Bikes win, Fire Department loses in Market Street redo

By Matier & Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

Impossible to move in traffic like this, photo by Zrants

Score a big victory for the politically potent San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which won approval the other day for protected bike lanes along several blocks of upper Market Street — despite a Fire Department protest that the reconfiguration will interfere with ladder trucks in an emergency.

“The design materially compromises the safety of firefighters and local residents,” Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White warned in a letter to the Municipal Transportation Agency commission.

At issue is a nearly mile-long strip of Market between Octavia and Castro streets. Under the plan, the city will install protected bike lanes in both directions.

The redo includes a bike lane on two blocks near Octavia that will be located next to the curb and be buffered from traffic by a lane for parked cars.

And therein lies the rub — because, as Hayes-White tells us, the parking lane will be right in the spot where a ladder truck would normally pull up to an emergency scene…

Mayor Ed Lee himself signaled his support for the biking crowd last year when he issued a directive pledging support for protective bike lanes in the city, and calling for at least 13 miles of additional bike lanes and related infrastructure annually.

Safe for bikes, perhaps, but maybe less so for anyone needing help in an emergency… (more)

The self-centered attitude of people who treat the streets as their playground has gotten out of control and City Hall needs to put some breaks on these antics that are putting us all at risk.

How is this different from the leaning sinking tower?

Experts are warning that the public is at risk? Where has the media been on this story as it has been developing over the last few months or years? The first we heard about this was a few weeks ago, after the SFMTA Board had already decided to support the Bike Coalition, with their 300 letters.

How can the public weigh in when they are the last to know about these issues?
Where are the Supervisors who are supposed to protect us? Setting up a study to count the minutes it takes to get to an emergency after the fact is pointless and insulting to the Fire Department and the public it serves.

Where were the meetings held on this matter and where are the minutes of those meetings that were held leading up to this decision?

Where are the letters that were written and arguments made against this plan. How will these documents be protected so as not to disappear like the famous disappearing volumes of engineers reports on the tower?

Who will the Bicycle Coalition members who ignored the Fire Department’s warning blame, when the vehicle coming to their aid fails to get to them in time?

I cannot figure out how to comment on the source site, even though I am signed into it. Please post some comments there is you can figure it out.

Despite SFFD Complaints, SFMTA Board OKs Upper Market Parking-Protected Bike Lanes

by Carrie Sisto : hoodline – excerpt

Clogged traffic on Masonic before they cut out any lanes.

Despite objections from fire department officials, San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s board voted yesterday to approve new parking-protected bike lanes and other changes to the roadway in the Upper Market area.

“The item was passed unanimously with the understanding that we would work with SFFD to develop a plan that includes the features of the project, while ensuring that first responders have the necessary access,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose told us.

Easily-installed improvements like painting new protected bike lanes should be installed this year, but large-scale construction improvements like adding bulb-outs and islands will occur in 2019… (more)

This is not about traffic laws or safety regulations. This is about science and physics and the fact that no two objects can occupy the same space at one time.
I just witnessed a traffic jam on 18th Street with a fire department ambulance stuck in traffic. It was being held up by what appeared to be a school bus coming from the opposite direction.
The totality of the traffic and anti-traffic flow tactics being unleashed on SF streets is the problem. Left unchecked, a fire can double in size, or so fire department personnel have claimed. Do you really want to second guess the Fire Department when they tell you they can’t serve the public under these circumstances?
If you think it is more important to promote traffic nightmares that hamper emergency vehicles and stop traffic flow, I hope you are prepared to take your friends and family who need assistance on your bike to the hospital next time they need help because the ambulance you count on may not make it in time.

 

Traffic Safety Advocates Form Human Chain To Protect Tenderloin Bike Lane

by Walter Thompson : hoodline – excerpt

Calling attention to what they say is the city’s failure to protect bike lanes in high-injury corridors, approximately 15 traffic safety advocates formed a human chain this morning on Golden Gate Avenue near Market Street.

Dressed in yellow T-shirts donated by road-safety advocacy group San Francisco Municipal Transformation Agency (SFMTrA), participants stood in a bike lane and joined hands to create a barrier between motorists and cyclists…

Last month, Muni proposed scaling back a parking-protected bikeway on Turk Street—another corridor in the High Injury Network—to a paint-buffered bike lane, similar to the one on Golden Gate Ave. The change was proposed after fire department representatives said the new configuration made the street too narrow for emergency vehicles… (more)

The SFMTA has a priority problem

Letter to the editor : sfexaminer – excerpt
comment on Plan for bike lane on Turk Street in Tenderloin being reconsidered

I’m horrified that our city government prioritizes bikes ahead of public safety. I have witnessed firsthand the disaster that the SFMTA has created, confiscating public infrastructure and re-purposing for a vocal minority. Watching from Davies Symphony Hall, we were shocked to see an ambulance unable to get through Van Ness due to the newly confiscated lanes for a ridiculous bus lane and bike lanes.

During a ride along with the SFPD, officers had to slam over speed humps and screech around bulb-outs getting to an emergency call. I can only imagine what that would do to an ambulance occupant. And recently I turned right onto Eighth Street and nearly slammed into a concrete island that appeared in the middle of the right lane.

Why are we putting billions of dollars toward street redesign when we can’t even maintain them, can’t even plant trees? When seniors and disabled object to street redesigns, why do their voices fall on deaf ears? Why are the Bicycle Coalition and the SFMTA so powerful that they dictate an anti-car policy that endangers public safety?

When the Fire Department objects due to public safety concerns, they should be prioritized first. I pale to think the nightmare we will endure when they next earthquake hits and our emergency services, food and water can’t get through. It’s clear we’ll get no sympathy from the mayor, the Board of Supervisors and especially not the SFMTA (now affectionately known as Motorist Torment Authority).

As a 28-year resident of San Francisco and a supporter of subway expansion, I find myself unable to vote for funding for the SFMTA. They only cause misery and favor the 3 percent (or less) vocal minority.

Jamey Frank, San Francisco… (more)

We have been told that the bike coalition provides precinct workers. Those of us who worked some precincts know this is not the case in the districts we worked, so that excuse will not fly any more. There were lots of non-bicycle coalition precinct workers and the one Bike Coalition candidate lost big in the district he ran in. These supervisors don’t owe SFBC anything. If anyone is owned it is us.

If there is a reconsideration of the bike lanes it may be because people who work drive emergency vehicles stepped forward, complained, and stated that they are not responsible for loss of lives due to traffic congestion that precludes them from being able to do their jobs of saving lives and property when they are called to do so.

The public should demand an incident report that documents the results of ER vehicles being held up in traffic. How many claims have been filed? I have personally observed fire trucks stuck on Van Ness, (before the lane reduction) and on King Street in front of the stadium.

Menlo Park Fire District Opposes Protected Bike Lanes on El Camino Real

Menlo Park’s Fire District is fighting a trial project to install protected or buffered bike lanes on El Camino Real. Image: City of Menlo Park
Menlo Park’s proposal for protected bike lanes on El Camino Real is meeting resistance from the top brass at the city’s Fire Protection District, who would rather see the road become wider and more dangerous.

In a recent letter to the Menlo Park City Council, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman completely missed the point of installing protected bike lanes — to make making bicycling safer and more attractive. “I cannot recommend the use of El Camino Real in Menlo Park to bicyclists because it is a fairly dangerous route,” he wrote. “In my 35-year career, bicyclists almost always ‘lose’ when they are involved with an accident involving a vehicle, no matter who is at fault or to blame.”

Instead, Schapelhouman said it would be “interesting” to expand the street-level highway to six lanes and synchronize traffic signals to let drivers speed through downtown Menlo Park.

Three city advisory commissions have endorsed the conceptual plan to install bike lanes, either physically protected from motor traffic by curbs and landscaped traffic islands, or an alternative with just a painted buffer zone.

At an August 25 meeting, Menlo Park City Council members refrained from voting on those proposals but did say they favor a trial version of the protected bike lanes, which would replace 156 parking spaces along all 1.3 miles of El Camino Real within the city… (more)

North Beach Meeting on Sidewalk Bulbs Gets Tense; SFMTA to Paint Demos

by Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

A public meeting in North Beach became tense yesterday as residents and firefighters opposed to basic street safety measures continued to assert that sidewalk bulb-outs are dangerous. To appease skeptics, the SFMTA announced that the bulb-outs planned at four intersections on Columbus Avenue will be tested first by installing painted “safety zones” in August. Construction of concrete versions will begin next year…

The bulb-outs “being proposed for Columbus Avenue are not that scary,” said D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, who told attendees she convinced the SFMTA to implement the painted versions as a trial. “We’ve been looking at all these really carefully… modifications were made, and what we’ve got now is kind of a river stone that’s been smoothed over by all kinds of forces.”…

It was the second recent meeting about bulb-outs held by North Beach Neighbors. At the first meeting on April 30, Hoodline reported, members of SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 protested life-saving curb extensions claiming they hinder fire trucks. Since that meeting, the union’s president also sent a letter [PDF] to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White calling the department’s approvals of bulb-outs “very troubling.”…

A few people remained unconvinced, however, and raised their voices. Here’s one of the arguments between an opponent and SFMTA planner Oliver Gajda, about whether it’s safe to assume that trucks can turn around bulb-outs without conducting a field test:

Firefighter Tony Rivera also repeated an anecdote to scare people about the prospect of wider sidewalks that he told at the April meeting, according to Hoodline.

At Columbus and Union Streets, where the block of sidewalk along Washington Square Park was extended last year to make the bus stop more efficient, Rivera said he became alarmed when his six-year-old son bent down to pick up a penny at the curb.

“The bus came by — I didn’t realize I was now standing in traffic,” Rivera said. “Before, there used to be a buffer of cars. There should be a warning saying that you are now much closer. If you’re a little kid, or my mom who’s 93 — she needs glasses — she cannot tell that she’s standing right in the way of a vehicle.”

He also complained to Gajda that taxpayers have to pay for the curb extensions, and that he didn’t get a notification about them. “It’s wrong, man. You don’t live in the neighborhood, I do… I think it’s bullshit.”

Rivera said he “has to drive a car,” and that if bulb-outs remove more parking spots, “I’m not going to go there and help our neighborhood because I’m going to be driving around, distracted. It’s going to be crazy.”

Daniel Macchiarini of the North Beach Business Association has continued to fight the 2010 Columbus Avenue study that recommended more space for people. He claimed that the SFPD told him there haven’t been any pedestrian injuries since 2013, except for one “criminal” one, at the intersections set to get bulb-outs, which will “destroy small businesses.” He said SFFD only approved the bulb-outs because of “pressure from the mayor’s office.”

Macchiarini also said that SFMTA staff hasn’t returned his emails over the years requesting statistics on pedestrian safety to explain “why we’re doing this.”…

While SFFD has shown signs of softening its opposition to bulb-outs and narrower roadways, SFFD Assistant Deputy Chief Ken Lombardi said the agency’s stance has never changed. As he explained in January 2014, “it’s hard to pinpoint” what has slowed emergency response times, but the department has “shut down” or watered down safety improvements nonetheless.

After showing stats and pictures of broken fire truck components caused by hitting “obstacles,” he said he couldn’t say how many of them were caused by bulb-outs. He said, however, that SFFD would like to see more daylighting and bike lanes, as long as they’re not protected by “hardscape” structures… (more)

Why the SF Fire Fighters supported Yes on L

by Zrants

SF Streetsblog, the SFMTA mouthpiece, put out derisive messages about the SF Fire Department’s objections to installing six-foot bulb-outs near intersections. Fire Department officials claim they needed more space to maneuver around corners, and requested the sidewalks be limited to five feet wide. An excerpt from the article is below.


 

Dismissing SFFD’s Irrational Protests, SFMTA Approves Bulb-Outs at School
By Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

The SF Fire Department continues to make increasingly bizarre claims in opposition to sidewalk bulb-outs and narrower roadways. Last week, the SFMTA Board of Directors dismissed SFFD’s protests against six-foot bulb-outs at E.R. Taylor Elementary School in the Portola neighborhood. According to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, one of SFFD’s claims was that fire truck drivers would be ticketed by the SFPD for entering an oncoming traffic lane to make a wide turn.

The SF Examiner reported on the dispute yesterday, though the paper didn’t question SFFD’s claims about the supposed hazards of six-foot bulbs (SFFD pushed for five feet). According to the Examiner, SFFD spokesperson Mindy Talmadge said “the department has been ‘vilified’ for voicing concerns on pedestrian safety.”…

Following an SF Examiner op-ed penned by Walk SF calling on SFFD to support sidewalk extensions, the department issued a statement responding to what it called “allegations being made by special interest groups.” Although SFFD’s Talmadge told the Examiner yesterday that “we don’t want to be the cause of a pedestrian fatality,” the December statement indicated that SFFD officials don’t comprehend how sidewalk extensions improve pedestrian safety.

“We haven’t seen pedestrians being hit by vehicles on sidewalks because the sidewalks are too narrow,” said the SFFD statement from last month. “Proposals such as these cannot possibly make our streets, pedestrians and bicyclists safer.”

SFFD Fire Chief Johanne Hayes-White also made the erroneous yet unchallenged claim in a recent Examiner article that 74 percent of pedestrians were at fault for their own injuries, though she later said she was “misinformed.” SFFD also tried, unsuccessfully, to quietly nix a provision in a piece of legislation last year that allowed the city to approve street widths of less than the state guideline of 20 feet. At hearings on pedestrian safety issues, Hayes-White and other officials have neglected to comment on these matters, though a representative is scheduled to make a presentation to the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee tomorrow evening… (more)


 

This anti-Fire Fighters attitude explains why the Fire Fighters supported Yes on L. They are as tired of dealing with the SFMTA and staff as we are. Since when are street designers experts on what emergency responders need? Who wants to slow emergency vehicles to save pedestrians two feet of road to cross? How many seconds does it take to walk two feet anyway? This from the agency that wants its riders to walk longer distances between bus stops. Where is the logic in this?

Wiener Moves to Make NACTO Street Design Guides Official Policy for SF

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced a bill that would make the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ guides for Urban Streets and Urban Bikeways official city policy. The SFMTA Board of Directors already adopted the NACTO guides in January, but Wiener’s legislation would establish them as official guidelines for other agencies to use, including the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, and the SF Fire Department… (more)

We have Phil Ting’s AB 1193 to thank for this headache, and the lobbies hired by the SFMTA and the Bicycle Coalition who wrote and sold it to the state legislature.

Send inquires to the other city agencies that this legislation seeks to control, such as the Fire Department and other emergency responders. Find out how concerned they are about the narrow streets and other obstructions SFMTA is planning to fund with the Prop A Bond funds.

Let SF City officials know who you blame for gridlock and ask the state assembly candidates who they plan to support when they get to Sacramento.

 

Fisherman’s Wharf statue accident points up delays in ambulance response time

By Noelle Walker: ktvu – excerpt

… Police responded in a minute and a half, firefighters followed a minute after that and assessed the boy’s medical needs.

“In this case there were not any advanced life support measures that were performed.” said SFFD Medical Director Clement Yeh. “It was recognized early on that this boy needed to get to the hospital.”

But of the 16 SFFD ambulances on duty that day in addition to private ambulances, only one was available. At the time of the call, the vehicle was at Stanyan and Oak, 4.5 miles away from Fisherman’s Wharf.

It took the ambulance 13 minutes to arrive, three minutes longer than the fire department’s response time goal.

“We are always trying to improve our care, but the nature of this case was really tragic.” said Yeh.

The question that remains: would three minutes have made a difference? Shelton died at the hospital four hours after the accident.

“Whether or not it would have made a difference, I think based on that information in this particular case, it probably would not have.” said Talmadge.

While the fire department’s goal response time is ten minutes, the average response time is 12 minutes… (more)

We agree with the Fire Chief that emergency responders should have priority in street design decisions. Wider free-flowing streets should be preserved. We oppose SB 1193 that would legitimize SFMTA’s street diet pilot projects. SF should not deviate from the current state design standards.

Supervisor Scott Wiener steps up heat on S.F. Fire Dept.

by Marisa Lagos : sfgate – excerpt

(04-29) 21:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Supervisor Scott Wiener has railed for years against the Fire Department‘s opposition to wider sidewalks and narrower streets – and on Tuesday, he declared an all-out war.

At the heart of the debate is a conflict between safety advocates, who want to see physical changes to city streets that make pedestrians safer, and fire officials, who contend their trucks are too big to navigate narrow streets and intersections.

The issue has been brewing for some time, but apparently boiled over because the Fire Department has been pushing for streets at the Hunters Point and Candlestick Point developments to be 26 feet wide, 6 feet more than what’s legally required. On Tuesday, Wiener accused the department of reopening a planning discussion years after neighbors, community leaders and city officials agreed on a development plan… (more)

The SF Fire Department is responsible for saving lives and property and nothing else. Who is qualified to tell them how to do that?  We put our lives in their hands each time they are called. Slowing down traffic and creating traffic gridlock is adding to their response time and if they don’t object they may be held liable for not doing their jobs.

We should all support emergency responders unless we think we can do a better job of putting out our own fires and rescuing ourselves the next time we need help. If you have had enough of people putting our lives in danger to meet their own objectives, tell the city officials you want to amend the Charter to Fix the MTA:  http://fixthemta.org/