Townsend: Unclaimed Street to Protected Bike Lane

Today, after compelling testimony from Supervisor Jane Kim and SF Bicycle Coalition members, the SF Municipal Transportation Board of Directors unanimously approved protected bike lanes for Townsend Street.

A victory long in the making, the approval of protected bike lanes for Townsend adds to an unusual history for this well-used street. Townsend is what’s known as an unaccepted street, meaning that the maintenance and general condition of the street is not the responsibility of any City Department. No sidewalks, terrible paving quality, strange poles — all symptoms of our City not accepting responsibility for Townsend.

With its direct connection to Caltrain, Townsend has long been a preferred bicycle corridor. Despite falling into a bureaucratic pothole, some quick bike fixes did come to Townsend in 2010, when paint-only bike lanes were striped with the help of then Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Mayor Newsom striping Townsend in 2010

Since then, bicycle use has exploded in San Francisco as has the number of Lyfts, Ubers and commuter shuttles on our streets. With Caltrain being a crucial transit link for people commuting to and from work, the dramatic increase in these modes had an outsized effect on Townsend. The result is that Townsend has become increasingly dangerous for everyone, especially people on bikes, who only have an eroded 2010 paint-only bike lane keeping them separate from the many vehicles picking up and dropping off at Caltrain.

“I bike every day on Townsend, and what I see is extremely dangerous,” says Jennifer Wong, an SF Bicycle Coalition member who works on Townsend. “I see Ubers and Lyfts, cars pulling over, passengers who don’t see us. They pull over in the bike lane and we’re forced into the lane of traffic.”

Jennifer Wong speaks in support of Townsend

Today marks a great moment in Townsend’s history. Repaving, which has already begun, will leave a smooth right of way for the newly approved protected bike lanes. We wouldn’t have gotten here, however, without you.

People power won protected bike lanes on Townsend. Hundreds of letters from you, our members, a People Protected Bike lane, mobilizations at City Hall — all compelled the City to take and accept responsibility for the conditions on Townsend.

By the end of 2018, protected bike lanes will be well in the ground and we’ll be able to celebrate and focus on the next fight. Join us in celebrating, join us in advocating, join as a member today.

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