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City to Compromise Safety for Parking on Octavia/Market Death Trap

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.

Motorists have killed three cyclists in the immediate vicinity of Oak and Market since 2011, Renata Gonzalez, Robert Yegge, and an unnamed cyclist just last month. That's why advocates are renewing the push to put a concrete protected bike lane on the northbound side road of Octavia (see pic below), so motorists flying off the Central freeway aren't continually putting cyclists in danger.

From an email from advocate and cyclist Zack Browne to D8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman:

I bike Octavia northbound from Market to Hayes almost every day and I’m terrified of getting killed by northbound traffic coming off the highway onto the side street paralleling Octavia. Several cyclists have already been killed here (link and link) and I'm terrified I will be next.

The Danger Spot

Many drivers take the side street to avoid traffic on Octavia but there is no protection for bikes and the quick uphill next to the busy road makes it extremely dangerous for cyclists since they go slow and struggle up the hill while cars accelerate behind them. Furthermore, there is ample space currently used for parking that can give cyclists the protected lane they need that will save lives.

Proposed Fix to prevent injury and save lives

Turn the parking on the right hand side into a protected bike lane or prevent cars from taking this “offramp” into the bike lane.

Browne is proposing a protected bike lane in the area circled in red in the pic below that he submitted to the Supervisor's office.

The side road on Octavia, leading off the freeway. Photo: Zachary Browne
The side road on Octavia, leading off the freeway. Photo: Zachary Browne

But once again, SFMTA and the city's 'solution' is to go part way and not remove parking and not provide a fully protected lane, the only thing that makes sure conflicts are minimized. "As part of the Upper Market streetscape project, they will be replacing the soft-hit posts and adding a sixty-foot-long concrete island to protect the bikeway up to the start of the frontage of the street," wrote SFMTA Senior Administrative Analyst for Government Affairs Chadwick Lee. "Our engineers do not advise removing the parking as there are many businesses and residents in the area. However, the concrete island should reduce speeds of vehicle entering the frontage and help remediate the issue."

SFMTA's plan would have a barrier at first, but then it would quickly drop away. Image: SFMTA
SFMTA's plan would have a barrier at first, but then it would quickly drop away. Image: SFMTA

As Browne points out, this moves the danger, and will probably help a bit, but it doesn't solve the problem--especially if a parked car jinks out of a space or opens a door, forcing a cyclist into the path of a fast-moving car or truck coming off the freeway. "More cyclists risk getting killed right here unless a separated cycling lane is extended through the first block of the frontage road where eight parking spots currently stand," wrote Browne in his reply to SFMTA.

From Streetsblog's view, this is similar to the situation on Polk at Hayes, where SFMTA engineers cut short a protected bike lane to preserve parking. As revealed by an email at the time, the decision to "balance" parking and the safety of cyclists and pedestrians lead directly to the death of Lovisa Svallingson and the severe injury of Danny Ramos in 2021.

There's no shortage of other examples of SFMTA and lawmakers condemning vulnerable road users to death and severe injury in their immoral efforts to "balance" parking needs.

"The 6,000 lb heavy-machine operators entering this stretch of Octavia come off a highway going sixty mph," wrote advocate Matt Brezina in an email about Octavia. "It is especially jarring when SFMTA's decisions put the convenience of a few car parking spots over the safety of people."

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