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Townsend Street bikeway dodges delays

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The bike lanes on Townsend Street are an important — but treacherous — route from the Mission and other neighborhoods toward Caltrain and downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco bike advocates received surprising news Tuesday when transit officials announced that a protected bikeway project is moving forward on Townsend Street despite the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency wanting to delay the project.

Tom Maguire, sustainable streets director for the SFMTA, said Tuesday that the transit agency has found a way now to move forward with a parking-protected bikeway along Fourth and Seventh streets on Townsend.

Transit officials had planned to wait until the construction of the Caltrain extension project to work on the parking protected bikeway because any work done now would have to be ripped out later on when construction of the Caltrain extension begins.

Dozens of bike advocates told the SFMTA Board of Directors that they were initially disappointed to hear about the delay of a parking protected bike lane on Townsend Street.

Advocates for more protected bike lanes in San Francisco wore yellow t-shirts at the SFMTA board meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, July 17, 2018.

Maureen Persico, a resident of Bernal Heights for 26 years and bicyclist in The City, said she does not ride her bike on Townsend:

“Despite all my experience, Townsend is just too dangerous.”

Persico added she was glad that the safety improvements were back on the table:

“You have backtracked from your shameful decision to do nothing because of the S.F. bike activists and the grassroots of the People Protected Bike Lane activists.”

Cathy DeLuca, the policy and program director of Walk San Francisco, said she did not feel the sense of urgency from the board:

“When projects get delayed, people die.”

Paul Valdez, a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the earlier decision to delay the Townsend protected bikeway was “negligent” and a disregard to safety to bicyclists and pedestrians:

“Is it going to take another loss of a life for you to understand that safety is paramount. Is it going to take another preventable death of a cyclist in order for you to respond in building safer bike infrastructure.”

Valdez showed photos of cyclists who have died in San Francisco and asked for a moment of silence for the remainder of his public comment time during a report from the director of transportation on the project update on Townsend.

Kevin Manning was also on the minds of cyclists. A hit-and-run driver last month collided with Manning while working as a pedicab driver along the Embarcadero, injuring his passengers. Manning, 65, did not survive.

Maguire said the SFMTA Is planning for an open house sometime this year to show plans of a proposal to create a two-way bikeway along the waterfront.

Matt Brezina, with People Protected Bike Lanes, said he was distraught that people like Manning were sacrificed in order for transit officials to act.

In the coming weeks, Brezina said his group will hold a rally to protect the streets where Manning was struck and killed.

People Protected Bike Lane have held numerous rallies by creating a human chain around bike lanes without any protection, including on Townsend Street just last week.

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