We had a busy and productive Week 7 and accomplished the goals we set out last week. We are in good standing to complete our project in two week’s time. Our work this week was characterized by on-the-ground action and fieldwork. Last Sunday, we allocated a day to complete our interceptor interviews of parkgoers in Golden Gate Park. This was a fascinating experience in which we approached passerbys along the Lincoln Way sidewalk and in the immediate park vicinity to determine their frequent access routes and transit methods into the park. We stationed ourselves at the major intersections we are focusing along Lincoln Way, especially 34th and Lincoln, where we could catch pedestrians as they entered the park. This ensured that they would have a relevant experience about pedestrian access, as they had just crossed the busy Lincoln Way on foot. There is also a meandering dog walking and jogging path in the park, between Lincoln Way and MLK Drive. We spent a good deal of time along this strip stopping pedestrians. In each case, we would approach a pedestrian and briefly introduce our project, saying something like, “Hello, we are a group of Stanford students working on a project to increase bike and pedestrian access to Golden Gate Park. Do you have two minutes to answer a few questions?” This was a generally successful approach, although a few people flat-out denied our request. Our questions were as follows:
-Are you a resident of the Sunset District? If yes, how long have you lived here?-How often do you visit the park?
-Which entrances do you typically use to enter the park?
-What modes of transportation do you typically use to access the park?
-Please describe your experience as a pedestrian along Lincoln Way.
-What would you like to see improved to enhance your pedestrian experience?
These interviews focused mostly on pedestrians, as cyclists were actively cycling and were hard to stop. In general, we found that Lincoln Way is avidly used by the residents of the Sunset District to access the park simply because it is the most convenient route into the park. In fact, the people we interviewed represented a diverse array of demographics but each reported a similar story: they visit the park frequently via the simplest route. While these routes may not be the safest, the pedestrians are still glad to have any park access. More analysis of these interviews will follow below.
On Friday, we had another big day in San Francisco. In the morning, we taught a workshop-based class for Mr. Stuart Streepy’s 8th grade Social Studies class at Lawton Alternative Middle School. We modified our midterm presentation for the class, editing it to be more relevant for the audience. After introducing our project, we paused to have a brainstorming session with the class about their biking and pedestrian experiences in the city, especially in the Sunset District. We gathered a lot of helpful information from the students, who were very excited about our work and had fresh ideas. We polled the class using a version of the questions listed above, including how often they visit the park and by what means. The students are frequent parkgoers, and by every means of transportation, especially biking and walking. We then introduced some design concepts that can be applied for traffic calming and street revitalization to give the students some background to basic street design principles. In the style of a charette, we split the class into groups of three and four, giving each student a blank map of the intersection at 34th and Lincoln and some colored pencils. The students came up with their own design recommendations, some of which were very innovative (a raised bridge seemed to be the most popular idea!). Each group reported back, and we debriefed from the exercise. We are very grateful to Mr. Streepy as well as to Lisa Periera, a mother at Lawton Middle School who helped organize our workshop.
After visiting Lawton, we made our way across town to the SF Bicycle Coalition Headquarters, where we met up with Janice again. At the office, we engaged in three interviews with members of the SF Bike Coalition who had volunteered their time to speak with us. This was very enlightening and gave us the opportunity to ask long-time city bikers about their visions for bike accessible streets as well as their thoughts on bike deterrents. One of the interviewees founded a bike advocacy group called Wheel Kids, which hosts summer camps for children to learn about bike safety and participate in fun biking activities. It was helpful to widen our outreach base and make these important connections.
Finally, we met with Nicole Schneider of Walk SF, a pedestrian safety nonprofit which does great work in the city advocating for better walking experience. She directed us to some key resources, such as the MTA’s traffic control data, the benefits of road diets, the pedbikesafe.org countermeasures site, and the Transit Effectiveness Program, among others. She helped us brainstorm some creative design concepts which we hadn’t thought about before. It was a stellar end to an active day!
Other than our day trips, we are also steadily receiving results from our online surveys and are starting to code all this data into a cohesive and comprehensible format.
Our interceptor surveys in Golden Gate Park last week allowed us to have direct contact with various residents of the Sunset District within Golden Gate Park. We interviewed a young European male pursuing studies at the University of San Francisco, and an elderly man who had lived in the Sunset District for more than forty years and walked his dog in the park every day. We also spoke to a middle aged woman who worked at the Stanford Medical School and strolled through the park with her young son as well as a couple with an infant and dog that had once lived on the northern side of the park and were just about to cross into the park from the Sunset District, where they had been living for a decade. They all agreed that they would benefit from improving the entrances along Lincoln Way, and had their own individual perspectives drawing from their personal experiences crossing the intersection.
The family of three mentioned that the Fulton access to the park was even less pleasant than our area of study, pinpointing the lack of entrances along the northern perimeter of the park. When we spoke to Janice between our SF Bicycle Coalition member interviews this afternoon and made note of their comment, she stated ‘people will use the entrances where they are placed, even if the infrastructure is lacking.’ She further elaborated that within the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition projects, it was invariably true that placing bike lanes within the city and placing safe, intuitive, and bike lanes within the city were two different projects.
Janice’s comment related strongly to our workshop with the Lawton Middle School 8th Graders, whose design ideas ranged far and wide, and sometimes very pragmatically opposed the design ideas we had been discussing with experts over the past few weeks. For example, when we mentioned bulb outs, an extroverted student exclaimed that they interrupted his skateboarding and frequently caused him to trip whenever he was gliding down the street. The founder of Wheel Kids, Tim Hurley, himself later stated that he was not a big fan of bulbouts as well as a bicyclist, for the very same reason that the middle schoolers had mentioned.
Nicole provided us with an amazing list of resources to supplement the reflections and recommendations we had received today from the different community members. One that stood out was the pedestrian hybrid beam (PHB), a sign of a bright neon color that flashes to stop oncoming traffic when activated by a pedestrian. The PHB was first introduced to San Francisco by Supervisor Tang herself, providing a serendipitous moment of cohesiveness where we were consciously reminded of how much of a collective effort this project has been.
From this point in our project we have gathered extremely valuable data for taking the remaining steps toward completion. As stated above, we have received a wide range of data from many different groups of people; business owners, commissioners and supervisors, middle age park goers, and children from the Sunset District. As well as collected first hand accounts in navigation of the park and surrounding areas by visiting the site multiple times.
Today proved extremely valuable in gathering information from children in the area that may have or may not have truly thought about the danger surrounding entering the park, but to our surprise the children seemed to be on the same page as we are. We hope to really capitalize on the fact that all demographics of people in this area seem to hold a uniform view of accessing the park and the unsafe conditions that come with this task. This uniform idea will prove of great importance in stressing the necessity and validity of our project and we will definitely incorporate all of the data we are able to collect during this process.
Another aspect of this week that will be incorporated into our project is the data collected from the interceptor surveys we were able to conduct last sunday. These surveys were extremely informative as to the general opinion people hold of pedestrian accessibility. We found that community members of Lincoln Way found it very difficult to cross the streets and the safety regulations currently in place just do not suffice. This corresponds directly with what we hypothesized would be the response from the community members of the Sunset District, but definitely adds a lot of strength to our project.
Having the opportunity to meet with people like Nicole Schneider of Walk SF always amazing. The professional insight is priceless for developing our project, and as stated above, in meeting with Nicole we were able to learn the benefits of road diets, gain access to MTA traffic control data, and brainstorm design concepts which we had not previously considered. This information and insight will be incorporated into our project design as well as contribute to the portion of our project representing how concerned people are about pedestrian safety, and the willingness they show in helping our project anyway they can.
With the combination of the middle school childrens outlook and first hand accounts and the professional insight from members of the community and organizations like Nicole from Walk SF, we will be able to look at our project through yet another lense. The many different views we will be decoding will set us up for an extremely thorough and well rounded project proposal. We could not be more excited to not only be helping the Sunset district and other surrounding communities, but interacting with the people and creating valuable relationships.