Let’s have “crossbikes” at major intersections…

I have ridden most if not all of SF major streets and they always require my full attention. When you are riding into a major intersection, you have no protection. The only protection you have are the red traffic lights on either side of you. You hope that the stacked cars on both sides are aware of the red lights or the car next to you doesn’t right-hook you. You feel almost naked and you need to hurry across. What a scary moment.

You aren’t over-analyzing in these situations because almost 50% of all crashes happen at intersections in urban areas. Most of these accidents involve motorist-pedestrian and motorist-bicyclist, and of course they usually result in fatal injuries. In addition, 3 of the 5 most dangerous intersections in San Francisco for cyclists are located on Market St., a major corridor for all modes of transportation.

Market and Octavia. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Market St. and Octavia Blvd. (Westbound). Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The most dangerous intersection in the city is at Market St. and Octavia Blvd. which had 10 pedestrian or cyclist accidents last year. The reason is that there’s a wide 101/80 freeway ramp to the left with very heavy traffic.

Market and Octavia

Market St. and bike path on the right. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

At the bottom right corner (see image above) is a bicycle path and that is where drivers make illegal right turns onto the freeway ignoring the no left turn sign and concrete island, resulting in many pedestrians/bicyclists crashes.

In April of this year, a couple of green bike sharrows were installed here. A nice improvement but it is not visible enough to motorists. Green crossing also needs to be installed on the opposite side of the street. Recently, a red light camera was approved to be installed there as well. I hope these measures will help.

Bicyclists are as vulnerable as pedestrians and pedestrians get crosswalks, but I don’t see why bicyclists do not get their own “crossbikes”? Even better if crossbikes come with their own traffic lights, but that is wishful thinking.

Market St. and Van Ness Ave. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Market St. and Van Ness Ave. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Let’s take a look at another major intersection on Market St. This stretch has 6 car lanes, while Van Ness Ave. (cross street) has up to 7 car lanes and again leads to the 101 freeway a few blocks away. So by any definition, this is another dangerous intersection for cyclists. This section has a green protected bike path on Market St. and it disappears for a long distance of 75 ft./23 m. You feel safe until you enter into this no man’s zone.

SFMTA is not going to install bicycle traffic lights anytime soon, SFPD doesn’t enforce traffic violations, and red-light camera installations require a lot of money and state approval. So what would be a simple and cost-effective measure to implement? Similar to the concept of green painted bike lanes- cyclists need to maximize their visibility on the roads.

Look to Copenhagen for that easy fix. All you need is paint and a bike stencil. No parking removal, road dieting or traffic reconfiguration to worry about- and you wonder why the SFMTA still hasn’t implemented this in all major intersections.

H. C. Andersons Blvd and Vester Farimagsgade intersection. Image courtesty of Google Maps.

H. C. Andersons Blvd and Vester Farimagsgade intersection in Copenhagen. Image courtesty of Google Maps.

H. C. Andersons Blvd (west to east), a 10 lane boulevard intersecting a 5 lane street, is a huge crossing in Copenhagen. It is common to see blue paint “crossbikes” at large intersections such as these. Would you feel safer riding through this intersection with blue paint the entire way through?

Dunsmuir St. and Seymour St., Vancouver BC.

Dunsmuir St. and Seymour St. in Vancouver BC. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

If you don’t believe this measure could work because it is in Europe. Well here is an example closer to home: A 2-hour plane flight north of us, Vancouver, Canada is doing this exact thing. On Dunsmuir St., it has a true bi-directional cycle track and when it meets a wide cross street such as Seymour St. (image above), a green “crossbike” is marked at the intersection. This green paint is to alert drivers to pay attention to bicyclists and the green marking also guides bicyclists through safely. This measure also makes pedestrians safer.

This is a cost-effective safety measure to implement and I hope the SFMTA is working to install these on every intersection with a wide crossing.


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  2. Mark Dreger

    Yes yes yes!!! We pay so much attention to bike lanes and other mid-block treatments, when most crashes occur in the complex ballet that occurs at intersections. The only U.S. city that I’ve seen that has taken this seriously is NYC – they use little chevrons to guide people on bikes through intersections.

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  5. Pingback: Why colored crossings work: A call for paint on SF's Market Street • PeopleForBikes

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