Wiggle Safety Upgrades Delayed Over Turn Bans to Reduce Thru Traffic

The Wiggle would become safer and calmer with upgrades like a traffic diverter at southbound Scott and Fell streets. But Lower Haight neighbors oppose left-turn bans aimed at attracting cross-town drivers to Divisadero Street. Image: SFMTA

Improvements that would make the Wiggle calmer and safer have been delayed after continued driver protests against three left turn bans on Divisadero Street proposed as part of the project. Approval of the project was removed from the SFMTA Board of Directors’ Tuesday agenda and postponed until June.

Hoodline reported that some members of the Lower Haight Neighbors and Merchants Association can’t stomach the all-hours left turn bans from Divisadero on to Haight Street, and peak hour bans for turns on to Hayes and McAllister Streets.

The SFMTA says the bans are intended to complement the Wiggle improvements, which include a traffic diverter on Scott Street. By keeping cut-through drivers moving on Divisadero, the main driving route, that street would become the more attractive driving option. “This will reduce Scott Street’s appeal as a cross-town route, making it a more pleasant place to walk, bike, and live,” says an SFMTA fact sheet [PDF] on the Wiggle improvements.

“We want people to get where they need to go safely while keeping heavier traffic on Divisadero,” Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire said in a statement. “The SFMTA’s proposals for Divisadero will improve traffic flow, cut down on congestion and reduce spillover traffic into the neighborhood. We have worked with the community extensively on this project, and we wanted to take a little more time to better understand the concerns of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association.”

A major feature of the planned Wiggle upgrades is a large sidewalk bulb-out which would physically block drivers from entering southbound Scott at Fell Street. That would reduce the car traffic on Scott, which runs one block parallel to Divisadero, that degrades the livability of the neighborhood and congests the intersection at Haight. The improvements also include raised crosswalks, bulb-outs with rain gardens, and textured pavement.

“Thousands of people bike and walk through the Wiggle every day, and they and the neighborhood residents deserve a street that works for them,” said Tyler Frisbee, policy director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. The SFMTA’s project “enhances the residential, family-oriented nature of the community and ensures that everyone is able to walk, bike, and enjoy the area in a safe, inviting place. This project will reduce the amount of water pollution and runoff from these streets, minimize traffic congestion for neighbors, and improve safety for people walking and biking. That is a clear win-win.”

Divisadero, looking southbound at Haight. Photo: Google Street View
Divisadero, looking southbound at Haight. Photo: Google Street View

Southbound drivers on Divisadero headed for the Lower Haight would still be able to make left turns at Fulton, Grove, Oak, Page, and Waller streets. But LoHaMNA wants to preserve the left turn on to Haight in particular, according to a letter from the organization to the SFMTA cited by Hoodline:

Put simply, we asked for consideration of the drivers coming home from services in the North side of the City (Kaiser, CPMC, water access in the Marina and Marin), or coming to our neighborhood for services. Those driving from the North literally will have any coherent direct route to homes and businesses blocked. It is not just an extra turn or two you are suggesting to get to the Lower Haight, it is three-to-four and a congested turn signal at Oak.

LoHaMNA’s view isn’t shared by all in the Lower Haight. “Pedestrians and bicyclists are dying on our unsafe streets, and these improvements will make my neighborhood safer for me and my family,” said a neighbor who declined to be named. “That should the priority, more than the driving convenience of a few neighbors. I thought the neighbors made that clear over years of community meetings.”

Since Divisadero lacks left turn lanes, drivers block the center lanes to wait to make left turns, which can hold up vehicle traffic. The three streets where left turn bans are proposed also carry Muni lines, so reducing car traffic on them could help keep buses moving on those streets.

Banning left turns could also reduce pedestrian injuries in crosswalks on Divisadero, since a quarter of victims are hit by left-turning drivers, according to the city’s Walk First program, which lists Divisadero as a high-injury corridor.

The left turn bans would be supplemented by “coordinated traffic signals” on southbound Divisadero between O’Farrell and Hayes streets, “so that southbound traffic will usually arrive on a green light,” the SFMTA fact sheet says. The signal timing “will ensure that the increase in the number of cars using Divisadero will not slow down the 24-Divisadero, and could even improve Muni service in some stretches.”

“The SFMTA is committed to making the Wiggle better and safer for everyone,” Maguire said.

“No safety improvements in San Francisco are without their critics,” said Frisbee, “but it’s worth remembering the hundreds of San Franciscans who have spoken up for this project over the years and who want it to move forward as quickly as possible. We need to keep our eye on the bigger picture and the overall goal of this project, which is to improve water quality, reduce congestion, improve safety, and enhance the neighborhood feeling on these streets.”

  • Bless you SFCimbys (Cars in my back yard) for saving us from a pedestrian & bike infested nightmare!

  • Gezellig
  • I’m not sure which I like more!

  • Gezellig

    With so many spots to pick from, you can try them all!

    Btw, Bobby G, have you ever considered updating your avatar to have an anti-pedestrian symbol, as well? Those foot-goers need to realize the error of their ways, too.

  • the_greasybear

    “I thought the neighbors made that clear over years of community meetings.”

    Nothing in San Francisco is clear over years and years of community meetings, except one thing: a last-minute squeal-de-coeur by motorists always trumps the entire process.

  • Gezellig

    Or…the mayor’s optometrist! If he gets a sad then years of planning for safety upgrades are definitely worth flushing down the tube.

  • @Bob – I can’t be a CIMBY because my landlady refuses to bore a soft story through the ground floor to let cars through. This also means there’s no curb cut for CIMFY, just some trees. What is wrong with some people?

  • Oh wow hey, are going to be ok?

  • SFnative74

    That first one is the worst as they could have left some sidewalk clear by pulling forward. Zero consideration of other people!

  • KWillets

    Can I get some votes for converting Divis to a complete street? At least some of this probably stems from the terror of making left turns on this 4-lane nightmare of a roadway.

  • It has 4 lanes dedicated to moving cars and 2 dedicated to storing them, with tiny side streets for puny pedestrians. There’s even a bus bulbout here and there. How much more complete does it need?!

  • Can you use these for a blog? I’ll give you credit if you’d like!

  • KWillets

    You’re right, it should be 6 lanes if we take out the sidewalk.

  • Gezellig

    Hah, well they’re not my pics (thanks, Google Image!) so no credit necessary to me but as long as the original images don’t have copyright limitations on them I’d say go for it. Have fun with the post!

  • Gezellig

    Or 12 if we make it a double-decker!

    Because endlessly more cars = endlessly more profits for merchants. It’s science.

    Just like the vibrant restaurant and food scene that used to exist along the Embarcadero:

    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7051/6954524483_d6e40b8bec_o.jpg

    In those days, people would flock to the waterfront and public plazas:

    http://sfpl.org/images/libraries/main/departments/sfphotos/featured-galleries/james-scott/fullsize/223a.jpg

    They *especially* enjoyed flocking to–well, more like alongside and around–these lively public gems by car.

    Actually…all by car.

    After all, staying too long in the area might rudely congest the sensory experience for others.

    We have a lot to learn from the wisdom of our forebears!

  • grandeur1

    lol

  • Louie Louie

    I was a pedestrian for 20 years in SF.. now I have to drive into the city from Marin. Pedestrians should always come first. Now that I sometimes use Divisadero to get to the Golden Gate Bridge, it makes perfect sense to keep traffic moving on Divisadero for Muni and to relieve congestion. It sounds like a win-win for everyone. There are many different way to reach the Lower Haight if you just stop and think for a minute before you get behind the wheel.

  • van2000

    Just to be clear, LoHaMNA is supporting the Scott St. diverter and is in favor of bike & ped access. We are only asking that the left turn ban at Divisadero & Haight be removed from the plan, not all the others. This is a critical distinction. Actually our community org is made up of merchants, neighbors, even an ex-SFMTA employees who all support removing the turn restriction on Divis @ Haight. SFMTA engineers rely on “possible” future traffic patterns to rationale shutting down all these lefts. We are asking for a reasonable real world scenario to justify removing the left at Haight when & if backups are realized vs. future traffic pattern conjecture. For example, the engineers do not account for the possibility of people turning to other forms of transportation as a result of the Scott St. diverter and getting out of the car, biking, walking or taking public transportation. Their solution is a narrow engineering only paradigm and assumes the same # of cars will remain or increase after the Scott St. diverter, which is not necessarily true. What we put forth is a balanced argument, not NIMBY, not bike vs. car vs. pedestrian, just balanced and reasonable for all stakeholders – how about we try that tack for a change and find some common ground vs polarizing the issue?

  • gneiss

    Your contention that it is only “possible” future traffic patterns is deliberately misleading. It was quite clear from traffic modeling that the SFMTA has done that allowing left turns from Divisdero on to Haight and the other streets along Divisdero southbound would cause unacceptable delays which would force people to not use that street but instead attempt other routes. They cannot move forward with any changes on Scott or along with wiggle without making sure that traffic will not back up along Divisidero and that it becomes the preferred route for people going south along this corridor.

    In addition, it is quite clear that only a handful of residents who can’t imagine adding a few extra turns into their commutes from the north has hijacked the LoHaMNA. You are absolutely responsible for the delay. Stop trying to set this up as a non-NIMBY position when it absolutely is. If you were responsible, you would let SFMTA make their changes with reservations and then see if you were having problems. Instead, you are throwing up roadblocks that stop any alteration to the existing pattern because you don’t want change to your commute. That is a absolutely a NIMBY position.

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