Safety-Washing on Sansome and Battery

SFMTA backs off building a safe bike route through FiDi

A cyclist navigates the intersection of Sansome and Vallejo. Note the three-level parking structure, in addition to all the other features accommodating motorists only. SFMTA plans to add a bit of bike paint, but no protection. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
A cyclist navigates the intersection of Sansome and Vallejo. Note the three-level parking structure, in addition to all the other features accommodating motorists only. SFMTA plans to add a bit of bike paint, but no protection. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

A protected bike lane on the Embarcadero, one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets, won’t even start construction for at least another two years. In the meantime, the Sansome and Battery Connections Project was supposed to create a compromise; a short-term, safer alternative route to riding the dangerous conditions on the Embarcadero that took the life of pedicab driver Kevin Manning last June.

Now it looks as if even this alternate route project is getting rolled back in response to motoring interests. According to a recent email from SFMTA:

Based on collective feedback received by the project team, the SFMTA is proposing the following changes to the project as originally introduced: Northbound left-turns and U-turns from The Embarcadero at Chestnut Street will be maintained with upcoming improvements

That’s SFMTA-speak for backing off plans to eliminate a dangerous turn (just one of many “compromises”). The agency goes on to explain that “We clearly heard from many constituents that residential access to/from Chestnut Street is important, and further study is needed to better understand the circulation impacts of cruise ship berths and to better accommodate potential re-routing of visitors to the public parking garage on Kearny Street.”

A map of the project area. Image: SFMTA
A map of the project area. Image: SFMTA

Of course, by “access” the agency is referring to access for motorists, since we already know the Financial District currently has no protected bike lanes and is treacherous for cyclists.

Street-safety advocate Matt Brezina, who helped organize the last People Protected bike lane protest on the Embarcadero, told Streetsblog he thinks this latest roll back is “un-f*cking real.” He puts the blame squarely on the Supervisor who represents the area.

“There are still no protected lanes in D3. Aaron Peskin does not care about the safety of bike users. And SFMTA is so fearful of his political wrath, they aren’t living up to their principles,” he said.

Advocate Kyle Grochmal agreed; note the additional SFMTA compromises listed in his tweet:

“Without a connection to Market this is a half-assed project and way to deflect criticism for the Embarcadero lagging four years,” wrote Andrew Davidson, who commutes by bike through the area, in an email to Streetsblog.

Streetsblog has an inquiry out to Peskin’s office and will update this post accordingly.

“People biking through the Financial District still have no good connections,” said Charles Deffarges, senior community organizer for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “Sansome and Battery streets should be a safe and welcome alternative while we continue to work toward a transformative Embarcadero experience for everyone. Our hope is to see the SFMTA make it easy for people to bike all the way to Market Street.”

“These routes really need protected bike lanes,” added Grochmal, in an email to Streetsblog. “I used to commute daily on Sansome and the vehicle traffic moves way too fast. A truly safe bike route is only possible with protected lanes.”

For more information on this project, see the project web page. Meanwhile, the SFMTA Board will consider the changes on Tuesday, April 16th at 1 p.m. in Room 400, City Hall. Comments on the project can be sent to sustainable.streets@sfmta.com or mark.dreger@sfmta.com with the subject ‘SFMTA Board of Directors.’

Streetsblog also recommends calling or emailing Supervisor Aaron Peskin (contact) about why we can’t have protected bike lanes through his district, when the city has built so many in the adjoining district, South of Market.

Kevin Manning's ghost bike, at the Embarcadero and Sansome
Kevin Manning’s ghost bike, at the Embarcadero and Sansome

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