A cyclist crosses at Page and Webster streets near a mother and her children in the Lower Haight on Tuesday.

Drivers looking for a shortcut to get steered off Page Street

Drivers be warned: If you’re looking to circumvent Oak Street traffic to the freeway by heading up Page, you’ll soon be out of luck.

San Francisco transit officials approved a 12-month pilot program Tuesday that will create a new bikeway up and over Page Street near Webster Street and traffic calming measures that will turn cars off of Page in the area.

A cyclist crosses at Page and Webster streets in the Lower Haight on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved those changes with safety in mind.

In recent years, Page Street had become a shortcut for frustrated Oak Street drivers to cut over to U.S. Highway 101 — but that came at the expense of neighbors.

Blocks-long traffic snarls led to aggressive drivers who endangered children at the local John Muir Elementary School, and neighbors walking and biking, including seniors, neighbors said,.

“It’s become an unintended freeway on-ramp,” Sarah Buecher, a Page Street neighbor and mother of two told the SFMTA directors.

And that’s to say nothing of the pure vitriol from drivers backed up, freeway-bound.

“The anger of motorists got so bad that a neighbor included April Fool signs to encourage drivers to take a breath and lay off the horn, and it actually worked for a little while,” Buecher said.

To solve Page Street’s traffic headaches, SFMTA staffers crafted a number of turns that will keep drivers off Page between Webster and Octavia. Now if a driver heads east on Page, they’ll be forced to turn off at Webster Street.

A sign for cycling routes at Page and Webster streets in the Lower Haight on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

And if they’re already on Page heading east past Webster, they’ll be turned off onto Laguna Steet before hitting Octavia, adding further disincentive to take the shortcut.

About 20 parking spaces nearby will be eliminated to institute the traffic changes.

A bike lane with a barrier to protect it from traffic will also be installed along the corridor, to stop drivers from striking and injuring bicyclists — a common problem on Page.

A cyclist waits to turn at Page and Webster streets in the Lower Haight as a parent and child cross on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

“Page Street is a lot of things, but for us it is a principal bike route,” SFMTA senior planner Mark Dreger told the board.

The changes will be implemented in early 2020 and have been in the works for about a decade.

The project has backing from Supervisor Vallie Brown, more than 100 support letters from neighbors, and the adamant approval of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“If this doesn’t constitute political will, I don’t know what will,” Kristen Leckie, a bicycle coalition organizer told the SFMTA board.

But some neighbors took aim at the proposal.

But in a break from the usual neighborhood opposition, this wasn’t a collection of complaints from annoyed drivers, but neighbors who live on Haight Street who favor walking and bicycles.

Their complaint? They think the traffic issues will simply move, not disappear.

“It’s going to take all the traffic that was discussed (by Page neighbors) and bring it to Haight Street,” Rod Schultz, a Haight Street neighbor, told the SFMTA board. “These changes are going to be catastrophic and they’re going to destroy our neighborhood.”

Nikki Cooper, owner of Two Jack’s Nik’s Place on Haight Street, tore into SFMTA for a lack of outreach to local merchants, a common complaint.

“I am more than a headline on Hoodline when you see your favorite restaurant close,” she said. “This is the face of marginalized businesses in San Francisco. The treatment of us by SFMTA, in my opinion, is deplorable.”

Cooper, a city native who attended Saint Ignatius College Preparatory High School, said SFMTA blew off several planned meetings with her.

The SFMTA Board of Directors promised to follow up on Haight Street neighbors’ concerns and correct any traffic problems if they emerge.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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