Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No "road diet" for Divisadero

Will Reisman has covered city transportation issues for the Examiner competently for several years, but it's not unusual for beat reporters to get co-opted by the agencies they cover. Reisman's "road diet" story last week, buying into the MTA's happy-talk about city traffic, was flawed by this sentence:

Formerly unenticing areas such as the Divisadero Street corridor and San Jose Avenue in the Outer Mission district have benefited from road diets, which slowed vehicle travel and appear to have attracted more local merchants.

The tarting up of Divisadero was misrepresented the same way by former Supervisor Mirkarimi and bike blogger Michael Helquist.

I haven't been over to look at San Jose Avenue lately, but the makeover of Divisadero, except for a long overdue repaving of the street, was strictly cosmetic. No traffic lanes or street parking were removed, and no sidewalks were widened. There's no space for that.

One negative: After the makeover, Muni buses can't move out of the lane at bus stops, which often backs up traffic into intersections as unwary motorists are caught behind the #24, the only Muni line that runs on Divisadero.

The makeover did remove redundant bus stops at Fulton and Ellis, which helps the #24 move on Diviz between Haight Street and Geary Blvd, a stretch that has a stop sign or stoplight at every intersection.

"More local merchants" on Diviz? There are new businesses here and there, but there are always plenty of empty storefronts. What prevents this interesting neighborhood from becoming more of a destination: a lack of parking for tourists and visitors from other neighborhoods.

Reisman's story has the obligatory quotes from Leah Shahum and Elizabeth Stampe who lead the city's anti-car special interest groups. Jason Henderson is identified as "mobility specialist," but he's really just a bike guy who's turned his hobby into a career as an anti-car academic.

For once Henderson has something almost sensible to say about the makeover of Valencia:

"Valencia Street is special because it's located right next to two major BART stations in the Mission District," said San Francisco State mobility specialist Jason Henderson. "It's extremely convenient for people in Berkeley and Oakland to hop on BART and get to the neighborhood. Other streets don't have that same benefit, so it could be difficult to duplicate the success of Valencia Street."

Bike lanes and wide sidewalks were only feasible on Valencia because it had an extra traffic lane that could be eliminated to provide that space. No street parking was eliminated to make the bike lanes. Just as important, Valencia, like the Mission district in general, is flat, which makes it more practical for cyclists in the neighborhood to commute to and from downtown.

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