Saturday, June 30, 2018

Masonic Avenue "streetscape" project #2

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San Francisco Citizen

Jim Herd of the San Francisco Citizen blog recently rode his bike from Fell Street to Geary Boulevard and from Geary to Fell, taking pictures of every block on the way. 

The picture above shows a striped bike lane wedged between two southbound traffic lanes and the right-turn lane onto Fell Street. The bike lane disappears here as it approaches the Panhandle. Hard to believe many cyclists will find this "improvement" helpful. 

Later: I traveled on this part of Masonic on the #43 after I wrote this, and I saw the city paving Masonic between Oak and Haight. It wasn't clear from the city's study I link in the next paragraph that those two blocks were even part of the project. Apparently they are. It's not clear whether the bike lane continues to/from Haight Street and across the Panhandle.

Herd took his pictures early Saturday morning, which is why there's little traffic pictured on that major North/South city street that on weekdays normally carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day and more than 12,000 passengers daily on the #43 bus.

Herd: Let’s take a look at what we just spent years on, and tens of millions of dollars on, the Masonic Avenue “Streetscape” “Improvement” Project.

The city spent $26 million on this, which it calls a "streetscape" project, rhetorical flim-flam for what's really a bike project with some landscaping. And of course everything the MTA does to our streets is an "improvement," right? (The MTA uses the same rhetorical camouflage on the Polk Street bike project. Why? Because neither bike project is popular in those neighborhoods: see this and this.)

Herd's odd conclusion about this radical bike project:

My point is that this project is hardly a “complete” “transformation” or, indeed, any transformation at all.

As I pointed out a few months ago, this is simply untrue. The city eliminated more than 160 parking spaces between Fell and Geary to make bike lanes on both sides of Masonic in a neighborhood where street parking is already in short supply. Those parking lanes used to be turned into traffic lanes during morning and evening commute hours to better handle rush hour traffic, which of course will no longer be possible.

The city has no idea how many cyclists will use the new bike lanes. I often cross Masonic on my walk and also shop at the Lucky supermarket at Masonic and Fulton. I rarely saw cyclists on this part of Masonic before this project. It will be interesting to see if that changes now.

The city's theory on these and other bike projects: if it creates bike lanes---taking away traffic lanes and street parking on busy city streets in the process---a lot more people will ride bikes and not drive cars, the "mode shift" theory. 

If that turns out to be clearly untrue, will the city remove the "improvements" to Masonic Avenue? To ask the question is to answer it.

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