SF bicyclists feel road repair requests are being ignored 

click to enlarge A bicyclist rides by a defaced sign  at the bottom of Bernal Hill, known as the hairball - intersecting at the 101-caesar Chavez interchange. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to The Examiner
  • A bicyclist rides by a defaced sign at the bottom of Bernal Hill, known as the hairball - intersecting at the 101-caesar Chavez interchange.
A faded shared-lane marker, a vandalized bicycle street sign, a general feeling a roadway is unsafe.

These are some of the issues that San Francisco bicyclists report using the 311 information hotline, which one can call or upload a photo to using an app.

But recent analysis of 311 data, compiled by the Bicycle Advisory Committee, raises questions about whether bicyclists’ requests for small roadway improvements are being responded to in a timely manner, if at all.

“We feel ignored 50 percent of the time,” said Kevin Dole, a Bicycle Advisory Committee member. He said analysis was done on a sample batch of requests after “we were noticing this pattern of things being closed and not being done.”

The committee is comprised of 11 members appointed by the Board of Supervisors, one for each supervisor district.

Years ago, the committee would meet with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency monthly to recommend specific “spot improvements.”

Feeling the process was ineffective, with requests rolling over from one month to the next without progress, the committee met with the SFMTA last year to figure out a better method. The solution was to use the 311 hotline. The system received 414,000 service requests last year for a variety of issues, including graffiti abatement, trash pickup and abandoned cars.

The bicycle committee’s analysis looked at 29 requests to 311 for roadway improvements between June and November. Eighteen cases were closed, but of those, at least half were verified to have not actually been fixed.

Requests coming from bicyclists generally fall to the responsibility of the SFMTA or the Department of Public Works, the latter of which did not respond to requests for comment.

The SFMTA explained its methods for deeming a case closed, and said it is committed to addressing the bicycle committee’s concerns. “In most cases, 311 items are considered ‘closed’ when the input has been logged and assigned to a project team member for follow-up,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

“Not all projects or repairs can be done immediately. Funding, design and additional outreach are often required. We are looking at our 311 responses to ensure the process is consistent and efficient.”

There is also concern about how long it takes to process a request, which is 41.31 days on average from submission to closure. And for requests that were closed but not actually completed, an average of 75.6 days had elapsed at the point the committee verified no work was done. It’s a small sampling, but Dole said it illustrates a larger pattern, which is why the analysis was done in the first place.

One request, which Dole made himself, was to clean graffiti off a bike route sign at the foot of Bernal Hill, known as the “hairball,” and possibly elevate the sign to put it out of the reach of vandals.

“Nothing has been done,” Dole said. “It’s just a matter of cleaning the sign off. I could have done it myself.”

Other requests were to repaint sharrows, which are markings painted on a roadway that is to be shared between cyclists and motorists. They also indicate to cyclists that they are out of the perilous car-door zone when passing over the middle of the markings.

While some faded sharrows were repainted, others were not. Dole said there were two critical sharrows left unpainted in the Bayview along Alemany Boulevard under the highway interchange that “have just been obliterated by the path of travel. They have been on request since September. It’s been closed.”

Andy Maimoni, deputy director of the 311 customer service center, said the hotline acts as the middleman between the person who reports the problem and the department that is supposed to address the request.

Once in the hands of the right department, it’s that department’s responsibility to respond and complete the work if deemed necessary. Departments should not close a case before some type of resolution is reached, Maimoni said.

“In general, a service request should not be closed until the work was performed,” he said, adding that if a request is a duplicate it could be closed before the work is done but should be noted as such. Maimoni said he could not speak to the bicycle committee’s findings without investigating each request.

“Normally, departments have a prioritization process for certain kinds of work and they will try to get that work done in a certain amount of time. Sometimes things impact that ability to get that work done,” he said.

Next month, the bicycle committee may recommend that the 311 system create a special category for all bicycle-related requests to better track the work, Dole said, and also a category to simply designate any portion of a road, “area feels unsafe.”

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