Eyes on the Street: SFMTA Crews Begin Striping 17th Street Bike Lanes

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Bicyclists have begun taking advantage of the new bike lanes being installed this week along the western section of the 17th Street corridor, with many riders saying they began feeling a greater sense of safety just as soon as the first stripes were laid down by Wednesday from Valencia to Church Streets.

In interviews with Streetsblog, several people on bikes roundly cheered the improvements, described as simply “fantastic” by one rider. “It’s really nice because we always bike on 17th Street and the [car] traffic is not that high,” said another traveler trying out the new lanes with a partner.

“Improvements on 17th Street will help the fast-growing number of people bicycling between the Castro, Mission and Potrero neighborhoods,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum. “There are so many families with children riding bicycles in these areas already, and this new bike lane will help welcome even more people of all ages onto their bicycles.”

SFMTA counts show a 75 percent increase in bike traffic on 17th Street at Valencia from 2006-2010, according to Shahum. The long-awaited project comes as part of the San Francisco Bike Plan, which is currently being put into action after a four-year bike injunction delay.

While SFMTA crews have begun work along the roughly two-mile stretch from Corbett Avenue to Kansas Street, bike lanes between Church and Sanchez are temporarily on hold as planners try to figure out a solution that addresses safety concerns about the streetcar tracks, according to the SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division’s Mike Sallaberry.

Proposed lanes included in the Bike Plan. Image: SFMTA

The lanes approved in the Bike Plan would have directed riders through the 17th and Church Street intersection at an angle intended to avoid catching bicycle tires in the streetcar tracks, but the westbound bike lane ends at Church Street in the latest layout presented on the SFMTA’s website [pdf].

If bike lanes were to be striped on that section of 17th Street, they would be placed between the tracks and parked vehicles, squeezing bicyclists into a narrow space. A safer solution would be to replace the curbside parking, but, for now, Sallaberry said the SFMTA is considering installing sharrows in the center of each set of tracks.

A victim of parked cars and rail tracks at 17th and Church Streets. Photo: Michael Rhodes

“It is important that the city upgrades 17th Street to be safe and inviting along the entire route,” said Shahum. “We want to be able to welcome anyone from ages eight to eighty onto their bikes on this important east-west route, so it should be a continuous, dedicated bike space.”

Replacing parking with safer curbside bike lanes is already part of the 17th Street project on the eastern section from Valencia to Kansas Streets, where upwards of 200 vehicle spaces will be re-purposed. While parking demand factors could be at play in the differing treatment, the relative impact of replacing the roughly forty spots between Church and Sanchez does seem smaller for a block that likely also holds greater demand for safe cycling travel.

SFMTA crews also striped a new dashed left-turn bike lane on 16th Street this week, making room between existing travel lanes from Sanchez to Market Streets as laid out in the Bike Plan, although the design appears to be a tweak from the original [pdf].

16th Street from Sanchez to Market. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Sharrows can be found on blocks of Hoff and 16th Streets directing riders from the bike routes of 17th and Valencia Streets to the 16th and Mission BART station as part of the project. Photo: Aaron Bialick.
Riders take advantage of the newly separating stripe. I personally prefer the aesthetic of this leftover sharrow marking to the standard bike lane stencil. Photo: Aaron Bialick
While remaining hazards from cars were apparent, many riders were happy just to have a newly dedicated travel lane. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Another happy traveler. Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • Magnus

    “Yay SFBC, this is life-changing for me. I bike 17th every day, from the Mission to UCSF Mission Bay. How is the stretch between Harrison and Kansas is going to be handled, given the RVs/vans that permanently occupy the blocks near Franklin Square?”

    I bike this route every day as well, and the stretch between Potrero and Kansas is particularly dangerous. Cars from 101 roll through the intersection at Vermont and 17th, very treacherous at night. I’ve seen numerous people – pedestrians and bikers – hit by cars. It would be great to have more streelights or reflecting paint on the road.

  • Morton

    JD,

    “I feel like the cars should keep their problems to themselves. If you’re going to block traffic, block your own type of vehicles, not those who are more vulnerable”

    Generally, if you’re going to double-park, you’d want to be as far right as possible. The intent to be as little an obstruction as you can, given that you’re going to be one anyway.

    So if there’s a bike lane to the right, that’s where you’ll be. It may not be considerate but it is logical.

    Personally, I’d always block a garage driveway than block any type of lane, but that’s just me.

    ” I also agree that DPT needs to really start enforcing double-parking in bike lanes. When they start handing out tickets, people will quickly stop doing it.”

    Double parking is illegal anyway. AFAIK, it’s not more illegal when there’s a bike lane there.

    Some might argue that it’s easier for a bike to go around a double-parked car than it is for another car to do so, as that involves the car usually going over to the other side of the road, increasing the danger and the need to look both ways.

    But of course I’d never say that – not here anyway 😉

  • ZA

    Generic Question to All – how often do you observe DPT/parking enforcers blocking the bike lane with their motorized trikes? I’m seeing that more and more, even when they could pull into an available parking spot to complete their enforcement.

  • ZA

    On underground highways – I found they worked quite well in Zurich. What they lacked in congestion charging, they tried to make up for with expensive parking (with very good capacity information signage blocks away).

    The result was still congestion during the commuting hours, but most of it concentrated in the tunnels, and no impact on the streetcars and trains that moved the majority of the people around. Overall – a good trade. You didn’t need a car to get the trip done, but if you wanted to, you could drive, if you pay the price for it.

  • “Generally, if you’re going to double-park, you’d want to be as far right as possible. The intent to be as little an obstruction as you can, given that you’re going to be one anyway.”

    It’s easier for me to kick (left kick) a big dent in the passenger side door than the driver side door (right kick). As such, I’d prefer they double park in the car lane than the bike lane.

    Given that I’m going to kick the car anyway, they might as well make it easier for me.

  • “So if there’s a bike lane to the right, that’s where you’ll be. It may not be considerate but it is logical.”

    Logic? If you ever rode a bike you’d know how, not only frustrating this is, but extremely dangerous as well. Being forced out into traffic that is going 10-15 mph faster then you doesn’t make for a “logical” experience.

  • Morton

    Mike,

    I made a point of saying double-parking isn’t considerate. However, I was trying to demonstrate how, from the point of view of the driver, double-parking in the middle of the road appears a lot more hazardous.

    Murphy,

    If you kick the vehicles of everyone you find irksome on the roads then I’m surprised you find time to do anything else.

    For that matter, I’m surprised you’re still alive. Road rage solves nothing and such actions give cyclists a bad reputation, as well as exposing them to greater risk. There’s a better and gentler way, even if it is less satisfying to your inner road warrior.

  • Morton – there’s no point in having a discussion with you. “Of course Double Parking is VERY inconsiderate, but if you are going to be VERY inconsiderate, isn’t it REASONABLE that you do your VERY inconsiderate behavior on the right side of the lane!!! Wouldn’t that be MORE considerate?!!!”

    Responding to that sort of thing with a rational argument isn’t going to make any more progress than saying “I like to pee on drivers who talk on their cellphone”. So I might as well have some fun. Aumsingly enough, you missed out on this and tried to “educate me”

  • the greasybear

    It’s unclear why Morton so desperately tries to justify motorists illegally robbing cyclists of 100% of the safety benefits the City intended when building out moving lanes for bicycle traffic.

    Regardless, Morton’s craven windshield perspective doesn’t fly. Bike lanes must always and everywhere remain open to bike traffic.

  • Morton

    Greasy/Murphy,

    It’s not clear to me exactly how many times I need to say that double-parking is inconsiderate before you finally get the message.

    But here’s the thing. Anyone who uses the roads accepts that – from time to time – someone will get in their way. The mature road user accepts the up’s and down’s of traveling in crowded urban area’s, and realizes that a certain anount of Zen, tolerance and patience is required.

    While those who rant that “I should never, ever be delayed even for a moment” can reasonably be ascribed as being one slice short of a rational loaf.

    Life isn’t perfect. DEal with it with equanimity and patience. God knows – drivers have to.

  • the greasybear

    The arbitrary and illegal erasure of 100% of a given road’s bicycle infrastructure is not akin to a mere traffic delay, but rather a reckless and illegal toying with cyclists’ lives for one selfish motorist’s personal convenience. It has got to stop.

  • Trafficstripes

    Let’s hope they keep that BEAD DISPENSER on the striping handliner so they won’t have to have some schlub carrying a small bucket of glass beads which will not get to the hot plastic in time to bond…

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

SFMTA Adds Markings to Guide Cyclists Across Tracks at 17th and Church

|
The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is testing out new street markings to help cyclists safely negotiate hairy intersections where bike routes and rail tracks meet. The SFMTA added guidance markings this week to the intersection of 17th and Church Streets, where the 17th Street bike lane meets Muni’s F-Market and J-Church streetcar lines. Car parking spots near the corners […]

Four Protected Bike Signals Coming to Polk Street By May

|
Today the SFMTA announced details about the first package of safety upgrades coming to Polk Street in the next few months. They include signals at four intersections that will give southbound bike traffic a separate phase from drivers turning right, making Polk the second street in SF to get the configuration. By May, the SFMTA said it would install the bike signals at […]