Laguna Honda Separated Bikeway, Raised Crosswalk Installed on West Side

Laguna Honda Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA installed separation improvements on the Laguna Honda Boulevard bike lanes and added a raised pedestrian crossing on St. Francis Circle last week, tacking on a pair of safety features for vulnerable street users in two western neighborhoods of San Francisco that are notorious for high volume, high-speed car traffic.

The bike lanes on Laguna Honda Boulevard have continued to receive treatments since the lifting of the bike injunction that go beyond what the original Bike Plan called for. A buffer zone reinforced with soft-hit posts last week provides the physical separation needed to create a more inviting cycle track for travelers on bike.  Walkers will also benefit from reduced roadway width for motor vehicles that should slow traffic.

“This facility will enhance access to the Forest Hill Muni station and is especially appropriate given the speed differential between people riding their bikes uphill and cars driving on Laguna Honda,” the SFMTA Bicycle Program said on its Facebook page. The road serves as a major north-south link between San Francisco’s western neighborhoods via the west side of Mount Sutro.

“The completion of the soutbound bike lane and installation of soft-hit posts is transformative as well as safe,” said Jason Henderson, who commutes on the road by bike to his job at San Francisco State University (SFSU) as an Associate Professor of Geography. “The build-out of bicycle lanes on the west side of San Francisco is critical for reducing the traffic impacts of SFSU.”

Previous conditions on Laguna Honda. Image: Google Maps

The previously narrow bike lane appears to have been re-striped into a cross-hatched buffer area, helping to relieve riders of the stress from passing 40 mph motor traffic by placing them in a newly marked curbside area formerly used for car parking. The new design also provides greater visibility and room for drivers to more safely cross the bike lane while entering driveways on the high-speed road.

Since last year the SFMTA has implemented a number of improvements aimed at calming traffic on Laguna Honda, including the reduction of travel lanes on the speedier downhill side of the road near Forest Hill Station, as well as the contiguous 7th Avenue section in the north, where riders must still pedal alongside speeding cars in a standard unprotected 5-foot lane.

The SFMTA hopes to install six additional cycle track projects over the next year and a half including the connecting Portola Drive as well as Alemany Boulevard in the city’s south end, Cargo Way and Innes Avenue in Hunter’s Point, Great Highway along Ocean Beach, and John Muir Drive around Lake Merced, according to a press release.

Drivers coming from West Portal Avenue slow at this Muni island crossing. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A newly installed raised crosswalk at St. Francis Circle is also helping pedestrians cross a slip-turn lane where West Portal Avenue meets Sloat Boulevard in the city’s southwestern Parkside neighborhood. It’s the area’s second raised crosswalk seen implemented in recent months after the nearby Stonestown Galleria saw one added across 20th Avenue.

The improvement connects a Muni island to a Sloat Boulevard walkway as the latest work in the SFMTA’s St. Francis Circle Rail Replacement Project. Raised crossings have been shown to increase pedestrian safety and should improve access to major transit stops at the intersection for riders of the K, M, and 23 Muni lines by slowing car traffic and increasing driver yielding to pedestrian right of way.

The St. Francis Circle intersection after rail replacement. The upper most left crosswalk received the new raised treatment last week. Image: Google Maps

The mammoth five-way St. Francis Circle intersection has a reputation as an intimidating place for travelers of all means as it meets the transit-heavy West Portal Avenue with the multi-lane motor thoroughfares of Junipero Serra and Sloat Boulevards as well as Portola and St. Francis Drives. It lies just east of the neglected intersection of 19th Avenue and Sloat where pedestrian crashes remain the third-highest in the city.

The mostly completed St. Francis Circle Project includes other improvements that seek to benefit all road users with new rail tracks, pavement, “traffic signals, improved lighting, improved low-level Muni boarding islands featuring easy access platforms for customers with disabilities, improved pedestrian islands for added customer safety, new crosswalks and smoother sidewalk surfaces,” and “updated curb ramps,” according to the website. Further scheduled work on the project is yet to be announced.

Riders on Laguna Honda Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Looking south near where the post separation begins. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Improved striping continues past Forest Hill station where buses cross over the bike lane toward their stop. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Looking northbound. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Bicycle riders must still contend with hazards created by driver behavior, including that of municipal employees. (Note: This is not a transit stop. The driver was not around but did return within a few minutes.) Photo: Aaron Bialick

Thanks to Streetsblog commenter Nick for the tip on the crosswalk upgrade.

  • Nick

    They also recently replaced the 1970’s era bike racks outside of Forest Hill Station. Sadly I think this is the only Metro station that has dedicated space set aside for bicycle parking.

    (Note: They replaced 8 of the older racks with 3 or 4 newer ones. There used to be two dedicated spaces for bike parking while now there is just one. I’d have to check but I think they placed newspaper bins or garbage cans at the second location).

  • taomom

    I’m glad to see the extension of cycle tracks on Laguna Honda. Last time I rode it, the section with the soft hit posts was very pleasant and then it just dumped you into traffic several blocks before the Forest Hill station. So now is there a bike lane connection all the way to the bike lanes on Dewey?

    Another huge benefit of soft hit posts–they by and large prevent cars/trucks/buses from illegally parking in the bike lane.

  • Nioe!

  • Thanks for covering this great new facility so thoroughly and with the street level and aerial photos. We hope this Spring the SFMTA Board will follow city staff recommendations for a cycle track on Masonic Avenue as well.

  • Jake Wegmann

    Now THIS is starting to look like a section of a real bike network. Nice going SFMTA.

  • I just went on a run past this section. My question is, why are the soft hit posts only for about a tenth of a mile? They could easily be all along that road at least until you get to the driveways on 7th Ave.

  • Jimbo in SF

    I’m a 10 yr member of the Bike Coalition and a nearby resident and I don’t agree with what they did on that stretch of Laguna Honda.

    They have made “mega wide” bike lanes which have taken away an entire driving lane north bound and the entire parking lane south bound. All this does is make both the morning and evening commutes much worse for cars, which they now blame on cyclists.

    IMO, they could have built the north bound cycle lane behind the sidewalk on the unused hospital proprty at the bottom of their hill. They could also have left the parking lane in place on the south bound side with the bike lane beside it .. as it was until about 2 weeks ago.

    I ride this route daily and it is not the heaviest cycled part of city, so it seems like overkill for a relatively small cycling population.

  • Define “much worse”…

  • @Jimbo: Anything that takes space away from cars is excellent in my book. Also, you have to “build it, and they will come.” Meaning, you have to build the better infrastructure before more people start cycling.

  • Jimbo in SF

    @John Murphy
    by “much worse”, I mean it backs auto traffic back onto Dewey and much further northbound and back onto 7th Ave southbound.

    @Stuart Chuang Matthews
    See, I disagree with this … I believe the further out from downtown (or densly populated areas) you get, the lower the ratio of cyclists you have due to distance issues. I believe the Bike coalition even produces membership numbers by zip code with the Haight having the most active members.

    Don’t you both agree that the north bound bike lane could have been behind the sidewalk where those wild bushes are on LHH property, which would have made both cyclists and drivers happy?

  • @Jimbo would your proposal leave a side path all the way to Clarendon? I’m not visualizing it well but when I think “sidepath” I think “right hook”

  • Jimbo in SF

    @John Murphy

    I would leave the sidewalk as is, but behind it – move the fence back 10 ft, cut back the bushes and pave a bike path. Once it approached Clarendon, I would put in a cut where the bike path would cross over the sidewalk and merge back into the current “narrow” bike path as it goes by the lake. This would probably involve needing a “Stop” sign on the northbound right turn up Clarendon rather than the current “Yield” sign that is there.

    Some may disagree, but the west side of town is more car centric and even “suburban” than the east and north of town and IMO compromise with drivers is important.

  • Gary

    I wonder what the cost would be to put the bike path behind the sidewalk?

  • Jimbo in SF

    @Gary

    You’re totally correct, this is not the cheap option … painting white lines on the current road is way cheaper.

    But I wonder would drivers now be in favor of that more costly option if it gave them back a driving lane?

  • @Jimbo – I guarantee someone would get run over returning to the travel lane. Out of sight, out of mind. Trust me, I learned this the hard way, riding a “behind the sidewalk” bike path in Florida. I want to be on the road where I can be seen, unless the path is effectively isolated forever (Steven’s Creek Trail/etc…)

  • Jimbo in SF

    @John Murphy

    I agree, it’s an issue.

    But the right hand, north bound lane that travels up Clarendon is quieter than the left hand side that travels north bound to the inner sunset, and putting a stop sign in place of the current Yield sign should help that.

    Either way, I doubt my solution will happen due to cost, so I guess I’ll live with what we have … not sure local drivers will be willing to live with it though.

  • Mike

    Going northbound, the design at Clarendon is meant to position cyclists better and more easily when approaching the right turn only lane, something that a path off to the side would not accomplish.

    Previously, cyclists would be along the curb, then have to merge into higher speed traffic (30, 40+ mph) in the right lane to access the through bike lane. Now cyclists can focus on just riding through, with the burden of responsibility for changing lanes now on motorists turning right. I remember being regularly intimidated by the prior design.

  • Jimbo in SF

    @Mike

    I agree, the old design was not good.

    I’m proposing joining back to the bike lane after the current Yield sign in the right hand lane … probably going through the pedestrian islands where Clarendon hits Laguna Honda. A Stop sign in place of the Yield sign would stop traffic allowing bikes to cross.

    I’m not even 100% sure it can be done, given the Water dept pumping station right on the corner of Clarendon.

  • Do they still able to clean the street once a lane is guarded by soft hit post? The bike lane on Division St is full of debris. I’m not sure if it is always this way or after they put in the soft hit post.

  • I believe Division is a high debris area, anyway. Though the soft hits restricting cars from rolling through that lane may make it collect more.

  • Division is a high pothole area. Speaking of which, they repaved the intersection of Mariposa and Pennsylvania! There was nothing about that intersection that hasn’t already been said about the roads in Kandahar.

  • Mike

    Safe hits on Laguna Honda were placed in a way that allows street cleaning.

  • the greasybear

    It looks fantastic. I can’t wait to ride it.

  • Nick

    ARRA funding was used to repave Laguna Hona. Too bad we can’t build more of America one separated bikeway at a time.

  • Yonathan Randolph

    Northbound, the merge at Forest Hill into a single lane has been annoying as a car driver (especially for those of us who actually do want to turn right onto Clarendon), but I think the separation significantly improves bicycling safety. However, southbound, the super-wide space is just bizarre without any dangerous intersection to justify it. Instead, I would have preferred an enforced speed limit of 25mph throughout including by the lake. I think the huge southbound bike lane was probably not worth the loss of parking to the church and future tenant of the available office building.

  • TK

    “The SFMTA hopes to install six additional cycle track projects over the next year and a half including the connecting Portola Drive as well as Alemany Boulevard in the city’s south end, Cargo Way and Innes Avenue in Hunter’s Point, Great Highway along Ocean Beach, and John Muir Drive around Lake Merced, according to a press release.”

    Well, great, but argh, I want to tear my hair out now. The worst oversight I can think of, off the top of my head, is San Jose Ave. Doesn’t anyone else here think it’s horrifying? Aren’t there sufficient SFBC members in the southern neighborhoods? I’d love to ride down to City College from the Mission, but there’s no way in hell I’m taking that route with my kid in tow.

    I’ve seen the “Connecting the City” report, btw…yeah, sounds grand, but how many years out are we thinking for a dramatic re-do, realistically?

  • @TK: Yeah, San Jose Ave. sucks. I ride it about three times per week. I can hear it from my house on Chenery. Even though it sucks, they actually recently improved it. Clearly they didn’t improve it enough. There’s no reason to not have a protected bike lane on San Jose.

  • I hope they will work on a bike lane on 2nd St. It probably has more bike traffic than the six new projects combined.

  • James Figone

    These lanes are a great improvement. The level of care and engineering is evident here unlike so many other bike projects in town. That said, the new lanes could be improved by the addition of green paint, assuming that we can find a paint mixture that works well in the rain. Adding green paint instead of just the white outlines could make the street feel calmer and would reinforce the idea that the lanes are dedicated bike space.

  • Adam S

    I ride this route quite regularly in both directions and the changes are a major improvement. One of my favorite parts of the changes is in the lanes at the traffic lights where 7th hits Woodside/Dewey. There used to be a combined straight/left turn lane that was always an issue for bikers. Having dedicated lanes makes it so much safer and more comfortable.

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