San Francisco’s cyclists won an unexpected victory Tuesday when the city reversed its decision to delay bike safety improvements on one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets.
Dozens of activists, wearing bright yellow shirts often worn by cyclists, quietly celebrated after San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency Director of Sustainable Streets Tom Maguire announced the agency would construct protected bike lanes on Townsend Street.
“We don’t think we need to wait for meaningful construction, ” Maguire said. “We can move forward with a solution that includes a good level of protection between 4th and 7th streets.”
The Townsend corridor, which carries high amounts of bicycle traffic, has seen 44 reported cyclist collisions between Eighth and Fourth streets over the last five years, according to the SFMTA.
To improve bicycle safety, San Francisco commissioned the Townsend Corridor Improvement Project in April, an initiative that sought to construct bike safety lanes, among other improvements, that would make traveling on the busy road safe for cyclists and pedestrians.
However the $6 million project was set to be delayed for five years because officials determined that shortly after construction was to be completed, the city would have to tear out the improvements to make way for construction on the Downtown Extension Project.
Those who commute on the high injury corridor said the safety measures were a matter of life and death. They cited the death two weeks ago of pedicab driver Kevin Manning, 66, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the Embarcadero.
“I’m distraught that it takes the sacrifice of martyrs like Kevin Manning to get people to act,” Matt Brezina, a cycling activist said at the crowded board hearing.
Manning wasn’t the first to be killed.
“Why do we have safety measures on Folsom? Because Amelie Le Moullac was killed there,” Brezina said. “Why do we have safety measures on Howard and Seventh? Because Kate Slattery was killed there.”
Activist Paul Valdez brought in a collage of people killed in cycling accidents and displayed them on the boardroom’s monitor. After his brief statement, a moment of silence followed. Valdez remembered Dylan Mitchell, Nancy Ho, Heather Miller, Gashaw Clark and Charles Vinson, among others.
District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim supported the cyclists, saying her office has made the Townsend project a priority for her remaining six months in office.
“We have more people killed by cars than by guns here in the city and county of San Francisco,” she said. “We need to make the streets safer today.”
According to Maguire a revised design on the coming bicycle safety lanes will be released in August, and construction should be underway by the end of the calendar year.
Kim said she would monitor the project to make sure it’s on track and expects a milestone by December.
Your comments are powerful, poignant, and we are definitely hearing them,” SFMTA Board of Directors Chair Cheryl Brinkman said to the impassioned crowd. “We don’t want anyone to be added to the photo collage we saw.”