Seattle Plans to Improve Road Safety by Replacing Traffic Signals with Stop Signs

by Charlie Sorrel : xist – excerpt

Just this one trick works remarkably well in reducing speed, crashes, and pedestrian fatalities. But for truly safe intersections, you need to remove the signs altogether.

Seattle may ditch traffic signals in order to make its streets safer. This counterintuitive move should slow traffic, and make drivers more attentive around intersections. And if you live in Seattle, you can send your suggestions for suitable intersections to the local government.

The problem with traffic signals is one of entitlement. If you see a green light, you speed on through, not even giving much thought to the fact that you’re even at a road junction. Worse, if the light changes as you approach, you’ll either jump on the gas, or jump on the brake, either of which can be dangerous for you and other road users. Traffic signals, then, make for efficient intersections, but not safe ones.

According to the Seattle DOT, the city has over 1,000 traffic signals, and it plans to replace up to ten of them of them with four-way stop signs, with more to come if the trial works out. Not only do stop signs force drivers to pay attention, and slow down, it also makes the area unattractive as a through-route, so drivers may instead opt for a bigger, light-controlled road nearby. If properly planned, this can be a powerful traffic-shaping tool… (more)

 

Proposed CEQA changes could push development to disincentivize car use AirTalk | December 4th, 2014, 10:58am

airtalk : scpr – excerpt

A change to the formula used under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) could have a large impact on development throughout the state. Currently, the CEQA process views projects as having a negative environmental impact if they slow traffic. The proposed changes would change the perspective from one focusing on stemming traffic to one with an eye towards decreasing the amount of cars on the road and the temporal length of transportation.

If the proposed changes become final, the slight difference in priorities may change the way developers treat the city and suburbs. Whereas previous attempts under the act expanded car lanes and synchronized streetlights in order to lessen traffic, new attempts would discourage suburban sprawl and instead incentivize options for alternative transport. Those who bike and use mass transit may benefit from the proposed regulatory process, and supporters of green development are supporting the changes with the belief that it will lower greenhouse emissions. Yet for drivers who already have long commutes, driving through the city could become more onerous.

How should the state of California regulate development under CEQA? Do you think your commute could be affected if the development process changes?.. (more)

Thank you for expressing so clearly the objectives of the SFMTA to slow traffic and snarl it. We just had an election in SF where the SFMTA claimed the cars were causing the congestion. Now you have helped us prove that they are causing it on purpose. Thanks once again for proving us right and exposing the SFMTA’s lies, and explaining how the state is s*****g drivers.

We claimed the SFMTA is using taxpayer dollars that should be used to enhance MUNI to harass drivers and your statements support our claims. – ENUF, SaveMuni, Yes on L, No on A and B campaigns.

SFMTA Board Approves Contested Transit Signals, Bulb-Outs on Haight

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

On Tuesday, the SFMTA Board of Directors approved plans to add traffic signals and bulb-outs along Haight Street, which could speed up Muni’s 6 and 71 lines and improve pedestrian safety. The approval came despite complaints from Upper Haight merchants over removing parking for bus bulb-outs, and mixed support for new traffic signals from pedestrian safety and transit advocates…

But the speed benefits of signalization are contested by Michael Smith, the former Chief Technology Officer and General Manager of NextBus, who co-founded Walk SF. SFMTA staff have not responded to his challenge to their estimates — neither to a request from Streetsblog, nor at the board hearing — but street safety advocates say that they might not justify costly signals, which restrict movement for people walking and biking (in this case, on the Wiggle). “MTA hasn’t convinced neighbors and pedestrian advocates of that,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich

But Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider told the SFMTA Board she “comes at this with some mixed thoughts. ” Planners in Sweden, the birthplace of Vision Zero, say they avoid adding signals in favor of treatments like roundabouts, which maintain slower speeds and “forgive” mistakes by street users and minimize the risk of crashes. Traffic signals, meanwhile, give motor vehicle drivers carte blanche to coast through an intersection…

Peter Straus, an SFTRU member and retired Muni service planner, told the SFMTA Board that he lives a block away from Haight and Pierce Streets, one of the intersections set to get traffic signals. “I don’t think they’re things that people should be afraid of, if they’re properly managed” by synchronizing signals for slower speeds, he said. The SFMTA says it plans to do so…

Aside from the signals, several merchants at the hearing protested the SFMTA’s plans to remove parking and loading zones to create sidewalk extensions at bus stops and crosswalks. A few, including the owners of Amoeba Music, also said they thought transit bulb-outs would cause car traffic to back up, since buses would stop in the traffic lanes to load passengers…

Breed doesn’t have a specific position on the proposals, said Johnston, but she is concerned that shelters and signals could affect public safety…

Evans said that the Muni Forward plans for Haight “are in conflict” with the Haight-Ashbury Public Realm Plan, a community planning effort that the Planning Department is undertaking, with a focus on streetscape improvements. City planners have said the two plans will work in tandem, and that the Muni improvements up for approval were vetted by the public through the Public Realm Plan…

The only SFMTA directors who voted against approving the changes were Jerry Lee and Gwyneth Borden, the board’s newest member. Borden said more time was needed to work out the issues, and that she “had a hard time with” the appearance that those voicing concerns weren’t being taken seriously. “I don’t think you can overlook when there are so many diverse groups of people, with varying problems, in a particular area,” she said… (more)

Even people who normally agree with the SFMTA disagree with this plan. Most don’t want traffic signals and many don’t like the shelters. Merchants don’t want to lose any parking. If it ain’t broke leave it alone.

Someone needs to request a hearing before the Board of  Supervisors to amend the contract.

RELATED:
SFMTA Board Approves $6.6M Project Along 71 Haight-Noriega Route

San Francisco Bike Laws

SFMTA – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO BICYCLISTS MUST:

Yield to People Walking
  • Whether they’re in a crosswalk or not, ALWAYS yield to people walking.
Stop BEHIND the Crosswalk
  • Always stop behind the line at traffic signals and stop signs.
Stay on the Street
  • It’s illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk unless you’re younger than 13 years of age.
Ride in the Direction of Traffic
  • If you can’t go with the flow, it’s okay to WALK your bike on the sidewalk!
Obey Traffic Signs & Traffic Lights
  • Just like other vehicles on the road, obey all street signs and signals.
Be Seen
  • Rear reflectors and a front light are REQUIRED when riding in the dark! Red tail lights are strongly recommended.
Avoid Distraction
  • No headphones, calling or texting while riding – it’s the law!

Please note these are the rules posted by SFMTA.

Even the SFMTA is confused by those crosswalk countdown signals

No wonder everybody’s confused by those countdown clocks at crosswalks that alert pedestrians to how many seconds remain before the solid red “don’t walk” hand lights up. Even the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency can’t get it right.

We asked the agency’s spokesman, Paul Rose, to clarify matters after a spate of letters to the editor in The Chronicle debated whether pedestrians are allowed to enter the crosswalk throughout the countdown or not.

Rose told us in Sunday’s City Insider column that the countdown is “an awareness tool” for pedestrians and that they cannot be ticketed for entering the street as the countdown clock flashes, even as it approaches zero.

“They can start whenever they want,” Rose said.

Shockingly, just because a government official says something doesn’t mean it’s right.

Sure enough, several readers e-mailed to say Rose had it flat wrong and that pedestrians cannot legally start crossing after the countdown clock has started. They may only enter the crosswalk when the walking person is illuminated in white lights, but can finish crossing if they’ve already entered when the countdown begins.

Rose acknowledged his flub. “I passed on wrong information,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

One city official who does know the in’s and out’s of crosswalk signals is Commander Mikail Ali of the San Francisco Police Department, who e-mailed to say pedestrians cannot enter the crosswalk after the countdown has begun — or risk a citation or being struck by a vehicle.

One thing isn’t so clear: whether countdown clocks work. Ali said some studies show they’re helpful for pedestrians, while others show they contribute to erratic behavior on the part of walkers such as trying to sprint across the street with two seconds left on the clock.

Pedestrians behaving erratically in San Francisco? There’s something we can probably all agree on…. (more)

We finally have something everyone agrees on. Lack of consistency does not make the streets any safer. It breeds confusion, which leads to erratic behavior.

There are state laws on the books which could be followed if we all agreed to abide by them and quit trying to create exceptions.

The SFMTA has avoided following state laws by setting up quasi-legal exceptions under the guise of pilot programs and now we see the results. Different driving patterns and changing lanes from one street to another has added to the confusion and the stress levels.

Elected officials should take note of this and restrain the SFMTA from any further deviations from state laws. That way we could all go back to following the same set of rules.

Next, we need to communicate more clearly with the public what the state rules are.

Traffic signals are designed to do more than start and stop traffic. They should give us the ability to predict the behavior of everyone else on the road. When no one knows the rules you have a lot of stressed people acting erractically. How do we get back to the point where everyone knows the rule?

We start by agreeing on what they are.

Let’s start by following the state laws and limit the number of “exceptions to the rules”.

  • Yellow lights should be timed so that a pedestrian crossing the street has enough time to reach the other side before the light turns red, not set for a couple of seconds to catch cars running red lights. 
  • Countdowns should be treated like yellow lights. Maybe the countdown color should be yellow instead of red and the hand should go away.
  • Everyone should stop at red lights, and stop signs.
  • Whoever is in the intersection first should have the right of way to pass through it regardless of how they got there. Civilized behavior is the safest approach.

The SF Chronicle Asks SFMTA Spokesmodel Paul Rose for Pedestrian Law Advice and He Gets It 100% Wrong: Countdown Timers

sfcitizen – excerpt

Here we go:

Is a pedestrian supposed to stop as soon as the numbers start to flash? Can the walker proceed throughout the countdown? Or, as one letter writer seemed to think, is the countdown really for the benefit of drivers? We asked Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, for the answer.

“It’s an awareness tool to let pedestrians know how much time they have to cross the street,” he said. “All pedestrians are strongly encouraged to make responsible decisions on when they should or shouldn’t cross.” But can a pedestrian get ticketed – ha! – for starting to walk when the countdown is near zero? Nope. “They can start whenever they want,” Rose said.”

Now here’s what a countdown timer looks like, in the City and County:

Note that San Francisco peds see an “approved upraised hand symbol” right next to the countdown timer.

Now here’s Da Law:

“Flashing or steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol: No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol is showing.”

Oh, here’s another stab at this subject:

According to California Vehicle Code 21456, pedestrians can’t walk if there’s a “Don’t Walk” sign or an upraised hand symbol. Anyone who has started crossing after one of those flashes should proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone.

And this appears to be a common ticket handed out to peds near the LA County Courthouse.

And here’s another reference

“V C Section 21456 Walk Wait or Don’ t Walk

Walk, Wait, or Don’t Walk

21456.  Whenever a pedestrian control signal showing the words “WALK” or “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or other approved symbol is in place, the signal shall indicate as follows:

(a) “WALK” or approved “Walking Person” symbol. A pedestrian facing the signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal, but shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time that signal is first shown.

(b) Flashing or steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol is showing.

Amended Ch. 413, StaEts. 1981. ffective January 1, 1982″… (more)

San Francisco Bike Laws

SFMTA

SAN FRANCISCO BICYCLISTS MUST:
Yield to People Walking. Whether they’re in a crosswalk or not, ALWAYS yield to people walking.
Stop BEHIND the Crosswalk: Always stop behind the line at traffic signals and stop signs.
Stay on the Street: It’s illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk unless you’re younger than 13 years of age.
Ride in the Direction of Traffic: If you can’t go with the flow, it’s okay to WALK your bike on the sidewalk!
Obey Traffic Signs & Traffic Lights: Just like other vehicles on the road, obey all street signs and signals.
Be Seen: Rear reflectors and a front light are REQUIRED when riding in the dark! Red tail lights are strongly recommended.
Avoid Distraction: No headphones, calling or texting while riding – it’s the law!(more)

Lets hope the cyclists learn the laws.

RELATED:
Bicycle Rules of the Road
Download the Rules
2009 San Francisco Bicycle Plan Update

The 2009 San Francisco Bicycle Plan outlined 60 improvement projects and long-term opportunities for bicycle route upgrades.
The following is a list of near-term projects that remain and are anticipated to be constructed within the five years following the completion of the Bike Plan’s final environmental review:

  • Project 2-1: 2nd Street bicycle lanes, King Street to Market Street
  • Project 2-3: 14th Street eastbound bicycle lane, Dolores Street to Market Street
  • Project 2-7: Fremont Street southbound bicycle lane, Folsom Street to Harrison Street
  • Project 3-2: Masonic Avenue bicycle lanes, Fell Street to Geary Boulevard
  • Project 3-4: Polk Street northbound contraflow bicycle lane, Market Street to McAllister Street
  • Project 5-6: Cesar Chavez/26th Streets corridor bicycle lanes, Sanchez Street to US 101
  • Project 5-13: Bayshore Boulevard bicycle lanes, Paul Avenue to Silver Avenue
  • Project 7-1: 7th Avenue at Lincoln Way intersection improvements