MTA Mulls Scenarios for Moving Bike Plan Forward

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The MTA is considering a number of scenarios for moving the Bicycle Plan forward when the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is finalized and the bike injunction lifted.  One being
discussed is a rare joint meeting of the Planning Commission and MTA Board
with an appearance by Mayor Gavin Newsom to certify and adopt the EIR along with the Bicycle Plan. 

Another strategy emerging would recommend immediately legislating
up to 40 of the 56 projects and delaying at least 5, Streetsblog San
Francisco has learned.  The five projects that wouldn’t be acted on in the initial wave are Cesar Chavez/26th Street, Masonic Avenue, Broadway Street, Phelan Avenue and Innes Avenue. Sources say the hold list is only in draft form and nothing has been finalized for submission to the MTA Board.  The feeling is those five projects should be incorporated into the process for streetscape plans being developed for those neighborhoods.

Bill Wycko, the Planning Department’s Environmental Review Officer,
said the EIR won’t be ready to take to the Planning Commission for
certification until late June, but added, "it could be earlier."

The process for re-adopting the Bicycle Plan will play out like this:

  • Planning Department prepares responses to comments on DEIR,
    publishes comments and responses document (Final EIR), probably sometime in June
  • Planning Commission deliberates and certifies EIR 
  • MTA Board deliberates and adopts the Bicycle Plan 
  • City Attorney goes back to Judge Busch and asks him to lift the
    injunction
  • MTA Board deliberates and approves bike network improvement
    projects
  • MTA issues work orders and begins implementing new bicycle
    facilities and other improvements like bike racks and
    sharrows

"We’re going to try to do as many (projects) as possible," Oliver Gajda, the MTA’s bike program manager, said in a recent interview. "There’s a range of projects that we’re looking at and there is the potential of approving the bookends…the most impactful and the least impactful options."

There are also a number of projects in the Bike Plan that may not require legislation, such as the Broadway Tunnel signage improvements, the Page and Stanyan Street signal improvements, the 19th Avenue bike path, the Buckingham Way bike lanes  and JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. 

High-level talks are also underway at the MTA on projects that present challenges to the agency for balancing the different transportation modes under the city’s Transit First policy, like the proposed bike lanes for 2nd Street. It’s unclear whether that project is on the list of those being pushed.

Here’s a rundown of some of the projects likely to be delayed:

Masonic Avenue

Neighborhood residents fed up with noisy traffic congestion on the chaotic stretch of Masonic Avenue between between Presidio Avenue and Fell Street have long sought mitigation to the unsafe conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians. Motorists, as the group Fix Masonic points out, forget they are driving through a neighborhood. The intersection of Fell/Masonic is the second most dangerous intersection for bicyclists, and Masonic, as a recent TA report noted, is well known for speeding and reckless drivers, right light runners, confusing lane configurations, wide intersections and slow transit service. 

Last month, the TA Board approved allocating $120,000 in Prop. K funds for the MTA to undertake the "development of a comprehensive street design plan in collaboration with residents, community groups, and other departments/agencies and stakeholders for an Arterial Project on Masonic Avenue, from Geary Boulevard to Fell Street." The study came at the request of Fix Masonic, which gathered 550 signatures, and District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

Masonic_sketch.jpgA preliminary concept for Masonic Avenue by Jeremy Nelson of Nelson/Nygaard.

The Bicycle Plan proposes a number of options for Masonic, including the installation of bike lanes in both directions, and a floating bike lane, similar to what’s in place on the Embarcadero.

The MTA says delaying the Masonic bike project would allow it to be incorporated into the larger Masonic Avenue planning process, though that could take years. Bicycle advocates are asking what can be done in the interim.

"The bike coalition believes that it’s worth putting in some sort of bike lane on Masonic and the floating bike lane concept seems worthy and should be done. The gap is too big to wait. We need to do something now," said Andy Thornley, the SFBC program manager. 

Mark Christianson with Fix Masonic is actually hoping something can be done on Masonic in the next 18 months that will benefit not just cyclists, but pedestrians and Muni. He isn’t surprised Masonic is on the hold list.

"The projects that are hitting delays have real design challenges and they’re also risky. They have the potential to backfire if they’re not done properly," said Christianson. "The real question MTA has to answer is about traffic flow and reducing lane capacity for cars without such a huge blow back that the whole thing fails."

Cesar Chavez/26th Street

As we reported in a recent Love Your Lane story,
bicycle advocates and neighborhood activists are excited about new bike
lanes and sharrows that would be installed on Cesar Chavez, which bears many similarities to Masonic. On the
eastern side, the lanes would be painted along Cesar Chavez/Army Street
from Highway 101 to I-280. But the MTA will likely delay action on the
western side, where bike lanes and sharrows would be installed from
Sanchez to Hampshire Streets, under the assumption that it makes no sense to stripe
new bike lanes when the corridor will be reconstructed next year as
part of the Cesar Chavez Street Design and sewer replacement project. It’s something bicycle advocates and neighborhood activists seem to agree on.

"Proponents of changes along Cesar
Chavez are confident that the bike plan designs can be incorporated into a
broader vision of a more pedestrian-friendly and neighborly street. We’re
all itching to get out the paint can and start striping, but in the end I think
it will be worth waiting for a more complete plan," said Fran Taylor of CC Puede.

Broadway Street

There continues to be strong opposition from parents who drop off their kids at school to a bike lane on Broadway Street between Polk and Webster Streets in Pacific Heights. That was clearly evident at an MTA community workshop last year, profiled by Jonathan Winston on his bikescape podcast:

We encountered vociferous opposition from parents at three schools on Broadway
who feel they must drive their kids to school each day. This begs the
question: Why are double parkers considered "stakeholders" and why are
their dangerous and illegal actions considered a "reality we must deal
with" while all the while demanding harsher enforcement for "scofflaw
bicyclists?"

In a recent interview, District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier said she heard the project was taken off the list but then tacked back on. Our sources say it is currently on the hold list. She echoed the concerns aired at the MTA meeting.

"My main concern there is that we have five schools on Broadway Street.  We pick up and drop off hundreds of school children twice a day. So there are some safety concerns with that," said Alioto-Pier. 

But Thornley with the SFBC says the real danger to children is not bicyclists, it’s cars.

"The safety concerns that exist on Broadway because of parents dropping off and picking up children are the parents dropping off and picking up the children. The danger to children in this city is motor vehicles and each of those parents who feels obliged to drive his or her child to school is adding danger."

Thornley said there are bicyclists who would cheer a bike lane on Broadway, but it has never been a real priority for the SFBC. He said it was thrown into the mix as a traffic calming project that added costs and expenses to the EIR.

Instead, he wonders what could be done on Pacific Street, just one block south. He thinks Pacific might be more ideal for bicyclists because it’s a calmer neighborhood street. 

The other delayed projects are on Phelan Avenue, which is Route 770 in the bike network, and Innes Street in Hunter’s Point.  Our sources say that Innis may actually come off the hold list. 

One big question remaining is how the MTA’s projected budget deficit will affect the implementation of the Bicycle Plan. The result of a hiring freeze, according to the MTA, means the painting of some bike lanes will be delayed and the "bike program implementation slowed." The MTA has said it could take up to five years to implement. Still, the MTA’s bicycle staff insists it is anxious to get things moving. 

"I think it’s a real exciting time for San Francisco," said Gajda. "When all is said and done, we will have a lot more robust programs and policies. We’re at the turning point." 

Flickr photo: Thomas Hawk

  • CBrinkman

    Depressing. And, when they do implement some of the bike lanes and improvements will it be enough to entice more cyclists out? Or will they just be the same old same old – designed for brave people and not us timid cyclists. I’m sick of people complaining about scofflaw cyclists when we’ve only designed our streets for said scofflaws. Want more civilized cyclists? Design for women and kids and older cyclists.

  • Get the cops to enforce the CVC against rogue motorists and you’ll have safer streets than were all bike lane projects implemented tomorrow.

    Again, there has been five years to do this kind of organizing work in preparation for the lifting of the EIR, but showing up after a tragedy of one’s own making and demanding, like a spoiled child, that the world of streetscape revolve around cyclists and cyclists alone is what is really depressing.

    What again is the onerous cost of striping bike lanes for 18 months and then improving the streetscape?

    Politics is all about allocating scarce resources. MTA’s capacity is a scarce resource. It is not politically feasible for groups to come in and when faced with a political choice, to say “I want it all and I want it now.”

    Again, advocates had five years to plan for scenarios for after the lifting of the EIR with scant little to show for it.

    -marc

  • jdub

    With respect to the diagram showing the Masonic plan, how about reversing the bike lane and the car parking lane, effectively creating a protected bike lane as on 9th Ave in NYC?

  • I agree with jdub, I was thinking the same thing when I Iooked at the concept for Masonic. I live in that neighborhood, it can be scary walking along Masonic as a pedestrian but as a cyclist, it’s far worse. I started taking Central going North bound between Hayes and Turk to avoid Masonic.

    I will ride South bound on Masonic from Geary to the Panhandle or at least Hayes. It seems a lot easier to deal with but for some reason, the Northbound traffic is faster and more aggressive especially on weekdays but even weekends are scary.

    To illustrate, I was once riding to Trader Joe’s early on a Saturday morning, hardly commuting conditions. An old woman in a pretty conservative looking car, not a hot-headed Hummer, started blowing her horn at me because I was in the way! When I turned to look, she motioned me to move out of the way. She clearly saw me as something that shouldn’t be in the road.

  • Greg Riessen

    jdub, it would be difficult to implement a 9th Avenue-style separated bike lane on Masonic, or any other SF street, because virtually every property has a driveway. I’m no fan of curb cuts, but they aren’t going away anytime soon.

    I assume the NN graphic depicts a peak period tow-away lane & floating bike lane. Now that’s a good idea. However the lanes are likely too narrow for the 43 bus.

  • Yeah, that Masonic diagram is a preliminary concept that was worked up for Fix Masonic’s community-based planning effort last year, but it does show lane dimensions at the most constrained part of Masonic, between Turk and Golden Gate, as analyzed in the Bike Plan EIR for Project 3-2, Option 1:

    14′ dynamic lane
    9.5′ travel lane
    9′ turn lane in the center
    9.5′ travel lane
    14′ dynamic lane

    Off-peak, there would be a single travel lane in each direction, car parking along the curb (9′ T-marked), 5′ bike lane floating between parking and travel lane. During AM peak, parking on the east side of Masonic (NB) would be suspended, revealing a 4′ bike lane at the curb and providing a second 10′ travel lane to the left of it. During PM peak, the same thing would happen on the west (SB) side of the street.

    I took the liberty of allocating the 14′ of dynamic lane as 9′ park/5′ bike, rather than 8’/6′, not sure what the MTA crew would say to that but I think it’s better to set the right edge of the bike lane further from car doors, especially on a downhill, and skimp a little on the bike lane width.

    Anyhow, as to Muni impacts, yes, those 9.5′ & 10′ lanes are tight for buses, but all the pavement will still be there after the stripes are re-arranged, the left-turn lane is new and will help flow motor traffic (right now there’s no left-turn facilitation anywhere along the project length except SB just below Geary onto O’Farrell) and the (off-peak) 43 can hang over left a wee bit as necessary, slow down when you pass, for heaven’s sake . . .

  • jdub

    Greg,

    I see your point regarding the location of the parking lane but could you not have gaps in the parking lane for curb cuts just as you would if the parking lane were adjacent to the curb? I suppose it might be unsafe if you are riding along and a car turns into the bike lane.

    Is there another street near Masonic that would be a better fit for a bike lane or bike boulevard? Even with bike lanes, riding on Masonic would be pretty unpleasant, similar to riding on Embarcadero.

  • Broadway between Polk and Webster is SF Bike Route 10 (east of Polk Rte 10 is on Pacific over the north shoulder of Nob Hill, bypassing the Broadway Tunnel; Broadway through the tunnel is spur Rte 210; at Powell, Rte 10 jogs over and rejoins Broadway east to the bay). We got out and looked at Pacific yesterday and it’s a very pleasant and low-traffic street along that Polk-Webster stretch, but 40′ wide and less, too narrow for a bike lane unless curb parking was removed from one side (not likely for now).

    Broadway really does need a diet, it’s got way too much pavement and I can see why the neighbors wanted something done to scale it down. With no special project called for, Broadway will get sharrows because it’s Rte 10, which is all right, but they’ll got lost in the vastness of the pavement, unless SFMTA steps up their guidance and sets them out every 50 feet, rather than every 250 feet. But hang on, this is crazy — Broadway is a numbered bike route with room for bike lanes and several schools located along it — the bike route should be connecting the schools to the community, right? I know this isn’t Davis, but really, when are we going to put automobility below self-propulsion when it comes to access to schools? Real stakeholders work to remove the danger, they don’t bring more danger to the neighborhood and call it “safety” . . .

  • Peter

    first time i ever heard of a ‘floating bike lane’ – even though i use it all the time, apparently.

    http://tinyurl.com/d97oh4 (PDF)

    that Masonic picture is pretty incredible. it’s all about cars.

    let’s go ahead and start pushing for cycletracks, now. i don’t know what the best solution looks like for us, but parking cars should get priority over transportation. The road should be designed to facilitate traffic flow — pedestrian, bike, etc.

  • CBrinkman

    “I see your point regarding the location of the parking lane but could you not have gaps in the parking lane for curb cuts just as you would if the parking lane were adjacent to the curb? I suppose it might be unsafe if you are riding along and a car turns into the bike lane.”

    How often is each driveway curb cut used I wonder – twice a day? Four times a day? I would be happy to watch out for cars turning into their garages – especially if there were a wee speed bump at the edge of the parking lane which would slow them down before they turned across the parking lane into my buffered bike lane. How lovely it would be to pedal up Masonic buffered by a line of parked cars – why I bet parents would even allow children to bike to school in that lane. Perhaps the parking spots on the leading edge of the drveway would have to be reserved for small cars over which the drivers could see cyclists, no vans or SUVs which would block views of an approaching cyclist. We don’t have anything like it, but we need it on a street like Masonic.

  • jdub

    @cbrinkman & pylondude: There seems to be an emerging position that protected bike lanes on Masonic should be studied. We really should be pushing for the 8-80 year old standard for our new bike lanes as cbrinkman suggested. What do you say, Andy T?

  • By all means, let’s study a protected / separated bikeway up and down Masonic, I think it’s possible and I know there are some smart people in town who’ve already been thinking about it. No doubt there are better ways to arrange Masonic for all users and uses (including and especially two-wheeling 8-year-olds and their grandmas); the MTA has fresh money for a “complete street” study for the corridor and all these great ideas need to go into that effort, but that’s going to take a while to carry out, it’ll be a couple of years or more till it bears fruit. In the meantime we’ve got plans we could implement tomorrow, already studied in the Bike Plan EIR (at significant expense in time and money) — let’s see whether we can stripe some sort of bike lanes now (go from grade F to C) and follow on promptly with planning for a Grade A bikeway . . .

  • 8 – 80? I’m all for it!
    The funny thing about people dropping off their kids at school is why? On my alternate route North, I pass traffic for the SF Day School and Raoul Wallenberg (traditional) high school. I am always amazed and at the same time appalled at the amount of students being driven to school. I knew that San Francisco has been suburbanized by auto traffic but…

    Then I wonder about the obesity problem with children, then I come back to reality when I almost get nailed by a parent in a car dropping off his/her kids while I’m busy causing safety issues by being on a bike. 😉