Planning Department Unveils Final Castro Streetscape Design

Image: Planning Department

The final plan for wider sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements on Castro Street between Market and 19th Streets was presented at an open house by the Planning Department this week. Overall, the pedestrian environment on Castro will be vastly improved after the skinny sidewalks are widened to as much as 22 feet, and the narrowed traffic lanes should also calm motor traffic.

The new plan for the northeast corner of Market, Castro and 17th. Image: Planning Department via BAR

Few changes were made to the draft plan presented last month. Despite the concerns raised by Peter Straus, an SF Transit Riders Union member and and retired Muni service planner, all car parking (except one space) was preserved by shortening the length of the spaces. That means Muni could see more delays caused by drivers maneuvering in and out of parking spots in front of buses.

Planners also revealed that among the four options for how to spend one portion of the project’s budget, the most heavily favored among survey respondents was a package of permanent improvements to Jane Warner Plaza on 17th and Castro (which haven’t been designed yet). The three other options, which won’t be built since they were less favored, included additional bulb-outs at Castro’s intersections with Market, 18th and 19th.

Some of the more cosmetic neighborhood features, like rainbow crosswalks, sparkle sidewalk surfacing, and historical facts about the Castro embedded in the sidewalks may also be off the table. City staffers say the installation of those features depends on whether or not the contractors’ bids for those improvements are low enough for the project’s $4 million budget.

The Bay Area Reporter has more details on the plan.

Construction is scheduled to take place between January and October of next year.

  • Anonymous

    It is striking how much support the Castro do-over has gotten. Could that be because it removed a travel lane but virtually no parking spots? And because no bike-specific infrastructure was included? Depressing, but illuminating. Maybe we should package all street redesigns as pedestrian improvements and put cycle tracks on super wide sidewalks without calling them bike lanes. In any case I think we cycling advocates should work even more closely with pedestrian groups. The latter are not demonized, and yet our interests are nearly identical when it comes to creating safer streets. I for one would welcome the day when pedestrians see bike riders as fellow vulnerable users, and reserve their anger toward inattentive drivers.

  • ehm

    If they take away the NB left turn lane, I hope they restrict NB lefts all together (especially during the peak hours).

  • Anonymous

    Why must every street improvement be a bike improvement? Castro Street is not a bike route so bike improvements are neither necessary nor appropriate, and bicycle and pedestrian interests may be similar, but they are not the same. As far as this pedestrian is concerned, bicyclists are just one more form of wheeled vehicle that I need to look out for.

  • Such a burden that you have to look out! Do you also look out for clouds of exhaust fumes? Maybe you better.

  • Anonymous

    Show some respect for Sutchi Hui. He didn’t look out for bikes on Castro Street and he paid the ultimate price.

  • PennyLee

    If they had put a bike lane, it would just get illegally blocked by people who are used to double parking on Castro anyway. So maybe a bike lane would be wasted on this particular stretch of street. Unfortunately drivers will now have to share a narrower single lane with cyclists, probably without adequate space to pass (personally, I would exercise my right to “take the lane” if cycling under the new design, for safety). Sorry, drivers. You’re about to be slowed down because of lack of bike lane!

  • Sprague

    Thank you for pointing out potential delays to Muni as a result of this project. Otherwise, many of the proposed improvements look good, although there are a few additional weak points:

    It’s good to see the significant safety improvements proposed to the Castro/Market/17th Street intersection, however it appears pedestrian access to the outbound 37 (and owl bus) stop will inconvenience riders who approach the stop from the south side of Market Street. Currently the stop can be accessed directly from the south but now a more circuitous route is proposed. Such a design may look great on paper but in practice it may result in transit riders walking along the curb of Market – at a spot where cars are accelerating to move beyond the intersection. This project should not result in further impediments to transit riders.

    Ideally, the changes made to Jane Warner Plaza will include a bidirectional bikeway (perhaps along the northern edge). Such a bikeway could be designed in such a manner that legal and safe access to and from the 17th Street bike corridor is reestablished (similar to the westbound short bikeway on Duboce, just west of Church). Such bikeways are commonplace in parks and plazas in Vienna, Austria and elsewhere in Europe. Such a bikeway would provide the Castro with a safer and less congested legal route for bicyclists to access or pass through the neighborhood.

    It’s too bad that the proposed changes do not include bus bulb-outs on 18th Street at Castro. Muni bus service through the Castro should be sped up as much as is safely possible. More traffic signal priority is needed for Muni buses (like at the Market and Clayton intersection). If traffic signals will be redone as a part of this project, they should also be upgraded to ensure priority for Muni vehicles.

  • PennyLee

    uh, because the city is growing, gaining density and more cyclists every year. And because it’s part of the city’s mission. Because cycling reduces the parking and traffic congestion for everyone. And because we’re spending millions of dollars doing this anyway, so might as well plan ahead and improve the infrastructure in a comprehensive way.

  • Anonymous

    You are welcome to walk your bike on our lovely, new wide sidewalks! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    That really doesn’t sound like a great option for anyone. Much better to take the traffic-calmed lane.

  • Millard Smith

    So did 19 pedestrians due to crashes with automobiles in 2012. What’s your motivation for a disproportionate emphasis on a mode that has claimed far fewer lives than its relative mode share compared to driving?

    That’s a rhetorical question. No need to answer it. Streetsblog always has a troll-in-chief, and right now you’re it. For those interested in having a serious discussion, the best recourse is to skip the flame-throwers’ attempts at misdirection.

  • Take a walk down Univ Ave in Palo Alto to remind your senses what is most important here = the right trees. The same kind, the same age/heights, and electricity at the base to enable wrapping with lights. Nothing says to visitors that you are in a great, safe place like good trees wrapped in lights at night. And get rid of all the newspaper boxes that only serve as trash cans or as a place to stash narcotics. Use interchangeable and replaceable flags or banners to indicate the mood du jour. Please. No rainbow crosswalks please. Dont skimp on the sidewalk surfacing; it matters. You’ll regret it later if you do. Sidewalk width for mobile outdoor restaurant seating IS definitely more important than space for fixed benches. Insisting on fixed benches prevents some storefronts from becoming restaurants w/ outdoor seating. Dont hamstring those properties. And finally, all of this upgrading wont change Castro Street unless theres a new set of signage/window guidelines for storefronts. We’ll have the nicest sidewalks in the city but the least appealing storefront signage in the city. You cannot improve one without the other. And enforce those rules. Ive implemented both for ~ten cities now. Ask me if you want more advice.

  • Jason

    At any given moment on Castro Street, between Market and 19th, there may be something around 0-4 cyclists and 50 pedestrians. We need the wider sidewalks. We do not need a bike lane (that is already there, it is called the road).

  • Forthright

    When the bikies become as interested in peds’ safety as their own, I will say they share the same interests. Until then, the bikies are on a vendetta against the pedestrians. Peds are demonized as badly as the car drivers

  • “Peds are demonized as badly as the car drivers” – and this demonization is coming from … you guessed it … car drivers.

    Well, car drivers and Greg Suhr…

  • At any given moment on Castro Street, there are 50 pedestrians, 0-4 cyclists, and a couple of dozen cars that sit there for hours producing nothing. Over the course of an hour, several dozen cyclists come through, several hundred pedestrians, and the same dozen or so cars.

    What we don’t need on that street is the parking.

  • Stereotypes aren’t relevant to this discussion.

  • Anonymous

    People who challenge popular opinions are frequently labeled as “trolls” simply for challenging the status quo, and on Streetsblog that is all bikes all the time. I am tired of pedestrians’ issues being subsumed by by the bicycle lobby. Yes, our issues may coincide more often than not. But not always, and this is one them.

  • 94103er

    No, you are incorrect. To move forward in any meaningful way, this blog and other sensible bike advocates believe that, first, all roads must be made *at the very least* accommodating for bikes. Then comes the really hard part, which is changing the road design. Cyclists’ needs really do coincide with pedestrians’ needs–needs regarding protection from cars.

    You seem to be trying to make a point via the ped vs bike fatality here last year or whenever it was. There isn’t a point to be made. Some cyclists are going to behave like they’re driving a car. Some cyclists make terrible decisions. All we can do is design our roads better in hopes that a cyclist (or driver) can never reach that kind of ludicrous speed through an intersection again.

  • Forthright

    Sorry, the anger is for ALL the wheeled riders who are inattentive, two- or four-wheeled.

  • David W

    The main objective for any “streescape upgrade” project like this one is that it improve the livability of the city by offering as many amenities as possible and practical, given the budget. There will always be friction between the bike rights people, car people and pedestrians. I love San Francisco because it is a great walking city. After living in cities like Houston where a car or SUV is the only way people can get around, San Francisco is like an oasis of social interaction on the streets. I side with more pedestrian friendly designs, including benches, and fewer parking spaces. Maybe if more people used MUNI, service would have to
    improve. With all the varied interest groups, someone is going to be dissapointed.

  • Hoople

    Bikes and peds’ are natural allies. Get over yourself. . . .

  • BrotherMichael

    I was just looking down Castro Street yesterday imagining the new upgrades and thought to myself that uniform trees are a necessity.

  • johnjohn

    Most don’t know this but SF has a long term contract with the company that owns/stocks the newspaper boxes and this contract says the city can only remove a certain number of boxes per year. Lame yes, but it’s a legal contract the city can’t just ignore. So even though paper circulation continues a precipitous decline we are stuck with a massive number of newspaper boxes for the next 20 years.


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