Supervisor Matt Haney speaks during a rally calling for increased safety measures for bicyclists at City Hall on Tuesday.

SF starts planning protected bike lanes on Howard Street to waterfront

People who bike scored a win for safety in San Francisco Tuesday afternoon, though it came at a great price: the life of a woman who was stuck down while riding her bike, two weeks ago.

A plan to install protected bike lanes on deadly Howard Street from Third Street to the waterfront may go before city officials for approval as early as this summer, transportation officials revealed Tuesday.

That’s according to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Sustainable Streets Tom Maguire.

“East of Second Street is a two way street, it’s a bit more complex,” Maguire told the SFMTA board Tuesday. “We’re going to try to bring you a plan to bring parking protected bike lanes there.”

That plan may not be final, but brings mourners of Tess Rothstein, 30, who was struck and killed by a driver on Howard Street two weeks ago, far closer to their demand for protected bike lanes to be installed on Howard from Fifth Street to the Embarcadero.

It also follows pressure by Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Matt Haney.

The summer target is tentative, Maguire stressed, and cannot be immediate as outreach has not yet been conducted with neighbors and merchants along that stretch of Howard Street. And the plan would require the final approval of the SFMTA Board of Directors to be enacted.

The revelation came just after the SFMTA Board of Directors directed staff to install protected bike lanes, with barriers to prevent drivers from swerving into people on bikes, on Howard Street between Third and Sixth streets by April 18.

That’s an unusual burst of speed to install safety measures in The City.

Officials said speed was of the essence after Rothstein’s death, which spurred calls for action from citizens, advocates and politicians.

Just a half hour before the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, more than 200 protesters took to City Hall’s steps to mourn Rothstein and call for protected bike lanes on Howard Street all the way to the waterfront, and on nearby Folsom Street.

“She was an exceptionally warm and kind person,” said Sasan Saadat, who shared Rothstein’s Berkeley home, which they nicknamed the “Nookery.”

Saadat said it was Rothstein who convinced him to buy his own bike, and when he bought one that was rusty and broken down, urged him to fix it up himself.

“We had plans to ride Tilden Park together,” Saadat told the crowd. “It’s surreal to think those plans are over now.”

People who never knew her, and those who knew her well, shed tears together in honor of Rothstein and dozens of others who have died walking and bicycling on San Francisco’s streets. The rally was organized by the SF Bicycle Coalition, with support from groups like People Protected Bike Lane, Our Bikes and YIMBY Mobility.

Supervisors Vallie Brown, Rafael Mandelman and Hillary Ronen also stood in solidarity with the cyclists.

Breed also called for safety measures east of Third Street, and in a letter to the SFMTA said “On Howard Street, I strongly support near term improvements to protect people who bike, but we also must find a way to continue our progress beyond [Third Street].”

Breed told the SFMTA that it must become proactive, instead of reactive, and that safety treatments should not only follow a death on the streets.

To that end, Breed’s new appointment on the SFMTA Board of Directors, Amanda Eaken, directed staff to create a “ranking” of the most dangerous San Francisco streets by April so the agency could better prioritize which streets to create safety improvements on.

Haney, whose district includes Howard Street in the South of Market neighborhood, also told the SFMTA board Tuesday that he wants the agency to complete protected bike lanes all the way to the waterfront.

He told the Examiner, “if they don’t do the whole length of Howard Street, I’ll be back. Again, and again.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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