Herrera Moves to Modify Bike Plan Injunction to Improve Safety for Bicyclists, Pedestrians

Market and Octavia Intersection Leads List of Locations Where Cyclists Have Suffered an Alarming Increase in Collisions with Cars

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 1, 2008) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today moved to enable key public safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians in San Francisco by requesting modifications to a July 2007 court order that generally prohibits the City from implementing its 2004 Bicycle Plan until it has fully evaluated possible environmental impacts. The request filed with San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch this afternoon was accompanied by a declaration from City Traffic Engineer Jack Lucero Fleck and more than 100 pages of supporting evidence detailing an alarming increase in the number of collisions between bicycles and automobiles at locations throughout San Francisco. Herrera’s motion additionally seeks permission from the court to install bike racks at two locations to alleviate obstructions caused by illegally parked bikes, which city traffic engineers have identified as potential hazards to pedestrians and the disabled. General relief is also requested from the court to allow city engineers to undertake limited modifications involving traffic control devices and pavement markings under strict circumstances when necessary to improve public safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

“Even in the midst of disagreements over the scope of environmental review, Judge Busch has demonstrated sound judgment in recognizing the City’s duty to protect public safety,” said Herrera. “We are confident that our motion today makes a compelling case for how we can best address and alleviate hazards to cyclists and pedestrians while respecting the limits of the court’s injunction. With more and more commuters making use of bicycles as their preferred means of transportation, we have an obligation to do what we can to make bicycling as safe as possible on San Francisco streets. I am grateful to SFMTA Executive Director and CEO Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., Director of Parking and Traffic Bond Yee, City Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck, and all the staff at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for their hard work, expertise and commitment to improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in San Francisco.”

“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that San Francisco provides as safe of a bicycling environment as possible,” said Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., SFMTA CEO/Executive Director. “We appreciate City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s work to assist us in our efforts and we share his respect for Judge Busch’s decision-making in this area.”

Leading the list of locations to which Herrera is seeking safety improvements is the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, where at least fifteen bicyclists have been struck by cars since the entrance to U.S. Highway 101 opened there on Sept. 9, 2005. Herrera’s request notes that the hazard is distinguished not simply for having the highest rate of such collisions in the city, but also because the accidents uniformly involve bicyclists hit by motorists making illegal right turns. To most effectively prevent further automobile-bicycle injury collisions, city traffic engineers have recommended combining the currently separate automobile and bicycle lanes eastbound on Market Street approximately 120 feet before the Octavia Boulevard highway entrance. The new design, which is consistent with many intersections around the city, would designate a clearly marked shared lane for motorists and bicyclists so that they queue up in front of each other rather than side by side. A similar design is used at the intersection of Market and Gough Street two blocks to the east, where only two bicycle-automobile collisions have been reported in five years.

Herrera is also seeking safety improvements at five other locations throughout the city that have witnessed similarly troubling increases in the number of accidents between cyclists and motorists. Measures recommended by city traffic engineers to help minimize existing hazards include signage and roadway markings such as “sharrows,” which indicate shared lanes for bicyclists and motorists. Angled striping is additionally requested in some areas to warn cyclists of door zones to address the increased incidence of dooring collisions.

Specific locations for which safety improvements are sought include:

  • Polk Street between Beach and Market Streets, where 73 motor vehicle-bicycle collisions have been reported since 2003.
  • The length of Valencia Street, where the 65 motor vehicle-bicycle collisions reported since 2003 include a large proportion of “dooring” incidents.
  • The Third Street Corridor, where the 32 collisions involving cyclists and motorists reported since 2003 include one fatality of a bicyclist struck by a truck at Third and Marin Streets.
  • Folsom Street between 13th Street and the Embarcadero, where 52 bicycle-related injury accidents have been reported in the last five years.
  • Lower Market Street, from 8th Street to the Embarcadero. Some 179 bicycle injury collisions have occurred along the entire length of Market Street, from Castro Street to the Embarcadero (including the Market and Octavia intersection) over the past five years.

Herrera is also seeking permission from the court to install bike racks at two locations: Church Street near Market Street; and Dolores and Guerrero Streets near 18th Street. City traffic engineers have identified obstructions caused by the increased number of illegally parked bicycles as potentially hazardous conditions for passing pedestrians and the disabled. General relief is also requested under the injunction to enable the city to make limited modifications involving traffic control devices and pavement markings under strict circumstances in order to improve public safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

Judge Busch’s order of June 18, 2007 effectively continued a June 20, 2006 preliminary injunction issued by Judge James L. Warren, which prohibited the City from implementing the San Francisco Bicycle Plan until environmental review of the plan was completed in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. The order came after a two-year legal onslaught from two unincorporated associations opposed to City policies that encourage bicycling — the “Coalition for Adequate Review,” or CAR, and “Ninety-Nine Percent” — and local blogger and perennial political candidate Rob Anderson. In April 2008, Herrera sought and obtained leave from Judge Busch to undertake safety modifications under the injunction to the intersection of Fell and Masonic; a request at that time for safety improvements to the Market and Octavia intersection was denied “based on the factual showing before the Court.” Herrera’s new motion notes that three additional collisions between bicyclists and right-turning motor vehicles have occurred there since the original request was denied.

The SFMTA is in the process of working with the San Francisco Planning Department, the Office of Major Environmental Analysis and a consultant team to prepare an environmental impact report to meet the environmental review requirements of the Court’s order under its reading of CEQA. A Draft Environmental Impact Report on the Bicycle Plan was published on Nov. 26, 2008. City officials anticipate final publication of the EIR in the Spring of 2009, following the required public review and comment period.

The case is: Coalition for Adequate Review et al. v. City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco Superior Court No. 505-509, filed July 28, 2005. The full pleading is available online at https://www.sfgov.org/cityattorney.