The intersection of Octavia Boulevard and Market Street is considered one of the most dangerous in San Francisco. Earlier this morning, 56-year-old Thor Thomas was struck and killed at the Octavia Street on-ramp.
Tomorrow afternoon, the SFMTA board will vote to move forward with a number of Market Street safety improvements, including a two-block protected bike lane similar to the installed bike lanes on 13th and Division streets and on JFK Drive at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park.
As we’ve previously reported, the Upper Market Safety Improvement Project is an effort to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety along a nearly one-mile stretch of Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street—a major corridor in San Francisco's Vision Zero High Injury Network.
Between 2011 and 2016, there were 174 collisions, 51 involving bicyclists and 22 involving pedestrians.
If approved, the street enhancements will make traveling through the Wiggle, the Castro, and downtown safer for bicyclists. A yes vote will also eventually make walking and driving a tricky stretch of Market Street more navigable for all residents.
However, the project’s progress has been slow going. The SF Bicycle Coalition has been clamoring for over a decade to get physically-protected bike lanes along Market Street between the Embarcadero through Octavia.
“We know it’s a high injury corridor and that several of the intersections are among the most dangerous in the city," said Chris Cassidy, SFBC's spokesperson. "We also know there’s are much safer and cost-effective way to change that: physically-protected bike lanes.”
While it was frustrating that it has taken nearly two years to create two blocks of protected bike lane, Cassidy said that he was happy that the matter will now go to SFMTA’s board for a vote.
“After SFMTA initially got cold feet on the protected bike lanes,” Cassidy said, “it took members of our coalition writing letters and Supervisor Sheehy speaking up to really let [the agency] know that there is an incredible amount of support to move forward with this plan.”
Avoid Market and Octavia streets. The intersection has become sort of a car vs car and car vs bicyclist battleground. no one is winning pic.twitter.com/grriS6huG0— DB (@BoyerDina) November 8, 2016
Bill Barnes, one of Supervisor Sheehy’s aides, told us the project's delays are a result of different city departments not getting along. “Hopefully [tomorrow],” Barnes said, “SFMTA will work it all out and make this entire Market Street improvement project happen.”
Ben Jose, a spokesperson with SFMTA, said that it’s not unusual for a large project with a lot of moving pieces such as the Upper Market Street Improvement Project to take a long time to bring together.
“City projects don’t always happen as fast as people want,” Jose told us. “In 2015, we identified problems, and we did what we could do right away. We’ve been working with the community and businesses to work through the project, but we knew it would take a while.”
In addition to the proposed parking protected bike lanes on a one-third mile segment of Market Street (westbound from Octavia to Duboce and eastbound from Guerrero to Octavia), the SFMTA board will vote on a number of improvements to “better organize the street, whether people are driving, biking or walking,” Jose said.
Improvements include the installation of sidewalk bulb-outs, parking-protected bike lanes, eight green bike boxes to separate bikes and cars at stop lights, and four pedestrian islands.
Bike lanes would also be upgraded, and medians expanded to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety. One critical improvement would be guide markings through complex intersections to tell drivers where to expect bicycles and guide bicyclists on a safer path through the crossings.
If the SFMTA approves the Upper Market safety improvements, near-term improvements that can be created with paint—such as the parking-protected bike lanes—will become reality in 2017. However, for larger project elements that involve physical construction, those will begin in 2019.
“There are six pretty complex intersections along the project corridor,” Jose said. “We don’t want to rush things. If it’s approved [tomorrow], we’ll move as fast as possible with near-term improvements, but we want to inform people before beginning any large construction projects.”
Cassidy told us he hopes that pedestrian and bicycle advocates will attend tomorrow’s meeting to show their support for safety improvements—not just along Market Street, but elsewhere in San Francisco.
As we reported last week, SFMTA considered scaling down proposed a parking-protected bike lane on Turk Street. Now, the agency is reconsidering the matter after widespread outcry.
“We need to not only urge the board to approve the protected bike lanes on Market Street,” Cassidy said, “but also bring attention to SFMTA’s dilly-dallying on other plans for protected bike lanes in other parts of the city.”
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