A cyclist rides along a protected bike lane on Howard Street in the South near Sixth Street that opened in January. The death of a cyclist at Sixth and Howard, just past where the protected lane ends, has prompted calls for it to be extended. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF will remove parking along Howard Street where cyclist died to improve street safety

Safety improvements are coming to Howard Street, where on Friday Berkeley resident Tess Rothstein was struck and killed by a truck driver while she was bicycling.

Rothstein, 30, died just across the street from a “protected” bike lane with a barrier between car traffic and bicycles, which many advocates said would have saved her life.

The protected bike lane runs from Howard and Sixth streets to Howard and Eleventh streets. Rothstein was riding between Fifth and Sixth streets when, according to a witness account, a driver-side door from a parked car swung open, prompting Rothstein to swerve into the street where a truck crushed her.

SEE RELATED: Woman struck and killed while riding a Ford GoBike in South of Market neighborhood

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which designs The City’s streets, told the San Francisco Examiner Monday afternoon it would “immediately” remove parking on the north side of Howard street between Fourth and Sixth streets to create “more space and protection between cars and cyclists.”

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose confirmed signage will go in place some time between Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition lauded the SFMTA’s response, but with a caveat.

“We recognize SFMTA’s urgent response here but again are frustrated that this sort of action only happens when a death occurs,” said Charles Deffarges, a senior community organizer with the coalition.

The safety treatment’s installation would also put SFMTA on track to meet its own goal, and the directive of Mayor London Breed, to deploy a Rapid Response Team to evaluate streets that are sites of collisions within 24 hours of a crash, then develop temporary safety treatments within 72 additional hours.

Basically, SFMTA is supposed to take action within 96 hours of a crash to make the street where it happened safer. Tuesday morning is that deadline for this incident.

Friday night, advocacy group People Protected Bike Lanes brought dozens of people together to lock hands along Howard Street near where Rothstein died, highlighting the need for barriers to protect people on bicycles from deadly drivers.

SEE RELATED: Death of bicyclist prompts outpouring of grief, renewed calls for protected bike lanes

It seems they’ll get their wish, according to SFMTA. The agency is also moving to implement a “temporary” protected bike lane on Howard Street, also between Fourth and Sixth streets.

“We are doing an immediate rapid design process and will have it on the street in April,” Rose said. Additional temporary barriers between Third and Fourth streets are planned after nearby construction is complete, Rose added.

Deffarges said the plan was “not enough.”

“Howard Street needs protected bike lanes for the full length, all the way to the Embarcadero, and we need to start being proactive when it comes to aggressive, urgent changes on our street,” he said.

Mourners expressed an outpouring of support for Rothstein online following her death Friday. Rothstein was a design researcher who worked for Medium and Airbnb.

“Tess was courageously curious and open-hearted, and we feel lucky to have worked with her,” the company Medium tweeted on Saturday. “Our condolences go to her family.”

Rothstein “brought boldness and curiosity to everything she did, and her friends and coworkers knew her to be warm and selfless,” tweeted Chris Lehane, head of policy at Airbnb.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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