25 MPH Speed Limits on Harrison and Bryant Approved at SFMTA Hearing

Harrison Street in SoMa. Image: Google Maps

SFMTA staff approved a measure today to lower speed limits on Harrison and Bryant Streets form 30 MPH to 25 MPH in the South of Market (SoMa) District.

Harrison and Bryant are the third and fourth east-west corridors in SoMa to have their speed limits lowered after the board approved reductions on Folsom and Howard Streets a month ago.

“This is another good step toward taming San Francisco’s wide, fast, dangerous streets,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “Enforcement of these new safer speeds will be critical – we should see the police out there to educate drivers and ticket speeding cars.”

The high-speed, one-way streets of SoMa, which lie in District 6, have long been notoriously dangerous to walk or bike on. On Harrison, the SFMTA plans to implement safety measures at the hazardous Main Street intersection thanks to the work of local advocates.

When similar speed reductions for Folsom and Howard were approved at a hearing in May, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose explained that they came from the agency’s regular citywide review of speed limits. “We see this cycle as an opportunity to adjust speed limits, especially in areas which have undergone significant land use and activity changes like SoMa,” Rose said at the time.

The new speed limits, from the Embarcadero to 13th Street on Harrison and from the Embarcadero to 11th Street on Bryant, are expected to receive final approval from the SFMTA Board of Directors in the coming weeks.

  • mikesonn

    “Enforcement of these new safer speeds will be critical – we should see the police out there to educate drivers and ticket speeding cars.”
    Amen. Since nothing is changing on the roadway and drivers regularly fly down these streets at 40-45+ mph, we’ll really need stepped up enforcement to see any improvement. Great step though and much kudos!

  • Stu Chuang Matthews

    We won’t get enforcement. We need to design the streets in such a way that drivers don’t want to go faster than the speed limit.

  • Abe

    …or can’t. Can someone tell me why the stoplights can’t be timed for a reasonable speed (say 20mph)? These are one-way streets, after all.

  • The new signs wont help if they
    a) Arent enforced ALWAYS
    b) changes are made to the road

    Make it three lanes and out a tree smack dab in the middle. Not a median, just a tree.

  • James

    It’s really all about the light timings here.

  • Anonymous

    @8d10b7eff74566923270734eea223235:disqus The only thing I can think of is, since you don’t have a dominant direction of travel (ie, just as much traffic is going towards/away from Market St as parallel to it), timing the lights along one road makes it crappy for others. In other words, timed lights work best when there is a major thoroughfare.

    However, I bet there is some way to do this (ie, there is some math problem to be solved here), like you could have all the streets parallel to Market on the same timing and then have the cross-streets somehow work in harmony. I don’t know though … haven’t thought about it hard enough.

  • Anonymous

    Well, sometimes: it’s amazing how many cars roar down Valencia St, for example, on *every* single block only to wait at the red light each block. Blows my mind that these people can’t figure it out ….

  • Anonymous

    Thank you SFMTA!

  • Stu Chuang Matthews

    @jd_x:disqus  I saw a Prius a few days ago going a sane, bike speed on Valencia. It turns out they weren’t being sane so much as looking for a parking spot. In any case, the driver behind the Prius got angry and started honking.

    So even if people go a sane speed down Valencia, the other drivers get pissed.

  • I agree, lowering the speed limit will make no difference unless traffic
    light timing reflects the desired speed.  Both on these streets and
    Valencia Street it would be a good idea to post signs saying “Traffic
    Lights Timed at X mph.”  I really think most drivers on Valencia Street
    don’t know the light timing and so waste pointless amounts of gas racing
    to each light. They are, of course, likely to howl once they learn the
    de facto speed limit on Valencia is 13 mph (probably the reason the city
    has not advertised it), but once they get over their stupefaction, they
    may sensibly choose to take Guerrero instead.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Well hopefully the added revenue of the per mile surcharge over 10 mph will motivate and justify some added enforcement.

    Going 40+ in a 25 is a lot more expensive (near double) than going the same speed in a 30 or 35 mph zone, yet Masonic is 25 has digital warning signs and still has a regular flow speed of 40+ right at the Golden Gate flashing speed limit sign.

    Unfortunately the auto lot (cars, trucks, and motorcycles) won’t see this as anything but another attempt at a money grab by the city. Just ask them these streets are perfectly safe the way they are, and a signifiacant lot think the limits in SoMa should have been raised, insert “this will just slow down traffic trying to get out for the city” argument here.

    I will remain cautiously optimistic while unfortunately tentatively pessimistic. Like others have said the design of the streets only promotes speeding. Until the layout of theses one ways is changed nothing else will.

  • Anonymous

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus Agreed: they should post really big signs (I’ve only seen one sign, and
    it’s tiny and barely noticeable). I suspect many people don’t realize
    the lights are timed … but really? I mean, if you’re a local, how have
    you not figured that out?

    But, the reality is, like Karen said, Valencia St shouldn’t even be used
    as a thoroughfare in the first place and people should be taking
    Guerrero or South Van Ness. So it should be brought to people’s
    attention that you will never be able to go any faster than 13 mph
    average down Valencia St, so just get over it and take another road (does *every* road really need to be a thoroughfare?). In fact, I think they
    should start putting bollards on Valencia St on every other block or two so that there would only be a handful of cars on the road who were going
    somewhere on that particular block. And that would pave the way for
    eventually making Valencia car-free (well, at least I can hope).

  • The “natural” speed of traffic south of Market, even without one-way streets, is 20 mph on Mission, Howard, Folsom, etc., and 14 mph on the numbered streets, since that is what you get with those block lengths and 30-second signal intervals (the same reason Valencia’s speed is about 13 mph).

    The current system is optimized for 30 mph on most of the length of the named streets, made possible by the one-way system, with resultingly irregular timing on the numbered streets.  You could certainly make it 25 mph by having the blocks be offset by 25 seconds instead of the current 20 seconds.  I haven’t done the math yet to know whether that would make the numbered streets more or less irregular than they are now.

  • slow down dry out

    now if they can do something about the clubbers who drink and drive in the area…

  • Mons

    Eric, I agree that it’s the “natural speed of traffic” that typically and realistically determines the speed of vehicles regardless of light sequences and limits.

    And ironically, you can also get a ticket for going too slow, although it’s called impeding the flow of traffic.

    However, what the “natural speed of traffic” is is dependent on conditions and traffic. On a dark, raining rush-hour evening in winter, it might be only 15mph. On a clear early morning, two to three times that.

    As for traffic-calming, while it can work on narrow residential streets, it can’t on busy thru routes used by buses, trucks and emergency vehicles.

    Most drivers know what’s a safe and reasonable speed to go at.

  • Oh, sure, yes, 20 mph is the natural speed only from the perspective of the effect of the block length on signal timing.  The roadway itself is (over)built in a way that encourages much faster peak speeds than that.

    I don’t know why you say that traffic calming can’t work on streets like these, though.  What was done in the 1970s can be undone in the 2010s, and Howard Street actually carried more vehicles per day before the one-way conversion than after.

  • Southvannesstraffic

    Valencia is a thoroughfare to Mission and CC. There is no disputing this fact. Why would you think it acceptable to slow down one Commercial St and suggest people drive on South Van? Not in my back yard PERHAPS? Slow down South Van. Redirecting traffic to another street is not calming traffic.

  • Sprague

    If I lived on South Van Ness I might feel differently, but streets with heavy pedestrian and bicylce use (and streets with considerable commercial activity) seem to be more in need of traffic calming measures than streets with relatively little pedestrian and bicycle usage and commercial activity – especially when said streets are parallel to each other and in close proximity.  Or to please both camps, and for the health of our city, perhaps both streets should be calmed?


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