Competing Petitions Disagree on New Lane Reduction in Bernal Cut


Neighbor Chris from St. Mary’s recently wrote Bernalwood to say:

Wondering what you think about the new San Jose Ave exit on 280. It’s like a pinball machine there now, even on off commute hours. Two exit lanes still exit, but now they merge into 1 within 100 feet, and it’s always backed up way before the underpass so you also have to stop suddenly. I get that the car culture needs to change, but it has to happen subtly. My girlfriend found the person at MTA responsible for the new configuration and let him have it.

It’s true; traffic patterns northbound through the Bernal Cut have changed, and there have been multiple big accidents there as a result. Meanwhile, it seems Neighbor Chris’s concerns are not uncommon, because Streetsblog reports

The redesign of San Jose Avenue took a step forward a month ago when Caltrans removed a traffic lane on a Highway 280 off-ramp leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut. The plan is the result of decades of neighborhood advocacy for safer streets, but it is running into opposition from motorists who won’t stand for the road diet.

Supporters and opponents of the project are duking it out with online petitions, both launched a month ago. The opposition’s petition currently has a lead on the supporters’ petition. The SFMTA hasn’t released the results from its survey from last fall.

On the bright side, no matter which side of this issue you agree with, there’s a petition you can sign.

PHOTO: I-280 at San Jose Accident, June 19, 2005, by Neighbor Jeremy Ambers

24 thoughts on “Competing Petitions Disagree on New Lane Reduction in Bernal Cut

  1. I’m pretty sure people on both sides of the lane reduction argument agree that the way Caltrans have reduced the lanes on the exit is asinine.

    The “correct” design for an exit which merges to 1 lane within 100 yards is, IMO, a single exit-only lane. Next best would be to have the left lane merge to the right (in keeping with the right-ward flow of motion off the freeway). Instead, the design has two lanes exiting, and then the *right* lane merging left. This is unquestionably a recipe for disaster.

    I’m *very* supportive of the single-lane from 280 into the Bernal Cut.

    I’m incredibly annoyed that the way Caltrans has striped this makes the exit more dangerous, rather than less.

  2. Besides the maddening logic behind the lane reduction, for the last 20 years this exit has had a dangerous dip in the pavement right before the over pass. Which is hilarious because that’s the lane that you are required to use since the left lane was eliminated. Even at the posted exit speed, you practically lose control of the vehicle due to the sudden drop and sea of potholes.
    No one at Caltrans noticed this when they were assessing and eventually painting the new lines?

  3. I thought the previous merge solution was mucho awkward, especially if you’re taking the flyover from Monterey Blvd. Merging into San Jose was extremely abrupt, and if you wanted to make that right turn onto Rousseau St., it’s a nail biting couple hundred feet between the cars speeding off 280 and making sure not to t-bone a bicyclist.

    Changing the 280 off-ramp from two lanes to one slows the traffic down going onto San Jose and makes the subsequent merges more manageable and safe. It would also be good if another 35MPH sign was posted farther down NB San Jose to remind all of us knuckleheads to slooow down.


  5. The Bernal Cut is *not* a residential street or a bike path and was never meant to be. Treating it as one is the idiotic form of San Francisco idealism run amok. I hope the injury lawsuits are crushing enough to make city hall do a 180 on the anti-car escapade.

    The Bernal Cut should be defended against bikes & pedestrians like any other freeway is, not neutered in favor of them. Because it’s going to be ugly no matter what…may as well have utility as an efficient point of ingress.

    • Completely agree with Neighbor Peter — it is horrendous now and will get worse when school starts in August.

    • I agree. I grow tired of these theoretical traffic calming solutions that have little to do with the everyday reality. I was wondering the other day as I drove past on 280 why the exit was backing up onto the freeway- now I know why. Yes, this is only bound to get worse when the school congestion starts back up in August. Why does the public have no say in these actions that have a real impact on daily life?

      • I use the path to commute to my teaching job at SFSU. Am I theoretical? I guess people who can’t be pried out of their cars to get around should have the final say on everything.

      • No, there is room for everyone Anthony, no need for insult. I think it is necessary to dedicate some traffic corridors purely for one transit mode. This type of design is using an old existing off ramp, and attempting to retrofit it for bicycle use, without taking into consideration the repercussions. I think it is more prudent and efficient to use some artery streets with dedicated bike lanes, or as in Andy Taylor’s comment below, create a new infrastructure that manages to combine several modes of transit in a seamless way.

      • Actually, I am entirely wrong, as I thought the other lane of the offramp was going to be for bicycle use. Nope. Now I’m really baffled as to why they did it.

      • Dear “P”,
        There has been a bike lane there for years, there is no retrofit. Clearly from your windshield perspective any non-car use of street space is anomalous. By your logic all bike lanes should be removed and bicycles disallowed everywhere.

  6. Bemused by everyone passing me at 50mph when I’m going the speed limit on San Jose, just to catch up with them at the Red Light at Randell and sit for a couple minutes.

    Slow down.

    • Exactly, rush to stop. Why?
      Those in accidents are obviously road rage and not paying attention .

      The weird merge is because it is not the permanent solution. This was done BECAUSE people did not slow down for phase 1 . They did it to themselves. The turn onto Rousseau is much safer now. Hopefully they fix the merging off the free way and make it one lane exit.

      There should be no street in SF that allows for
      Over 35 MPH. And those should be rare.

      School starting will make all the city more congested everywhere . Once Muni gets a handle on their light we might see improvement but damn people, there is a school on the corner. Slow down.

  7. I’d encourage everyone to read neighbor Mike’s solution to turn San Jose Avenue in to a world-class boulevard:

    One thing that stood out to me was the simple observation that San Jose has a serious lack of street connections, congesting those that do exist, speeding everyone else up as they race to Randall, and making it unsafe for cars, bikes, pedestrians, anything alive.

    As a driver and cyclist in the city, I love his proposal.

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  9. San Jose Avenue is a freeway off-ramp used by over 20,000 cars, trucks, shuttles, and delivery vehicles daily. You can verify this by looking at the SFMTA data on the project. There are no businesses, schools, or homes on San Jose Avenue. There are safe routes for pedestrians and bicycles on Arlington and Mission Streets. It does not make sense to slow traffic on a free-way off ramp which is used by thousands of vehicles every single day. San Francisco relies on trucks to bring all of its food into the city. San Francisco relies on its relationship with the South Bay to make it financially viable. We need efficient transit corridors for vehicles in case of an emergency or natural disaster. It is short-sighted and a poor use of public resources to take an efficient roadway and turn it into a dangerous and congested roadway. We do not need congestion in San Francisco. We need corridors for vehicles and we need corridors for bikes. Why not make Mission Street one-way going toward downtown and Valencia Street one way going west and turn them into bike, mass transit, and pedestrian oriented boulevards? Why not use the walkways which parallel San Jose on both sides to create safe and separate pathways for bikes and/or pedestrians? Why not improve the existing bridges at Richland and Mateo to connect the neighborhoods. There are so many alternatives to creating congestion on a vital, free-way off ramp. It is pretty silly that we are spending our tax dollars to create congestion when we have so many alternatives to create safe, connected, and inspired neighborhood streets.

    • In summary:
      -Create one way streets in the Mission like the neighborhood freeways of Oak and Fell and relegate all bicycle and foot traffic to the 8 feet of sidewalk on either side of a 6 lane San Jose.
      -Efficient roadways=ones where speed in excess of 20 and 30 mph over the speed limit is tolerated.
      It is true however we will need emergency routes for the inevitable extreme weather events wrought by climate change brought on by all the drivings contemporary Americans do.

    • The freeway off ramp ends under the 1st bridge. Now what is your argument? Tens of thousands of people are on all streets of the city. 35 mph is the law for an off ramp.

      Do your calculation – you get to go 10 mph more for half a mile. How much faster did you get there ? Count the light because we are all waiting at the light

  10. This off ramp was a single lane off-ramp until the Loma Prieta Earthquake 26 years ago. When double-deck 280 (beyond 101) was shut down from damage, Caltrans hurredly converted the San Jose Avenue off ramp to two lanes to divert some traffic. When 280 reopened, they didn’t change it back. Now that they have, they’ve done it wrong. It needs to go back to the way it was built: single-lane, standard, intuitive offramp. The incompetence of Caltrans on this is just stunning. Or not.

    • Caltrans did build the new bridge, let us remember. Any design of theirs is, perhaps, suspect….

  11. I see very few cyclist using the bike lane, and even fewer in the evening. Thousands of drivers and residents are being inconvenienced for a perceived few cyclists. And as a cyclist, I never even use this bike lane, I use Arlington St. One reason is that there are too many emissions from cars, and slowing cars down make it significantly worse.
    All these poorly thought out bike lanes, like on Bayshore Blvd, just increase emissions, especially from trucks, by slowing traffic to a stand still.
    It’s would be better to create bike only streets and car only streets with timed lights.

    • Actually this was not done solely for bicyclists . I am so sorry that this perspective is receiving most attention. As a driver you know – unless you decided to not slow down at the end of the off ramp (under the 1st bridge) – that the safety of motorists is important and how scary it was to merge and turn onto Rousseau with people going 50 mph behind you. You know as a motorist who has a turn onto their street at St. Marys how dangerous it was to slow down feom 50 mph to make a turn without destroying your vehicle. You know as a motorist that the more consistent the traffic flow is that it runs more smoothly and merging and turning is safer. Unless you are the motorist who refuses to safely merge or must rush to stop at the light at Randall, then I think you got the idea. You also got the idea that a small stretch of street at 45 mph doesn’t really make that much difference to your overall commute and you would rather be an understanding motorist that you share the road with thousands of people a day whom also took the increase in population to and in the city as into their overall commute pattern and time planning

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