Advocates Welcome a Safer Townsend

Advocates fought hard to improve conditions around the Caltrain Depot. Finally, it's paid off.

Claire Amable, Jodie Medeiros, London Breed, Jeffrey Tumlin, and Alaric Degrafinried cutting the ribbon. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Claire Amable, Jodie Medeiros, London Breed, Jeffrey Tumlin, and Alaric Degrafinried cutting the ribbon. Photo: 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.

Townsend Street, next to the Caltrain Depot, has been a hub of discord, confusion, and danger for years, with Ubers and Lyfts fighting for position with Muni buses, pedestrians, and cyclists. Finally this morning, after a hard-fought, years-long battle, advocates and officials cut the ribbon on a long-awaited safety project that has segregated the different modes and provided a level of safety and order for all.

the Mayor's Transportation Advisor, Paul Supawanich, and SFMTA's Jeffrey Tumlin, arriving at the event... appropriately by bike
Mayor London Breed’s Transportation Advisor, Paul Supawanich, and SFMTA’s Jeffrey Tumlin, arriving at the event… appropriately via e-bike

“These improvements along Townsend Street make it safer and less chaotic for everyone, but especially if you are coming by bike—whether you are trying to catch Caltrain or are going to an office or an appointment,” said Mayor Breed, standing on a newly completed concrete loading island for cars and buses.

Mayor Breed praised the speed at which her "20 miles of protected bike lanes in the next two years" are being installed
Mayor Breed also praised the speed at which her plan for “20 miles of protected bike lanes in the next two years” is being fulfilled.

“We need to ensure bicycling is an attractive, safe, and accessible choice for residents and visitors alike,” she added. “We’ve made rapid progress adding more protected bike lanes, and this project is an example of where we are truly starting to build a protected bicycle network, connecting the South of Market neighborhood to the rest of the City.”

The Mayor and her detail arrived by giant SUV
The Mayor and her detail arrived in that giant black SUV.

For years, advocates have been fighting to get protected bike lanes on this stretch of Townsend. A project to do just that was quietly cancelled two years ago, ostensibly because the city will have to rip up the street again at some point to build a new track and tunnel between this location and the Salesforce Transit Center. But advocates fought successfully to get at least some version of the project reinstated.  “Townsend is one of the most important streets in SoMa,” said SFBC organizer Claire Amable, who spoke at the event. “Former Supervisor Jane Kim led the push to make sure the city didn’t drop the ball.”

New paint and posts protect the bike lane in the eastern direction
New paint and posts protect the bike lane in the eastern direction. In this unusual configuration, pedestrians are to the left of the bike lane (since there’s nothing to the right of the bike lane, this should work fine).

“The Downtown Extension has been right around the corner for 110 years,” said SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin to Streetsblog. “It will rip all this up,” he added, motioning to the newly installed boarding island and fresh asphalt. The challenge, he said, was to “fix the important problems in a way that’s fast and affordable.”

One of the most obvious ways SFMTA and Public Works did this was by working around existing poles, so they wouldn’t have to be moved or replaced at great expense, which Tumlin told Streetsblog would cost an additional $5 million (the total project cost is $3.3 million). He praised the city engineers for getting the safety infrastructure in place without upsetting utilities. “I hope this is a pilot for more intensive years of quick build projects.”

Concrete, asphalt and paint bend around utility poles to save money, since this will all have to be torn up in a few years
Concrete, asphalt, and paint all bend around utility poles to save money, since this will all have to be torn up in a few years

Unfortunately, there are some shortcuts that are less than ideal. In the westbound direction, Townsend’s bike lanes still aren’t protected in front of the post office and Ana Furniture, as seen below. And the intersections are still unprotected, except at one corner of Townsend and 7th.

MVIMG_20200310_122350
A couple of blocks heading west are not protected, with the usual results (such as a truck parked in the bike lane).

Tumlin said additional work is still underway on the north side of the street. An SFMTA spokesperson said further improvements should be completed sometime next month.

That caveat aside, the flow of traffic, bikes, scooters, pedestrians and Muni buses is drastically improved over the bedlam that reigned just two years ago, as seen below:

BrianCoyne_Townsend
Townsend in front of Caltrain in 2018. Photo: Brian Coyne

For more reminders of what that was like, check out Streetsblog’s story from 2018, which includes video of a confrontation between a safety advocate and an Uber driver.

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If all goes according to plan, by year's end Howard will have a protected bike lane like this one on 7th.  Streetsblog/Rudick

Bike Coalition Continues Push for a Safer SoMa

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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 […]