Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
Published on August 20, 2015
SFMTA Board Approves Major Safety Changes On Second StreetPhotos: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline

At its August 18th meeting, the SFMTA board of directors unanimously approved the Second Street Improvement Project, which will bring major changes to the busy SoMa corridor.

The project will create raised and protected bike lanes, raised crosswalks at alleyways, wider sidewalks, and streetscape improvements such as benches and better lighting along Second Street from Market to King streets. It'll also remove two of the street's four lanes of traffic, one in each direction.

Construction is expected to start in the fall of 2016, with completion by fall of 2017. Years in the making, it'll be one of the most ambitious streetscape projects yet undertaken in the city. Those interested in further details can read the full study here, and view a slide presentation here.

Map: SF Department of Public Works

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, WalkSF and the South Beach Mission Bay Business Association (SBMBBA) all applauded the SFMTA's decision. "It's going to turn this concrete, fast, noisy, unpleasant street into a calm, green street," said Nicole Ferrara, executive director of WalkSF. "It’s pretty exciting. SoMa deserves it. There are so many streets designed for vehicles in SoMa, and so few designed for people."

Chris Cassidy, communications director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said Second Street is the only north-south bike route going north to south through SoMa, and it's not always safe or comfortable. This plan will "make it dramatically safer, not just for people biking, but for people walking," he said. "It’s going to be a different ball game for everyone.”

A rendering of the proposed changes. (Image: SFMTA)

A lot of locals have come to value "making the street an inviting public realm rather than a place that prioritizes car traffic,” said Patrick Valentino, president of the SBMBBA. Ferrara agreed, adding that creating a more pleasant environment for those on bike or foot helps businesses. "People on foot and bike are more likely to spend money at businesses," she said. "You’re more likely to pop into a shop when you're on foot. It’s better for everyone."

The reduced vehicle traffic and expanded sidewalks will be a boon to Second Street's array of cafes and businesses that boast sidewalk seating, plazas, patios or open storefronts. The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, 21st Amendment Brewery & Restaurant, 303 Second Street Plaza, Mehfil Indian Cuisine and Uno Dos Tacos are just a few of the places that will see a calmer exterior environment. 

303 Second Street Plaza. 

"It’s going to be safer for people driving as well," Cassidy added, because bicyclists will have their own slightly raised, protected lane instead of sharing lanes. Both drivers and cyclists will also be more aware of pedestrians, with the addition of bulb-outs and slightly elevated crosswalks. "It draws attention to the fact that they’re entering a right of way for people walking," he said. “The reallocation of that space specifically to dedicated bike lanes and widened sidewalks is what makes the re-imagination of Second Street possible.”

Of course, reducing lanes on a major thoroughfare to the Bay Bridge could cause increased backups on other streets, especially given the current rise of SoMa gridlock. Ferrara said that shouldn't be a deterrent. "If you create more roadway and more freeways, more people will drive, and if you shrink roadways and create alternatives, fewer people will drive."

Ferrara said the Second Street changes could cause more short-term congestion and longer wait times to get on the bridge. But with the Transbay Center opening up more transit options for East Bay residents commuting to the city, and BART looking at a new funding measure to increase capacity and reliability, "Second Street isn’t happening in a vacuum," she said. "You'll definitely see shifts in the transportation choices that people make now they can get safely from Market Street down Second Street."