One of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets just netted a blocks-long protected bike lane.

Turk Street is included on The City’s Vision Zero High Injury Network, which is the 13 percent of city streets sporting 75 percent of traffic injuries.

Now, Turk Street is painted green on its south side from Mason to Polk Streets, with “safe hit” white posts between cyclists and traffic.

Even that short stretch of Turk has seen 174 traffic collisions in only the last five years, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, mostly from mid-block jaywalking and vehicles making unsafe turns.

“That was absolutely unacceptable,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA director of transportation, at a Thursday morning press briefing. Gathered outside Curry Senior Center, officials and neighbors alike celebrated improved safety not only for bicyclists, but for nearby pedestrians.

“It took years,” said Kevin Stull, a former Tenderloin resident who moved to the Mission four years ago. He sits on a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency pedestrian committee, where everyday locals push to make their neighborhoods safer.

Stull said the bike lane was the result of hard-won negotiations with neighborhood groups and the San Francisco Fire Department, who were concerned concrete bike lane barriers would hamper fire access. Now Turk Street is safer for neighbors, Stull said.

“A lot of people here don’t drive,” he added, “they walk, bike, or take public transportation.”

Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the Tenderloin and is running for mayor, told the crowd that the bike lane was thanks to “a lot of people who use the streets of the Tenderloin.” By and large, she said, Tenderloin residents are pedestrians.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition long campaigned for the bike lane. Charles Deffarges, a bike coalition community organizer, said the new safety measure was a “testament” to working hand-in-hand with the community.

But though were supportive on Thursday, Judy Siu, a senior program manager at the Curry Senior Center, said the groups had not always worked together so well. Cyclists are notorious for hopping up onto sidewalks and weaving in between senior pedestrians to escape the danger of Turk Street, she said. Now, the opportunity for cyclists to be safe in the green-painted bike lane also will make it so “seniors are safe.”

The bike lanes have one more unconventional benefit, that’s perhaps unique to the Tenderloin and a few other neighborhoods, Siu said.

South-side parking along Turk Street was removed to make way for the bike lane. Drug-dealers used to duck behind those parked cars to ply their trade, she said, which also spooked the seniors from walking outside. “When they’re hiding around cars, a bunch will be gathered around,” she said.

Now, Siu said, the seniors can walk in front of the senior center in peace.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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