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.
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.
“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].