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Presidio Betrays Promise to Make Arguello Safe

Presidio makes inadequate improvements to Arguello and promises more, but apparently protected bike lanes are no longer on the table

Ethan Boyes’s ghost bike, since removed. Photo by Kevin Lo

Five months after a reckless motorist sped into the oncoming bike lane and killed cyclist Ethan Boyes on Arguello in the Presidio, the Presidio Trust has announced the completion of a first round of improvements aimed at making Arguello safer for all users. However, advocates are furious that protected bike lanes are apparently no longer part of the plan.

A look at the paint improvements on Arguello

The improvements, based only on paint and plastic, include:

  1. Restripe to narrow vehicle lanes to 10 foot and provide a 2-foot buffer between southbound bike lane and vehicle lane on inside of curves to discourage drivers from cutting the corner
  2. Install K71 bollards every 20 feet in the buffer
  3. Install yield markings, a flex post yield sign, and a warning sign for southbound traffic to raise motorist awareness of cyclists crossing to Washington Boulevard.
  4. Add a bicycle guide sign for northbound cyclists to clarify the route to Washington Boulevard
  5. Install greenback sharrows and a dashed bike lane stripe to better indicate where northbound cyclists cross to the left-turn pocket to westbound Washington Boulevard

Note that K71s are not true bollards, which are normally made of wood or steel. K71s are just another type of flexible plastic delineator specifically designed not to damage cars if hit.

Advocate Luke Bornheimer and others say the improvements are not sufficient. None would have prevented the crash that took Boyes's life.

"Separately, SFMTA is proposing additional and discretionary outreach for their work to install protected bike lanes on Arguello," Bornheimer added to his Tweet above, "which would further delay critical safety improvements to the street that is a vital corridor for people on bikes, including residents of Districts 1 and 2, the Presidio, and people throughout San Francisco."

Part of correspondence sent to supporters from the Presidio Trust

The Trust's claim that Arguello is not wide enough for safe bike infrastructure is only true if one starts from the car-brained paradigm that drivers can never lose an inch of road space. Drivers already have multiple parallel routes to Arguello, including the four freeway lanes of CA-1 and Presidio Boulevard to get around the park. If what the engineers say is true, then make the narrow section of Arguello one-way or close it altogether to drivers if that's what it takes. Traffic engineering is perhaps the only discipline where licensed practitioners could get away with shrugging off safety like that.

This is also a departure from a couple of years ago when Presidio engineers were starting to prioritize safety by adapting Dutch-style infrastructure, such as advisory lanes and a protected roundabout. The Presidio, to its credit, also maintains some "slow streets."

Drivers have plenty of space in the Presidio, there's no reason one safe, north-south route for cyclists can't be provided. Image: Google maps

The Presidio, in its statement, writes that it will add speed cushions and rumble strips to Arguello and that in "2024, we will begin a substantial effort to repave roadways and parking lots in several locations around the Presidio," adding that this "will create an opportunity [emphasis added] to make additional improvements in the area, informed by what we learn from Phase One and Phase Two."

That's a far cry from what they promised. And it will keep people on bikes at risk of death and dismemberment from errant motorists. Everyone deserves at least one safe route through the Presidio. This is an insult to the memory of Ethan Boyes.

Be sure to sign the petition to try and get the Presidio Trust and SFMTA to do better for safety.

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