Archive for December, 2011

Fell and Oak Bikeways – Wigg Party Endorsement

December 2nd, 2011
As some of you may have heard, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority is looking to build better bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Baker Streets. These dual three block stretches are, of course, critical in connecting the comfortable Panhandle multi-use path with the Wiggle proper. Currently, there is a fairly treacherous bike lane on Fell Street, and absolutely no bike infrastructure on Oak Street. The MTA recognizes that these two streets are the ones most heavily used for bicyclists heading to Golden Gate Park or down to the Mission or downtown, and so they are putting together a plan to create separated bikeways for these three blocks on each street. There is a workshop being held on Saturday December 3rd from 10 am to 2 pm where you can come check out the latest designs and provide your feedback.
We’d like to encourage you to not only show up to provide your input, but we at the Wigg Party are specifically endorsing the option of removing parking along one side of Fell and Oak for these three blocks to accommodate the new bike lanes. Here’s why.
The MTA has narrowed the options down to three. Each of the three options include one-way separated bike facilities on both Oak and Fell Streets. They previously were considering a two-way bike facility on either Oak or Fell but they have determined that a two-way bikeway offers more problems than solutions (Can you imagine relying on drivers on one-way Fell and Oak to account for bicycle traffic coming the opposite direction? We can’t either). Therefore, the only question that remains is how do we reconfigure Fell and Oak to make room for the separated bikeways.
The three options are:
  1. Remove parking along one side of both Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker
  2. Remove a travel lane from both Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker (taking them from 3 to 2 lanes along this stretch)
  3. Create a “tow-away” lane on Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker. This means that there would be two permanent travel lanes and one lane that would be traffic during the day and parking at night.
We’re going to take the options in reverse order.

The Tow-Away Lane

In many ways, this seems like the perfect best of both worlds option. There’s even the added bonus that we may have actually provided the original idea for this about a year ago. In this configuration, you get the full 3 travel lanes when you need them, and residents get to keep their parking spots at night. However, when you dig a little deeper, it’s less a “best of both worlds” and more a “worst of both worlds.” Not only would this option require an incredibly ingenious design so that the different uses at different times would be naturally intuitive to drivers, but you would need intense outreach to educate drivers about this unique set-up. Honestly, even if this was all done really well, we’d put the over/under of crashes along this stretch at +/- 2 per week, particularly at that tricky 7 pm (or whenever it is) changeover. Rear-end city. Not only is the design a significant challenge, but one has to ask whether having a parking spot that requires you to move your car at 6 am is really worth very much to folks. The whole option seems nice in theory, but is pretty much guaranteed to suck in practice.

Removing a Travel Lane

This option is pretty much an awful idea. Even though most people like to think all bicyclists are narcissistic, ego-maniacs who wouldn’t care if all the roads in our city dropped cars directly in the ocean, we actually understand that Fell and Oak, while being the only appropriate cross-town route for bicyclists, are also important major thoroughfares for cars too. And this plan would pretty much screw that up. Sure, having two lanes on Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker could potentially be made feasible by carefully timing the lights and other traffic engineer magic tricks, but what happens when somebody who lives on these three blocks needs to move? Chaos, and a major backlash for bicyclists, that’s what. Not to mention that removing this travel lane would require a CEQA Environmental Impact Report which would basically delay the project for approximately infinite years. All in all, if you think removing a travel lane is the right option then you are a certifiable moron.

Removing Parking

Which brings us to the only sane option on the table, removing the parking along one side of Fell and Oak respectively. We don’t have the exact numbers of how many parking spots are in question here but we’ll ballpark it at around 75. Now, we know that parking in this neighborhood is already pretty tough (although we can pretty much guarantee that anybody who whines about this fact isn’t aware of the tragically underused parking available at the DMV lot every night). Instead of focusing on the number of parking spots that will be removed, we’d like to focus on two other figures: 441,541 and 0. The first is the number of personal automobile parking spots that exist in the city of San Francisco and the second is the number of safe, accessible bicycle routes that connect the east side of town with the west. And that’s really the most important thing to remember here – not building these separated bikeways is really not an option. If we want to be a Transit First city, if we want to get more people on bicycles and, therefore, out of there cars, thereby lessening auto traffic and freeing up more parking spaces for the stubborn or infirm, then we absolutely must find a way to connect the Panhandle to the Wiggle. We realize removing parking is going to automatically upset some people (it’s not called the “third rail of local politics” for nothing) but we can make up those parking spaces elsewhere (like the DMV parking lot… where they already exist).

In conclusion, please come out to the MTA workshop this Saturday, December 3rd from 10 am to 2 pm (it’s a workshop so you can just drop in at your leisure). It is hosted at the San Francisco Day School at 350 Masonic and Golden Gate. Check out the facebook event if you have any other questions.