Bikeway to boost Embar­cadero safety

San Francisco is seeking to create a bikeway along the Embarcadero waterfront that bike advocates and city officials say will create less conflict and provide a safer area for roadway users.

The proposal is to put a separated bikeway apart from pedestrians, cars and Muni between Third Street near AT&T Park to Powell and Jefferson streets near Fisherman’s Wharf.

The Embarcadero waterfront attracts thousands of tourists every year who either bike, walk, drive or take Muni to access restaurants, The Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf.

With the waterfront becoming increasingly popular, officials at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said conflict between pedestrians, bicyclists and private cars have increased during the last several years.

The transit agency said portions of The Embarcadero appear on the City’s high-injury corridor list for pedestrians and bicyclists. Between 2006 and 2011, there were 84 injured on The Embarcadero while walking or biking, which included two pedestrian fatalities and three cyclists who were severely injured, according to data from the San Francisco Police Department.

Conflicts have also occurred along the promenade where pedestrians and bicyclists share the path, according to SFMTA Senior Transportation Planner Patrick Golier:

“What we’re hearing and observing everyday — hearing from the port, primarily — is that the status quo is no longer sustainable.”

The bikeway, also known as the Embarcadero Enhancement Project, is designed to create less confusion and provide a safer atmosphere for its users, said Golier:

“The Embarcadero Enhancement Project is a planning effort to improve safety and comfort for everyone traveling along The Embarcadero.”

Currently, The Embarcadero does have five-foot bicycle lanes alongside the northbound and southbound moving vehicle lanes, but they are not continuous and bicyclists must compete with curbside activities, like deliveries.

Golier said the goals of the project are not only to increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, but also to improve access to the waterfront and better manage curbside activities.

He said the transit agency will explore a host of designs for the separated bikeway, including the possibility of making it a one-way or two-way bikeway. The type of separation can also vary from a raised curve or landscape median.

The bikeway will allow for predictable movements, which will reduce collisions with drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Golier said, for example, that drivers along The Embarcadero will be able to drive more confidently knowing that bicyclists are less likely to jet out in front.

Planning Director Diane Oshima said Friday at the SFMTA’s policy and governance meeting that it was great that the project focused on all modes of transit to The Embarcadero.

She said the port has also observed the amount of growth from pedestrians and bicyclists who visit The Embarcadero:

“There have been previous efforts just to focus on just the bikes or just the Muni. I think you’re talking about allocating space and increasing predictability so that people start to adopt a culture of understanding what acceptable behaviors are. You have to take the holistic approach for The Embarcadero.”

Golier said funding for the project will come from a Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant, and has a budget of $500,000.

Community Organizer Janice Li of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said members of the coalition are excited about the project:

“At the end of the day, what this project is really about is how people are moving around on the waterfront. I think the presentation today […] really gets us to thinking broadly about how this [full-length bikeway] can really help solve a lot of these issues.”

Those who want to learn more about the project can attend an open house at Pier 1 on July 24 at 6 p.m.