Eyes on the Street: SF Gets its First Protected Intersection

9th and Division Just Got a Whole Lot Safer

Mike Sallaberry. Project Manager at SFMTA's Livable Streets, riding SF's only protected intersection in 2016 when it opened. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Mike Sallaberry. Project Manager at SFMTA's Livable Streets, riding SF's only protected intersection in 2016 when it opened. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

This morning, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Department of Public works did a “ribbon cutting” ceremony (minus an actual ribbon) of San Francisco’s first protected intersection, located at 9th and Division in SoMa. The event was attended by some 20 advocates, journalists, and city officials, including SFMTA director Ed Reiskin and Mayor Edwin Lee. “This is an area where people have been seriously injured and killed,” explained Reiskin to the crowd.

From a statement by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which helped bring the project to fruition:

San Franciscans may now enjoy the city’s first protected intersection, navigating curb-protected bike lanes, raised crosswalks, and new sidewalks to overhaul a confusing intersection with a history of crashes. These improvements at Ninth and Division Streets are part of new design standards being adopted around the country to elevate street infrastructure for people who bike and walk.

“Above you, there’s a freeway. Up there, speed is great. But down here, everybody uses the street,” said Mayor Lee. “200 people ride bikes through this intersection every morning…this is an important intersection.”

Streetsblog readers may recall that this intersection treatment broke ground last August. The project cost roughly $350,000, explained Mike Sallaberry, Project Manager in the Livable Streets Division of SFMTA. If that seems high, SFMTA officials were quick to point out that the project also included sidewalk widening and street paving, and was coordinated with the repaving schedule of the Department of Public Works. Note that Berkeley also just completed its first protected intersection.

A diagram of the newly opened intersection. Image: SFMTA
A diagram of the newly opened intersection. Image: SFMTA

Streetsblog watched the intersection for some time, both before and after the press conference and it seemed to be working as advertised–cars took slower, wider turns and hesitated before crossing the crosswalk and bike path. It was refreshing, actually, to see how helpful the treatment was for pedestrians, since cars can no longer rip around the turns.

That said, not everyone was 100 percent happy with the treatment. Tom Radulovich, Executive Director of Livable City wondered why there were no trees on the new sidewalk along Fitness SF on 9th. He was also unsure about a section of pavement between the newly designed curbs of the protected intersection that was painted, instead of being brought up to sidewalk level. “I’m just concerned that may become a place where trash and debris collects,” he said.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara and Livable City's Tom Radulovich at the ribbon cutting. Photo: Streetsblog
Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara and Livable City’s Tom Radulovich at the ribbon cutting. Photo: Streetsblog

Streetsblog, for its part, still wondered why the protected intersection was only set up to protect cyclists going east-west, or turning north, but not a cyclist going north-south. But SFMTA officials assured Streetsblog all their data showed that nearly no cyclists continue south across the intersection onto San Bruno Avenue. Streetsblog has to wonder though if that isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy–if the street is very unpleasant to ride on, yes, cyclists and pedestrians will do their best to avoid it.

So what’s next? SFMTA said it will look at extending protected lanes on Division. Streetsblog hopes they will look at doing a protected roundabout at the nearby Townsend/Design District traffic circle. Protected roundabouts are a good safety solution for intersections with multiple, angled streets.

Mayor Edwin Lee, SFMTA's Ed Reiskin and SFBC's Brian Wiedenmeier spoke at the presser. Photo: Streetsblog
Mayor Edwin Lee, SFMTA’s Ed Reiskin and SFBC’s Brian Wiedenmeier spoke at the press conference. Photo: Streetsblog

It’s already clear, however, that the treatment is a vast improvement and nearly everybody at the press conference–including the looky-loos who stopped to see the Mayor, seemed pleased with the design. That is, except for the one fellow who stopped momentarily to grumble to Streetsblog about the supposed “20 parking spaces” it took away. Given the hundreds of spots in the area, under the freeway ramps, and the 90-degree spots on 9th, we think there’s still plenty of personal car storage.

Do you ride Division? What do you think of the new intersection treatment? Comment below. Meanwhile, here are some more pics.

Cars slowed before crossing the bike lane and crosswalk, turning right onto 9th from Division. Photo: Streetsblog
Cars slowed before crossing the bike lane and crosswalk, turning right onto 9th from Division. Notice all the parking under the freeway ramps. Photo: Streetsblog

Janice LI

Janice Li and Charles Deffarges of the SFBC arriving in style at the press conference. Photo: Streetsblog

A regular cyclist rolling comfortably through, probably wondering what the press conference was all about. Photo: Streetsblog
A regular cyclist rolling comfortably through, probably wondering what the press conference was all about. Photo: Streetsblog
Of course, no new piece of SF bike infrastructure would be complete without a city vehicle blocking the bike lane that feeds into it. Photo: Streetsblog
Of course, no new piece of SF bike infrastructure would be complete without a city vehicle blocking the bike lane that feeds into it. Photo: Streetsblog

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