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Eyes on the Street: Better Bike Lanes on 17th

12:44 PM PDT on October 2, 2018

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The protected bike lanes on that notorious stretch of 17th between Church and Sanchez got significant upgrades in August, with the plastic safe-hit posts that previously delineated the bike lane replaced with a concrete curb. Even before the latest round of upgrades, the bike lanes have been working well. "It has ended the midblock bike wrecks," said bike advocate John Entwistle, who lives on the street. "That is wonderful. Drivers do respect the bollards and the concrete. I would prefer a bit more green paint and a wee it more signage but overall I am delighted."

DPW crews installing the concrete curb in August. Photo: John Entwistle
DPW crews installing the concrete curb in August. Photo: John Entwistle

Entwistle, as previously reported, set up a camera in his window to record all the crashes that were happening on the street. This popular cycling route has train tracks in the middle and was continually plagued by motorists double-parking on the bike lane, which forced cyclists to delicately maneuver onto the tracks--often resulting in a crash. Finally, Entwistle caught on camera a now infamous wreck of a woman riding a family bike with her two children. This prompted SFMTA and Public Works to take action. They removed the parking lane and installed the temporary, plastic bollard-protected bike lane until the work could be scheduled to put in concrete curbs, to permanently segregate bike and car traffic and to physically prevent motorists from blocking the lane.

Not only did they remove the parking, but SFMTA also narrowed the traffic lanes. "The cars that do proceed down our street drive a little bit slower than they used to. So you have fewer cars, driving slower and visibility is through the roof for everyone. This is a major change in the character of our street. It is indisputably good," said Entwistle.

"This kind of physical barrier is precisely the standard we want to keep people biking safely separated from people driving," wrote Rachel Dearborn, Interim Communications Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "We look forward to seeing more of this type of safety improvement applied to high injury corridors across the city."

Current conditions on 17th, with a historic streetcar heading to Castro and Market
Current conditions on 17th, with a historic streetcar heading to Castro and Market

The project still isn't finished. "The bikeways were first put in with paint and posts in January. The pavement was then repaired to make for a smoother ride prior to the islands being built in August," wrote Mike Sallaberry, the project's manager for SFMTA, in an email to Streetsblog. "Next steps include the construction of curb ramps at 17th and Church and 17th and Hartford. Last I heard from Public Works, they would be built this month."

He added that SFMTA is also looking at changes to the traffic signals to add pedestrian countdowns and possibly bike signals. Although he warned that this later phase is "...years off due to the time needed to design the project, get it in a contract, and construct."

A cyclist enjoying the protected bike lane on 17th--no longer in fear of munching out on the tracks
A cyclist enjoying the protected bike lane on 17th--no longer in fear of munching out on the tracks because of a double parked car blocking the lane

There could be even more improvements on the way. One source told Streetsblog that advocates want to spruce things up a bit--guerrilla planters may pop up unexpectedly on the curbs.

Meanwhile, much of the double parking that caused the crashes were the result of pickups and drop offs at Everette Middle School. "We created a long white zone on Church in front of Everett Middle School and spent a year getting parents to use it. That has worked well to remove a source of chaos from 17th Street in the mornings," added Entwistle. "The school drop is now textbook, a very civil procedure indeed."

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