Connecting the City Sets a Clear Vision for Bicycling in San Francisco

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s (SFBC) bold campaign for a network of connected crosstown bikeways safe enough for an eight or eighty-year-old officially launched this week with Connecting the City.org, a new website featuring detailed visualizations for key bicycle-friendly routes throughout the city.

The goal of Connecting the City is to “provide inviting and safe door-to-door access to shop, commute and play by bicycle” for residents and visitors of all kinds, beginning with improvements to create three continuous major bikeways: the Bay to Beach, North-South, and the Bay Trail routes. If implemented, the vision promises to make safe, convenient cycling accessible to a broad cross-section of San Francisco and substantially increase the number of people who choose to ride each day.

One highlight of the campaign is a series of video stories spotlighting families and residents who would benefit from safer bike routes. The first video, shot and edited by Streetfilms director Clarence Eckerson Jr., features “Stephanie’s Story,” about a Richmond District family who already loves to bike, but would do it a lot more if they felt safer.

The website offers accessible visual renderings of some of the streetscapes they envision, with separated bike lanes linking the city along vital routes like Polk Street to San Jose Avenue via a cycle track in the center of Valencia Street. Other routes are shown with wide curbside lanes separated by striped painted buffer zones, physical buffers provided by adjacent planters and parked motor vehicles, and mixed-use pathways running through parks.

The SFBC's vision for a Market Street on the Bay to Beach Bikeway. Image: SFBC
The SFBC's vision for Market Street on the Bay to Beach Bikeway. Image: SFBC

A Call for Political Support

Last Friday, the SFBC sent a letter [pdf] to newly-appointed Mayor Ed Lee, welcoming him into office and asking for his support. “The SFMTA and other agencies are already working on designing and implementing sections of our Connecting the City plan and the support and resources to execute these cost-effective projects are already in place, but we know that Mayor Lee’s leadership will be essential in moving these plans forward within the next few months,” said the SFBC on the project’s website.

The letter calls for a series of improvements that could be implemented early in the Mayor’s term, particularly along Market Street. The SFBC hopes that improvements on Fell, Oak, and Market Streets would complete the first Connecting the City route by the end of 2012: a continuous, three-mile Bay to Beach bikeway.

“Converting the outside lane on Market Street between 8th and Steuart Streets into a primarily-bike lane,” for example, could be achievable by this spring, according to the letter.

Lee already has a fairly solid reputation with sustainable transportation and livability advocates and having been an active supporter of Sunday Streets, advocates remain hopeful about action from the Mayor’s Office.

Another anticipated milestone will be the implementation of a separated, bi-directional path on a 1.5-mile stretch of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park this spring.

“Simple changes on this street will lead to big improvements where a bikeway will provide safe space for the huge — and growing — number of families who want a way to ride bikes to museums, the ocean, playgrounds, picnics and the zoo! It will also provide a key connection for commuters heading downtown from the western neighborhoods,” said the website.

The SFBC aims to have all three of the major bikeways completed by 2015, with the entire project culminating in 100 bike-friendly miles implemented by 2020 to facilitate the 20 percent bicycle mode-share goal mandated by that year.

  • Of course I am delighted by all this; I’d just like the timetable moved up. The three major bikeways should be completed by 2012 and the entire 100 miles by 2015. And though I would dearly like a cycle track down Valencia Street, I still have reservations at how kid-friendly a track down the center of the street will be.

    I think perhaps a better answer is to severely reduce car traffic down Valencia by using barriers to prevent cars from going more than a block or two at a stretch, or even making it car-free entirely. It’s too bad that when Valencia Street was being redone that physically-separated bike lanes weren’t included then. It seems that at this time of enormous change with our concepts of livable streets and livable cities, physical reality gets outdated fast.

  • cr

    Speaking of physical reality getting outdated fast, I see Cesar Chavez on the 10-year plan.

  • EL

    SFBC might want to edit that video a little bit at 0:13. It was very easy to figure out where this family lives, especially since the address number is shown.

  • Nick

    I like the vision. Strategically the SFBC needs another wing to deal with the existing bike network. There are so many gaps and ROW issues that could be resolved. I fear they ignore the little things because they have so much on their plate already.

    That’s kind of what happened during the Bike Plan battle. They were so focused on one issue that they couldn’t ask favors from the MTA such as repainting the existing bike lanes.

  • EL

    Repainting of the existing bike lanes… that’s kinda funny. This is one example where bikes and cars are on equal footing – neither lanes get repainted very often.

  • JR

    I am not so keen on the changes to JFK in the park. There is already a path the length of the park that is intended for cyclists who are not comfortable with the road. Might need a few signs directing peds to their path on the north side, and maybe some other tweaks like that, but I think it is sufficient.

    A lot of the cyclists I see in the park,including the panhandle are riding briskly enough that I don’t think it would be wise to combine them with children on this restrictive path on JFK.

  • Sprague

    Great, exciting developments. My kids and I can hardly wait.

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