Going Rogue: SFMTrA Improving SF Streets

Editors: This story was originally published in Issue 158 of our quarterly Tube Times magazine, one of many perks of membership in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

A group of San Francisco activists is taking matters into their own hands, installing safe-hit posts along unprotected corners and bike lanes, and capturing the imaginations of people who care about safe streets. The collective calls themselves SF Transformation, or SFMTrA, a play on the name of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).

According to SFMTrA members, tensions are running high between the two groups.

“We have obviously chosen to be provocative with our installations, calling attention to what could be if there was more leadership in City Hall,” SFMTrA members said under condition of anonymity. “As a result, it appears that there are some people in the SFMTA who are upset with us.”

Reached for comment, the SFMTA characterized the organizations’ relationship differently.

“We hear the frustration the SFMTrA is expressing and we share the same vision for safer, more bike-friendly streets,” the SFMTA told your SF Bicycle Coalition. “While we wish the SFMTrA wouldn’t install unsanctioned measures on our streets, we do value the statement they are making. The discussion they have sparked has brought our attention to how even a few posts can transform a street in some people’s minds and make their ride feel safe.”

At most SFMTrA action sites, the SFMTA has moved quickly to remove the activists’ posts. The lone site where City officials expressly allowed SFMTrA posts to stand for a longer period is at the eastern entrance to Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive. Videos taken shortly after SFMTrA’s installation there show slowed automobile traffic and fewer incursions into the painted bike lane by people driving. Those 10 vigilante-installed posts were allowed to remain until the City later replaced them with six longer-term safe-hit posts.

“We believe to make Golden Gate Park a truly safe place for park-users, the City will need to come up with a proper solution for protected bike lanes and minimize the use of the park as a shortcut for speeding cars,” SFMTrA members said. “Six posts and nine speed bumps is a good pilot, but San Francisco can and must think much bigger.”

Following the SFMTrA action on JFK Drive, as well as the SFMTA’s replacement of their work, bigger thinking was on display in December 2016. With several SF Bicycle Coalition members in attendance, the City hosted an open house to, in their words, “identify solutions that reduce speeds and better manage vehicular traffic while maintaining access to Golden Gate Park destinations.”

While your SF Bicycle Coalition continues advocating for safety improvements in Golden Gate Park and across San Francisco, we asked both the SFMTA and SFMTrA members how they envision seeing safe streets delivered.

“We know there’s a need to build more safety into our streets, and that it needs to get done faster,” the SFMTA said. “We are up to the task and we’re using the city’s crash data to target our safety projects and investments.”

“We want every citizen to take a fresh look around at the speeding vehicles and the dated infrastructure, and imagine a world where these are being addressed with smart solutions and policies,” SFMTrA members said. “The City can act now to implement cheap, simple solutions and simultaneously develop plans for drastic, long-term street transformations. We also need to work together with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other groups like Walk SF to make this a high-priority issue for our leaders.”

Visit SFMTrA.org to learn more about the work of SFMTrA members, find their accounts on social media and sign up for their emails. To support advocacy for permanent safety improvements on San Francisco streets, find the volunteer opportunity right for you at sfbike.org/get-involved.

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