Motorist Injures Cyclist in Wiggle Mixing Zone

Another severe crash highlights city's sub par intersection treatments

A cyclist was seriously injured Friday night just at the end of the last safe-hit post (seen in the above image) where cyclists and right-turning motorists are suddenly thrown together. Image: Google Streetview
A cyclist was seriously injured Friday night just at the end of the last safe-hit post (seen in the above image) where cyclists and right-turning motorists are suddenly thrown together. Image: Google Streetview

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.

Jeremy Sammons was biking to a Friday night “bike party” recreational ride downtown from his home in the Outer Richmond at around 7:45 p.m. when he came upon a crash that had just taken place between a motorist and a cyclist. Just before the turn on the Wiggle bike-route from Oak to Scott street, he saw an SUV parked in the bike lane, just past the last safe-hit post. His first thought was that the motorist was parked in the bike lane, but then he saw “…there was a man laying between the car and the sidewalk on the ground” with a bicycle.

“The guy had blood all over his face and he was not moving. A woman who was a witness said the SUV driver swerved after the last post and cut the guy off, and the cyclist ran into him,” explained Sammons to Streetsblog. The collision left the injured cyclist “..in a bit of shock. He had a serious laceration under his right eye where he appeared to have hit the concrete–he was missing a number of teeth…he said he could not feel his mouth.”

Streetsblog has reached out to the SFPD and SFMTA. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier said they don’t yet have any information about the crash. Streetsblog will update accordingly.

Despite the improvements of the Wiggle, Oak and Fell remain on the high-injury network. Image: Vizion Zero Network/SF Department of Health
Despite the improvements of the Wiggle, Oak and Fell remain on the high-injury network. Image: Vizion Zero Network/SF Department of Health

This stretch of Oak Street has a protected bike lane, but not protected intersections. Friday night’s crash happened at the approach to the intersection–in the so-called ‘mixing zone.’

The idea of a mixing zone (as seen in the lead image) is that, as bikes and cars approach an intersection, the physical protection for the bike lane ends and cyclists and right-turning motorists mix together and are supposed to somehow merge with or across each other’s paths.

Dutch traffic engineers have long abandoned the mixing zone, at least on all but the quietest streets, as dangerous and unrealistic–it requires motorists to slow, signal, check over their right shoulder, make sure the bike lane is clear, and then merge into it or across it. In practice, it turns into a deadly game of brinkmanship–with motorists muscling ahead of or into the path of cyclists. Sometimes, motorists “right hook” cyclists, as seems to have happened Friday evening. Streetsblog, along with many advocates, has taken SF’s “Mixing Zones” to task for some time now.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s just one of many videos available online that explains how Dutch-style protected intersections work:

Of course, the right from Oak Street onto Scott would require some modifications, since there’s no protected bike lane on Scott. But there are certainly ways to make it work.

Clearly, mixing-zone intersection treatments are not safe, especially for children or less confident cyclists who aren’t expecting to be thrown back into the mix with motorists. “‪Don’t design streets that make the five percent already biking marginally safer,” bike safety advocate Chris Bruntlett, author of Building the Cycling City, writes in a social media post about how the Dutch design intersections. “Build them to entice the other 95 percent back on their bikes.”

To date, SFMTA has built one protected intersection–completed in 2016 at 9th and Division. Yet on all its newest installations, such as the troubled new bike lane on 2nd Street, the agency continues to fall back and build more mixing zones.

Meanwhile, Sammons, who is a regular Wiggle rider, said the simplest solution for the turn from Oak to Scott shown in the lead image may be to continue the protected bike lane all the way to Scott and ban or heavily restrict right turns by motorists.

If you have any more information about Friday’s crash, please post below. Also, share more of your thoughts on SFMTAs mixing zones.

  • mx

    I’ve had a couple close calls at mixing zones like these. The worst for me are ones like 8th and Howard, where the parking protected lane impedes viability; you reach the end of the parked cars and immediately have a merge, blocked by the line of parked cars between you.

    Everyone wants to merge as soon as they can; I wonder if the city could look at adding tapers to these mixing zones (even if just with paint) just like highway merges, that is if we somehow can’t have protected intersections as Roger points out in every article of this nature. It’s significant that protected bike lanes end abruptly while vehicular merges come with warning and tapered merging areas.

  • The best solution here is to disallow right turns from Oak onto Scott. This connection from the Panhandle to the Wiggle is incredibly important to bicyclists, while there are many, many other ways for people in vehicles to get to the Lower Haight. It doesn’t solve the problem of all the other terrible mixing zones in the city that constantly create conflict between motorists and cyclists, but at least it would reduce the chance of death here for thousands each day. I’m pretty sure most motorists see these mixing zones simply as right hand turn lanes, and that if they see the green “sharrow” at all, they interpret it to mean cyclists should watch out and yield to motorists.

  • Parker

    I agree with you – there will be some bad collisions at Howard & 8th with the current design. Car traffic is often moving 40mph leading up to the merging point and drivers don’t seem skilled enough to slow down for a proper check for bike traffic. At minimum, the design is really unpleasant for both people in cars and on bikes.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Ban cars

  • spragmatic

    The Dutch plan looks pretty good. Except we will have to rip out all the bulb-outs we just put in for the pedestrians. This also means the pedestrians will be crossing away from the intersection and farther out of the driver’s sight lines.

  • Roger R.

    You wouldn’t necessary have to rip out the bulb outs. They could probably be modified to become (or at least become part of) the protecting traffic island. And the crosswalk would be set back, so I’m not sure how you figure that puts pedestrians out of drivers’ sight lines.

  • Roger R.

    I hate sounding like a broken record about protected intersections, but politicians and officials don’t necessarily know what we’re talking about, so I feel obliged to repeat it in the hope that the idea might catch on. Protected intersections are a tough one; they always looked pretty weird to me on paper, but the first time I actually rode a bike through a real one in Rotterdam, and then again in Vancouver, I realized–oh, yeah, this is the other component to protected bike lanes. And cities need both or they’re never going to achieve their goals.

  • p_chazz

    Not gonna happen.

  • SF Guest

    It’s his monotonous shtick for one size fits all or solution for everyone.

  • sf in sf

    People should go play that video during public comment at SFMTA and BOS meetings.

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