Sunday, February 13, 2011

So Walk!

On the way home from Walk SF's Russian Hill walk, I stopped into a hardware store on Fourth Street.  The woman who checked me out seemed concerned by whether the small paper bag she handed me was easy enough to handle.  "It's okay," I said, "I'm only going a few stops on Muni."  That didn't seem to convince her, so I added, "I'm pretty tough."

"So walk!" She said.  "It's only a few stops."

Color me moded.  And my jacket was zipped up so she couldn't even see the I [walk] SF t-shirt I was wearing.  So I'm walking home.  It's only a couple of stops.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Just Keep On Rollin…

It's been linked in the blogroll in the side bar for some time now, but if you haven't yet checked out Bus Driver Stories, take a moment to see what you're missing.  Today's story resonates with me as someone who used to take the 9-San Bruno regularly:
The 9 San Bruno is one of those lines that picks up a lot of people at all times of the day. I remember I was doing a schedule on the 9 and it was like 11:30 am and I had a standing load. I mean PACKED. Like where did everyone come from?
Read the rest of the story...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is a Slight Improvement Much of a Victory?

Streetsblog reported yesterday that the SFMTA Board unanimously approved the plans for a redesigned Western half of Cesar Chavez Street.  The redesign was prompted by a PUC sewer replacement project that will tear up the street anyway, presenting an opportunity to rebuild a more liveable - and above all a more safe - street than the one we currently enjoy.  But the multi-million dollar design for the new street falls short as I've written before.

To be sure, the redesign is an improvement over the status quo.  It removed one lane of vehicle traffic and replaces it with a median and left-turn lanes.  A small amount of the freed-up space will go toward new bike lanes.  But while this has been framed as a major improvement for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the process and even now, I remain unconvinced. And apparently so do many of the bicyclists and pedestrians who read Streetsblog, judging from the comments section:
Only in California can a government official call $6,000,000 for 0.9 miles of painted bike lanes and sidewalk bulbs “cost-efficient.”  -SteveS
The doorage will be brutal.  -Brian
It’s an improvement, but it’s just plain wrong to only do that kind of bike lane. There’s really no excuse for it. It should be buffered. I don’t see why you’d have to remove anything, just reorganize it. And even if you do have to remove something, so be it. Remove one of the six lanes in the picture above dedicated to motor vehicles, which really have no place in almost any part of our city, anyway.  -Stuart Chuang Matthews
But the only street users that seem to have gained in any real significant way from the redesign are drivers in the left lane who will have some nice plants to look at when they’re stopped at red lights (the green space is not accessible to pedestrians, who can only look at it from across 33′ of vehicles) and drivers who use on-street parking who will now have a much nicer parking lane.  -SteveS
What do ‘underground sewer pipes’ have to do with the median? Is that what we’re saying — that the raised median, which prevents biking and speeds automobile traffic, has to be 14′-wide because there are ‘underground sewer pipes’ that can only be accommodated with a 14′-wide median?  -Peter Smith
I agree that this plan is already outdated, and it’s discouraging to think if it’s implemented, this is what we’ll be stuck with for the next 20 years. (Yes, it’s better than what’s there now, but what’s there now is truly awful.)  -taomom
There simply is no reason for us to accept second-rate solutions anymore.

Thanks should be due, in no small part, to Streetsblog SF and all the great work they’ve done in raising these issues and providing these forums.

Keep it up, everyone. We’ll probably lose this battle for Cesar Chavez, at least this portion of it, but I’m encouraged that soon we will begin winning the war, fought in similar battles all over the City and the Bay.  -Jake Wegmann
The overall theme of the comments tacks closely to my own thoughts, that this is an incremental improvement to an awful street, but a missed opportunity to improve conditions for the most vulnerable street users.  I'm surprised, given the strength of that reaction in the comments above as well as comments on other articles about the redesign, that these thoughts have received very little coverage.  While I look forward to any improvement on C. Chav, I can't help but see this as an advocacy failure.  Pedestrian advocates need to get louder and more bold in our efforts to create real pedestrian improvements.  If we don't, then more streets will be given the green lipstick treatment of planted medians and a few bulb-outs, while pedestrians squeeze past each other on the same narrow sidewalks and abuelitas take refuge on tiny islands of concrete between rushing traffic.