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BART’s new bike racks, custom navigation voices, rethinking hotels, and more

Four things to know today

Navigation systems seem particularly troubled by the pronunciation of the word “Kezar.”
Navigation systems seem particularly troubled by the pronunciation of the word “Kezar.”
Photo by Ashleigh Nushawg

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Street fight

A week-old decision to protect bike lanes on Upper Market got the side-eye this weekend from San Francisco’s paper of record, a take that has cycling advocates fuming. As previously reported, the SFMTA Board unanimously agreed to a Market Street bike lane design that had been opposed by the fire department as possibly obstructive to emergency vehicles, while promising to collaborate with the fire department to refine the plan.

In their Sunday column, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross characterize this decision as “a big victory for the politically potent San Francisco Bicycle Coalition” and the design as “safe for bikes, perhaps, but maybe less so for anyone needing help in an emergency.”

As you can imagine, the bike advocates at Streetsblog SF were less than pleased by this editorial approach, saying that even M&R admit that it’s not really the bike lane that has the potential to block emergency vehicles, it’s the lane parking alongside it.

Bikes don’t block ladders or ladder trucks. Neither do bike lanes.

Parked cars and trucks get in the way of ladder trucks....

If there’s still an issue for the SFFD, it’s with the parked cars. If the city really wants to maximize safety, forget a parking protected bike lane. Let’s get rid of the parking lane altogether and put in a concrete divider to protect cyclists, making sure that divider is mountable by ladder trucks and other emergency vehicles.

But parking, perhaps, is not as attractive a villain to Chronicle readers as cyclists might be.

You’re the map now, dog

Google-owned Navigation app Waze launched a new update this week with one of the most horrifying (or narcissistic) ideas ever: an option to replace the voice used to give directions with your own.

As explained by Live Science, however, most human beings who are not Morgan Freeman cannot stand the sound of their own voice. This is typically because when we hear the “real” sound of our voices it’s much higher than what we expect, because we hear ourselves speak through bone conduction, not through the air conduction we use to hear things outside our own heads...things like your navigation system’s voice struggling (and failing, miserably) with the pronunciation of “Kezar Drive.”

Waze’s update, The Verge reports, allows you to record your own voice to give commands (like “turn left” or whatever), but street names and other details will still come from the app’s default voice. That means you’ll still be asked to take “Keeezure” and you’ll have to hear your own dulcet tones, possibly the worst of both worlds.

How Airbnb is informing hotels

Chip Conley is arguably on a circular journey. The founder of the Joie de Vivre Hospitality hotel brand turned coat in 2013 by becoming Airbnb’s head of global hospitality and strategy. A few months ago he left the “home sharing” monolith and has “plunged back into the hotel world,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Now aged 56, he’s the partial owner of The Laurel Inn, that 49-room hotel oddly placed at the corner of California Street and Presidio.

Now, the once-dated hotel has been “renovated to appeal to the same folks who like staying in private homes through Airbnb,” which presumably does not mean that when you show up, there’s an unexpected cat. “Boutique hotels helped pave the way for Airbnb because they sent the message that predictability as defined by Sheraton and Holiday Inn-type chain motels was waning in importance for travelers,” Conley tells the Chronicle. “They showed people willing to be more adventurous in where they’d stay.” And if there’s anywhere that adventure awaits, it’s certainly in that area between the tony area of Laurel Village and the even tonier Sacramento Street shopping district.

Brace for BART bike alarms

Folks passing through the BART’s 16th Street Station might notice some futuristic-looking erections this month, as the transit agency says they are “piloting a new high security bike rack system” there as of May. According to BART, the racks “provide a significantly stronger deterrent to theft compared with traditional U locks,” and are free to use.

Their manufacturer, Bikeep, explains on their site that the devices “can be set up with restricted access by an app or an access card, so that only specific people can use it, for example, your students, employees or tenants.” In BART’s case, users must first register online to use the things, then are activates when you tap with the Clipper card used to register. Use is limited to 24 concurrent hours, says BART.

Capp Street Crap noticed the racks’ installation this week, but it doesn’t look like they’re usable yet, as BART’s site still asks interested potential users to “Check back . . . a registration link will be posted here when the racks are operational.” Once they get going, Steve Beroldo, BART’s manager for access programs tells Capp Street Crap that “We’ll get feedback from users and see how they perform in the field.” For the pilot, there’ll be 10 slots available for use on a first-come, first-served basis.