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Eyes on the Street: 17th Street ‘Quick Build’ Taking Shape

A look at the start of construction on the parking-protected bike lanes on 17th, finally going in through Potrero Hill

New parking protected bike lanes on a quiet Saturday afternoon on 17th in Potrero. Photos: 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.

A long-fought battle by advocates to get protected bike lanes on 17th is finally starting to show results, as seen in the lead image and photos below. From SFMTA's project page:

The 17th Street Quick-Build Project aims to implement safety and comfort improvements on 17th Street between Potrero and Pennsylvania Avenues. This section of roadway is a key connection in San Francisco’s bikeway network, linking areas east—like the Dogpatch and Mission Bay—with neighborhoods to the west, such as the Mission and Lower Haight.

The project will prioritize the safety of cyclists and pedestrians and consider the varied needs of this mixed-use neighborhood, which includes large multi-family residences, eateries, parks, retail, commercial, manufacturing, services, and nightlife.

Advocate Peter Belden, founder of "Safer17th," told Streetsblog last March after the project was approved that he's thrilled things are finally in motion.

It was a quiet afternoon, and some of the few cyclists who were around were still adjusting to the new configuration.

There's a certain irony to the fact that SFMTA continues to refer to these projects as "quick build." In Streetsblog's Q&A with Belden, he recalled sending the first emails and starting the petition four years ago. The project went through years of outreach, leading to the usual protests by merchants over the loss of a few parking spots. Finally, the project was approved by the SFMTA board in March of 2024. More from a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition post on the struggle:

The project received the greenlight for approval from the City’s traffic engineer last year in September. We were confident the project would get final approval from the SFMTA Board of Directors by the end of the year and were gravely disappointed when that did not happen. Even with overwhelming support from residents and neighborhood associations like Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association, the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, and the South Beach Rincon Mission Bay Neighborhood Association, the project remained in limbo for six months over parking concerns from a handful of local businesses. 

In August 2022, Streetsblog covered part of that parking fight with the "Bottom of the Hill" music venue and one of its owners, Lynn Schwarz, who was behind the tweet and the petition mentioned below (the tweet has since been deleted, presumably because of the ire it raised from cyclists):

For the record, Bottom of the Hill still appears to be intact.

Streetsblog noted during its tour of the construction that there is still plenty of parking in front of the venue, although the driver in the image below somehow figured out how to block the bike lane, despite the availability of a legal parking spot just to the right:

This driver managed to block the bike lane. Notice the U-haul trailer to the right, legally parked in front of the music venue, and the open parking spot behind it.

As for the design, it's nice to see SFMTA using at least partially protected intersections. Speed bumps/turning wedges (see image below) are used to deter drivers from right hooking across the bike lane. In the past, SFMTA designed intersections with mixing zones that force turning cars to mix/zipper with cyclists trying to go straight.

These bumps/wedges encourage drivers to take turns slowly and carefully.

The project, still only partially complete, nevertheless already underscores why unprotected bike lanes are useless. An entire block of the curbside stripes are not yet "protected," in the sense that there's no vertical indications that cars are not permitted to park on the lane. The results were typical, as seen below in front of Jackson Park and near the Parkside bar for the two blocks between Arkansas and Carolina: parked vehicles blocking the lane.

Streetsblog would submit that even plastic delineations fail to stop scofflaw parkers as soon as drivers figure out it won't damage their cars to drive over them. SFMTA has simply got to start using concrete dividers, even if it's as crude as dropping in a Jersey barrier.

The other glaring issue, of course, is the section of 17th to the west through the Mission, which isn't part of this project. As the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition concluded in its post from last March:

While we celebrate this success, it is important to remember that delaying projects means putting people’s safety at risk, not to mention this project is only one segment of the entire 17th Street corridor which needs improvements. The SFMTA must prioritize a protected bike lane along the entirety of 17th Street to keep people on bikes and active transportation safe. 

Streetsblog couldn't agree more. If San Francisco had strong leaders on the SFMTA board, they'd have already resolved to have staff continue building west as soon as they finish the already-approved blocks. But they haven't done so. Without significant changes, it'll take who-knows-how-many years more to complete the project under the agency's unique definition of "quick build."

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