Cyclists Boycott Businesses Seeking Removal of Bernal Bike-Share Station

The new bike share station on 29th Street (Photo: Telstar Logistics)

An effort by some merchants along Mission Street in Bernal Heights to seek the immediate removal of the new bike share station on 29th Street triggered a strong response from San Francisco bicyclists, with some cyclists saying they plan to avoid businesses that oppose the bike share program.

Last week, San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez broke the story that the MIssion-Bernal Merchants Association (MBMA) asked the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to immediately remove a new Ford Go-Bike bike share station installed in front of the UPS Store at 60 29th Street between Tiffany and Mission.

In addition, Bernalwood has confirmed MBMA also raised concerns about the new bike-share stations on Valencia at Cesar Chavez and in Precita Park, as all three stations fall within MBMA’s membership “blueprint area.”

MBMA says they weren’t properly notified about the installation of the new bike-share stations, with most merchants only learning about them when notices went up a few days before station installation began.

At least one other Bernal neighborhood organization echoes the complaint about notification. Despite appearing in Ford GoBike’s Outreach Report  as one of the program’s “Planning and Community Partners,” Demece Garepis of the Precita Valley Neighbors says her group had to reach out proactively last January to get information about the bike share program and discuss preferred station locations around Precita Park. After some brief exchanges with bike-share coordinators, Precita Valley Neighbors then heard nothing until July, when an email notification arrived the day before the new Precita Park bike share station was installed. “Above all the pros or cons and real concerns, a day in advance is not reasonable notification,” Garepis says.

Community notification requirements for the creation of bike share stations were established by SFMTA and codified in vendor Motivate/Ford GoBike’s contract with the City. In addition to soliciting public feedback online, during workshops, and in community meetings, each potential bike share station location is also subjected to a traffic engineering analysis to ensure it meets safety standards.

On 29th Street, MBMA says the new bike share station creates a safety hazard by compounding congestion problems along the busy 29th Street corridor, where the existing UPS store and adjacent STEMful learning center generate significant amounts of vehicular pick-up and drop-off activity.

Apart from the struggles caused by the 2016 Cole Hardware Fire, the arrival of the bike share stations has compounded Mission Street merchants’ frustrations with the establishment of an express “red carpet” lane for Muni buses and months of disruption caused by the streetscape construction along Valencia between Mission and Cesar Chavez

In a statement sent to Bernalwood, MBMA president Eden Stein and co-coordinator Ani Rivera said:

MBMA’s request to SFMTA is to immediately remove/suspend the Ford Bike Share Program on 29th Street and a comprehensive analysis (study and survey) to be conducted to determine if the program is suitable, desired and safe in any future identified locations.  In addition, we also request that SFMTA include in its outreach MBMA’s input when decisions and designs are being made that will affect any aspect of the MBMA corridor.

According to the Examiner, Kevin Cline, an MBMA member and owner of the Rock Bar and The Front Porch on 29th Street, also told SFMTA that the 29th Street bike share station should be removed immediately.

Cline tells Bernalwood the arrival of the bike share station had changed traffic patterns on the street. “I’m not a virulent anti-bike share person, but it would have been nice if they consulted the businesses that are right there,” he says.

Cline says there were curbside meters in front of the UPS Store before the bike share station was installed, including a 10 minute-only green meter zone, but parking turnover was frequent. Now, he says, UPS trucks and customers double-park because they can no longer park in front of the store legally.

“I would love [bike share vendor] Motivate to join us at a merchants meeting to discuss this,” says Cline, who has co-owned The Front Porch for 11 years and lives a few blocks east on 29th Street. “When I opened my business, I had to reach out to all my neighbors, and I had to change some things. That’s what being a good merchant is about.”

Reaction to MBMA’s efforts to remove the bike share stations has been intense, both on Bernalwood and elsewhere. In response to bike share opposition, some cyclists say they will likely avoid going to Rock Bar and The Front Porch, and any other merchants that seek to have bike share stations removed.

Cyclist Kevin Flaherty says he’s only rarely decided to boycott anything, but he’s considering it now. “I’m not promoting a backlash, but I’m not particularly fond of giving material support to a group that is against reducing parking and undermining a system I depend upon.” said Flaherty, 41, who grew up in the Sunset and now lives in the Mission. Flaherty adds he’d previously visited Rock Bar three or four times.

David Gouldin, a cyclist who lives near Dolores Park, points to SFMTA surveys that show merchants may over-estimate how many of their customers arrive by car, so they complain when parking spaces are converted to other uses. He adds that City officials and Motivate/Ford GoBike held many neighborhood workshops and information sessions about the bike share program, so “when a business like Rock Bar or Front Porch opposes bike share, after years of planning and public meetings, that’s ridiculous. I don’t want to give my money to a business like that. I hope other cyclists will consider doing the same.”

While stopping short of a boycott, cyclist Brian Coyne from The Mission says it’s a “jerk move” when businesses oppose bike share, and that such efforts influence perceptions of local merchants and neighborhood organizations. He says having to accept other people’s amenities in public space is just part of city life. “For example, I don’t own a car,”  he says, “but the streetspace directly in front of my house is public car parking.”

“As someone who loves the food at the Front Porch, I’m disappointed in the owners for taking this line,” Coyne says.

Kevin Cline from The Front Porch and Rock Bar says he has “real concerns” about the possibility of a boycott. “We’re only in business because we take care to listen to our customers,”  he says. “Obviously, I don’t want anyone to avoid my restaurant because I worry about their safety while crossing the street.”

Cline adds that while he thinks the 29th Street bike share station should be removed, he would accept another one nearby. “It’s not like I don’t want them in my back yard,” he says. “I wouldn’t mind if they were closer to my back yard! But I don’t think the current location is a good one.”

Cyclist Brian Coyne says he understands that the transition to alternative modes of transportation is awkward — though he expects that the initial friction will eventually fade. “Bike share isn’t for everyone,” he says,  “But it’s clearly the best transportation option for some people, and I think all of us, whether we own businesses or not, ought to accept that some public space will be used for it.”

New Stop Signs Coming to Eastern Side of Bernal Hill

Locations of new stop signs (Source Bernalwood)

As part of a long-planned effort to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety on the eastern side of Bernal Hill, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is preparing to install new stop signs on Bernal Heights Boulevard, near the Vista Pointe Garden mini-park. The signs may be installed this week.

SFMTA transportation planner Patrick Golier explains:

In 2015 staff at the SFMTA legislated three stop signs and one additional crosswalk at the intersection of Bernal Heights Blvd and Carver Street. The intersection will be an all-way stop controlled intersection, and two curb bulbs will be constructed to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians. The new crosswalk will be installed across the southbound approach of Bernal Heights Blvd, west of Bradford Street and north of Carver Street. The other existing crosswalk will be striped with high visibility crossing treatments.

We had been waiting to install the stop signs until after the curb bulb construction since the signs will ultimately be located on the curb bulbs. However we can install them in the short-term and move them once the bulbs are constructed.

In an update, SFMTA’s Golier adds that the new stop signs may be installed as soon as Tuesday, Aug. 22.

Hat Tip: Janet Kessler

Bernal Merchant Seeks Immediate Removal of 29th Street Bikeshare Station

The San Francisco Examiner reports that the Mission-Bernal Merchants Association is protesting the installation of a bikeshare station on 29th Street:

In June, Ford GoBike launched its newest expansion, providing 3,500 blue bikes available to be rented, or “shared,” by smartphone app. That expansion was met with opposition from neighbors and merchants near Mission District’s 24th Street in community meetings.

At the SFMTA meeting on Tuesday, Ani Rivera, director of Galería De La Raza and a co-coordinator at the Mission Bernal Merchants Association, decried the lack of outreach on the part of Motivate, which administers Ford GoBike.

Kevin Cline, an owner of both Rock Bar and The Front Porch in San Francisco, said a Ford GoBike kiosk near his restaurant on 29th Street prompted drivers to increasingly double park.

“We’re not entirely against bikeshare programs,” he told the SFMTA board. “I do resent a complete lack of outreach. I didn’t get a letter or phone call.”

Cline requested the kiosk “be removed immediately until Ford makes an effort to reach out.”

What’s Up With That Weird Construction Project on Bernal Heights Boulevard?

There’ve been many questions and much speculation about the big construction project that’s gobbled up a whole lane of Bernal Heights Boulevard on the north side of Bernal Hill. It’s quite a scene:

The presence of several stainless steel vats on the job site has led some to surmise that, as part of this Golden Age for Beer in Bernal Heights, a new microbrewery is under construction there, with skyline views that will pair nicely with a full-bodied IPA. The frosty mist emanating from a pipe has caused others to wonder if the site will become a pop-up location for one of those trendy, liquid-nitrogen ice cream stands, like that popular place in Japantown.

Suffice to say, such rumors are false and unfounded. Instead, the project on Bernal Heights Boulevard is part of a PG&E effort to reposition a high-voltage electric transmission line that’s buried under the street.

Neighbor Sam wrote about this process a few years ago after spotting a similar operation underway in Los Angeles. Here’s his basic explanation:

It turns out they have a problem with an underground wire. Not just any wire but a 230 KV, many-hundred-amp, 10 mile long coax cable. […]

The cable consists of a copper center conductor living inside a 16 inch diameter pipe filled with a pressurized oil dielectric. Hundreds of thousands of gallons [of mineral oil] live in the entire length of pipe. Finding the fault was hard enough. But having found it they still have a serious problem. They can’t afford to drain the whole pipeline – the old oil (contaminated by temporary storage) would have to be disposed of and replaced with new (pure) stuff which they claim takes months to order (in that volume). The cost of oil replacement would be gigantic given that it is special stuff. [..,]

That’s where the LN-2 [liquid nitrogen] comes in. An elegant solution if you ask me. They dig holes on both sides (20-30 feet each way) of the fault, wrap the pipe with giant (asbestos-looking) blankets filled with all kind of tubes and wires, feed LN-2 through the tubes, and *freeze* the oil. Viola! Programmable plugs! The faulty section is drained, sliced, the bad stuff removed, replaced, welded back together, topped off, and the plugs are thawed.

That’s what’s happening on Bernal Hill right now. Only, the issue here isn’t a fault in the line. Instead, workers at the site tell Bernalwood that PG&E is re-positioning the underground electric line to bypass a sewer upgrade The City recently installed along Folsom Street.

So on Bernal Hill, a contractor is using liquid nitrogen to freeze a segment of the mineral oil that functions as an insulator for the high-voltage electric line. The frozen segment acts like a cork to seal off the mineral oil backed up in the rest of the very long electric line. There’s another liquid nitrogen site farther north on Folsom that corked the other end of the line, and in-between, a third crew is repositioning the power line to avoid the new sewer pipes.

So now you know.

PHOTOS AND VIDEO: Telstar Logistics

Wayward Truck Gets Really Stuck on Northeast Bernal Streets

Stuck trucks are a Bernal Heights tradition.

This is because to look at Bernal Heights on a map is to see a tempting variety of shortcuts which give no indication that our hilly topography and narrow, winding streets are way too tight for many big vehicles to traverse.  Indeed,  the advent of digital navigation tools like Google Maps and Waze may have actually helped reduce the frequency of the problem, by actively routing drivers away from Bernal streets where calamity and shame are likely to ensue.


Last night a FedEx tractor-trailer driver learned the hard way that the streets of northeast Bernal Heights are best avoided in a big-rig. Neighbor Ryan  was on the scene:

Fedex truck jammed into the sharp corner at Peralta and Florida, been stuck for well over an hour, blocking the street.

… where the truck remained for a few more hours into the night, when a recovery crew arrived to extract the hapless truck and its humiliated driver from the unfortunate intersection.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbor Ryan

Cyclists Say Homeless Encampment on “Hairball” Bike Path Is Unsafe

Cyclists from several neighborhoods in southeast San Francisco have recently expressed concern about the expansion of homeless encampments along the narrow bike lane through the Chavez/101 “Hairball” interchange. The bike path is the only safe route for cyclists who need to traverse 101, but today it’s nearly impassable.

Neighbor Angela from Prospect Ave. in Bernal Heights uses the bike path daily, and yesterday she sent this email to several local officials, including D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen,  D10 Supervisor Malia Cohen,  Department of Public Works chief Mohammed Neru, and SFMTA chief Ed Reiskin.  Bernalwood was cc’d on the email as well.

Neighbor Angela writes:

Dear Supervisors and SF Public Works and CalTrans:

The bike path along Cesar Chavez St, under the 101 freeway (both eastbound and westbound) is nearly unpassable for bikes due to the tents, tarps, junk, garbage and animals that have taken it over.

This is a dangerous situation for the bicyclists, people and pets that are there.

There is no viable alternate route for bicyclists from the Mission/Bernal Heights/Glen Park/Noe Valley to CalTrain and eastern parts of the City. Riding on the street with cars under the overpass is also extremely dangerous.

I live in Bernal Heights and ride my bike every day to get to CalTrain to go to Palo Alto. This is what my morning commute is like:

What you don’t see is the big puff of crack smoke the first woman on the left exhaled just as I rode by.

I have registered requests for enforcement and complaints with different City services, but I find the cases get closed with no action taken.

While I do understand the complexities of the situation, leaving the bike path in this state is untenable. Please find a way to join forces to address this issue as soon as possible.

On behalf of all the bicyclists who just want to ride safely, thank you.

UPDATE 1:45 pm, 30 June: More than 24 hours after her note was sent, Neighbor Angela says she has yet to receive a response from any of the City officials addressed in it.

PHOTO: Screenshot from Neighbor Angela’s video of the bike route through the Hairball

Saturday’s Celebration of the Restored Esmeralda Slides Was a Best of Bernal Moment

Heroes of the Esmeralda Slide Park: From left, mosaic artists Jesse Medina and Rachel Rodi, project organizers Nancy Windensheim and Joan Carson

In case you missed it, last Saturday’s celebration of the re-restored Esmeralda Slide Park and its new sidewalk mosaic was a lovely moment of Bernal at its best.  About 50 Berenal neighbors showed up to admire the now-gorgeous little park, along with representatives from The City’s Department of Public Works, who did much to help make it happen.

Artist Rachel Rodi, the creator of the fabulous new sidewalk mosaic, was also on hand as a special celebrity guest.

Some may recall that Dianne Feinstein zipped down the slides when the slide park first opened in 1979:

DiFi didn’t show up to reprise that feat on Saturday, but Bernal neighbor Michael Nolan was on hand to complete the circle between past and present. Neighbor Michael, of course, helped organize the effort to create the Esmeralda slides in the late 1970s:

Esmerlada slide crew in 1978. That’s Neighbor Michael Nolan, circled on the left.

And here’s Neighbor Michael on June 24, 2017, braving life, limb, and potential liability by plunging down the slide like the true daredevil he is:

Of course, the slide is all about motion and laughter, so here’s a little video that captures a moment on Saturday that will hopefully be repeated tens of thousands of times in years to come. Turn the volume up to hear the sweetest sound any neighborhood can possibly experience:

PHOTOS and VIDEO: By Telstar Logistics