Yesterday’s post from Suzanne about a cyclist hit by Muni at Townsend and Fourth got me thinking of a post I did a few years ago about the hierarchy of urban mobility.
That was then. But I’d only make a few modifications today.
In simplified form:
3) mopeds and scooters
5) public transit
6) privately owned cars
7) service trucks
If you’re positing what the hierarchy should be, in terms of who should get right-of-way and preference of travel first, I think efficiency should trump all.
Public transit gaining first right-of-way would help to improve the system. If buses and muni were able to turn and proceed first, it could incrementally remove minutes from the travel time of riders, hopefully improving the muni experience. And, if theoretically we had 100% of transportation on public/clean transit, this would solve a lot of problems. In an ideal world….
Since we’re in reality, though, privately owned cars should be at the bottom. The more cars we eliminate, the less congested the roads can eventually become. There will always be a need for service trucks to transport our economy around; many individual drivers, however, choose to drive alone instead of partake in public transit. Probably due to the travel time/frustration dilemma of above.
While making private cars lowest on the chain doesn’t help them out that much, it certainly sweetens the options up the list.
Wouldn’t it be great if Page St were a two-wheel only thoroughfare, much like an Oak/Fell major artery from coming up and down from downtown? Cyclists, mopeds, motorcycles, and pedestrians, and only cars parking in driveways/garages on the street… restricted much like Berkeley residential zones are.
I think the BIGGEST improvement SF can make in the short-term, is experimenting with changing the roads so that instead of a road being (traffic)-(bike lane)-(curb parking) as the 3 divisions of a street, that we transform them like NYC has, to (traffic)-(curb parking)-(BIKE LANE), so the curb parking blocks/protects between the two. This would make a huge difference in areas like The Wiggle, Fell Street, and other sub-arteries connecting to/from downtown, and especially in Soma.
The ‘right-of-way’ and ‘efficiency’ aspects do seem to overlap a bit. My thoughts on transportation seem to go with the ‘efficiency’ argument, though.
For that, I use the TA ‘Green Transportation Hierarchy’:
This is the TA Hierarchy:
3. Public Transit
4. Commercial Vehicles
6. High Occupancy Vehicles
7. Single Occupancy Vehicles
One thing they may have left out of their diagram is Zipcar and CityCarShare and other car-sharing services, which come awfully close to being as useful/efficient as taxis, and could very well be better.
The major disagreement I would have with your hierarchy is ‘Commercial Vehicles’ at #4. Jane Jacobs convinced me that these were necessary and useful. I’m hoping they’re only necessary in such numbers for the time being, until bikes finish taking over. 🙂
I think that mopeds and scooters are much less objectionable than cars, but I’m not sure where they fit on the hierarchy. The scooters all over Miami have poisoned that place. Disgusting. Maybe electric scooters and mopeds might be less objectionable.
And pedicabs, something I hope to see a lot more of here in SF, would just be treated as normal bicycles, but could almost be considered pollution reducers.
@ Peter: thanks so much for the TA link. Very helpful stuff.
I suppose I should revise slightly, and move public transit up the list. I think third is a fair move, and, uh, what this site is all about.
I have all sorts of wild realignment fantasies for San Francisco. Top of my list is making all these tiny streets in the Mission one way. One way streets are a fetish of mine; I love them so much. If we had more, traffic would flow much more freely. Trust me, trading in unprotected left turns for cars for three-point 180s would be worth it.
Another seemingly simple improvement is timed lights along existing one-way streets. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a car, bus, or on bike, and have stopped at more than 10 consecutive intersections. I want to see studies, but common sense tells me that all that braking and idling has got to be bad for the environment, not to mention a cause of unnecessary wear and tear.
As far as the hierarchy criteria, mine are balancing potency with efficiency. By potency, I mean what mode of transportation is able to cause harm to others? A pedestrian isn’t likely to do much actual damage to a bus or 18-wheel transport truck, so, it automatically gets the right-of-way.
@Chris: I absolutely love the (traffic)-(parked cars)-(bikers) setup. I didn’t know NYC was doing that, good for them. I think most of the trepidation people have about biking in SF is (understandably) being clipped by a car or a Muni bus.
I think a general rule is to think about how much damage would be done to you AND the other party, should there be an accident. A pedestrian is pretty much fucked. A bicycle, depending on how fast it was going, could knock someone down pretty easily. Bike vs. car is almost no contest. If I’m a pedestrian (which I usually am), I expect drivers and bikers to realize that I’m probably the most vulnerable. If I’m on my bike, I expect Muni and other vehicles (especially you right-turning ones!) to keep an eye out for me. If I’m in my car, I try to let everyone go when it’s their turn, given how much damage my Accord could do to a person, solo or with bike.