17th St. & Hartford — Pedestrian Safety Upgrade Proposed

One wouldn’t think this particular intersection would be a serious problem meriting curb extensions and raised crosswalks at first glance. It is.

Hartford-map2
What we need on that corner.

This is where 17th St. dead ends at Castro St. where the streetcars stage and depart from. Aside from the Chevron station cars have no cause to pass through here. Likewise this is the end of Hartford St. which is three blocks long total and parallels Castro Street but tends to be very lightly traveled. Hartford-mapbig

The issue here isn’t a large volume of cars but the odd manners in which the cars that do cut through that corner are driving. Some cut up 17th Street and want to turn left onto Hartford Street at an uncomfortably high rate of speed. Others do the same move in reverse approaching from Hartford St. and hanging the right onto 17th St. But the most difficult are the ones who use that little stub of 17th Street to access or depart the Chevron station. They zip around the streetcars and tend to really get going in that short space.

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Taxi busting a U-turn on 17th St. at Hartford.

The reason these high speed approaches and maneuvers are stressful for pedestrians is that they have to watch for cars approaching fast from at least three directions simultaneously as they try to cross either 17th St. or Hartford Street. Now imagine being a person in a wheelchair doing that while you cross 17th St. at that corner. (A hypothetical question since there are no curb ramps to allow a person in a wheelchair to cross at that labeled pedestrian crossing.)

Several disabled people have requested curb ramps at that intersection already and it appears that DPW is listening and may be planning to get this work done pretty soon. But the DPW plans only include ramps. Nothing more.

If we are already going to demolish and reconstruct the corners we must consider the additional safety measures now. Curb bulb-outs on 17th Street would help in many ways. And a proper raised pedestrian crossing for Hartford St. would be worth it’s weight in gold.

What is a raised pedestrian crossing one might ask? The best local example I could find is at 18th St. & Shotwell St. Let’s take a look.

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18th & Shotwell Street raised crosswalk.

What’s the condition of the curb right now? Lets take a look…

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17th St. North Side. Plenty of room. Nobody can park here anyway cause it’s a red zone. No reason not to bump out the curb here a good five feet.
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The curb on the North side of 17th St. is crumbling and needs replacement anyway.
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17th St. South Side. Red zones already, need to reconstruct already. Five to seven feet into 17th Street would be a major change with a ramp built in. Very doable!
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Hartford St. This should just be a raised crosswalk. Both existing curb cuts are substandard and need to be replaced anyway. Slow down turning cars and kill two birds with one stone.

This intersection is the Eastern entrance path to Jane Warner Plaza and in essence the whole Castro Street Business District. It ought to be safe and welcoming to all. And likewise it serves to transition the business area into the neighborhood living quarters where we would all like to see courteous driving and consideration for children crossing the street. It’s also a major hub for The City’s beloved historic streetcars with passengers loading and unloading directly into the street.

We are also an area that has a dearth of traffic calming features which is readily apparent at this corner where the vehicle abuse issues are constantly on display. And compounding the situation is the high number of pedestrians who choose to use that particular intersection. Both of these facts are captured graphically on the following maps.

CalmCastroNot

Hartford-17th-PedCount
Note the large number of pedestrians: 3,419 – 11,982 people cross this intersection every day.
HartfordPedestrians
3 ambulance calls for 17th & Hartford Streets over the past several years. These are all cars hitting pedestrians.

Update (January 1, 2019): SFMTA says that because our injuries are unlikely to be “severe” (read: one step under fatality) that this project isn’t worth doing. I disagree and am protesting and appealing this decision. Here’s the December 21, 2018 email from SFMTA (The agency who killed Emily Dunn one block from here):

Dear Mr. Entwistle,

Thank you for your request for a bulb-out in coordination with the new curb ramp at Hartford and 17th Street. We strive to coordinate our infrastructure improvements wherever possible; however, there are a limited number of funds available annually for bulb-outs and other capital improvements. As a result, SFMTA prioritizes locations where there is a past history of collisions, injuries, and fatalities.

Hartford and 17th Street has one collision documented in the past five years, with a result of a minor injury to the pedestrian. Additionally, the plaza at the end of 17th Street makes the location one where cars are likely to being moving at a slower speed and pedestrians are less likely to be severely injured. As a result, I do not recommend including a bulb-out at this location at this time, but we will follow up with your concern that there is frequent double-parking blocking the crosswalk here.

Thank you for taking the time to reach out,

Chava Kronenberg

Pedestrian Program Manager, Sustainable Streets

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency


Update (December 19, 2018): We have requested help from San Francisco Mayor London Breed and her office has graciously agreed to look into contacting DPW about going above and beyond what they are currently committed to doing at that intersection. The plan right now is to start soon and install a curb ramp on the North end of the crosswalk where it hits that foot high curb on 17th Street. The curb ramp is desperately needed and since they are tearing up that exact spot then its either now or never for adding the curb bulb out that is also desperately needed at that location.


Update (July 1, 2017): Upon further investigation we observe that there is only one (1) stop sign at that intersection. That solitary stop sign directs drivers headed North on Hartford to stop before turning onto 17th St. Drivers on 17th Street are not required to stop at that intersection at all. Just pause if they see a pedestrian crossing. Or just roll the corner without stopping at all. This is completely legal and hazardous as hell.

Some more photo’s of this horrible spot.

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Two bike paths (unmarked), a pedestrian crossing, a streetcar terminal on a dead end street terminating in a pedestrian plaza with no stop signs.
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That pedestrian crossing sign really commands respect. Not!
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How about stopping at this point? Think about where you are driving for a second…
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Raise this sidewalk six inches to match sidewalk level. Redo the corner to bulb it out and increase the sidewalk area. Add proper ADA curb ramps.

‘Nuff said!

2 comments

  1. In my experience, that last block of 17th Street is much busier than one would expect. Many cars go into that Chevron station not to buy gas but to cut through to Market Street.

    Like

  2. Hi John,
    thank you for your pictures and write up. I think you have a good plan. 18th and Shotwell has a raised crosswalk primarily to prevent local flooding. It is not particularly to slow traffic.

    Like

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