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SF Bicycle Coalition Riders Call For Safer SoMa Streets

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San Francisco Bicycle Coalition riders sign petitions for safer streets in the South of Market area. (Bay City News)

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition riders sign petitions for safer streets in the South of Market area. (Bay City News)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Dozens of bicyclists heading down San Francisco’s Folsom Street Wednesday morning stopped to sign letters to Mayor Ed Lee asking for the city to improve safety for cyclists in the city’s South of Market neighborhood.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition set up a table at Folsom and Sixth streets where, for two hours Wednesday morning, bicyclists were invited to pull over and sign small green cards addressed to the mayor urging a Folsom Street redesign and other changes.

The letter-writing campaign was sparked by the death of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, of San Francisco, who was struck and killed by a truck making a right turn as she biked through the intersection on Aug. 14.

After the accident, someone attached a large handwritten sign to traffic-light pole at the intersection reading, “A bicyclist died here.  Please ride/drive carefully.”

According to the bicycle coalition, Le Moullac was the third bicyclist this year to be killed by a truck while biking in the city.

Coalition executive director Leah Shahum said she was asking city agencies to find funding to make improvements to Folsom Street and the city’s driving culture—and soon.

Some of the coalition’s ideas include fast-tracking a redesign plan that would make Folsom Street a two-way street with separate bike lanes.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is analyzing two options for making Folsom Street safer—keeping the street one-way but with fewer lanes for cars or making it a two-way street, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

The proposed changes are part of a citywide bicycle plan. The changes would still need to undergo an extensive review process before being implemented. That process is expected to take until June 2015, Rose said.

At the earliest, revamping of the street would begin 2017, Rose said.

He said the SFMTA was looking into implementing some sort of pilot program to boost safety on the street in the meantime.

The bicycle coalition was also calling on the city to require training for large-vehicle operators on how to share the road, and wants the city to mandate that large trucks be fitted with convex mirrors.

Shahum said that as a short-term fix, the bicycle coalition had proposed making the bike lanes on Folsom Street more visible, including by painting the pavement green.

She said it would also help to have more markings to show bicyclists and motorists exactly where they should be when making turns or crossing the intersection.

“We need to slow the street down,” she said.

One bicyclist, 30-year-old Tim Cannady, who stopped by to sign a letter on his morning commute from the Mission District to downtown, said he bikes cautiously when heading through the South of Market area.

Cannady said he rides every day on Folsom Street because it is the safest, straightest route, but that it needs improvements, such as a separated bike lane.

“Biking is here to stay,” he said. “Let’s keep everyone safe.”

Another bicyclist who declined to give his name said he broke several bones in a bike accident on Folsom Street in February but that he continues to ride on the street because it is the best route into downtown.

He said he signed the letter because “it’s really important to have safe routes to work.”

Coalition spokeswoman Kristin Smith said hundreds of letters collected at the event this morning and online will be delivered to the mayor in the next week or so.

Shahum said she attended Tuesday’s San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting to urge the board to find funding to change the layout of the Folsom Street between 10th Street and the Embarcadero.

She said she would like to see safety changes made as part of a Folsom Street repaving project scheduled for the end of 2014.

“Folsom Street doesn’t have to be intimidating,” Shahum said.

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