Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Masonic Avenue Derangement Syndrome #1

What is it about Masonic Avenue that encourages people to do and say foolish things? Let's call it the Masonic Avenue Derangement Syndrome. The head of the city's transportation system suffers from this malady like he does with the Bicycle Derangement Syndrome

The two are related, since, after a ten-year campaign of lies and hysteria by the Bicycle Coalition and its enablers in City Hall, the MTA is going to redesign Masonic Avenue on behalf of cyclists against the interests of everyone else who now uses that major north-south city street---32,000 vehicles a day and 12,000 passengers on Muni's #43 line.

Few cyclists now use Masonic, and the city has no idea how many will use it after this project is implemented.

This SF Examiner story last Tuesday reads like an MTA press release. The writer, Joe Rodriguez, used to write for the defunct Bay Guardian, which is where he learned how to toe a party line. (Does anyone really miss the Guardian? Those that do can still get the "progressive" political line at Tim Redmond's blog.)

The party line here is from the Bicycle Coalition and the MTA, which provide the only quotes for the story. Rodriguez even adopts the MTA's terminology: whatever that agency plans to do to our streets are "improvements":

And even if you are not a cyclist, there is still plenty to like in these projects, as some also include pedestrian safety improvements. Work on Masonic Avenue, for instance, will include enhanced bike lanes and could feature safer, wider sidewalks, bulb-out sidewalk corners (for better visibility when pedestrians cross the street), better lighting, new trees, and a plaza with plants and public artwork. The improvements will run on Masonic Avenue from Geary Boulevard to Fell Street and are estimated to cost $18 million, according to documents from the Department of Public Works.

"Enhanced bike lanes"? The Masonic project is in fact essentially a bike project. All the rest---the landscaping, the lighting, the plaza with the crappy art, etc.---is just window dressing to pretend that it's something called a "streetscape" project, not a bike project. 

The two parking lanes---167 parking spaces between Fell and Geary---on either side of Masonic will be eliminated to make separated bike lanes. Those parking lanes are now converted to traffic lanes during commute hours in the morning and the evening to handle the extra traffic. Hence, after all those "improvements" are made, all that traffic will be funneled into fewer traffic lanes.

Rodriguez parrots the MTA's lie about the lack of safety on Masonic:

Masonic Avenue has long been one of the most dangerous streets in San Francisco. From 2007 to 2012, according to the SFMTA, 117 people were injured and two people were killed in traffic collisions. “It’s like a mini-freeway,” Reiskin said. “It’s really uninviting [to bicyclists]. Even crossing Masonic on foot is not a great experience.”

I often cross Masonic on foot. I don't expect that to be "a great experience," but it's always been a safe one. Speaking of pedestrian safety, look at page 12 of the city's study on Masonic:

According to recent counts, the intersection of Masonic at Fulton Street has the highest volume of pedestrian traffic with an average of 1,013 people counted between 5-7pm. Masonic at Geary had the second highest volume, with 938 people.

Fulton and Masonic is where I usually cross Masonic. On the same page we learn how many pedestrian accidents happened there over a six-year period: a grand total of one! And the Geary and Masonic Avenue intersection had only three! Not a "great experience" for thousands of pedestrians every day but evidently a safe one.

Where did Rodriguez get the 117 injuries number? From the MTA, of course, though those numbers aren't included in the only real study the city has done on the street, The Masonic Avenue Street Redesign Study. The MTA now provides accident numbers to credulous journalists to justify projects it really wants to do, like it did on the Polk Street bike project.

Those two people were killed by drunk drivers late at night, fatalities that had nothing to do with street design. (See this and this.) Invoking those deaths is just routine demagoguery by the MTA that won't be challenged by housebroken journalists like Rodriguez.

Reiskin's "uninviting" terminology is similar to that used by the MTA to justify the bike project on Fell and Oak Streets: cyclists must be made "comfortable" riding on city streets when the phony safety argument is clearly unconvincing.

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At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do cyclists demand space on some of the busiest boulevards in the city instead of using nearby quiet residential streets that travel parallel? Since cyclists almost never stop at stop signs, they can make excellent time using residential streets. I always cycle Scott or Pierce streets in Pacific Heights instead of Fillmore, or Green street instead of Lombard or Union.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There is an alternative to Masonic for cyclists proposed by the Save Masonic folks. It's not flat, but there are no flat alternatives to Masonic in this part of town.

There were also alternatives to the new protected bike lanes on the Panhandle, but the bike fanatics always prefer taking away street parking whenever possible. And the city representatives lied about the practicality of the HAIA alternative during the hearing on the Fell/Oak bike lanes.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No shit. The cyclists keep taking "The Wiggle" instead of going over the steep hill. I don't understand.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The Wiggle is an East-West route, while Masonic is a North-South street where there's nothing comparable to the Wiggle to avoid that hill.

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

"Cylists keep taking the 'Wiggle' instead of [...] the steep hill"

As a daily east-west bike commuter who happily rides the ONE BLOCK LONG "steep" hill on Page adjacent to the Wiggle please allow me to assist your understanding if possible.

The trick is to observe cyclists' choices and actions and not just their rhetoric. Their public noise is always about "safety" but their route choices, over and over again, say "convenience and ease comes first, danger be damned".

If cyclists really cared about safety as their top priority they would ride on Kirkham instead of Irving, Howard instead of Market, Page instead of Oak/Fell. You would never see a cyclist riding on the sidwalk or "salmoning" against traffic.

For years cyclists have enjoyed the option of reducing their danger any time within the existsing streetscape, at the cost of riding an additional 2-4 blocks or climbing a 1-block hill. But they'll never have to suffer that tradeoff as long as San Franciscans, and the oafs they elect into office, continue to favor cyclists' convenience over everybody else's for the sake of a safety lie.

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

"there are no flat alternatives to Masonic in this part of town"

Masonic itself is fairly steep on that stretch, nudging towards 8% on one block. A flat, parallel route north on Arguello is a few blocks west.

My prediction is that bicycle traffic will remain sparse on Masonic even after the MTA screws it up. It's not a natural intra-city commute route. Bike traffic to and from the Richmond and Laurel Heights will continue to use the park and Arguello. Plus the "sloped shoulder" raised bike lanes will be catnip for skateboarders who will, in their usual reckless fashion, make life hell for all the rest of the human-powered traffic.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many times does someone have to tell you that the suggestions on the savemasonic site is bullshit before you understand? Why don't you try walking it sometime and tell us if you'd prefer Masonic instead?

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

True, it only makes sense if you want to avoid Masonic altogether. Redesigning Masonic to benefit a few cyclists is even worse. I of course think riding a bike anywhere in the city is foolishness. The idea that the city is obligated to redesign busy city streets to benefit an often obnoxious minority against the overwhelming majority is where everything goes wrong.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

arguello is just a few blocks away and is perfect for cyclists. why do we need another north south cycle route when that one is empty most of the time?

At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wheres the new bike report by the way?

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bike it and see for yourself

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"wheres the new bike report by the way?"

The last word on the bicycle count report is that it will be release in "mid-may," but don't hold your breath.

At 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh this is classic Rob Anderson at its best! So you think that people aren't biking on Masonic avenue because it's so incredibly safe? Are you advocating that a certain amount of bikers need to put their wellbeing on the line before they add a bike lane to this ARTERIAL STREET? What, exactly needs to happen on this street before we add a bike lane? A bunch of bikers trotting down it and dying so we can say "hey a lot of bikers want this lane to happen and they're willing to die for it"?

The question isn't why there should be a bike lane on this avenue. The question is why are you such a disingenuous piece of shit.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, my point is that there aren't even enough cyclists who want to go North/South on Masonic to justify this project. It's a lie that this project is about safety.

Check out page 12 in the city's study of Masonic, where we learn that there were 19 injury accidents for cyclists in a six-year period, and 11 of those were at the Fell/Masonic intersection.

That's an intersection issue for cyclists going East/West, not North/South on Masonic. A North/South separated bike lane wouldn't have prevented those accidents. Subtract those accidents and there were only 8 cycling accidents on Masonic in six years, a pretty good safety record for a street that carries more than 32,000 vehicles every day.

And there's no analysis showing who was responsible for those accidents, but we can assume that cyclists were responsible for around half due to the kind of reckless behavior the Collisions Report reported (pages 24, 25).


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