Protected Bike Lane on Market Street Keeps Getting Better

wide angle small_1.jpgThe new pavement markings make it much clearer where cyclists and cars are supposed to switch lanes on Market Street near 11th Street. Photos: Matthew Roth

The gradually evolving traffic rearrangement on Market Street got a boost yesterday as the MTA re-striped the bicycle and motor vehicle crossing zone at Market and 11th, clarifying how the vehicles are supposed to negotiate the street with bold new markings. In addition to clearer turn and merge arrows for motorists, there are numerous sharrows starting as far back as Van Ness and Market and extending through the intersection of Market and 10th streets.

Though it’s not quite Copenhagen, where blue bike lanes run through intersections, Neal Patel of the SFBC noted that these are the first sharrows he is aware of painted in the middle of an intersection to give cyclists direction for how to navigate the lane shift.

"It’s great to see the MTA continue to observe how people are using the street and make quick design changes," said Patel, who noted that the agency moved the original trial traffic diversion from 8th Street back to 10th to measure the impacts.

Patel also commended the agency for moving quickly to address the confusion among the street’s users about how to negotiate the lane swap. "The new markings will hopefully solve that problem and get cyclists to the left of right-turning vehicles," he said. "I’m confident that if it doesn’t appear to be working, the MTA will look for more ways to improve the situation."

Market_VN_sharrows_small.jpgSharrows extend through the intersection of Market and Van Ness.

For cyclists riding the new configuration, the changes received rave reviews, though some were concerned that drivers were still splitting the soft-hit posts to access the bus-only lane, then being forced to turn right at 10th Street where the parking control officers are stationed.

"My big concern is drivers who don’t really get what’s going on there," said Ali Kirby, a recent transplant to San Francisco from Santa Cruz. Kirby said she made a point of riding on Market when she heard of the trial changes and said she felt most of the drivers who were confused by the change were not residents in the city. Despite the concern, she lauded the changes and the improvements for cyclists. "I love it so much. It’s really wonderful."

Another regular Market Street bicycle commuter who declined to give his name agreed with Kirby. "I just think you have a high percentage of people who aren’t from San Francisco who drive down Market Street, so it’s confusing to them," he said. As for the sense of safety downstream of the traffic restrictions, he was thrilled, "I love it."

At least one cyclist thought the changes were still awkward, citing the confusion when vehicles in the left lane are forced to make a right turn at 10th Street. "Generally the changes are good," he said, adding that he liked "the reduction of traffic through this portion. I have noticed it and it has been a huge god-send." One suggestion he had for the MTA was to better alert motorists that they would have to turn right on 10th so more might turn voluntarily at 11th, as some already appear to do.

For Brad Jones, a San Francisco cyclist who had been traveling and hadn’t ridden on Market Street in several months, the restrictions were a welcome surprise. Jones said any further improvements for cyclists and transit vehicles would do the city good. "The more the merrier."

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car_fail_small.jpgOf course, some didn’t understand why the cabs could go through in the middle lane. After cutting between the soft-hit posts, this car had to turn back right at 10th Street when the PCO blocked the way.
  • Thank goodness. I got into a bike accident riding on Market on Sunday, and then yesterday I witnessed a car-bike collision in nearly the same spot.

  • The MTA does deserve kudos for this, the current configuration works really well and for a city agency they’ve been moving with remarkable agility on this issue.

  • friscolex

    I’ve had success so far! Pretty awesome that the changes were made so quickly. I find the new setup very civilized and that the safety of that block is hugely improved. Then I’m in a good mood to say good morning to the friendly DPT intersection-blocker!

  • Alias

    Nice blue bike helmet in the second image. Please put it on your head.

  • Nick

    Take a close look at the sharrows in the intersection. That is a big deal. The SFBC has wanted the City to put them in intersections along neighborhood bike routes. It is also a way of giving motorists knowledge that they are turning onto or crossing an official bikeway.

  • friscolex

    YES, this is a Big Deal. I should have made that comment at first, because it’s true. I guess that’s what I meant by civilized: Here’s a concrete (ahem) way for all users of the intersection to predict who may be traveling where. (And to guide users that are unfamiliar with the intersection to the safest paths.) Predictability=safety IMO.

  • =v= That’s not a bike lane, it’s a bik lan. Sez so right on it.

    The real problem is that they’re trying out two things at once that aren’t exactly coordinated with each other: the Market Street closure experiment basically means there are two right-turn lanes during the day, with the “bik lan” running in between them.

  • friscolex

    When I rode through this morning, the Bik Lan was gone and the lane markings were spiffed up.

    I’m not sure I see the two trials as conflicting, since private cars (who have to turn right) are only allowed in the right lane.

  • Nick

    “BIK LAN” was replaced with a picture and a directional arrow as of a few days ago.

    In other news, 7th Avenue looks ready to be fully striped. Not sure what the delay is as all of the paving work is done. Keep an eye out for new lanes there really soon.

  • it’s definitely better, which is good, but i still can’t imagine where all this goes long term.

    does. not. compute.

    down near Market and 2nd, i got honked at and called a ‘liberal asshole’ by an out of towner — female driver — b/c i was ‘in the middle of the road’, “wasn’t wearing a helmet”, and probably some other things. think her and her friends were in town for st. paddy’s.

    bike cop saw it all. he looked nonplussed. 🙂 (ok, adjective stolen from bike snob.)

    i want nothing less than fully-grade-separated, fully-segregated cycletracks on Market — wide cycletracks. anything less is just not enough. we need to stop trying to play catch up and actually do some innovation of our own.

  • Churt

    i had the chance to ride this section of market street yesterday for the first time in about a year or so, since i used to commute down the street daily. i was not aware exactly how new the sharrows were (seeing the presumed author of this story conducting an interview streetside should have tipped me off).

    i applaud the mta for the supplemental sharrows and bike lane configuration at 10th street. i hope that as part of this trial the configuration of the streetcar tracks crossing 11th street will be taken into consideration. with eastbound cyclists now positioned further to the left in the roadway–where the curving tracks are at a more accute angle–greater concern needs to be given to how one crosses the tracks on bicycle. i wonder if the mta might take a page out of seattle and portland’s book and paint some angled sharrows to instruct cyclists how to safely cross the tracks?

  • Seeing bike markings in an intersection brings a tear to my eye. This is real progress. SF is making real headway as a place for bikes.

  • JohnB

    Peter,

    They tried those posts on Masonic where people wanted to turn left into Trader Joe’s. They all got flattened within about a week or so.

    Then they replaced them with those “bumps” in the ground, except that those are easy to drive over.

    And if you formally segregate the lanes (and your idea of concrete is the only method that really works) then you take out a large amount of usable road space for anyone to use. Which vastly increases congestion.

    There is no perfect solution. We are all just going to have to learn to share the road. That goes for the “out-of-town” driver (how did you know that BTW?). And equally to the more aggressive cyclists who can be just as bad.

  • James Figone

    It seems there has been huge change in the way the MTA is responding to the change in the zeitgeist. They understand that there are a lot of bicyclists and many more coming and they seem to be doing a much better job at creating real solutions as opposed to half-assed ones. Riding on Market is much, much better than before. The MTA is to be commended for these improvements.

    Perhaps some of the attitude that allows for trial and error with street markings/configurations will rub off on the MTA divsions that run the transit system. It would be nice to see experiments with bus stop spacing, small route changes, etc.

  • Nick

    This is just a casual observation, but around 6PM tonight there were about 25 cyclists and 7 cars jammed up at the intersection of Market and Van Ness(going westbound). If this is typical all I have to say is Wow.

  • friscolex

    @James Figone. Agreed re: zeitgeist. All the more reason to make noise! The SFBC deserves quite a bit of credit for their work on the street(s).

    @Nick. Don’t you love that? Whenever I find myself annoyed at how packed the bike lanes are, I just remind myself: “Hey, the bike lanes are packed! Awesome!”

    I treated myself to a ride through GG Park from downtown yesterday to go to the Balboa theater and The Wiggle has never been so fun. The Scott Street bike box was packed with cyclists and so many were out and about on foot/bike/rollerblades, many pushing strollers of future cyclists… one hopes!

  • the greasybear

    This newest configuration is the best so far, at least in my own daily experience. Under the prior setup, I saw motorists boxinc cyclists into the curb lane every morning; now, with the sharrows embedded in the Market/Van Ness intersection, cyclists seem to be merging left earlier and avoiding that trap.

    I agree bike traffic has increased dramatically over the last several days. My commute was slightly longer this morning due to congestion in the Market Street bike lane. Not that I’m complaining!

  • Nick

    I was riding Market earlier today and noticed that one of the benefits of the trial diversions is that the street has been opened up for police cars in the Mid-Market area.

    The cops seem to like it. They cruise down Market at 10mph which keeps the rest of auto traffic in line. I’m surprised there is such a presence there as a few years back you could walk the whole area and not see one cop.

  • And if you formally segregate the lanes (and your idea of concrete is the only method that really works) then you take out a large amount of usable road space for anyone to use. Which vastly increases congestion.

    i don’t believe this makes any sense. all we’re doing is prioritizing walkers, bikers, and transit riders over drivers — if there’s no room left on Market for cars, so be it. they’ll live.

    right now, i still think it _might_ be possible to continue to accommodate cars on at least one lane on Market, but i’ll admit that it’s a long shot.

    There is no perfect solution. We are all just going to have to learn to share the road. That goes for the “out-of-town” driver (how did you know that BTW?). And equally to the more aggressive cyclists who can be just as bad.

    i think there may be a near-perfect solution, and we need to figure out what it is.

    as for sharing the road, us bikers are finally starting to see that that is a worthless endeavor — there is no such thing as ‘sharing the road’ with large motor vehicles — cars, trucks, and buses just run you over the road, harass and terrorize you, etc. — time to segregate, baby! cars have had their chance to prove that they can peacefully coexist with humans, and they’ve failed, so we’re getting rid of them.

    i can imagine allowing motor vehicles to stay on Market is we introduce a woonerf-type situation — give explicit/overt priority to all non-motorized traffic, slow motor vehicles down to 5 MPH, etc.

    as for the out of towner with a bad attitude, it was obvious she was an out of towner because, simply put, no SF driver would act the way she acted, which included saying the things she said, ignorance of basic vehicular laws, etc. she wasn’t used to being on the roads with bikers, so she blew a gasket — common, almost expected, behavior amongst out of town drivers, who have never had their privileges to complete ownership and domination of the roads challenged.

    I was riding Market earlier today and noticed that one of the benefits of the trial diversions is that the street has been opened up for police cars in the Mid-Market area.

    i actually like the idea of cops on bikes — and i think i’ve actually seen more of them over the past few days — in the Mission, on Market and around SoMa/5th/6th/7th. and i’m not one to sympathize with cops, but i feel like they should be able to do bike patrols together — at least two of them, on bikes (maybe even tandem! ;). being out there alone, i think, would kind of suck — at least for patrolling ‘hot spot’ areas. putting more cops on bikes would be a huge boon to SF biking in so many ways — i really think we/SFBC/livable streets advocates should lobby the SFPD to put more cops on bikes — possibly even occasionally in plainclothes, specifically to deal with terrorist drivers.

  • I actually drove through that area a few days ago. As someone who had not been on that stretch of road in over a year, and doesnt live in SF, here is what I though:

    The signage for private vehicles is somewhat poor. The sign saying that only buses, taxis and bikes could continue straight was a bit small. I think it needs another sign saying something like “No through access except…” or “Do not enter (buses, bikes, cabs exempt)”. Basically, right now it appears like the right lane is a forced turn but the middle lane does allow one to continue straight, the “bus only” on the pavement is hard to read with the tracks and such. The new merge arrow on the pavement is a step in the right direction. Another problem is for those from out of town, how exactly to drive on market isnt very clear. Some sections do not say “muni only” in the left lane, and I saw many cars using it, so it’s not clear what lane should be used for the entire length of the street.

    “Of course, some didn’t understand why the cabs could go through in the middle lane.”

    Yes, for someone coming from suburbia, the idea that taxis are public transport isn’t intuitive at first. In fact, Im not completely sure what the law is. I saw many streets that said “no left turn except muni” but saw many cabs turning.

  • the greasybear

    There are no DPT staffers on Market for the second day in a row, and there is no longer a forced right at 6th Street.

  • friscolex

    @the greasybear

    Yeah, I noticed that yesterday. Hadn’t heard if there was any plan to change their placement. Yesterday I went by at around 8:40 and today around 7:15 am. I miss saying “good morning” to them! (Among other, traffic-related things of course…)

  • =v= Okay, but what’s happening at 10th Street?

  • the greasybear

    The signage, paint, and soft-hit posts are still there at 10th, but no DPT cart or crew anywhere. Yesterday a motorist just rolled forward into the bike lane and continued down Market (behind a peleton of cyclists who wouldn’t surrender the lane, thank you), but this morning at about 8:00 it looked like cars were turning as required. I wonder if this is part of the experiment?

  • friscolex

    I guess the blurb in the City Insider (penned by Rachel Gordon on SFGate) short enough to post in full:

    Good faith now steers Market Street forced-turn rule

    The city quietly has yanked its traffic cops from the two Market Street intersections where drivers must turn right.

    The new setup comes close to relying on the honor system, although drivers who are caught disobeying the forced-turn rule can face a $167 fine. A police motorcycle officer will do spot checks, officials said.

    In September the city, at the direction of Mayor Gavin Newsom, began an experiment to limit traffic on Market Street to reduce congestion and speed travel along the thoroughfare for Muni buses. At first, private automobiles heading east toward the Ferry Building were required to turn right at Sixth and Eighth Streets and take an alternative route to get downtown. Later, 10th Street was substituted for Eighth Street. Westbound traffic was not affected.

    The Municipal Transportation Agency had one and sometimes two parking control officers at those intersections directing traffic. Given that each is paid $21 to $25 an hour — plus benefits — it was not an expense that was easy to justify for the cash-strapped agency.

    Municipal Transportation Agency spokeswoman Kristen Holland confirmed Wednesday that the officers were pulled from the assignment at the start of the week.

    The hope, she said, is that motorists have had adequate time to adjust to the detour and that traffic signs informing them to turn off of Market Street will suffice. If not, she said, officials will reassess their decision.