Bernal Dads Build Muni Race Car to Speed Up Public Transit

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There’s been a lot of controversy lately about new schemes to improve the quality of our local public transit service. Some say we need to make Muni faster, so buses become more attractive to would-be riders. Others say we need to respect automobile drivers, for whom the car is still an essential way to get around. Both approaches have pros and cons, but when those petroleum-huffing papas from the Bernal Dads Racing Team looked at the problem, they saw an opportunity to deliver a big win-win for both transit riders and motorists.

The Dads started by taking a family-friendly car, and turning it into a bus. Then, to hasten the commute, they added horsepower — lots and lots of horsepower. The result is what you see here: A 1992 Volvo 240 station wagon that’s been repowered with a higher-output BMW M52 engine and converted into a Muni bus.

Say hello to Bus 670, Muni’s first public transit race car.

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Designed to upgrade the quality of service on Muni’s existing 67 Bernal Heights Line, Bus 670 was built to provide super-express service between Bernal Heights and downtown San Francisco. Before entering regular service, however, the Bernal Dads took the vehicle to Thunderhill Raceway last weekend to conduct high-speed endurance testing under live race conditions in a 24 Hours of LeMons competition.

At first, the judges at 24 Hours of LeMons judges expressed some concern about the authenticity of Bus 670 because, they said, it did not sufficiently reek of piss, vomit, or feces. Nevertheless they determined that all of the vehicle’ safety equipment was in order, including the rear-facing “Stop Requested” sign that engages in tandem with the rear brake lights.

When the green flag came out, Bus 670 quickly validated its basic design concept. With the BMW motor installed where an anemic Volvo engine used to sit, Bus 670  became a formidable competitor in heavy traffic — with no “red carpets” required:

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However, in classic Muni style, Bus 670 did experience some teething pains. After about  two hours on the track, the clutch failed. Bus 670 was returned to the yard, and a team of ace mechanics quickly set to work on repairs.

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Eight hours (and a complete engine removal and reinstallation) later, Bus 670 was ready to return to duty:

With the new clutch in place, 670 performed flawlessly during seven continuous hours of express service on Sunday:

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Of course, like the signs say, your picture and voice may be recorded on any contemporary Muni vehicle, and Bus 670 is no exception. Here’s a 360 Video of your Bernalwood editor taking a lap around the track:

… and this video gives a sense of how nimble Bus 670 can be in brutal traffic:

All told, this trial run of Bus 670 was a huge success.

The Bernal Dads Racing Team estimates Bus 670 has the potential to transport commuters from Pinhole Coffee on Cortland Avenue to the Ferry Building downtown in five minutes or less with limited-access traffic controls. To verify this, the Bernal Dads look forward to strapping SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin into the rear passenger compartment for a high-speed proving run.  Just remember our motto, Mr. Reiskin: “Information gladly given, but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation.”

Welcome aboard!

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Wheel Thefts Leave Bernal Cars Stranded on Blocks

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This week, Bernal neighbors are reporting a mini-wave of property crimes involving the theft of wheels from late-model cars. Three such incidents are now confirmed. Neighbor Brian was a victim:

I found my car up on blocks with the wheels stolen on April 16. I wondered if you’ve heard other reports of this. I’ve filed a police report but haven’t spoken with a detective yet. My car was parked on Eugenia @ Elsie.

Yuck. And yes, we are hearing other reports of this. Neighbor Peter says:

There seems to be a rash of car wheel thefts happening in Bernal Heights. I woke to a neighbor in front of my house yesterday with one wheel missing from her car. She seemed really bummed about it. I then saw several postings on Nextdoor from Bernal folks who have had not one but two wheels stolen off their cars in the past few days. I think people should be on the lookout for this crappy new form of crime in Bernal Heights.

The one I saw outside my house yesterday was on the 300 block of Coleridge, between Cortland and Kingston Sts. It makes you wonder what the total number might actually be.

The grey BMW is on the 400 Block of Eugenia, the red Hyundai is on the 300 block of Franconia.

In the case of the grey BMW and the red Hyundai, both wheels from one side of the car were taken; the wheels on the other side were left in place.

UPDATE: That sad red Hyundai belongs to Neighbor Sarah, who tells us how it took a village for her to get back on the road:

I saw my poor red Hyundai on your story about stolen wheels. She’s all fixed now, with new wheels and tires, and LOCKING lug nuts on all wheels. Deciding if I should get new hubcaps for the new tires or not.

And to add insult to injury, my battery died this morning and the car wouldn’t start. AAA to the rescue again!

Thanks to all the Franconia and Samoset St. neighbors who came up to me as I stood next to my disabled car on the phone and offered kind words and support, and for looking through camera footage. To Mission Tires for quickly getting me some new hoops, rotating the tires, and putting the locking lug nuts on the older wheels. My housemate Kelly for letting me borrow her car so I could go to O’Reilly’s for lug nuts, and the O’Reilly’s staff for listening to my sob story. My friend Molly for driving me to and from Mission Tires, and helping me unload them. And AAA for *all* the roadside assistance.

Hoping for better car-ma soon for all Bernalese!

Best,

Sarah on Samoset

PHOTOS: via Neighbor Peter

Undo: Two-Lane San Jose Ave. Freeway Exit Will Be Restored

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Well, the great San Jose Avenue Traffic Calming Experiment has officially been declared an abject failure. The effort to slow traffic along San Jose Avenue by reducing the exit to San Jose Avenue from I-280 northbound from two lanes to one instead succeeded mainly in causing epic traffic backups along I-280 and  more motor vehicle accidents. Oopsie!

In addition, the scheme created additional sadness and delay in South Bernal and St. Mary’s, so now the exit will return to its original two-lane configuration. The Glen Park Association reports:

The 280 freeway offramp to San Jose Avenue will return to a two-lane configuration, owing to a high number of accidents following an experiment to slow traffic by narrowing it.

Seven accidents were recorded on the offramp between June and November, 2015, after engineers reconfigured the two exit lanes to merge into one lane just before the Monterey Street underpass. The offramp reconfiguration was the second phase of the Northbound San Jose Avenue & I-280 Off-Ramp Road Diet Pilot Project, which was intended to slow traffic on San Jose Avenue south of Randall.

In Phase I of that project, San Jose Avenue itself was reduced from three lanes to two. When that measure did not slow traffic, Phase II was implemented, and the offramp was reduced from two lanes to two lanes merging to one.

Since Phase II also failed to reduce speeds and reduce traffic volumes but did increase the number of accidents, Caltrans has decided to return the offramp to its original state. The road is scheduled to be re-paved in May, then re-striped.

If the goal is to reduce speeds along San Jose Avenue, some armchair traffic engineers in Bernal-Glen have a few good ideas about how to accomplish that.

Help a Bernal Artist Find the Art That Was Stolen With Her Car

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You might remember Neighbor Carrie Ann Plank; she played a starring role last April’s post about Bernal Heights artists at the Hunter’s Point Shipyard. Well, Neighbor Carrie Ann’s car was stolen on Saturday night, and some of her art was in it.  Grrrrrrrr.

She tells Bernalwood:

My car was stolen from in front of the house last night over on Bronte. I’m an artist, and unfortunately, several pieces of valuable artwork were inside the car.

Car thieves probably are not interested in art pieces, so I’m hoping they were dumped somewhere nearby. Can we put out a call to my fellow Bernal dwellers in case anyone sees them? I’m desperately hoping my good neighbors have some information that may lead to recovery! Additionally, I’m the artist in residence currently at Bullseye Glass and all of my notes and sketches were in the trunk. Would love to get those back too!

Fingers crossed! Thank you for the assist in getting the word out.

Here are the details:
2007 graphite Prius with a carseat, and here’s a few images of the missing work:

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Mayhem Strikes as Thief Crashes Stolen Car on Mullen

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Grrrrr. Neighbor Peter did some excellent reporting on the scene yesterday after a stolen Honda Accord crashed into a several parked vehicles on Mullen:

A bit of news from Santana Rancho today. I didn’t witness it happen, but heard a loud crash at around 1pm (ish) and ran outside to check it out. Pictures below of what I found on Mullen at Franconia.

A Honda Accord slammed into a Saab then careened into and on top of a Mini Cooper. The 2 witnesses I spoke to said the driver fled the scene on foot north down the Franconia stairs towards Peralta, then headed east on Peralta.

The police were on the scene pretty quickly and seemed to get a somewhat decent description of the suspect from witnesses. They confirmed that the car was stolen. Also, the police were then pointed to a few belongings that the suspect may have dropped on the Franconia stairs while fleeing – a couple of flashlights and a pretty large folding knife.

All in all, pretty startling, since he must’ve been driving pretty fast to cause such an acciden. All are lucky that no bystanders were hurt. Unfortunately, the two cars that got hit were in pretty rough shape though.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Peter

What the Hell Happened on Manchester Street?

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Six cars parked along the steep upper reaches of Manchester Street were damaged last night on Friday in a kinetic accident that caused several cars to pancake together. Ouch.

The incident happened on the steep, dead-end block of Manchester below Bernal Hill, just south of Stoneman. Neighbor Simon broke the story via an email to Bernalwood:

Returning home from a weekend away to find the evidence of some dramatic event on Manchester above Stoneman. Half a dozen cars are smashed up and pushed into each other like dominoes. Runaway car? Angry drunk? Malicious joy-riders? WTF?!?

Incredulous, we dispatched the floodlight-equipped Bernalwood Action News Jeep to the scene on Sunday night to investigate.

The basic facts checked out instantly. Someone or something drove down the wrong side of Manchester. Along the way, he/she/it glanced off a Subaru Forester, damaging the rear quarter and peeling off much of the bumper. They then slammed into an Acura, doing extensive damage to the front end, before hitting a Saturn SUV and triggering a domino effect with three more adjacent cars.

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Very, very unpleasant.

Oddly, the scene was eerily quiet when Bernalwood visited at about 10:30 last night. No neighbors. No police. Just lots of silence, broken cars, and shattered glass. Neighbor Sam was equally baffled:

While attempting to park this evening, I saw all this up at the top of Manchester: Cars hit by something and knocked around like playthings… Strangely there were no neighbors milling about (so maybe happened earlier??), but neither had there been a call to the police (I phoned it in on the non emergency line). A mystery… or Cloverfield 2?

Based on our preliminary observations, Bernalwood is going with the Cloverfield hypothesis. We will update this story as further information becomes available.

UPDATE 8:56 AM Neighbor Arwen writes in with the executive summary and useful reminder:

The Manchester drama actually happened on Friday night 🙂 Someone was apparently looking for parking, didn’t find a spot and started to back down but lost control. Eek! Fortunately the driver was not hurt and no one was in the cars, but as you can see, there was quite a lot of damage… The insurance assessors can’t come until Monday (today) so pretty much everyone left things as is.

While I’m writing you, I’ll make a PSA about curbing wheels. A similar accident happened a few years ago–someone pulled up on the other side of the street (no parking there), forgot to curb his wheels, and went inside a house. The emergency brake gave way and the car careened down the street, totalling 5 or 6 cars! So, always curb your wheels! And be careful backing down…

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

En Route to Washington, Badass Bernal Racecar Generates Panic In Oregon

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As you know, America’s Most Badass Volvo Station Wagon is a proud resident of Bernal Heights.

Driven competitively by the Bernal Dads Racing Team in the 24 Hours of LeMons racing series, “The Whale” is currently en route from Bernal Heights to scenic Shelton, Washington to compete in a weekend race at The Ridge Motorsports Park.

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Yesterday, as Neighbor Stephan dragged The Whale into Oregon for the first time, Bernalwood received unconfirmed reports that Oregon governor Kate Brown had ordered the distribution of mandatory tetanus shot boosters for all residents of the Beaver State:

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Now on its third engine, second transmission, third hood, fourth bumper, third pair of front fenders, second electrical system, and second windshield, The Whale will roll at The Ridge this weekend to bring honor and glory to all the peoples of Bernal Heights.  Maybe.

If you’d like to keep track of the spectacle, follow Bernal Dads Racing on Facebook for photos and updates.

PHOTOS: Bernal Dads Racing

Competing Petitions Disagree on New Lane Reduction in Bernal Cut

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Neighbor Chris from St. Mary’s recently wrote Bernalwood to say:

Wondering what you think about the new San Jose Ave exit on 280. It’s like a pinball machine there now, even on off commute hours. Two exit lanes still exit, but now they merge into 1 within 100 feet, and it’s always backed up way before the underpass so you also have to stop suddenly. I get that the car culture needs to change, but it has to happen subtly. My girlfriend found the person at MTA responsible for the new configuration and let him have it.

It’s true; traffic patterns northbound through the Bernal Cut have changed, and there have been multiple big accidents there as a result. Meanwhile, it seems Neighbor Chris’s concerns are not uncommon, because Streetsblog reports

The redesign of San Jose Avenue took a step forward a month ago when Caltrans removed a traffic lane on a Highway 280 off-ramp leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut. The plan is the result of decades of neighborhood advocacy for safer streets, but it is running into opposition from motorists who won’t stand for the road diet.

Supporters and opponents of the project are duking it out with online petitions, both launched a month ago. The opposition’s petition currently has a lead on the supporters’ petition. The SFMTA hasn’t released the results from its survey from last fall.

On the bright side, no matter which side of this issue you agree with, there’s a petition you can sign.

PHOTO: I-280 at San Jose Accident, June 19, 2005, by Neighbor Jeremy Ambers

SUV Burns In Dramatic Fireball on 101 Above Cortland

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So far it it seems this was just a routine car fire, which means the occupants had time to escape before the vehicle engulfed itself in a dramatic fireball. But some Bernal residents definitely saw the dramatic fireball when a car caught fire on 101 south just above the Cortland overpass, and it was extremely dramatic.

Neighbor Rally brilliantly self-deputized himself as a reporter for the Bernalwood Action News Team, and he sprang into action with a live uplink from the scene:

HOLY CRAP is right.

But before long the fire department arrived, and the flames were extinguished:

Great reporting, Neighbor Rally! This seems a good time for a public service safety reminder.

Decades ago, during the Reign of Reagan, your Bernalwood editor watched helplessly as his first car immolated itself in a dramatic fireball on the side of a cold urban freeway.

Today, your Bernalwood editor always carries a small fire extinguisher inside the vehicle. Car fires typically start small, so they’re very easy to put out quickly — if you have a fire extinguisher handy. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher handy, you end up with a spectacle like this within about 3 minutes. (Important Life-Lesson I Learned: Big Gulp-sized fountain drinks DO NOT function well as a fire retardant.) Dramatic! Get a fire extinguisher.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Rally

Bernal Neighbor Has Video of His Own Car Being Stolen

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Neighbor John’s car was stolen last week, and he has security camera footage that shows how the thieves did the deed:

My neighbor recorded some nice video of my old Honda Civic being stolen the other night at the corner of Bonview and Coso/Stoneman.

This may just serve as a warning to people in the neighborhood. You can see the thieves checking very carefully for hidden keys in the wheel-wells. Doing that is a great way to give thieves easy entry. I didn’t do that, but it does seem that these guys knew some kind of trick to get around my anti-theft setup.

My car’s license plate is 3TQT217 on the off-chance someone might see it. I suspect they might have wanted it for parts. The body is pretty beaten up.

Here’s the video:

Cupid Blamed for Weird Car Crash on Bernal Summit

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Ah, the things we do for love.

You no doubt recall that weird incident earlier this week which saw a car crash into a guard rail near the summit of Bernal Hill beyond the access road gate. And then, of course, the driver of the vehicle declared he was Steve Jobs.

Well it turns out the whole thing was a romantic interlude that went horribly, terribly, insanely, stupidly wrong. So someone at SFPD’ Ingleside station had a lot of fun writing it up in the station’s normally staid crime newsletter:

Incident Date:
Monday, March 16th, 2015

Arrests:
7:20am  Bernal Heights/Anderson Vandalism
The third time was not a charm for two young lovers who wanted to park in a spot with a view of the City. The man and woman decided to consummate their feelings by the Bernal Heights radio tower. However, the road to the tower is protected by a gate thwarting their amorous plans, but only for a short minute. The lovers decided that no gate was going to prevent a wonderful morning so the two, in their Honda Civic, rammed the gate to gain entrance. But the gate didn’t break. So, they backed up and hit the gate a second time and again the gate held tight. The third time, they backed up even farther, and successfully broke open the gate, before speeding up the access road to the top of the hill. All the noise alerted nearby residents and dog walkers who promptly called police. Ingleside Officers Wong and Chang responded and found the couple, and their severely damaged Honda, parked near the radio towers. Both were put in custody and the driver, who didn’t have a valid California license or insurance, was booked for trespassing, vandalism, malicious mischief, and other charges. Report number: 150233507

Further proof: Bernal Heights is for lovers.

PHOTO: Car crashed on Bernal Hill, March 16, 2015, by Neighbor Devon

Vehicle Crashes in Closed Area of Bernal Hill Summit, Suspects Detained

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Reports are just coming in, but Neighbor Devon shared this [strangely beautiful] photo of an automobile crash at the very summit of Bernal Hill this morning, above the barrier gate near Sutrito Tower:

I’m not sure how they got through the barrier. I was near the top and witnessed it from 20ft away on the other side of the barrier. The drivers were speeding up the service road and crashed near the bench. The driver told me not to call the cops, and said he was Steve Jobs. They fled into the cellular tower gate. The suspects were in police custody when I left.

@bernaljournal (who is not the same as the Bernal Journal newspaper) reports that the perps apparently went Dukes of Hazzard through the gate:

Tonight: Bernal Dads Star as Crash Test Dummies on BBC’s “Mud, Sweat and Gears”

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If you’re a fan of the astonishingly popular BBC car show Top Gear, you probably know that Jeremy Clarkson, one of the presenters of the show, was suspended last week for getting into a scuffle with one of the Top Gear producers. And while Jeremy Clarkson is suspended, Top Gear is off the air.

This has created a unique celebrity opportunity for two Bernal Heights residents affiliated with the Bernal Dads Racing team. Many months ago, BBC America came looking for two crash-test dummies volunteers to participate in the filming of a pilot episode for a new TV show. The Bernal Dads – Neighbor Mason Kirby from Mullen and Neighbor Robert Freedman of Elsie – foolishly offered to participate.

Even more foolishly, the BBC signed them up to be in the show, which is called (… wait for it…) Mud, Sweat, and Gears.

Here’s how Variety describes it:

BBC America has given the green light to the new vehicle transformation series “Mud, Sweat and Gears,” hosted by UK car journos Tom ‘Wookie’ Ford and Jonny Smith. The hour-long spot will be produced by BBC Worldwide Productions for BBC America and BBC Worldwide’s new Brit channel.

In each of the eight unscripted episodes, daredevils Ford and Smith both captain a team of two fellow car enthusiasts and are given 24 hours to mutate, supersize or reconstruct ordinary vehicles to compete in stunt challenges.

Anyway, for the last few weeks,  Mud, Sweat, and Gears has aired immediately after Top Gear on BBC America. And tonight, the episode that stars Neighbor Mason and Neighbor Rob is finally set to air.

But with Jeremy Clarkson still in the dock and Top Gear on hiatus, this might be just the opportunity these two dashing Bernal Dads need to fill the void that now exists in our Top Gear-starved planet:

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The show airs tonight, March 16 on BBC America at 10 pm.

Here’s a preview. Neighbor Mason and Neighbor Rob ended up driving a mutant gold Pontiac Aztec, and apparently, they’re not very good at opening the doors: