Eyes on the Street: SF Gets its First Protected Intersection

9th and Division Just Got a Whole Lot Safer

Mike Sallaberry. Project Manager at SFMTA's Livable Streets, giving the new treatment a whirl. Photo: Streetsblog
Mike Sallaberry. Project Manager at SFMTA's Livable Streets, giving the new treatment a whirl. Photo: Streetsblog

This morning, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Department of Public works did a “ribbon cutting” ceremony (minus an actual ribbon) of San Francisco’s first protected intersection, located at 9th and Division in SoMa. The event was attended by some 20 advocates, journalists, and city officials, including SFMTA director Ed Reiskin and Mayor Edwin Lee. “This is an area where people have been seriously injured and killed,” explained Reiskin to the crowd.

From a statement by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which helped bring the project to fruition:

San Franciscans may now enjoy the city’s first protected intersection, navigating curb-protected bike lanes, raised crosswalks, and new sidewalks to overhaul a confusing intersection with a history of crashes. These improvements at Ninth and Division Streets are part of new design standards being adopted around the country to elevate street infrastructure for people who bike and walk.

“Above you, there’s a freeway. Up there, speed is great. But down here, everybody uses the street,” said Mayor Lee. “200 people ride bikes through this intersection every morning…this is an important intersection.”

Streetsblog readers may recall that this intersection treatment broke ground last August. The project cost roughly $350,000, explained Mike Sallaberry, Project Manager in the Livable Streets Division of SFMTA. If that seems high, SFMTA officials were quick to point out that the project also included sidewalk widening and street paving, and was coordinated with the repaving schedule of the Department of Public Works. Note that Berkeley also just completed its first protected intersection.

A diagram of the newly opened intersection. Image: SFMTA
A diagram of the newly opened intersection. Image: SFMTA

Streetsblog watched the intersection for some time, both before and after the press conference and it seemed to be working as advertised–cars took slower, wider turns and hesitated before crossing the crosswalk and bike path. It was refreshing, actually, to see how helpful the treatment was for pedestrians, since cars can no longer rip around the turns.

That said, not everyone was 100 percent happy with the treatment. Tom Radulovich, Executive Director of Livable City wondered why there were no trees on the new sidewalk along Fitness SF on 9th. He was also unsure about a section of pavement between the newly designed curbs of the protected intersection that was painted, instead of being brought up to sidewalk level. “I’m just concerned that may become a place where trash and debris collects,” he said.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara and Livable City's Tom Radulovich at the ribbon cutting. Photo: Streetsblog
Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara and Livable City’s Tom Radulovich at the ribbon cutting. Photo: Streetsblog

Streetsblog, for its part, still wondered why the protected intersection was only set up to protect cyclists going east-west, or turning north, but not a cyclist going north-south. But SFMTA officials assured Streetsblog all their data showed that nearly no cyclists continue south across the intersection onto San Bruno Avenue. Streetsblog has to wonder though if that isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy–if the street is very unpleasant to ride on, yes, cyclists and pedestrians will do their best to avoid it.

So what’s next? SFMTA said it will look at extending protected lanes on Division. Streetsblog hopes they will look at doing a protected roundabout at the nearby Townsend/Design District traffic circle. Protected roundabouts are a good safety solution for intersections with multiple, angled streets.

Mayor Edwin Lee, SFMTA's Ed Reiskin and SFBC's Brian Wiedenmeier spoke at the presser. Photo: Streetsblog
Mayor Edwin Lee, SFMTA’s Ed Reiskin and SFBC’s Brian Wiedenmeier spoke at the press conference. Photo: Streetsblog

It’s already clear, however, that the treatment is a vast improvement and nearly everybody at the press conference–including the looky-loos who stopped to see the Mayor, seemed pleased with the design. That is, except for the one fellow who stopped momentarily to grumble to Streetsblog about the supposed “20 parking spaces” it took away. Given the hundreds of spots in the area, under the freeway ramps, and the 90-degree spots on 9th, we think there’s still plenty of personal car storage.

Do you ride Division? What do you think of the new intersection treatment? Comment below. Meanwhile, here are some more pics.

Cars slowed before crossing the bike lane and crosswalk, turning right onto 9th from Division. Photo: Streetsblog
Cars slowed before crossing the bike lane and crosswalk, turning right onto 9th from Division. Notice all the parking under the freeway ramps. Photo: Streetsblog

Janice LI

Janice Li and Charles Deffarges of the SFBC arriving in style at the press conference. Photo: Streetsblog

A regular cyclist rolling comfortably through, probably wondering what the press conference was all about. Photo: Streetsblog
A regular cyclist rolling comfortably through, probably wondering what the press conference was all about. Photo: Streetsblog
Of course, no new piece of SF bike infrastructure would be complete without a city vehicle blocking the bike lane that feeds into it. Photo: Streetsblog
Of course, no new piece of SF bike infrastructure would be complete without a city vehicle blocking the bike lane that feeds into it. Photo: Streetsblog
  • Maurice

    GREAT Start. BUT…..

    When will this city learn about technology beyond paint and soft hit posts as a way to protect bikers and pedestrians? Does San Francisco have access to CURBS or PLANTERS?

    I genuinely think that SFMTA must not know about these simple, cheap solutions. Maybe I will donate some to this intersection.

  • Almost every single foot of sidewalk outside of heavily industrial areas in San Francisco is protected by a curb.

  • YohanSF

    This is so much better than the previous intersection, so thank you to SFMTA and everyone who worked on this, but…

    I’m disappointed by how the ‘raised crosswalks’ here have been implemented. The way these should be implemented is that as a walker and a driver, it should feel as if the sidewalk has been extended across the road. When driving a car crossing a raised crosswalk, I should feel as if I’m driving up onto the sidewalk, then back down off it on the other side. Ways to achieve this that it appears were not done here:

    * raised crosswalks should look and feel the same as sidewalks. IE they should be made out of concrete or brick, in the same style as the surrounding sidewalks. Not asphalt with paint.

    * the slope on the sides of the crosswalk should not be a gentle slope – rather, it should be at a distinct angle and with abrupt transitions – similar to how ramps for the disabled are currently implemented at intersections. Basically the road should go flat -> 8% upgrade for 6ft -> flat across sidewalk -> 8% downgrade for 6ft -> flat. Not a gentle rounded hump. The goal here is not to make this as pleasant as possible to drive over. The stop line for traffic should be positioned before upgrade begins.

  • escalinci

    It looks like you still have to merge into traffic to turn left, while protected junctions should give a clear option to take the corner in two stages. I hope they build more and make it better.

  • Bruce

    It’s only “protected” going east-west.

  • Guy Ross

    Yet another display of the fact that roadways in the U.S. can accomplish the exact same objectives for automobiles while being half (literally half) the square footage – allthewhile providing an actually secure and enjoyable platform for others outside of cars navigating their surroundings.

    How did we, as taxpayers, get sold such a load of overpriced, underfunded garbage for so long?

  • All that empty space and they couldnt be bothered to add north-south treatments?

  • This is a prime example of best practice details that the Dutch have discovered and pioneered years ago that keeps getting lost on the way over. SFMTA JUST published a piece on the lessons learned from the raised bikeway experiment and found that surprise surprise, vertical curbs are a problem. So why do I see vertical curbs in these pictures? They’re a recipe for disaster, especially if the bikeway deviates from a straight line. That needs to be fixed before it causes a bad crash.

  • joechoj

    > giving the bikeway crossings priority over the entering roadways is more dangerous than having the bikeway yield

    Where in the article do you get the impression that bikes don’t have to yield? (And also at what position relative to the intersection?)

  • joechoj

    He’s referring to the tan paint. Look at the schematic and every photo. Wherever there’s tan paint, the surface should be raised above road level, separated by a curb. You can see there are only flex posts to keep the cars off of the tan surfaces, when these areas are intended to be safety buffers for bikes/peds.

  • That comment was in regards to the suggestion that a “protected roundabout” be used at the Townsend/Design District intersection, not about this intersection. However, the schematic for this intersection does show that bikes on Division are not expected to yield, which may end up being problematic in regards to right turns.

  • I’d agree, they should add some painted left turn boxes outside the bikeway to guide people to make a two-stage turn instead of trying to cut out and get in the lane to turn.

  • joechoj

    Sorry, I still don’t see it. How exactly does the schematic “show that bikes on Division are not expected to yield”?

    There’s no indication at all what the traffic controls are for anyone at the intersection, from what I can tell. Absent that, I would guess they have a stop sign, same as everyone else. What am I missing?

  • Paint is way cheaper than curbing and probably would’ve easily tripled the cost. I’d imagine that SFMTA plans to upgrade it in the future, but the paint allows them to deliver a project quickly and also make any necessary tweaks that might crop up.

  • Are there stop signs on Division? From the looks of it, there aren’t. The first and fifth picture show the potential problem: right hooks. It is encouraging to see that SFMTA has made it a raised crossing and used yield markings before the bikeway on the ground, though those should also be paired with signage to that effect if not already installed. Still, bicyclists going straight need to be vigilant of people turning right off of Division as current CA traffic law is not on their side if they get right hooked.

  • Mark

    I just bicycled that stretch this morning, heading East on Division, and see a potential issue.
    Cars heading North on San Bruno, such as the car on the left in the top photo, are pulling up past the stop sign, into the crosswalk and then stopping just before Division to look for oncoming traffic, blocking the bike lane.
    To be fair, it can be difficult for cars to see incoming Eastbound traffic on Division from where they are supposed to stop, well before the bike land and crosswalk.

  • joechoj

    I see what you’re saying. Yes, there will be a learning curve for sure. The advantage of being in such a car-dominated culture is generally we don’t have to worry about complacent cyclists! 🙂

    Where’s the raised crosswalk? This is the second mention I’ve seen, but don’t see it in photos or the video.

  • The raised crosswalks are parallel Division/across San Bruno/9th.

  • I finally got a chance to try out this intersection, although only west-bound since east-bound was closed off for painting, forcing me to bike in the car lane that stretch.

    Yes, it’s much better than what was there, and now means we’re only thirty years behind the Netherlands instead of forty.

    SFMTA needs to get down to business and open up a properly protected intersection each and every week for the next five years. Then we will be only ten years behind the Netherlands, which will be real grounds for celebrating.

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