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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