The intersection of Lake Merced Boulevard and Higuera Avenue was the scene of a multi-car crash that killed a pedestrian in February.	(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The intersection of Lake Merced Boulevard and Higuera Avenue was the scene of a multi-car crash that killed a pedestrian in February. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SFMTA says speeding is a ‘challenge’ near Lake Merced

Supervisor Myrna Melgar calls for safety improvements to deadly area

Supervisor Myrna Melgar is urging San Francisco’s transit agency to quickly implement safety upgrades to the roads, intersections and pathways near Lake Merced, a popular recreational destination in her district where a pedestrian was killed by an intoxicated driver in February.

“I see the urgency in the area,” she said during Tuesday’s County Transportation Authority meeting. “I think that having timely improvements is essential to guarantee pedestrians and cyclists can safely cross the Lake Merced area without fearing for their lives, and I would really like to request that we get this going fairly quickly.”

There were 154 collisions on the roads around Lake Merced between 2015 and 2019. Of those, 10 involved a bicyclist and a vehicle and 10 involved pedestrians and vehicles.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency tracks vehicle speeds in the area and has found vehicles regularly travel above posted speed limits.

On Lake Merced Boulevard between Skyline and Sunset Boulevard, the 85th percentile speed is between 39 and 41 mph, depending on direction, while the limit is 35 mph. The 85th percentile speed is the speed below which 85 percent of all vehicles are observed to travel under free-flowing conditions over a certain segment of road.

Between Higuera Avenue and Font Boulevard, the number increases to roughly 44 to 45 mph, above the posted speed limit of 40 mph.

“While it may not have been prevented by roadway engineering, we do know speeding is a challenge,” an SFMTA staff member said during the CTA hearing called by Melgar to investigate last month’s death.

Before February’s pedestrian fatality, the last person to be killed on roads near Lake Merced was a 14-year-old girl who was walking her dog on John Muir Boulevard with her mother when she was struck by the driver of a vehicle in March 2019.

SFMTA installed three sequential raised crosswalks near the location of that collision later that year, and the 85th percentile speed measure consequently dropped from 43 to 29 miles per hour.

A memorial for Sheria Musyoka sits on the side of Lake Merced Boulevard on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A memorial for Sheria Musyoka sits on the side of Lake Merced Boulevard on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Results from two community studies will help inform recommendations for how SFMTA can deliver expedient safety improvements to Lake Merced.

The first, the Lake Merced Bikeway Feasibility Project, studies whether additional bike and pedestrian infrastructure could be installed around the lake to enhance safey.

Completed in January, results suggest that for $7.5 million, The City could install an on-street bikeway and bike lanes on certain segments of Lake Merced Boulevard in the near term. But, for $56 million, it could go bolder with a raised two-way bikeway, bike lanes and the widening of the existing multi-use path around Lake Merced itself over a longer period of time.

The second, the Lake Merced Pedestrian Safety Project, intends to develop a prioritized list of projects on Lake Merced Boulevard between Skyline and John Muir Drive.

An 11-member committee will conduct outreach and submit a list of recommendations by August, before beginning construction on high priority items at the end of this year.

The two studies will likely yield a combination of spot treatments and corridor-wide improvements, according to SFMTA staff, adding that planning, outreach and design would be needed before taking action on any of the findings.

Potential tools could include narrowing traffic lanes, installing bike protected facilities, upgrading crosswalks, adding signage and building pedestrian refuges. Some of these measures might require the removal of one-off parking spots or reducing the number of road lanes, if eventually approved.

“There have been too many collisions here. There have been too many deaths,” Kristen Leckie, a community organizer with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said during public comment. “We can’t put costs over lives here, and I think these changes are long overdue.”

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