modulating my speed because unfettered, a bike could easily hit 45 MPH on that road, but not be able to stop at the stop sign. I don't think a bike lane is proposed on the downhill - if it is, it should not be. One issue with this is that there is at least a reasonable minority of motorists who would react very badly to this appropriate behavior (a cyclist going down Clipper would be at or near the automotive speed limit!), scaring the crap out of the cyclist and reinforcing incorrect behavior in the cyclist.

Thanks for copying Rob - it's a good PR move to get information out there and stimulate discussion. But your letter shows an interest in coming up with a good solution. Rob's attitude is that the only solution is NO BIKES ALLOWED. That won't happen.

Perhaps you would have been better off reaching out to the SF Bike Coaliton. Seriously. There are a lot of very intelligent people in the bike coalition who want to work for good solutions that work for everyone. The hard line that is taken frequently is good politics - if you ask for a yard, you'll get a foot, so if you need a yard you better ask for a mile.

I'd be very interested in walking the intersection with you and going over your ideas if you like - drop me a line at tahoe@murphstahoe.com

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Rob's attitude is that the only solution is NO BIKES ALLOWED. That won't happen."

Pretty dumb, Murph. That's neither my attitude nor even close to anything I've ever written. I simply don't think it's a good idea to redesign our streets on behalf of a small minority with an expensive hobby.

"Perhaps you would have been better off reaching out to the SF Bike Coaliton. Seriously. There are a lot of very intelligent people in the bike coalition who want to work for good solutions that work for everyone."

No, there aren't, at least not in the leadership. Leah Shahum doesn't think the city should have had to do any environmental study of the 500-page Bicycle Plan at all. Nor has the SFBC ever shown any interest in Muni in our supposedly transit first city. It's all about bikes with them.

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I meant to say "dangerous" hobby, of course. Riding a bike is surely cheaper than driving a car.

 
At 5:54 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Nor has the SFBC ever shown any interest in Muni in our supposedly transit first city. It's all about bikes with them."

It is so sad that you believe this, since you seem to have a lot of energy and more importantly time.

When Prop A was up in 2007, I sat in a room with many members of the bike coaliton raising money and working on that campaign. Many members were on the opposite side - believing that that the proposition was misguided. But nobody was on the sidelines - because everyone there really deeply cares and wants MUNI to be better.

The Bike Coaliton doesn't spend a lot of time on MUNI itself, but the membership is hardly one dimensional, and most are active in organizations beyond just bikes. For example Manish Champsee - head of WalkSF - is very active in the bike coalition. I personally spend a lot more mental energy on transit than on cycling. And while not MUNI per se - the bike coaltion has spent countless hours on issues with Caltrain.

Noting that biking is cheaper than driving a car is also very important. You spend a lot of time worrying that businesses will suffer due to lack of parking. What they suffer do is having customers who lack money. When my wife and I downsized to 1 car from 2, we started saving thousands of dollars a year that we spend here in San Francisco, instead of shipping that money to gas and insurance companies elsewhere. Note that Mervyn's and Circuit City stores all have plenty of parking - and they are both soon to become nothing but a memory - because their customers are worrying about their pennies, not about where to park.

 
At 5:55 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Nor has the SFBC ever shown any interest in Muni in our supposedly transit first city. It's all about bikes with them."

It is so sad that you believe this, since you seem to have a lot of energy and more importantly time.

When Prop A was up in 2007, I sat in a room with many members of the bike coaliton raising money and working on that campaign. Many members were on the opposite side - believing that that the proposition was misguided. But nobody was on the sidelines - because everyone there really deeply cares and wants MUNI to be better.

The Bike Coaliton doesn't spend a lot of time on MUNI itself, but the membership is hardly one dimensional, and most are active in organizations beyond just bikes. For example Manish Champsee - head of WalkSF - is very active in the bike coalition. I personally spend a lot more mental energy on transit than on cycling. And while not MUNI per se - the bike coaltion has spent countless hours on issues with Caltrain.

Noting that biking is cheaper than driving a car is also very important. You spend a lot of time worrying that businesses will suffer due to lack of parking. What they suffer do is having customers who lack money. When my wife and I downsized to 1 car from 2, we started saving thousands of dollars a year that we spend here in San Francisco, instead of shipping that money to gas and insurance companies elsewhere. Note that Mervyn's and Circuit City stores all have plenty of parking - and they are both soon to become nothing but a memory - because their customers are worrying about their pennies, not about where to park.

 
At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Diamond Hts Resident said...

"Perhaps you would have been better off reaching out to the SF Bike Coaliton. Seriously. There are a lot of very intelligent people in the bike coalition who want to work for good solutions that work for everyone. The hard line that is taken frequently is good politics - if you ask for a yard, you'll get a foot, so if you need a yard you better ask for a mile."

I think there is a key point here. The Bicycle Coalition is not a City Department. They are an advocacy group. They should be reaching out to us neighbors -- not the other way around! It's also inappropriate to have the Bicycle Coaltiion sponsor the Bicycle Plan -- often posting the meetings on sites other than sfgov.org.

The one Bicycle Plan meeting I did attend (in 2005 or 2006) I only found out about because I Googled Clipper Street and Portola Drive. No links were posted on the sfgov.org site. It was only on the sfbc.org web site! It was clear the meeting was for bicyclists only and that neighborhood participation was not intended.

We try to live our lives while the City pulls some "stunt of the year" to mess up our pleasant neighborhood. They try to sell off our public open space behind our backs. They push more and more traffic through our neighborhood by reducing crosstown traffic capacity. They try to close down our public facilities like fire stations and the Police Academy, and sell off the land. Our only renovated park (Walter Haas) was only renovated after alternative funding was found.

The Bicycle Coalition promotes Critical Mass, which is the only "parade" in San Francisco without liability insurance, and without a designated route and time. Everyone else -- from the LGBT Pride Parade to the Veteran's plays by City rules. Meanwhile, Critical Mass riders take over the SIDEWALKS on their rides every month, terrorizing pedestrians. Until the Bicycle Coalition can educate, monitor and direct their own participants at Critical Mass -- and take responsbility for civilized rides -- they have little legitimacy to the rest of the SF residents.

The systemic problem is that our city "planning process" is royally screwed up. We should be doing neighborhood planning. The few efforts that we have done -- like the recent Mid-Market effort -- have only looked at a small part of the City. Our Planning Department is structured to function on developer fees, rather than out of the General Fund -- so there is no strong interest to set aside resources to do sincere neighborhood planning. In particular, each neighborhood badly needs a neighborhood transportation plan that addresses the many issues from pedestrians to bicycles to parking to through traffic to transit routes and stops.

Planning does not stop. We end up with occasional "advocacy plans" -- which immediately put people in adversarial positions because they get polarized about a single goal. The Bicycle Plan here is a result of this -- a substitute way to get something done because something is needed, but no one wants to take on a more balanced, neighborhood-focused approach.

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, nicely put. One of the main reasons we brought our successful litigation against the city's Bicycle Plan was that we were convinced people in the neighborhoods had no idea what the city and the SFBC was getting ready to do to their streets. And the SFBC received $300,000 in taxpayers' money to do the public outreach for the Bicycle Plan. That was highly improper, since the SFBC, as you point out, is an advocacy group with a stake in the outcome of the process.

We were also convinced that the Plan would surely make traffic worse on those busy streets where the city planned to take away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes. The Draft EIR on the Plan confirms our fears, as a number of proposals will, as the DEIR admits, have "significant unavoidable impacts" on a number of city streets.

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

@Diamond Heights - wow, that's a lot. You clearly care about our little place in the sun, as do I, so we have common cause. Addressing some points.

The Bike Coalition is not sponsoring the Bike Plan? No. Donald Fisher is sponsoring the museum he wants in the Presidio with his dollars - comparatively the Bike Coalition is a 2 horse outfit. It is very appropriate for an organization that supports cyclists to advertise planning meetings that are relevant to them. This is politics after all - are you having a wake tomorrow for the death of democracy because the Obama supporters didn't do Get Out the Vote outreach for McCain voters?

Should the Clipper/Portola neighbors should be monitoring and publicizing in the same manner? I assume that compartivetly your organization is a no-horse outfit and you have a job and a life, so of course not! But don't blame the bike coalition for not doing this outreach - blame the city. Now, you are a no-horse outfit. The Bike Coalition has 2 horses and thus more ears with the city. Perhaps if you approached them with your opinions on this intersection, you might find an ear that would agree, and help your voice be heard with the city. Perhaps not. My assertion is it's worth trying. Or, you can whine to Rob. The SFBC may be a pain in the butt from the City's perspective, but not compared to Rob.

My knowledge is this - there might be imperfections in the bike plan, but the Bike Coalition is not the planners - those people work for the city. If you doubt this, the Bike Coalition does not want the bike lane taken out at Market/Octavia, and the city does. City wins.

Is your statement that neighbors were not intended to go to that meeting based on where it was publicized or from something that happened at the meeting? If it's the latter, I find that both surprising and disappointing. Leah and Andy may think the road to hell is choked with SUV traffic, but they are both smart and - yes - reasonable people.

The bike coaliton cannot control Critical Mass any more than IndyBay could control the hooligans in Oakland last week. And I think it's pretty safe to say Critical Mass is a walk in the park with daisies compared to those unpermitted protests. I've been to one Critical Mass, it's an interesting scene. If you don't think there is some reason for all the angst, I invite you to commute to work with me on a bike some day. Then you will realize that people who decide to bike to work and want to do so safely are up against the same crap you and I are up against when we want Douglass Park cleaned up. Except that poorly planned roads are more deadly than a broken fence.

Cheers!

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Yes, nicely put. One of the main reasons we brought our successful litigation against the city's Bicycle Plan was that we were convinced people in the neighborhoods had no idea what the city and the SFBC was getting ready to do to their streets."

Is this an admission that the whole EIR thing was an end around, that this had nothing to do with pollution? I know you'll never admit you manipulated the process to achieve an unrelated goal, even though it's pretty obvious.

"And the SFBC received $300,000 in taxpayers' money to do the public outreach for the Bicycle Plan. That was highly improper, since the SFBC, as you point out, is an advocacy group with a stake in the outcome of the process."

I didn't know this, I can believe it. I don't necessarily see it as improper, I certainly don't think the SFBC tried to cut anyone out or obfuscate anything. Your mileage may vary.

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Is this an admission that the whole EIR thing was an end around, that this had nothing to do with pollution? I know you'll never admit you manipulated the process to achieve an unrelated goal, even though it's pretty obvious."

Why are you bike nuts such poor readers, Murph? Is it all that carbon monoxide clogging up your synapses? A man of your alleged qualifications must know that CEQA involves a lot more than just air and water pollution, including traffic and parking.

In fact I've written about level of service (LOS) traffic standards a number of times on this blog. We suspected that taking away street parking and traffic lanes all over the city would make traffic worse, that is, degrade LOS standards at many intersections. Which would have meant many more motor vehicles idling in traffic, thus degrading the environment for everyone. Got it?

Of course the city's neighborhoods had no idea what the bike assholes planned to do to their streets, in large part because the city provided the public with improper notice before implementing parts of the plan. Inadequate public notice was part of our original complaint.

It's not improper for an advocacy group that has a stake in the outcome of the process to do outreach to the public? Only a bike nut could think that.

 
At 2:38 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Rob - can we assume that you will savage Gov Arnold for his suggestion that the state ignore CEQA for 10 highway projects?

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There's no enforcement mechanism for CEQA, except litigation by the public. Unless the state legislature votes to give the governor some kind of waiver, he will lose if someone sues, and it won't be me.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Denied.

http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/12/18/eyes-on-the-street-work-on-clipper-street-bike-lane-starts/

 

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