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New Sansome and Battery bike lanes may provide safer alternative to deadly Embarcadero

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The City is moving ahead with a plan to create new bike lanes in the Financial District as an alternative to the notoriously unsafe Embarcadero bike lanes. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

City leaders are rushing to craft new, safer bike lanes on the Embarcadero following the death of a pedicab there earlier this year, but pedicab operators say the new safety measures may not benefit them.

In an effort to offer an alternative to notoriously dangerous Embarcadero bike lanes, city officials are moving forward with new bike lanes for the nearby Sansome and Battery streets.

The Sansome and Battery bike lanes, which are up for funding in December at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board, are primarily aimed at bicycling commuters traveling to Broadway Street, transportation planners said.

Cyclists who commute along the waterfront have long clamored for the near-term safety fixes in the area while The City works toward an overhaul of Embarcadero bike lanes planned for 2022.

Those short bike lanes may be the early stages of more robust, physically protected safety measures for Financial District commuters.

But it was the death of pedicab operator Kevin Manning, who was struck and killed on the Embarcadero by a driver on June 27, that spurred the effort to accelerate safety changes in the first place — and now his fellow operators are concerned they won’t be protected by The City’s new designs.

Mimosa André, co-owner of pedicab company Cabrio Taxi, said of The City, “they had a bunch of meetings, they asked for people’s input, and it feels they didn’t listen too much.”

Though the new Sansome and Battery bike lanes may help commuters, “we need to be on the Embarcadero,” she said, because that’s where the tourists are. And despite recent safety treatments to Embarcadero bike lanes, she said pedicab operators still face dangerous “dooring” from Uber and Lyft passengers disembarking directly into bike lanes, and ride in lanes that aren’t wide enough for pedicabs to pass each other safely.

Spurred by Manning’s death, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Transportation Authority and Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office sought near-term safety improvements to cycling in the area. Much acrimony arose within bicycling communities after Manning’s death, after it was revealed plans to make Embarcadero bike lanes protected from cars were originally slated to debut in 2015, but may not even see shovels hit the ground until 2022.

That late construction date makes short-term improvements all the more important, officials said.

In a July email to the Port of San Francisco, SFMTA and other entities, Peskin’s aide Sunny Angulo wrote, “the recent death of Kevin Manning after being hit in the bike lane has highlighted the urgency of implementing a near-term safety solution as quickly as possible, while we wait to fund, review and construct the full safety improvement project” on the Embarcadero.

The Sansome and Battery Street bike lanes will stretch from Chestnut to Broadway Streets, allowing cyclists who commute from the north side of San Francisco to Market a safer alternative than the Embarcadero. The bike lanes will connect via Vallejo Street from Sansome to Davis streets, then continue down Davis to Jackson Street.

Casey Hildreth, an SFMTA planner and project lead on the Embarcadero project, said there’s potential in the future for those bike lanes to get protected barriers. Pedestrian safety improvements will also dot the project path along Sansome and Battery streets, too.

Southbound Embarcadero has also gained a permanent southbound bike lane, which was completed just last week.

Hildreth said he did hear from pedicab operators that some of the changes to bike lanes weren’t ideal and that “there’s a lot of conflicts now between Uber and Lyft dropoffs,” but many of the long-term changes will benefit all cycling modes.

For now, he said, “there’s a lot more green out there for biking.”

Correction: The bike lanes connect only as far as Jackson Street, not Market Street, and this article has been corrected to reflect that.

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