Work Begins on Upper Market Street Bike Lane Improvements

Market Street approaching Sanchez. The bike lane will be extended along the painted lines and the three front parking spots will be replaced. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Preparations for improvements [pdf] to the Upper Market Street bike lanes are underway and when completed will mark a step towards safer passage for travelers by bike at three intersections along the city’s busiest bike corridor, where a vision for a protected bikeway was dropped nearly forty years ago.

The extended bike lanes should provide safer guidance through intersections where they previously ended abruptly, forcing people on bikes to merge or squeeze between faster-moving motor traffic and parked cars. The redesign will facilitate riders more safely by replacing several right-turn lanes and fifteen hazardous parking spots between Castro Street and Octavia Boulevard.

“The improved bike lanes will help draw more people to the Upper Market businesses,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC). “There are a ton of families in the neighborhoods lining Market Street, so I think we’ll even see more people bicycling with their kids, which is already a growing trend.”

Cars will still be able to turn right by merging into the bike lane, a standard practice in San Francisco: “Bike lanes serve as the right-turn lane for all vehicles by definition,” the SFMTA noted in a presentation on the project last year.

Upper Market Street was actually slated to receive the city’s first parking-protected bike lanes in 1972 during its reconstruction, according to an article in a recent issue [pdf] of The Tube Times, the SFBC’s magazine. After neighbors organized by the SFBC and other community groups testified at a public hearing on the need for a separated bikeway, rather than the proposed six-lane widening, the Board of Supervisors approved a bikeway plan 10-1.

“This is a major advance towards our goal of a comprehensive system of protected bikeways throughout San Francisco and rationalization of the city’s overall transportation facilities. It is a step towards a new reality,” said Jack Murphy, who had just founded the SFBC a year prior, according to the article.

Ultimately, “the Department of Public Works opposed the idea and despite urging from the Board of Supervisors, these visionary protected bike lanes on Market Street were never built,” wrote the SFBC.

“Market Street is a work in progress,” said Shahum. “This is a step forward, and there’s a lot more we can be doing on all the sections on Market Street to make it even more inviting to the growing number of people bicycling, so we’ll keep watching and learning what works.”

Market Street approaching Noe. The two front parking spots will be replaced. Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • I hope the SFMTA paints these lanes green. There is a problem with double parkers on both sides of this stretch. This will definitely be a much-needed improvement, but I think they should be green and consistent with the rest of what’s happening on Market. Go all the way MTA!

  • I take these lanes at least once a week and appreciate these proposed improvements, but I would like physically-separated lanes even more. Double-parking in the bike lane along this stretch is especially ridiculous Saturday mornings. It happens even when there’s open curb a couple of car lengths ahead. By placing the bike lanes where we do, drivers are encouraged to think them as the perfect parking spot–they don’t have to pay, it saves them twenty steps of walking, and they don’t even have to parallel park. I don’t know how much green paint will outweigh these delightful benefits . . .

  • Anonymous

    This seems to be a constant in SF – Plans are made to make improvements to (insert something here) supported by the people and the electeds, the bureaucrats just say “no” and then we have to wait decades to implement something that seems to help things out. Then, after decades it’s presented as this new idea, when it’s not, and we heap praise on the city for doing something it should have done a long time ago. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is ahead of us and yet we think we’re so great. Can’t we do better?

  • Easy as Pie

    How to deal with flagrant double parkers ie. those to lazy to use an available spot.

    1) Calmly pull bike lock from pocket, belt, or other handy locale.
    2) While maintaining a good hold of ones lock, and at a safe riding speed proceed to rap lock against any or all:
    A, Tailight
    B, rear, side rear, and or driver’s window(s)
    C,rear quarter panel, side doors, front quarter panel
    D, driver’s side mirror
    3) Calmly and safely return lock to proper location
    4) Resume safe cycling speed, and enjoy remainder of ride.

  • mikesonn

    @easy as pie

    Bryan, I’d argue this goes against the terms and conditions of this forum. This isn’t sfgate. Yeah, I’m pissed too that drivers block the bike lane and put myself and others in harms way, but this isn’t necessary. Plus, leaving this post up will only distract from the topic.

    Easy, keep it to yourself. Most of us are decent people trying to get around the city. Violence only begets violence, and it’ll probably bring it against a biker other than yourself. Don’t put the rest of us in a driver’s crosshairs.

  • I usually just give them a few nice pats on the car for what a great job they’re doing.

  • Sprague

    This is a good step in the right direction, but a more important improvement would be to have physically separated lanes and many sections of this stretch of Market are certainly wide enough for this. Hopefully the next wave of SFMTA innovation & painting would entail switching the parking lane with the bike lane. At least on an experimental basis (like with car restrictions on eastbound Market east of Van Ness), a physically separated lane on the cheap is worth trying (with no alterations to the sidewalk and curb – just paint on the asphalt and, if needed, posted signs & soft hit posts).

    Many San Francisco streets are crying out for this type of improvement (16th Street east of Portrero for example – where, unlike on Fell, it could be done easily with little to no impact on vehicle lanes or parking spaces). Not until physically separated bike lanes start appearing on SF streets will the full spectrum of the 8 to 80 crowd feel safe cycling here.

  • Anonymous

    Just in a bike store and a guy was talking about how bad the bike lanes in SF are, he was comparing to Holland, and he specifically referenced these sections of Market, which do seem at best unfinished. I said something like, there’s a plan, SFTA’s working on it, someday it will be better! And voila! Great to see these incremental improvements. Really helps people get riding, and so much more relaxing to have some space on the street for us.

  • Sprague

    The new paint and changes near intersections are an improvement. Thank you very much to the MTA for this. But I still hope for physically separated bike lanes along the same strech of Market. Then it will feel a whole lot safer to bike this stretch with my young kids. Furthermore (with physically separated bike lanes), if cyclists don’t have to swerve into traffic to pass cars blocking the bike lane, motorists will benefit too (since they won’t have to slow down for bicyclists as often).

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Tomorrow: Support a Safer Upper Market With Protected Bike Lanes

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The SFMTA will hold an open house tomorrow on bike and pedestrian safety upgrades along upper Market Street, which could include bulb-outs to calm the street’s wide, dangerous intersections and protected bike lanes on some segments. The SFMTA’s proposal hasn’t been presented yet, but safe streets advocates say they worry the bike improvements may not be as […]