Tuesday, March 27, 2012


San Francisco approved the Better Streets Plan in 2010. Previously streets were the domain of Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT), which focussed primarily on private motor-vehicle use. The design of streets as public space comprising 20 percent of the City’s land area was left to, well, no one. But this critical gap was remedied in 1999, when San Francisco did its agency shakeup, merging DPT and the transit agency, MUNI, into the SFMTA, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. In creating the SFMTA, the city righted its transportation priorities, by charging the new agency with managing our streets as a multimodal asset with the goal of moving people first, not vehicles. The official priority order is now: pedestrians, transit, bicycles, trucks, and then necessary private automobiles. It makes sense when you consider how many people are served, not how much space they take up while moving. It's a new world in how we think about streets, administered by the SFMTA Livable Streets Program. 

The SFMTA now has a clear vision of what a better city street should be: a critical public space asset as well as an essential conduit of mobility. The Better Streets Plan lays out a comprehensive tool kit for making our streets great, starting with a preferred sidewalk width of 15 feet. Second Street has 10 foot sidewalks for three of its seven blocks. Widening this stretch between Harrison and Townsend would have a huge beneficial effect, bringing it up to the Green Connector status of the rest of Second Street,  which already enjoys the enhanced pedestrian environment made possible by 15-foot-wide sidewalks.

The intersections of Second and Harrison and Bryant are unpleasant and dangerous to cross (see injury and fatality information in a previous post pedestrian-down-second-bryant). Here sidewalk extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow motor-vehicles, making these intersections safer. The Better Streets Plan also calls for extensive greening using street trees and sustainable storm water planters that filter street runoff while making the street more pleasant to walk on. Safer, more beautiful streets, who wouldn’t want that?

The City has put up a great web site for the Better Streets Plan: http://www.sfbetterstreets.org/

The Better Streets Plan calms and organized streets to serve all the uses,  prioritizing pedestrians not vehicles.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Historic Second Street: the Cut

The Cut destroyed Rincon Hill as a fashionable residential district.
Second Street used to go over the crest of Rincon Hill. In 1869 the street was given a more gentle grade by digging through the top of the hill, the Second Street Cut. The excavation went from Folsom to Bryant, where the crest of the hill was about 100 feet higher than it is now. This was before society implemented the EIR process!

1869 after the Cut.

1866 before the Cut.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Bicycle routes in the area as addressed in the Central Corridor Project Plan.

Second Street is SFMTA's Bicycle Route 11. Currently the bicycle infrastructure consists of "share the lane" signs and some fading "sharrows" painted as a trial several years ago. In 2010 the bicycle lanes on Second Street were approved as part of the San Francisco Bicycle Plan’s approval process which included certification of an EIR, Environmental Impact Report.  However a specific design for the approved solution, regular Class 2 bicycle lanes, was not adopted in part because of opposition from automobile owners in the district who were worried about the elimination of some left turns on Second Street.  
This delay turns out to have been a blessing as the design proposed in 2010 had some serious flaws, most notably the failure to address the Bay Bridge on-ramp at Harrison. It did what bicycle infrastructure has so often done in San Francisco: when the going gets rough, disappear. Rather than offering a solution that would provide more clarity for drivers and cyclists, the proposed design simply ignored the intersection. 
This is not how you build an system friendly to cyclists from eight to 80 years old.  Times have changed markedly since 2010, with growing recognition among SFMTA traffic engineers that bicycling should be treated as an important transportation mode and that bicycle infrastructure needs to be continuous to function properly. With this change has come much improved continuity in recently designed bicycle infrastructure and a willingness to sacrifice some car space, particularly on-street parking, to realize this goal. 

The SFBC bicycle map showing Route 11: Second Street

Friday, March 23, 2012


Nice Ride bicycle sharing system pod in Minneapolis has been extremely successful.

The SFMTA is currently working with its regional partners to select the vendor for the Bay Area's first bicyle-sharing system. The regional MTC has funded a pilot program of 1000 bikes along the Caltrain line, and 500 will come San Francisco in 2012. This system, which will benefit from fourth-generation technology, will include pods along Second Street, most notably at South Park.  Anyone who has recently visited Paris, Montreal, Washington DC, or even Minneapolis, will understand the excitement. In these cities, bike sharing's immediate, wild success has been an urban transportation game changer, with high demand driving rapid expansion of the bike-share networks. With bicycle sharing,  current frequent urban cyclists, around 16 percent of the city's residents, will welcome the next demographic group, the 50 percent who can ride a bike and are curious about the idea, but haven't yet made the leap to urban cycling for everyday transportation. When these folks start using the easy-to-access, inexpensive bike-share system,  bicycle ridership is likely to double. Whether you’re enthusiastic about this or not, it's coming, and will hit the ground here this fall. 

UPDATE: Alta Bike Sharing in partnership with BIXI have been selected to implement the San Francisco bike sharing system. This is an excellent, mature solution. Kudos to the SFMTA for this excellent choice. Now let's make the bikes orange and black!

SFMTA Bicycle Sharing Pilot area. The system is scheduled to be implemented later in 2012.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SFMTA EN (Eastern Neighborhood) Tripsmakes recommendations for Folsom Street

The  Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study, ENTRIPS,  effort of the SFMTA is looking at 3 critical street corridors in San Francisco with the idea of doing street redesigns that get implemented in the near term. For Folsom Street they have recommended it be converted back to two-way traffic and include a two-way separated cycletrack. Part of what makes this work is taking the bike lane off Howard, freeing up automobile traffic capacity there. Howard would also become two-way.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pedestrian Down - Second & Bryant

This afternoon a white Acura struck a pedestrian in the crosswalk at this unpleasant, and dangerous, intersection. The driver fled the scene. Last Thursday at our community meeting we were talking about how awful the pedestrian experience is here, and the reality of speeding drivers inflicting severe injuries brings it home. The map below documents incidents resulting in severe injuries (blue dots) and fatal injuries (black dots) to pedestrians. The intersections at Bryant and Harrison are two of the most dangerous on Second Street because of their proximity to freeway on-ramps. Drivers here speed routinely, and although there is some enforcement, it can't compensate for a wide, express way-like street that encourages speeding. It's actually safer for everyone in congested "parking lot" mode. Calming this street to make it pleasant to use as a pedestrian or cyclist is great, but reducing the number of injuries and deaths is a huge public health issue, more basic and important. Let's do both.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


San Francisco Green Connections, an initiative to connect parks with livable streets, has designated Second Street a Green Connector.

Green Connections web site at SF Planning

This diagram from the Central Corridor Project Plan shows the Green Connectors in this district, Second Street and Townsend, which will connect people to the Embarcadero from the more urban parts of the City.

Great turnout for community meeting


Thank all who attended last week’s community meeting. It was great to hear the ideas and opinions of so many people who live and/or work the neighborhood.

We will use this our e-mail list to disseminate information so let us know if you do not wish to receive updates. Or, if you know someone who would like to be updated, forward us their contact info.

Again, thank you for all of your input. We are eager to work together to create a truly Great Second Street!


Great Second Street

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Community Meeting this Thursday, March 15

Hi Neighbor!

Renovations are coming to Second Street as part of this year's repaving. With community engagement, there is a chance for us to help create a truly safe and welcoming street rather than settle for mere new pavement and lane stripes.

Second Street has been identified as the 'green connector' between downtown San Francisco, through SOMA, to South Park. It is the primary pedestrian, bicycle, and transit thoroughfare between the Montgomery BART Station and AT&T Park.

With a little creativity, simple safety features and pleasant transit options for all users can be accomplished on our street at low cost.

As local businesses, David Baker + Partners, PUBLIC Bikes and Van Meter Williams Pollack Architects are interested in helping create a plan to improve Second Street for all those that utilize it, and we think you would be too.

At 5:30pm next Thursday, March 15th, we will host a casual community meeting to gather everyone interested in guiding and bringing improvements to Second Street.

Please stop by to meet your neighbors, hear about some preliminary concepts, and share your vision for our street.

    Great Second Street Community Meeting
    Thursday, March 15, 2012, 5:30 pm
    David Baker + Partners
    461 Second Street Loft c127
    @ Bryant