Paul Avenue Safety Features Removed to Restore Free Car Storage

Supervisor Malia Cohen follows through on plan to remove Paul Avenue bike lane

A still from Chris Waddling's morning commute on Paul Avenue in the Bayview, with the bike lane removed, parking restored, and a car passing within three feet. Image: Chris Waddling
A still from Chris Waddling's morning commute on Paul Avenue in the Bayview, with the bike lane removed, parking restored, and a car passing within three feet. Image: Chris Waddling

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Chris Waddling, a cycling advocate and Streetsblog tipster, posted video last week of his stressful and dangerous commute on Paul Avenue in the Bayview district of San Francisco, as seen in the still above and the embedded video below:

In the video, Waddling documented an unsafe pass by a car. Then a Muni bus honked at him and went completely across the double yellow line and into opposing traffic to pass and get to the traffic light a few seconds faster. “I literally have no protection from aggressive drivers like these thanks to SFMTA and our Supervisor,” wrote Waddling in his post about the video. He’s referring to District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen.

Why should a ride on Paul Avenue, which just underwent safety upgrades last year, be so harrowing? SFMTA boasted on its web page not long ago about the installation of safety features–including dedicated, curbside bike lanes–on Paul Avenue, between San Bruno Avenue and Third Street.

But, as seen in Waddling’s video, the agency removed the Westbound lane a few months after it went in.

“Members of the community provided feedback to Supervisor Cohen’s office and the SFMTA about the bike lane after installation. In direct response to public feedback and the community meetings many took part in, the bike lane was removed in March, 2018,” wrote Ben Jose, an SFMTA spokesman, in an email to Streetsblog.

Or put another way: “SFMTA, with the support of Supervisor Malia Cohen, decided car storage was more important than lives and removed the only westbound bike lane between Bayview and major cycling routes into downtown,” wrote Waddling in a post about the safety downgrade. The process to remove the lane started after complaints about loss of parking from the Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, on Third and Paul, as well as some residents on Paul Avenue.

Back in October of last year, when Streetsblog first reported on the developing plan to remove the Paul Avenue bike lane, we put out calls to Cohen’s office that were not returned. But as Streetsblog pointed out in that post, in a 2014  Q&A with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (when she was running for re-election) she was asked, “Do you support the creation of continuous crosstown bikeways —Connecting the City— even acknowledging that there will be some public pushback to inevitable changes?” Her answer was, “Yes.”

Subsequently, Cohen commented on the Paul Avenue bike lane removal in a Facebook post after she was accused by Waddling of “…siding with the few who would take us backward.”

MaliaCohenPost
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, meanwhile, is looking to improve its work in District 10. “The removal of bike lanes on Paul Avenue is the result of inadequate community outreach by the City. At the SF Bicycle Coalition, we are strongly committed to communities being invited to help shape their streets. That’s why we created a new Community Organizer position dedicated to working with people in the Bayview and other southeastern neighborhoods and collaborating towards safe streets for everyone,” wrote SFBC spokesman Chris Cassidy, in an email to Streetsblog.

It should be noted that Cohen participated in Bike to Work Day earlier this month. During the ceremony on the steps of City Hall, she said she biked the longest way in, all the way from 3rd Street and Thomas (she rode in a commuter convoy).

From Malia Cohen's Facebook page.
From Malia Cohen’s Facebook page.
  • Zharol

    Hoo boy. While her candor is appreciated, Cohen laid open in an ugly way her priorities and values with that response. Safety for non-car modes of transportation shouldn’t be up to community vote. End of story.

    She clearly doesn’t grasp the injustice of putting cars as top priority on our streets.This is the kind of stance that’s going to stick in my mind indefinitely, preventing me from voting for her — no matter what office she seeks in the future. Quite disappointing.

  • Tooscrapps

    Gotta love the racial undertones of bringing up “privilege”.

  • Sean

    As if parking a car for free in this city isn’t a privilege.

  • Bob Dobbs

    Yes Miss Cohen, what are you talking about?

  • Tooscrapps

    Taking the “driving is a privilege” saying and flipping it on its head.

  • thielges

    This outcome is entirely predictable. Whenever you ask a group of people a question of the form “Which do you prefer: dramatically improving some minority group’s safety/wellbeing or a minor increase in convenience for yourself?” then the decision always comes down in favor of a minor improvement in convenience. This is why safety issues should never be decided by popular vote.

  • To be fair, this potentially is actually a safety improvement because parked cars present more friction to slow traffic than a wide-open bike lane does. Still, at the barest of minimums, the SFMTA should’ve added sharrows in the travel lanes after nixing the bike lane and ideally, they should take this to its logical conclusion and make the thoroughfare a bike boulevard with only bus traffic being able to go all the way through.

  • Stuart

    To be fair, this potentially is actually a safety improvement

    Except that having more subsidized parking and removing a bike route connection into Bayview encourages driving and discourages biking, which is pretty clearly not a safety improvement on the broader scale.

    at the barest of minimums, the SFMTA should’ve added sharrows

    Since it looks like the cyclist is already at about the location sharrows would go when the MUNI bus does the incredibly stupid pass, it’s hard to see how that would solve anything.

  • Except that having more subsidized parking and removing a bike route connection into Bayview encourages driving and discourages biking, which is pretty clearly not a safety improvement on the broader scale.

    Right, but this piece wasn’t a look at the broader scale but instead a specific corridor. In many cases, specific actions aren’t always in line with broader goals and this is one of them. As for sharrows, placing them right at least provides a guide for good positioning, even if the user chooses to do otherwise.

  • Affen_Theater

    Rich white spandex-clad “tech bros” ride expensive bikes, while hardworking salt-of-the-earth “good people” with many jobs drive and don’t have time or the spare cash for that sort of “recreation”.

  • ☐ Malia Cohen is running for state office, the Board of Equalization.

  • ecsCoffee

    Contentious decisions always involve upsetting some people while assuaging others. Surely there was a way for Ms. Cohen to defend her decision without the snide dig. This makes me reconsider my interest in voting for her tomorrow.

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