Eyes on the Street: Market Street Bike Lane Puts the Squeeze on Cyclists

Market_St_10th_1_.jpgThe bike lane on Market at 10th St. was already narrow before the installation of safe-hit posts. Photos by Josh Hart.

Cyclists traveling inbound on Market Street are being squeezed into an unnecessarily narrow bike lane as a result of safe-hit posts installed to enforce the new required right turn at 10th Street. The posts, put in place by the MTA to the left of the existing bike and right-turn-only lanes, have shaved what was already a skinny passage for cyclists.

Some cyclists are questioning why the opportunity wasn’t seized to widen the bike lane as part of the reconfiguration. The narrowness and frequent occupation of the bike lane by cars waiting to turn right have led many cyclists to abandon the official lane in favor of the cross-hatched area to the left of the posts. In fact, a brief site survey found that over 80 percent of inbound Market St. cyclists chose the cross-hatched area over the official bike lane. There is concern, however, that those who continue to use the marked lane are putting themselves at risk of being doored by drivers dropping people off in the right lane.

On January 26th, due to conflicts between right turning cars and non-motorized traffic at 8th Street, the MTA moved the required right turn for private vehicles up to 10th, where the lack of a Muni boarding island means that there is (at least ostensibly) more room for cyclists and drivers to maneuver. In general, there has been widespread praise for the move, part of the ongoing Better Market Street traffic pilot program, which also includes a required right turn at 6th St. The move to 10th has decongested two additional blocks of Market, and has led to a noticeable improvement in conditions at 8th and Market, where there is heavy pedestrian activity around the entrances to the Civic Center BART/Muni station.

Market_10th_2.jpg 80 percent of cyclists, in a brief survey, avoided the designated lane and used the cross-hatched area instead.

The MTA’s Timothy Papandreou reports that feedback surrounding the 10th St. move has been mostly positive, though there have been a few concerns expressed about the width of the bike and right-turn lanes. He explained that the safe-hit posts at 10th are mainly intended to enforce required right turns, whereas the posts lining the westbound Market St. bike lane between 9th and 10th streets are designed to discourage double parking in the bicycle lane.

"The city is looking to extend the safe-hit posts along Market St. bike lanes from 8th St. to Octavia soon, although loading zones and other conflicts may result in gaps in the protected lane," Papandreou told Streetsblog.

Neal Patel, Community Planner at the SFBC, said the new configuration is not ideal for cyclists but marks an improvement over the former configuration, with fewer cars farther down Market. "We continue to work with the MTA to identify solutions both in the short- and long-term and encourage all cyclists to make sure they continually provide feedback directly to the city."

As a temporary traffic experiment, the required right turns along Market are exempt under the California Environmental Quality Act until the end of March, at which time the city will assess the impact, and either remove the required turns, apply for an extension of the trial, or make it permanent. The city is looking into ways to make the required turn self-enforcing, without the presence of staff.

While short term improvements to Market are being implemented, a medium to long term visioning process is being carried out that will guide Market St. improvements over the next several years — in particular, improvements to be carried out in conjunction with Public Works’ scheduled repaving of Market from Van Ness to Steuart St. in 2013.

Those with comments about the new configuration at 10th or the Market Street trials in general are encouraged to provide feedback to the city at marketstreet@sfgov.org or by calling 311.

MTA_worker.jpg This city employee told us that he is more mindful of cyclists’ needs since his niece started riding a bike. As for the bike lanes at 10th St., he asked "why can’t they be to the left of the posts?"
  • So why doesn’t the city move the posts to the right of the bike lane as part of the experiment???

  • The glue, man. The glue.

    yeah, looks pretty stupid in that 2nd picture. The posts are suppose to keep cars out, not bikes in. Slide it to the right and now you have a really nice wide bike lane. Seems simple enough.

  • Peter Smith

    i’m glad we’re trying a bunch of different things on Market, but this one seemed to be more of a psychology experiment, with us bikers being the rats.

    it’s essentially no harm, no foul tho (i’m assuming nobody was harmed) — since we mostly just break the law here, too. whatever it takes to stay safe.

    🙂

  • CBrinkman

    It is better then it used to be. Hopefully in the final design the bike lane will be to the left of the soft hit posts.

    Soft hit posts are my new best friend. I would like them on every bike lane please, and switch all curb parked cars and bike lane placements.

  • After a brief period of sticking in the bike lane out of principle, I’ve started breaking through into the much safer cross-hatched zone myself. I’m not sure what purpose it’s supposed to serve – is the intent that neither cyclists nor cars / trucks / buses should use it? It definitely seems like the safest place on that intersection for a cyclist.

  • John

    Is there a possibility that any of the people at the MTA who come up with these screwy configurations ride a bike to work? It’s hard to imagine that someone who actually bikes wouldn’t say, “Hey wait a minute, we’re putting the bicycles on the wrong side of the posts!”

  • patrick

    It seems pretty clear that the crosshatched area should be the official bike lane. That would put the soft hit posts between the cars and bikes, and provide for a much wider bike lane.

  • Brian

    It’s amazing how, when paint is involved (the initial bike box), they always seem to get it bass-akwards.

  • Tom

    I travel through there every morning before the patrols arrive to direct traffic off Market and see cars disregard the turn only lane now at least a few times every week. As a result, not only do I travel in the crosshatched area, I stay as far to the left as possible in anticipation of traffic now overtaking me on the right. The posts should be positioned in a way that forces cars to make the turn.

  • the greasybear

    Like whir, I initially made the effort to ride within the official bike lane, but now I regularly ride in the cross-hatched area for two reasons.

    First, slow-moving cars often obstruct part or most of the already narrow bike lane. Motorists are much better behaved within this new configuration, but there’s no room for error given the space constraints. Second, the DPT staffers have recently begun to position themselves and their carts in a way that requires cyclists to proceed through the intersection in or near the innermost (transit/taxi) lane. If I must move toward the innermost lane in order to continue down Market Street, then I’d rather do so from the cross-hatched area, as far from the confused motorists as possible.

    Overall, for cyclists this is still a tremendous safety improvement over the prior trial, which seemed to manufacture car/bike conflict.

  • Noah

    Are people really worried about getting doored in the bike lane? The lane seems awfully far from the curb for that to be a realistic risk.

  • Josh Hart

    Noah, I think the concern is that cyclists who continue to use the bike lane are being put at risk from drivers dropping off passengers on the left side of the vehicle while waiting to turn right in the right turn only lane.

  • Peter Smith

    yep – passenger drop-off, driver opening a door to throw something out, pull in their seatbelt/skirt/jacket/etc., etc.

    plus, it just seems uncomfortable doing something which you know you’re not supposed to do — ride in the door zone.

    we need the subjective safety that big buffers can provide.

  • The obvious solution is to place those posts on the other side of the bike lane.

    But it’s a trial right? The point is to try new things to see what works and what doesn’t? I think trying new things and occasionally getting them wrong is better than not doing them at all. Now we know that this isn’t optimal. Great, next time it will be done the other way. Very few cities have the balls to do live trials. I’m glad SF is willing to do so.

  • Well, regardless, I think cars just emanate a constant sense of danger within a certain radius (parked or moving) – there’s no need for one to explicate the exact possibilities of what could happen. You just know the more separated from them you are, the better.

  • test

    Aaron, while cars are indeed the most extraordinarily dangerous inventions and it’s incredible we even put up with them at all on city streets, getting farther away from them is not always the safest behaviour for an urban cyclist. When you are sharing a very wide outside lane, it is far safer to be just outside the path of car travel than to be all the way to the right. This position improves your visibility, and reduces the risk of being cut off by a right turning vehicle.

  • And I think they mixed up the paint designs – that “bike lane” is realistically only wide enough to be a striped buffer and there should be a GIANT bike symbol where it is now striped. Plus, the dashed-line conflict zone that guides bikes there should have colored paint and bike symbols on it.

    But the case was probably that the City isn’t allowed to make such changes yet due to violating the injunction (sadly).

  • EL

    Did anyone notice that in the 2nd photo, one cyclist has no helmet while the other cyclist is wearing earphones? Sigh… Stay safe out there.

  • Peter Smith

    i think we should talk about helmet and earphone safety! 😀

    i am still surprised, though, that so many people in SF continue to wear helmets. always seems so weird to me. i’m all for personal choice and all that, of course — it just seems weird to me.

  • mcas

    @EL: Actually, it’s pretty clear she has iPhone buds in– it’s a hands free system, which are legal to operate a motor vehicle, as well as a bike. And as for helmets, it’s not against the law to ride without a helmet.

    What I did notice, though, is that all 4 cars where you can see their right hand blinker, NONE appear too have their blinker on. Which is actually illegal. Of course, there is a 40% chance the blinker is off– but the chance that all 4 of 4 have that in the shot seems unlikely– more likely is 1 or 2 of 4 actually used their blinker, since we know that SF drivers seem to think using their blinkers are optional…

  • @mcas, if drivers used their blinkers, I’d avoid 99.9% of any problem I had on the road. I always try to guess they are going to do something stupid, and they usually do, but sometimes a simple blinker would do wonders. But then again, they probably have no clue where they are going until the last minute anyway.

    Also, in that first picture – why does that driver need to be so far to the left? Seems like that bike lane would be perfectly fine if the driver was actually in the lane. Was Josh Hart standing in the road when the car passed forcing him/her over further to the left?

  • tea

    Perfect, all-telling picture of the city employee at the end of the story. These are the people we have to look to for a sensible bike policy?

  • Nick

    That block of Market is pretty decent for watching traffic go by if you’re into that sort of the thing. You can sit in the window of the bar and watch the forced right turn; or alternatley the donut shop on the other side of the street has the freshest donuts on all of Market Street.

    At one point there were 7 donut shops on Market (one at 4th which closed down, 6th, 7th- also closed, one on the other corner of 7th, 10th, 11th, and Van Ness). You’ll also notice there is an entrance to a parking garage right next to the Walgreens at 9th. That building which is abandoned takes up a full city block of Market. Quite impressive if you step back and take a look at it.

  • Bill Tweedy

    Seems as though it is simple enough to move the bike lane to the left. BTW, in the second photo(poor choice) you show a cyclist without a helmet. I’m sure he doesn’t represent the educated cyclist.

  • patrick

    @Bill

    perhaps the educated cyclist knows that bike helmets as designed and marketed (such as the one being worn by the first cyclist) do almost nothing to protect cyclists from injury and death, and that power in numbers and using proper cycling technique (such as not listening to music, or talking on the phone, while riding) is far safer than the immaginary protection a bit of styrofoam and eggshell thin plastic provide.

  • ZA

    I can’t help wondering when Google will update its mapping features to avoid directing cars through the now-no access parts of Market Street.

  • Psychics are regulated under Article 17.1 of the San Francisco Police Code.

    The short answer to your question is, no, you do not have to licensed by a religious institution to be a licensed psychic. However, if you are a “minister, missionary, medium, healer, or clairvoyant” of a “bona fide church or religious association” and do your psychic work solely on behalf of that church or association, you are exempted from the licensing requirements.

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