Safety Improvements for Eastern Cesar Chavez Face Key Decision on Friday

The SFMTA's 4-lane proposal (at top) for continuous bike lanes through the Evans Street intersection is up for approval at hearing on Friday, but the another option (5-lane) forcing bicycle commuters to merge with trucks is still on the table. Image: SFMTA

Safety enhancements for Eastern Cesar Chavez Street are coming together after staff from the SFMTA and the SF Planning Department presented project plans at an open house last week. The near-term improvements include buffered bike lanes with soft-hit posts, while the long-term vision would add a two-way protected bikeway and wider sidewalks.

One piece of the near-term plan faces a major hurdle this Friday at an SFMTA engineering hearing, where officers will decide whether to recommend a design that provides continuous dedicated bike lanes through the critical Evans Street intersection. Without the bike lanes, cyclists would be thrust into a mixed traffic lane with heavy truck traffic.

“The Evans Street intersection proposal is an important step for connecting neighborhoods in the southeast and waterfront,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. “The new proposal provides dedicated bike space, which is vital for getting people through this busy intersection safely. We’re encouraging people who live, work and bike in this area to share their stories and ensure the passage of this proposal. Without this approval of the proposal, there will be a huge gap in the Eastern Cesar Chavez bikeway.”

Though SFMTA planner James Shahamiri said city agencies have come to agree on the safer design, it could still face some opposition from businesses who run trucks along the route.

“Everyone agreed that right now, this project works, and will work at least for the foreseeable future,” said Shahamiri.

The SFMTA's short-term plan for Cesar Chavez will replace car parking with curbside bike lanes separated soft-hit posts, but whether they continue through the Evans Street intersection is in question. Image: SFMTA

The rest of the SFMTA’s bike lane plan, expected to be implemented in March, has already been approved by the Board of Directors. However, at Evans Street, where continuous dedicated bike lanes would require removing 600 feet of a westbound mixed-traffic lane, staff had put off choosing one of two design options due to opposition from the Port of San Francisco and business owners who ship goods along the route. Last June, those business interests, citing concerns about future car congestion, prevailed on the mayor’s office to order the SFMTA and the Planning Department to scrap a five-year community plan to reduce lanes on the street.

Although Shahamiri said the Port has since come to agree on continuing the bike lane through Evans, the alternative is still on the table — a design which would force people on bikes to merge into lanes with semi trucks and cars as they cross the intersection. It will take a strong show of support at Friday’s hearing to ensure that the safer option is approved, he said.

In the long-term, the SF Planning Department has proposed a larger makeover of the street, though that project could take several years to construct, depending on how long it takes to secure funding. The long-term plan includes a two-way raised bikeway on the south side of Cesar Chavez as well as wider sidewalks, more greening and safety improvements across the dangerous streets beneath the freeway interchange known as the “Hairball.”

See images of the Planning Department’s vision below and more details in this PDF [5.3 MB].

The SFMTA hearing on the Evans Street intersection bike lane proposal will be held at this Friday, March 2 at 10 am at City Hall, Room 416. You can also email comments to sustainable.streets@sfmta.com.

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The Evans intersection with a two-way bikeway (in blue) on the curb as envisioned in the SF Planning Department's long-term conceptual plan. Image: SF Planning Department. ##http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2012/02/CCE-corridor-long-plan-workshop-4.pdf##See full PDF here## (14.3 MB).
A ground-view of the SF Planning Department's concept.
  • Anonymous

    Couple things ….

    1. No to the 5-lane option which drops the bike lanes at Evans. Heading west on Cesar Chavez approaching Evans doesn’t ever seem to have as heavy of traffic as going east, so it seems like traffic can get by with one lane without any real problems.

    2. For the long-term plan, why not put the two-way bikeway on the north side of Cesar Chavez? That way, crossing Evans is avoided and crossing Cesar Chavez to go up Pennsylvania to the 22nd St Caltrain (where much bicycle traffic is headed) is avoided?

    But in the end, I can’t wait to get bike lanes on Cesar Chavez. It is definitely one of the worst places to ride in SF, yet one of the most useful.

  • I lived in S.F. for a long time but am not in S.F. and with full respect for all the people who have volunteered their time on this, but both short term designs seem dangerous. The issue is not just merging in the bottom example, but intersecting pathways in both. 

    In the top example, right turning vehicles going 30 to 40mph are crossing the path of cyclists. This is a recipe for disaster. (BUT the NACTO guide offers it as a state-of-the-art solution, so it must be safe, right?)

    In an ideal(ized) situation, the driver in a vehicle will see a cyclist in front of them who is continuing east on Chavez, and will slow down and let them pass, knowing that the cyclist not only has to check over their shoulder but has no choice but merging — i.e. they are not seeing if it is safe, but if they will be hit by something. 

    Then there is the chance that the lane could get blocked if a long vehicle and several shorter ones are all turning on Evans at the same time. This might cyclists stop, and they have to start up again as moving vehicles might continue to move to make a right turn.

    The second (merging example) is almost too stupid to waste time on, and the long-term example below is a total clusterfuck, as e.g. in the least ideal but still common situation a vehicle turning right onto Evans has to watch for cyclists coming from both directions and pedestrians (okay, maybe not too many here?) also coming from both directions. There is no way especially for a truck or tractor-trailer driver to see well here!!

    Perhaps I am being to negative? In the long-term plan – I looked at the PDF – are there dedicated signals for vehicles including bikes and peds coming from all directions? Actually what is the plan regarding signals for the whole stretch? 

  • Bikercr1964

    As a cyclist and an employee for the past 6 years of one of the shipping companies in the area, I can safely say that all I would need is a newly paved surface and a more sensitive light trigger (bike+rider weight) at the Chavez to Evans left turn lane. And maybe a wider sidewalk for pedestrians, so they don’t have to walk on the street.

  • One of the worst parts of this street right now is the EB Evans intersection. There is a red light accompanies by a green right turn arrow. Cyclists end up on the right hand side of the through lane, between a truck on their left and a truck making a right turn at speed with the green arrow, on their right. The 5 lane option preserves this problem.

    The through lane is sharrowed in the design above, but cyclists will be nudged to the right by drivers passing them from behind, or cyclists will filter to the front (the wisdom of doing this is not something I consider relevant, and certainly not more relevant than a trucker taking a right turn at 40 MPH with a cyclist inches away) and I doubt the sharrows will accomplish mitigation of this problem.

    If they do choose the 5 lane option we should lobby very hard for removal of the green arrow phase, and a red light camera. The truckers are very impatient on Chavez and without a mitigation like that, this design would mean we put in a lot of work to accomplish nothing. As long as there is a single danger point, we won’t attract new cyclists. Clean up this street and the riders will come.

    As a side note to the MTA – there are numerous people who drive their car to 22nd Street Caltrain on Chavez, park on Pennsylvania, TAKE THEIR BIKE OUT OF THE TRUNK, and get onto Caltrain, needing their bike on the Peninsula side of their commute. Do this Chavez lane properly and they will ride to the station.

  • Anonymous

    You may be okay with just better pavement and a more sensitive light trigger, but the vast majority of cyclists prioritize safety from the fast-moving cars and trucks. This has been shown time and time again in cities all over the world. That must be the priority. New pavement is great, but no substitute for more fundamental design changes which put the safety of cyclists at the same priority level as other road users.

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