The City unveiled its chosen design for bike lanes with physical barriers for the Embarcadero Tuesday, after taking heat from cyclists over the death of pedicab operator Kevin Manning.
Right now bike lanes along the waterfront are marked by paint on the ground, and subject to intrusions by swerving and double-parking autos.
The plan unveiled by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will transform the waterfront bike lanes from one lane on each side of the street to a two-way bike lane on the water side, protected by a four-foot buffer from traffic. The construction date is tentatively set for 2022.
Manning, 66, was struck and killed by a driver in a gold Honda Civic at Embarcadero and Sansome streets in late June. Police have not reported an arrest in the case.
In the wake of his death, bicycle advocates called out the Port of San Francisco and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for allowing a protected bikeway project to suffer years of delays, which was revealed in documents previously obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.
“I’m outraged and I’m angry at this board’s slogging pace,” said Maureen Persico, a cyclist with the advocacy group People Protected Bike Lanes, at the Port Commission’s public meeting on Tuesday. Taking a stab at SFMTA planner Casey Hildreth and the painted bike lanes, she asked, “Mr. Hildreth, do you think green paint has magical properties?”
Between 2011 and 2016, 239 people were injured by traffic on The Embarcadero including two fatalities, according to the SFMTA. That figure does not include Manning’s death, and is a 20 percent increase over the previous five year period — meaning, the Embarcadero is far more dangerous, traffic wise, than it has ever been.
Though the news of the new protected bikeway was welcomed, its slow path to fruition was criticized by cyclists at the meeting.
“Kevin was a friend of mine,” said Colin Sanders, fleet manager at Cabrio Taxi Pedicab, which employed Manning. “If the SFMTA’s project was implemented sooner, our friend would still be with us.”
Though much of the cycling community’s ire has been focused on the Port and its leadership, the commissioners asked for clarification of their role, including who is responsible for the street.
Port Executive Director Elaine Forbes noted their staff does not have the budget or expertise to create roadway safety improvements, which are the responsibility of SFMTA. However, she said, it is the Port’s responsibility “to advocate for improvements on our property.”
That’s a noted shift in tone from previous months from the Port, which groups such as the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and others have said ceded their role as leaders championing safety on their streets. The commissioners took that cue from Forbes and immediately called for the commission and Port staff to take a more active role in planning street safety along the waterfront.
“We need to have a much stronger collective voice,” said commissioner Doreen Woo Ho, who pushed SFMTA to identify funding for the two-way bikelane project, which has not yet materialized. Commission President Kimberly Brandon said it was an issue they took “seriously,” and asked what the Port could do to speed up improvements. Commissioner Victor Makras went as far as to suggest they implement protected bike lanes while still awaiting environmental review, to prioritize safety for cyclists over bureaucracy. He also said the SFMTA should come back to the commission and report on its progress.
“We as the Port should engage,” he said. “I would advocate we should be the lead agency for our jurisdiction.”
Responding to the fiery rhetoric from commissioners, Forbes said “I think we need to collaborate more affirmatively” with SFMTA on short term safety improvements to the Embarcadero street design. Forbes also said the Port would take a role in providing some funding for the project, which may be a first for a street safety project.
“I think the Port might be a resource in funding,” she told the public.