SoMa to Get SF’s First Protected Intersection…in One Direction at Least

Existing Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure on Division Street | February 4, 2015
Existing Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure on Division Street. Photo: SFMTA.

SFMTA announced late last week that San Francisco will soon break ground on the first protected intersection in San Francisco. From the agency’s web article:

A new type of safer intersection design for San Francisco breaks ground this week: The city’s first “protected intersection” treatment is coming to 9th and Division streets.

Protected intersections use a simple design concept to make everyone safer. Under this configuration, features like concrete islands placed at the corners slow turning cars and physically separate people biking and driving. They also position turning drivers at an angle that makes it easier for them to see and yield to people walking and biking crossing their path.

Anyone who knows the large urban bike capitols of the world knows that even wide and busy motorways can incorporate safe bike infrastructure. Protected bike lanes are key. But really making bicycling safe for all ages requires their counterpart: the protected intersection.

If you’re not familiar with how protected intersections work, this video from the Bicycle Dutch blog explains it well with animation:

And this explains it with graphics and live action of the junctions in operation:

As the videos show–and any San Francisco cyclists can attest to–intersections are where Bay Area traffic planners seem to fall down on the job. One of the videos even uses Market Street to illustrate bad design. Even where there are protected bike lanes, as soon as there’s a junction, the bike lane ends, and cyclists are thrown right into traffic. That means right hook collisions, left hooks, and cyclists getting side swiped. And, sadly, intersections are where most serious injuries and fatalities occur.

There are only a handful of protected intersections in North America. The nearest one is in Davis. Anybody who gets an opportunity should try it out and report back; even the best videos and diagrams still might leave cyclists scratching their heads about what it’s like to navigate one. Streetsblog has ridden protected intersections in the Netherlands and Vancouver; they are intuitive and relaxing. The engineering makes it so that an inattentive driver making a turn is more likely to hit a curb before they get the opportunity to hit a cyclist or pedestrian.

A schematic of SFMTA's design for 9th and Division. Note the lack of protected intersections going north-south. Image: SFMTA.
A schematic of SFMTA’s design for 9th and Division. Note the lack of protected bicycle intersections going north-south. Image: SFMTA.

The designs, as the videos point out, are also great for pedestrians, because the crosswalks are set back from the intersection. SFMTA added raised crosswalks (also sometimes called combination crosswalk-speed bumps) to the concept. These force drivers to slow down and are a welcome addition to San Francisco’s streets.

It’s kind of odd, however, that SFMTA’s design doesn’t protect cyclists going north-south. “The primary vehicle-bike crashes we saw at this intersection were right-hooks, which our design is solving for,” explained Ben Jose, a spokesman for SFMTA. “The intersection is protected in the east-west direction. To make a left turn, a person biking can either make a two-stage turn and stay in the shadow of the islands, or take the vehicle lane before they enter the block.” This seems to follow the Vision Zero philosophy of using data to address the most frequent and harmful crashes. Still, as long as they are building a protected intersection for one direction, why not do both?

That said, Streetsblog hopes–in the future–protection will be required for any intersection with the traffic volume to warrant it.

  • DrunkEngineer

    This is not a protected intersection in either direction. A “painted safety zone” — what the hell is that?

  • alberto rossi

    Did the Dutch invent the painted safety zone?

  • Bruce

    I believe the technical term is “cop-out”.

  • Maurice

    This is a good– albeit small– development. It’s 2016, we should be installing dozens of these each year as we repave streets and install curb cuts.

    This is the critical missing piece to making the promised protected bike lanes on 7th and 8th– only 9 MONTHS AWAY— from making SOMA a genuinely safe place to bike.

    But SF needs to be installing dozens of these now.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It’s cheaper than concrete. If it’s got plastic delineators I wouldn’t sell it short, I doubt people are doing to be roaring over it in their cars, if they were they could jump a curb as well.

    That said I’m not sure why they didn’t continue a protected bikeway through the intersection on San Bruno, even if it goes unprotected before and after.

  • RichLL

    “It’s kind of odd, however, that SFMTA’s design doesn’t protect cyclists going north-south.”

    Well, that’s much harder to do unless you want to ban right turns (and left turns coming the other ways). If you really want to “protect” cyclists going straight from traffic turning right, then you need to position the bike lane to the left of the right-turning traffic. but even then they have to cross left-turning traffic from the other directions.

    Be honest, you just want to ban traffic don’t you?

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Traffic engineering 101 by RichLL.

  • RichLL

    Presumably if you could refute my logic then you would? Rather than, say, throwing out cheap snide innuendo?

    But hey, let’s hear your idea. How do we protect cyclists from turning traffic? This should be good.

  • Rob

    mostly just ban you and your trolling. how about you watch the video about what a protected intersection is before you make your next post as from this one it is obvious you are clueless.

  • RichLL

    OK, so you cannot answer the question posed, and instead thought you’d be insulting?

    And why this obsession with banning people who ask difficult questions?

  • murphstahoe

    If he who would not be named is not banned yet, he won’t be. Just block him and let him wither.

  • Rob

    that is good advice but it doesn’t filter in the section. I miss newsgroups, slrn and score files.

  • murphstahoe

    true this, but if nobody will play with him, he would likely be out of that section shortly.

  • RichLL

    Your desire to suppress opinions that you personally disagree with you is deeply disturbing, and probably explains why you will personally never have much decision-making power or ability.

  • RichLL

    So why do you keep responding to me then?

    And why does a different opinion scare you so much?

  • Corvus Corax

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • Why not have back-in angled parking instead of front-in angled parking? And what’s with the 90 degree parking?

  • Alicia

    Your questions aren’t difficult, they’re easy.

    The only problem is that you’re an idiot who repeats the same talking points after other people have answered your questions.

  • RichLL

    Alicia, everyone here makes the same points over and over. Nothing wrong with that – it shows consistency of though.

    But if my arguments were “easy” for you to refute, you would simply do that, rather than make only critical personal attacks like you just did.

    Best to stick to the topic here, or say nothing if you have nothing constructive to say.

  • citrate reiterator

    The point of a protected intersection isn’t to ban cars from turning or to completely separate cyclists from auto traffic, which is obviously impossible without a bridge or tunnel. It’s to orient the directions of car and bike traffic so that drivers and bicyclists can actually see one another when their paths need to cross. Crossing a perpendicular stream of traffic safely is a lot easier than merging.

  • citrate reiterator

    Literally the first reply refuted your point by directing you to the video.

  • Alicia

    Oh, but I do refute your arguments, quite often. When I do so, you retreat to silence.

  • Alicia

    You confuse being scared with rolling our eyes.

  • the_greasybear

    Motorists have no compunctions driving into bike lanes that are purportedly “protected” by paint and soft-hit posts in the rest of San Francisco, why would this area be different?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    completely separate cyclists from auto traffic

    In a signalized version that’s exactly what they do though. In places where they can’t separate them in space (such as crossing perpendicular lanes) they separate them in time with the signal phases.

  • RichLL

    By any chance do you ever comment on the topic rather than to personally attack those with whom you disagree?

  • RichLL

    LOL, so unless I respond to every single comment here then the presumption is that I’ve lost the debate?

    AKA last word syndrome?

  • RichLL

    I see no refutation. Perhaps you can explain it.

  • RichLL

    Drivers arelegally allowed to drive into bike lanes in a variety of situations

  • Alicia

    You haven’t been paying much attention if you don’t already know the answer to that question. (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.)

  • Alicia

    Nope. But if you make an idiotic comment, and other people demonstrate why your comments are nonsensical, then yes, you’ve lost the debate.

  • RichLL

    Alicia, the only topic you have discussed so far in this thread is me. I see no material comment on the topic. How can that be?

  • RichLL

    Without a specific example, that is more wishful thinking than material evidence.

  • Alicia

    Kind of predictable how you immediately change the goalposts from “ever” to “this thread … this topic.”

  • Alicia

    Specific example – every thread you’ve ever posted in.

  • citrate reiterator

    I summarized the main point of the video in my reply to you upthread.

  • citrate reiterator

    Yes, good point. I think this one isn’t signalized, though?

  • RichLL

    Alicia, you’ve now made 6 comments in the last 24 hours. All about me and none about transportation. Why?

    What would it take for you to make a material comment about transportation?

  • RichLL

    OK, so you have no specific citation to support your allegation?

  • RichLL

    I asked you to reference the argument and explain why it is valid.

  • citrate reiterator

    You claimed that a protected intersection would prevent cars from turning. I said that you seem to have misunderstood what a “protected intersection” meant (it doesn’t prevent cars from turning, it just changes the angle at which they turn) and directed you to a video explaining it. What specifically was unclear about my argument?

    ETA: it occurred to me you may be asking why Rob’s comment (and not mine) made a valid argument. That’s because he also told you that you seem to have misunderstood what a “protected intersection” meant and directed you to a video explaining it.

  • Donovan Lacy

    Our recent discussion on muni driver compensation would be a good example.

  • RichLL

    Well obviously YOU thought that you won that debate, because you were the one debating me!

    It’s neutral third parties who generally make such determinations, however, and not biased participants.

  • RichLL

    As a point of information, referring to a comment made “above” or “below” in’t helpful here because different readers sort the comments differently. You can choose them to be sequences by oldest first, newest first or even most “liked” first. So I had no idea which comment you were referring to, hence my question.

    As for the actual “refutation”, now I see it, it doesn’t invalidate me comment to Roger. He complained that this change doesn’t do anything for cyclists going straight on, and he is correct about that. My point was that there really isn’t much that can be done to reduce that risk as long as cyclists have to cross the path of vehicular traffic.

    I don’t think your idea of longer traffic light sequences would be acceptable in many busy locations.

  • Donovan Lacy


    I was responding to the comments in which Alicia stated “Oh, but I (and others) do refute your arguments, quite often. When that happens, you retreat to silence.”

    You requested a specific example of where this had a occurred in your following post:

    “Without a specific example, that is more wishful thinking than material evidence.”

    I provided an example in the form of our debate in the comment section of the article entitled:

    “Guest Editorial: Eisenhower’s Parking Policies No Longer Work for San Francisco”, where we had been having a debate and after I provide you with citations to support my “allegations” you fell silent.

  • RichLL

    Donovan, my response is the same. Just because I failed to respond to a particular comment does not mean that I was refuted by it. Otherwise the burden would be to respond to every response that a comment of mine attracts. And while I try and be the kind of energetic contributor that I know Roger seeks here, I do actually have a job, a family, a life and other commitments.

    There may be a number of reasons why I don’t respond to another comment. I might agree with it and feel I have nothing to add. I might disagree with it but feel the discussion has gone on too long with no agreement, as with the Eisenhower thread.

    Or I might quite simply not see the response, perhaps because the thread has become too long and confusing, or because I take a couple of days off from here and there are new topics to move onto.

    But I at least give you credit for engaging in the topic. My beef with Alicia is that she doesnt, and instead she just insults anyone with whom she disagrees. There are a couple of others here guilty of that, like Rob and (often) murphstahoe. I don’t understand why people get angry just because someone holds a different opinion.

  • Alicia

    Why am I not surprised that you’re still trying to move the goalposts from “ever” to “this thread” and “the last 24 hours”?

  • RichLL

    Why am I not surprised that you’re still not commenting on the topic, but rather making personal comments?

  • Alicia

    Because you’re dishonest, trollish, and are ignoring pretty much every other thread I’ve commented on, that’s why.

  • RichLL

    Alicia, that is now 9 comments on this thread – almost 20% of the total – and not one of them is on the topic that Roger wrote. Instead just personal attacks on another poster.

    That makes YOU the troll.

    It would be helpful if you could see an opinion that you disagree with and not become over-emotional as a result. And commenting on the topic would be valuable.


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