In Ideal Weather, SFMTA Crews Install Bike Boxes on Market and Van Ness

Photos: Bryan Goebel

Working in 80 degree weather, smiling SFMTA crews installed two green bike boxes in both directions of Market Street at Van Ness Avenue today, the latest pieces of innovative infrastructure to grace the city’s main thoroughfare, which continues to become a much friendlier street for people who bike, walk and take transit.

In addition to providing bicyclists an opportunity to queue up in front of waiting autos, the bike boxes are designed to prevent bike riders from entering the crosswalks on Market Street. Recent surveys have shown that in addition to growing numbers of bicyclists, pedestrian volumes have also risen on Market Street, thanks to a number of improvements the SFMTA began implementing in 2009.

It took SFMTA crews nearly 5 hours to install the two bike boxes on eastbound and westbound Market at Van Ness Avenue today. The preformed themoplastic is designed so that “both skid resistance and retroreflectivity are maximized,” according to the manufacturer,” Flint Trading Inc of Thomasville, North Carolina.

In addition to the green bike boxes, the SFMTA is expected to fill in the gaps on Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and 8th Street before Bike to Work Day May 12. Crews will color in the remaining standard bike lanes with green paint, and add soft-hit posts on some sections. In addition, the sharrows across Market at Van Ness will be enhanced. A combination of green pavement and white sharrows will guide bike riders through the intersection.

A fifth green bike box will be installed sometime this week or next on westbound Market Street at Gough, but it will likely be done in the early morning hours because daytime work would affect somel Muni lines. See more photos after the break and on my Flickr page.

Because drivers are allowed to turn right here, the bike box will not extend to the curb. The dashed bike lane leading up to the intersection will eventually become a green dashed bike lane.
I didn't see very many bicyclists using the new green bike boxes, but that behavior is likely to change as they get more accustomed to them. The bike boxes are also meant to help keep bike riders out of the crosswalk. The dashed bike lane here will also become a green dashed bike lane.
Today's sunny weather meant shortened drying times, which allowed crews to work faster on this bike box.
In Portland, the green bike lanes are connected to the bike box. The SFMTA says because right turns are allowed onto Van Ness, that can't be done for the bike boxes installed today. However, a similar configuration may be done on other green bike boxes on Market Street. We're trying to get some clarification from the SFMTA. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/itdp/4052879393/##itdp##
  • Nick

    I like the color- it almost looks like celeste green. (Any Bianchi fans out there?)

    And about those sharrows in intersections. Why not have these along residential bike routes too?

  • Mark D.

    I’m glad this article includes the comment that bike boxes also serve to keep people on bicycles from queuing up in the crosswalk. This is a habit that many people who ride on Market Street will need to break. I hope that now that there is a designated space for bikes, the crosswalk can be kept clear for people crossing the street and trying to reach the Muni platforms.

  • JJJ

    I tried to leave a comment last time, but it refused to post.

    Bike boxes only work in one of two situations:

    a) You live in oregon, the only state with a backwards law that treats bike lanes as sidepaths and not as a travel lane. Bike boxes became popular there to solve a dangerous issue created by the law (essentially a mandatory right hook law).

    b) Cyclists make a lot of left turns at that location, or there is an odd shift in the bike lane.

    Market fits neither of those criteria

    Cyclists wont use them because its useless. If youre going straight, why move to the left…?

    Proper uses of bike boxes:
    The wiggle.

    Boston bike lane that switches side of road.
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=02215&aq=&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=33.160552,69.873047&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Boston,+Massachusetts+02215&ll=42.348901,-71.091223&spn=0.000944,0.002132&t=k&z=19

    DC bike lane that does odd contraflow wiggle thing.
    (Not viewable via google yet)

  • Regarding JJJ’s comment: one of the benefits of bike boxes is that they reduce signal delays for large crowds of cyclists. Because all of the cyclists can queue up at the front of the intersection, they can get underway faster once the light changes. It also means that cyclists breathe less exhaust.

  • mikesonn

    Actually JJJ, Market does fit (b) as traveling east after Van Ness the bike lane appears to the left of the right most lane so the cyclists and drivers must criss-cross each other. Allowing the cyclists to come to the front of the queue puts them in the direct line of sight of the drivers and also means they can slide slightly to the left and not have to worry about a driver cutting them off.

  • Anonymous

    I’m stoked these are being installed. But, in absence of a) a bike/ped jump on the light cycle or b) a crowd of bikes at the light c) a particularly low-visibility situation (not common on market st.) I see myself doing pretty much what JJJ said – why move to the left when it’s out of my way? In fact, I like resting my right foot on the curb.

    I think these will have the most impact during the morning rush when you have 5-15 bikes at a light.

  • Jass

    The assumption here is that it is logical for cyclists to filter to the front and block other vehicles. That doesnt make sense to me. Bikes accelerate slower, so if theres plenty of room next to the the cars, why not use that? Deliberately placing yourself in front of a car just creates anger if youre simply going to move right again. That only makes sense if there’s no bike lane, and so you take the lane for maximum visibility.

  • Jass

    In that case, it does make sense then.

  • Jfnovella

    I ride against the bike flow downtown to Valencia in the am, so the bike boxes don’t really help me, but I imagine they are more geared towards the morning rush into downtown (opposite direction) because there are so many bikes. However, I agree that the wiggle bike box is highly useful, as is the Market/Van ness inbound, since it helps to crossover to the middle of market lane. Any plans to fix the market to Valencia left turn onto Valencia via center lane. It seems that bikes need to have a seperate section for turning onto Valencia, so they don’t have to dangerously cross in front of moving cars in the center turn lane, nor get in the way of the pedestrians, if they choose to use crosswalk, which isn’t practical.

  • john

    Most of these boxes are so small as to be almost useless. If there are 15 people on bikes waiting for the light to change, what good does it do if 3 of them can wait in the box? Everyone else just rolls through and waits in the crosswalk. Now, if those long “channels’ between the transit island and the curb could be green for 20-30 feet or so, then I think cyclists would use them. Once again, a SFMTA design in the Mid-Market Bicycle Infrastructure Experiment Zone, is going to need some re-working before they get it right. But it’s a start.