Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Plazas for the People

The Public Outreach for the Noe Valley Plaza Meeting is April 8.

Here is "our" version of the flyer for the meeting.

When I say "our", I mean the Noe Valley Plaza - Yes! Google group. Feel free to browse, join, and contribute. And if you support the plaza idea, please come to the Public Outreach Meeting, April 8 at 6:30 PM, St Philip's Church.

Noe Plazas+for+the+People +Flyer

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oxymoron of the day...

From the Plaza vs. Parklet debate...

"We need better access to our freeways so that us working people can reduce the amount of time spent in our cars."

This is bad enough, but look at the whole quote...

I really don't see any need for this in the neighborhood. My husband and I both work in the South Bay and it is already hard enough getting to the freeway. By the time we drop our children off at private school in the mornings, it takes us more than 30 minutes to get to 280. We need better access to our freeways so that us working people can reduce the amount of time spent in our cars. Building an obstruction to my commute will only exacerbate my frustration with traffic. So I vote NO on this proposal.

Let's decompose this one...

"us working people" - who live in one of the toniest neighborhoods in San Francisco, can afford a 45 mile commute, and children (plural) at private schools. Sean Hannity would be proud of the appropriation of the lower class moniker.

"reduce the amount of time spent in our cars"

Perhaps moving to the South Bay? Now, granted I have a long commute to the South Bay, but my wife does not. The poster involved AND her husband both commute to the South Bay - which incidentally contains places like "Palo Alto" which have fantastic public schools. But if being in their car is such a hardship, Caltrain provides rapid service down the peninsula. Certainly Caltrain has some last mile problems - but it takes our heroes THIRTY MINUTES to get to the freeway. 30 minutes after I leave home on my BIKE, get on Caltrain at 22nd St, I am already in Millbrae. In fact 30 minutes after I leave home on my bike and just head south, I am in South San Francisco.

"Building an obstruction to my commute will only exacerbate my frustration with traffic."


Comment of the century.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Will Noe Valley become a laughingstock?

From the comments, "j" asks...

Are there any existing neighborhood organizations for those of us who are feel unrepresented by the "Friends" et al.?

I'm not even sure how active Friends of Noe Valley is, I keep hearing the name but the website hasn't been updated in eons. That doesn't mean they aren't still sending out newsletters, and I have no idea what their position on this would be.

The Noe Valley Association has a FAQ on this project. This is the Community Benefits District, which I don't think equates to a grassroots public effort.

I can't find a website for the "Upper Noe Neighbors".

Most any generic organization is bound to have disagreements on this project. I am steadfastly in support of a plaza plan and am not interested in a watered down parklet. I plan to drum up a group to show up in force for the Public Outreach meetings - I mailed Andres Power and he suggested that if I felt strongly about this that I do so.

Anyone interested in joining up - solely for the purpose of promoting a plaza for this project - please send me an Email

There is a new "plaza" being proposed for Noe Valley - this will close off Noe St at 24th St.

My first reaction? Awesome. The intersection of 24th/Noe has a huge pedestrian presence, and navigating it is always tricky, in either a car or on foot. It's a four way stop with non-stop pedestrians during many periods of the day. Castro St, one block West, has fewer pedestrians crossing and is controlled by a traffic signal, a better street to handle cross traffic. Certainly the plaza would have traffic impacts, and Castro would see more traffic. Noe is a pretty crappy cross street though, the traffic through that intersection isn't so heavy that it would destroy the neighborhood if it were diverted. I am applying the "cyclist test" - as a cyclist I need to be keenly aware of the texture of each 4 way stop. Noe is trivial compared to Church or Sanchez, which are both flatter on stretches that serve more residences.

Well, some NIMBYs decided that this is going to ruin the neighborhood. Apparently a minor inconvenience for getting to 24th Street is more important than a major enhancement to your time once you get out of your car.

Sadly - someone got a bug into planning's ear. They are considering watering the thing down to a parklet. It's unclear if the parklet would be on Noe or 24th. If it's on Noe, it's useless, you can't see the main thoroughfare from where you'd sit - just the cross traffic. While the parklet at Mojo overlooks traffic, it also overlooks the main drag.

I think this comment summed it up best...

cr said...
It's NIMVY. Not in my Noe Valley. And it's a big problem in the neighborhood. We're going to be a joke -- the first neighborhood to rally around killing one of the Pavement to Parks.

Amusing comment and response...

Tara said...
This is ridiculous. What we need in Noe Valley is more parking spaces. And the parking spaces we have now don't accommodate the vehicles that most families drive now. You expect me to haul my groceries from Whole Foods on Muni? That is an unreasonable expectation. Let's plan smartly. If people want to sit outside in a park, they can go to Dolores Park. More parking options NOW!

yizzung said...
In this case it's NIMFY's

Good point.

If people want to sit outside in a park, they can go to Dolores Park.

If people want parking garages, they can drive to SOMA...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MUNI TWU just lost my vote


Amazing. Within 24 hours I received mails from Supervisors Dufty, Elsbernd, and Union Head Irwin Lum. I'll chalk it up to avoiding hyperbole in my initial complaint, clearly stating what happened, and keeping a moderately cool head when it was actually happening. That, and I suspect all three players have a stake in what happens in the near-term with MUNI and have all hands on deck.

Response from Supervisor Elsbernd.


Thank you for sharing your experience aboard MUNI with me. No one should have such an experience on MUNI, but, unfortunately, it happens far too often.

When the signature drive kicks off next week, I will pass on the information to you as to how you can sign the petition to place the measure on the November ballot.

All the best,

Response from Irwin Lum

I apologize for the bad experience you faced due to our operators lack of understanding of the TransLink machine. While he should have looked at the reader after you swiped it the second time, it would have been obvious you had paid. I have asked one of our officers where the 48 Quintara bus line comes out of to speak and correct the operator on not being aggressive or feeling that passengers are somehow trying to take advantage and get a free ride. What happened to you was uncalled for and totally out of line. I will find out who this operator is and talk to him about his unprofessional behavior. Once again, I like to personally make a apology to you.

Update: Response from Supervisor Dufty.


I am sorry for this happening to you.

It's clear you are an informed and loyal Muni rider -- I regret that there is not more uniform understanding of Translink's features.

Your message is being shared with John Haley the new Muni COO. I have also copied Irwin Lum, President of TWU as he has helped me in the past resolve misunderstandings and conflicts between Operators and the Riding Public.

I hope we can be responsive. Mr. Haley cannot directly speak to an individual pending/possible disciplinary case but he can assure us that Operators will understand Translink features.

Keep me posted and sorry again.


Supervisor Dufty Cc'ed Irwin Lum, whom I actually did not Cc in my original mailing because I could not find his email address in less time than I was willing to spend on it.

To 311 Complaint form for SFMTA.
Cc: Sean Elsbernd, Bevan Dufty, Gavin Newsom, Irwin Lum

Situation - March 22, 6 PM. I board MUNI bus 3182. The number "170" is on an electronic sign on the front of the bus - perhaps the run number? Driver's badge number omitted but known.

I boarded the bus and tagged my translink card. The sensor beeped and the light turned green. In my haste, I tagged the card again. Per the translink on MUNI faq - " TransLink cards also have a feature that stops you from tagging more than once on the same bus or Muni Metro fare gate within a 10-minute time frame. This feature was built in to protect you from accidentally tagging and being charged twice." Because of this feature, the second tagging caused the fare reader to flash red and signal the not accepted beep. Since I had seen the green flash, I took a seat on the bus.

The driver was not closing the door nor moving the vehicle, so I looked up to see the driver looking at me. I inquired as to if he had seen the fare reader flash green. He said "It said you didn't pay, try again." I went back to the reader, and since I had already tagged on, the reader again flashed red and said "TRAVEL DENIED. CARD ALREADY PROCESSED". I looked at the driver and said "It says card already processed which means it already deducted my fare".

The driver now assumed an aggressive posture and escalated the situation by inquiring "Do I look Stupid?" While I believe the drivers should understand how the boxes work, I could understand if he simply said "The box indicates you didn't pay, you need to pay or deboard". The driver instead chose the unprofessional route. I responded that I did not think that the driver looked stupid, and he replied "Then why are you telling me I am stupid?"

I understand the need for the driver to control the bus he is running, but this is not what he was doing. The driver was utilizing his position to take power over a customer and belittle said customer. Having no desire to have an incident on the 48 nor delay the bus, I stated that I had in fact paid my fare, as can be determined by the message on the fare reader. He said "I don't make the system, I drive the bus, don't tell me about the system". While I disagreed on point that the driver should be required to understand how Translink works at this late date, I was being badgered by the driver and this was not going to be a discussion that would resolve quickly. I said to the driver - "I feel the I have paid my fare, but if it will make things simpler I will deboard the bus and walk home."

The driver again responded with an aggressive tone and said "Did I ask you to get off the bus?" Now I had been placed in a very uncomfortable position. The driver is in the position of power, and all I want to do is figure out if I should sit down or get off the bus, but the driver responded with a query clearly intended to make me uncomfortable.

I said "What should I do?" and he grunted and pointed at the seats. I sat down. I made the mistake of saying "I know you have a hard job and I am sorry it was just made more difficult". The driver then stopped the bus mid-block. I assumed this was a signal that I was being told to get off the bus, so I again said "Do you want me to get off the bus?" He again said "Did I ask you to get off the bus?"

At this point I was very unhappy with the drivers unprofessional behavior and decided that a complaint was in order. I noted the drivers badge number on his sleeve, and made the mistake of saying it to myself out loud. The driver then said "Don't forget, this is bus 3182, and you need the number on the front". I looked up and saw the 3182 and said "3182". The driver said "Write it down if your memory isn't so good, you need to make sure you get it right".

To me this was again unprofessional behavior with the driver indicating to me that he did not care if I file a complaint or not. Implied in this is that the driver knows that nothing will come of said complaint - another attempt by the driver to make the rider feel powerless.

I have been a staunch defender of MUNI, appearing at MTA meetings to make public comment against cuts to MUNI, and have been an advocate for fair salaries for the drivers who I feel work very hard. My writings on the web have been unflappable in support of MUNI. I say "Hello" to all drivers when I get on the bus, and "Thank you" when I get off the bus.

This was an extremely disappointing incident. Again, while I am concerned that the driver does not know the operation of the translink reader (which will become required for bus travel soon enough) it is the unprofessional behavior that saddens me most.

Unless I feel some sort of change, I will be supporting Supervisor Elsbernd's Amendment regarding the formula for setting MUNI driver salaries. While for me this has been an isolated incident, it gives credence to horror stories I have heard secondhand and have dismissed because of my support for a strong public transit system. While driver behavior is somewhat unrelated to the budgetary problems in the system, if the ridership has no recourse for problems like this other than opening discussions on driver compensation - so be it.

John Murphy
San Francisco

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cyclists are a "Plague of Locusts" descending upon Sausalito. Unless...

Some Sausalitans consider the cyclists who come to Sausalito to ride their bikes there to be a "Plague of Locusts" who descend upon their city.

"They're just a big pain," says Tom Mahoney, manager of the Winships Restaurant on Bridgeway, who loves the business they bring but hates the clutter.

Apparently this is not true if your name is Jens Voigt, Levi Leipheimer, or Lance Armstrong - Sausalito has proudly hosted the Amgen Tour of California four times.

"The City of Sausalito is thrilled to be hosting the Amgen Tour of California bike race for the fourth consecutive year, partnering with the Golden Gate Bridge District and the City of San Francisco in what will be an historic Stage Two of this internationally acclaimed sporting event. Join us President’s Day Weekend as the cyclists depart Sausalito and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge for the very first time. We welcome all visitors to our scenic waterfront community and promise you an unforgettable experience. "

—Mayor Amy Belser

Apparently they welcome all visitors except for "Non-professional cyclists who ride their bikes into town.

On MUNI cuts and new cyclists.

A few articles - on Streetsblog and a letter to the editor of the Chronicle have discussed the concept that people will abandon MUNI for bikes if MUNI gets worse than it already is due to cuts in service.

From the comments on Streetsblog.

"It will push SOME people to bikes, and those are typically younger men."

My reply.

"I have long since stopped being shocked by the number of women on bikes out there in SF, including many deep into the 2nd half of their lifetimes... in other words tell that to Ellen Fletcher."

I had a little dustup on my bike on Monday and was riding MUNI today. Regards bike safety - I was riding very fast and not paying attention. If I were in a car on the 101 and did the same thing I might be dead. If you are just riding along at a nominal clip and paying attention, you won't go flying over the bars after hitting a speed bump.

I might ride to Caltrain at 20 MPH. It would be pretty easy and very mellow to go at 13 MPH. MUNI's average fleet speed is 9 MPH. And you can leave on your bike when you want to.

So anyway, on MUNI today, a woman sitting next to me was chatting to a young woman behind me, who was complaining that it was taking her about an hour to get from her house to work. She takes the J from 30th/Randal to the 48, and endures a crappy connection most mornings. From that same spot, she can take Valencia to 18th to Harrison to 17th, without any real hills, and probably get to work in 15 minutes, reliably - on a bike. I was just about to turn around and say "You need a bike" when SHE said "I got a bike from my sister, but the chain jumps around, I'm hoping to get it fixed so I can do that. My mom is worried it isn't safe, but then again the 48 bus goes through the projects." I told her she would be just fine, recommended Valencia to 18th (she said someone had already turned her on to that route) and that she should check out the Bike Kitchen

Frankly if MUNI crapping out puts more people onto bikes, I suspect it will be as many women as men, or more. The men willing to take to the road on 2 wheels are already doing so - too impatient for MUNI speeds to begin with. I see more women on MUNI, at least on the routes I ride. They are about to have their patience tested by MUNI's reduced frequency.

Friday, March 12, 2010

San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Candidate Forum

I went to the D8 Supervisor Candidate Forum last night. I have more to write on it later, but they asked one brilliant question.

Went to the D8 supervisor candidate forum last night.

They asked an *awesome* question. "You have to cut $100M from the budget and you have to rank which department to cut it from, in order. Police, MUNI, Schools".

Mandelman - "Police, then I'd kill myself because I can't cut the other two." I don't like that he cheated, but the SFPD is the one department of the three not currently in freefall, so the first priority is right. If I were him, I would have pulled a coin out of my pocket, flipped it, denoted the preference of the coin, and said "If you elect me, I will work very hard to make sure I don't have to flip any coins".

Hemenger - Schools, Police, MUNI. "Because there are private schools and they are a good substitute". He just forfeited the election (IMHO) - the forum was being held at Alvarado Elementary which is full of people who are extremely commited to PUBLIC education. It's gaffe in and of itself (and a bad policy choice) but the worst part is in an earlier question about schools he gave a sob story about 3 neighbors who had to sell their houses in the depths of the market because they had to move due to their children not getting a "good" school in the lottery. If Private school were such a great option, why did they move, and why does he care?

Prozan - MUNI/Schools/Police. NEXT.

Weiner - Another politician who copped out. 50/50 Police and Schools, not MUNI. Cuz he love love loves MUNI. Of course, earlier he said he does not support extending parking meter hours (the revenue from which would go to MUNI). Gavin HATES extending the hours. The MTA first brought up the idea based on a study they did, it was going to be in the budget, and Gavin sat on Nat Ford until he pulled it out. But the MUNI budget problem has gotten worse, and when Gavin negotiated concessions from the driver's union leadership, the rank and file voted down the concessions! So with no more options to turn to, Ford has fallen in line with the advocates and says he will include meter hour extensions in the July 1 budget. Ford is getting massive pressure not to extend the meter hours and he's still doing it because he can't find another option, yet Weiner still sides with the Mayor, despite him saying MUNI is his top concern. Apparently it's his top concern excluding free parking - the crazy part being MUNI's study clearly indicates that meter extensions are GOOD for businesses in those commercial districts. Cop out pander bear.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunday Streets Critical Mass

The First Sunday Streets is this Sunday on the Embarcadero. We have a "Chariot" trailer and I'd like to tool around with our son. Sad but true my first instinct was "I'll ride over there with the trailer, you bring him on MUNI". I'd certainly think driving the car with bikes/trailer would be an exercise in futility with respect to parking, and sort of against the whole concept.

What I really want to do is just ride to the event! It's only a couple of miles, and pretty much a straight shot down Market. Certainly no more difficult a commute than I take every day. I admit I feel some of the trepidation the haters throw out there despite this being a trivial route compared to my daily commute. So I'd like to invite any and all to join me at 11 AM in Noe Valley to ride en masse to the Embarcadero. RSVP.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stupid VTA Bus trick.

Comment sent to Valley Transportation Agency, March 5, 2010.

While riding my bike at 9:55 AM North on Sunnyvale/Saratoga at 20+ MPH (confirmed by my GPS log), bus 2011 running route 55 merged unsafely into the bike lane to approach a bus stop. CVC 21209 allows for motorized vehicles to cross bike lanes to leave the roadway (that seems to apply here) but the vehicle must merge into that lane safely, no different than a car lane.

In this instance, I was forced to veer out of the bike lane, across the right hand travel lane and into the left hand travel lane in order to avoid a collision with the back end of the bus. Had another vehicle been in the left hand travel lane I would have been in great danger. I had to make this maneuver quickly and at high speed for a bicycle.

This was very distressing - what is more distressing is that even after I indicated my displeasure with a (non-threatening, non-obscene) hand gesture to the driver (a gesture acknowledged by the driver), the bus driver did the EXACT SAME THING one block later!

I send this not only as a cyclist but also as someone who pays money every month for a transit pass to use your system, taking the 60 bus from Santa Clara Transit Center to work. While VTA is unable to provide a high frequency of service, I have found the scheduled service to be extremely reliable, the buses clean, the ride pleasant. Until today I found the drivers to be very professionals and unimpeachable - especially compared to their counterparts in San Francisco. I find myself more disappointed than I am angry.

I'll try not to chalk this one up to malice, instead hoping it is simply a matter of a lack of education on how to operate on roads with a bike lane.

Thank You

John Murphy - San Francisco, Ca

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stupid Fixie tricks.

Tuesday AM. Riding down 25th St towards 22nd St Caltrain.
At the four way stop at Capp, I stop (ok, slow way way down) to let
a truck clear the intersection coming from the left. Out of the corner of
my eye I spot something and my spidey senses go off as I roll into the
intersection after the truck clears, and veer/brake to avoid hitting a guy
on a fixie who followed the truck into the intersection.

I slid past him and muttered "we almost had a little dustup there buddy".

He apologized and I said "No harm, no foul, I spotted you tailing that truck".

He said "That's what the orange rims are for" and headed right on Folsom.

I made a mental note "Orange Deep V rims == ALERT! I DON'T KNOW HOW TO RIDE MY BIKE"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Morons, Assholes, and Cowards.

A series of stupid driver tricks.

1: The Moron
A few weeks back headed South on Harrison, a road with a heavily traveled bike lane, a car turned left in front of me to enter the parking garage of their apartment. I sort of saw this coming (at least he had his turn signal on so I prepared for evasive maneuvers. As I swerved by, I heard his little yippie dog barking at a little yippie dog being walked down the sidewalk. I let out a little yip of my own, annoying the dog and the driver. He yelled at me, I yelled back, he got out, I stopped.

He asked why I was barking at his dog. I pointed out that if I was barking at his dog while riding past him going South, that was a pretty clear indication he had failed to yield to oncoming traffic. He said "I'm very sorry about that. Call me an asshole, don't bark at my dog". I said, "You know, you're right. My bad." This calmed us both down and I said "Look, you live here, you know this is a heavily trafficked bike lane - if you can't drive properly with your dog in the front seat, leave the dog at home." He pointed out that he had taken the dog to the Vet. I thought about this and said "Here lies John Murphy. The other guy had to take his dog to the vet. Look, I have a dog, I know how it goes, your dog was aggrieved by the other dog. At least roll the window up, or ignore your dog." We shook hands, parted ways, and I muttered "How many people would that guy kill if he had to drive with a kid in the backseat".

2: The Asshole
Yesterday, crossing Millbrae Ave. Millbrae sucks. There are three lanes of traffic across the freeway, the right two lanes are both exits onto 101, first Southbound and then Northbound. My strategy - take the far left lane, which is usually unoccupied because the only place it goes is the back bowels of SFO and a couple of hotels. Well, one of the guys working in the back bowels of SFO got caught behind me, and since he was in such a rush he decided to slow down as he passed me on the right and mutter something about the speed limit. I yelled back something about "FAT explitive RAIDER FAN". Of course, as always, he got caught at the next red light and I arrived so we could have a chat. He took issue with me calling him fat (apparently he is well aware the Raiders suck and wasn't going to start throwing that around). I said, "look, maybe I 'overreacted' but you are harrassing me instead of driving your car, I need to get to work too (I neglected to mention that I work 35 miles South of where our conversation was occuring). 99% of the time nobody is in the left lane except for some asshole trying to cut into the freeway line, otherwise I am in the way of 200 people going onto the freeway drinking their lattes on the way to some dot com job. 1% of the time I block someone working in the back lots of the airport and I expect those guys know how to drive a car, know what I mean?

He got my point but we sort of agreed to disagree. At least I know where I stand. I don't like it, but I know where I stand.

3: The Coward
This AM. It's pouring rain like crazy. I'm unhappy with the braking on my new Redline, not sure if it's the Avid brakes or the pads are worn/hard, but I don't have crisp braking on dry days, let alone wet days. So the downhill out of the upper reaches of Noe Valley is a bit dicey. I have almost reached the bottom, going down 19th towards Diamond. I am taking it super slow because there are 2 cars in line at the 4 way stop at Diamond, and 6 in line at the 4 way stop at Collingwood a block ahead. No hurry. As the last car clears the stop at Diamond, the car behind me accellerates past me to the stop sign, forcing me into the parked cars. What the hell. Now he rolls the stop sign because he really NEEDS to get past the slow cyclist - amusing because I was going the exact same speed in those conditions that I would be going if I were in a *car* .

I start to yell at him and came this close to the best Schadenfreude ever. As he accellerated through the stop sign to clear me, a car on the other side of the stop sign pulled out from a parking spot - you see he was pulling this crazy ass maneuver in front of a school!!! He slammed on his brakes and missed making a Mercedes/Prius casserole by about 3 inches.

So now this jerkwad is in a line of 6 cars waiting for a 4 way stop, giving me plenty of opportunity to spew invective.


Traffic was backed up all the way to Castro, so this little charade continued for two blocks. At no point did he even shoot me a nonplussed glance. Strangely, the same guy who was unable to focus on traffic to spot a car coming out of a parking spot as he accellerated through a stop sign, was now laser focused on the 5 cars stopped in front of him.

If you are going to be an asshole, at least take credit for it, dude.

Holier Than You SF to Marin transit advice

Cush is Holier Than You because today is his second day in California, and he's already tackling an 80 mile trip in the rain through at least three transit agencies across four counties on public transportation and a bike.

Cush, a well dressed young man with a BMX bike, obviously looks lost at San Jose Diridon Station this morning when he asks me which train to catch to San Francisco.

"Follow me," I say, and we board the northbound Caltrain bike car at Platform #3.

Cush is visiting from Brooklyn and is headed for a job interview in Fairfax, CA, all the way up in Marin County. All he has on him is a low detail map of the entire Bay Area. It's the kind of map showing the Interstates, where Santa Clara is a dot on the page and the city of San Francisco is a square less then seven centimeters across.

I call up the guy I know with in depth knowledge of public transportation throughout the Bay Area: Murph himself. It's somewhat early so maybe this Eagle Scout hasn't done his Good Turn Daily yet. Murph doesn't disappoint.

From 4th and King, Murph tells Cush to bike the few blocks to 7th and Folsom. There's a bus shelter there where he can catch the green Golden Gate Transit bus to San Rafael -- either routes 70, 71, 80 or 101 will get Cush to San Rafael. From the San Rafael transit center, the #23 bus runs every half hour to Fairfax.

It occurs to me that we could also use 511, so I tell Cush about the Bay Area transportation information service. He dials 511 on his cell phone, goes through the IVR menu, reaches a human at Golden Gate Transit, who tells him 7th & Folsom, GGT 101 to San Rafael, then take the #23 to Fairfax.