A cure for what ails deadly intersection?

The intersection of Market and Octavia streets — which has been the site of controversy and traffic collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists since it opened in late 2005 — will receive a major safety improvement this summer.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve today the construction of a median 3 feet wide and 4 inches tall that would prevent drivers headed eastbound on Market Street from making illegal right-hand turns onto the Central Freeway onramp at Octavia Street.

While the number of pedestrians and bicyclists who have been hit at the intersection because of drivers making the illegal maneuver is unknown, officials with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have said reports of near-misses and collisions have been “pretty much constant” during the last two years.

Drivers entering southbound U.S. Highway 101 are only supposed to enter the freeway via Octavia Street, driving straight across Market Street to the onramp. Many, however, make an illegal right turn onto the onramp from eastbound Market Street, crossing a bicycle lane to get to the freeway.

According to a city report, as many as 36 drivers an hour were making the illegal turn in 2006, and City Attorney Dennis

Herrera’s spokesman, Matt Dorsey, said at least two legal actions have been taken against The City regarding the intersection.

Bicycle activists and pedestrian advocacy groups have long been pushing for the creation of a permanent barrier that would prevent the illegal turns. Earlier this year, after 28-year-old cyclist Margaret Timbrell was seriously injured by a pickup truck making the turn, The City installed a row of flexible plastic barriers along the bike lane and additional signs directing motorists to alternative routes to the freeway.

While city officials saw a dramatic drop in collisions since installing the plastic barriers, bicyclists are still reporting incidents. On June 17, a man allegedly made the illegal turn and hit a cyclist, leading a second man to attempt to stop the driver, who fled the scene after his vehicle rolled over.

In another incident, Greg Upwall, a bicycle commuter, smashed into a vehicle making the illegal turn while riding his bike eastbound on Market Street about six months ago.

“I was cruising through the green light, and it just blindsided me,” he said. “I went over the handlebars. I was bruised a bit and sore for a while, but fortunately I was not injured.”

One resident, however, said drivers should be allowed to access the Octavia Street onramp from Market Street.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Lurilla Harris, who has lived in San Francisco since 1969, regarding the no-right-turn rule. “There’s plenty of room there for a right-turn lane, and that’s what’s needed to keep people from getting hit.”

arocha@examiner.com


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