SFMTA Cuts Bike Lane from Planned Sixth Street Safety Improvements

Pushback from hotels adds car space and rolls back safety

Sixth Street today, and as envisioned (before the safety project was watered down). Image: SFMTA
Sixth Street today, and as envisioned (before the safety project was watered down). Image: SFMTA

Streetsblog tipster and advocate Brian Coyne brought this to our attention: “SFMTA’s Sixth Street Safety Project, which Streetsblog has covered several times over the last few years, has now had the bike lane component removed.” The plan, as shown on the agency’s project page, is now to remove the bike facility and add an additional northbound car lane to the design.

Paul Rose, a spokesman for SFMTA, confirmed that the bike lane is out. “The project maintains the key pedestrian safety elements–substantial sidewalk widening and bulb-outs at corners from Market to Howard. Sixth Street is not on the bicycle network and the facilities would have been unprotected if built,” he added in an email to Streetsblog. “SFMTA will focus on implementing the highest achievable quality bicycle facilities on Fifth Street, a corridor that is on the bicycle network and is a project currently in development.”

Of course, no matter how good the bike lane is on Fifth, it won’t help a cyclist trying to reach an address on Sixth. “Very frustrating to see this,” wrote Coyne in his email to Streetsblog.

Streetsblog has emails out to District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim to find out where her office stands on the safety downgrade and will update this post accordingly. Meanwhile, sources close to the project said that SF Travel and the Hotel Council were behind the bike lane removal and the addition of a northbound car lane (they want more motor lanes from I-280 to the hotels in and around Union Square and Chinatown).

It’s a shame there’s no mass transit alternative from SFO and the Peninsula for hotels to suggest to their guests.

“Everyone who believes in improving street safety should be disappointed to see an additional traffic lane replace a bike lane in the latest plans,” said Chris Cassidy, spokesman for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “This bad news really increases the importance of seeing continuous protected bike lanes delivered along the entirety of Fifth Street, from Market all the way to Townsend.”

It’s important to remember that much progress has been made in SoMa over the past few years, with protected bike lanes going in on Folsom, Seventh, Eighth, and 13th; word has it that even the debacle with the proposed protected bike lane on Howard Street may be resolved soon. But it all has come at a tragic cost.

Advocates are hopeful that they can at least keep the Sixth Street project from morphing back into four motor-vehicle lanes. “We know that there’s some pushback from the Hotel Council and from SF Travel on the lane reductions,” said Jodie Medeiros, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco. “We still think that the street can be made safe with the three lanes.”

Medeiros confirmed that, at least so far, other safety measures–such as new traffic signals, mid-block crossings, bulb-outs, daylighting of intersections–are still in the plan. “Sixth Street needs to be redesigned for people; it is one of the most dangerous streets in our city, and it needs these safety improvements,” she said.

For the record, there have been four people killed and five severely injured since 2005 on the stretch of Sixth from Market to Brannan. It was also one of the first in the city to receive painted sidewalk extensions.

A screen shot from San Francisco's injury and fatality tracker. Image: SFGov
A screenshot from San Francisco’s injury and fatality tracker. Image: SFGov

The next chance to chime in on the bike lane removal and other features on Sixth Street is on Wednesday, June 27, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Gene Friend Rec Center at Sixth Street and Folsom. Readers can also email Charlie Ream at charlie.ream [at] sfmta.com or Shayda Haghgoo at shayda.haghgoo [at] sfmta.com, or contact District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim.

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