Friday, February 27, 2009

Western Neighborhoods Plan

Vancouver's about to launch its "Laneway Housing" pilot project. The project aims to encourage owners of single-family homes in the middle of the city to build small in-law cottages on place of existing garages. Apparently garages in these parts of Vancouver front on back alleys, or lanes, hence the name.

The idea isn't without controversy, but the goal is to expand the diversity of housing stock in the city by building small, more affordable units. This would also densify the neighborhoods, meaning more people could live closer to work, grocery stores, etc.

A couple problems with the Canadian plan stuck out to me, including the ability for property owners to keep up to three parking spaces. That would allow the new residents to clog local streets with more cars, rather than increasing the walkability of the neighborhoods.

But the basic idea is good, and worth emulating in the almost-walkable, relatively high-density suburban areas of the Bay Area, including the City and County's own suburbs among the dunes on the West side of town.

Take this random stretch of Judah St. I literally double-clicked at random on MapJack to find this scene. The N-Judah runs in front of these houses night and day, but they all have garages! A decision by the city to allow in-law units in place of those garages would double the density of units in this picture. And all without casting any new shadows or otherwise disrupting the architectural character of the neighborhood.

A zoning change or a streamlined process for building and approving these in-law units would provide financial benefit for those homeowners on this robust segment of rail infrastructure who don't drive much, or might be willing to give up a parking space for some extra rental income.

Our city leaders tell us every chance they get that we need to find a way to fit more housing into SF. Their solution for the last three decades has been to put that in the "Eastern Neighborhoods." These neighborhoods - SoMa, the Mission, Potrero Hill and also Bayview - are being made to bear this load because there are pockets of industrial land that are going out of use for various reasons, but also because it's politically possible to do so; residents of those neighborhoods don't have ebough of voice in city government to stop it.

For reasons worth exploring (but not now) the homeowners West of Twin Peaks have made a political third rail out of any new, dense housing on their avenues. But that's not good for the city. It will cost a lot of money, out of public and private coffers, to put 10,000 units of housing on the East side of town.

Most of the new housing will be on the formerly industrial land, which often lacks sidewalks, adequate street lighting, traffic signals, sewers, even properly paved roads. And once those units are built the residents will have to squeeze onto those bus lines that survived the TEP axe.

On the West side of town, however, four of Muni Metro's light rail lines already run through some of the lowest-density residential areas of SF. Almost every unit within a couple blocks of the K-Ingleside, L-Taraval, M-Oceanview and N-Judah has a garage. If it were easier (or even possible) to convert those garages into small apartments, this area of town could absorb 10,000 or so of them over the next 20 years with much less pain. And these new units would be truly Transit-oriented development.

Outside of SF, East Bay and Peninsula counties could use rezoning strategies like this to densify corridors along new light rail or BRT lines. Using tax revenue capture programs, they might even choose to fund the capital costs of those lines by encouraging this "laneway housing."

Every city and region has their own needs, but a properly-tailored plan for this kind of infill housing can steer development away from the exurbs and into existing neighborhoods, without many of the external costs that come when big development corporations raze and rebuild sections of the neighborhood fabric.

Where's our JSK?

I think studying various options for a car-free or car-lite Market Street is a big step in the right direction for San Francisco. But when I read about what's going on over in New York, I get green with envy.

Where's our local bureaucratic hero/ine who will diligently push livable streets projects through quickly, so that we can see and feel the results. Where's our Janette Sadik-Khan?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is There Such Thing as a Free Way?

Posted nearly side-by-side today on Planetizen's news feed are two articles which should be read as parts of the same story.

Why Is Fare-Free Transit The Exception Rather Than The Rule? explores the thoughts that go into transit planners' decisions to charge fares for their service. Congressman Revives Effort to Ban Freeway Tolls discusses the efforts of Pennsylvania Republican Glenn Thompson to make sure nobody is ever charged to use the Interstate freeways.

Freeways and public transit systems are both pieces of transportation infrastructure, which we depend on for our economic vitality
The Interstate Highway System -- the greatest public works project in history -- was built with federal funding to unite our nation. The Interstate Highway System's profound effect upon the American economy has contributed significantly to development and improved quality of life through increased economic efficiency and productivity. The Keeping Americas Freeways Free Act will preserve this notion and allow for the free flowing of commerce not only in Pennsylvania, but across the nation. -Glenn Thompson
And that statement is just as true if you replace "Interstate Highway" with "Municipal Railway." But we don't think that way, and Dave Olsen argues that it's to our detriment.
Now given that public transit is a public service, it could make sense to maximize the public good that that service brings, which is exactly what Island Transit and other Fare-Free systems have done. However, I'm writing "could" here because in the mad rush to privatize and maximize profit for anything that moves (including public services) this playing field has been fundamentally altered over the past few decades. -Dave Olsen
Transit operators have been asked to meet two goals: to locate revenue sources and to increase ridership. But increasing fares pits one of these goals against the other, often at the expense of both. Raising fare rates drives down ridership, thereby offsetting any potential revenue increase. What's more, the costs of collecting fares often approach or exceed the revenue they bring in.

No transit agency can run on fare revenue alone, and fare increases are a bad option for financially pinched transit operator. What fares and tolls do well, however, is suppress the demand for the transit service. Normally that's not something you'd want to encourage, but it can be a useful tool.

Congestion pricing on roads, higher bridge tolls at peak commute hours, and even variable fares for transit during peak commute hours can make a transportation network run more efficiently. Progressive funding strategies for New York's transit network include higher subway costs during commute hours to keep the system's capacity from being overwhelmed, but off-peak rates would go down to zero.

Here in SF, a study of the cost per revenue of Muni's fare collection pretty much killed any hopes of our largest transit agency going fare-free. Unlike most agencies, Muni collects significantly more in farebox revenue ($112 Million) than it spends on collection ($8.4 Million). Personally I wonder whether the latter number includes fare enforcement, but I doubt those inspectors cost $100 million per year.

But most of the argument provoked by that study revolved around the increased costs to Muni for the extra service it would have to provide. Which raises the question, shouldn't providing more service be a priority for Muni? I understand Nat Ford and the folks at the MTA lack the luxury of making that decision themselves - they're hamstrung by the hurdles that we in California have to go through to raise new revenues in this state. But maybe we're all too resigned to the status quo.

It's time for policy makers to get behind a real initiative to increase transit ridership and service levels. Yes, that will mean raising money. And yes, some of that should come from those who use the system at its peak load times. But we need to stop pitting the goal of raising revenue against the goal of increased ridership.

Mission Streetscape Plan Public Workshop #3

I had intended to attend and write up the Cesar Chavez workshop meeting last night, but got hit by a monster flu instead.

I did, however, receive this notice about the Mission Streetscape Plan's upcoming third public workshop. It's been added to the calendar in the sidebar.

SFCTA Agrees to Study Car-Free Market Street

Rachel Gordon of the (soon to be extinct?) SF Chronicle reports that the SF County Transportation Authority voted yesterday to study the effects of restricting cars on Market, between Van Ness and the Embarcadero.

According to Gordon the study is to be finished in three months and will provide a comprehensive analysis of the effects of banning cars outright, or of limiting their access in other ways.

The comments on that article on SF Gate are as divorced from reality as comments on that site usually are, so I wouldn't recommend reading them unless you want to frustrate yourself. But I would definitely encourage everyone who reads this to write a letter to the editor of the Chronicle expressing support for the study, and for a car-free Market Street. You can email your letters to From experience I can tell you that your letter stands a decent chance of getting printed, and it will influence the dialogue about the issue.

Just for fun, here are a couple of simulations of what Market Street could look like with fewer cars or no cars. These simulations were created by a transportation engineer named Gregory Riessen, but it's not clear if they were done as part of any specific plan or study, or just for fun:

Monday, February 23, 2009

East Bay Livable Streets Meeting Tomorrow Night

Walk Oakland - Bike Oakland is a great group that's working to make the East Bay more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. They're having their monthly volunteer meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 24th from 6:30pm - 8:30pm. The meeting will be held at Bay Area Wilderness Training. 2301 Broadway, Suite B (Enter on 23rd) in Oakland.

From Dominic R Lucchesi, an admin of WOBO's Facebook group:
Please join us tomorrow night for WOBO's monthly volunteer meeting. This time around, we will be discussing our next pedestrian campaign, as well as getting updates on the Bike Broadway Campaign. Hope to see you there! (And bring yo' friends!). Yummy snacks will be provided.
It's been added to the calendar in the sidebar. Facebook event here. Those of you concerned about ped/bike issues in the East Bay should make it a a point to attend.

For SF livable streets issues, remember to attend the Cesar Chavez Design Workshop. That meeting is also tomorrow, from 6:30 - 7:45pm at the Leonard Flynn Elementary School Auditorium, 3125 Cesar Chavez Street in SF.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Transit Race!

What a wonderful idea! The Bay Area could certainly use an event like this.

Transit People, "an all-volunteer Los Angeles non-profit that conducts educational, one day trips for school groups using the public transit system," is organizing a race from a starting point to a secret location. The catch is that you need to rely on your encyclopedic knowledge of public transit to get there!

I freaking love this idea.
On race day: at 10:00 a.m. sharp (okay, maybe a few minutes later), your team leader will receive a phone call announcing the race destination. Your team then must figure out the best transit route to get there.
Imagine something like the MTC using an event like this to sign folks up for Translink, maybe with the prize being a Translink card pre-loaded with a couple hundred bucks.

CVC 21950(a)

SF Citizen poses a question for those of you who travel through SF behind a windshield: What do you do when you approach an intersection - no stoplight - with some poor abuelita waiting, stranded on the median for a chance to cross the street?

This is hardly an academic issue; there are hundreds, if not thousands of intersections in this city where at least one direction of traffic has no signal or sign. What do you do? No stop sign, no stop light, no stop - right? No.

California Vehicle Code (that thing you had to pretend to have read when you were 15) Section 21950 (a) states unambiguously:
The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
So, since you like totally knew that, you stop.

But these uncontrolled intersections usually occur at broad, multi-lane expressways. What, then, asks SF Citizen, of the cars that just keep on cruising past, preventing the pedestrian from crossing? Law of the jungle? My car is bigger and faster so I crush you if you try to slow me down? Once again we can turn to that obscure tome, the CVC. This time Section 21951:
Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
I suppose it's unreasonable to hold drivers to the rules of the CVC. We certainly don't enforce it's provisions to any reasonable extent. Since there's almost no chance of getting a ticket for violating CVC 21950 (a) or 21951, it's to be expected that nobody abides by them.

Well that's not okay! Enforcement of these and other laws protecting pedestrians has to be some kind of a priority.

SF Citizen suggests signalizing these intersections, at least the most dangerous of them. I completely support that idea. Good street design works as a compliment to law enforcement. It's past time to get some action from our civic leaders on this issue. Since our lovely mayor actively violates the vehicle code I suggest contacting your member of the Board of Supervisors, or writing a letter to the editor of the Chronicle, Examiner, Guardian, or other newspaper of choice.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Only Little People Get Parking Tickets

SF Weekly has called out Mayor Gavin Newsom for parking his SUV illegally all over town. It's certainly not the first time someone in the media has noticed this and photographed it. In fact, a few years ago I worked on a remodeling job across the street from the Green and Leavenworth highrise pictured at right and I can tell you his people park their car like that (or worse) every morning, idling the engine for an hour or more while waiting for him.

SF Weekly reports
[SFMTA Spokesman Judson] True notes that the mayor is not any more entitled to park illegally than you or I -- but adds that PCOs are not in the habit of ticketing cars with drivers sitting in them. -SF Weekly
Which neither surprises nor comforts me.

I'm convinced that San Francisco needs a mayor who takes the bus every day. It's insane to think that Muni will run reliably and conveniently when the chief executive of this city gets rides everywhere in a chauffered SUV. Our streets look very different when viewed through those tinted windows.

Not bloody likely anytime soon

In the meantime, at least we do have a Board of Supervisors President with a Fast Pass. It's a step in the right direction, and here's to hoping that Chiu's experience mingling with the common folk has some bearing on the policies his board enacts.

But with a mayor so distant from the lives of his constituents, livable streets advocates have our work cut out for us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SF's First Shared Street

Streetsblog SF reports that the Planning Department's City Design Group has released its draft plan for a shared street, or woonerf along Jefferson Street at Fisherman's Wharf. I look forward to seeing this work.

The price tag of $10-12 million sounds steep, and I'm right there with the rest of the SB commenters dreaming about what that money could do in my hood. But I'm hoping that price tag means that they're investing in doing it right.

Successful pedestrian spaces can (and should) be created on the cheap, but you very often get what you pay for when it comes to investing in infrastructure. Concrete pavers and plastic planters cost less that stone and steel, but they don't last as long. We can still appreciate the investments in quality materials that were made a century ago and if the high price of this project goes toward that end, I'm cool with that.

Go To the Geary BRT Meeting Next Thursday!

Streetsblog SF commenter "chinagirl" alerts us to the next Citizens Advisory meeting for Geary BRT on Thursday, February 26 at 6 pm at the Transit Authority's HQ, 100 Van Ness Floor 26.
A second critical item that may come up is considering making Geary a two-way street downtown, reverting to the pre-1970 layout with 2-way Geary and Sutter Streets --chinagirl
Since this increases transit access, improves the corridor, and makes a one-way speedway back into a two way street, I say get out there and make it happen! Chinagirl says
Please come to the Geary BRT meeting next Thursday to show support for the TA and encourage their talented staff to create a true Great Street, from Market to the Ocean, one that will be a pleasure for bus riders, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Houston to SF: Light-Rail-Ready BRT Ain't Worth It

By 2012, only nine years after voters narrowly approved the plan, Houston will have gone from one Main Street light rail line to a network of six rail lines. This is Texas, people. Here in nominally transit-friendly San Francisco, it has been 20 years since the passage of Prop B (by a much wider margin, i might add) called for "fixed guideway capital improvements in the Bayshore, Geary and North Beach corridors," and we are still years away from breaking ground on the Central Subway.

Of special interest, given the specific language of Prop B calling for "fixed guideway" (rail) improvements along the Geary corridor, is the decision by the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority to build light rail, rather than BRT. It seems that back when Houstonian, Republican House Majority Leader and die-hard rail foe Tom Delay has a finger on the purse strings, he cut any funding for light rail expansion. This led the city to consider BRT on some of the lines instead of rail.
In 2007, after Mr. Delay’s dramatic fall from power and the takeover of Congress by more transit-friendly Democrats, Metro reversed its decision, deciding finally that building light rail from the start would make the most sense. -The Transport Politic
I'll resist the urge so many transit advocates feel to point out that the SFCTA does not consider things like "sense" when planning projects. But the fact remains, a city in Texas is planning to seriously expand its transit infrastructure in a cost-effective and permanent way, while San Francisco wastes money and time on a half-step (at best). What's wrong with this picture?

Complete Streets News From India

Apparently folks in India are starting to agitate for more complete streets.
Since Ganeshkhind Road and also other roads in Pune have been widened, it has become increasingly difficult for pedestrians to cross the roads safely -Sujit Patwardhan
So they're going to march in those streets. You go, Sujit! It seems that Indians are learning from our mistakes, even before we do
Urban cities in the USA and Europe have witnessed the social menace of having encouraged private vehicles by building more roads and flyovers and yet having bumper-to-bumper traffic - which implies that no matter how many roads you widen or increase, the problem of road congestion is incessant ... The rich world has realised [sic] that space for people on public spaces has to directly do with their 'happiness' thus nullifying symptoms of suicidal tendencies and depression. -World Streets
I'm not so sure that everyone over here has figured that out, but I remain happy that our misery can serve to help others avoid the same fate. And if India can learn from us, we should be willing and able to learn from success stories in other countries
We chose not to improve the streets for the sake of cars, but instead to have wonderful spaces for pedestrians ... In my country, we are just learning that sidewalks (footpaths) are relatives of parks - not passing lanes for cars. -Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia
Let's take that lesson to the streets of San Francisco.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Era of "The Era of Big Government is Over" is Over

Republican politicians who argued against federal infrastructure investment in the recently passed stimulus bill are either out of touch with economic reality or are deliberately sabotaging government.

It's been 28 years since the conservative movement took control of this country with Reagan's declaration that government wasn't the solution, it was the problem. For nearly three decades the Republicans in Washington have made sure of that by racking up public debt and slashing funding for government programs. Anyone who has faced a household budget with shrinking income is familiar with some of the ways we struggle to get by, and their consequences down the road. (And unfortunately, thanks to conservative rule, there are more families in this situation every day)

The first thing most people do in that situation is cut out luxury spending. Most of us have a certain amount of luxury spending we can cut without much pain. When the government agencies responsible for vital public services make cuts like this, conservatives celebrate the success - and then demand more.

But after the first round of easy cuts have been made, there's rarely anything left to eliminate before it starts to hurt. At this point most folks stop spending money on things that aren't day-to-day or week-to-week necessities. Home maintenance and replacing old clothes or appliances make way for rent and bills. You may be able to keep your head above water for a surprising amount of time this way - until your last pair of shoes wears out.

For 28 years we've kept our heads above water, acting like a first-world country using this strategy. But our public infrastructure, which makes our American lifestyle possible, is on its last pair of shoes.

We've been deferring maintenance on all of our infrastructure (even our "roads and bridges," those sacred cows of our autocentricity) because it saves a few million dollars a year. Well, now that the true cost of that practice is coming due - and $787 Billion is just the beginning - it doesn't seem like a good idea anymore.

It is insulting and false to say that spending this money is wasteful. If the obstructionist Republicans don't like the price tag they shouldn't have gotten us into this mess, but we're here and we need to make this investment.

People who don't get this should shut up while they figure it out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Update on Velib bike sharing

Following up on the BBC article that struck fear in the hearts of bike-share supporters everywhere, Streetsblog has a piece today aimed at countering the bad press.
The BBC's portrayal of a mortal threat, they say, is best understood as a negotiating ploy on the part of JCDecaux. (Note that the JCDecaux representative is the only source quoted in that story.)
Duly noted. The article sure was a shocking departure from the normally rosy picture of Vélib we tend to see. And it's the oldest play in the book for a company involved in a "public-private partnership" to manipulate the media in order to squeeze more blood from the government turnip. So it's refreshing to hear that even though the road bike lane is a little bumpy, the city of Paris and the public as a whole still support the system (which was labeled a "scheme" by the BBC).
"Vélib has been totally embraced by Mayor Bertrand Delanoe himself," said Nadal. What politician wouldn't jump at the chance to be identified with a program that enjoys 94 percent satisfaction among constituents?
But I doubt this media battle is over. An anonymous commenter identifying him- or herself only as J wants SB to know that, if I may paraphrase, 'Nah-ah!'

And I remain worried that this "negotiating ploy" will taint the political environment here in San Francisco. Lord knows our current administration never met a public-private partnership it didn't like. And past experience makes me doubt Newsom and the Comical will have the backbone (or the inclination) to look past the "help, the sky will fall unless you give ClearChannel more money" message that we'll likely hear if JCDecaux's message sticks.

San Franciscans who want to see bike sharing succeed here need to make sure everybody knows that it is succeeding in Paris (80,000 daily users show that there's a demand for such programs). And we need to make sure that our program isn't doomed from the start by ignoring the lessons of Vélib.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cesar Chavez Design Workshop

The Planning Department's City Design Group will hold its third and final workshop on a redesign plan for Cesar Chavez street between Guerrero and Hampshire:

Tuesday, February 24, from 6:30 - 7:45pm
Leonard Flynn Elementary School, Auditorium
3125 Cesar Chavez Street

I've added this to the calendar of important events in the sidebar. Unfortunately, until someone makes a decent calendar widget for Blogger, you'll have to deal with the narrow columns of text or click through to the full Google calendar. Check the calendar often for reminders about important meetings and deadlines like this.

This is the last C. Chav workshop, which means it's your last chance to weigh in on what will be the first street redesign using the Better Streets "Plan" guidelines. Make it count!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bad News for Bike Sharing

The BBC reports that JCDecaux, the company that runs Velib, says it can no longer afford to operate the popular Parisian bike-sharing program.

This is bad news for the people of Paris, and anyone planning to visit. But what's worse is the precedent that it could set for nascent bike-sharing programs in cities around the world. San Francisco's own program is off to a rocky start, and certainly doesn't need something like this to take the wind out of its already slack sails.

Under the Parisian plan JCDecaux paid all the expenses and ran the system in exchange for the right to 1,600 billboards across Paris. The city itself got to keep all the fees that people paid to use the system. That has led to the problem Velib now faces, as the costs of repairing and replacing stolen and damaged bikes has balooned.

One difference that could work to SF's advantage, however, is that the financing strategy for our venture is more conservative than that between the city of Paris and JCDecaux. Our plan, to be run by ClearChannel as part of a contract with the SFMTA to replace Muni's bus shelters, bears a much stronger resemblance to Washington DC's SmartBike program.

Essentially, our the bike sharing program will just be icing on the MTA's $306 million advertising contract with ClearChannel. The advertising company will get to keep all the revenue generated by the program, and so may be able to avoid the problem in which Paris finds itself.

That amount of control in the hands of a private company with no demonstrated interest in public-benefit programs like this could be a curse all its own, however, so advocates shouldn't rest so easy yet. The initial program, under the edict issued by Mayor Newsom, doesn't appear to be set up for success, and a lack of will from ClearChannel combined with lowered expactations from the public would likely mean the worst.

As for Paris, apparently the city government has agreed to pay JCDecaux some of the costs to replace the damaged and stolen bikes but does not plan to bail out the company.

Friday, February 6, 2009

No Points for Honesty

While walking to the bus stop the other day I witnessed this exchange between an older guy in a silver car of some sort and a younger woman in a boxy sort of car on Second between Bryant and Brannan. The older guy was still in the process of pulling into a parking space, and the woman pulled up alongside him and rolled down her window to talk to him:

Younger Woman: "Hey, how do you feel about that bicyclist you almost hit there."

Older Man: "I don't see bicyclists."

YW: "You don't see bicyclists? You almost hit someone!"

OM: "I don't see bicyclists."

The man admitted he was not qualified to be behind the wheel of a car, and felt no remorse about almost crashing into someone.

As Stephen Colbert would say, a tip of the hat to the woman who went out of her way to confront the guy, and a wag of the finger to the accident-waiting-to-happen in the silver car of some sort. It's a shame, but perfectly understandable that he's not afraid of any punishment for such callous disregard of the California Vehicle Code. Vulnerable Users law, anyone?

Connecting the Dots

Streetsblog SF continued today to earn its developing reputation as a leading champion of livable streets and catalyst for change in the city. Three articles on pedestrian issues in a row illustrate the problems we deal with and offer opportunities to make change for the better.

San Francisco Increasingly Dangerous for Pedestrians:
First in a series of stories focusing on ped safety in SF. Author Janel Sterbentz draws the connection between our most poorly-designed streets and a higher level of vehicle-pedestrian collisions. The map at right shows that pedestrians are more at risk along wide, multi-lane streets, especially one-way streets. Anybody who is in the habit of walking around this town can attest to the vulnerability of pedestrians along streets, like those South of Market, that have been designed to act like freeways.

MTA Board Agrees to Consider Studying Central Freeway Alternatives:
Hallelujah! This thing should never have been allowed to survive the turn-of-this-century demolition of its Northern segment. News that there is the world's slightest chance it may come down in my lifetime is exciting and unexpected. According to SB the MTA has agreed to consider studying alternatives to the godawful monstrosity as part of it's upcoming Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study. It's far from a done deal, but thanks to Livable City executive director, elected BART board member and apparent superman Tom Radulovich it's one step closer.

The Great Streets Campaign Needs a Leader:
Wanted: SF's version of NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan; someone who will aggressively push for more complete streets and full compliance with City Charter Section 8A.115, our "Transit First" policy. Specifically, there's a job in it for you heading the SF Bicycle Coalition's new initiative, "The Great Streets Campaign."

Strong leadership from this campaign director and our elected officials, with even stronger support from the community and livable streets activists everywhere could bring about the removal of those elements of our streetscape that make SF the 4th most dangerous major city in the US for pedestrians, per capita. Yes we can!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pedestrianism Vol. 3

Pedestrianism Vol. 3 from Josh Bingham on Vimeo.

In this video I experimented with night time, longer exposure pictures for the time lapse. The result is something like a drunken stumble. This is also the first Pedestrianism video that is HD by Vimeo's standards, so I recommend viewing in full-screen mode with scaling off.

The walk cuts across a northern section of the Mission District, along Mariposa, 17th and 16th streets. With the low frame rate you may be able to pick out some landmarks and get your bearings, if you are familiar with the area.

The Plight of the North American Biped

Tom Vanderbilt (author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do) has this hilarious mockumentary on that species so endangered in modern America, the pedestrian:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

America's Most Improved Commutes

I followed Streetsblog LA to this story: SF has the fourth most improved commute in America, behind Boston, Milwaukee and Cleveland.

According to Forbes Magazine,
First, we looked at how many lane miles of roads have been added to metropolitan areas since 2000 relative to the increase in traffic flow. ...

Second, we assessed improvements to public transportation systems using ridership data from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey. The more people who use public transit, the better that system meets individuals' commuting needs.
I wouldn't peg this as a particularly rigorous measurement, but it's nice they recognized Transit as an important component of regional transportation.

The numbers for San Francisco:
  • Improvement in road construction versus traffic since 2000: -0.7% (17th best)
  • Commuters using public transit in 2000: 9.4% of metro residents
  • Commuters using public transit in 2007: 13.6% (3rd best increase)
  • Traffic delays, per commuter, per year, due to congestion: 60 hours

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Militant Pedestrianism

An oldie-but-goodie wound up in my inbox this morning:

You go, grandma.

This is a great example of "militant pedestrianism." More on the subject here and here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Privilege, Not a Right

Drop a flower pot off a high-up windowsill and kill someone, you might face criminal charges. Slam into a pedestrian in the middle of a crosswalk and what happens, exactly?

WalkBikeCT has a spot-on analysis of modern American transportation pathology. Despite words to the contrary (words, I might add, that every would-be young driver is supposed to learn and take to heart) we treat driving as a god-given right in this country, and especially here in California. And as long as we keep thinking that way we can expect atrocities like these to keep happening.

Portland has a Vulnerable Users Law that puts responsibility on the operators of more dangerous vehicles for the safety of more vulnerable road users. Bikes have to look out for the safety of pedestrians and cars have more responsibility to look after bicyclists. San Francisco needs a law like this. Otherwise we will continue to tacitly discourage walking and biking because of what is essentially bullying by motorists - the threat of physical harm if we don't give up our lunch money right of way.

And we need to enforce laws already on the books protecting that right of way. DPT needs to actually respond to calls about cars parked on the sidewalk. The police need to ticket drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. And in the unfortunate instances where vulnerable roadway user is hurt or killed by a vehicle, appropriate criminal charges need to be filed. It's against the law to kill people. Why doesn't law enforcement act like it?