Scooter-Sharing Scheme Is a Brilliant Idea, Executed Not So Thoughtfully

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Your Bernalwood editor has been on the receiving end of a steady stream of grumblings about Scoot Networks, the scooter-sharing startup with sharing locations in Bernal Heights. We wrote about Scoot for the first time last August, but since then the company has expanded its reach in Bernal — and the grumblings have expanded with it.

Here’s one from Neighbor Adele:

Are you thinking of offering any more coverage on the ‘Scoot’ fleet taking up street parking issue? I am actually a daily bicycle commuter so I’m not the worlds biggest parking advocate, but I actually get a serious sense of unease and frustration seeing branded scooters from a private fleet blanketing my street (Folsom near Bessie). They are all over, and to be clear, they are taking up all manner of spots. It just feels like another part of the Airbnb-ification of the neighborhood. I don’t see this precedent from car sharing companies. Obviously public entities have a major role in PLANNING the extension of the much more innocuous bicycle shares into new locations. Is it too much to ask for some planning to go into the extension of private, for-profit transit systems into our residential neighborhood?

Like Neighbor Adele, your Bernalwood editor does not require street parking, so I have no personal reason to begrudge Scoot’s presence.

Unlike Neighbor Adele, your Bernalwood editor doesn’t really mind if private companies use public space once in a while. Private companies have contracted to use public space to do all sorts of things since pretty much forever, and so long as these arrangements are properly authorized and generally serve the public interest, then I think that’s fair play.

Yet it’s easy to understand why many Bernal neighbors are frustrated by all those red scooters. Scoot Networks does not have designated parking spaces for its vehicles, and the Bernalese who use Scoot often park their shared scooters in ways that squander precious street parking space. In theory, five or six scooters can easily park in the space occupied by one car, but in practice, when five or six Scoots park haphazardly in spaces that would be a better fit for larger vehicles, neighbors end up with far fewer places to park.

Mostly, it seems that Scoot might work better with dedicated, designated scooter parking spaces. Here on glamorous Precita Avenue, for example, there are lots of odd sidewalk bulbs and short curbs between driveways where cars simply won’t fit. Those would be excellent for designated scooter-only parking. Instead, however, Scoots often park randomly, and often in the most inefficient ways possible.

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That seems like a loss for everyone. It obviously stinks for neighbors who end up with fewer places to park close to home. It probably stinks for Scoot customers, who don’t have a designated place to go find their rides. It can’t do much to help Scoot’s brand, because although the company gets good marks from customers, the current parking scheme encourages neighbors to develop the kind of festering resentment that only street-parking issues can generate. And most of all, it doesn’t help rally support for the larger cause of ridesharing, which is a very positive urban transportation alternative in our tech-enabled age.

Bummer for all of us. Scoot is a good thing, but there must be a more elegant way to integrate it into the fabric of the neighborhood.

PHOTOS: Scoots parking badly in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Drama! Bad Driving! Streetcar vs. SUV Accident in the Bernal Cut

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Neighbor Fiid from Highland Ave. saw the aftermath of a rather nasty collision between an SUV and one of MUNI’s modern Breda streetcars last night on San Jose Avenue at the entrance to the Bernal Cut. Here’s Neighbor Fiid’s report, filed in Bernalwood Action News mode:

Location is San Jose Avenue at the Shell station (north end). The SUV drove up the middle of the platform instead of either side, and ran out of concrete where it drops to just tracks and gravel. Then it either hit or got hit by the train.

Not 100% clear what the chain of events was. Officer at the scene said that this happens quite frequently (less than once per month – so maybe 6-10 times a year??).

The SUV is totalled; but the occupant(s) were unscathed. The Breda had its mating connector damaged, and there was a damaged panel, and some boxes zip-tied up underneath to enable a “get it home” strategy. (Just like the Bernal Dads!)

Could easily have been nastier, but totally avoidable.

From the Highland Bureau: signing out.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Fiid

On a Road Trip Around the World, French Family Parks on Bernal Hill

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Large vehicles modified for mobile habitation tend to attract lots of attention when they’re parked on Bernal Hill. Last weekend your Bernalwood editor paid particular attention to a very large vehicle parked on Bernal Hill that was very clearly intended for mobile habitation.

But this was no ordinary house on wheels. It was a giant-ass overland truck, equipped with four-wheel-drive and substantial cross-country modifications. Specifically, it was what’s called an expedition vehicle — the kind of thing you drive when you’re doing a road trip, say, from Morocco to India. It even had French license plates:

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So stylish. And so clever! Our Municipal Transportation Agency does not yet have an extradition treaty with the government of France, so French license plates are a handy accessory to avoid paying San Francisco parking fines. But we digress…

The graphic on the side of the truck pointed us toward the  Martin autour du monde website:

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That’s where we began to unravel why this apocalypse-ready intercontinental French RV was parked on the top of Bernal Hill. The introduction video provided a mission statement (in French):

A family. A house on wheels. Five years. Five continents. The world is theirs. In search of exceptional places, they cross deserts, oceans, lakes, and towns. On all their routes, they stay close to the people.

Well, at least that’s what I think it said — my French is a little rusty. The basic idea seems to be a kind of modern-day Swiss Family Robinson, only with a French family, a badass RV, an environmental education mission, and a video production contract.

Anyway, Bernalwood also found photos of the truck that’s parked on Bernal Hill, parked in some other rather exotic places. Like this:

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And this:

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At the very least, our new French neighbors are quite good at scenic parking. It was time to welcome them to Bernal Heights.

Bernalwood knocked politely on the side of the truck. Frederic Cébron opened the door, and welcomed us inside, where we met his wife Laure, their son Martin, age 9, and daughter Chine, age 6. The interior of the vehicle looked compact, modern, and efficient, like one of those tiny IKEA display apartments they set up inside the stores.

In the back, Martin and Chine were laughing and playing:

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Laure was making some snacks.

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Frederic said the family is in year four of their five-year tour. Along the way, they’ve been documenting innovative ways people are practicing good ecology and sustainable living. They came to San Francisco to visit Recology, our globally fashionable, zero waste-aspiring trash processing facility, as well as several other waste management and recycling initiatives in the Bay Area.

Frederic explained that the family’s journey began with a comprehensive tour of South America. Then they shipped the truck back to Europe, and drove it from Turkey to Tibet via Iran and India. From there it was off to Mongolia, then down to Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. In between they make videos like this:

There was a hop to Japan, and an arrival in North America at Montreal. From there they drove to Alaska, down to Vancouver, and eventually to Bernal Heights.

Bernalwood encouraged Frederic to call ahead next time they decide to visit Bernal Heights, so we can  arrange a more proper welcome.

As things stand, Frederic said they had a nice stay here, that they’ve enjoyed their view of the I-280 Spaghetti Bowl, and that that only one Bernal neighbor warned the Cébron family that their planet-traversing home on wheels had been parked on Bernal Hill for more than the legal maximum of 72 hours. He also spoke very highly of the neighborly hospitality the family had received when they were parked in Teheran.

The Cébrons are overlanding to San Diego next. After that, they drive into Mexico and around much of Central America, before bringing their five-year journey to an end in Panama.

Against that backdrop, Bernal Heights might not be the most exotic place the family has been. But it may well be one of the most glamorous. Bon voyage, Frederic, Laure, Martin, and Chine!

PHOTOS: Cébrons in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Hey Muni, We Need a Bus to Dogpatch & 22nd Street Caltrain via Cesar Chavez

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Neighbor Mark lives on Alabama Street in Bernal Heights. He’s not a transit planner, but he’s a transit rider, and he sees a gaping hole in Muni’s bus service along Cesar Chavez Boulevard to the (booming) 22nd Street Caltrain Station.

To remedy this, Neighbor Mark wants MUNI to create revive a bus line that goes from Noe Valley to Dogpatch via Cesar Chavez. Here’s his modest proposal:

There isn’t very much industry along the eastern part of Cesar Chavez, east of Hwy. 101, anymore. But there are two big reasons for a line that goes along Cesar Chavez to Third Street and thence to the 22nd St. Caltrain station.

First, Yellow Cab and FedEx drivers could take the bus to their workplaces, which are within a block of this stretch of Cesar Chavez. But primarily, Caltrain has become an essential way for SIlicon Valley workers to get to their jobs. Catrain ridership is at historic highs, and 1500 workers now board Caltrain at 22nd St. every morning, headed for points south.

Right now, there’s no easy way to get to the 22nd Street Station. Yes, you can take the 48-Quintara down 24th St. and over the hill, but this takes a very long time. It would be so much quicker for the bus to head down our remade Cesar Chavez, bypassing Potrero Hill, making a turn at Third St., and heading straight for the station. I’ll bet it would save at least 15 minutes vs. a comparable trip on the 48.

You could start the route at Castro and 26th, or (as I have it) at Church and Cesar Chavez to connect with the J-Church.

Curious as to whether Muni ever had a line down Cesar Chavez, I looked around and found a 1947 Muni map posted by Eric Fischer.

Sure enough, this map shows that a 54M bus began at Castro and 26th, went down 26th and Army Streets all the way to the very end of Army, east of Third Street. Here’s a highlighted version of the 54 line from that 1947 route map:

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As a recovering Caltrain/22nd Street commuter, your Bernalwood editor would like to second Neighbor Mark’s proposal.

Muni, let’s do this.

Extremely Sexy, Extremely Short Raised Bikeway Coming to Part of Our Part of Valencia Street

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As we all know, infrastructure is sexy.

Not the building and construction part… that’s a big honking mess. But when it’s done, infrastructure represents an investment in our collective future, which is why Bernalwood is always glad to learn about new infrastructure projects coming to our humble corner of the citysphere. Extra credit when the new infrastructure is the first of its kind.

Recently, the City unveiled a plan to build some particularly sexy new infrastructure along the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Mission and Cesar Chavez, alongside St. Luke’s Hospital. Its all part of that proposal to improve the sewer system and streetscape for that segment of Valenica, which we told you about a year ago. Well, now the design has solidified, and it includes a plan to create a Scandinavian-style raised pathway for bicycles that will be insanely cool and the first of it’s kind in San Francisco. But oddly, this completely cool new raised bikeway will only extend along part of the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Duncan and Cesar Chavez — which isn’t very big in the first place.

In other words… for one block

Let’s visualize the proposed elevated bikeway site, using the futuristic Google Earth Pro map tool thingy that Neighbor Vanessa generously provided to Bernalwood. Shall we?

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As you can see… Infrastructure! Sexy! First of its kind! The best bikeway in all of San Francisco! But just not very much of it. Hmm.

Here’s what the San Francisco Bike Coalition said about the project:

San Francisco is set to get its first raised bikeway next year! The showcase bikeway is part of the Mission/Valencia Gateway project and will stretch southbound on Valencia Street from Cesar Chavez Street to Duncan Street. This one-block bikeway heralds a completely new type of bicycle infrastructure to our city, one that will become more common in the next few years, as raised bikeways are integrated into the Masonic Avenue and 2nd Street projects.

Raised bikeways are common in great bicycling cities like Copenhagen, but relatively new in the United States. Raised bikeways create a protected bikeway without bollards or barriers, instead building the bikeway at an intermediate level between the sidewalk and roadway.Learn more about raised bikeways and see designs here. 

The raised bikeway is an unexpected but very welcome enhancement to the Mission Valencia Green Gateway project, which wrapped up public outreach last year after three community open houses as well as feedback from hundreds of neighbors and SF Bicycle Coalition members. In addition to the raised bikeway, the final project design also includes wider sidewalks, permeable pavement and two new plazas, one at Mission and Valencia and a smaller one at Duncan and Valencia.

So when this sexy new bikeway is completed sometime in mid-2016, it may herald the beginning of a much larger elevated bikeway network that could extend… all the way across Cesar Chavez! Someday! Or maybe it will even extend all the way to the fabled Southern Crossing. Someday!

In the meantime, come mid-2016, if you want to make the new bikeway feel more substantial, you can simply ride back and forth along it a few times, very slowly. Go back and forth six times, and you’ll cover about a mile. Do that while listening to ABBA on your headphones, and you may even begin to feel like you’re in Scandinavia. So sexy!!!

IMAGE: Elevated bikeway rendering via NACTO

Tonight: Party at The New Wheel to Celebrate a Homegrown Electric Bike

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Miss Karen Wiener, co-founder of the newfangled (and devilishly successful) New Wheel electric bicycle shop on Cortland, shares news that there’s a party at the store beginning at 6 pm tonight to celebrate the release of the Faraday Porteur,  a supersexy new ebike created in San Francisco.

Since you are supersexy and newfangled too, you’re invited to tonight’s party. Plus, FREE CARROTS!  FREE CUCUMBERS! Go crazy!

Miss Karen says:

The New Wheel is throwing a grand party for the Faraday Porteur, a beautiful electric bicycle designed right here in San Francisco. The New Wheel and Faraday have been working together for over two years as Faraday developed their product, ran a successful Kickstarter, and started production.

The party will be the official launch of The New Wheel taking pre-orders for the second production run of Faraday Porteurs, which will be available Spring 2015 in classic white and fabulous British racing green. It will also be an opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine, munch a fresh crispy cucumber and carrot, meet the founder and engineers at Faraday, and take a test ride on the best bicycle for Bernal. So stop by The New Wheel on Thursday, August 7 from 6 to 9pm to experience the future of urban transportation!

PHOTO: A Faraday Porteur climbs Cortland, via The New Wheel

New Wheel Offers Free eBike Loaners During Bike to Work Week

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Miss Karen from The New Wheel, our newfangled electric bike shop on Cortland, writes to share a cool opportunity to borrow one of their impressive ebikes — for free! — during Bike to Work Week:

We have partnered with a bicycle company called Felt to do two group rides (which double as fundraisers for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition) and two days of free ebike rentals during Bike To Work Week. It’s going to be a super-fun way for the fine people of Bernal to participate in Bike To Work Month (even if they don’t have a bike) or to spend a day with an ebike if they are just curious. Here are the details:

E-Bike to Work Day* – May 7, 2014 8am 

Get your legs loosened up the day before the annual Bike to Work Day on an electric bike! The New Wheel is leading the ultimate group ride – to work! We’ll guide you on a scenic ride downtown over Twin Peaks to the Ferry Building astride a pedal assist electric bicycle from Felt. From there you can take the bike for the day to work, or leave it with us. Come in work attire: no need to worry about sweat, traffic bottlenecks, hills or distance!

Meet at The New Wheel (across the street from the Bank of America)
Ages +18
Free to SF Bicycle Coalition Members, $10 suggested donation for non-members

RSVP (Space is limited)

May 8 and 9, 2014 8am – Bike to Work Day (on a loaner Felt ebike)*

Commute by ebike for a day for free! The New Wheel and Felt are partnering to offer 20 lucky riders the opportunity to experience the best ride to work ever on a Bosch powered pedal assist bicycle from Felt.*

May 8 RSVP | May 9 RSVP

May 10, 2014 8am – Breakers to Bay*

On this group ride we’ll guide you on a trip across San Francisco like never before. Trade pain in for fun! You’ll see how fun San Francisco is to cycle on a pedal assist ebike– defying all of your expectations and concurring even the scariest hills. We’ll start in Bernal Heights, head over Twin Peaks and then down to Trouble Coffee at Ocean Beach. From Trouble, we’ll head back across town to the Ferry Building.

Meet at The New Wheel (across the street from the Bank of America)

5-10 miles, gloriously hilly and super fun!
Ages +18
Free to SF Bicycle Coalition Members, $10 suggested donation for non-members

RSVP (Spaces limited)

*Electric bicycles from Felt will be supplied based on RSVP. To borrow a bicycle, we must make an imprint of your credit card and authorize your card for the value of the bike.