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Feds Commit Money to Howard Street Improvements

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 federal government has committed $23 million for safety upgrades along San Francisco’s Howard Street through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) initiative. That will help build significant upgrades planned for Howard Street's mostly paint-and-plastic-protected bike lanes in SoMa.

“Making the Howard Street corridor safer will save lives and prevent injuries while also encouraging more people to safely use our bike network in the South of Market area,” said Mayor London Breed. “We have moved quickly to open protected bike lanes with temporary dividers on Howard Streets, and this will allow us to build on that success and make these changes with more permanent infrastructure."

These improvements, which are scheduled for implementation over the next three years, include:

    • New two-way protected bike lane on Howard from 4th to 11th streets
    • Concrete buffers for parking-protected bikeways
    • New concrete protection for bicyclists in intersections
    • New separated bike signals with dedicated phases for cyclists and turning vehicles
    • Raised bikeways at select alley crossings to prioritize a cyclist’s right-of-way

"As San Francisco’s proud representative in the Congress, it was my privilege to help secure this transformative funding, and I will continue fighting alongside Mayor London Breed to achieve our Vision Zero – ending traffic fatalities in San Francisco by 2024,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a prepared statement.

Screenshot from 2022-08-10 11-57-44
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More from a statement from Pelosi's office:

The Howard Streetscape Project will transform a dangerous, congested artery into a walkable and bike-friendly street – addressing urgent safety issues that resulted in three fatalities between 2014 and 2019. Upgrades will include permanent protected bike lanes, improved traffic signals, raised crosswalks and green infrastructure.

"Between 2014 and 2019, three fatalities occurred on the corridor, along with 152 traffic crashes on the Folsom-Howard couplet, with more than half of these involving people walking or biking," wrote the mayor's office.

One of those killed was Tess Rothstein, who was run over by a truck driver in 2019. The lead image and the one below are from a commemorative ride.

Tess Rothstein's ghost bike at Howard and 6th. Her friend Norna Ross is seen kneeling. Photo: Stephen Braitsch
Tess Rothstein's ghost bike at Howard and 6th. Her friend Norna Ross is seen kneeling. Photo: Stephen Braitsch
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From Streetsblog's view, the mayor describing the current configuration as having been established "quickly" is strange. So is Pelosi's boasting that this will help the city achieve Vision Zero by 2024. Rothstein died within sight of a protected bike lane. But the section she was riding on still had only a painted stripe in the door zone because of years-long delays. She was flung into traffic by someone opening their car door – exactly the tragedy that is made all but impossible by the protected bike lanes that went in only after her death.

Furthermore, Vision Zero will not be achieved by 2024, 2025, 2026, or 2036 unless the city commits to fast, citywide action. Doing a few piecemeal projects – each requiring years if not decades of outreach, only to get watered down or delayed to protect parking and political expediency – doesn't work. Neither does rolling back the Slow Streets program.

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