Water Project Crew Endangers Cyclists

Yet another construction site fail on safety -- but a fix is on the way

Photo: Bruce Halperin
Photo: Bruce Halperin

“We hope you and your loved ones are safe and staying connected during these challenging times,” it says on the web page for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s “Force Main Rehabilitation” water project at Embarcadero and Jackson.

Unless you are riding a bike, in which case feel free to get maimed or killed (see photos).

Advocate and Embarcadero bike commuter Bruce Halperin brought this one to Streetsblog’s attention. “This is completely unacceptable. Where are bike riders supposed to go?” wrote Halperin in a public complaint he posted via Twitter. “It appears to be a long term project (the sign said until Winter 2021) – are people supposed to use the car lane for at least six months, with no safe detour?”

Fortunately, it seems a fix is on the way.

A reverse angle on the construction site--if one is lucky enough to get past it. Photo: Bruce Halperin
A reverse angle on the construction site–if one is lucky enough to get past it. Photo: Bruce Halperin

Halperin complained directly to the SFMTA, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, and the SFPUC. “We’re in direct communication with PUC, who recognize that this is unacceptable and are working on a fix,” wrote Lee Hepner, Legislative Aide to Peskin, in an email to Streetsblog.

“Can you at least put detour signs back at Broadway directing bicyclists to cross over to the water-side multi-use path?” Halperin wrote to John Scarpulla, Policy and Government Affairs Manager for the PUC.

After a back and forth between Hepner, Halperin, Scarpulla, and the PUC that was forwarded to Streetsblog, it seems the city is looking at doing just that, or perhaps even eliminating a motor-vehicle lane as a fix. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition apparently also applied pressure on city agencies, although SFBC director Brian Wiedenmeier declined to comment at this time.

Still, Halperin’s outrage is justified: it’s ridiculous that this kind of thing is still happening. Unfortunately, there’s a long-standing trend in San Francisco of not paying any attention to bicycle safety during construction projects. Streetsblog has taken the city to task several times over this, with occasionally positive results. Construction sites are dangerous places for everyone, and there simply has to be a cultural shift so that the safety of all road users is considered and dealt with before a project can break ground. No one should have to suggest something as simple as setting up a bike detour to the promenade.

Imagine if the crew had left a motor vehicle lane aimed directly into a fence in front of a big hole in the ground? Car lane, bike lane, or sidewalk, what’s pictured above should be grounds for termination for whoever did it.

Halperin’s experience also underscores the failings of last year’s “Sansome and Battery Connections Project,” which was supposed to create a safer alternative route to riding the Embarcadero in the first place. That project was in response to the death of pedicab driver Kevin Manning in 2018 on the Embarcadero. However, “the bike lane on Battery ends at Vallejo, so it’s useless in getting around this obstruction. And Broadway is a traffic sewer with only sharrows,” wrote Halperin. “There needs to be a SAFE path of travel for people riding bikes.”

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