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Often crowded with tourists, commercial vehicles, bicyclists, pedicabs and pedestrians, San Francisco transit planners unveiled plans Tuesday to quickly build out a small portion of a longer-term plan to increase bicyclists’ safety along the Embarcadero.

Casey Hildreth, a senior planner with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, told SFMTA board directors that elements of the proposal include a two-way protected bikeway from Mission to Folsom streets, new bike signals, removal of a travel lane and 25 parking spaces.

City data indicates the Embarcadero corridor has experienced 242 traffic injuries and two fatalities between 2014 and 2019.

The relatively recent introduction of electric scooters and transportation network company vehicles increases traffic-related risks and conflicts.

Hildreth said:

“It really doesn’t take more than one bike ride, one walk along The Embarcadero to see these types of conflicts and it really represents the diversity of uses on The Embarcadero.”

The transit agency also plans to tackle the ongoing conflict of valet parking in the area, where cars are often parked in the bike lane between Folsom and Harrison streets in front of the Waterbar restaurant.

During active valet service, cyclists have to enter through vehicle traffic in order to avoid parked vehicles.

Hildreth said The Port and the transit agency are working together to finalize an interim plan to protect the northbound bike lane.

The quick-build improvements from Folsom to Mission streets and the bike lane improvement in front of the Waterbar are expected to be completed this summer, Hildreth said.

During the meeting’s public comment period, Waterbar Managing Partner Pete Sittnick said the restaurant has never opposed the plan to install a curbside protected bikeway and that while they have some design concerns over commercial loading, he said:

“Ultimately, our desire is to be able to provide safe and efficient access to the restaurants for guests in any vehicle as well as provide the same for cyclists along the Embarcadero.”

Following the quick-build success of the car-free Market Street project, transit directors are itching get started at the Embarcadero.

SFMTA board Director Amanda Eaken said:

“To me, the three blocks feels like a pretty small step.”

Echoing the same sentiment, Director Cheryl Brinkman said:

“We really need to do whatever we can to accelerate this project to make a safe space.”

Janice Li, advocacy director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said during public comment that while they support the quick-build improvements presented, they are frustrated by the limited scope.

Li said:

“More than anything, we don’t want to wait. Make all of the Embarcadero safe for biking now and not just for three blocks.”

The Port Commission will have final say over what changes are made to the roadway and street and will be given a similar presentation by Hildreth at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Randy Quezada, a Port spokesperson, said in a statement to SFBay:

“The Port is glad the SFMTA is extending their Quick Build project to Harrison Street to include the block where Waterbar is located. We look forward to working with SFMTA on this project and the overall Embarcadero Enhancement Project whose time has come.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn covers transportation and City Hall in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native who works out of City Hall and rides Muni every single day to work. Email: jerold@sfbay.ca. Twitter: @Jerold_Chinn

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