SFMTrA Takes it Up a Notch with Glue-down Safety Posts in Golden Gate Park

Those safe-hit posts were installed by the guerrilla safety group, SFMTrA -not SFMTA. Photo: SFMTra.
These official-looking safe-hit posts were installed by the guerrilla safety group, SFMTrA -not SFMTA. Photo: SFMTrA.

San Francisco cyclists may have noticed a safety improvement at JFK and Kezar, where Golden Gate Park meets the Panhandle. That notorious intersection now has more than paint to segregate cars, pedestrians, and cyclists: plastic, safe-hit posts popped up late last week. And they seem to be working, effectively keeping motorists out of the bike lane.

But don’t thank the San Francisco Rec and Parks Department for installing them. SFMTA? Nope. Is it because of Mayor Edwin Lee’s “Executive Directive” on safety. Guess again.

The posts were glued down by fed-up citizen volunteers. That’s right: it’s an illegal installation.

“We’ve all done our civic duty and due diligence to make things better within the system. All we got was frustrated,” said a member of the San Francisco Metropolitan Transformation Authority, also known as the SFMTrA.

From the SFMTrA website:

The San Francisco Metropolitan Transformation Authority is a collective organization of men and women committed to making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and doing it quickly. We were founded in 2016 in direct response to the deaths of two cyclists on the city’s streets on the same day.

The two deaths, of course, were Heather Miller and Kate Slattery–two women killed in different parts of San Francisco, on June 22. That horrific night was a clarion call that our city agencies are undeniably not working fast enough to make our streets safe, something that’s been echoed by Members of the Board of Supervisors and, at long last, the Mayor himself.

Obviously, Streetsblog has to withhold the identities of the guerrilla advocates. But here’s what else they had to say: “We weren’t seeing quick fixes, we weren’t seeing a high degree of care and concern…what else do you do if you’ve gone through all the appropriate protocols? The next thing to do is take direct action.”

This is not the first direct action by the group, which has affiliates throughout the country. But previous “installations” consisted of some paint and dropping down some safety cones, without attaching them to the pavement.  The safe-hit posts, on the other hand, aren’t going anywhere for a while, unless effort is made to remove them.

Safe-hit posts. Cheap and quickly installed. Photo: SFMTrA
Safe-hit posts and adhesive pads. Cheap and quickly installed. Photo: SFMTrA

“They’re attached using butyl pads, a pressure adhesive–the sticky pad goes on the street and you roll over it with a car tire, which firmly glues it in place,” said the unofficial spokesperson for the SFMTrA. “It’s not technically considered permanent, but it’s much more than cones.”

This particular installation was about a mile from where Miller was killed, on a notoriously dangerous spot that cyclists had posted about frequently on the group’s web page. They also have instructions about where to buy the posts and do your own installations. According to the spokesperson, the installation only took a couple of hours and required no more than two people–although more were present. The posts cost about $30 each.

So what does the SFMTA think about this? Here’s a statement from spokesman Paul Rose:

We certainly understand that people are passionate about safety. We are too. In 2010, we had zero miles of protected bike lanes and zero miles of buffered bike lanes in San Francisco. Since then, we’ve installed 27 miles of bike lanes that are either protected from traffic by things like parked cars or curbs, or have a space buffer between them and vehicles so people on bikes are safer.

We have no other choice but to remove the cones placed on the road by SFMTrA, because it is a code violation to place objects in the roadway and they could create conflicts for transit in the areas where they have been placed.

This is pretty much what one would expect from a city agency; obviously, an SFMTA’s spokesman is not going to encourage law breaking. But Streetsblog has to wonder, as long as the posts are inside a buffer zone where transit and other vehicles are not supposed to be anyway, how can the posts create conflicts? Only an inattentive motorist or bus driver can do that. And isn’t that the whole point of a safe-hit post: to intentionally create a potential conflict between a plastic post and a deadly vehicle, to avoid a crash between a cyclist and a deadly vehicle?

So until the City of San Francisco starts dropping planters, safe-hit posts, Jersey barriers, old railway ties, or whatever else it takes to keep cyclists from getting sent to the hospital and the morgue, how can anyone tell SFMTrA that they’re wrong?

Streetsblog knows there are plenty of people at SFMTA, the parks department, and the SFPD who are sympathetic with these guerrillas. We can only urge that, unless you really think SFMTrA has made an intersection or street tangibly more dangerous–which seems pretty unlikely–do your best to look the other way. SFMTrA reported that the police saw them working on the safe-hit posts, but opted to do just that.

Maybe the answer for the city is to figure out how to make these projects retroactively official. Or the city has to develop ninja safety installation teams of its own that can run out and put down safe-hit posts, planters, or whatever it takes, in hours rather than months and years.

“Our response would just be that we hope they will not remove our installations, which are increasing safety in the short term, unless they immediately install infrastructure of equal or greater quality,” said the SFMTrA spokesperson.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the plastic bollards in action, courtesy of “Asumu Takikawa” via the SFMTrA Twitter feed, with the comment “Cars seem to be going slower and def. no encroachment. Thanks so much! #postsonJFK”

  • runn3r85

    I was so excited when I saw these and wished they would have extended all the way down JFK. Lately people have been parking fully in the buffer “door zone” on JFK, basically removing that barrier for cyclists. We need truly protected bike lanes, or remove cars from JFK, considering it’s inside a park and all.

  • JustJake

    Odds on them remaining in place for 72 hours???

  • City Resident

    Thank you to the SFMTrA for this Vision Zero project! I hope many more such projects will follow.

  • njudah

    the SFMTRA doesn’t have the built in capitulation to nimbys that supervisors and the mayor do…

  • Michael Smith

    Bit of history. 16 years ago Dave Snyder was the instigator behind the current intersection design. He and I met with Parks & Rec (with a really good person who was subsequently pushed out). Dave pushed for a pretty radical solution. A bike lane in the middle of the street (epic battle that we won!) and reducing the entrance lane as much as possible to reduce speeding. We were told that if cars continued to speed that the intersection could be easily improved. Well, here we are 16 years later and the city never followed through, but the SFMTrA did!

    And anyone else remember the bike lane painted on Fell in 1999 by the Department of Traffic Corrections? Perhaps someone can post a picture. Took the city 15 years to put in an official bike lane after that. Yet somehow they managed to move quickly and cover up the renegade lane in just 3 days.

    Sigh.

  • Frank Kotter

    The Twitter video (twitteo?, twideo?) is a perfect vantage point to show that even with this drastic narrowing the road here is STILL too wide.

    How do these massive paving projects ever get approved? How is it that politicians are forced to take heat for ‘wasting’ money on some road paint for bike lanes but millions paving over an iconic park is cool with everyone?

    I do not belong in this world, I feel.

  • JB

    It’s been an ongoing issue since that bike lane was striped. Police have pulled me over several times for not riding in the bike lane in the situation you describe.

    When the bike lane was striped, a local TV station interviewed drivers who said they did not like the bike lane because they might get hit by a car when exiting their cars so they park in the buffer space. Strangely they no bicyclist were interviewed.

    SFMTA’s report after bike lane striping noted that bicycle speed decreased by something like 20%. I cannot find their report on their site anymore.

  • ~6 months after the parking protected lanes went in I rode through several morning/evenings over a couple weeks and noticed that the cars tended to park more centered in their assigned area better around the intersections and other places where traffic generally moved slowly, and the parked cars were pushed into the passenger-side buffer on the areas where traffic moved faster.

    Drivers instinctively know that fast moving cars are dangerous–when they’re about to have to interact with them on foot.

  • RichLL

    Since these posts are illegal, presumably it is not illegal to drive a truck through them all, thereby removing the illegal hazard?

  • Christopher Childs

    Sure? I can’t imagine why you would feel compelled to do that, though. Why not just call up Stanley Roberts instead?

  • Donovan Lacy

    The only way these posts are a hazard to anyone is if they are driving in the bike lane. Are you proposing to drive in the bike lane?

  • Donovan Lacy

    That sounds like a great idea, but Stanley was just in GGP earlier this summer observing drivers speeding through the park. It may be too soon to have come back out :/

  • Rocket

    “it is a code violation to place objects in the roadway and they could
    create conflicts for transit in the areas where they have been placed,” said the Monty Python sketch.

  • RichLL

    I was proposing that if some people seek to take the law into their own hands, then so should others.

    Instead, try convincing us of the merit of your cause. And if you fail, accept that.

  • RichLL

    The philosophical question here is surely whether it is justified to break the law in order to address the illegality of others.

    So, for example, if by jaywalking you could have prevented Chris Bucchere killing a senior pedestrian or Ian Hespelt violently assaulting a woman driver, would that have been justified?

  • Donovan Lacy

    Rich,

    Drivers have deliberately and repeatedly broken the law by driving in the bike lane in this location so SFMTrA has taken the law into their own hands by installing post to discourage this behavior. Basedan on your last post you should be fine with this action.

    According to this article from Sfist, news,http://sfist.com/2016/10/07/bike_lane_posts_installed_by_safety.php, it appears that these actions have convinced the SFMTA of the merit of posts in this location. They have decided to leave these posts in place until they can replace them with their own posts, thereby legitamising this action. I assume that you will accept this result.

    After reviewing the photo and the installation in person several times it is pretty clear that a driver would have to cross one of the two solid white lines, and although there is some debate on the legality of this, it is discouraged by CVC and generally ticketed by the CHP.

  • neroden

    Actually the city could be sued if they removed the bollards, as the *lack* of bollards creates a dangerous “attractive nuisance” situation.

    The next time one of these “guerrilla installations” is clearly a good idea, and a city removes them, it would be interesting to get together some good lawyers to sue the city for removing them, on the grounds that doing so would create an immediate and direct threat to public safety. This is actually legal grounds for a preliminary injunction…

    It would be interesting to set some precedents here. For any really good lawyers who wanted to have *fun*.

    Hopefully it won’t be needed since SFMTA seems to be behaving reasonably and leaving them in place. It raises the question of why they haven’t installed their own… at these prices!

  • neroden

    Go SFMTA! (For leaving the bollards in places where they belong.)

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