Discussion: Josh Hart on What’s Wrong with the Intersection of Scott and Fell and How to Fix It

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More Promising Words

First, we’d like to welcome Leah Shahum of the SFBC back to San Francisco. We are happy to have her back in the leadership position at the SFBC and look forward to working with her.

Secondly, we’d like to point out a very exciting piece from Streetsblog. Here are the two most exciting quotes:

“Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who for the past 24 hours has served as Acting Mayor of San Francisco, said expanding the city’s bike network will be his number one transportation priority in the coming year, along with pedestrian safety and improving Muni’s reliability and performance.”

“City Hall leaders have the opportunity to make the city easier to move around with relatively low-cost, quick improvements, such as more physically separated bikeways on key routes like Market Street and Fell Street along the popular Wiggle route.”

Those are very nice words to hear. But we all know that we need action, not words. We all saw how much more pleasant and safer Fell Street was during the A20 event as well as on Park(ing) Day. That is the kind of action we need, but it needs to be permanent. We’ve had some trouble recently getting words spoken from City Hall to turn into action. So we hope that David Chiu is a bit better at follow-up.

In any case, thank you, David Chiu, for taking the first step towards a much-improved Fell Street.

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Fix Fell Protest Update

Fix Fell members are dealing with the legal aftermath of making Fell St. a safer place

We’ve been asked a few times lately, “Hey I rode by Fell and Divis and you guys weren’t there.  Have you given up the protests?”  It is true that our weekly protests have tailed off now.   The days are getting shorter, and many of us are dealing with the legal aftermath of standing up to a system that prioritizes the movement of machines over human health and safety, and corporate profit over the  health of the environment.

Also, to be honest, the corner of Fell and Divisadero Streets is a pretty miserable place to spend a Friday evening.  Air pollution, danger, and the constant threat of being assaulted by the psychotic station owner.   We all have better things to do.

But for 14 weeks starting June 11 , people from the community came out and held a vigil every Friday to protest the gap in the cycling network on Fell between Scott and Baker Streets, demanding that the city take street safety seriously, and adopt our platform for a more livable Fell St.

We held a couple of raucous protest parties where we shut down Arco’s Fell St. entrances- on June 11th for a dance party and August 20th when we held a ‘bike spill’.  On August 20th, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi stopped by and told the assembled crowd that he would “get the bureaucrats in a room and not let them leave until they find a solution for Fell St.”  We await a report of that meeting and will post news on this website when we receive it.

Over the course of the last 5 months, there have been nearly a dozen arrests and citations of regular people simply fed up with the system, taking a peaceful stand.  Over $1000 in fines are looming now- if you have the resources we ask that you donate- even a little goes a long way to keep the movement going. Please e-mail Mags, our treasurer- if you can help out.  Her e-mail address is: margaret[dot]chuang[at]gmail[dot]com

Even though we are not at the Arco station in person every Friday, like many of you we are still riding through. And we are adamant in demanding that the wiggle route be extended to Golden Gate Park in a safe and dignified way- that people walking or cycling should not have to risk being doored in high speed traffic just to get across the City.

Fix Fell continues to work on the issues behind the scenes,  reaching out to public officials and community organizations to make changes in the design of our public spaces.  We are planning a renewed push for change in the new year (to coincide with April 20th, the one year anniversary of the BP spill- stay tuned) and of course we continue to support grassroots activism and civil disobedience and encourage others to do the same.

The status quo is not an option.

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For Fuck’s Sake, Fix Fell, Fix Masonic!

Our city officials that have not acted for years have blood on their hands. When streets are designed in this way, to allow motorized traffic to move at high speeds, the consequences are known and accepted ahead of time.

We don’t know the condition of the cyclist that was hit yesterday at Fell and Masonic, but from the write-up on BIKE NOPA we know that the collision was serious.

Sadly, this is far from the first injury or death on Fell or Masonic.

Nat Ford, you have blood on your hands. Fix our streets already before someone else gets injured or killed.

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How’s That Green Bike Lane Working Out? – Part Deux

We thought it would be important to set the record straight on the current state of Fell Street. The SFBC has issued a cheery statement with regards to the recent striping/paint changes:

What we’re seeing is that the green (bike lane) seems to really be making a difference, it looks like cars are really observing the bike space much more.
– Renee Rivera, Interim Executive Director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

While we are pleased that the SFBC is talking about this problem street, we feel compelled to make sure the situation is portrayed accurately. Since the SFBC is by far the largest bicycle advocacy organization in the entire Bay Area, their words carry a lot of weight. And rightfully so, as the SFBC has done a lot of excellent work for cycling in San Francisco. So the video below is meant to set the record straight – the current Fell Street design is still not acceptable. We’d love to have direct dialogue and even cooperation and collaboration with the SFBC to tackle this important problem together.

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Week 15: Park(ing) Day on Fell Street

Thanks to Janel for documenting our Park(ing) Day. Fix Fell joined up with the Wigg Party (http://wiggparty.org/), Hayes Valley Farm (http://www.hayesvalleyfarm.com/) and neighbors to create parks along Fell Street. We managed to convince the police that our use of the space was valid and better use of the area than for parking a car.

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How to Drive (More) Responsibly

two potential choicesDriving responsibly – it is a bit of an oxymoron. When you’re piloting a 1.5-ton vehicle through residential neighborhoods at almost any speed, you’re risking the lives of pedestrians and cyclists. When driving your vehicle on the freeway at anywhere close to the speed limit, you’re also risking the lives of yourself, your passengers, and other freeway users. Any tiny mistake with a vehicle that weighs so much and goes so fast is potentially deadly – and often is.

Beyond this, just turning the ignition and not going anywhere is hardly the responsible thing to do, either. Just running your engine is contributing to the worst crisis our species has ever seen. This lecture by Peter Gelderloos really makes clear how important the issue of global climate change is. It has the potential to wipe out billions if we allow it to continue, not to mention the fact that hundreds of thousands are already dying.

So, having said all this, is it responsible to drive? No. But, I thought I’d put together a list of how you can be more responsible while driving. Hell, I drive very rarely, usually using City Carshare. So, I am not saying I am holier than thou.

Most of these rules assume we’re dealing with a passenger car or larger, unless otherwise noted.

1. Don’t break the speed limit. In fact, oftentimes the responsible thing to do is to go slower than the speed limit. Consider the fact that as your speed increases, the likelihood of a fatality in a collision goes up, very quickly. If it is your goal to not kill any pedestrians, you should keep your speed to 20MPH or below when pedestrians are present.

2. Get a more reasonably-sized vehicle. Doesn’t it ever seem ridiculous, just from efficiency alone, to use a 1.5-ton car to transport a 150-lb human? A Vespa scooter, by contrast, weighs about 200 lbs. Yeah, but Vespas still burn gasoline – get an electric scooter to spare all of our olfactory senses. And a bicycle? 20, 30 pounds. I’ll bet for most of your trips one of these personal-transport car alternatives would suit you just fine.

Really, why do you want to always be completely separated from the elements, anyway? Don’t you think it might allow you to more fully appreciate our Earth if you really noticed the weather while traveling?
Ants, on the other hand, totally show us up on the efficiency thing.

3. Look with your eyes. This is the phrase I use with guests in my kitchen who are cooking with me, when they ask where the pepper is (you know who you are). It’s usually right in front of them on top of the stove, above the knobs. Likewise, it seems like drivers do not actively look for non-car traffic, especially bikes. One of the best ways to train yourself to do this is to at least occasionally get on a bicycle in city traffic, or become a pedestrian. You’ll train yourself to become much more aware of everything that is going on on the street.

After 3+ years of city biking, I now actively anticipate how and when a driver will not be looking for me, and do some kind of hand-waving gesture and/or whimsical dance atop my bicycle in order to make the point that they should look.

But that’s just me. And I don’t always enjoy the flair of intimacy with death that this inserts into my day.

The main problem here is that the streets we have train our eyes and our brains to focus on motor vehicles, and motor vehicles only (well, and billboards the size of motor vehicles). So until we have more livable streets for non-car traffic, we all need to look with our eyes.

4. Be patient. It really doesn’t matter if you get to your destination a few minutes later. It isn’t worth risking your life. It isn’t worth the stress of racing to make a red light and of honking at other humans. Over the past few years, I am a much slower and patient driver, and driving is a much more pleasant experience than it used to be. I still greatly prefer others modes of transportation, though.

5. Pass everyone safely, especially vulnerable road users. This is number four continued. If you really feel like you need to pass a cyclist on the road, do so safely. Wait the extra 30 seconds until you are not approaching an intersection or going around a blind curve. It really freaks cyclists out when they are passed unsafely.

6. Reduce your driving such that you don’t need your own personal vehicle. Get City Carshare for short city trips. Get a rental car for longer weekend trips. You’ll be amazed at how little you need your own personal car once you get rid of it.

7. Don’t park on the sidewalk, or block the bike lane. Blocking the bike lane is unsafe for cyclists. It forces us out into motor vehicle traffic, with consequences that are dangerous and sometimes fatal. So, that one is clear.

Sidewalk parking may seem somewhat harmless at first glance. But consider that you are taking space away from children who want to play and neighbors who want to talk. Consider how much space cars already claim in our public space – just look around you on any street. So, don’t pedestrians deserve some space of their own, for their physical and mental health? And, of course, the most vulnerable street users are disabled folks. When you park on the sidewalk, you often block any practical path for disabled folks. Just imagine how dangerous it is for someone in a wheelchair to have to detour into the street because your personal hunk of steel is in their path.

One often hears the excuse that there was nowhere else to park except for the sidewalk. There are two responses to this. First of all, there often are other spots; they may be a block or two away from your front door, but they’re there. Secondly, if there truly isn’t another spot, then too bad. It isn’t your right to store your private property on our public space.

8. Don’t ever drive drunk, or buzzed, or tipsy. Driving drunk is one of the most irresponsible things you can do in public life. Thousands of people die every year because of drunk drivers. Seriously, make other plans. A designated driver, public transportation, a cab. You could even spend the night at a friend’s house. If none of these is an option, then guess what? Neither is driving home.

9. Never, ever honk at pedestrians or cyclists. Honking is a form of intimidation. It says to us: “Get out of my fucking way! I could run you over if I wanted to!” It is never justified, so don’t do it. In fact, you should only ever use your car horn in order to avoid imminent collision. In other words, you should use your horn maybe once per year. All of this unnecessary city noise increases the stress levels of all street users as well as folks who are in residences or establishments nearby. Noise pollution is a serious public health problem.

On a related note, get rid of your car alarm.

That’s all I can think of. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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What Fell Street Could Look Like

To help us visualize just how awesome an improved Fell Street could be for everyone in the City, I wanted to post a couple of short Streetfilms to help us see that San Francisco’s problems of malignant street design are not unique to Baghdad-by-the-Bay, and that solutions are readily available.

The first StreetFilm details a 8th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn (NYC) — it’s a one-way very much like Fell Street. It’s residential, potentially beautiful, but has a highway driving through it.

Some of the observations made about this particular one-way street, and one-way streets in general, are:

“You’ve basically got vehicles treating it like a highway. Look how fast this guy is going — that’s what people do on this street.”

“One-way streets…just are not as conducive to neighborhood life (as two-way streets).”

“You’ve got hundreds of cities and towns all across the US right now that are taking their old 1950s-era one-way multi-lane highways and they’re turning them back into two-way streets, because two-way streets, people generally feel, are more conducive to neighborhood life.”

“This, to me, is not a neighborhood street — it’s loud.”

These quotes describe Fell Street to a ‘T’.

Noise levels along the avenue they’re measuring are about 80 Db — about as loud as a vacuum cleaner. I hate vacuum cleaners. When someone turns on a vacuum cleaner in my presence, I want to go all Animal House on it. We know noise pollution is damaging to our health, and it is just generally unpleasant. We don’t deserve to be treated like this. We have to increase our ability to be able to walk and ride up and down Fell Street and carry on a simple conversation without having to yell above the din of traffic.

And as we dive deeper into the abyss of negative externalities from auto-only streetscape design, we occasionally stumble upon some new or not-yet-highly-publicized horror. Here’s an example from Toronto — ‘Audible’ traffic signals no match for din of traffic:

The sound of chirping is music to Mary Lorefice’s ears – if only she could hear it.

One of the major advances in traffic technology is the audible pedestrian crossing signal, which allows visually impaired persons who can’t see the lights to get their cue.

Hundreds of intersections across Toronto are equipped with audible signals, including Ellesmere and Brimley Rds., where four lanes of traffic roar by in each direction, making them an absolute necessity.

Lorefice, who is blind and lives in an apartment building at Ellesmere and Brimley, emailed to say that for several weeks, she hasn’t been able to hear the audible signals, leaving her to guess at when to cross, based on traffic noise.

“The chirp to indicate I can cross is not loud enough to be heard over the noisy vehicles,” said Lorefice. “As a blind person, I’ve come to depend on these signals to cross the intersection safely.”

Like an onion, after we unravel each layer of malignant streetscape design, there’s a new horror that is exposed. Each new freedom we achieve is only relative — we will continue to push to be ever-more-free from the shackles of motordom, and all of life’s social ills. Behind every desire, is another one, waiting to be liberated, when the first one’s sated.

The article cited in the Streetfilm, Many cities changing one-way streets back, is from the noted left-wing, socialist-utopian publication, USA Today.

Our next StreetFilm shows how to increase safety and accessibility along a stretch of road that is flanked by a park — in this case Prospect Park in Brooklyn — in our case, The Panhandle:

The panhandle’s multi-use path is too crowded with all manner of soft traffic moving at different speeds — it’s dangerous, as most everyone seems willing to admit. We’re starting now to hear more rumblings for a viable solution. We don’t want to drop any more pavement in the park — instead, we’re going to re-apportion the existing Fell Street roadway just like the StreetFilm above shows — move the car parking out to protect cyclists, and provide us a two-way cycletrack. Really, we should not tolerate anything less than a full-on two-way street for all vehicles, including motor vehicles, and with full-on cycletracks, but it’s possible we could compromise down to a bi-directional cycletrack. Any road with more than a single lane of automobile traffic moving in one direction (that is, two or more adjacent auto traffic lanes moving in the same direction) creates many of the same negative effects of a typical one-way street — it is for this reason that we should not tolerate them. We may not get there immediately, but that’s the end goal.

One of the most sober and convincing articles on converting our streets back to friendly two-ways is this Governing Magazine article. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s well worth your time.

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SLOWdown: Free Tea and Chillout on Fell for PARK(ing) Day

SLOWdown! with Fix Fell next Friday, September 17th, all day for PARK(ing) Day…

We’re serving FREE TEA – chai and a variety of herbals to choose from, BYOC! (Bring Yer Own Cup). And we’re serving CHILLOUT – in the form of music, + our parking-space lounge with lots of comfort to park your person in, + a chance to hang out with the folks of Fix Fell and other groups working for livable streets in San Francisco (more soon on this).

Experience a haven of livable Fell Street within the current traffic craze… we’re hosting a small DIY piece of what we’re calling for on Fell: a physically separated, green bikeway, connecting the Wiggle to the Panhandle. Safe enough you could carry yer cup o’ tea on yer bike and not get hassled by motor vehicles… because there’d be landscaping protecting you! (see our Fix Fell Platform)

Leave a comment here or email drake at apostrophe@resist.ca if you’d like to contribute or collaborate for Park(ing) Day!

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How Many Have to Die?

This story isn’t about Fell Street. Rather, it is about Any Street, San Francisco.

One pedestrian dead, one on life support in separate incidents.

Here’s the thing. People make mistakes. That is inevitable. What isn’t inevitable is for those mistakes to become deadly by a culture that has people piloting two-ton hunks of metal around at high speeds just to get to work or go grocery shopping.

This must be changed on a large scale. We are starting with what our meager resources can manage on Fell Street.

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