Eatery Endangers Cyclists, Port Shrugs

SFMTA works on protected bike lanes for Embarcadero. Waterbar continues to use the Embarcadero bike lane as a valet drop off

Advocate Bradley Williford tweeted this photo of the restaurant and the Port of San Francisco's disregard for safety
Advocate Bradley Williford tweeted this photo of the restaurant and the Port of San Francisco's disregard for safety

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.

Plans are moving forward for a quick-build, protected bike lane project for the Embarcadero that would stretch from Mission to Folsom. However, advocates see a flaw with the designs: the protection stops just short of the Waterbar restaurant. And it’s well-documented that the restaurant is using the bike lane for its valet parking, as seen in the lead image and the map below:

A map of bike lane violations via the city's 311 data, sent to Streetsblog and government agencies by Munroe
A map of bike-lane violations from Stephen Braitsch’s safelanes.org The Waterbar is located adjacent to the large bunch of overlapping reports on the Embarcadero.

In theory, this problem should be remedied by SFMTA’s Embarcadero Enhancement Project, which has been ongoing since 2014 and should start construction next year. It would put a physical barrier between bike lanes and the street, so parking on a bike lane would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible. During today’s SFMTA Board of Director’s meeting, Casey Hildreth with SFMTA’s Livable Streets gave a short presentation on the quick-build, two-way protected bike lane component as a short-term way, using paint and plastic posts, to tie protected bike lanes on Folsom and Howard into the ferry building via the Embarcadero in the near future.

He added that he would be meeting with Port staff about the quick-build plans and returning to the SFMTA board with a full presentation. SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato confirmed that further discussion is planned for the regular board meeting on February 4. With Port and SFMTA approval, implementation of the Mission to Folsom quick-build segment could occur in late spring or early summer.

embarcadero_qb_mission-folsom_proposal_jan_2020_0P2

However, the short-term plans won’t address the issue with the valets and the Waterbar.

“I was excited to hear this week that SFMTA is working on a quick build protected bike lane on the Embarcadero. However, I’m left scratching my head about the proposal: it is only 2 blocks between Mission and Folsom, and directly adjacent to the extremely problematic and dangerous Waterbar location we’ve been discussing, but it will not include that block?” wrote advocate Dale Munroe, in an email to the SFMTA and other government officials. “It’s completely baffling to me that the proposal would abut, but not include, this conflict-prone and dangerous stretch of the Embarcadero.”

To hammer home the issue, Munroe also posted this video of the interaction between cyclists and valets at the restaurant:

Just last week, a scooterist was seriously injured on the Embarcadero, at the intersection with Bay Street. During his presentation today, Hildreth pointed out that 242 people have been injured on the Embarcadero from 2014 to 2019, including two fatalities.

“We definitely are aware of the complaints and issues with the passenger load zone fronting the Epic and Waterbar restaurants, and are actively working with the Port to identify what engineering and enforcement actions can be taken to improve safety,” wrote Hildreth, in an email in response to Munroe’s complaints. However, he added that the Port is ultimately responsible for how the Embarcadero is arranged in that area and that SFMTA is in essence, acting as “…transportation consultants for the Port and cannot proceed with implementation until we gain their approval(s).”

Streetsblog has an inquiry out to the Waterbar and the Port of San Francisco’s communication’s Director, Randy Quezada, and will update this post accordingly. Meanwhile, in an email leaked to advocates and posted on social media, one of the partners of Epic/Waterbar, Pete Sittnick, confessed to the violations, adding that it would be too expensive and difficult to solve.

And last August, when Streetsblog criticized the Port for its inaction on the Embarcadero after the death of pedicab operator Kevin Manning, David Beaupre, with the Port of San Francisco’s Real Estate & Development division, defended his agency’s commitment to safety. “…the Port has a great track record of working with SFMTA to implement bicycle improvements including implementing the first cycletrack on Cargo Way, working with businesses and neighbors on getting bike lanes on Illinois Street and the recent redesign of Terry Francois Boulevard, which now has a cycletrack on the east side,” he wrote in an email to Streetsblog. He also pointed to the plastic posts the city added to the intersection of Embarcadero and Sansome, where the hit-and-run motorist killed Manning.

“I used to bike commute this way regularly but ultimately had to abandon biking along the Embarcadero out of fear for my life here,” tweeted Munroe. “People walking/biking/scootering don’t stand a chance against cars, let alone the massive construction vehicles that use Embarcadero regularly,” he added in an email to Streetsblog. As to the scooterist who was seriously injured last week, he wrote that “SFMTA and the Port are largely responsible for this injury, through their complete failure and negligence to build safe infrastructure for years, despite knowing it’s not safe in its current form.”

UPDATE: The following is the Port’s response, sent Tue., Jan 21, 9:46 p.m. 

The Port takes safety seriously and always works with our partners to investigate and learn from any collision and/or incidents that result in injury and/or death. We are actively working with our partners to make the Embarcadero safer for pedestrians, cyclists, scooterists and motorists. Both the Embarcadero Promenade and roadway are important congested, shared spaces that we must ensure is safe. The Port is looking forward to the SFMTA’s quick build recommendations for the area near Pier 35 and Waterbar as they will provide valuable safety improvements and lessons learned for the Embarcadero Enhancement Project.  To further bolster safety efforts the Port is working with Waterbar ownership on ways to better manage valet parking as well as working with the SFMTA and SFPD to increase enforcement in a challenging area of the Embarcadero.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG