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Why the removal of a pedestrian bridge on Geary is a step forward for safety

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SFMTA announced that the Steiner pedestrian bridge will be demolished over Memorial Day weekend (May 22-25) as part of the Geary Rapid Project

The Steiner pedestrian bridge rises above Geary Boulevard, a wide, six-lane street and one of the city’s most dangerous for pedestrians. As compared to an average city street, you are eight times as likely to be hit by a car when crossing Geary.

So why is the Walk SF cheering on the demolition of a pedestrian-only space? Well, in addition to this particular bridge failing ADA standards, pedestrian bridges typically don’t make streets safer. They keep streets fast and dangerous, and give the message that streets are cars-first, people-last. 

Instead of providing a safe crosswalk where people can continue to walk at street level, pedestrian bridges require people to walk up to 10 times as far versus simply crossing at street level. And because they require people to walk so far, many people still cross at street level because it’s notably more convenient, even when such crossings aren’t allowed. (According to the SFMTA, over 80% of people crossing Geary at Steiner by foot or wheelchair already do it at street level.) 

But the real reason we’re so excited about the removal of the Steiner pedestrian bridge is because of what will happen at the intersection below it. 

Big safety improvements are coming to Geary and Steiner 

This rendering from SFMTA shows what the intersection will look like once the Steiner pedestrian bridge is gone and new safety features are added.

In addition to opening crosswalks on both the western and eastern sides of the intersection, the project will add median crossing islands at three points across Geary – important for those who move slower and may need to stop and rest during this long crossing. 

Additionally, corner bulb-outs – where the sidewalk extends further into the intersection – will be added at multiple points across Steiner and at the south east corner into Geary. Bulb-outs are a triple-benefit for people walking: they make pedestrians more visible, slow down turning vehicles, and shorten the crossing distance. (The red-painted transit-only lanes will also mean a faster trip for people walking to or from a 38-Geary bus stop.) 

More changes coming to Geary from Market to Stanyan

Throughout the planning process for the Geary Rapid Project, Walk San Francisco advocated for the strongest possible safety improvements

The final plan – and what we’ll see all along Geary – represents a huge step forward for safety on one of the city’s biggest, busiest corridors from Market to Stanyan. This includes:

  • Eight new pedestrian median refuges, providing a safe place for people walking to rest or wait, if needed, while crossing the street.
  • New corner bulb-outs at 18 intersections, which will shorten crossing distances, make people on foot more visible to drivers, and get turning vehicles to slow down.
  • Traffic calming throughout the corridor, via the removal of vehicle lanes or the creation of bus-only lanes.
  • New marked crossings at Peace Plaza, Webster Street, Steiner Street, and Buchanan.

Walk SF will watchdog this project to make sure that neighbors see these safety benefits on-schedule (construction is to be completed by February 2021). As always, if construction conditions block sidewalk access or make walking dangerous, submit a 311 alert

Banner image: William McLeod