A hectic but popular San Francisco intersection got a big upgrade recently, highlighting the City’s claimed commitment to increasing safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
Ninth and Division streets was a massive expanse of bumpy asphalt, far-away traffic lights, faded paint and confusing turns—a chaotic situation that often resulted in cars accidentally running red lights and pedestrians crossing streets with no crosswalks. More than 200 bicyclists pass through this intersection during peak commute hours.
Despite its popularity as a bike route, the intersection is on the City’s High-Injury Network, an honor only given the 12 percent of streets where 70 percent of severe and fatal crashes happen. According to the SFMTA, in just one five-year period there were 106 collisions and two fatalities reported in this area of the City. In 2013, 78-year-old Cheng Jin Lai was hit and killed by a Muni bus when he was biking through a nearby intersection at Bryant, Division and 11th streets.
But in September crews broke ground on a new infrastructure project at Ninth and Division, to help those passing through get to where they’re going safely. These changes, which include cement islands on each corner, curb-protected bike lanes, raised crosswalks and new sidewalks, are the first of their kind to be installed all together in San Francisco. The new ‘protected intersection’ was officially unveiled on Wednesday by Mayor Ed Lee.
The benefits of such additions to the intersection are plentiful: instead of being confused about where to cross or wait for light changes, paint and curbs now offer a clear guide for pedestrians and cyclists. The changes also encourage drivers to take wider turns, which has been shown to reduce overall traffic speeds.
According to Ben Jose of the SFMTA, the most frequent bicycle collisions at 9th and Division streets were “right hooks,” which the protected bike intersection solves.
“We need to see more complete streets and protected intersections designed and built along high-injury corridors throughout San Francisco for the health and safety of everyone who walks, bikes and drives,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “With streets like Geneva Avenue and Folsom Street undergoing major redesigns, protected intersections should be considered there and wherever possible in the City’s ongoing efforts to deliver safe streets.”
The Ninth and Division improvements are just one part of a larger focus on the Division corridor. Called the Division/13th Street Safety Project by the SFMTA, the goal is to reduce injuries and fatalities in the area, and increase visibility and safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
The first round of improvements to take place under the project was the creation of a separated bike lane on westbound 13th Street between Bryant and Folsom streets.