Advocates Demand Protected Bike Lanes

Huge Rally for protected bike lanes on Howard, Folsom, and on all dangerous corridors

Eva Orbuch and Sasan Saadat, friends of Tess Rothstein, were among those who demanded protected bike lanes today at City Hall. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
Eva Orbuch and Sasan Saadat, friends of Tess Rothstein, were among those who demanded protected bike lanes today at City Hall. 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.

Over 200 advocates for safe streets turned out at the steps of City Hall Tuesday afternoon to demand protected bike lanes on all of San Francisco’s high-injury corridors. “What do we want?” shouted District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, “Protected bike lanes!” replied the advocates.

Among those to address the crowd were Eva Orbuch and Sasan Saadat, friends of Tess Rothstein, who was killed while riding her bike on the morning of March 8. “Tess ran out to get the bus–I caught the next one. Just a random event,” said Saadat, explaining that Rothstein caught the bus from Berkeley to San Francisco and then used a Ford GoBike to travel down Howard on her way to work–and how she was killed just before the start of the protected bike lane past 6th. “A random event and I’ll never get to see her again.” He demanded protected bike lanes in San Francisco so this kind of pointless, random death never happens again. “Such a simple change to save lives.”

Marta Lindsey and Jodie Medeiros of Walk S.F. were also there to demand safer streets with a banner showing the six people who have died just this year
Marta Lindsey and Jodie Medeiros of Walk S.F. were also there to demand safer streets with a banner showing six people who have died just this year

“We sat Shiva, telling stories of her,” said Orbuch, who also demanded completed, protected bike lanes on Howard, Folsom, and other dangerous streets. She wants city leaders to remember others killed recently, such as Russell Franklin, Kate Slattery, “…and so many others who have died on our streets.”

After the rally, the demonstrators headed into the regular SFMTA Board meeting to demand protected bike lanes are extended on Howard to 3rd–as was already on the board’s agenda–but also that protected bike lanes be added to high-injury corridors throughout the city. And that the SFMTA build them with urgency.

Scott Fay, who has been hit himself, in front of City Hall--with a cab parked on the unprotected bike lane on Polk
Scott Fay, an advocate who has been hit himself, in front of City Hall during today’s demonstration–with a cab parked on the bike lane on Polk to further illustrate why unprotected lanes don’t work

During public comment period, some 40 people expressed their grief and pleaded with SFMTA to take proactive action to prevent more deaths.

“Tess was one of the warmest and most gentle people I have known. I think what hurts the most is the utter dis-proportionality of what a wonderful person she was with how stupid and unnecessary the manner of her death was,” said one speaker at the meeting. “People are asking for a fully protected bike lane the full length of Folsom and Howard? We need a network of protected bike lanes in San Francisco.”

“We have made a tragic, unacceptable choice to build a bike system that is dangerously incomplete,” said Supervisor Haney, who also pleaded with the SFMTA Board to start building a protected bike network immediately.

The Board voted unanimously for SFMTA to extend Howard’s protected bike lane to 3rd.

“This doesn’t go far enough–all of Folsom and Howard need protected and we need a list of all streets that need protected bike lanes built throughout the city,” said the Bicycle Coalition’s Charles Deffarges, as part of his public comments.

Some 200 advocates came to the steps of City Hall this afternoon to demand protected bike lanes
Some 200 advocates came to the steps of City Hall this afternoon to demand protected bike lanes

Board Member Amanda Eaken and others asked that the city do more. Tom Maguire, Director of SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division, said that Howard gets more complicated east of 2nd, because it’s a two-way street. “We don’t have a specific plan,” he said. “We haven’t talked with stakeholders.” Eaken said she wants SFMTA to start a 90-day plan to rate the highest injury streets and to start putting in safety features, including protected bike lanes, as short term pilots–without necessarily doing full outreach. “We can’t be in a constant cycle of catch-up,” she insisted.

Meanwhile, in a join statement with Supervisor Haney, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition announced that over 300 people have emailed Mayor London Breed, the Board of Supervisors, and the SFMTA Board of Directors to demand the following:

  • Protected bike lanes for the full length on Howard and Folsom streets
  • Fast-tracked progress on our bicycling high-injury corridors citywide in the next year
  • A streamlined approvals process for protected bike lanes

During the meeting, Maguire pointed out that construction to extend Folsom to the Embarcadero will begin this summer.

But all of this is too late for Rothstein, whose friends have published a letter to the mayor and other government officials, demanding safer streets.

“We need real, citywide, proactive, trans-formative change,” said Janice Li, Advocacy Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “This is not about parking or the bike lobby. This is about life and death.”

Supervisor Matt Haney addressing the SFMTA board
Supervisor Matt Haney addressing the SFMTA board
  • Easy

    It’s hard not to be jaded, but it really feels like this could be a turning point toward safe streets.

  • So sad that it takes blood to cut through the culture of glacial progress on a network of safe connected bike lanes.

  • crazyvag

    When I emailed SFMTA about lack of plan for protected bike lanes on Townsend between 2nd and 3rd. Here’s the SFMTA reason for not putting lanes there – and this might be same reason elsewhere:
    “There are many large driveways and alleyways on this block. The bikeway would essentially be unprotected especially on the north side since there would be gaps for every driveway and alley.”

    It’s starting to become clear of that massive disconnect and SFMTA’s lack of understanding of what a person on a bike would like. SFMTA seems to think that unless it’s parking protected, nothing else can be done.

  • bike_engineer

    I fail to see the logic with your response. The city informed you that they wouldn’t be able to install protected bike lanes because there isnt anywhere to put the concrete islands or safe hit posts, and your response is they don’t understand what cyclists want? its a physical space issue

  • crazyvag

    I see what you mean. They said that bike lane would be interrupted by driveways, which somehow precludes from placing the bike lane along the curb and painting it green. Yet if you look at Folsom, it seems very possible to paint a bike along the curb even with bunch of driveways along the way.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/538a233452bc264440f4bcda1e96f2590ab453b2aca31b490ddb3c6de7b660b5.png

  • mx

    So the city says the bikeway would be essentially unprotected because there are so many driveways and alleys, which means that there are so many driveways and alleys where drivers can turn abruptly across the unprotected bike lane and hit cyclists, which means the existing bike lane is unsafe.

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  • Maria K

    I agree that the bike lanes have to be properly protected if they are to used at all. Not something half ass. I believe that the issue of safety is, above all else, the priority. Do I see the negative impact the bike lanes have made on business owners due to the parking spots being taken away, yes. I have spoken with a few business owners along Folsom who have seen decline in business and are worried about the life of a business they have had for many years. BUT, ANOTHER HUGE ISSUE I witnessed myself is along Folsom between 5th and 6th streets. There are many persons with disabilities, some of whom that use wheelchairs, living in the apartments along that block. Some of those people use Para Transit or other van pick up services as a way of public transit. In order for the van driver to safely pick up a person in a wheelchair, they need to go to the curb and to a curb side ramp. This means the van is in the bike lane. So, do the disabled persons trying to utilize the transit system for curb side pick up not matter? There are other factors that need to be addressed, of course the safety of the bicyclists and the protected lanes if there are to be any lanes at all, but other populations (non-bicyclists) are affcted by the lanes and need to be thought of ALSO.

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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. There are five bike lane projects in various phases in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco (SoMa). Long-term improvements to Folsom and […]