Municipal Activities Aim to Increase Bike Safety

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Construction along Potrero Avenue – part of streetscape improvements managed by the San Francisco Department of Public Works in conjunction with the Municipal Transit Authority and the Public Utilities Commission – will be completed this fall, according to a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition spokesperson.  Potrero Avenue is the only direct bike route between South-of-Market and the edge of Potrero Hill.  Creating a safer roadway for bicyclists and pedestrians has been a priority for the Coalition and members who live in the area for years. Among other changes, the project features “buffered” bike lanes between 17th and 25th streets, which provide an additional painted zone between bicyclists and vehicles.

“Most of the work is centered around sidewalk improvements. Sidewalk widening specifically,” Bicycle Coalition community organizer Chema Hernandez-Gil said. “Potrero Avenue is one of the most dangerous streets for people walking in San Francisco, but we wanted to make sure that as improvement was being made for pedestrians there was some additional improvement made for people biking too.” Changes include better lighting, widened foot and bike paths, and re-gradated overpass ramps.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (CTA) Neighborhood Transportation Improvement Project (NTIP) is contemplating potential changes to the Alemany Interchange, commonly referred to as “the maze,” located at the intersection of Bayshore and Alemany boulevards.

“What we’ve heard from the community is that right now that there’s just a really circuitous route to get from San Bruno Avenue and Portola to the Alemany farmers market,” CTA project manager Colin Dentel-Post said.  According to Dentel-Post, this course involves at least a quarter mile detour using multiple crosswalks.  “But what most people actually do is just kind of cut through the interchange on a dirt pathway, and run across the road where there’s no crosswalk or signal or anything,” he said.  “Basically what we want to do is formalize that connection, so that there would actually be a signaled, safe crossing to get through there.”

Another NTIP element is connecting bike lanes along Alemany Boulevard through the interchange.  “What we want to do is connect the existing bike lanes that are on Alemany Boulevard, west of the interchange, all the way through to Bayshore Boulevard, which has bike lanes, so that you’d be able to complete that connection along a new safe route,” Dentel-Post said.  A study will evaluate conceptual plans for improvements, conduct initial traffic and circulation analyses, and investigate potential effects on various travel modes, particularly pedestrian and bicyclist safety.  CTA expects results by next summer.

According to Hernandez-Gil, District 9 and 10 Supervisors, David Campos and Malia Cohen, respectively, support NTIP; Cohen’s office in particular helped the project meet its municipal funding goals.  “Our office fought through the budget process to get an additional $100,000, which was finally approved at the beginning of August.  We’re going to be doing that study this year, and then hopefully implementing it shortly thereafter,” a Cohen staff member said.

The Bicycle Coalition has long worked to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety at the Alemany Maze and Hairball, another cluster of exit ramps and overpasses which connects the Hill with Bernal Heights, Bayview, and the Mission.  “It’s a mess,” Bike Coalition policy director Tyler Frisbee said, of the hairball.   “It’s a high injury corridor for people biking and people walking, it’s dangerous, it’ scary, and it’s a real obstacle in the midst of trying to connect the southern part of the City with Downtown.” The Alemany Maze is “…similar to the Hairball, because it’s another one of those messy situations where it’s freeway, and on street roads, and routes are really getting messy for people biking and walking, and people driving.”

As the number of bicycle commuters in San Francisco grows – the bicycle population has more than doubled since 2006 – providing safe bike lanes is a Bicycle Coalition priority.  Some bike advocates believe that the City has given more attention to high-profile, tourist luring areas, such as the stretch of the Bay Trail between the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, while neglecting drastically-needed improvements in residential areas, like Dogpatch, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, and Showplace Square.

“There is a connection between our efforts, and the City’s Vision Zero initiative, an effort to eventually reduce San Francisco’s traffic fatalities to zero,” Dentel-Post said.  “There are a number of pieces of that rolling out across the City, and there are a set of prioritized corridors that are where a disproportionate number of traffic injuries and fatalities occur.  Bayshore Boulevard, San Bruno Avenue, and Alemany Boulevard are all identified as high priority corridors.”