It's not just convenience that leads bicyclists commuting from western portions of The City east to run a gauntlet of the two most dangerous intersections in town — it's city policy.
Market Street at Octavia Boulevard has long been The City's most treacherous intersection for bicyclists, with nearly double the number of crashes there than at the next-most dangerous intersection a block east at Market and Valencia streets, according to the most recent crash data available.
As The City moves toward its goal of having residents make 20 percent of in-city trips by bicycle by 2020, safety in these areas might have to wait for development to improve.
At Market and Octavia, The City's response has been an extension of a small, raised island to prevent motorists heading eastbound on Market from turning right onto the freeway on-ramp at Octavia. A red-light camera to catch scofflaws has been approved, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has yet to receive the funding to turn it on. That's left the raised concrete as the only protection for pedestrians and bicyclists.
A recent city report called for better safety education — for motorists, cyclists and police — but in the end it may be street design that makes the biggest difference.
Future development, with towers up to 85 feet tall, will transform the area significantly — and that could transform traffic.
Development fees from parcels in the Market-Octavia plan area also will pay for about $10 million worth of transit infrastructure, including Muni and pedestrian improvements.
The reason why this intersection is so dangerous has nothing to do with bike lanes, sharing the road or etiquette, according to Hayes Valley resident Robin Levitt.
In order for Octavia Boulevard to be rendered safe, it needs to be "more like a city street and not like a freeway," said Levitt, who sits on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the Market-Octavia plan area.
Because the approach to Octavia from U.S. Highway 101 is on a bare, elevated roadway and not a boulevard with streetlights and landscaping — like the rest of Octavia — drivers approach it like a freeway, said Levitt, who noted that when a new building at Oak Street and Octavia Boulevard replaced a blighted empty lot, drivers slowed down.