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Demand for more protected bike lanes following death of cyclist in SoMa

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“There’s no reason for any delay on completing Howard Street, and the other critical bike and pedestrian safety infrastructure projects in SoMa, Market Street, the Tenderloin, and beyond”

Howard and Sixth Streets in SoMa.
Image via Google

On Friday, a driver killed a cyclist riding Howard near Sixth Street in the city’s South of Market District at approximately 8:30 a.m. in an area with no protected bike lanes—i.e., bike lanes without barriers. The victim, identified by the Medical Examiner’s Office as Tess Rothstein, 30, of Berkeley, died after the driver of a commercial vehicle hit her.

Rothstein was less than 100 feet from a protected bike lane. Her death, the city’s first cyclist fatality of the year, highlights San Francisco’s urgent need for more protected bike lanes.

“This is yet another example of why our streets need to be made safer for all users,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a written statement. “There are long-term safety improvements coming to Howard Street, and I am pushing to move those forward as fast as possible. But while we wait for these capital improvements, we need to make short-term safety enhancements, which I have instructed the SFMTA to do without delay.”

District Six Supervisor Matt Haney, whose jurisdiction represents SoMa, was at the scene shortly after the crash occurred.

SF’s deadliest streets.
Some of SF’s deadliest streets.
Image via SFMTA

“Protected bike lanes save lives,” Haney told Curbed SF. “There must be much greater urgency to get this done. There’s no reason for any delay on completing Howard Street, and the other critical bike and pedestrian safety infrastructure projects in SoMa, Market Street, the Tenderloin, and beyond.”

Haney went on to say that he’s asked SFMTA to “immediately expedite the Howard Street project and complete it by April, and to move forward with completing all of the other high-need projects, including Fifth Street, Seventh Street, and Townsend Street.”

According to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Howard is a high-injury corridor. It’s also the location of “several delayed street safety projects, and one of San Francisco’s most traveled bicycle corridors in one of our city’s densest neighborhoods.”

A press release from SF Bicycle Coalition noted, “After years of support and member advocacy, the city installed a protected bike lane from 11th to Sixth in December 2018, while a long-term streetscape project from 11th to Fourth is due for approvals this year. However, these more robust improvements have been delayed and are not expected to be completed before 2023. Howard has claimed four lives over the past two years. Without change, more lives will be lost due to the city’s inaction.”

On the eve of Rothstein’s death, People Protected, an advocacy group whose members join hands to turn unprotected bike lanes into protected lanes, gathered at Fifth and Howard to create a human shield between vehicular traffic and cyclists.

Two weeks before the fatal crash, San Francisco released its updated plan to eliminate traffic deaths in the city within five years. SF introduced its Vision Zero Plan in 2014, a year that saw a staggering 31 deaths on city streets, a number that remained flat in 2015, and then jumped to 32 in 2016.

San Francisco debuted its first protected bike lane in 2016 near the intersection of Ninth Street and Division. It has plans to create more, including ones on Valencia Street, the Embarcadero, and Fourth and King near the Caltrain station.