Public Works crews are now chipping away at the curbs on 9th and Division streets to create San Francisco’s first-ever protected intersection for bicycles.
The intersection, which adds cement islands to each corner to protect cyclists as they make turns, marks the fifth separated bikeway to appear at a U.S. intersection, according to national bike groups that track bikeway construction.
“These plans represent the cutting edge of design to improve safety for people walking, biking and driving,” said Chris Cassidy, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
“It’s right for our city to be a national leader” in safe streets, he said.
The design, courtesy of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is unique in street safety. While protected bike lanes throughout The City provide cement or planters as buffers between auto traffic and bike lanes, in protected intersections, cement islands are added to each corner of the intersection to protect cyclists as they make turns.
That means a cyclist making a right turn, for instance, will never be exposed to vehicle traffic.
SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said turn protections are key because the most frequent bicycle collisions at 9th and Division streets are “right hooks,” which the protected bike intersection solves.
Cyclists moving through an intersection will now roll through a full car length away from the closest car lane, giving drivers more time to spot a cyclist.
Those cyclists will now cross in front of right-turning cars, instead of at their sides, allowing for easier visibility, according to design documents.
The intersection was chosen “not only because it’s a high-crash intersection for people biking, [but] the area was already slated to receive a slew of bike and pedestrian safety improvements,” Jose said.
Site marking and other prework began last week, Jose said, but the actual cutting of cement started this week, he said.
The SFMTA has 13 miles of protected bike lanes in the works, Jose said, including raised bikeways on Polk Street and Masonic Avenue.
The SFMTA may consider the protected intersections elsewhere in The City.
“We’re looking at sites where protected intersections could help prevent a documented collision pattern (for example, crashes between turning cars and through bikes),” Jose wrote in an email to the San Francisco Examiner.
If some of the protected bike lane projects currently under works fit the bill, “we would explore the possibility,” he said.