New Seventh Street lane in San Francisco troubles police 

Wrong way: A Seventh Street driver flouts a sign directing traffic to the right. Police worry the traffic change could cause accidents. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner) - WRONG WAY: A SEVENTH STREET DRIVER FLOUTS A SIGN DIRECTING TRAFFIC TO THE RIGHT. POLICE WORRY THE TRAFFIC CHANGE COULD CAUSE ACCIDENTS. (MIKE KOOZMIN/THE EXAMINER)
  • Wrong way: A Seventh Street driver flouts a sign directing traffic to the right. Police worry the traffic change could cause accidents. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)
  • Wrong way: A Seventh Street driver flouts a sign directing traffic to the right. Police worry the traffic change could cause accidents. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)

A new traffic lane downtown has police worried about potential safety hazards, as well as a possible conflict with The City’s plan to clear cars from Market Street.

Last month, a new southbound lane opened on a previously one-way, block-long section of Seventh Street, just north of Market Street. The lane, which begins at McAllister and Hyde streets, is designed to direct only buses, taxis, commercial vehicles and bicycles onto Market Street, but police Capt. Al Casciato said Thursday that the new configuration caught him off guard.

“I actually screamed when I saw it,” Casciato, who heads the traffic division, told police command staff at a public meeting. “To me, I view it as a hazard.”

Cmdr. Lea Militello, who oversees police operations with the Municipal Transportation Agency, said the MTA project had been two years in the making. She said police had no input on the project and agreed it was “problematic.”

Militello said police would be monitoring the area.

“We haven’t had any accidents, but our fear is that there is going to be an accident,” Casciato said following the meeting.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said his agency had responded to concerns of pedestrian safety by changing the walking signal to prevent pedestrians from crossing while buses turn right onto Market. He said further safety changes could be made.

San Francisco has engaged in a high-profile campaign to make Market Street more pedestrian- and tourist-friendly. Part of the effort, initiated in 2009, involves directing car traffic off Market Street at 10th and Sixth streets.

Rose insisted the new lane did not run counter to that effort.

“We made this decision to speed up Muni and to make the area safer for pedestrians and safer for motor vehicles,” Rose said.

But despite the signs, observation of the block suggests that motorists are unclear that they may not use the lane.

And Casciato said tourists unfamiliar with the area may be directed there by GPS devices in their cars.

“It’s not an illegal turn, but it goes contrary to the plan,” he said. “Because it’s sending traffic right onto Market.”

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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