The intersection of 17th St. and Church is notorious for sending bicyclists to the hospital with major injuries. The two sets of tracks that split off of Church Street run up 17th past Castro Street ending up at Eureka Station where they join the Twin Peaks Tunnel tracks. They were paved over on Market Street so they can not carry a train into the tunnel.
17th & Church is super complex because each track is split in two directions. These splits clog up the crosswalks with giant steel ruts catching bikes, wheelchairs, strollers and walkers.
The complete solution would be to rip out both sets of tracks on 17th Street all the way to Noe St. but MUNI would be impacted directly in three ways. They would lose the option of taking the F-Market Historic Streetcars into and out of service via this route. MUNI would also lose the ability to use 17th St. as an alternate terminal loop for detouring the F-Market Streetcars around the Castro-Upper Market stops. (By going from 17th St.& Noe St. to Church St.to Market St.)
A temporary compromise has been put forth that would only impact MUNI in one specific and very minor way. (The F-Market coming from Cameron Beach Yard would enter service at Church & Market Streets instead of Castro & Market.)
That idea is to remove only the Westbound tracks (on the North side of 17th St.) and leave the Eastbound tracks for MUNI to ride from Noe St. to Church St. allowing them to turn North or South at the corner of 17th & Church.
We use the term temporary because we want to see an honest discussion of the need for the Eastbound track but we believe that prioritizing the Westbound track would be the single most effective way to mitigate this well documented existing hazard. We suspect (but do not know for sure) that the Westbound tracks actually are a greater hazard due to the dynamics of traffic on our street and our empirical observations.
SF MTA does agree with us that this is a hazardous intersection. They are coming down here very soon to put up a new sign to warn bikers approaching 17th Street from the North on Church Street of the track crossing. We appreciate the action. But, in the immortal words of Oliver Twist, “Please, Sir, We want more.”
As an aid to visualization we created three views of the 17th St.& Church St. intersection from three directions with the Westbound 17th Street tracks removed. These are posted as before and after shots.
The reduction in crossing obstacles is significant. Several nasty switch complexes are removed from the crosswalk this way benefiting pedestrians and the mobility impaired. And one third of the tracks are gone including the one blocking bikes trying to turn right off Church Street.
View I — Looking East from 17th Street at Church St.
View II — Looking South on Church St. at 17th St.
View III — Looking West on 17th St. at Church St.
View IV — Looking North. Focus on the Southern Church St. Crosswalk.
This last shot shows the removal of the huge steel X pieces from the crosswalk. That really helps unclutter this walkway. Those plates are also loud and vibrate for a half block in all directions.
Well, maybe one more final link to the video of the crash that motivated this discussion. The mother with her two children caught in the tracks video.