Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Panhandle project: No stop signs for cyclists

SFStreetsblog

Howard Chabner sends a message to City Hall:

Dear Mayor Lee and Supervisor Breed:

SFMTA performed a preliminary feasibility study about implementing bike lanes on Fell and Oak along the Panhandle, from Baker through Stanyan. Attached is the Final Memorandum dated August 22, 2016 from MTA. There have been articles recently in The Examiner, Hoodline and other media about the possibility of these bike lanes. 

The linchpin of the project is that cyclists in the bike lanes wouldn’t be required to stop for red lights at the intersections of Fell and Oak with Lyon, Central, Ashbury, Clayton, Cole and Shrader (emphasis added).

I’ve lived on Fell near Clayton since 1988. I use an electric wheelchair, spend a lot of time in the neighborhood, and cross the Panhandle several times each week. 

I emailed MTA and received a response dated January 9 from Luis Montoya, Livable Streets Director, stating that “…at this time the SFMTA does not have an active project to reduce lanes on Oak and Fell” and “SFMTA has not studied this in detail and does not have funding programmed to do so at this time.”

Although MTA doesn’t have current plans to implement this project, I believe it’s important for you to be aware of the possibility, features and problems of such a project.

The project described in the Final Memo includes:

· Moving the parking lanes on the South side of Fell and the North side of Oak away from the Panhandle, and constructing one-way bike lanes. The parking lanes would “float” away from the curb, like those on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park; people parking wouldn’t have a curb to guide them.

· Reducing the number of vehicular travel lanes on Fell and Oak from four to three.

· Bicyclists in the bike lanes wouldn’t be required to stop for red lights at the intersections of Fell and Oak with Lyon, Central, Ashbury, Clayton, Cole and Shrader---pedestrians crossing Fell and Oak couldn’t rely on the red lights but would have to make sure no cyclist is coming. Indeed, the ability of cyclists to go fast and not have to stop at traffic signals would be a major attraction of the bike lanes. (See Final Memo, page 12)

· Around 75 of 280 parking spaces on the South side of Fell and North side of Oak along the Panhandle would be removed. (These would be in addition to the parking spaces lost on Masonic due to the Masonic project (all spaces on both sides of Masonic from Fell through Geary), and those lost elsewhere in the neighborhood to exclusive use by corporate shuttle buses and car sharing rentals.)

· Cyclists could continue to use the existing pedestrian/bicycle path in the Panhandle, besides using the new bike lanes.

As mentioned, the linchpin of this project would be exempting cyclists from having to stop at red lights along Fell and Oak. In discussing the intersections of Fell and of Oak with the “minor cross-streets” (Lyon, Central, Ashbury, Clayton, Cole and Shrader), MTA says something remarkable: 

“The preferred control for the protected bike lane at these 'T' intersections is to exclude it from the traffic signal, allowing bicyclists to proceed through the intersection without stopping unless a pedestrian is crossing the bikeway. Due to the relatively low pedestrian volumes at these intersections, it is expected that people using the protected bike lane would routinely violate the signal if required to stop during every pedestrian phase, creating unpredictability and likely conflict between users on foot and on bicycles. This treatment also recognizes that in order to attract many bicycle commuters, the new protected bike lanes would need to be time-competitive with the existing multi-use path that has the advantage of a single traffic control signal for the length of the Panhandle.” (Final Memo, p. 12)

Also: “Pedestrians would be required to wait for gaps in bicycle traffic to cross the protected bike lane (which may present new challenges to people with low or no vision).” (Final Memo, p. 12) 

This is extraordinary: MTA is actually arguing that, in order to attract bicycle commuters, and because bicyclists are likely to ignore the basic traffic laws that require them, like motor vehicles, to stop at red lights, cyclists should be rewarded for their anticipated bad behavior by not being required to stop at red lights. MTA would prioritize the convenience of bicyclists who want to ride very fast and not stop at red lights above the safety (and convenience and time-sensitivity) of pedestrians. 

At their peril, blind people and those with low vision would have to suck it up and deal with the “new challenges” the bike lanes would present whenever they crossed Oak or Fell! Under the project, besides keeping their ability to use the multi-use path in the Panhandle, where of course there are no traffic signals (nor should there be), cyclists would have a second path around 50 feet away where they would not have to stop at traffic signals. 

If this project were implemented, a pedestrian making a round trip across the Panhandle would have to avoid four streams of zooming cyclists in these bike lanes---twice at Fell, and twice at Oak. That doesn’t include having to look for cyclists on the multi-use path in the Panhandle twice; but that’s necessary because it’s legitimate for cyclists to use that path, and that path has been part of the fabric for decades. So pedestrians making a round trip across the Panhandle would have to cross the path of fast-moving cyclists a total of six times.

MTA cites no data or other support for its statement that pedestrian volumes are relatively low. Based on my experience of crossing Fell and Oak at Clayton, Cole and Ashbury countless times in the 28 years I’ve lived on Fell Street, I strongly believe that the pedestrian volumes at these intersections are not low. When I cross at these intersections, there are almost always other pedestrians crossing at the same time; often there are many.

The multi-use path in the Panhandle is already one of the most protected bike paths in San Francisco---there are no cars, and therefore no conflicts whatsoever between cars and cyclists. Instead of this bike lane project, that path should be repaved, smoothened, better lit, and, if justified by the volume of pedestrian and bicycle traffic, widened. In fact, Rec and Park is planning to improve this path and the other one in the Panhandle (and to make other improvements in the Panhandle). 

One hopes that the reason MTA isn’t studying this project in detail is not primarily because of lack of current funding for a study, but because of a recognition of the many problems that would be inherent in this project or any similar one, especially one that exempted cyclists from stopping at red lights and that actually aimed to attract more cyclists because of this exemption. 

The project described in the Final Memo would endanger pedestrians (especially seniors, people with mobility and vision disabilities, small children and those in strollers), increase congestion, delays and pollution, make the shortage of on street parking even worse, and increase conflicts between motorists and cyclists. 

Moreover, exempting cyclists from stopping at red lights along Oak and Fell would violate California law and set a dangerous precedent for other streets in San Francisco.

The Masonic construction currently underway is causing major congestion, delays, more drivers circling in search of parking, potholes, extremely uneven pavement, uncertainty, dust and other pollution from the excavation and construction, and other impacts on the neighborhood, and the work on Hayes is adding to the mix. The final impact of the Masonic project won’t be known until after completion, which is still a year away. Now is not the time to even contemplate any additional road projects, bike lanes or parking removal in this neighborhood.

Finally, it is essential that MTA notify the entire surrounding neighborhoods, not only residents along Fell and Oak, if in the future it contemplates any changes on these streets, including the bike lane project analyzed in the Final Memo, and do so in a timely, meaningful and effective manner.

Thank you for considering this email.

Sincerely,
Howard Chabner

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Clock boy SLAPP suit dismissed

Sometimes conservatives are right, especially if the issue is about Islam, about which liberals and progressives are in a continual muddle. I could see this hoax coming back in 2015. Good to learn that the court threw out this SLAPP suit

From the conservative Christian American Freedom Law Center:

Following a nearly three-hour hearing held yesterday in Dallas, Texas, newly appointed District Court Judge Maricela Moore dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by Mohamed Mohamed on his own behalf and on behalf of his 15-year old son, Ahmed Mohamed.

Ahmed is better known as “Clock Boy” for bringing a hoax clock bomb to his Irvine, Texas middle school in September 2015 and causing a bomb scare that led to his arrest and suspension from school.

The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed the motion to dismiss, along with local counsel Pete Rowe, on behalf of the Center for Security Policy (“CSP”) and Jim Hanson, two of the defendants in the defamation case, which also named as defendants the local Fox affiliate, Glenn Beck, and Beck’s production company.

Mohamed had sued Hanson and CSP for statements Hanson had made on Beck’s program about the connection between the Clock Boy hoax bomb affair, the attendant media frenzy created in large part by his father Mohamed, civilization jihad, and the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”), the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas front group in the United States that promotes civilization jihad.

During the hearing, AFLC co-founder and senior counsel David Yerushalmi explained to Judge Moore that the purpose of the lawfare-driven lawsuit was to intimidate into silence those who might comment publicly on the connection between jihad, terrorism, sharia, and Islam. As such, Yerushalmi argued,

“This case is a classic Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or ‘SLAPP’ case and should be dismissed.”

During the lengthy hearing, Judge Moore pressed Mohamed’s lawyer, Fort Worth attorney Susan Hutchison, to provide any facts that would suggest that Hanson and the other defendants had said anything false or defamatory about Mohamed or his son during the television broadcasts. 

After spending a painfully embarrassing 15 minutes flipping through reams of paper, Mohamed’s lawyer was unable to provide any such evidence.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Moore took the matter under advisement but informed the parties that she would rule by the end of the day. Today, the Court published Judge Moore’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit against Hanson and CSP with prejudice...

Rob's comment:
I mean, come on, does this look like a clock? Sorry to see that President Obama bought the CAIR bullshit. Funny but I haven't seen anything on CAIR's website since the court decision. Of course the political left saw nothing but Islamophobia and welcomed a new martyr to bigotry. 

This is the kind of foolishness that gives Trump and his supporters political ammunition.

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Morons with guns

Woman dies after being shot at South Carolina gun range

From Daily Kos:

...This week’s list, covering the first seven days of the year, identifies 20 separate incidents of celebratory gunfire-related GunFAIL, including two fatalities and another 10 injuries. In fact, we saw our first child under 15 years of age accidentally shot to death just six minutes into the new year. Eighteen people accidentally fired their weapons into the homes or property of neighbors. Sixteen people accidentally shot themselves. Six people accidentally fired weapons they were cleaning, and five people accidentally shot family members. In other words, a pretty typical week, with the added bonus of hundreds of people across the country still not getting the message that firing their guns in the air is a spectacularly bad idea.

Unsurprisingly, Texans were among the top offenders in the celebratory gunfire category, and as if to put an exclamation point on the need to dial it back, this time they accidentally shot a sitting state legislator. Will the NRA will allow legislators to send a sternly worded letter to reckless gun owners? Will the NRA allow legislators to say there even is such a thing?

Sadly, we also saw that other annual event: someone being accidentally shot with a brand-new Christmas gun. This time, an 11-year-old North Carolina boy showing off his brand-new shotgun cost us the life of his 6-year-old cousin...

The TSA blog

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