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Parking-Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Division at 9th

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The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

Bike lanes on the block of Division Street between 9th and 10th Streets will get some much-needed protection this fall. Earlier this week the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a design that will put people on bikes between the curb and parked cars. The massive 9th and Division intersection will also get safety improvements like large painted curb extensions.

The upgrades would complement other bike and pedestrian safety improvements going in along Division, which becomes 13th Street as it runs beneath the Central Freeway.

SF’s first parking-protected bike lane on a city street was expected to be constructed this spring on westbound 13th, from Bryant to Folsom Street. SFMTA officials haven’t explained why that project has been delayed, though some of the other striping improvements included in the package have been implemented.

Altogether, the upgrades along Division and 13th, from the traffic circle at Eighth Street to Folsom, will create a continuous curbside westbound bike lane that could set a precedent for how low-cost redesigns can make dangerous SoMa streets safer.

“It’s turning out to be a really good cycling route,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the SFMTA board on Tuesday.

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

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Memorial for Wilbert Williams Calls on Caltrans to Fix SoMa’s Freeway Ramps

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara speaks with safe streets advocates  near Fifth and Harrison, where Williams was run over in his sleep. Photo: Walk SF

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara speaks with safe streets advocates near Fifth and Harrison, where Williams was run over in his sleep. Photo: Walk SF

One year ago yesterday, 62-year-old Wilbert Williams was sleeping in a tent next to a Highway 80 off-ramp at Fifth and Harrison Streets at about 1 a.m. when he was run over and killed by a drunk SUV driver who veered off the road.

Wilbert and Yvette Williams. Photo courtesy of Yvette Williams

Wilbert and Yvette Williams. Photo courtesy of Yvette Williams

“That morning, I woke up and got ready to see my husband,” wrote Williams’ widow, Yvette Williams, in a statement:

I turned on the television, and heard the story of a man hit by a car in his sleep. The car drove straight through the 5th Street offramp into an adjacent park. I saw my husband’s friends talking to the camera. As I searched for Wilbert on the screen, all I could see were his belongings — a sign written in his handwriting, his hat, his pillow and his wagon. My heart began to drop. I raced over to the scene as quickly as possible. As I was driven to the morgue — not the hospital — I prayed I would not find my husband… that it was someone else.

That day, my hopes were shattered and my life forever changed. I lost the love of my life. And on top of it, I faced prejudice.

Safe streets advocates held a memorial yesterday near the site where Williams was killed, highlighting the dangerous driving encouraged by the freeway ramps.

The Vision Zero Coalition, led by Walk SF and the SF Bicycle Coalition, called for urgent action from Caltrans, the state agency that controls highways and the city streets where freeway ramps touch down. With a decades-long legacy of gouging highways through cities, the agency still tends to disregard the burdens that grade-separated limited-access roads impose on urban neighborhoods like the South of Market District.

“Caltrans is notorious for focusing their engineering on facilitating vehicle traffic, and regularly misses the mark on safety goals,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara in a statement. “Today, we’re asking Caltrans to stop with business as usual, and start building roads to protect the lives of people who travel on them.”

Caltrans recently pledged a new focus on safer streets, and took a first step by “piloting a pedestrian safety program, which uses injury data to inform investments,” according to the coalition’s press release. But “waiting for a potential program to help address the dangerous conditions freeways have created on our local streets is no longer an option,” said Ferrara. “Caltrans needs to prioritize safety and take steps to make corrective improvements now.”

The data collected by the SF Department of Public Health in recent years reinforces what’s already known by just about anyone who walks in SoMa: The city’s most dangerous streets are those designed for speed, and they’re the deadliest at freeway ramps.

“Freeway ramps in San Francisco are where fast moving traffic merging on and off freeways literally meets our local streets — and the people walking and biking along them,” said SFDPH’s Megan Wier, co-chair of the city’s Vision Zero Task Force. “This can be a fatal combination. Tracking these deaths and where they occur helps us to recognize patterns and opportunities to save lives.”

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SFPD: Car Was Reported Stolen After Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Caught on Video

The car used in a pedestrian hit-and-run caught on video was reported stolen by its registered owner the morning after the crash, according to the SFPD.

Screenshot from ColdFire/Youtube

As we reported this week, video was posted online after a crash that occurred at Second and Howard Streets in the early morning hours of April 18. The driver was seen making a left turn from a right-hand lane, hitting a second vehicle and striking a man in a crosswalk. The driver has not been found.

Although SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan initially said the crash wasn’t reported, information on the case was uncovered after she was given the case number provided by the YouTube user who posted the video. Details from police were consistent with the comments posted by the YouTube user, who said he was driving the car with the camera and that he’d reported the crash to Northern Station the next day. The pedestrian has not reported the crash to the police.

​The Infiniti SUV was reported stolen by the owner at 10:52 a.m., the morning after the crash, said Gatpandan. The owner told police her car could have been stolen between 6 p.m. April 17 and 10 a.m. April 18, when she discovered it was missing. The crash was reported to police, apparently by the driver who took the video, at about 7:10 p.m.

“The pedestrian victim is vital for further investigation, as that victim will have to identify the driver of the suspect vehicle,” said Gatpandan. “The registered owner, especially in this case since the car was stolen, is not always the person driving the car. The case is being investigated by the Hit-and-Run Collision Investigations unit, but again there’s only so far the investigators can go without that victim ped information.”

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Why Townsend Street Needs Protected Bike Lanes at 4th and King Station

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Anyone who uses Townsend Street’s eastbound bike lane to commute to Caltrain is sure to run into a litany of obstacles: Taxis, shuttles, private autos, and Muni buses obliterate the poor bike lane in the fight for curb space. (Much of the curb is reserved as a taxi stand.)

Sam McCandlish sent in this video, filmed by a friend of his, showing the chaotic scrum faced by bike-to-Caltrain commuters. The often-impassable conditions cause some people to resort to riding on the sidewalk. In 2011, the SFPD targeted sidewalk riders at the Fourth and King station while ignoring drivers blocking the bike lane.

In the video, a few Bay Area Bike Share users can be seen walking their bikes in the bike lane in the opposite direction to get through the mess. Fourth and King is the busiest bike-share hub in the city at peak commute hours.

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Painted Bulb-Outs Arrive at Howard Street — Are More Coming Soon?

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One year and four months after SF’s first painted curb extensions came to Sixth Street, the SFMTA has implemented its second set at three intersections on Howard Street, in tandem with a wider and greener bike lane.

But for such a seemingly simple safety measure — using low-cost gravel and epoxy to expand sidewalk corners and slow drivers’ turns — the question remains: Why does it take SF so long to implement?

Expectations were raised when deadly Sixth Street received the city’s first six painted bulb-outs at the intersection of Market, Mission, and Howard, even if SF’s extensions were much smaller in size and number than painted curb extensions in NYC.

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who grew up in Manhattan, said at the time that “it’s been amazing to see the difference they’ve been making for the quality of life of pedestrians and cyclists.”

A painted bulb-out in New York City. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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Howard Bike Lane Gets Wider and Greener — Will Protection Come Soon?

The Howard Street bike lane in SoMa, between Sixth and Tenth Streets, was widened and got some green paint this week. While it’s no protected bike lane, we’ve already heard from bike commuters who say the buffer zone and contrast make the ride a bit more comfortable.

For the SFMTA, these improvements are low-hanging fruit to pluck while shaping bigger plans protected bike lanes on Howard and Folsom Street, a couplet of one-way streets. Howard’s new buffer zone, which isn’t as wide as Folsom’s, was created by narrowing a 15-foot wide traffic lane, which didn’t require a lengthy environmental review.

Folsom’s bike lane was widened with a buffer zone between Fourth and 11th Streets in late 2013 by removing a traffic lane, and was fast-tracked as a pilot project after Amelie Le Moullac was killed by a trucker at Folsom and Sixth. The bike lane on Eighth Street also replaced a traffic lane in 2013.

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Hearst Corp Backs Off Bid to Tear Out Annie Alley Street Plaza

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The Hearst Corporation has withdrawn its appeal against the Annie Alley street plaza [PDF] after talks with city planners and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District.

The bid to get the plaza torn out was surprising, since Hearst had been involved in creating the plaza, leading to speculation that closing the alley to cars had irked executives at the company.

“We withdrew the appeal based on the positive discussions we have been having with YBCBD and other stakeholders to assess the situation and make improvements,” said Marty Cepkauskas, director of real estate for Hearst Western Properties.

The plaza is safe at least until its permit renewal comes up in August, according to Robin Abad Ocubillo, project manager for the Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks program. Ocubillo said Hearst agreed to support the project “as long as there is follow-up traffic monitoring,” though that “was always part of the plan.” Hearst and YBCBD will also assess whether they need someone to direct traffic during rush hour at Jessie and New Montgomery Streets, one of the exits still available to drivers leaving the Hearst Building parking garage.

“We’re pleased that the appeal was withdrawn and we look forward to continuing our conversations with Hearst,” said Andrew Robinson, YBCBD’s director of neighborhood partnerships. “Because this project is a pilot program, neighborhood feedback is important to its long-term success.”

Robinson said YBCBD can now focus on “testing Annie Street Plaza as a great place for art, performance, music and other programming to create a vibrant place for the neighborhood as it was envisioned by the community.”

The YBCBD is calling for artists and musicians who want to perform on the plaza to reach out through the organization’s website.

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Coming to 13th Street: SF’s First Downtown Parking-Protected Bike Lane

13th Street is set to get a westbound parking-protected bike lane between Bryant and Folsom Streets, among other improvements this spring. Image: SFMTA

San Francisco may get its first downtown parking-protected bike lane on 13th Street this spring. The SFMTA will be taking comments on the plans at a hearing tomorrow morning.

The bike lane would be installed only in the westbound direction of 13th underneath the Central Freeway, from Bryant to Folsom Streets. It would complement the existing eastbound bike lane on 14th Street, providing a safer route on a “key east-west corridor for people biking to destinations like the Caltrain Station, the Mission District, AT&T Ballpark, and the South Beach area in general,” said SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose.

It would be the city’s first parking-protected bike lane other than the one on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. Like the JFK bike lane, the 13th Street redesign is a big change to the geometry of the street that doesn’t require much in the way of construction. All it takes is painting a curbside bike lane with a buffer zone between parked cars.

Although there are plans underway for similar designs on other streets, including Second Street, the 13th Street project is apparently on a fast track to be implemented first.

Jose said a four-block bike parking-protected bike lane on Bay Street along Marina Middle School, which was originally scheduled to be installed last fall, may be implemented around the same time as the 13th Street one.

The 13th Street project would set a real precedent, demonstrating how SoMa’s wide, car-dominated streets can be tamed with protected bike lanes. A general traffic lane will be removed to create the bike lane, calming motor traffic.

“This project helps connect two important bike routes and addresses a serious safety gap on a street that has had two fatalities in as many years,” said Chema Hernández Gil, community organizer for the SF Bicycle Coalition. “We’re glad to see the SFMTA take action to make people safer, and hope similar improvements can happen on the other side of Division to improve safety for people biking in either direction.”

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Trucker Who Killed Amelie Le Moullac Deemed “Negligent” in Civil Suit

A civil jury has determined that a truck driver was negligent when he killed Amelie Le Moullac as she rode her bike at Folsom and Sixth Streets in August 2013, KQED’s Bryan Goebel (Streetsblog SF’s first editor) reported today:

Amelie Le Moullac. Photo: Voce Communications

A San Francisco Superior Court jury has found the driver of a big rig truck negligent for striking and killing a 24-year-old woman who was bicycling to Caltrain in the city’s South of Market.

Amelie Le Moullac’s family had sought $20 million in damages from the driver, Gilberto Alcantar, 47, and Milpitas-based Daylight Foods. The jury awarded the family $4 million, and also found Daylight Foods legally responsible for the August 2013 crash at 6th and Folsom streets.

“This was not a mere accident, and I’m relieved to hear from the jury that something wrong was done, and I’m very sorry that the police missed that,” Denis Le Moullac, Amelie’s father, told KQED. “One can only be relieved to hear that our daughter had done nothing wrong. This is not really something that deeply consoles us, but it satisfies us.”

The finding that Le Moullac was not at fault for her own death reinforces the finding of SFPD investigators after footage of the crash was presented to them by Marc Caswell, then a staffer for the SF Bicycle Coalition, who tracked down the video himself after a memorial and rally held at the scene of the crash. Earlier that day, SFPD Sergeant Richard Ernst had parked in the bike lane to make a point of blaming Le Moullac for her own death.

“After we held the memorial for Ms. Le Moullac, and Sergeant Ernst had acted so outrageously, we were standing on the corner cleaning up when I had a pang of doubt that the SFPD had treated this case as seriously as I would have hoped they would,” Caswell recalled. “So, I decided to just ask the businesses — and I am so honored that my small action led to some amount of resolution for the Le Moullac family from this terrible injustice.”

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Hearst Corp Seeks to Rip Out Annie Alley Plaza to Make Room for Cars

The Hearst Corporation filed an appeal last month in an attempt to dismantle the Annie Alley street plaza so drivers exiting its parking garage could take a more direct path to Mission Street.

In November, the alley exit along Mission, between Third and New Montgomery Streets, was turned into a place for gathering and events that opened to popular fanfare. But the pop-up plaza apparently surprised and irked some higher-ups at Hearst with enough pull to hire a lawyer to get it taken out on the company’s behalf, even though the company was involved in creating the plaza.

A hearing for the appeal is scheduled at the Board of Permit Appeals on February 11.

Representatives from Hearst were involved in the planning for the plaza, which lasted two years, and even hosted a small meeting of local property managers for it. The media conglomerate is a major real estate owner in the Yerba Buena neighborhood of SoMa, and the parking garage exit for its Hearst Building is on the alley Jessie Street, which intersects Annie at the corner next to the street plaza. Some drivers apparently were used to turning on Annie to go westbound on Mission.

In a December 17 letter [PDF] addressed to Stephen Hearst, vice president and general manager of Hearst’s Western Properties, John Elberling of the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium wrote that “we are appalled by the gigantic Hearst Corporation’s blindside attack on this tiny but heartfelt Yerba Buena community improvement project.”

The Yerba Buena Community Benefit District built this very, very modest Neighborhood public space at its own cost as a new amenity for all of us that live, work, or visit our Yerba Buena Neighborhood. The project went through a very public and open community design process over two years. Representatives of the Hearst Corporation, as adjacent property owners, were specifically included in that process. Then it went through a rigorous City permitting process without objection by the Hearst Corporation.

But now that Annie Alley Plaza is open, completed in November, suddenly the Hearst Corporation has filed an appeal with the City Board of Permit Appeals seeking to invalidate those permits and force its immediate demolition!

The appeal, Elberling wrote, appears to be “the naked intimidation tactics of a gigantic corporate bully against our small Yerba Buena/ SOMA community.”

It’s possible the appeal will be dropped before the hearing. Hearst is reportedly in talks with the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District and other players at City Hall to rescind it. The YBCD led the planning process and paid for most of the plaza’s costs, facilitated by the Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks program.

Andrew Robinson of YBCD would not comment on the status of the appeal, but said the organization is “hopeful that a resolution will occur in the next week or so.”

During the planning process, Hearst representatives had been informed that traffic counts would be taken during the two-year trial period and compared against those taken in 2013, both when Annie was open to cars and during trial car closures for events.

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