Bicyclists advocate changes for treach­erous 17th Street

Concerned bicyclists stopped by the Mission Police Station Community Room Wednesday night to give feedback on a treacherous portion of 17th Street.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency held an open house to discuss the 17th Street corridor between Sanchez and Church streets where many bicyclists have had their tires caught in between the Muni tracks.

One particular intersection at 17th and Church streets has a maze of Muni tracks crossing over each other that trapped Alex Goldman’s bike tire as she crossed. Fortunately, she was not injured:

“It’s so hard to proceed through this in a safe way.”

Goldman said she liked the idea of a protected bike lane on 17th Street, which is one of ideas shared with the by public at the open house by transit agency.

She knows that parking is an issue in The City as she owns a car herself, but said if The City was serious about Vision Zero – the goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024 – it needs to prioritize projects like protected bikeways.

Transit officials said that there would be challenges in putting in a two-way protected bike lane including the loss of parking on one side of the street, and issues with bicyclists maneuvering in and out of the two-way protected bikeway. The two-way setup would also require more crossings for bicyclists over the Muni tracks. The bikeway would also be narrow.

A one-way protected bike lane on both sides of the street would mean the loss of parking on each side of the street between Sanchez and Church streets.

The SFMTA said there currently 29 parking spaces on the North side and 19 parking spaces in the South from Sanchez to Church streets.

Another proposal was removing the Muni tracks, but transit officials said that idea is out of the question.

The F-Market/Wharves will use those rail tracks occasionally to get to and from the transit agency’s Cameron Beach Yard on Geneva Avenue.

Officials also looked into putting in what’s called a “Flangeway Filler” between the rail tracks where bike tires can fall into and get caught, but they said no products can handle streetcar or light rail vehicles.

Other nearby streets such as 15th Street and 18th Street were looked at by the transit agency to see if a bikeway would work, but were not ideal to connect to the rest of 17th Street, which would require more turns for bicyclists.

Dan Birken said he bikes on 18th Street and would rather have cars honk on him there than to ride on 17th Street because of the rail tracks:

“The tracks are just terrible. I’ve never had my wheel caught in the things, but I’m afraid of it every time.”

Other ideas considered included giving pedestrians and bicyclists a head start before traffic can begin moving, but that could be lengthy process, the SFMTA said.

The transit agency would need to get new traffic signal heads and rebuild the signal system, which could take months to complete once the SFMTA secures funding.

Crews have already begun work around the rail tracks in fill in potholes and should complete the work by the summer, transit officials said.

Asumu Takikawa said he wanted to see a protected bikeway on 17th Street:

“I think safety should be the number one priority especially given the mayor issuing an executive order saying please attempt to try to build the best bike lanes.”

The SFMTA plans to hold another community meeting on 17th Street after it looks over the comments and suggestions from Wednesday night’s open house.