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Board approves Evans Avenue bike lane build despite lack of full protection

New parking-protected and buffered bike lanes will be installed along Evans Avenue between Newhall Street and Cesar Chavez in San Francisco. Still, some transit officials criticized the project’s exclusion of protected bike lanes in some corridor portions.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board directors last week approved the Evans Quick-Build project in a 6-1 vote, paving the way for a westbound parking-protected bikeway and eastbound buffered bikeway. Additionally, a traffic lane will be removed in both directions between Cesar Chavez and Third Street.

Evans Avenue from Cesar Chavez to Third Street is a mostly industrial area and major commercial truck route, but it is also part of The City’s High-Injury Network — the 13 percent of city streets where 75 percent of severe or fatal traffic collisions take place.

The SFMTA staff report showed a total of 81 reported injury collisions along the Evans Avenue corridor between 2015 and 2020. Of those, 12 were pedestrians resulting in five severe injuries and three involved people riding bicycles, resulting in one severe injury.

Some directors questioned why protected bike lanes weren’t planned for the entire project area. Only 54 percent of the new bike lanes will be protected and 39 percent will include buffered protection for bicyclists.

Staff said there was is not adequate width space to provide protected bike lanes on both sides of Evans Avenue.

Ellen Robinson, the SFMTA project manager, said there are competing needs on the corridor, including the 19-Polk and large commercial vehicles. She said protected bike lanes over the entire span of the project area would constrain emergency access, giving drivers nowhere to pull to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Heminger, who voted against the proposal, said:

“We’re making it more attractive for them (bicyclists and pedestrians), but not quite as attractive as maybe as it should be.”

Director Amanda Eaken said she was “not wild” about approving the quick-build project with just 54 percent of bike lanes protected, adding:

“The way I see it, the reason we have to do protected bike lanes is because of the presence of large commercial vehicles, which are even so much more devastating in the case of a collision due to their size and their force.”

Eaken introduced an amendment to the resolution that “directs staff to use the Evans Street Quick-Build Project and process to iterate towards the Board’s goal of a 100% safe protected bike lane design on this corridor.”

Another amendment was added that directs staff to continue and expand outreach, and work with city agencies in support of efforts to help individuals who live in vehicles in the project area. 

Approximately 58 parking spaces will be removed as a result of the project. Flo Kelly with the Coalition on Homelessness said the project will negatively impact many homeless people who live in vehicles parked along Evans Avenue.

Kelly said:

“They won’t be able to be there anymore and it’s very traumatic for them to have to move.”

Though not included in the resolution, directors expressed interest in letting the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing working group take the lead on future transit projects.

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