Hundreds Rally to Save Market/Octavia Bike Lane

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In a powerful show of opposition to a plan that calls for removing the eastbound Market Street bike lane and concrete island at Octavia Boulevard, hundreds of bicyclists, their supporters and local and state elected officials gathered today at the dangerous intersection to loudly urge the MTA to scrap its idea for a shared lane.

"This would indeed be a step backwards," said State Senator Mark Leno. "When I first heard about it I thought this is about as counterintuitive as it comes. Automobile users are breaking the law by turning right so we’re going to penalize those who are legally using the bike lanes."

Leno was joined by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and Supervisors Bevan Dufty, Ross Mirkarimi and David Campos.

3202455616_e386cca5d3_m.jpgState Senator Mark Leno supports a Planning Department vision for the intersection.

"I am frankly tired of this kamikaze corner here," said Ammiano. "I think the solution… might have been well intended but it totally misses reality. Reality is taking the lane is going to cause more carnage, more bad will, and let’s face it, more rebellious behavior because you know how we are."

Dufty said he planned to call for a hearing on the issue next month before the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

"Bicyclists never asked to have a freeway touch down at Market Street here," said Dufty. "This is the major thoroughfare for bicyclists to get to work downtown and I really think that this change would absolutely undermine it."

Mirkarimi directed some of his criticism at law enforcement, pointing out the numerous SFPD and CHP units that turned out at the rally to enforce the no right turn law.

"If we would have as many officers here enforcing this intersection as we have today, my god, I believe that we on the budget committee would be happily surprised by the revenue that is being generated based on the penalty infractions that would be solved just by enforcement right there."

Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which organized the rally, said it was the largest turnout she has ever seen for a protest at the intersection. An estimated 200 people showed up.

3201608909_00ed20c025.jpgSFBC members demonstrate what a colored bike lane would look like at Market/Octavia.

Shahum supports a Planning Department vision for the intersection, which calls for a raised, colored bike lane and extended safety barrier. To partly illustrate what it would look like, SFBC members used green chalk paint to color a portion of the bike lane.

The plan to remove the bike lane must get the okay from Judge Peter J. Busch because of the current bike injunction. It’s unclear what Busch will do January 22nd but he rejected a similar plan in April. This time, to support its argument a shared lane is needed to reduce collisions, the SFMTA has presented more documentation and the plan has the backing of the SFMTA Board.

Campos called on the Board of Supervisors to provide more oversight of the MTA.

"I think it’s very important for the Board of Supervisors to keep a
close eye on what the MTA does and I want to send a clear message that
we are going to pay close attention," Campos said. "If
they don’t do the right thing, we need to think about what legislative
solutions can be put in place so that we don’t see ourselves back in
this position again."

Bicycle advocates have made it very clear they don’t support the status quo at the intersection but credit the bike lane and concrete barrier with dramatically reducing the number of illegal right turns. At least 15 collisions have been reported at the intersection in the last three years, according to the MTA.

"We’ve still got a problem at this intersection. It’s still scary and it’s still dangerous. All we ask is that we not move backwards by taking away this bike lane," said Shahum.

Photos by Bryan Goebel

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