Mayor, MTA and Bike Activists Celebrate First New Bike Lane in Three Years

bicyclists_in_bike_box.jpgSFBC’s Leah Shahum, the MTA’s Oliver Gajda and SFBC Board Member Dan Nguyen-Tan in the freshly painted green bike box on Scott Street at Oak. Photo by Bryan Goebel.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, three members of the Board of Supervisors, MTA officials, SFBC staff and bicyclists — standing in the glaring fall sun amidst the roar of cars on Oak Street — celebrated the city’s first new bike lane in three years today, and then grabbed the paint rolls and applied buckets of shiny green paint to the Scott Street bike box.

"The good news is we didn’t wait until today to get started. The injunction was [partially] lifted last week and already the folks you see behind us have been hard at work," said Newsom. "They’ve been out there putting in some new bike lanes and we’re going to be putting in bike racks every single day."

Newsom said that San Francisco is going to try a series of innovate treatments, such as the green bike box, taking cues from European cities that have become world-class bicycling cities. And like Valencia Street, he said, the MTA will begin changing the signal timing on some streets to better accommodate bicyclists.

"We’re going to be trying some things that candidly we wished we were doing for the last three years that are things that are being done around the world, particularly in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, that are being proffered and exampled in places like Portland and other municipalities," Newsom said, adding that the plan is to add six new miles of bike lanes in six months and increase the city’s existing 23 miles of sharrows by 326 percent.

Mayor_painting.jpgMTA Chief Nat Ford and Mayor Gavin Newsom paint the bike box green. Photo by Matthew Roth.

The Mayor was joined at the press conference by Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Bevan Dufty and Sophie Maxwell, who said the partial lifting of the injunction and the eventual full lifting would finally put San Francisco in a position to "take its place among world cities that recognize that cars are not the only mode of transportation."

"We’re going to make it exciting, we’re going to make it fun and we’re going to make it funky," said Maxwell.

Mirkarimi, whose District 5 encompasses the new green bike box, thanked city officials and the SF Bike Coalition "for making this day possible."

"We are all unified in the mission statement of making San Francisco bike friendly," said Mirkarimi, who announced a plan to install on-street bicycle parking in front of Mojo Bike Cafe on Divisadero "that will help commemorate this end to the injunction and to help signify what a major artery like Divisadero means."

Dufty, whose District 8 includes a portion of The Wiggle, said "we still have a long way to go" but that it was exciting to see so many things going up this week as a result of the partial injunction lifting.

The event coincided with new figures released by the SF Bike Coalition from a David Binder poll showing that more than half of San Franciscans "say that would ride if streets had bike lanes and were more inviting for bicycling."

The survey of 400 San Francisco voters asked six questions, including: What would make it more likely for you to ride a bike in San Francisco? The results:

  • Feeling less threatened by cars while biking: 57 percent
  • More bike lanes along my route: 51 percent
  • Smoother surface on the roads and few potholes: 50 percent
  • More secure bike parking at my destinations: 49 percent
  • Knowing how to avoid hills: 45 percent

Seventy seven percent said they think the number of bicyclists helps ease traffic congestion in the city.

Today’s event came on the same day MTA crews installed the city’s first physically separated bike lane and were out striping new bike lanes on Beale and Kansas Streets, painting sharrows on 5th Street and racing to complete the remaining projects approved by a judge last week. Tuesday they installed the city’s first bike lane in three years — a left-turn bike lane on Scott Street between Fell and Oak.

  • Michael Baehr

    Where is this bike box? I bike down Scott St. every day, and the one that I’m used to (@Oak) is currently all sandblasted out. I see no green paint. Am I blind?

  • Nick

    The City is starting to get it right.

    How do the 5th Street sharrows work? As I understand it, 5th was approved for a bike lane from Market to Townsend. Is the MTA planning on painting sharrows on other dealyed bike lane routes as well?

  • sara

    I would love to see the lights at this intersection changed to a 3-way signal: 1 cycle for Fell, 1 cycle for Northbound Scott, and 1 cycle for Southbound Scott. Then, cyclists and motorists turning left onto Fell from Scott could have a protected left-hand turn.

  • isaac

    Can anyone explain why riding uphill in a bike lane between two lanes of traffic (one of them head on) is a good idea?

  • Michael Baehr

    isaac: Because otherwise you’re keeping a bunch of cars from making their right turn onto Oak?

  • # Feeling less threatened by cars while biking: 57 percent
    # More bike lanes along my route: 51 percent

    these first two reasons, to me, are the same thing. and that bodes well for our future mode share numbers.

    Can anyone explain why riding uphill in a bike lane between two lanes of traffic (one of them head on) is a good idea?

    no facility is perfect — no facility can completely remove risk from ever being around cars — whether those cars are moving or just have the potential to move. navigating the left turn onto Fell from Scott (to get onto the bike lane and head towards the Panhandle/GGP) is tricky for cyclists, and scary, especially when considering that cars through that area are as psychopathic as anywhere in the city, and routinely buzz cyclists, regardless of whether or not we take the lane. Cars also seem to be bent on trying to intimidate cyclists, there — via crawling up our backsides and honking and all that. The new bike lane carves out some exclusive space for cyclists where we can *feel* relatively safe. Whether it provides statistical safety enhancements or not we’ll have to find out, but we know bike lanes make us bikers feel safer, which is the number 1 (and 2) reason(s) that more folks don’t ride. And we know getting more folks on bikes is key to increased safety for everyone (i.e. ‘safety in numbers’), so those are the two reasons making that new bike lane ‘a good idea’.

  • smushmoth

    How was that left turn particularly tricky for cyclists? I have ridden it every day for years and never had or seen a problem.

  • smushmoth

    And it’s awful wishful thinking to think that people don’t ride because they feel unsafe. People don’t commute by bike, because they are lazy, it’s cold, there are hills, they get stinky, etc.

  • David Saldivar

    It’s tricky for cyclists who turn left against the red light, potentially crossing car traffic turning left southbound on scott from fell. This is why #3 Sara’s idea for a left turn signal would be a great additional improvement to this intersection (not that many cyclists would wait for it.)

  • isaac

    Noted without comment — “Whether it provides statistical safety enhancements or not we’ll have to find out”

  • zsolt

    I like the bike box idea, but have always wondered, what is the legality of it? Is there a law for bike boxes, or do they just make it easier to exercise what we are already allowed to do (get in front of cars at intersections)?

  • smushmoth

    Bicyclists are not allowed to go into the crosswalk to get ahead of the cars.

  • Bike boxes are intended to allow bikes to move left for a left turn or into a left hand bike lane.

    Theres no reason a cyclists should cut a line of cars and position themselves in front just because.

  • zsolt

    So you can’t use the whole space painted green at a light? I have a different impression of the purpose. I thought the purpose is so that you are ahead and visible by drivers at intersections, and also to prevent accidents with right turning vehicles.

  • @zsolt and jass– zsolt is right, and jass’s second point is wrong because z is right. there’s no ‘just because’ in this case.

  • Clarence

    congrats all my SF friends. Well deserved. I hope to celebrate with ye all soon…

  • Justin, a cyclists is allowed to position themselves in the bike box, in front of cars. That was not their original intention however, and I think the expansion to this use is not for the best. The one featured in SF for example, is intended for left turns. Cutting the line is a secondary use, and I feel does more damage than good.

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