Sunday, February 15, 2009

The push to "fix" Masonic Avenue

According to this Examiner story (below in italics), the city is going to pay $120,000 for a study of Masonic Ave., even though the EIR on the Bicycle Plan analyzes that street exhaustively. I don't know of any evidence showing that Masonic Ave. is particularly dangerous compared to other city streets. The city and the SFBC made a big fuss about the Fell/Masonic intersection leading to the recent changes there. But when you look at the city's own numbers in the San Francisco 2007 Collision Report and the San Francisco 2005-06 Bicycle Injury Report, that intersection had only seven (7) injury accidents to cyclists between 2000-2006. Masonic Ave. doesn't show up as a dangerous street segment, either.

The article cites Turk and Masonic as an intersection where drivers run red lights, but there's no evidence that that intersection has any more accidents than others in the city. And the story tries to whip up some hysteria about the safety of students in the area: "The array of nearby schools—including the University of San Francisco, San Francisco Day School, and Wallenberg High School—puts thousands of students at risk of the speeding vehicles, Christianson said." Has there been an accident involving a single student on Masonic Ave? The story doesn't refer to any, and I know of none.

On the one hand, the story refers to drivers exceeding the speed limit on Masonic Ave., while on the other it worries about "increasing [the]speed on the 43-Masonic bus," the only Muni line that runs on Masonic. I ride the #43 Masonic bus often, and it now runs briskly between Haight Street and Geary Blvd., in spite of the traffic lights at nearly every intersection. Nevertheless, the anti-car folks want to slow traffic down on Masonic: "Christianson and Champsee both said they would like the MTA to study the possibility of removing a lane on the street to slow down the flow of traffic." But if you take away a traffic lane on that busy street, you are going to slow down the only Muni line that travels on Masonic Ave. The truth is the anti-car bike people don't really care about Muni; they only mention the busiest bus system in the Bay Area because they have to pretend to care in our supposedly "transit first" city.

Why is the city going to spend $120,000 on a study of Masonic Avenue---already studied thoroughly with specific recommendations in the EIR on the Bicycle Plan---when it has a $575 million budget deficit?

Come to think of it, why do we need ten (10) full-time city workers in the bike program in MTA? (There are also three "interns" listed, but I assume they are unpaid volunteers, though I don't know that for a fact.)

And of course Leah Shahum is quoted as wanting to put a bike lane on the busy street. Is there any street in the city where she doesn't want to put a bike lane?

So what's going on with Masonic Ave? Why is the extended analysis of the street in the EIR being ignored? Are the SFBC and the city's anti-car movement unhappy with what the EIR says about Masonic Ave? Or are they just opening a second PR front in an attempt to push the city to put a bike lane on Masonic?

My conclusion: It's all bullshit. There's no evidence that Masonic is dangerous. What the city's bike people hate more than anything is that motor traffic---including the #43 line---moves quickly and efficiently on Masonic Ave. between Geary Blvd. and Haight Street. They want to put a stop to that by taking away a traffic lane to make a bike lane on that street, which of course will delay the #43 line and create a continuous traffic jam on one of the city's main North/South traffic arteries.

Dangerous roadway on the map for fixes
Feb. 15, 2009
By Will Reisman

Masonic Avenue, a busy boulevard that advocates say is riddled by speeding vehicles, dangerous conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, and slow Muni service, could be in line for an extensive upgrade.

A combination of rolling hills and confusing lane arrangements on a nearly one-mile stretch of Masonic Avenue from Geary Boulevard to Fell Street encourages drivers to regularly exceed the 25 mph limit, said Mark Christianson, founder of Fix Masonic, a neighborhood group.

That stretch is the 10th-worst in The City for bicycle collisions and the intersection at Turk Street and Masonic Avenue is the fifth worst in San Francisco for motorists running red lights, according to the Municipal Transportation Agency, the city body that oversees all transit operations.

Maneesh Champsee of Walk SF, a local pedestrian-safety advocacy group, said Masonic Avenue transitions back and forth sporadically from three lanes to two, which prompts drivers to speed up and haphazardly merge into lanes.

The array of nearby schools — including the University of San Francisco, San Francisco Day School, and Wallenberg High School — puts thousands of students at risk of the speeding vehicles, Christianson said.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which controls The City’s transportation tax dollars, is expected to on Feb. 24 recommend $120,000 in funding for a study on Masonic Avenue. The earliest portions of the report, to be conducted by the MTA, will begin in April, with a focus on increasing speed on the 43-Masonic bus, improving safety conditions for pedestrians and reducing the number of vehicular collisions.

“We want to take a comprehensive approach to Masonic, with input from all stakeholders,” said MTA spokesman Judson True.

Christianson and Champsee both said they would like the MTA to study the possibility of removing a lane on the street to slow down the flow the traffic.

“Right now, motorists drive a truly arbitrary speed,” said Christianson, who lives on Masonic Avenue and has documented several crashes on the road. “The MTA needs to come up with a design that is both appropriate for the speed limit and maintains traffic flow.”

In September, bicycle advocates celebrated a victory when a left-turn traffic signal was installed on Fell Street and Masonic Avenue, an intersection on the corridor they said was particularly dangerous. Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said she would like to see similar upgrades along the rest of Masonic Avenue, including the addition of a bike-only lane.

MTA officials were in the midst of examining the possibility of adding a bike lane to Masonic, but a lawsuit against San Francisco’s citywide bicycle plan has halted all bike-related projects until an environmental impact report is completed.

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27 Comments:

At 11:16 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"The article cites Turk and Masonic as an intersection where drivers run red lights, but there's no evidence that that intersection has any more accidents than others in the city."

Typical car-think. It's ok if cars run red lights - but we need to rein in those cyclists because of a claim (no article cited) that they run them...

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As usual, Murph, you miss the point of both the Examiner article and my post. With quotations from carefully selected bike people, the article advances the notion that Masonic Ave. is a danger to everyone, including schoolchildren in the area, and must be slowed down by taking away a traffic lane to make a bike lane. My point about Turk and Masonic and Masonic in general: there's absolutely no factual basis for that notion---no accident numbers at all showing that Masonic is dangerous in official city reports on traffic accidents at intersections or street segments.

At the same time, the article mentions a completely bogus concern about the #43 Muni bus line on Masonic, which, like the rest of the traffic on the street, is running quite well along that busy street. So which is it? Is traffic moving too fast or is it moving slow enough to hinder the only Muni line that runs on the street?

When you look at the facts---which you seem incapable of doing---it's all bullshit, Murph. The article reads like an SFBC press release, the kind of thing Rachel Gordon usually does for the bike people in the Chronicle. Will Reisman is evidently the go-to guy at the Examiner for the bike people.

 
At 2:54 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

But answer me this - is it ok that cars run stop lights? Is it safe?

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

My dear Murph, what in my post gave you the idea that I think running red lights---by cars, cyclists, or pedestrians---is a good idea? I entirely agree with you on that non-controversial idea. The article claimed that the Masonic and Turk intersection was particularly afflicted with that violation, though it cited no evidence for the claim. Nor did I see any mention in the city's reports I referred to of the Turk/Masonic intersection as being among the city's more dangerous intersections. It's all anti-car, bike nut flim-flam.

Now you answer this: Is it okay for the city to spend $120,000 to study Masonic Ave., even though it's already been studied to death in the Draft EIR on the Bicycle Plan?

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Perhaps because bike improvements do not equal pedestrian improvements?

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As I pointed out in my post, there's no evidence that Masonic is unsafe for anyone, including pedestrians.

 
At 9:39 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

I find it quite ironic that you are calling for evidence - when evidence is presented to you that you don't agree with, you fall back on your tired old schtick that you trust your gut more than the facts.

The users of Masonic know what a mess it is.

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You rush to post comments here, but you never seem to read anything. Could you provide a single instance of what you accuse me of? I've never said anything like trusing my gut on anything. If you had read my post, you would know that I too am a regular user of Masonic Ave. All the folks quoted in the Examiner story are bike people. It's all bullshit, Murph. There's no evidence that Masonic Ave. is unsafe for anyone.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/08/26/budnick-v-anderson-on-talk-of-the-nation-this-afternoon/

After Noah Budnick cited statistics and expert evidence on how transportation is not a zero-sum game, Rob Anderson closed his remarks with "well... I don't trust the experts.""

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Amusing. The all important cars you support just got lucky - the CA budget just passed with the 12 cent a gallon gas tax increase went down in flames. Among other things that stayed in the budget was a cut in subsidies for elder care. Here's hoping that your subsidy isn't under the knife - as ironic as that would be.

 
At 12:58 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

San Francisco's head traffic engineer, Jack Fleck, is the kind of "expert" I distrust based on his record of subservience to whatever the Bicycle Coalition wants. His latest scheme for the Market/Octavia intersection--rejected by the judge---was so stupid even the Bicycle Coalition opposed it. Then there were the expert in the Planning Dept. and the City Attorney's office who assured the Board of Supervisors that, sure, no problem if you want to pass the 500-page Bicycle Plan with no environmental review.

These "experts" simply tell their political bosses what they want to hear. Citing so-called experts is not the same thing as evidence on these issues. I cited two "collision" studies in the post, which of course you're too busy at your "real" job to actually read. Neither of those documents---real evidence---show that Masonic Ave. is a dangerous street.

 
At 1:59 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

We've shown you time and time again that cycling is safer than driving - on a per trip basis, on a per mile basis, on a per hour basis. Hard statistics. Yet you still blather on about how cycling is unsafe.

Unsafe is of course a relative term and not an absolute term - the number one root cause of death is birth (everyone who is born dies). somewhere else, many will drive. But you discourage cycling, and encourage driving (with comments like "the private automobile is the life blood of the SF economy") - despite the fact that driving is less safe than cycling. If cycling is unsafe and driving is less safe than driving, driving is by definition unsafe and should be discouraged.

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You blather on about topics that have been written about here and elsewhere for years but refuse to read the relevant city documents I refer to. All you have to do is go to the MTA's website and click on its publications/documents link to see these docs. The fact of the matter is there's no evidence even in city documents that deal with "collisions" that Masonic is unsafe for anyone---pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, skateboarders, etc. Yes, of course, safety is a relative term. Yes, of course, relatively few people are killed while cycling but many are injured in other ways, mostly in "solo falls" that don't involve other vehicles. The idea that doing my errands on a bike is safer than doing them using Muni is just stupid. I've been using Muni as my primary transportation "mode" in SF since 1961 and have never come close to being injured in the process. Now there's a relevant statistic if it was available: How many Muni passengers are injured every year compared to cylcists on the streets of SF?

Motor vehicles---cars, buses, trucks---are in fact essential to this and every other city's economy. Tourism is our largest industry. How do you think those people get to SF, via bicycles? They fly or drive into the city. They rent cars at the airport, or they ride a bus into the city from the airport. Only a small minority of the people of SF ride a bicycle for anything but recreational purposes. Is that a controversial statement? All of the city's goods are imported using motor vehicles, mostly trucks. Only 2% of the people of SF commute by bicycle; the rest of us either walk, ride a bus, or drive a car to work.

 
At 8:18 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Now there's a relevant statistic if it was available: How many Muni passengers are injured every year compared to cylcists on the streets of SF?"

You've changed the dialogue again. Nobody needs to rescue Masonic from the 43 - it needs to be rescued from the private automobile.

The comparison isn't as relevant as passengers in cars. MUNI is as preferred a transportation option as bikes, in my opinion. But it's not like it doesn't happen...

16 Hurt As Muni Trains Collide Near AT&T Park

Muni Collision Injures 14 In SF

MUNI COLLISION SENDS SIX TO HOSPITAL

This does not factor in that MUNI killed 8 people last year - still 16 less than private vehicles did, and 8 more than cyclists did.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"You've changed the dialogue again. Nobody needs to rescue Masonic from the 43---it needs to be rescued from the private automobile."

This is the problem with hobbling your mind with an ideology: you're incapable of taking in information that doesn't fit. The main complaint cyclists have with Masonic Ave. is that traffic moves too fast not too slow. You need to re-read the Examiner article I included in the post. The bullshit about the #43 is tossed in for window dressing to maintain a pretense of caring about Muni. I ride the 43 often, and, like the car traffic on Masonic, it moves suprisingly well between Haight and Geary, in spite of stoplights at Page, Oak, Fell, Hayes, Grove, Fulton, Golden Gate, and O'Farrell.

Yes, there are Muni-related injuries, but you need to put that in a context of 686,000 daily boardings for Muni, the busiest bus system in Northern California, with 1,045 vehicles on the streets of the city. These numbers are taken from another document you will ignore, the San Francisco Transportation Fact Sheet put out every year by MTA.

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Why is the city going to spend $120,000 on a study of Masonic Avenue---already studied thoroughly with specific recommendations in the EIR on the Bicycle Plan"

Apparent answer - "To piss off Rob Anderson".

Good.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm not pissed, just continually bemused by the antics of the city's bike people. The draft EIR on the Bicycle Plan analyzes Masonic Ave. exhaustively, while presenting different options for screwing up that street. Why do we need another expensive ($120,000!) study of Masonic? The DEIR, by the way, tells us that its options for Masonic will have "significant unavoidable impacts"---that is, negative impacts---on both transit and traffic. This is exactly what we've been saying all along: if you take away traffic lanes on busy streets to make bike lanes, you're going to make traffic worse.

 
At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Goodplanner said...

"The draft EIR on the Bicycle Plan analyzes Masonic Ave. exhaustively, while presenting different options for screwing up that street. Why do we need another expensive ($120,000!) study of Masonic? The DEIR, by the way, tells us that its options for Masonic will have "significant unavoidable impacts"---that is, negative impacts---on both transit and traffic. This is exactly what we've been saying all along: if you take away traffic lanes on busy streets to make bike lanes, you're going to make traffic worse."

The proposed Masonic study shows the confusing and backwards planning process that surrounds the overall Bicycle Plan update. The Bicycle Plan mixes policy guidance with projects; if the plan had no projects with significant traffic impacts and had recommended neighborhood transportation studies to implement the vision, it would have not needed the EIR and it could have been adopted years ago. Then, each bike plan cluster could have been developed and environmentally cleared as part of an overall neighborhood or district transportation plan and EIR. We need to stop functional planning and do some neighborhood planning!

The Masonic Avenue study is but one further example why the Bicycle Plan projects have not been developed and discussed with the citizens correctly. Frankly $120K doesn't really buy much effort and so I'll be quite surprised if anything innovative or creative will come from it. The scope is too limited and it really should look at everything between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park Panhandle, and between west of Arguello and east of Divisdero as a single area.

 
At 4:37 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

More facts consistently denied by Rob Anderson.

http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/02/20/the-myth-of-the-urban-driving-shoppers/#more-1591

The most relevant and telling comment - "The reason businesses want parking in front of their business is so they have a place to park *their own* car"

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If you want to change the subject to a different street in a different part of town, that's fine with me, Murph, but you're mixing apples and oranges here. Fisherman's Wharf is mostly a commercial tourism area with few residents fighting for street parking in that neighborhood. Those big apartment buildings there all have parking lots underneath or on the ground floor. Masonic Ave., which is what my post is about, is a residential area, where residents use the street parking. The main commercial operation on Masonic between Geary and Haight is the Lucky Market at Fuilton and Masonic, which has a 500-space parking garage underneath.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ask the bicyclist killed in that intersection by a hit-and-run driver whether it is dangerous.

oh, you can't, because they're dead.

find something else to unfix, please.

 
At 2:03 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

We don't really know yet who was at fault in the accident, though the fact that the driver left the scene suggests that he was at fault. In fact, fatalities to cyclists are rare in SF, with an average of only 1.8 a year over the last 10 years. The city's numbers show that Masonic isn't particularly dangerous for cyclists. You should can the crybaby bullshit and do a little homework.

 
At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Nio said...

actually, we do know who was at fault. the motorist is being charged with DUI, reckless manslaughter, and hit and run. the motorist is clearly guilty.

concern for bikes and peds, not to mention other motorists, is completely valid. Masonic is dangerous. calling that being a "crybaby" is totally obnoxious.

Masonic is a mess. motorists often speed @ 40-50MPH + esp on the downhill portions by USF. motorists often weave thru three lanes of traffic in either direction, sometimes with remaining parked cars in the curb lane. the street isn't lit well enough. the hills create blind spots entering and exiting intersections. it's between three major drinking districts.

 
At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Nio said...

Rob Anderson, you virtually have blood on your hands. there are real consequences for your ill considered actions.

are you proud of your epitaph? the one curmudgeon who opposed bicyclists out of some petty grudge, did senseless harm along the way, and finally lost.

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You ignore the information and the link I provide, which makes you comment completely fact-free, except for the news about the driver responsible for the death of the cyclist. I use Masonic often, as a pedestrian and as a passenger on the #43 line, and my experience doesn't match your experience.

 
At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Nio said...

your bus experience is really beside the point. the statistics you're relying on may allow you to believe what you want, but it's just intellectual dishonestly or deliberate blindness.

those stats are insufficient because they don't fully measure speeding due to a defacto carte blanche on Masonic and lack of enforcement. nor do the stats capture the danger and stress of driving on Masonic, or the deterrence that danger has for bicyclists and peds.

at peak hours, esp in the evening on fri & sat, speeding, reckless driving, and drunk driving are far, far too common on Masonic. anybody who drives or bikes there knows it. people who live there have been petitioning the city to slow traffic for years.

unfortunately this young german tourist didn't know, coming from a country that has excellent bicycle infrastructure and public transit, and is now dead.

it's shameful we don't have better infrastructure and this sort of thing happens, in part because of your petty grudge against cyclists.

 
At 3:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If Masonic is as bad as you claim, the accident numbers would reflect that. I've driven on Masonic, and it's just another busy city street that requires everyone to be careful. I wouldn't ride a bike on Masonic, but I wouldn't ride a bike anywhere in the city. My "bus experience" is of course relevant and contradicts Helquist's lie about the #43 line. The #43 runs efficiently between Haight and Geary.

By the way, no matter how well and or how much city streets are "calmed," none of that will protect cyclists from drunk and/or negligent drivers. It's irresponsible of the bike people to encourage cycling in this or any other city in the US. You even insist on drafting the city's children into the bike cult!

 

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