SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A stretch of San Francisco’s upper Market Street is set to get
parking-protected bike lanes despite objections from fire officials.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the Upper Market Street Safety Project, a mile-long project that will bring pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements to a mile of Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street.

The project includes pedestrian bulbouts and islands to make crossing safer, an updated Muni boarding island at Laguna Street to improved disabled access, new bike lanes in some areas and better markings for existing ones.

The project includes improvements to the dangerous Octavia Boulevard intersection, where traffic merging on to U.S. Highway 101 creates dangerous conditions.

The project drew objections from fire officials, however, for its inclusion of parking-protected bike lanes on a one-third mile stretch between Octavia Boulevard and Duboce Avenue.

Deputy Chief Mark Gonzales said the row of blocked cars between the bike lane and the street could make it difficult for the department’s vehicles to access burning buildings in areas where there are overhead wires, especially if taller buildings are built in the area.

“I really want to emphasize that we are not against parking protected-bike lanes,” Gonzales said, noting that the department had backed them in other areas where overhead lines were not an issue. “Put simply, overhead wires hamper operations.”

Pedestrian and bicycle advocates pushed hard to save the parking-protected bike lanes, with San Francisco Bicycle Coalition members sending more than 300 emails to SFMTA board members, according to coalition spokesman Chris Cassidy.

“If other cities’ fire departments can work around these, I believe the San Francisco Fire Department can do the same,” Cassidy said.

Josie Ahrens, a neighborhood organizer for pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF, noted that a pedestrian was just killed on the Octavia on-ramp Monday morning, highlighting the need for the project.

“We cannot wait one more day for this high-injury corridor to be improved, for crashes to be prevented and for lives to be saved,” Ahrens said, although she noted that the design for the Laguna Street intersection needed improvement to protect seniors in the area.

SFMTA staff said they had worked to meet the concerns of fire department staff and could review the design and modify it as needed, since it was largely a matter of repainting lines.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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