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Bicycle Infrastructure

Another Bad Crash as Embarcadero Safety Project Languishes

A screen shot from CBS KPIX 5‘s report.

A hit-and-run driver slammed into a pedicab yesterday on the Embarcadero near Pier 29, sometime before 5 p.m., injuring a family, including two children. From the Fire Department's news feed, the victims sustained "serious injuries" and included a "five and an eight-year-old." It was later clarified that only the pedicab driver sustained life-threatening injuries, according to a report by CBS.

The horror of this latest incident drove advocate and Streetsblog reader Anthony Trezos to ask the obvious question of SFMTA officials--what happened to the Embarcadero Enhancement Project, which was supposed to provide protected bike lanes? (he cc'd Streetsblog on his email to the agency).

What exactly is the delay on the enhancement project for the thoroughfare? Why haven't we seen any movement on this project? I would like to remind you/bring to your attention a recent hit-and-run occurred on the avenue the other day involving a pedicab. I understand that there are no guarantees the project would have prevented it, but I'm positive it could have helped. As a driver, cyclist, and Muni rider, I would like to start seeing this progress.

Trezos's sentiment is spot on. Nearly two years ago, Streetsblog reported on SFMTA's plans for safety upgrades on the Embarcadero. Yet, once again, we find a project forever stuck in study and process while dangerous conditions persist.

"We are working with the Port of San Francisco, who have jurisdiction over The Embarcadero, in finalizing our conceptual design. Designing a project of this scale on The Embarcadero is not only extremely complex from a technical perspective, but we have to ensure that The Embarcadero continues to support the businesses and industry that rely on the street for access and operation," wrote Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA, in an email to Streetsblog. He added that the "Embarcadero Enhancement Project will be coordinated with the Seawall Resiliency Project, which is being managed by the Port."

The project web page, meanwhile, just says the designs should have been finished last year and that it will include "a bicycle facility that is physically separated from moving or parked vehicles and pedestrians."

Matt Brezina, who helped organize last year's people-protected bike lane protest on the Embarcadero last year, expressed his frustration on twitter:

John Entwistle's reply--he's the advocate who was instrumental in getting a protected bike lane on 17th Street between Church and Sanchez--brings up an important issue. Little seems to get done until a mayor or another high-ranking politician is motivated, usually by a horrific, high-profile crash, to start banging heads together at the different agencies. Think of the late Mayor Lee's executive directive on safety and how it transformed streets in SoMa in record time.

"Sadly, the Embarcadero is yet another example of San Francisco's City agencies seeing an opportunity to collaborate and looking the other way. We have a high-injury corridor here where protected bike lanes have been discussed for years, but delays result in more people being hurt," wrote the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Chris Cassidy, in an official statement about the crash. "This is preventable, and it's on City leaders to demand a change."

Townsend Project Cancelled?

In his tweet about the Embarcadero, Brezina also mentioned that SFMTA is "off canceling protected bike lane projects." He's talking about a separate, apparently behind-the-scenes decision to kill the Townsend Corridor Improvement Project, another long-delayed plan, this one intentioned to straighten out the cluster-f*ck around the Caltrain depot. After noticing the previously unannounced cancellation via SFMTA's web page, the Bicycle Coalition's Brian Wiedenmeier dashed off an angry letter to SFMTA head Ed Reiskin.

From his letter:

Last Friday, these designs were unceremoniously replaced with a message stating that the “project will no longer be moving forward.” With little to no notice, the SFMTA scrapped a project that was due to be in the ground in just over six months. This reversal represents betrayals of the SFMTA’s commitments to Vision Zero, to the work of the SFMTA staff who worked on this project, and to members of the public who gave input on this project and worked to see it constructed.

Why did they scrap the project? Apparently, they want to wait until the DTX, the plan to extend Caltrain from the current station to the Transbay Transit Center, is completed...whenever that will be. Incidentally, SFMTA quickly backpedaled (or at least removed the note about the cancellation from the project web page). However, it's still available to see in archive.

Streetsblog encourages readers to contact Mayor Farrellincoming Mayor London Breed, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin, to demand action on the Embarcadero. Contact Farrell and Breed on the Townsend reversal too, plus Supervisor Jane Kim. Readers can contact the SFMTA Board of Directors here.

It's important that they hear from SFBC members and Streetsblog readers. As Trezos put it bluntly in his email to SFMTA: "People's lives are depending on it."

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