With the Bike Injunction Lifted, SF Starts to Build Out Its Bike Plan

newsome_et_al.jpgMayor Gavin Newsom addresses the press. SFMTA Chief Nat Ford, SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan, Bicycle CAC Chief Bert Hill, Livable City Board Chair and SFMTA Board Nominee Cheryl Brinkman in pink and D-5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi at far right. Photos: Matthew Roth.

Because official word about the lifting of the four-year-old bike injunction in San Francisco came so late on Friday afternoon, Mayor Gavin Newsom and his city staff had to wait until today to have their celebratory press conference and symbolic lane striping on Townsend Street at 4th Street, across from the Caltrain Station.

There was a palpable sense of relief in the air and in the formal comments delivered by a host of speakers, from Mayor Newsom to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) head Nat Ford, and Renee Rivera, acting executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“It’s a new era for bicycling and for San Francisco,” said Rivera. “We are on our way to being the most bike friendly city in the country.”

Rivera threw out numerous statistics pointing to the surge in bicycle riding in San Francisco, despite the injunction, and she vowed she would never say the word “injunction” in public again.

In addition to the Townsend Street lane, the SFMTA is moving forward on striping 35 bike lanes that are part of the Bicycle Plan, projects the agency expects to complete in the next year and a half.

The SFMTA’s Ford said they planned to add 5,500 more sharrows to the exisiting 2,500, as well as another 500 bike racks and 31 miles of new lanes, a 64 percent increase over the existing 48 miles.

“You’re going to see a lot of visible infrastructure improvements for the bikes,” said Ford. “What
we’re able to do with this Bike Plan is clearly delineate the part of
the street and the infrastructure of the street that belong to
bicyclists.”

painting.jpgMayor Newsom, Rene Rivera, Ross Mirkarimi, Nat Ford, and Tom Nolan triping the first lane since the injunction was lifted.

Mayor Newsom deflected a number of questions from reporters trying to play up the potential for discord as car parking and travel lanes are removed for bike lanes. Newsom pointed to the new green bike lanes on Market Street and the green bike box on Scott Street as successes and said, “Since November of last year, when we had the partial bike injunction
lifted, we’ve done a lot of work and I haven’t gotten one complaint. In
fact, all we’ve been is complemented by folks that have noticed the
improvements and are kind of excited again by their city.”

Newsom downplayed any divisiveness that could present itself around improved bicycle infrastructure and said the old cyclist-driver enmity wouldn’t be in play.

“I think we’ve moved away from the old dynamic, that friction that existed in the late 90s, where it was bicyclists versus cars,” he said. “It’s a different era now and we’re working collaboratively together, there’s not the sort of tweaking that goes back and forth.”

Newsom also focused on the changing business climate, where merchants who used to resist the addition of bicycle lanes now readily support them. “I think it’s suggestive of the business community, a lot of merchant
groups that recognize this is not gonna hurt their business. In many
ways it’s enhancing their business, it’s creating more livability, more
identity for their neighborhoods,” he said and referred to the “I Bike SF” campaign in Hayes Valley and the Fillmore.

Newsom also latched onto statistics from surveys conducted by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which found transit riders and cyclists spend more money in aggregate than drivers in the downtown commercial district.

“Bicyclists are more apt to walk around
and stay a little extra time and to peruse and shop and support their
neighborhood merchants,” he said.

Shortly after the official press conference, Newsom, Rivera, Mirkarimi, Nolan, and Ford grabbed a can of paint and striped the first official lane since the injunction was lifted. Despite the symbolism, Mirkarimi joked with the mayor that it wasn’t as exciting as painting the street green, as they did last December on Scott Street.

Andy_cigar.jpgSFBC Program Director Andy Thornley was one of the first to ride the new lane after the thermoplastic dried. He even puffed on a stogie.
  • Nick

    This is a story one has to read twice to believe. The injunction is really over.

    Full speed ahead.

  • Having just gotten into a relatively small bike accident at 4th and Townsend, I can’t wait for new bike lanes. Every day I bike through Union Square/Soma, I worry I’m going to end up in the hospital. But it’s green, it’s fast and it’s free.

  • Jake

    Congrats, SF! Your long nightmare is over.

  • Is that 20 feet of bike lane or something? I left Caltrain expecting to see this – but nada.

    Which is fine – the Townsend project is a little complex, anything done in a day wouldn’t be complete.

  • C.W.’s coverage of yesterday’s press conference:

    “Mayor Gavin Newsom launched the city’s bike lane expansion Monday. In response, taxi drivers roared down the existing lanes and honked their horns in support – or to warn cyclists to get the hell out of the way. One of the two.”

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/10/BAUQ1ERE92.DTL&tsp=1#ixzz0wDTflnZv

  • Dinner Dog

    I bounced eastbound over the hood of an SUV taxi on that spot at about 9:30 AM that morning. The driver was doing a U turn looking the opposite direction and crossing both lanes as I shouted at him. That intersection is a deathtrap.

  • Dinner Dog, they pull the crap ALL THE TIME. Then add in the fact 90% of them speed and gun it to make lights. It’s a jungle out there.

    Sorry to hear you got hit. Hope you are ok.

  • Nick
  • Erin

    How about safe places to lock your bike up downtown? Mine was stolen yesterday in front of the library… 🙁

  • Nick, thanks for posting that. I was wondering how the perpendicular parking was going to work with the bike lane and I see they are removing it in favor of parallel parking. It can be dicey riding down Townsend with cars just deciding to back up whenever they please.

  • Does anyone know what the timeline for the Upper Market bike lanes is?

  • “back in angled parking”?

    This is a lot of parking reduction on Townsend. Of course, a lot of the vehicles parking on Townsend are “Mobile SROs”.

    When the change happens, expect a lot of confusion on Giants days – this is a well known “free parking area” near the ballpark.

  • I was a bit confused by “back in angled parking” myself. And I’ll gladly point out to the confused drivers that Caltrain serves the Peninsula just fine and if parking is that important there are pay lots located near by.

    I bet those “Mobile SROs” just slide down and around the corner closer to the restaurant supply store.

  • Nick

    Back-in angled parking is the preferred standard of the MTA. Expect to see lots of it in the future.

  • icarus12

    Just read another streetsblog link story to the Guardian (England) about who’s buying and riding bikes — “men of a certain age” (40s and up). Main reason more women don’t ride in England — perceived danger of the roads. Case in point close to home: my own wife who is timid about braving SF traffic and really needs these dedicated painted bike lanes to feel safe. Once she gets more miles under her tires, I am sure she will increase her biking. With these bike infrastructure improvements — mostly cheap as paint and mostly about delineating space between motorized and non-motorized traffic — we are going to see huge increases in women biking. After that, expect a jump in children riding, once their parents are doing so themselves and seeing how safe it can be. Just really excited about these changes!

  • The real striping is on Townsend between 7th and 8th.

    http://holierthanyou.blogspot.com/2010/08/bike-lane-on-townsend.html

    Pictures headed North/East.

    In the South/West direction there is a “BIKE MERGE AHEAD” stencil on the road approaching the rotary.

  • Hey Newsom and Ford?!?! How about you put a little money to enforce these fancy new paint jobs!

    http://sf.mybikelane.com/post/index/14107

    This was taken right where the first post-injunction bike lane was laid down. “Paint it and they will block it.”

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