According to Helquist, attendees broke into small groups to brainstorm designs for the street. In summary, attendees wanted:
But they also wanted to re-design or at least enhance the corridor by
- Smooth and steady flowing traffic lanes for vehicles and Muni buses
- The current 25 mph speed limit
- A designated bike route
- Wide sidewalks for walkers
- Curb-side parking
- Improving safety and the perception of safety for all users on the street
- Enhancing a sense of community or neighborliness that is blunted now by a corridor that separates east from west with several lanes of speeding vehicles
- Normalizing traffic flow by removing the changes in number of lanes along the corridor
Quieting the street with landscaping and other sidewalk features
- Installing a new landscaped median with refuges for safer pedestrian crossings
- Installing a dedicated, perhaps separated, bike lane on one or both sides of the street
- Providing for safer crossings for people walking
Masonic Avenue does not currently have a median. I'm curious as to why the folks at this meeting wanted to add a median to this street, except for the stated reason of "refuges for safer pedestrian crossings." I'm not a fan of medians, and I've written about them before. I'd suspect that the median idea is fresh in people's minds because two major streetscape redesigns (Divisadero and Cesar Chavez) include widened medians. Maybe, too, people think it's an opportunity to add more green space.
But Masonic is only so wide, and any space taken up by a median is space that can't be used by pedestrians or bicyclists. Added landscaping is indeed an improvement, but if the sidewalks are wider there's more room for trees and plants there, where people can enjoy them.
And the pedestrian refuge is something that I worry has been improperly lumped into the category of Good Street Design Feature, simply because some very poorly-designed roads may need them to be barely acceptable for people on foot. Any road that's so wide it needs a refuge for those who can't cross is is a road that is just plain too wide. We certainly shouldn't be going out of our way to trap pedestrians in the middle of a road during a signal phase - that's not safer than letting them get all the way to the other side. A Masonic Avenue with fewer auto lanes and corner bulb-outs will certainly be narrow enough to cross safely, provided it isn't kept artificially wide by a median.
Further, medians are mandatory features of highways because they allow cars to travel faster without conflicting with oncoming traffic. Faster traffic is a hazard to all road users, and contradicts the desire to keep the current (widely ignored and barely enforced) 25 mph speed limit.
A better design is one similar to the new Valencia Streetscape, where space gained from reducing the number or width of car lanes is given back to pedestrians and bicyclists.
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If you haven't had a chance to see the improvements along Valencia Street, this Sunday is your chance! Sunday Streets is returning to the Mission District with a larger route this year than last.
After Sunday Streets, head down Valencia to Casanova Lounge. Walk San Francisco is throwing a happy hour party and everyone's invited! Check out the Facebook event page and invite all your friends. I've been serving on the Board of Walk SF for several months, and I'm helping to throw this party - which should absolutely convince you to join us at the party and join Walk SF as a member!
See you Sunday afternoon!