Cyclist Deaths Prompt Protected Bike Lanes in San Francisco
Nearly a month after track cycling champion Ethan Boyes was struck by a car at an intersection in the Presidio, leaders of the Presidio Trust walked the crash site to assess what changes could be made to improve safety for cyclists.
The trust will immediately improve signage, pavement markings and flexible posts, the organization said in a tweet on May 5. By 2024, there will be permanent bike lanes separated with bollards.
Currently, there are only painted bike lanes along the stretch of Arguello Boulevard in the park where Boyes was cycling when he was killed.
The cycling infrastructure changes that follow Boyes’s death are bittersweet for cyclists in the Bay Area. While welcomed, cyclists have repeatedly asked for protected bike lanes and infrastructure that will help keep cyclists safe from reckless drivers. It’s possible that earlier action might have saved Boyes from being killed. The driver of the vehicle was also taken to the hospital after the crash. They sustained minor injuries.
“It’ll be a game changer in many ways,” says Janelle Wong, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who spoke to a local television station about improvements along the corridor last month.
A major loss for the San Francisco Bay Area
Boyes, 44, was a 10-time national champion and beloved by those in the sport and in the Bay Area cycling community. His career highlights included an age-group record in a 1,000-meter time trial in 2015.
“Beyond Ethan’s athletic achievements, he was an upstanding member of the American track cycling community,” USA Cycling said in a statement after the crash. “His loss will be felt at local, regional, national, and world events for years, as he brought a mixture of competition and friendliness to every race.”
After news of the tragedy traveled through the Bay Area cycling community, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said in a statement that they’d lost a “beloved figure in San Francisco cycling.”
“One traffic fatality is one too many,” they continued. “Last year, we experienced the most traffic fatalities on SF streets in a decade. This is unacceptable considering the city’s Vision Zero goal of ending traffic-related deaths and injuries by 2024 is just a year away.”
The group called on more action from the city to curb such dangerous collisions.
In 2022, the city saw 49 total traffic fatalities, half of those were pedestrians and one of them was a cyclist. So far in 2023, the city reports six fatalities, the majority being in equity priority communities.
More changes to come
Cyclists are watching the progress closely and urging local officials to act on a busy section of Arguello Boulevard that stretches from the Presidio to Golden Gate Park.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages that corridor, has started discussions with community members about installing a dedicated bike lane there as well.
While communication is a key step forward, it’s still uncertain where the $1 million to $2 million required for the project will come from. SFMTA officials say they don’t currently have a funding mechanism for the bike lane.
Meanwhile, the first phase of the Presidio’s bike safety project is set to begin over the summer and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition plans to continue asking for more improvements, including for the Presidio Trust to lower speed limits along Arguello Boulevard.
Bike lanes work
There’s a reason why cycling advocates are so loud about cycling infrastructure, particularly protected bike lanes: They’re successful.
In a 2019 study, researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and the University of New Mexico found that infrastructure tailored to cyclists in fact makes for safer roads. The researchers looked at 13 years of data from 12 large cities across the nation.
“Bicycling seems inherently dangerous on its own,” said study co-author Wesley Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor at CU Denver. “So it would seem that a city with a lot of bicycling is more dangerous, but the opposite is true. Building safe facilities for cyclists turned out to be one of the biggest factors in road safety for everyone.”
They went on to encourage protected bike lanes. In the paper, researchers said “improving bike infrastructure with more protected/separated bike facilities is significantly associated with fewer fatalities and better road safety outcomes for all road users.”
By following the data, far fewer cyclists would have to encounter dangerous streets like Boyes did.
Bicycle injury lawyers can help
Unfortunately, no amount of bicycle-friendly infrastructure can completely prevent bicycle vs. auto collisions. A bicycle crash can be terrifying, and you may not know what steps to take afterward.
The most important thing, always, is to take care of yourself and your health. But other than that, the right thing to do – e.g., what evidence you should collect, who you should talk to about the collision, and whether you should file a personal injury claim — depends on the circumstances.
Talking to an experienced bicycle crash lawyer can give you peace of mind. A consultation with the bike lawyers at Bay Area Bicycle Law is always free.