Eyes On the Street: SF Gets Its First New Bike Lane in Three Years

4151496516_7ab9fd2ac1.jpgThe SFBC's Andy Thornley was the first to ride in the new Scott Street bike lane. Flickr photo: sfbike
San Francisco bicycle riders this morning let out a loud cheer, popped open a bottle of champagne and toasted the city's first bike lane in three years: a freshly painted sliver of Scott Street on the Wiggle between Oak and Fell that now serves as a left-turn lane for the thousands of daily commuters traveling by bicycle onto Fell Street.

"It feels really great to have some fresh bicycle paint down on the streets," said Andy Thornley, SFBC Program Director, who lit a cigar in celebration. "We have waited a long time and I think I speak for all bicyclists present and all those yet to bicycle in the city that this is an historic day."

The MTA paint crews found themselves caught up in the excitement of the moment on Scott Street, posing for pictures with bicycle activists and smiling and nodding at the thumbs up from passing cyclists in what Thornley described as "a little street party."

"You guys deserve this," said a member of the MTA paint crew who didn't want to be identified. "You've been waiting too long." He added that he was also a bicyclist but had been grounded by a recent injury.

Thornley said the left-turn bike lane on Scott will greatly improve safety for the daily throngs who ride the Wiggle. Indeed, within minutes after the fresh paint had dried, dozens of northbound bicycle riders began using the lane as if it had already been there.

"It's definitely the way that I move around that part of town so I'm looking forward to being more comfortable and dignified and having a more delightful ride through the Wiggle," said Thornley.

4150836203_4610688735_1.jpgThe crew stripes the bike lane. Flickr photo: dustinj
left_turn_arrow.jpgCrews prepare to install a left-turn arrow in the new Scott Street bike lane. Photo by Bryan Goebel.
The MTA paint crews moved with precision and speed, completing the bike lane installation in just under three hours, and stenciling in sharrows in under five minutes in up to twenty different locations along the Wiggle and the Lower Haight. It was proof that bike infrastructure is as easy as throwing down a little paint. Tomorrow, crews will finish painting more sharrows on the Wiggle and then move to 5th Street.

Crews also installed three bike racks at the following locations: Yoga Garden at 286 Divisadero, in front of Phuket Thai at 248 Divisadero and at Pacific Primary School at Baker and Grove. An additional nine bike racks will be installed tomorrow on Duboce, Waller and Haight Streets.

bike_corral.jpgA temporary bike corral in front of Bean There Cafe. Photo by Bryan Goebel.
A temporary bike corral that can accommodate up to sixteen bicycles also went up in front of Bean There Cafe at Steiner and Waller and will stay in place for 72 hours, according to the MTA's Heath Maddox, who works in the bicycle program.

The MTA's Bridget Smith, director of the agency's Livable Streets Program, said crews would paint new bike lanes tomorrow on Howard Street, Mississippi and Claremont Boulevard.

The Scott Street bike lane, sharrows and bike racks were among 10 Bike Plan projects approved by a San Francisco judge last week in a partial lifting of the bike injunction. While those projects will only amount to a meager 3.7 miles of new bike lanes in the city, the MTA will be allowed to go forward with its plans to install hundreds of bike racks and sharrows.

Thirty seven additional Bike Plan projects will remain on hold pending the outcome of a hearing in June to determine whether the EIR fully complies with CEQA.

On Thursday, a green bike box will be installed where the current bike box is located on Scott Street and Oak following a press conference by the MTA and Mayor Gavin Newsom.

While the improvements are paltry compared to what's happened in cities like New York, where they've added approximately 200 miles of bike lanes over the past two years, the scent of fresh paint in the air made many infrastructure-starved bicycle riders giddy.

"It's about time," said Brian, a bicycle commuter and recent transplant from Pittsburg, who was stopped at a red light on Scott and Oak.

See more photos from sfbike and Dustin Jensen

4150845931_53d0318869.jpgBicycle activists pose with the MTA paint crew. Photo by dustinj