First Howard ‘Rapid Response’ Fixes Already in, Already Violated

Scofflaws waste no time ignoring more signs and paint

SFMTA's Rapid Response team has put up "no stopping" signs on Howard and bagged the parking meters. Note the black SUV driving half in the bike lane up ahead. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
SFMTA's Rapid Response team has put up "no stopping" signs on Howard and bagged the parking meters. Note the black SUV driving half in the bike lane up ahead. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

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:

Another motorist illegally parked on Howard
Motorists illegally parked on Howard

And this:

This delivery truck, not even actively making a delivery, was hanging out on Howard a few feet from where Tess was killed
This delivery truck, not actively making a delivery, was hanging out on Howard a few feet from where Rothstein was killed

And here was the scene in front of the huge off-street loading zone and 180-car parking garage for the Intercontinental Hotel:

The scene in front of the Intercontinental Hotel this morning--next to a 180-space parking structure and a huge, off-street loading area
The scene in front of the Intercontinental Hotel this morning–next to a 180-space parking structure and a huge, off-street loading area

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.

The temporary bike lane on Clay Street between 12th and 11th. Photos Streetsblog/Rudick
The temporary bike lane on Clay Street between 12th and 11th in Oakland. Photos Streetsblog/Rudick

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.

The shrine for Tess Rothstein on Howard, near where she was killed Friday morning
The shrine for Tess Rothstein on Howard, near where she was killed Friday morning
  • mx

    I biked through this afternoon. Just from the Intercontinental entrance to the corner there were two stopped rideshare vehicles, one stopped paratransit bus, and one parked pickup truck, all next to the new no stopping signs (in fact, the pickup was ignoring two other pre-existing no stopping signs too). And absolutely nothing has been done to Howard east of Moscone, where it remains an acutely dangerous place.

    These temporary safety improvements are nothing. They haven’t even painted the curbs red, and the hotel still has a “loading and unloading only” sign up next to the new paper “no stopping” signs (loading is prohibited in a no stopping zone).

    Someone died, and SFMTA’s rapid response is to print out some sheets of paper. Anybody with the slightest familiarity with the behavior of drivers in this city could have predicted the result.

  • Mike

    As written in the SFMTA blog post: https://www.sfmta.com/blog/wake-tragedy-rapid-response-results-howard
    “Effective immediately, we will add striping and physical barriers to reinforce the temporary parking restrictions.”

    Not sure why Streetsblog left that out of their post.

  • Roger R.

    Hi Mike. I did have “…SFMTA’s Rapid Response team has more upgrades planned, including extending the protected bike lane.” I thought physical barriers were implicit in that. And the link to the entire SFMTA announcement is there too–twice. Anyway, I’ll be back to follow up.

  • Roger R.

    By the way, is SFMTA talking about more safe hit posts–or something that can actually stop a car, like they did in Oakland with Jersey barriers (albeit only on that one example I’m aware of)?

  • LazyReader

    In a city that’s become famous for filthy sidewalks and used syringes lying on the streets along with tweeked out meth and heroin addicts and public defecation…. don’t be surprised people don’t give a S*** about the law pardon the pun.

  • Dex

    Your jumbling up two big pools of people. I know of very few biking accidents that were instigated by homeless. I’m sorry but I think your response was simply to rile people up, but it’s logically a non-starter

  • MatthewEH

    I know of some, but they’re more concentrated in places where separated bike right-of-way gets taken over by homeless encampments. The Cesar Chavez/101 hairball comes to mind.

  • redwoodmafia

    People in general act according to what’s normal in their surroundings. Tourists in Japan don’t litter…those same tourists in India have no trouble tossing their garbage out the rickshaw.

    Mentally, it’s “oh, it’s ok for this guy to be injecting drugs outside a school, so it’s totally fine for me to double park in a bike lane for 2 minutes while waiting for my Uber fare to show up.” Does one excuse the other? Absolutely not. But…it’s how people rationalize the “easy” choice.

  • redwoodmafia

    The sheets of paper are also fundamentally unusable while driving. You need to get up close, parse it, check a calendar and a clock, and then make a decision. So many papers in SF are out of date, or for several weeks in the future, or only on specific days of the week, etc…and not everyone driving around knows the details of this tragedy to automatically know what the sign would say.

    Something the SFMTA could easily fix with (a) a design intern and (b) some bigger paper…

  • mx

    I went through at lunchtime today, and it’s even worse, with all of the no stopping zone in front of the hotel at 5th filled with cars. Some waiting with flashers, some just parked and unattended. All right next to the new “rapid response” no stopping signs. Unless the city forces the hotel to ensure the restrictions are followed, no actual safety improvement will happen here.

    I was encouraged by the SFMTA paint crew setting up down at 6th and 7th, and am curious what they do. The encouragement didn’t last long though, as I didn’t get much farther until a DPT vehicle parked itself in the bike lane to pick up a DPT supervisor. With leadership like this…

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/acdc74608477f7a24ba2fc6371f0f6a15aa654cdd384f8f946e630d280bd74ab.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fdaff7ebe0fd6e1fb31452f505b986152a50624f585765a514fde492803b8eee.jpg
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/64e04d2aaeb806b0184546f2c52cfeeab7fc3d33f9e0ce12aa43c47b7ccc63a9.jpg

  • mx

    Agreed. There’s no reason it can’t say “DO NOT STOP YOUR CAR HERE. NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND. YES, THIS MEANS YOU. 24/7.” in big letters. Otherwise it just looks like the usual construction “no parking” signs.

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