Over the weekend the SFMTA took that process a few giant leaps forward by adding vibrant green paint to the protected lanes to further distinguish the bicycle-only space. The lanes are part of the SFMTA's Sustainable Streets division, which has secured permission from Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to experiment with various pavement colors and treatments in bicycle lanes, the Market Street Calm the Safety Zones, and other areas of the city.
The new lanes are permissible even with the bicycle injunction because they are not technically considered traffic control devices, which are not allowed to proceed until the injunction is fully lifted.
Timothy Papandreou, Deputy Director for Sustainable Streets at SFMTA, explained that the agency has been consulting with traffic managers in Portland and New York City to learn from their similar bike lane treatments, though he noted that neither of those cities have the same limitations the injunction has imposed.
"It's our first step and we're really excited about it," said Papandreou, who noted that cyclists over the weekend were stopping to talk with the work crews adding the color to the lanes and riding them back and forth for fun. "When they went in, people just naturally gravitated to them. It may attract more people to cycling so it will help us meet our sustainability goals."
Papandreou explained that this work was possible because of the partial lifting of the long-standing bicycle injunction. In addition to these treatments, the SFMTA has been able to add some bike lanes, numerous sharrows and bike racks, and some similar innovative treatments like the bike box on Scott Street at Oak Street. In addition, the agency will soon be installing on-street bike parking  and will continue to alter signal work to favor cyclists and pedestrians by slowing traffic speeds.
According to Papandreou, the community feedback has been very positive and the agency is only waiting on the injunction to be lifted before trying numerous other treatments.
"Coupled with the physically separated bike lanes I think these green painted lanes are really defining the bike space on the street and benefitting all road users by creating greater safety for those on bikes," said Patel.
Papandreou and his team noted that even if there wasn't data that demonstrated these lanes were safer with green paint than without, the perception that this space is dedicated to cyclists was an important signal to send to cyclists. Patel agreed.
"We are very excited this is coming just days before bike to work Day," added Patel. "We know lots of people are riding into work either the first time or they are pretty new on Bike to Work Day. I think it sends a great message to all the people who are thinking about bicycling that it's getting safer."
If creating visibility for cyclists is the most important thing for securing safety and attracting new riders, said Patel, these lanes are a step in the right direction.
"I rode on it this morning on my way to work and it goes even better than the visibly separated bike lane because you have this great visible cue and visible path of where you need to be going," said Patel.
"It's like this really long ribbon that fades into the horizon. It's really fantastic."