Monday, April 30, 2012


90% of the time little, but high speed, traffic.

10% of the time gridlock.
The SFCTA (SF County Transportation Agency) is doing a Bay Bridge congestion study which will make recommendations on how to deal with the rush hour gridlock.  It's a challenge since the Bay Bridge is at capacity during rush hour so the congestion comes primarily from queuing, or storing, cars that will eventually get on the Bridge. No amount of tow-away lanes or turn lanes or even additional traffic lanes will get any cars on the Bay Bridge any faster. The current design tries to solve for less than 10% of the hours a week, and it fails miserably. The other 90% of the time it makes for an unfriendly, and downright dangerous, pedestrian and cyclist experience. 

The current design gives people false hope that this is a good way to get on the eastbound Bay Bridge.  At the Harrison on ramp seven lanes neck down to one which creates a very slow commute, increases local pollution, and delays MUNI buses such as the 10 and 12 that have routes through the neighborhood.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Sketch illustrating how Cycle Tracks might be configured on Second Street to increase safety and planting.

In Northern Europe cycling has been prioritized as a sustainable and efficient mode of transportation. They have invented a type of bike lane that is truly suitable for riders from 8 to 80 years old: the Cycle Track. Think of a regular American bicycle lane, but it sits next to sidewalk and is protected from the motorized vehicle lanes with bollards, a curb, or even a row of parked cars. In San Francisco the SFMTA has started to implement Buffered Bicycle Lanes, our own version of the Cycle Track. A couple of blocks on Market started it off, and cyclists loved it. Recently Cargo Way and JFK Drive have had protected bikeways added as well.

Jan Gehl, the wonderful Danish architect and urban planner, sums up a key advantage of putting the bikes inside the parking lane: the row of parked cars protects the cyclists, instead of having the cyclists protect the parked cars. The other benefit for cyclists is that it's difficult to double park in the cycle track, eliminating a common source of conflict. Meanwhile, drivers, too, are finding that the separation provides a level of clarity that makes it easier to share the road with cyclists.

Second Street is wide enough for cycle tracks. The sketch above shows how this might be implemented. The city initially could define the lane with paint, but the buffer ultimately could have trees and permeable paving to further green the street. There are traffic engineering challenges at the intersections, but one of the positives of Second Street is that there are relatively few driveways that have to penetrate through the cycle track.

The official NACTO standards for protected bicycle lanes, Cycle Tracks, in the USA.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


The Second Street Improvement Project to plan streetscape, pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements for Second Street between Market and King Streets is scheduled to have it's first official SFMTA and SFDPW Community Meeting on Wednesday evening, May 2, at 6pm at CBS Interactive (CNET), 235 Second Street, 1st Floor. 

This first official community meeting will develop shared goals and a vision for Second Street that reflects the needs of an emerging neighborhood that has quickly become the go-to commuter route for workers and residents in South Beach and Mission Bay.  The community will develop and choose three design proposals, which will be refined and presented again at the second community meeting. This first meeting will include an introduction to the elements of the project (repaving, streetscape, pedestrian improvements and a bicycle facility), context with the surrounding area improvements and project constraints.  

As you know, our representation and input is vital for a Great Second Street. So please join us in sharing our concerns and ideas with those that will be upgrading Second Street.


The City showed real commitment to making this a genuine community process at this meeting.  The turnout was great, both neighbors and the City Family: SFMTA, DPW, and our District 6 elected Jane Kim. Though the design charrette was necessarily simplified, dealing only with the two typical street sections of Second Street, it allowed priorities to come through clearly: pedestrian safety, better cycling, and a strategy to calm the Bay Bridge congestion. Kudo's to our hard working and smart folks who serve our City: most of them really get it.
To come will be the difficult task of translating this community feedback into a comprehensive design that has many challenges in dividing road capacity fairly between all the users. 

Friday, April 6, 2012


More than half of the length of Second Street currently has generous wide sidewalks.

Second Street is seven blocks long, and 4 of those blocks have 15 foot wide sidewalks, the width recommended by San Francisco's Better Streets Plan.  The 3 blocks in the middle have 10 foot wide sidewalks, which doesn't make them a great pedestrian experience, creates huge pedestrian congestion on Giants game days, and restricts the size of street trees.  Planning for 15 foot wide sidewalks the length of Second Street would be a huge step towards making Second Street great.

10 foot wide sidewalks are narrow and utilitarian.

Width transforms sidewalks into vibrant public amenities.
Often sidewalks were narrowed in the past to allow for more and faster vehicle traffic.

As you get close to Market the 15 foot wide sidewalks become crowded with pedestrians.