Dicey crossing may be changed

A Panhandle intersection notorious for its danger to pedestrians and cyclists is poised to be reconfigured.

The Fell Street-Masonic Avenue intersection, from March 2003 through February 2008, has had 18 reported collisions involving a motorist turning left from Fell Street onto Masonic Avenue and striking a person, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Fifteen bicyclists and three pedestrians were injured in the collisions.

On Tuesday, the agency will vote on a series of traffic changes to the intersection. The changes, which include the first dedicated bicycle signal in The City, were part of the 2004 San Francisco Bicycle Plan. But the plan was hobbled by an injunction two years later after several groups sued San Francisco demanding additional environmental review. In April, a judge allowed the intersection improvements as the lone exception to the injunction, citing pressing safety issues on the heavily used bike and walking path.

The changes will include creating an exclusive left-turn lane on westbound Fell Street at Masonic Avenue. Motorists currently making a left must turn through gaps of people using the busy crosswalk, which crosses a recreational path. The “no stopping” zone on the south side of Fell Street will also be extended from 60 feet to 150 feet east of Masonic. A traffic signal displaying a red, yellow or green bicycle will usher cyclists through the intersection.

“The signal dedicated to bikes and pedestrians at Fell and Masonic demonstrates The City’s commitment to improving conditions for alternative travel modes,” SFMTA spokesman Judson True said. If approved, work on the improvements will begin mid-September and be finished a couple of weeks later.

Manish Champsee, president of pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF, said he was pleased about the changes, but more needs to be done.

“I think the improvements are a start. We also have to look at reducing speeds in the area, changing Fell and Oak back into two-way streets, and removing the excess traffic lanes on Masonic,” Champsee said.

Blogger Rob Anderson, one of the plaintiffs in the bicycle-plan lawsuit, said he wasn’t going to challenge the traffic modifications.

“The judge gave them the benefit of the doubt and they’re going to do what they’re going to do at that intersection,” he said. “But if they start messing around with those lights, the danger is they’re going to screw up a lot of traffic.”

City attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said The City also asked the judge for modifications on another problematic intersection, at Octavia and Market streets, but was denied.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Easing the intersection

Proposed improvements to the Fell Street-Masonic Avenue intersection:

  • Creation of an exclusive left turn lane on westbound Fell Street
  • Installation of new vehicular and bicycle traffic signals
  • Extending the tow-away, no stopping anytime zone on the south side of Fell Street from 60 feet to 150 feet east of Masonic Avenue

Source: SFMTA

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