The SFMTA installed two new signal lights this week that the agency hopes will lead to increased safety for people walking and biking in the Broadway Tunnel and a Tenderloin intersection.
The Broadway Tunnel may feel less intimidating for some bike riders after the SFMTA installed a sensor-activated signal this week to alert drivers of their presence. It’s aimed at boosting visibility for people riding eastbound through the harrowing tunnel which, not surprisingly, has historically drawn little bike traffic.
“Signage and a flashing beacon have been added to Broadway Street just east of Larkin to alert motorists to be vigilant of cyclists sharing the tunnel,” SFMTA staff wrote on their Livable Streets Facebook page . “The beacon will be triggered by magnetic loops in the ground that detect cyclists approaching the tunnel.”
Eastbound Broadway serves as a connection from Pacific Heights to Chinatown and North Beach, but it appears to have little appeal for residents who aren’t willing to share a dark tunnel with speeding motor traffic. Many bicyclists choose to use the elevated sidewalks.
The improvement, which is in the Bike Plan, should add “a little bit of comfort,” the SF Bike Coalition’s Andy Thornley told Streetsblog last year , “but honestly, that’s not going to get cautious folks on bikes much.”
“If the city decided it wanted to allocate more room for bike right-of-way in the tunnel, it could certainly do that,” Thornley pointed out at the time. “It’s really a political question rather than an engineering question.” He couldn’t be reached for comment today.
Mike Sallaberry of the SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division said there are plans to add sharrows in the eastbound tunnel and staff is working on an alternative route for westbound riders. The agency is also considering lowering the speed limit in the tunnel by 5 mph. He said the beacon should be activated soon, pending the replacement of some malfunctioning equipment.
Just over the hill in the Tenderloin, new pedestrian countdown signals were spotted at Polk and Eddy Streets. They come as part of the SFMTA’s continued efforts to improve pedestrian safety in the Tenderloin, which has been the focus of much-needed attention in recent months.
The neighborhood lies within District 6, where more pedestrians are injured and killed  by drivers than in any other area in the city. A year ago, two pedestrians were killed by a driver at the intersection of Polk and Turk Streets just one block away, according to police crash records.
Countdown signals can help pedestrians gauge when it’s safe to cross and discourage drivers from running red lights. The SFMTA stated in its Pedestrian Action Plan [pdf ] last year that it plans roll out the signals at 1,500 intersections citywide as part of its efforts.
Updated 8:00 pm