City Looks to Improve Safety on Lower Great Highway

By Matthew Pera

Michelle Fliegauf, who lives in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, says she’s often nervous to let her two young boys walk, ride or skate on the Lower Great Highway.

The road, which runs parallel to Ocean Beach, becomes “like a freeway when the Upper Great Highway is closed,” Fliegauf said.

The Upper Great Highway is closed frequently when sand blows onto the roadway. Drivers often use the Lower Great Highway as a detour, which some say creates an unsafe environment for pedestrians in the Outer Sunset neighborhood. Fliegauf isn’t the only concerned neighbor.

“For years, I’ve heard many residents complain to me about the safety conditions of theLower Great Highway,” said San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the Sunset District.

Tang, who lives along the Lower Great Highway, said she sympathizes with neighbors’  concerns. She secured funding this year for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) staff to draft ideas for roadway modifications that could make the Lower Great Highway more pedestrian friendly.

In April, representatives from the transportation agency presented their ideas to the community at an open house forum and collected feedback about which designs neighbors liked.

“These are just options,” Tang told attendees at last month’s open house forum. “If, at the end of the day, you don’t want anything, that’s fine. You tell us what you want.”

According to Nick Smith, a planner with the SFMTA and project manager for the Lower Great Highway roadway modifications project, his department is set to move forward with some of the ideas it proposed at the open house. The agency plans to begin implementing the designs soon, and hopes to complete the first phase of the project – which includes short-term solutions – by mid-August.

“Daylighting,” one design concept, involves converting curbs within 10 feet of crosswalks or intersections to no-parking zones so drivers have a clearer view of pedestrians crossing the street.

The transportation agency also suggested installing “painted safety zones” on the Lower Great Highway, which include white posts and painted portions of the roadway that wrap around sidewalk corners.

Installing signage that directs traffic to Sunset Boulevard when the Upper Great Highway is closed is another potential way to increase pedestrian safety in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, transportation agency staff said.

“Our goal is to make walking a safer and more comfortable experience,” said SFMTA planer Smith. “In general, we want people to walk and use alternative forms of transportation. Making streets more pleasant for pedestrians encourages people to walk rather than drive.”

The transportation agency plans to host another open house this summer, around the same time installation of the short-term modifications is finished, according to Smith. During that forum, the agency will collect feedback on its next phase of designs, which could include speed bumps, angled parking areas and roadway medians.

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