Saturday, March 27, 2010

The city is determined to screw up Masonic

Another blog/website for San Francisco cyclists? It seemed like coals to Newcastle when it began a year ago, but BikeNopa is joining SF Streetsblog in the campaign to redesign city streets on behalf of city cyclists, the militant, self-righteous, anti-car minority that dominates the city's approach to traffic. BikeNopa warns us (below in italics) that the city's bike people haven't given up on the idea of "fixing" Masonic Avenue, even though traffic and the popular #43 Muni line now move well on Masonic between Haight Street and Geary Blvd., which is what they want to put a stop to.

First we have the falsehood that Masonic Avenue is dangerous. As I've pointed out before, there's no evidence that Masonic Ave. between Geary and Haight is particularly dangerous for cyclists or anyone else.

Led by the SF Bicycle Coalition, for years the city's bike people and their political allies in City Hall have whipped up hysteria about the Fell and Masonic intersection in particular. The latest Bicycle Collision Report, issued last month by the city, provides a reality check. The report tells us that there have been 20 "bicycle injury collisions" at that intersection between 2004 and 2008, an average of four such accidents a year, and there were six such collisions in 2008 (page 14)---a 50% increase!

So what's all the hysteria really about? Along with the usual anti-car hyperbole from the Bicycle Coalition, it's about the injunction preventing the city from implementing the Bicycle Plan until the court certified the EIR on the plan. At the urging of the bike people, the city has tried several times to lift the injunction while the EIR was being done. Judge Busch finally allowed the city to put in the special stoplight at the Fell/Masonic intersection, though it's not clear that it will make any difference in the accident rate.

Nor is it clear who's at fault when there is a "bicycle injury collision" at Fell and Masonic, since the same report tells us that the "assigned" fault in 413 such accidents in SF in 2008 was divided equally between drivers and cyclists, 48.7% to 49.6% (page 22). Drivers at the Masonic/Fell intersection run red lights, but city cyclists are famous for doing the same thing.

Even without the Bicycle Plan, riding a bike in SF has become safer over the years:

[D]espite the recent sharp rise in "raw" injury totals[451 in 2007 and 468 in 2008], the bicycle injury collision rate for San Francisco since 2000 has remained relatively stable and even decreased 20.1 percent since 2005 (18.63 in 2005 to 14.90 in 2008). Such collision data and ridership trends might reinforce previous studies which have shown that there is "safety in numbers" for bicyclists. (page 10)

Masonic Avenue barely makes the list of city traffic "Corridors with Highest Number of Bicycle Injury Collisions" in 2008 with only 14, compared to Market Street (49) and Valencia Street (35). But Masonic doesn't even make the 2004-2008 dangerous corridor list (page 15).

Riding a bike in SF is getting safer overall even though the number of cyclists on our streets is growing, if we can believe the city's "2009 Bicycle Count Report" issued January 10. At the Fell/Masonic intersection, for example, the bicycle count between 5:00 and 6:30 in the afternoon increased from 152 in 2006 to 228 in 2009 (page 8). Even though lot more cyclists are using that intersection, there have been only a few more accidents there over the years.

The Bicycle Coalition whips up hysteria about cycling safety in SF and is then rewarded with contracts from the city:

After nearly a year-long delay, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is about to implement comprehensive outreach to nearby residents and other interested parties in a redesign of Masonic from Fell to Geary Streets. In addition, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) has received a grant to help prepare for that community process....This month SFMTA is expected to announce staff to lead the Masonic project and a timeline for its implementation. To help the effort transition from low to high gear, the SFBC received a $15,000 short-term "Pedestrian Safety" grant from the Department of Public Health (DPH). SFBC Project Manager Marc Caswell will coordinate the effort for the SFBC, and the funds will cover a portion of his time along with initial outreach materials...Caswell will also help recruit a new community leader for the grassroots group FIX Masonic, now that founder Mark Christiansen has relocated and undertaken new pursuits after several years of pivotal leadership.

The Bicycle Coalition is going to "recruit" a grassroots leader for FixMasonic? Still another front group for the anti-car Coalition! Christiansen shouldn't be hard to replace, since he did nothing to shed any light on Masonic Ave., except put up a very sketchy website.
As if allowing the SFBC to lead the movement to screw up Masonic Ave. isn't enough, the city is bringing in good old UC to help:

University of California Berkeley students have also contributed to the planning for a better Masonic. With the direction of Elizabeth McDonald, PhD, Associate Professor of the Department of City and Regional Planning and Urban Design, students this semester have interviewed dozens of neighbors, community organizers, and city planners about how Masonic affects the daily lives of residents and users of Masonic Avenue. One of McDonald's previous and much-lauded projects was the redesign of Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco...

If you like the awful, perpetually gridlocked Octavia Blvd., this is good news. If you see Octavia Blvd. as a fiasco and a planning/traffic disaster for that part of town, allowing McDonald a role in redesigning Masonic is very bad news for District 5.
 
 
New initiatives this year promise to jump-start efforts to bring traffic calming and safer street use to Masonic Avenue. After nearly a year-long delay, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is about to implement comprehensive outreach to nearby residents and other interested parties in a redesign of Masonic from Fell to Geary Streets. In addition, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) has received a grant to help prepare for that community process. As

reported earlier, SFPD Park Station for its part has stepped up enforcement to provide pedestrians and bicyclists with safer crosswalks, especially at Fell and Masonic Streets.

The SFMTA received a $120,000 grant from the SF County Transportation Authority last February for a "Masonic Avenue Traffic Calming Project." Although the project identified three specific goals---to increase speed of Muni's 43 Masonic bus, improve safety conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, and reduce collisions---the undertaking was intended to include significant outreach to community members to discuss possible changes. "We want to take a comprehensive approach to Masonic with input from all stakeholders," Judson True, SFMTA spokesperson, told the
Examiner at the time. The project was supposed to begin last April, but the operation was placed on hold due to staff changes, implementation of the Bicycle Plan once the bike injunction was partly lifted, and, perhaps, an overload of other SFMTA projects with inadequate staffing and management. Until now.

This month SFMTA is expected to announce staff to lead the Masonic project and a timeline for its implementation. To help the effort transition from low to high gear, the SFBC received a $15,000 short-term"Pedestrian Safety" grant from the Department of Public Health (DPH). SFBC Project Manager Marc Caswell will coordinate the effort for the SFBC, and the funds will cover a portion of his time along with initial outreach materials. Caswell wrote in an email that he expects his role will "continue laying the groundwork for change before the MTA comes in with their outreach." Caswell will also help recruit a new community leader for the grassroots group FIX Masonic, now that founder Mark Christiansen has relocated and undertaken new pursuits after several years of pivotal leadership.

Yesterday SFPD
announced a year-long pedestrian safety program to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on city streets. A police traffic detail will work with a civilian crime prevention unit to to educate road and crosswalk users about safe passage measures and to enforce red light runners and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. That program will begin in Chinatown. But SFPD Park Station has already initiated a series of pedestrian stings and citations for motorists who run red lights on Fell Street and make left turns on Masonic against the red turn signal. Captain Teresa Barrett reported that district officers have cited 21 motorists, and one bicyclist, for the traffic infractions at Fell and Masonic over the last two weeks. On Wednesday of this week Barrett met with SFBC's Caswell and SFPD Program Director Andy Thornley to increase their collaboration for safer streets in the district. After the meeting, Caswell confirmed that Capt. Barrett planned to continue the pedestrian stings and red light citations on Masonic and Fell.

University of California Berkeley students have also contributed to the planning for a better Masonic. With the direction of Elizabeth McDonald, PhD, Associate Professor of the Department of City and Regional Planning and Urban Design, students this semester have interviewed dozens of neighbors, community organizers, and city planners about how Masonic affects the daily lives of residents and users of Masonic Avenue. One of McDonald's previous and much-lauded projects was the redesign of Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco...

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19 Comments:

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Rob-onomics said...

Lies damn lies and statistics.

Masonic Avenue barely makes the list of city traffic "Corridors with Highest Number of Bicycle Injury Collisions" in 2008 with only 14, compared to Market Street (49) and Valencia Street (35). But Masonic doesn't even make the 2004-2008 dangerous corridor list (page 15).

Absolute numbers are irrelevant. The relevant stat is "per capita" injury collisions. Market is the highest traveled corridor in the city, followed by Valencia.

You are saying the same thing as "Driving in a Nascar Race is safer than driving on Highway 101 - many more people have been killed on 101!"

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I suspect that Masonic Ave. has as much traffic as Valencia St., but I don't have the numbers. What the bike people really hate is that traffic moves so well on Masonic, one of the busiest North/South streets in the city. Their talk about making the #43 line run faster is pure bullshit, since it now runs quickly between Geary and Haight. Traffic "calming" is all about slowing traffic down, which will slow down the #43, too.

The city's own numbers don't show that Masonic is particularly dangerous, even at the famous Fell/Masonic intersection. But the city's numbers do show that cyclists are responsible for half of their injury accidents in SF. As bike messenger and author Robert Hurst says, "There is no greater danger to the cyclist than the cyclist's own incompetence."

 
At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is no greater danger to the cyclist than the cyclist's own incompetence."

Incompetence? I don't necessarily think that most of the cyclists out there are incompetent. I'd replace that word with "recklessness and folly," and then I'd agree 100%.

Just this morning, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a cyclist who blew through a red light (which was green for me) and zoomed through an intersection directly in front of oncoming cars, of which I was one. This cretin clearly didn't care a whit about the huge pile-up she nearly created so that she could save a few seconds of waiting for a green light.

As a cyclist myself, I'm constantly appalled at the bad and reckless behavior I see from most other ridersdrocout in the city. I can come to no other conclusion than that many cyclists are so self-involved as to be suicidal. Had I been a little less attentive this morning, one of them would have gotten her wish.

 
At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Rob-o-nomics said...

"I suspect that Masonic Ave. has as much traffic as Valencia St., but I don't have the numbers."

I was referring to *bike* traffic. By your fact manipulation, the safest road for cyclists is the Bay Bridge. No cyclist has been killed on the Bay Bridge this year. Because there aren't any cyclists on the Bay Bridge.

There is no way as many cyclists use Masonic as use Valencia. Nor do as many cyclists use Fell/Panhandle path at Valencia.

Many cyclists avoid Masonic because of the conditions. This means fewer will be hit there. That doesn't make it more safe.

 
At 2:07 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Pretty hard to make the case that Masonic is unsafe for cyclists if the accident numbers don't show that's true. On the other hand, I wouldn't ride a bike on Masonic---or anywhere else, for that matter. I wouldn't ride a bike on Fell Street, either, another busy street with fast-moving traffic. The moral of the story is probably that there are some streets that can't be redesigned to suit cyclists without causing serious problems for everyone else who uses our streets. Of course this won't stop you bike zealots from trying to screw up our traffic because your belief system is essentially a religion.

I notice you don't address the small accident numbers at the supposedly unsafe Fell/Masonic intersection. The SFBC's fanning the flames on that issue was/is all bullshit. Nor do you address the city's numbers on who's actually responsible for the injury accidents to cyclists in SF: cyclists themselves are responsible for 50% of their accident injuries. That doesn't mean that reckless and unsafe driving by motorists is okay, but it's still significant. The city's bike people like to pretend that motor vehicles are what makes riding a bike in the city unsafe, but clearly that's only part---in fact, literally half---of the story.

On Masonic: the city and the bike people want to do some "traffic calming" on the street, while speeding up the #43 line. That's pure bullshit, since you can't do both; "calming" Masonic can only mean slowing down traffic for everyone, including passengers on the #43 line.

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Rob-o-matic said...

MUNI runs across the city average 8 MPH. Seems like it would be hard to "calm" that any more...

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, but that won't stop the bike people from trying, will it? I don't know what MPH the #43 averages between Haight and Geary, but it moves quite well. The EIR on the Bicycle Plan does an extensive analysis of possible changes to Masonic, most of which it admits will have "significant unavoidable impacts" on the #43 and other traffic on the busy street. One way to avoid these impacts is to simply leave well enough alone, but that's the one thing the bike zealots can't do.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

By the way, the Bike Nopa post I link in my post has a picture that reveals the real goal behind the talk of "fixing" Masonic: "slow Masonic." This is in line with the SFBC's goal of slowing traffic everywhere in the city. Leah Shahum told the Guardian last year that she would like to see city traffic slowed to the point where six-year-old children could safely ride bikes on city streets. Only a bike fanatic could think this is a sensible way to deal with our traffic.

 
At 1:59 PM, Anonymous marcSFBC said...

Rob: You say, "As I've pointed out before, there's no evidence that Masonic Ave. between Geary and Haight is particularly dangerous for cyclists or anyone else."

Except, that's not actually what the SFPD 2008 Traffic Collision Report says-- http://www.sfmta.com/cms/vsafe/documents/Collision_report_2008.pdf -- where Masonic & O'Ferrell/Anza shares the dubious honor of Top 10 'Highest Injury Collission Total Intersection" in the city. No bikes, just road safety.

The SFBC might be powerful, sure-- but I don't think we've got the SFPD falsifying information to help us. Do you?

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That's it? Not much to hang your hat on. To understand the significance---or insignificance---of that fact, readers need to see the page it appears on---page 12---since it seems to be an anomaly: there were four injury accidents at that intersection in 2007 and seven in 2008, which is why it made the list. Then you need to take a look at page 14, which has a chart showing three-year accident trends at dangerous intersections, and that intersection isn't listed at all.

And, just as important, no other intersection on Masonic Ave. is listed on either chart, not even the famous deathtrap, the Masonic/Fell intersection.

What about the alleged danger to cyclists on Masonic Ave? Again, not much to hang your hat on. As I pointed out in the post, there were 20 cyclists injured at that intersection over a five-year period between 2004 and 2008, an average of four a year, with six injured in 2008---a 50% increase!---a peak year for hysteria about that intersection whipped up by your organization.

Since the document I based my post on also tells us that cyclists are responsible for 50% of their own accident injuries, what exactly is all the fuss about? It's just irresponsible bullshit and a shameful way to push your anti-car agenda.

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

I am personally determined to screw up Masonic Ave.

I will not rest until there are queues of angry motorists snaking their way down from Mervyn's Heights.

I will have their humility!

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You and every other bike twit in town. I'm on to you folks, and a lot more will be wised up when you screw up a major traffic artery, whether it's Masonic, Fifth Street, Cesar Chavez, etc. The people who live on Second Street read the EIR on the Bicycle Plan and have stalled the attempt to screw up that street.

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"The people who live on Second Street read the EIR on the Bicycle Plan and have stalled the attempt to screw up that street."

This is a serious misrepresentation of what went on with Second Street.

There have been new bike lanes striped in several places, including the dreaded Clipper/Portola intersection you blogged about. Yet I don't seem to see the reports of backups and carmageddon... are you getting any data I'm missing?

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Screw 2nd street anyway, it has a hill. I can't climb that on my $5K NJS Keirin Track Bike with color-coordinated top-tube pad.

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I never blogged about the Clipper/Portola project; that was a commenter who lived in the area. I admit that I'm not up-to-date on Second Street and have seen nothing in the media about what's been done there. The last I heard some Second Street nimbys were negotiating with the city. Why don't you share the information with me and my readers? Striping bike lanes is not the same as taking away a traffic lane to make a bike lane, by the way, which was part of the original Second Street project.

 
At 3:53 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

2 lanes were taken out on Clipper. Why hasn't the world fallen apart?

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

As for Second Street, did Mary filter the hearings when she came to report to you?

The Second Street residents uniformly said they wanted a bike lane, just not the exact configuration the city proposed.

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Andy said...

Something to consider in this discussion is the frequency of near-miss accidents.

April 9: For the record, my daughter (in her stroller) and I were nearly hit yesterday at ~1PM~ crossing Masonic on the Oak side West to East. The intersection was clear so we crossed to the center when a car making a left turn from Oak onto Masonic came at high speed just three feet in front of us. (The women driving the care made an "Oh my God" face and waived her hands that she was "sorry" before she sped off to make the next light at Fell).

Anyone who crosses Masonic regularly knows to pay extreme attention to cars turning left-- as they are typically moving at speed and can't see anything in the crosswalk until it is nearly too late.

All it would take is an inattentive motorist or pedestrian or cyclist and terrible accidents would occur. Luckily the odds are that one of the parties is paying attention and able to avoid the accident which does not mean that this intersection is safe.

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I would be very careful crossing that intersection, but then I try to be safe crossing any street in the city. I would avoid that intersection when you're pushing a stroller. The illusion of the bike people is that somehow the city is obligated to make everything safe for them on city streets, which is literally impossible. And, as I pointed out in this post, cyclists are responsible for half of their own injury accidents due to their own recklessness.

But the numbers don't justify all the hysteria, legal maneuvering, and political bullshit devoted to this intersection. It's just part of the SFBC's ongoing anti-car campaign. And we're talking about not only that intersection on Masonic but that street between Geary and Fell, which is part of the Bicycle Plan. As the EIR on the Plan tells us, what the city wants to do to Masonic will slow down traffic and jam up intersections on that stretch of Masonic, not to mention slowing down the #43 Muni line.

 

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