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Parking-protected bike lane approved near 4th and King Caltrain Station

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A bicyclist heads down Townsend Street toward the Caltrain station on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

From no protection to full protection, cyclists just scored a major win on Townsend Street.

The City’s transportation board approved parking-protected bike lanes Wednesday that will run along Townsend between Fifth and Eighth streets, right near the Fourth and King Caltrain station.

That area sees regular clashes between cyclists and ride-hail vehicles from Uber and Lyft. It also has the most parking citations issued “anywhere in The City,” said one city planner.

Ultimately the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors voted to approve the protected bike lanes, which will be protected by parked cars on some segments of Townsend and run between slices of sidewalk elsewhere. Either way, bikes will be physically separated from car traffic.

That decision was uncertain as recently as July, when SFMTA said it would delay the safety improvements due to plans for construction on Townsend for future extensions of Caltrain that would potentially erase anything built there beforehand. But Supervisor Jane Kim, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and citizens pushed for the safety improvements anyhow, arguing the safety need is great.

“It really is one of the worst intersections in terms of allowing pedestrians and cyclists and personal vehicles, shuttle buses and Muni to share this very narrow street,” Kim told the SFMTA board Tuesday. In enacting the project on time, instead of waiting, Kim said “We’re really going to both save lives and also prevent a lot of injuries that have long-term impacts.”

From 2012 through 2016, there have been a total of 82 injury collisions along Townsend Street from Third Street to Eighth Street, 33 of which involved people who were riding bikes, according to the SFMTA.

Cameron Beck, a traffic engineer with SFMTA, said Uber and Lyft vehicles are cited more at that portion of Townsend than anywhere else in The City.

Charles Defarge, an organizer with the bike coalition, said “the outrage we’ve been hearing the last few months is really nothing new, we’ve seen an explosion in people biking and an explosion in (ride-hails)” along Townsend.

He showed the SFMTA board a photo of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom breaking ground on the first bike lane there in 2010, which was a simple stripe of paint.

“The same paint laid down by Gavin Newsom in 2010 is really the only thing keeping a score of Lyfts and Ubers and a fleet of large buses out of the bike lane,” he said. “It does a really terrible job at it, people are in danger every day.”

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