Eyes on the Street: San Francisco Gets First New Bike Lanes in Three Years

PA221845.jpgHeading down the 19th Avenue mixed-use bike path (south) into campus. Photo: Randall Orr

Surprise! San Francisco has its first new bike lanes in three years, five days before a scheduled court hearing on lifting the bicycle injunction.

The new bike lanes are part of the 19th Avenue mixed-use path, Project 8.1 in the Bike Plan, filling the bike network gap between 20th Avenue and the heart of San Francisco State University. The project is exempt from the bike injunction because it's on the university's campus, which is not city-owned land.

The path removes the largest impediment to getting to campus by bicycle, said Jason Porth, associate director of community relations for SFSU. "The city's bike lanes really funnel people who are going north/south in the vicinity of 19th Avenue to take 20th Avenue," said Porth, which is mostly a smooth ride through the Richmond and Sunset. "But when you hit Buckingham Way, you run into a very steep grade change, and no way to get into campus without going down 19th Avenue."

sfsu.jpgClick to enlarge: The new lanes (blue line) link University Park North with Thornton Hall. Image: Google Maps

Now, cyclists can reach the core of SFSU's campus directly from Stonestown, where the 20th Avenue bike route passes through a parking lot. Porth said it's part of the school's plan to encourage cycling to campus. "We do hope to see an increase in the number of cyclists," said Porth.

While the new infrastructure is strictly on SFSU's campus, students may not be the only bicyclists to benefit from it. "It fits in well with the campus' desire to connect better to the city and the community at large and find more ways to allow people to access the campus," said Porth, including allowing Lake Merced resident to the south to access points north such as Stonestown, Stern Grove, and the Sunset.

SFBC Program Manager Marc Caswell praised SFSU's efforts to improve bicycle access on campus:

This path connecting the Citywide Bike Network to the heart of campus is the first step in SFSU's plan for the North-South bike path through campus. Combined with SFSU's installation of over 200 bike racks over the past 2 years and the continued success of the Bicycle Advocacy Group's SFSU Bike to School Day, SFSU is well on it's way to being a bike-friendly campus. In the coming years, biking at SFSU will continue to grow and the SFBC looks forward to continuing our work with both the campus administration and the student-led Bike Advocacy Group to continue to improve bike access and build a greener, healthier, and more vibrant campus.

The mixed-use path was built on what Porth said was a steep hillside with dead and diseased trees that already required removal, as well as racquetball courts that were no longer in use and had been converted to storage. Once hillside landscaping and some additional painting is completed, there will be a community celebration for the new path.

The fresh lane striping arrives just in time for SFSU's Bike to School Day next Wednesday, part of Sustainable SF State Week. Randall Orr, who's coordinating Bike to School Day, said he'll be conducting outreach to cyclists, and hopes they will advocate for even bigger improvements, like bike paths that reach all the way across campus. For now, bicyclists must dismount and walk through the campus core. "Unless people step up and advocate for better bike infrastructure, it won't come anytime soon," said Orr. "They could be doing more to plan for having at least one or two bike paths that transect campus."

The timing of this project, which was funded by a Transportation Fund for Clean Air grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, administered by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, was coincidental, said Porth. While bicyclists hope the injunction will be lifted very soon, the SFSU project just happens to be a well-timed whetting of the appetite. "It could have been at any time," said Porth. "It just happens to be a funny coincidence."

3.jpgPhoto: Randall Orr
PA221841.jpgPhoto: Randall Orr
PA221842.jpgPhoto: Randall Orr
PA221844_1.jpgPhoto: Randall Orr