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Release date: September 23, 2008

*** Press Release ***

SFMTA and Bicycle, Pedestrian Advocates Unveil First Bicycle Signal in San Francisco

Dedicated crossing at Fell and Masonic on Panhandle path designed to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians

San FranciscoThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) today joined with bicycle and pedestrian advocates to unveil the first traffic signal in San Francisco with a bicycle symbol.  The new signal was installed at the intersection of Fell Street and Masonic Avenue to give bicyclists—and pedestrians—a dedicated signal phase to cross Masonic Avenue on the popular Panhandle multi-use recreational path.

“This new bicycle signal on the much-loved Panhandle path demonstrates San Francisco’s commitment to providing safe, attractive transportation alternatives to the private automobile,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom. 

“The SFMTA is proud to install the first bicycle signal in San Francisco at this key location,” said SFMTA Executive Director/CEO Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr. “We can celebrate today because of our partnership with the many community members who have been tireless advocates for safety improvements at Fell and Masonic.”

The new signal provides an exclusive time interval for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross Masonic together while automobiles intending to turn left onto Masonic from Fell are stopped at the traffic signal.  The bicycle component of the new signal uses a bicycle symbol in the familiar green, yellow and red phases to indicate when a bicyclist can cross Masonic.  The pedestrian signal continues to use the white walking figure and the orange hand to direct pedestrian traffic (see attached signal description for a visual depiction of the signals).

Automobiles turning left from westbound Fell onto southbound Masonic may now do so only with a green arrow.  The arrow will be red when bicyclists and pedestrians are crossing Masonic.  Before the installation of the new signal, automobiles made left turns from westbound Fell to southbound Masonic as gaps in the pedestrian and bicycle traffic allowed.

“The bicycle community is pleased to see the first bicycle signal in San Francisco, but it should not be the last one,”   said Andy Thornley, program manager for the San Francisco Bike Coalition, which advocated for the improvement along with the Fix Masonic Coalition, Walk San Francisco and other community groups.  “We must do everything we can to ensure the safety of bicyclists on our busy streets,” he added.

The Fell and Masonic intersection has a history of collisions between automobiles and users of the Panhandle path.  During the five–year period from March 2003 through February 2008 there were 15 reported collisions involving a vehicle making a left turn from westbound Fell Street to southbound Masonic Avenue and a bicycle crossing Masonic Avenue; there were three reported collisions involving a vehicle turning left from westbound Fell Street and a pedestrian crossing Masonic Avenue.

The SFMTA and the City Attorney went to court in April 2008 to seek an exception to the injunction that has prohibited all physical changes to the public space involving bicycles since June 2006 (pending completion of an Environmental Impact Report, now expected in 2009).  The court granted the request in May 2008 and the SFMTA Board of Directors approved the design of the new signal phasing and related lane changes in August 2008.

Caption follows

Pedestrians and cyclists use the newly installed bicycle signal at the intersection of Fell Street and Masonic Avenue. The signal gives cyclists and pedestrians a dedicated signal phase that advocates say will improve safety in the highly-traveled Panhandle path.

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