Two of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets known for traffic collisions that have injured pedestrians and killed bicyclists will soon get a suite of safety upgrades.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board on Tuesday approved safety treatments for Folsom and Howard streets including wider sidewalks, parking-protected bike lanes and even — on Folsom in particular — a red transit-only lane to speed up the 27-Bryant.
The changes are intended to foster “a safer transportation experience for everyone,” SFMTA staff wrote in a report on the corridors.
The $35 million project includes bike lanes protected from traffic by car-parking along Howard Street between Fourth Street and 11th Street and on Folsom Street between 11th and Second streets. Both will be two-way bike lanes.
Construction is expected to start in 2021 and be completed by 2023, according to the SFMTA.
After a father and his two bike-loving adolescent daughters gave an impassioned speech at Tuesday’s meeting on the need for bike safety in the South of Market, SFMTA Board member Cheryl Brinkman said, “I’m a little jealous you two will grow up having a two-bike lane in San Francisco.”
The bike lanes in particular have long been sought by bike safety advocates, including the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Three bicyclists have been killed in high-profile incidents on Howard and Folsom streets that particularly galvanized activists: Amelie Le Moullac on Folsom Street in 2013, Kate Slattery on Howard Street in 2018, and Tess Rothstein on Howard Street in March this year.
In many ways, transit officials said, their deaths propelled SFMTA to improve street safety quicker.
In the weeks after Rothstein’s death, the advocacy group People Protected Bike Lanes joined hands at Howard and Fifth streets to create a human barrier between the bike lane and vehicle traffic.
There have been 391 collisions on Folsom and Howard streets in the last five years. In addition to the three cyclists, two pedestrians have been killed on the two streets since 2013.
The project will make the streets safer for pedestrians too, transit officials said. Bulbouts will result in shorter crossing distances and new mid-block traffic signals will reduce vehicle speeds and improve pedestrian circulation. In addition, the project proposes “day lighting,” signage and paint treatments to make crosswalks more visible to drivers.
In addition, a transit-only lane planned between Tenth and Mabini streets, is expected to make the 27-Bryant and other Muni lines faster by letting buses fly past car traffic — which often sits at a standstill in the South of Market.
Some of these Muni lines will be relocated to Folsom Street. Ultimately, the 27-Bryant, 12-Folsom, 8-Bayshore, 8AX and 8BX will benefit from the bus-only lanes, increasing the frequency of buses on the corridor from every 15 minutes to every two minutes.
At the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, the project’s manager, Paul Stanis, said the safety improvements would also help South of Market’s traffic and safety in light of future job growth, which is expected to cause a neighborhood population boom.
Steven Solomon, a Potrero Hill resident, hoped the project would make South of Market a cleaner, quieter place to live. He said the neighborhood has become more residential than industrial, necessitating safer streets.
Solomon said it takes time for new ideas — including a more livable South of Market — to take hold. “What’s new becomes marginalized, what’s marginalized becomes embraced,” he said.
Yannick Omictin, an intern at the South of Market Community Action Network, praised SFMTA’s efforts to preserve the local Filipino cultural heritage of the neighborhood. Omictin particularly emphasized the feeling of ownership and the culturally significant design the project embodies.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Though bike lanes are known to create some hassles for business loading, the project will increase the number of yellow commercial loading zones on the two streets by 20 percent.