Better Streets ? Pedestrian Master Plan ? Voice Yer Opinion

Pedestrian Master Plan… sounds like an oxymoron to me… if it’s already “pedestrian” in nature, a word that generally signifies something unexceptional or dull, how can it really qualify as a “master plan”? I guess to City Planners selling the unexceptional or dull requires boldly ignoring such things…

San Francisco ‘s “master plans” and “general plans” are legendary documents that get referred to glowingly in hearing rooms and in various ballot measures. Over the years they’ve evolved as various “stakeholders” and “interest groups” get their digs in…

That’s how we come up with things like the concept to the right, where already congested San Francisco traffiic lanes are re-appropriated for clunky Traffic Slowing concepts that take away parking as well, yet, are “attractive & fun” and please people with Urban Planning degrees who think this crap up and like spending tax money.

I was surprised today when I received a survey in the ol ‘ e-mail box asking for my opinion on the city’s Better Streets plan, only to find that this was conducted via the specious sounding Survey Monkey. Leave it to city planners to find the somewhat dubious multiple choice format provided by Survey Monkey to adequately meet the needs of their queries.

The elements of the Better Streets plan carefully omit reference to bicycles due to the ongoing litigation over the environmental impact of the proposed bike-ification of major traffic arteries, but Pedestrian Master Plan issues are I guess still allowed to be addressed.

Anyhow, if you’d like to get involved and tell em what you think… the link to the survey is below the jump…

The City of San Francisco is conducting a survey as part of its public involvement program on the Better Streets Plan. Apparently they’re reaching outside the normal clique of Bike Coalition Members, and mayoral handlers, cause even Supe Ed Jew of Burlingame was at the inaugural public meeting on April 5th.

The Better Streets Plan will apparently be a new set of unified guidelines that all City agencies will use when working on our streets. “The Plan” will supposedly save us all with it’s good intentions, and work towards making our streets and sidewalks safer, more supportive of community life, greener and more attractive.

Please take a moment and share your ideas and opinions – they supposedly want to hear from as many San Franciscans as possible, before they do whatever they were gonna do anyway.

Click here to participate in the Better Streets Plan Community Survey

Get Involved!

Here is a link to the survey:

What’s nice about the survey is it sure does make ya think that somewhere there are people that have time to care about this stuff. Interestingly while the survey prompts you to answer your choices for what you’d do to make your street more livable, the only choices offered are things like “more seating” , “planter boxes” or more “sidewalk ramps”, never is a safety option like increased police patrols or the simple option of more recycling/sanitation cans offered.

When the plan seeks to provide more comfortable seating areas, no mention is made how the homeless or loitering drug users & dealers will be kept away from these new enhanced areas.

It’s like the planners, who virtually created this urgent campaign to widen sidewalks & slow vehicular traffic don’t actually live in the city or ever deal with the things real pedestrians do everyday… aggressive panhandlers and nutjobs, human feces, and whatnot…

I’m sure concrete contractors are salivating, but how does widening the sidewalk in front of my home help me at all?

The Better Streets Plan website is

The admirable sounding warm fuzzy goals this group has succinctly aligned are listed below… of course no price tag is ever mentioned to reach these…

The Better Streets Plan will result in a street system designed to promote human needs for the use and enjoyment of public streets. It will prioritize the needs of walking, bicycling, transit use, and the use of streets as public spaces for social interaction and community life, following San Francisco’s General Plan, Transit-First Policy, and Better Streets Policy.

The Better Streets Plan will result in streets where people walk and spend time out of choice–not just necessity–because streets are memorable, engaging, safe, accessible, healthy, attractive, fun, and convenient.

The Better Streets Plan will result in a green network that enhances the City’s long-term ecological functioning and people’s connection to the natural environment.

Finally, the Better Streets Plan will result in improved street-based social opportunities, community life, access, and mobility for all San Franciscans, regardless of cultural identity, income group, neighborhood identity, or mobility level.

9 Comments so far

  1. random (unregistered) on May 22nd, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

    Slowing down traffic won’t increase congestion. If you’re already in bumper to bumper traffic, narrowing the streets a little isn’t going to make you go any slower. These concepts just provide a psychological hint to help people slow down instead of speeding through neighborhood streets.

    I don’t see why you have a problem with narrowing streets at intersections to help people cross them quicker and more safely. If there were cars parked where that bulb-out is in the image you posted, it would make it harder for drivers to see pedestrians trying to cross.

    How about actually critically evaluating plans instead of having a knee-jerk reaction to anything that costs money or might possibly affect cars? Everyone is a pedestrian during some part of their trip, and it’s nice to not get run over.

  2. Lil Mike (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 1:00 am

    As a mostly full time pedestrian in San Francisco for the last 20 years, who reluctantly now owns a bike, and who occasionally takes the bus if there ever is one, and is against the War for Oil for SUV’s in Iraq etc…

    I am still not convinced that the city’s bike plans, and pedestrian plan lipservice etc are not a waste of taxpayer dollar.

    Just to spare you the agony, I won’t even get into that semantic boondoggle about Rob Anderson’s suit against the legality of the bike plan and whether he’s right or not…

    I just gotta say, as a long time resident, I’ve always been thoroughly unimpressed with so called “plans” thrown out there by the city and special interest groups, whether they be for stadiums, care not cash, or bike lanes…

    The most under represented constituents are those taxpayers that never march, or throw sit ins, but go about their day paying bills, and working towards retirement day by day. They are mostly unaware of the larger schemes brewing to take away their rights…

    Whether that be the right to public assembly in parks, or merely to drive the car they own to the store and park…

    You can take their tax money and pay for all the studies in the world, but widening sidewalks makes almost no sense. Unless you are homeless guy with a shopping cart full of pilfered crap to sell, why the hell do you need an extra couple feet of sidewalk?

    You can try to explain to me why somehow narrowing intersections & putting a veritably unused bike lane through every thoroughfare in town improves my sense of “fun” or “attractiveness” …

    But the thousands of additonal autos, belching exhaust, and speeding up trying to screech through additional waits at stoplights is also a problem any gov’t funded so-called “scientific” study will either treat as an anomaly, or purposefully not address.

    It’s a known fact that traffic calming was abandoned in Portland Maine 10 years back when it was tested and proved that atmospheric pollution from stalled traffic increased 48% after traffic claming measures were implemented. These measures were put in place without taking into consideration increased emissions from braking and acceleration required to negotiate the new routes and situations.

    I also would also invite you to drive 101 through Marin towards Petaluma some rush hour and test your logic & math if you think “traffic slowing” doesn’t increase congestion…

    More Lanes = More Traffic Throughput,

    That is a good thing if you are trying to get somewhere, ask a physics professor at Stanford if you don’t believe me. I can only assume those in favor of taking away traffic lanes have nowhere to go, otherwise why would they favor these ridiculous proposals.

    Redesigning public roadways with so called “calming” features only ends up with roads that slow down everyone, including emergency response vehicles.

    Consider that the politically correct haven known as Berkeley, CA put a moratorium on various traffic calming measures because of emergency response concerns and because of various complaints from the disabled community.

    The “Better Streets” survey we were offered by the city is useless since it assumes all residents want our money spent on these faux improvements, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Answering any question basically means an endorsement of their plan, since you must accept the premises to begin with.

    It’s like asking me what I most appreciate about my detention at Guantanamo Bay , the sunshine or the increased opportunities for newer and more exciting stress positions?

    Why give me a choice of Vanilla Ice Cream or Pork, when I’d specifically like to mention to you that I am a vegan, don’t want dessert, and can’t really afford it anyway?

    San Francisco, before you were likely old enough to big wheel down Lombard, tore up the Western Addition, and spent many many miilions digging a huge trench so Geary could become an exprees lane to the outer avenues.

    Whether it was right or wrong, the fact that 30+ years later some big wheel riders and MTA honchos, most admittedly from other districts, now want that policy revoked and those lanes filled in doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good fiscal policy for us all.

    Nor does it automatically help businesses or residents in those neighborhoods affected by these random transit dealios and the pains of dealing with construction obstructions.

    That’s not too say I don’t appreciate your anonymous comments, and hope you’ll fill out your “feel good” survey like a good citizen.

    I know it’s likely already a losing cause, but that doesn’t mean I am wrong, or will shut up, or remain anonymous …

  3. random (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 2:43 am

    “You can take their tax money and pay for all the studies in the world, but widening sidewalks makes almost no sense. Unless you are homeless guy with a shopping cart full of pilfered crap to sell, why the hell do you need an extra couple feet of sidewalk?”

    Wider sidewalks are just nicer places to be. There’s more room for people, street furniture and plants that make the streets more appealing. In some places it might not be worth the money or space to do so, but that doesn’t mean sidewalk widening in general is evil.

    My point about traffic calming is that it should only be used in places where people speed. Using psychological cues to slow people down to the speed limit is not a bad thing and it won’t cause congestion. When there’s congestion, you’re not going above the speed limit anyway.

    You point out a couple of examples in which cities have abandoned some traffic calming techniques, but that doesn’t make them all bad. What in particular do you not want to see?

    “Whether it was right or wrong, the fact that 30+ years later some big wheel riders and MTA honchos, most admittedly from other districts, now want that policy revoked and those lanes filled in doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good fiscal policy for us all.”

    San Francisco is a transit first city, so there are going to be times when cars suffer because of enhancements to transit. The reason most people don’t use transit is because it’s too slow. To make it faster, you have to give buses their own right of way. The more people who have efficient and convenient transit near their homes and work, the less cars we’ll have on the street causing congestion in the first place. Yes, it sucks that the merchants will be hurt by the construction, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done at all. If that was the case, nothing would ever get built. The city should make sure that as much as possible is done to minimize the effect the construction has on businesses.

    On the issues of bike lanes, it’s hard to get people to use bikes instead of cars if you don’t build the infrastructure to make it safe for people to do so. Just because the lanes might not be used heavily now doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make them better. The more people who walk or use bikes to get around the city, the better of it will be.

    You make some good points, and I’m looking forward to a post when they get around to describing what they’re actually going to do and how much it’ll cost.

  4. Cynic (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 9:25 am

    “San Francisco is a transit first city”

    San Francisco is an idiot-first city, full of people who think they know more than they really do.

    Only a city full of retards would accept to the kind of city/county government we have today, influnced by special interest groups with faux-science and research to back up their dubious claims.

  5. puhleez (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 10:03 am

    This city has a real problem- there is too much traffic, the sidewalks are too narrow, and MUNI is a failure. Fix MUNI, and then perhaps the rest will “trickle down”- if trains and busses were speedy and on time, less ppl would feel the need to drive (I drive because MUNI can’t guarantee me I’ll get to my destination on time) meaning less cars on the road, and then perhaps the city could start thinking about widening the sidewalks.

  6. Denise B. (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 10:44 am

    “San Francisco is a transit first city,”

    No, it’s not. San Francisco’s ideology might be pro-transit, but the city budget and infrastructure, and the lifestyles of the residents don’t support it.

    If SF were transit first, our Muni map would look more like NY, London, or Tokyo. It would be faster to get from point A to point B by subway than by car. It would be tough to find a home within 10 miles of downtown that didn’t have pretty direct access to a fast and reliable public transit stop or station. It would be truly expensive (not just inconvenient) to own, park, and maintain a car in the city.

    The truth is that when the critical infrastructure was being planned the first time around, California embraced the car in favor of public transit, and we’ll forever be trying to swim upstream in an attempt to undo that. Since it’s easier and less expensive to widen sidewalks than it is to undergo a massive subway expansion project, we’re spoon-fed the unsubstantiated message that wider sidewalks will entice people out of their cars.

    That’s not to say that wider sidewalks can’t be more pleasant than skinnier ones, just that the city’s priorities amount to putting lipstick on a pig rather than putting strategic thinking and hard work into discovering and solving the real problems.

    “The reason most people don’t use transit is because it’s too slow. To make it faster, you have to give buses their own right of way.”

    Take Market Street, for example. There’s a “bus and taxi only” lane on Market St. downtown. As a traffic management strategy, it’s completely ineffective. This is because only some buses use that designated lane. If you’re in the mixed-use lane, traffic in your lane still stops twice every block (once for bus stops and once for red lights). When vehicles are required to move down the street inefficiently, what traffic problems have you solved? The city admits defeat in this case by not enforcing the Bus/taxi only lane. Which means we’ve basically done nothing at all. Improving traffic flow would mean either banning private vehicles from Market Street altogether or designating one lane Bus Only and one lane No Buses.

    “The more people who have efficient and convenient transit near their homes and work, the less cars we’ll have on the street causing congestion in the first place.”

    Right, so I ask again: why are we modifying the sidewalks, when the real problem is with our public transit system?

  7. San Francisco Taxicab (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

    It is most certainly righteous to pursue progress. It is reckless to blindly pursue progress. It is a sin to pursue one’s own interests and call it progress. I suspect that all too often a relatively small group of people determine the direction of any specific neighborhood or business district.

    Take for example the speed bumps on Alhambra St. in the Marina. I think it’s safe to assume that only a handful of people living on that street wanted the speed bumps built. It’s a grandiose position isn’t it? “This is MY street, anyone passing through here must follow MY rules”. Really? Maybe YOU – should pay for that street. Considering that you don’t want ME to drive on YOUR street, then I wish to KEEP MY MONEY. I am very serious. Why should public money fund what is essentially a private road? You pay for the maintenance, signs, lighting, striping, resurfacing and parking enforcement.

    I don’t doubt for a moment that given the chance, many of these people would place barriers around their neighborhoods. Roads are necessary. Even during the Roman Empire roads were necessary to the infrastructure.

    If you are going to limit public right of way, then the public should limit it’s funding.

  8. random (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

    Denise: You’re right that the bus and taxi lanes aren’t effective, that’s why the plans for Geary and Van Ness have completely separated lanes for buses to use.

    The Better Streets plan isn’t in lieu of other improvements to the cities infrastructure, it’s just a part of it. Sure, there are plenty of things that are way more important than widening sidewalks, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

  9. Nancy (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

    I’ll limit myself to just three points (which is like biting my tongue – hard!)

    1) I wholeheartedly agree that the most significant problem that needs addressing is the failure of the public transit systems to meet the needs of the populous. As was pointed out, the Better Streets plan does not appear to be in lieu of addressing the public transit issues, but a delineation from them for the purpose of dealing with an addressable subset of issues.

    2) My opinion of the Better Streets survey is this: I’m GLAD that the responsible parties are ASKING THE PEOPLE what they want. Sure, it’s a limited answer format, but that’s often the only way to get actionable results. And b*tching about not seeing a price associated with the plan? The plan hasn’t been defined! That’s the whole point of the survey, right? To better define the public’s preferences? After all, you can’t ask a mechanic how much it’ll cost to fix your car if they’ve not been given the chance to assess what needs to (or wants to) be fixed.

    3) Change is inevitable. Good or bad, it’s gonna happen. City planners attempt to steer the largely ‘unmanageable’ change of urban evolution in ways that benefit most – either directly or residually. Imagine what SF’s alternating growth/stagnation periods over the decades would have resulted in WITHOUT city planners, who are tasked with balancing the flow, fiscally and physically.

    The opposite to NIMBYism is The-Whole-Proposal-Is-Crap-ism, which in my opinion is just as self serving and short-sighted.

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