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. See full PDF here (14.3 MB).

A ground-view of the SF Planning Department's concept.