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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