Love to and From San Francisco

Love to and From San Francisco

105 years after the legendary earthquake that shook San Francisco to the ground, I lived through my first San Francisco earthquake. I didn’t even feel it, but I was there when it happened.

You probably don’t know, but I skipped out of Pittsburgh last month and now I’m living and working in the Bay Area. To celebrate San Francisco, I will share some of my favorite scenes so far:

My first sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge:

My bicycle on a greenway:

Bikes are everywhere. These are bikes that people use to ride to work, friend’s houses, grocery stores, coffee shops. I love it.

And I enjoy this amazing tree outside my window that provides incredible shade and a home for many wonderful birds.

This temporary street furniture suited me just fine! I got to a friend’s house way before they did recently and found this lovely table and chair set up so I just made myself comfortable and got to work. When I was done, some lucky person in need of a new table and chair moved it to their place.

I’ll probably furnish my new place in much of the same way.

I’m fond of this one-man band set-up of a charming fellow I met on Market St.

I’m still the newest lady in San Francisco so every single thing is new and amazing to me. Send me all of your recommendations so I may take them seriously!

What are your favorite places?

to eat? to drink? buy books? read books? to frolic? to ride your bike? to hide from the world?

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Felony Attempted Murder for Drivers Who Target People Riding Bicycles

Felony Attempted Murder for Drivers Who Target People Riding Bicycles

Update: Scott Bricker of Bike Pittsburgh will be facing off with Mike Pintek Friday at 1:05 pm.

Dear Mr. Pintek,

Before you consider “bumping” or running down a human being with your vehicle, you should pay attention to a case unfolding in San Francisco.

Unless you want to end up behind bars like David Mark Clark, facing 11 felonies, you ought to seriously consider how you use your own transportation mobile (“car”).

David Mark Clark used his vehicle as a weapon against four people riding bicycles, just as you professed a desire to do, and now he is facing:

  • Four counts of attempted murder
  • Four counts of assault with a deadly weapon
  • Three counts of battery causing serious bodily injury

(CBS News)

Use your car responsibly, or retire it now.

Mr. Pintek, why don’t you try using a bicycle for transportation for one month?

I DARE YOU.

Sincerely,

Lolly

A concerned lady in Pittsburgh just trying to get home without being killed.

Don’t Text and Ride

Don’t Text and Ride

NPR reports that California is considering extending the ban on texting while driving to including texting while biking. California is one of 23 states to ban texting while driving, a law that should be federal since it is dangerous everywhere.

Clearly the distracted driver of a multi-ton vehicle can do more damage to another person than a cyclist, as shown by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA points out that “Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers.”

Stop, Read, and Respond

I’m not sure if that same rate applies to cyclists, but frankly I just can’t understand why anyone would feel the need to send a text while riding a bicycle in a city. Bikers are already vulnerable enough and if you need to brake suddenly to avoid an absent-minded pedestrian, driver, or another cyclist, you’ve lost that ability.

If an urgent text is received and must immediately be replied to, it is so easy, friends, it is so so so easy to pull off the road, out of the lane, and Stop, Read, and Respond. Think of the adage that explains what to do if you are on FIRE: Stop, Drop, and Roll. If you are facing a life and death situation, you should stop and deal with it. Otherwise, don’t make an already precarious situation worse by becoming a distracted biker.

If your life is so important that you have to keep up with every minute detail and constantly be in touch, isn’t it important enough to make sure you don’t lose it?

Watch out for yourself, watch out for your neighbors and everyone else and put down that ridiculous phone until you get off your bicycle or out of your car.

Hot but stupid boy: texting while riding without helmet or brakes.
Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

There has been quite a bit of buzz over San Francisco’s parking census and future smart parking plan. I wrote about it here (“Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census“) a few weeks ago concluding that it’s great to know how much parking is available but the goal and the outcome of making parking easier is misguided and short-sighted.

The other day I wrote about it in greater detail for my column in Next American City. It’s generated an interesting discussion with a little bit of frantic windshield panic thrown in from a resident in DC who seems to think that pro-people measures that make streets safer for pedestrians and bikers are “anti-car” and anti-poor.

I’m not anti-car, but I am against the financial, social, and environmental burden they place on individuals, cities, and the world.

Freeway Jail

I’m for people, not for modes of transportation. I want to make our cities healthier, safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable for all.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by foot and so becomes a “pedestrian”.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by bicycle, not for their bicycle.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by public transportation, not for their bus or train.

And lastly, I want to create better cities for the person who drives a car, not for their car.

I want to make better places for all of these people, not their mode of transportation.  Moving people by foot, bike, and public transportation are the most efficient ways to provide mobility for all in terms of space and cost as well as causing far less pollution and sprawl than creating a world where each person drives an individual car.

That is why I support infrastructure that makes walking safe for everyone from the very young to the very old, infrastructure that makes biking safe for the very young and the very old, and accessible and affordable public transportation for all.

Mobility is a human right, free parking is not.

Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census

Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census

Over the past 18 months, San Francisco engaged in the first known parking census of any major city.  The city painstakingly counting every publicly available space, on-street and off, metered and free.

They discovered that on-street parking comprises 940 acres of valuable land in one of the most expensive cities in the country, almost as much as one of the city’s most revered spaces: Golden Gate Park (1,017 acres).

There are 441,541 parking spaces and of those, over 280,000 are on-street spaces, 25,000 of which are metered. And the rest are free.

Donald Shoup, the main authority on parking and land use in the U.S. had this to say:

“One surprising result is that 72 percent of all the publicly-available parking spaces in the city are free,” he said. “In San Francisco, housing is expensive for people but free for most cars.”

Let's just pave everything, there will be a car here eventually

If San Francisco began charging an absurdly low rate of $5/day ($.20 an hour) for each of the 250,000 free on-street spaces, that would bring in a revenue of $1,250,000 per day.

Of course they wouldn’t all be full, all the time, but if even half of the spaces were full, that would be $625,000 per day and $228,125,000 annually. I believe the potential revenue waiting in parking is pronounced Two Hundred Twenty Eight Million, One Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Dollars. Two Hundred Twenty Eight Million Dollars. Wow.

Meanwhile, San Francisco is facing a massive budget shortfall of $522.2 million and has taken some draconian measures to make up this money, such as the recent firing of 15,000 city employees, which was expected to save only $50 million. Explaining the layoffs — moving city employees from the payrolls to the unemployment rolls — Mayor Gavin Newsom said “We’re actually doing everything to avoid layoffs.”

No, he’s not. Charge for parking, keep people employed, and keep the city working.

Broadway Now Permanently Car-free

Broadway Now Permanently Car-free

Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg of New York City made an historic announcement that will have wide-reaching implications for street design and public space transformation around the country.

Broadway in Times Square (42nd St. to 47th St) and Herald Square (33rd St. to 35th St) will now be permanently closed to traffic. What initially started as an experiment to improve public safety and traffic flow in May 2009 is being widely touted as an outstanding success.

The result? Traffic speeds are up on diverted routes, pedestrian and motorist injuries have plummeted (down 63%), businesses are benefiting from increased foot traffic, noise pollution is down and the area is dominated by people rather than modes of transportation.

The move to make these stretches of Broadway permanently car-free is supported by 74% of people who work in the area, according to a survey conducted by the Times Square Alliance.

Take a look at the stark difference in the Before and After pictures of Times Square:

Times Square Before, photo by NYC DOT
Times Square After, photo by NYC DOT

The transformation has widespread support from the business community as well and was called “a 21st century idea” by Dan Biederman, director of the 34th Street Partnership (thanks to Streetsblog).

Last October I argued that temporary transformation is a more effective and legitimate way to gauge public opinion:

“People are used to roads and streets and public space being devoted to cars. That’s why it is essential to make the changes initially and give people the opportunity to feel and experience the delight of a public plaza and then to vote. New York and San Francisco are making temporary changes to demonstrate the value of returning space to people and have promised to return them to business as usual if that’s what people want.”

I’ll repeat: If you build cities for cars, you get cars. If you build cities for people, you get people.

New York did this and people love it. The rest of the country should begin following suit immediately.

Public Space Transformation Needs to be an Urban Priority Now

Public Space Transformation Needs to be an Urban Priority Now

Neil Takemoto’s excellent blog Cool Town Studios points out a few great examples of the pedestrianization of cities taking place across the United States.

New York and San Francisco are coming out ahead with their programs designed to reclaim wasted space and return it to the residents in the form of public squares and pedestrian zones. New York City’s Department of Transportation manages the city’s Public Plaza Program which is designed to “re-invent New York City’s public realm.”

Why? “In New York City, the public right of way comprises 64 square miles of land – that is enough space to fit about 50 Central Parks” while “San Francisco’s streets and public rights-of-way make up fully 25% of the city’s land area, more space even than is found in all of the city’s parks.”

Following the lead of New York City, San Francisco’s new Pavement to Parks program “seek[s] to temporarily reclaim these unused swathes and quickly and inexpensively turn them into new public plazas and parks. During the temporary closure, the success of these plazas will be evaluated to understand what adjustments need to be made in the short term, and ultimately, whether the temporary closure should be a long term community investment.”

Image from Streetblog of Pearl Street Plaza, a triangular pocket park that only a few weeks ago served as a parking lot and illegal dump.
Image from Streetsblog of Pearl Street Plaza, a triangular pocket park that served as a parking lot and illegal dump a few weeks before this photo.

This is the type of initiative we need to see from our city leaders across the country.

Cooperation between city agencies is necessary to move forward and we need visionary leaders who are willing to make some waves in order to shake up the status quo that is simply not working.

If you build cities for people, you get people

New York and San Francisco are vying to become the most progressive pedestrian and urban planning cities in the U.S. and they are surpassing other cities, particularly Washington, DC, not just by leaps and bounds but by 64 square miles of creativity.

Clearly, proposing some little pedestrian park or plaza on paper isn’t going to and hasn’t persuade anyone that it will improve our cities. People are used to roads and streets and public space being devoted to cars. That’s why it is essential to make the changes initially and give people the opportunity to feel and experience the delight of a public plaza and then to vote. New York and San Francisco are making temporary changes to demonstrate the value of returning space to people and have promised to return them to business as usual if that’s what people want.

It’s not. Support is overwhelming for pedestrian plazas ONCE people have the chance to experience them. According to a poll by Quinnipiac University, “banning cars on Broadway, creating a pedestrian mall from Times Square to Herald Square is a good idea, New York City voters say 58 – 34 percent … Support ranges from 66 – 27 percent among Manhattan voters to 50 – 44 percent among Bronx voters.”

I’ll paraphrase a common adage: If you build cities for cars, you get cars. If you build cities for people, you get people.

Streets for Cars:

photo from earth island institute
photo from earth island institute

Streets for People:

photo from NY Daily News
photo from NY Daily News
Photo Collection: Space Hog from Streetsblog

Photo Collection: Space Hog from Streetsblog

Streetsblog San Francisco is now collecting photos of cars taking exorbitant amounts of public space.

Here’s one ridiculous example from Purdue University‘s dashing separated bike lanes:
tractor

Send submissions to sarah [at] streetsblog [dot] org. Or tag them “streetsblog” and “spacehog” in Flickr.