San Francisco’s first green bike box can no longer be mistaken for just a car-sized strip of green paint: this morning, DPT crews stenciled in a bicycle symbol to indicate to cars that the green box on Scott Street at Oak is for bikes only. In marked contrast to the pre-stencil bike box, the new stencil seemed to help most drivers understand that they’re required to wait behind the box during red lights. Only a few scofflaws ignored the bike box, often stopping behind it initially and then rolling into it – often with cell phones pressed against their ears.
The new stencil is the latest development in the ongoing saga of the Scott Street bike box, which started as a traffic stop line and bike stencil without green paint, and was then painted over in green last month when a partial lifting of the bicycle injunction allowed some experimental treatments. At that point, the MTA did not paint in the stencil over the green paint, citing the need to collect before and after data on the traffic device since it’s still experimental in California. Judson True, a spokesperson for the MTA, said the agency did four one-hour p.m. peak counts last month, and found that half of stopped vehicles were encroaching into the bike box. Fifty-five percent of stopped cyclists were waiting in the bike box, and 30 percent were waiting in the crosswalk.
"We did go ahead and collect some data, and we felt like we had enough ‘before’ data to go ahead and install the symbol," said True. "We had planned to install it later in the month, but when we looked at the data we were getting and decided that was sufficiently informative, we went ahead and moved forward."
Volker Neumann, a cyclist who rides down Scott Street regularly, was pleased to see the bike stencil go in. "Yay," exclaimed Neumann, encountering the freshly-dried stencil. "It’s nice to finally see it official and not just have a bunch of rogue graffiti types put in their own version of it."
While more drivers now seem to understand the bike box, the design still doesn’t seem to be entirely intuitive for bicyclists, since the box doesn’t extend to the bike lane. True said the MTA was open to looking at other design modifications if the current configuration doesn’t send a clear enough message to drivers and cyclists. Even though dozens of cyclists passed through the busy Wiggle corridor on Scott immediately after DPT crews left, it took about 25 minutes after the paint dried for the first pair of cyclists to make use of the bike box, so a full Portland-style bike box, complete with a painted bike lane and additional signage, should be a logical next step in the evolution of the MTA’s bike box experimentation.
The Scott Street green bike box, painted on December 3rd, was the first in California. Long Beach installed a green bike box December 20th that more closely resembles the Portland bike boxes.