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Bicycle Infrastructure

Another Fatal Collision, Some Progress on Making Howard Street Safer

A city crew was out this afternoon improving the markings on the crosswalk where Russell Franklin was killed last week. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick

Howard Street claimed another victim late Tuesday night. Hoodline reports a 65-year-old pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver at the intersection of Howard and 9th. Streetsblog has calls out for details and will update this post accordingly.

And last Thursday a cyclist named Russell Franklin was killed at the intersection of Howard and South Van Ness, just a few blocks away.

"Howard is a killer. We all know this," said Matt Brezina, the safety advocate who helped organize People Protected Bike Lane protests on Howard and other streets. He points out that the long-delayed plan to install a protected bike lane on Howard would narrow lanes and slow traffic--making the street safer for all users. That might have given Tuesday evening's victim a fighting chance. "He still might have gotten hit, but he might have gotten hit at a slower speed."

9th and Howard, where a pedestrian was killed Tuesday night.
9th and Howard, where a pedestrian was killed Tuesday night.
9th and Howard, where a pedestrian was killed Tuesday night.

This latest fatal crash was also just two blocks from where Kate Slattery was killed in 2016. Streets around SoMa, such as 7th, Folsom, 8th, and 13th, now have parking-protected bike lanes and bus-boarding islands, put in after the late Mayor Lee's Executive Directive on Safety. But improvements on Howard have remained elusive, thanks to objections from the San Francisco Fire Department and their concerns about having enough space for their ladder trucks.

A delivery truck blocking the unprotected bike lane on Howard.
A delivery truck blocking the unprotected bike lane on Howard.
A delivery truck blocking the unprotected bike lane on Howard.

But there is a glimmer of hope, albeit too late for too many people. The fire department's Captain Chad Law was assigned to work with advocates and the SFMTA. One insider who spoke on condition of anonymity said Law has been far more cooperative than past representatives from the SFFD. Expectations are that Howard will finally get its parking-protected bike lane by the end of the year.

In addition, thanks to the SFMTA's Rapid Response Team's recommendations, a city crew painted a more visible crosswalk this afternoon at Howard and South Van Ness. Taylor Ahlgren, a cyclist who tried to help the victim there on the day of the crash, was at the scene to observe the installation (see photo below). The SFMTA sprayed melted white thermoplastic stripes that are then cooled with water and adhere to the asphalt in just minutes.

Taylor Ahlgren was happy to see progress at the crossing where Russell Franklin died one week ago.

The SFMTA also put a locked canvas bag over the meter nearest the crosswalk and painted a red stripe on the curb, thus making people in the crosswalk much easier to see from passing cars. Ahlgren wondered why the Rapid Response Team doesn't bring red paint and meter bags with them when they initially visit crash scenes, to take action during their initial survey. But he was happy to see something getting done nonetheless. "They also need to move this," he said, pointing to the reflective yellow crosswalk sign. In the mornings, that sign is in shadow and hard to see. He hopes SFMTA will install more signs in more locations around the crosswalk, to assure that at least one is always visible to oncoming motorists.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and representatives from SFMTA will host a joint ride on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 5:30 p.m. to look for more dangers that can be corrected on Howard, hopefully before anyone else is hurt or killed. If you'd like an opportunity to talk directly with city staff, be sure to join them.

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