First Howard ‘Rapid Response’ Fixes Already in, Already Violated
4:11 PM PDT on March 13, 2019
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The SFMTA's "Rapid Response Team" has started short-term work to immediately improve conditions on Howard between 4th and 6th Streets. This is in response to Friday morning's tragedy, which took the life of cyclist Tess Rothstein.
From the SFMTA release:
Effective immediately, we will restrict parking on the north side of Howard Street between 4th St. and 6th St. This temporary emergency measure will increase safety for people bicycling until a more permanent improvement can be installed.
The release also reminds readers of the grim count: "Friday's fatality is the fourth traffic death on Howard Street in the past three years and Howard Street is part of San Francisco's High Injury Network, the 13 percent of city streets that account for 75 percent of traffic injuries."
Streetsblog is pleased, of course, that the SFMTA is taking such quick action. However, the unintentional effect of the signs is to offer yet another lesson to planners, advocates and lawmakers as to why paint and signs without physical barriers are nearly useless (do we really need more evidence of this?).
Streetsblog took a walk up and down Howard this morning, between 4th and 6th, and despite the fact that SFMTA had wallpapered the street with "no stopping" signs and put bright red canvass bags over the parking meters, well, this:
And here was the scene in front of the huge off-street loading zone and 180-car parking garage for the Intercontinental Hotel:
Apparently, many motorists simply aren't concerned about getting the occasional parking ticket.
It doesn't have to be this way. Even rapid fixes--as in fixes that can be dropped in overnight--can physically block cars from entering the bike lanes, as Oakland illustrated on a segment of Clay Street, seen below. If SFMTA has the resources to get "no stopping" signs and parking meter bags installed this fast, then surely they can put in plastic Jersey barriers almost as quickly. By the way, before Oakland dropped in the Jersey barriers seen below, not only was the curb completely taken up by parked cars, but often they were police cars; in other word, stepped-up enforcement is not a realistic option.
Fortunately, SFMTA's Rapid Response team has more upgrades planned, including extending the protected bike lane.
Also from the SFMTA release:
- We will immediately begin designing a parking-protected bike lane on Howard St between 3rd St and 6th St, similar to the protected bike lane recently completed between 6th St and 11th St. This new parking-protected bike lane will be installed as early as April 2019, if approved by the SFMTA Board. This will then allow much of the parking removed as part of the emergency safety improvements to return.
- We will identify further improvements to the existing parking-protected bike lanes on Howard Street, particularly focused on intersection approaches, known as "mixing zones," which are often the most difficult location for people biking. We will make near-term changes this spring, which may include additional green markings, posts and signs.
Notably, there was nothing about extending Folsom's protected bike lane or adding protected lanes on any other street. As the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition put it in its statement: "Time and time again, we only bring about change in response to a fatality."
Streetsblog could add that, depending on the politics of the district, sometimes even that isn't enough.
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