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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Proposal to improve pedestrian and bicycle access and safety at the Alemany Maze

With the completion of the Bayshore Blvd road diet from Paul Ave to Jerrold Ave, bicyclists are more safely connected to the core of the City than ever before.  However, there are still gaping holes in the connectivity of the bike and pedestrian networks despite these improvements.  In 2012, the Planning Department issued a report that identified simple solutions that would improve the flow through the Hairball for all modes of transportation (cars, buses, bikes, and pedestrians).  While that study's implementation remains stalled on many levels, the Alemany Maze is another area that actively disconnects the Southeast from the rest of the City and is in desperate need of attention from SFMTA, DPW, Caltrans, and our Board of Supervisors.  The Maze and the Hairball are both busy connections to the freeway with low population density in the immediate area and outright hostile conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, yet neither area in currently slated for improvement in the near term.

Say you want to get from Bayview to a Glen Park BART by bike.  Riding the new lanes on Bayshore are now great, but get from Bayshore to the separated bike lane on Alemany at Putnam, and you're sharing the road with freeway-bound vehicles.

Or say you want to walk from the Portola to the Alemany Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.   You either cross illegally at the top of San Bruno Ave or walk an extra 1/4 mile each way to get to the light at Putnam.  And if you need one, it's too bad there's no ADA ramp for you when you get there.

The benefits of increasing pedestrian and bike access in the area are many:  reduced car traffic on Saturday mornings in and around the Alemany Farmers Market; safer access to the Farmers Market for Portola residents; greater access to amenities in the Portola by residents of Bernal Heights; safer access to BART for Portola residents; an opportunity for beautification of the median.

Pedestrian Access and Safety:

The Problem: Pedestrians often cross the triangular median between east/westbound Alemany Blvd to get to the farmer’s market from the Portola neighborhood.  This is a problem because although there is a traffic signal, eastbound Alemany at San Bruno Ave has no crosswalk.  

Figure 1. Pedestrians dash across eastbound Alemany at 
San Bruno Ave. on their way to the farmers market.
Figure 2. A pedestrian prepares to cross eastbound Alemany 
after shopping at the farmers market

Figure 3. Pedestrians accessing the farmers market use a well-worn dirt path 
on the median with no protection from passing vehicular traffic.
Figure 4. Proposal includes adding crosswalks and a bike/ped path across the median; reducing Alemany vehicle traffic from three lanes to two between Bayshore and Putnam; continuing the separated bike lanes between Bayshore and Putnam.

To get to and from the north side of the median, pedestrians must wait for a break in freeway-bound traffic to then run across three lanes of westbound Alemany.

Proposed Solution:  add crosswalks across both east- and westbound Alemany; install a traffic signal (pedestrian activated crosswalk or signalized traffic light across westbound Alemany; build a north/south pedestrian/bike path across the median; calm traffic by converting the curb lane of westbound Alemany from Bayshore to Putnam into a separated bike lane (see Bike access below)

Benefit: pedestrians would be able to safely access the farmer’s market from the Portola, reducing trips to the market by car, easing parking, pollution, and congestion in residential Bernal Heights.

Considerations: the median may be co-owned by the City and County of SF and Caltrans; a traffic signal or crosswalk on westbound Alemany may adversely affect traffic flow.

Bike Access and Safety:

The Problem:  In 2011, a separated bike lane was installed on both east and westbound Alemany from Putnam to Rousseau.  However, cyclists from Southeast SF still have no direct access to these separated bike lanes, and are forced to get to them by travelling between Bayshore and Putnam via lanes shared with heavy vehicular traffic.   This portion of the route is dangerous and discourages use of the bike lanes west of Putnam.

Proposed Solution: since Alemany west of Putnam is only two lanes wide and has a separated bike lane, convert the curb lane of Alemany between Bayshore and Putnam (both directions) to a bike-only lane, narrowing the road from three lanes to two.  To better access the westbound Alemany bike lanes, northbound cyclists could also use the proposed walkway across the median as above.

Benefit: cyclists would be protected from vehicular traffic the entire length of Alemany from Bayshore to Rousseau St., increasing accessibility and safety; vehicular traffic on Alemany would be calmed between Bayshore and Putnam, making pedestrian and bike crossings safer.

Considerations: decreasing lanes and vehicular traffic speeds may cause backups at on/off-ramps.

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