SFBC Presses for Bike Access on a Piece of Geary Boulevard

geary_at_beaumont.JPGThe relatively gentle grades of Geary Blvd. approaching Masonic make it the route of choice for most bicyclists in the corridor.
The SFBC is working with the Transportation Authority (TA) to get a bicycle path considered for a portion of the Geary BRT project, a result of a meeting held between the two groups recently.

Livable streets advocates around the country are often surprised to hear that such a large capital project does not already include bike lanes. "If you're going to spend more than $200 million, how can you not squeeze bike lanes in," goes the refrain. But the impact of capturing an additional ten feet from the 90-foot right-of-way is significant. Something has to give: a lane of parking, a pedestrian refuge, a transit passing lane, or one of the two remaining travel lanes.

None of these are attractive options for a project that is already getting political pushback for its relatively minor traffic and parking impacts, nor is it an attractive option to spend nearly $250 million on a project and not do anything to improve bicycle safety on Geary. Volunteers, including me and staff of the Bicycle Coalition, have been trying to resolve this conundrum since the inception of the project.

The SFBC has asked the TA to focus on the segment of the Geary BRT project between Arguello and Webster Streets. West of Arguello, Anza is a good alternative to Geary for most bike trips, while between Arguello and Presidio, there is no parallel route. The SFBC requested the TA to look at bike access as far east as Webster in order to connect a Geary facility with the Webster Street bike lanes.

In asking project leader Zabe Bent to sketch out potential designs that include a bike facility in that stretch of Geary, the SFBC will make the debate about tradeoffs public - what costs are worth the benefit of bicycle safety on that stretch of Geary? So far, there has been little public debate about this possibility.

At a meeting earlier this month, SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum stressed that losing the pedestrian refuge was not acceptable. She also introduced a new idea to the discussion: a cycletrack. "It will be a crying shame not to have a bike lane or track here, with all this investment," she said. "It's worth the political/parking battle."