On Friday, July 14, 2017 at San Francisco City Hall at 10:00am an Engineering Hearing was held to evaluate and take public testimony regarding the planned 17th Street protected bike lanes project. This is a critical step in the planning process and it went really well.
Attendance was perfect. Not a huge mob of folks all polarized one way or the other. No, it was a perfect turnout. One or two people with some reasonable concerns about the huge scale changes that this plan does impose on local on-street parking and a half a dozen neighbors praising the project as necessary even if it does cost a few spaces. The SF Bike Coalition was well represented by two Board Members and their Director of Public Advocacy.
Considering the previous town hall style meetings at Mission Station and all the conversation around the issue no one can really claim to have been left in the dark about what is going on here. There is virtual consensus that the problem is serious and needs to be fixed no matter what. That said, most would like to see the track removal option stay in consideration as this discussion continues. And everyone seems to agree that this is only a first of several steps that need to happen to bring our little street into the modern world of safety and transportation.
Friday’s hearing was focused fairly narrowly on the protected bike lanes and the wheelchair ramps at Church and 17th Street. In fact the wheelchair ramps are the focus of a collaborative effort between SFMTA and DPW with Engineer Mike Sallaberry spearheading a complete redesign of the North West curb to enhance safety for bikes turning the corner and disabled pedestrians trying to avoid getting caught in the tracks. We applaud this initiative!
The Board will present its finding at some point but the goal on this day was to take all input, nothing more. It was a hearing. We were the last item on a fifteen point agenda. So we had to wait but the nice part about that is that we all left together and some wonderful conversations sparked up in the lobby. We all took the elevator and walked out through the basement together.
They don’t call it lobbying for nothing. Your watching team 17th Street delivering the message directly to the SFMTA heavies. Passionate delivery. This conversation continued for another ten to fifteen minutes after the hearing. It was so informal I couldn’t even start to convey all the points. But it is extremely nice to see this depth of communication between the real decision makers behind the scenes at SFMTA and the real people who live on 17th Street.
Walking outside the building we encountered a brand new Ford GoBike stand set up on Polk Street just kitty corner from the Health Dept Building.
When I got back to 17th Street they were just installing the Ford GoBikes. Literally installing the giant bike stands on 17th Street at the exact same time as we were down at City Hall working with SFMTA to create Protected Bike Lanes on the most dangerous stretch of that notorious street. Somehow I feel like we are a small part of history. Did you know that Diego Rivera and Henry Ford were close friends? I can’t help thinking that both of these visionaries would like what is happening on 17th Street in San Francisco right now!
Folks, let me be frank here. The way this is going, we may not need to drive to City Hall before too long. We could just grab one of these bikes and leave it off there. It’s a ten to fifteen minute flat ride. Very pleasant if it weren’t so darned dangerous.
The next and last step for our protected bike lanes project on 17th Street between Church and Sanchez Streets is ratification by the full SFMTA Board, hopefully in September. Then the lanes will be constructed.
One final point. This does not end the considerations around removing the tracks. This is merely a band aide while that discussion continues in the context of the 17th Street corridor from Church to Castro Street including nearby blocks such as Sanchez Street from 18th to Market. That was the understanding between the SFMTA engineers and the neighbors who have pushed this project to date. This is step one.
Update: July 20, 2017: The plan has passed the Engineering Hearing and is set to proceed to the full SFMTA Board for final ratification.