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Traffic diverters stripped from 8th Avenue ‘neighborway’

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A final plan to calm traffic along Eighth Avenue in San Francisco’s Richmond District was approved Tuesday, but was different than what was proposed to the public.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved its first Neighborway Project on Tuesday, which focuses on calming vehicle traffic to make corridors safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Eighth Avenue is a popular corridor for bicyclists, pedestrians and tour buses as it leads to the entrance into Golden Gate Park.

Charlie Ream, a transportation planner for the SFMTA, said the average traffic volume on the Eighth Avenue from Balboa to Anza streets is 4,700 vehicles. Eighth Avenue has the highest traffic volume compared to other avenues nearby.

One possibility that the SFMTA presented to the public were physical traffic diverters at Anza Street and Balboa Street. Vehicles traveling north or south on Eighth Avenue would be forced to turn on either of those streets to help reduce the traffic volume along Eighth Avenue.

There was broad support for the physical traffic diverter proposal at the March 2017 open house event and from an online survey. But when presented with the plan at another meeting, residents expressed concerns about vehicle traffic increasing on parallel streets, and vehicles making turns at school loading zones, said Ream:

“We were unable to reach a consensus on the physical diverter plan.”

Physical traffic diverters are a new tool for the SFMTA to use, and Ream said it was best to take small steps on using the new untested tool.

SFMTA Board of Directors chair Cheryl Brinkman acknowledged nervousness some residents may be feeling about the traffic diverter:

“I think if we’ve learned anything in a lot of these projects, we do need to proceed in baby steps especially when we’re using sort of these new street treatments like traffic diverters and traffic circles. Things people have not seen us use before.”

The community and the SFMTA instead came to a consensus to take out the traffic diverter proposal and instead install speed humps on along Eighth Avenue as well as on Seventh Avenue and Ninth Avenue.

Kristen Leckie, a community organizer for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the coalition wanted to see the physical traffic diverter plan implemented:

“We’re disappointed to see this project get watered down to a handful of speed bumps along the corridor.”

Brinkman said she supported the project and surprised after seeing the SFMTA outreach and emails from the public that this was the final design chosen:

“I was hoping for a more robust safety corridor and more robust improvements on this.”

Nicholas Persky, a legislative aide with Supervisor Sandra Fewer who represents the Richmond District, said her office supports the current plan of installing speed humps to calm the vehicle traffic.

Directors were to hear a follow up 12 months after the installation of improvements to see if the speed humps are working, but instead will hear back from SFMTA staff in six months.

Ream said the transit agency plans to begin work on the project before Thanksgiving.

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