Bike Lanes in SoMa

In recent months, SFMTA has been implementing a plan for SOMA that creates lanes exclusively for buses and bikes. These lanes have made the mobility around SOMA more accessible, but bikers fear that their safety is at stake.
The Folsom Complete Street Pilot Project was presented in mid-October with the hopes of bettering the mobility in the heavily trafficked area. The Project implemented bus lanes on Folsom Street between 4th and 11th streets. These lanes are made visible by being painted: green lanes are for bikes; red lanes are for busses. The project reduces traffic lanes from four to three and shortens the distance for pedestrian walks. The creation of new residencies along with the building of the freeway and the connection with the Bay Bridge has all contributed to the traffic in recent years. According to the SFMTA website, biking has increased by 98 percent since 2006 and the Folsom Street bike route is the sixth most traveled bicycle route in the city.
The $270,000 project will measure the change traffic flow as well as diversion in traffic. The Project will measure these volumes which will help the Central Corridor Neighborhood Project Environmental Impact Report due in June 2015.
“The buffered bike lane is designed to provide a safe space between bicycle traffic and motor vehicle traffic, but also to maintain access to businesses, side streets and curbside parking,” said Nick Carr, SFMTA Senior Planner.
It’s not the first time SFMTA implements a bike plan in SOMA. In 1997, the San Francisco Bike Plan was implemented in the city, which created numerous bike lanes and routes throughout all of San Francisco. It was updated in 2009 to meet the improvement and changing of the city. In early 2013, the 6th Street Improvement Project was proposed, which overlaps with the Folsom Street Project, to reduce the 38 bike collisions that happen between 2005 and 2009 on 6th Street between Market and Howard streets.
Despite previous bike plans and the addition of bike lanes in the area, bikers still feel that many improvements can be made to increase biker safety while riding in the lanes.
Folsom Street heavy traffic and bus routes make bikers weary of other vehicles crossing the bike lanes.
“Both bus and bike lanes should be put wherever needed,” said Aaron Bialick, biker and editor of Streetblog San Francisco. “But lanes should be made safer so that buses can actually make a stop without intervening on bike lanes. Bike lanes need to be protected from vehicles.”
“I usually ride this bike lane,” said biker Bertha Rodriguez, 20. “But I don’t feel safe when I have to switch lanes between busses and vehicles. I’ve had instances where I’m stuck behind a bus.”
“I like that the bike lanes are made really visible with the green paint,” said biker Stephanie Gutierrez, 24. “I still think that some sort of fence or post would make it safer for us.”
SFMTA acknowledges this issue.
“The buffered bike lanes are working well during peak hours, but experience some misuse during off-peak hours when there are not as many bicyclists in the lane,” said Carr. “While bicycle volumes are comparatively low during off-peak hours, some motorists appear to be confused by the wide bike lane and drive significant lengths of some blocks in the bike lane. Other motorists appear to ignore the bike lane in order to avoid queued vehicles ahead of them, or simply to prepare for a turn at the end of the block.”
SFMTA installed “safe hit” plastic delineators to assist biker safety during the Bike to Work Day event on May 8, but it is unclear whether installing these delineators will be a solution to biker concerns.
“While some bicyclists have stated that a continuous row of these safe hits is needed on each block between 4th Street and 11th Street, such an implementation of safe hits would prevent vehicles from accessing curbside parking, driveways and side streets,” said Carr. “This vision of fully separated and protected bike lanes on Folsom is part of the long-term vision for Folsom in the Central SOMA Plan.”
The Central SOMA Plan, proposed in 2013, plans to build a subway corridor on 4th Street between Market and Townsend streets along with enhancing the existent bike routes in SOMA. It proposed to offer “cycle tracks” for bicycle safety. This “cycle tracks” will buffer the bike lanes that are in between vehicle lanes. The plan is said to finish by 2016.
“These existing bicycle lanes place cyclists between parked cars and moving vehicles, with no buffer or barrier to protect cyclists,” said planner Steve Wertheim. “Protected bicycle lanes, also known as “cycle tracks,” offer safer and calmer cycling conditions for a much wider range of cyclists and cycling purposes, especially on streets with large traffic volumes travelling at relatively high speeds.”
“I think that putting some sort of barrier in between lanes will give me some peace of mind. I’ve seen the barriers put near Polk Street and I think those are necessary here on Folsom Street,” said Rodriguez.
The curb protections put on the new Polk Street contraflow bikeway seem like a good solution to the safety concern in SOMA.
“This new bikeway is a showcase of what it means to connect the city with crosstown, protected bikeways,” said Chema Hernandez Gil, community planner of the SF Bike Coalition.
Curb protections, cycle tracks and safe hits are all attempts to increase biker safety in the city. In the meantime, however, bikers will have to be cautious of incoming traffic in bike lanes.
“[The bike lanes] expands space for people biking,” said Bialick. “But it is too early to tell if the bike lanes have actually decreased traffic and bike collisions.”

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Dottie’s True Blue Cafe

Despite being hidden between Pearl’s and dozens of liquor stores, Dottie’s True Blue Cafe is a packed breakfast place any day of the week.

Located on 6th Street between Market and Mission streets, Dottie’s serves amazing breakfasts that leave you satisfied.

The long line is worth the wait for those cinnamon-ginger pancakes and their fresh, baked goods.

The blackboard at the entrance of the cafe lets you know the special of the day. I chose to go with the special of the day which was a veggie frittata with avocado and home fries.

Special of the day. Yummy frittata.

Special of the day. Yummy frittata.

Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try those yummy pancakes. I was a bit skeptical at first, but they weren’t overly sweet as I though they would be.

Overall, I would say that Dottie’s is good place to have breakfast and is totally worth the wait.

Dottie’s is located on 28th 6th St.

Bonnie Stuppin of Alexander Book Company

Bonnie Stuppin never imagined opening up a book store with her brother Michael in the 90s to now have what is Alexander Books Company.
Bonnie Stuppin, a San Francisco native of the Richmond District, was a childcare worker at the Y near Stonestown when her and her brother Michael opened up the store on 2nd Street.
“Michael was going to school in New York and he decided to come back to the city to open up a bookstore. He asked me if I wanted to join him and I said yes.”
The three story bookstore offers a variety of books from children’s books to text books for the nearby Academy of Arts.
“We decided to open up a store here because there weren’t any bookstores around here that were consistent,” said Stuppin about the beginnings of the store.
“My favorite types of books are children’s books. As a previous childcare worker, I am very fond of them.”
Currently her favorite book is Sabriel by Garth Nix, which is part of Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy.
“The store previously had reading circles and events, but the lack of people at these events led us to cut the programs,” said Stuppin. Mostly business people come in to the store during their lunch break and after work, so they don’t have the time to stay for an event, she added.
“Our goal of the store is to be a place for a good general bookstore in downtown,” said Stuppin.

South Park

     Huddled between start-ups and small business, South Park is a little gem that is popular among families and business people alike.

            South Park features swing sets and benches that make it a great hangout spot. Eateries like Caffe Centro and The Butler and The Chef Bistro make it a usual place for lunch for the workers in the surrounding businesses.

Despite its popularity, South Park is home to many homeless that surround the area.

“After about 5 p.m. it gets shady here. A lot of homeless people sleep here,” said Kerri Thomas.

“I like to bring my kids here. It has a good playground. I wouldn’t be here later than 4 p.m., though,” said Jessica Monroe, mother of two daughters.

Business people are the usual on a weekday during lunch time. Startups nearby, like iOffer and Engine Yard, make the surrounding businesses, like Caffe Centro, a popular place for executives and tech workers.

“The cobb salad at Caffe Centro is really good,” resident Kathy Peterson said.

South Park is a good getaway from the office cubicle and for family time after the office.

Life is a box of chocolates at Socola Chocolatiers

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After years of selling wholesale at Bi-Rite and Whole Foods, sisters Wendy and Susan Lieu finally have a storefront to call home at 535 Folsom Street between 1st and 2nd Streets.

Wendy and Susan started making chocolate in 2001 as a hobby. “I started making chocolate as a hobby when I was in college,” said Wendy as she garnished her Salty Chewy Caramel truffles with salt. “I only did it on the weekends and during holidays.”

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Wendy Lieu garnishing the Salty Chewy Caramel truffles with sea salt.

They opened their storefront Socola Chocolatiers just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend.

“We received a warm welcome from the local businesses and community our first week,” said Wendy about celebrating their first week. “I think a place like this was needed here.”

“I was looking for a shop in the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, but my husband found this place right here and I live in the area. I bike to work,” said Wendy about the location of the shop.

The small chocolate shop gives off an intimate feel with its teal-colored walls and a delicate glass case that showcases chocolate flavors like earl grey, sriracha, and passion fruit.

The chocolate truffles, which range from your usual flavors like Salty Chewy Caramel to more exotic flavors like Lychee, are strongly inspired by the Lieu’s Vietnamese background. “Instead of having a mocha-flavored truffle, we have a Vietnamese coffee truffle,” said Wendy. “Many people wanted a chipotle, spicy flavor with the chocolate and that’s how the Sriracha Flying Rooster truffle came to be.”

“My favorite flavor always changes, but at the moment it’s the Earl Grey truffle,” said Wendy.

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from top left to bottom right: Earl Grey, Sriracha, Vietnamese Coffee and Stout Beer. 

The chocolates go for about $2 apiece and you can choose from box sets of two, four, or 12 chocolates. Each little teal box is sealed with mascot Harriet the Flying Alpaca sticker and a chocolate colored sleeve.

“We chose an alpaca as our mascot because all other animal mascots were taken. At the time, I had a lot of alpaca things like notebooks and scarves,” recalls Wendy. “We named the mascot Harriet because it’s hairy and, you know, Harriet Winslow from Family Matters.”

Wendy hopes that the shop becomes “a community space where our customers can have a fine experience.”

Socola Chocolatiers is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hello, SoMa!

  Enclosed by Market Street and the 101 freeway, SoMa, South of Market, is my new place for adventure.

  I started my trek on Mission Street and 7th Street on a sunny, Friday afternoon. As I walked down 7th Street, I was not impressed. The street looked dark and cold, despite the blazing sun on my face. I saw homeless people everywhere and I felt my pace speed up. I turned on Mission Street to find relief and when I turned, all I saw was loneliness.

  Loneliness, but one person.

  “The area around here is not so nice, but the view from the garden is pretty,” said Avril Simiano, 19, from the Bayview District.

  I went toward the direction she had pointed to. I couldn’t imagine a garden in this concrete jungle surrounded by warehouses and lonely liquor stores.

  I continued walking up Mission Street. Everything looked the same. It felt like I had been walking forever only to realize I was barely passing 6th Street.          

  I saw the multitudes of people from downtown make their way a couple of yards away from me between 4th and 5th Street, seeming somewhat flustered and looking for a place to sit. I was one of them.

  I found my way to the Metreon, a complex that holds city Target—the only one in San Francisco—AMC theatres and lots of food places. As glorious as it seemed, I walked right past it. (I concluded that would be one of the only glorious-looking buildings I would see here). I walked past families and teenagers and businessmen juggling bags after bags of household items and grocery that they had just purchased. After rushing through the crowd I found a park—like an oasis in the desert—Yerba Buena Gardens. It was a sea of fertile green with a crystal clear waterfall as a back drop. People were sitting down on benches, laying down on the grass, talking to one another. It seemed peaceful and it was just what I was looking for.

  “It’s really nice to sit here at night and drink hot chocolate,” said Ari Centeno, 23, who works at the Papyrus nearby.

  “I take my little brother to the Children’s Creativity Center,” said Abigail Reyna, 19, from the Mission District. “They have rooms where the kids can paint with finger paint and pastels. It’s really nice.”      

  “The Metreon is cool. I like getting burgers at Super Duper Burgers,” said Erica Emerson, 20, resident of SoMa. “I just wish there weren’t so many liquor stores around.”

  “I like hanging out here,” said Emily Vogt, 20. “The sushi at Tokyo Express is pretty kick ass.”

  Despite my feelings of uneasiness at the beginning of my journey, I came to the conclusion that SoMa was just what I hoped it would be: a handful of everything. It challenged me and brought me joy. Discovering the little pockets of wonders that fill SoMa is what attracts a variety of people. There are still so many places to see and wander in. Let’s discover.