It was like jumping into a time warp. Everything that I thought I had so originally observed and discovered regarding the manner in which 17th Street acts as a trap for bicycles had been completely described in writing by a neighbor back in November of 2013. In fact his analysis included Sanchez Street as well.
My neighbor sent this entire analysis to the SF Bike Coalition and they wrote back saying they had received other reports about the dangers of those tracks to bicycles. That was January of 2014. They said they would keep it on the check-in list for SFMTA staff. They reiterated this position again in August of 2014
Then in July of 2014 he polished up his analysis and sent it to Supervisor Scott Wiener. He describes the narrowness of the street, the double parking and school issues, the dynamic of the tracks, the multitude of serious accidents involving paramedics and hospitalization. This person owns his home on 17th St. and bikes to work nearby. His credibility is without question.
This is an excerpt from my 17th Street neighbor’s letter from November, 2013:
… my thoughts about the hazards of 17th St between Church and Sanchez.
To refresh your memory, this is the block of 17th that is on the bike route and has a Muni Rail T intersection on Church and the Muni tracks continue west to 17th and Castro. Everett Middle School (EMS) is on Church and 17th, Sanchez Elementary is on Sanchez and 17th. In between on 17th St are playgrounds and a parking lot entrance for EMS on the North side of the street. On the south side are row houses, flats and apartments.
From my observation the tracks on both sides of the street are causing falls. Anecdotally (Engine 6 officer), the tracks at 16th and 17th and Church intersections are also causing large number of crashes.There are a lot of injuries, many provoking a 911 response and some hospitalization. Many other injuries are less severe and are never recorded.
I have seen or heard at least 6 bicycle falls this year on 17th resulting from track/wheel crossings. I have called for Emergency Medical Services 3 times this year, resulting in 2 transports. I do not sit at my window desk all the time. The last time I called 911, Engine 6 responded and the officer said that this was the Iron triangle or something to that affect, referring to 16th and 17th/Church. The intersection at 17th and Church claiming a fair number of cyclists. Subsequently I spoke with … and he said his then gf now wife had fallen there as had a number of other folks I have spoken with. In years previously I have seen a number of falls, though I don’t think as many. I would like to add that I am not at my desk during the 7:20 – 8 am rush of parents dropping students off. That is a very dangerous time with parents double parking in both directions, doing U turns, thru traffic and children jay walking.
Most of the falls are due to motor vehicle double parked or standing with a cyclist trying to pass on the left.
I recommend further study of the situation. I am not familiar with the situation on Church, nor Sanchez, but both heavily used by both parents and cyclists. My initial impression is that 17th is the most dangerous due to the tracks and narrowness of the street. Any double-parked, standing or in the act-of-parking car causes a cyclist to either go right or left, and left requires crossing the tracks. I believe that on Church one can still squeeze by any double-parked, standing or in the act-of-parking car without crossing the tracks. However on Church there are two schools, EMS and the Parochial school adjoining the Mission Dolores on opposite sides of the street.
My first thought is that double-parking, standing and in the act-of-parking on 17th st on the north side during School drop off hours needs to be eliminated. I believe that the easiest way to do that is to establish a loading zone or something to that effect on 17th st from Church to at least half the length of the block. from 7 to 8 am M-F during the school year. During the rest of the School use hours I think a smaller loading zone would be helpful to reduce the prevalence of any double-parked, standing or in the act-of-parking cars. Alternatively the cyclists could be rerouted but I think the alternatives are not so good.
While parking reductions are not popular, already on Thursday street sweeping happens on the block on the North side from 6 to 7. Extending the time to 8 am would not be difficult. As for the rest of the times, the argument that if there were no school there would be no extra parking because the people who lived where the school is now would have cars and driveways and park there. In other words it would look like the other (South or my side of the street).
Unfortunately, the above recommendations do not touch on the crashes on the South side of the street which are significant. Partly this is due to the grade on 17th encouraging speed that the motorist doesn’t understand. I believe that establishing more loading zones or simply banning parking on the street will be the only way to reduce the number of crashes. If PD or DPT could increase supervision of the block safety would improve but the prospects of a rapid improvement is low due to there being no penalty for standing or being in the act of parking.
So far I have not heard of a death on the street, but it is only a matter of time given the current situation.
[Note, we have purposefully left most names and addresses off this page. The initial letter is reproduced mostly intact above. The letter to Scott Wiener from July of 2014 is so similar it’s not necessary to reprint with the exception of one paragraph.]
Parking on Sanchez Street from 17th to 16th from Letter to Sup. Wiener July 2014:
As an addendum, on the east side of Sanchez, between 16th St and 17th St, has perpendicular parking for most of the block. This is a danger to cyclists who are on the Wiggle to Mission bike route. Since the northbound (east side) lane ascends, this would be the perfect place to establish diagonal back in parking. This would vastly reduce the likely hood of a crash caused by a car parking or leaving a parking spot.
Our thanks to our neighbor on 17th Street for sharing the documents quoted above. Our collective sense of history is becoming more complete. Please recall that the folks painting the bike lane on 17th Street in 2011 stopped from Church Street all the way to Castro Street citing the narrowness of the street and tight squeeze between the tracks and the parking as their reason. That was covered in the history of the 17th St. Bike Lane.