A long-awaited blueprint to significantly improve safety and livability conditions on Cesar Chavez Street was approved by SFMTA Board today, culminating nearly a decade of community input and planning.
“This is the final step for approval of this really great project,” said Marc Caswell, program director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “This project has been in the works for years, and watching the Department of Public Works, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the SFMTA, and everybody at the Planning Department come together to build this world-class project was really inspiring and a great example for how future projects should come together.”
Caswell and neighborhood advocates cheered the plan’s benefits for pedestrians and bike riders. Redesigning the street will also lead to a reduction in speeding motor traffic.
For five years now, community groups and city agencies have been working together to develop a vision to improve a street that residents described as a “mini-freeway” so dangerous that even some drivers avoided it. The SFMTA’s Mike Sallaberry of the Sustainable Streets Division noted that bicyclists and pedestrians have disproportionately comprised 8 and 15 percent, respectively, of the street’s 150 crashes over the past five years.
“I would gladly add a minute or two to my drive to and from the freeway to ensure safety for bike riders and pedestrians,” said one commuter who uses the motor thoroughfare regularly by bike and car.
Sallaberry described the plan, saying it would cost-efficiently add features such as bike lanes, a landscaped median, and sidewalk bulb-outs in conjunction with sewer pipe and lighting projects already planned by the PUC.
Critics have said the proposed bike lanes, which would be painted between parked vehicles and moving motor traffic, don’t go far enough to improve safety compared to physically separated facilities, such as those being planned for Masonic Avenue.
SFMTA Director Cheryl Brinkman said that according to Sallaberry and PUC staff, a buffered bike lane wouldn’t currently be possible without removing the landscaped median or parking lanes. Without critical funding from the PUC that depends on including the stormwater-mitigating median, the project may not be possible.
As for the option of using the medians to separate bike and auto traffic, she said it would conflict with the location of underground sewer pipes, and removing parking would be a politically difficult option.
The sewer portion of the work is scheduled to start this spring while construction on the streetscape plan should begin in the fall.