SFMTA: Fell and Oak Street Bikeways Likely Coming by June 2012

Rendering of one design option from the SF Bicycle Coalition.

A project that would create separated bikeways connecting the vital Wiggle route to the eastern and western parts of the city will take at least a year to plan and implement, SFMTA staff told the agency’s Board of Directors Policy and Governance Committee today.

At the urging of directors, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division Planner Mike Sallaberry said the project could be fast-tracked as a trial similar to the bikeways implemented on Market Street. That would shave a few months off the originally proposed schedule, bringing the earliest timeline for installation down to about a year from now.

“We still want to do the outreach to the community, to do it correctly and diligently,” said Sallaberry. “But once we have a preferred alternative, we can potentially implement it as a trial and have the environmental review happen concurrently. So we’re not skipping any steps, but having a little bit of overlap of the various steps.”

As for which “preferred alternative” to choose for the design, which faces questions similar to those currently being mulled over in the John F. Kennedy Drive project, an extensive planning process lies ahead. “Nothing is rising to the top,” he said.

Prop K funds for the project’s planning are expected to be approved by the SF County Transportation Authority by early July, said Sustainable Streets Director Bond Yee.

Although the SFMTA has yet to conduct neighborhood outreach on the project, Sallaberry said neighborhood surveys done by the SF Bicycle Coalition have shown generally positive feedback.

“It sounds like people are open to it,” he said. “It’s not clear whether they prefer removing a parking lane versus removing a travel lane. But I was pleasantly surprised by how there’s not a ‘no way, this is crazy, don’t do it’ feeling out there.”

“It shows that there’s a proactive feel to this project, and we’re not shoving it down anybody’s throat,” he added.

The final design option seems to be swaying in favor of replacing car parking lanes. A significant number of new parking spots recently became available to the public at a Department of Motor Vehicles lot lying between the two streets, making it an easier option politically.

In light of recent questions, Director Cheryl Brinkman made it a point to reiterate just why Fell and Oak are being singled out for bikeways. Once implemented, they would serve as a “release valve” allowing many more San Franciscans to use what’s already one of the city’s busiest bicycle routes.

“If you’re a cyclist, you know exactly why,” said Brinkman. “The Wiggle leads right up to it, and it’s the same reason the cars are on it. It is the flattest, most direct connection.”

  • In before Rob Anderson explains why these streets are perfectly OK exactly as is, nothing needs to be “fixed”, and building a bikeway would entail Needlessly Redesigning Them for a Minority of Users.

  • poncho

    keep the parking lane and remove the travel lane.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, it would be great to get this in a year, but I’m super skeptical it will happen that fast. As for removing a parking versus travel lane, I’m guessing removing a travel lane will be the easiest politically ….

  • A whole year more before The Three Blocks of Terror get tackled?  Sigh.  Could we at least have a sign on Oak then that says “Bikes Okay to Take the Lane”  between Baker and Scott? 

    For that stretch, there’s just no room in the lane for anything but a little Mini Cooper to squeeze past a bicycle safely, but even so, I’ve had SUVs nearly brush my elbow in their impatience to pass.  So now I take the lane without feeling guilty, but I do try to go pretty quickly, especially the block from Divisadero to Scott where the traffic is picking up speed. (And then there’s that right turn with that huge, completely bald manhole cover to dodge. It really is an obstacle course.)

    Most drivers on this stretch are fairly considerate because it’s really only one block you’re slowing them down, but just last week I had one honk at me to convey that I was in his/her way.  (Of course this made me just go further into the center of the lane.)  Personally, I think it should be illegal for cars to honk at bikes.  People in cars are insulated from the sound, but for someone on a bike, it’s startling,  unpleasant, and prompts me to be quite uncooperative. 

  • Nick

    Fell and Oak are being singled out because people have been complaining about them for 10+ years. Seriously, can’t the MTA complete a project in less time than it takes to earn a college degree? Their pace is as if the engineers who need to design these simple bike lanes are taking those college classes today and need more time before they graduate.

  • Anonymous

    Last time I rode Oak, last Sunday, I felt like I was being stalked from behind by the giant duck bus…..
    I’ll stick with Page.

  • JohnD

    This is a horrible idea… not only is Fell/Oak VERY unsafe for non-motorized traffic, its one of the major motorized arteries in the city with direct highway access.  To reduce motorized traffic on these thoroughfares will do several things:

    1. create more traffic from those exiting the highways, thereby creating more highway traffic

    2. Create more traffic on what are supposed to be the ‘quick’ streets to get around town thereby push excess traffic to side streets where there is a higher probability of pedestrian and cyclist injuries

    3. entitle a minority of the population (7%) that is already at risk of injury – some for legitimate causes others b/c they run stop signs, traffic lights and weave in and out of Pedestrians who have right of way (kind of hypocritical – no?) – what if the 7% population that enjoys being nake decided that, b/c they enjoy it in the privacy of their own homes, they should be able to walk the streets naked?  I guess is that if you have kids or don’t enjoy see random people naked, you’d be opposed to this

    4. Spend much need public funds on something that brings little value to the city and in fact could cause more problems than solve seems like a bad choice to me – Spending $160K on outreach campaigns when we’re closing schools, firing teachers, closing public offices, etc. seems like a poor allocation of funds

    I’m not a hater of cyclists – in fact I’m a fan of riding and the  benefits it has for our environment.  But I’m not ready to turn a working system upside down just because a minority would PREFER it that way…  Bikes are supposed to share the same traffic laws as motorized vehicles. If they do, they’re chances of injury are dramatically reduced.

  • JohnD

    This is a horrible idea… not only is Fell/Oak VERY unsafe for non-motorized traffic, its one of the major motorized arteries in the city with direct highway access.  To reduce motorized traffic on these thoroughfares will do several things:

    1. create more traffic from those exiting the highways, thereby creating more highway traffic

    2. Create more traffic on what are supposed to be the ‘quick’ streets to get around town thereby push excess traffic to side streets where there is a higher probability of pedestrian and cyclist injuries

    3. entitle a minority of the population (7%) that is already at risk of injury – some for legitimate causes others b/c they run stop signs, traffic lights and weave in and out of Pedestrians who have right of way (kind of hypocritical – no?) – what if the 7% population that enjoys being nake decided that, b/c they enjoy it in the privacy of their own homes, they should be able to walk the streets naked?  I guess is that if you have kids or don’t enjoy see random people naked, you’d be opposed to this

    4. Spend much need public funds on something that brings little value to the city and in fact could cause more problems than solve seems like a bad choice to me – Spending $160K on outreach campaigns when we’re closing schools, firing teachers, closing public offices, etc. seems like a poor allocation of funds

    I’m not a hater of cyclists – in fact I’m a fan of riding and the  benefits it has for our environment.  But I’m not ready to turn a working system upside down just because a minority would PREFER it that way…  Bikes are supposed to share the same traffic laws as motorized vehicles. If they do, they’re chances of injury are dramatically reduced.

  • JamesF

    DJC, Well what did you expect? What were you thinking? Go one black south and enjoy some peace.

  • JamesF

    JohnD, I agree entirely. Quite why bikers and peds want to ride on the very few high-speed, high-volume Sf streets, and risk their lives, when they have hundreds of parallel options stuns me.

    Page and Hayes are vastly more superior for slow-moving, vulnerable traffic

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Karen is sounds scary, but the safest thing to do now, is to just take the lane by moving towards its center. I still get nervous every time I do, but outside of being startled occasionally by a horn, I no longer get the sensation of mirrors brushing me.

    Also the more cyclists take the left the more drivers will come to accept it as operational procedure.

    Besides most of the drivers that are getting too close to you are doing so on purpose to try and “prove a point”. There is no way to reason with, or expect these folks to accommodate you and your bike with out making them do so with brute force (ie moving into the middle of the lane)

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Karen is sounds scary, but the safest thing to do now, is to just take the lane by moving towards its center. I still get nervous every time I do, but outside of being startled occasionally by a horn, I no longer get the sensation of mirrors brushing me.

    Also the more cyclists take the left the more drivers will come to accept it as operational procedure.

    Besides most of the drivers that are getting too close to you are doing so on purpose to try and “prove a point”. There is no way to reason with, or expect these folks to accommodate you and your bike with out making them do so with brute force (ie moving into the middle of the lane)

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Oh the shock and horror. A three to four lane road that is regularly abused by dangerous and speeding drivers will be cut down to two. But what will our kids think of us to learn we took proactive measures to slow down drivers who were unable to show restraint and drive at a safe speed on their own, all while accommodating the ever growing cycling traffic.

    Funny auto drivers look a traffic jams and demand more lanes. Auto drivers see too many cyclists for the inadequate space provided and think they can demand fewer bikes. All while oblivious to the disconnect in their logic, or dare I say hypocrisy.

    Of course the logical assessment is a bike on the street is a car off, so letting the bikes have a bit more room (as each takes up less) to flow freely will allow for more bikes, allow for those bikes to interrupt auto traffic less and also result in less auto traffic, which ultimately allows the auto traffic that remains to flow more smoothly, and safely. Oh the horror in that.

    It reminds me of how auto drivers stopped in traffic jams yell at cyclists riding by for slowing them down (the Embarcadero, before ball games come to mind). It is physically impossible for a faster moving object to slow down a slower moving object if both are traveling in the same direction.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    You either are not from San Francisco or are trying to disingenuously ignore the topography of the area. Oak, Fell, and the Panhandle are the flattest routes east to west (and west to east).

    If the other routes are so much more convenient than by all means drive them. You will be helping out your less sophisticated auto drivers and avoiding cyclists you obviously are incapable of accommodating who will almost always be sticking to the flatter routes.

    Come on, put all that horsepower you paid for to use.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    The MTA only makes changes AFTER 10 years of lobbying. It is in their unwritten by laws. That is why in most cases the changes are also 10 years out of date by time they are implemented.

  • odm2

    James, why don’t you ride Page West? If it’s so great, why don’t more people do it?

    It’s not like it has any hills or anything.

  • odm2

    John, you seem to be missing the point. It’s not to “entitle a minority of the population”, it’s to give the majority the option to cycle safely and conveniently like we’ve given for driving. And replacing a parking lane won’t slow down cars.

  • JamesF

    ODM, it was djconnel who recommended Page. The choice between vehicular traffic and getting a better workout is always yours.

  • JamesF

    ODM, removing a parking lane will affect a majority of those who actually live on Fell and Oak, who would then have no where to park, in favor of just one class of road user. As I understand it, there’s only 3 blocks of Fell and Oak in question here, so surely you can take the next street over?

  • Could somebody who actually knows the details of the proposal please say whether this plan involves cutting off access to the driveways along the south side of Fell Street between Scott and Divis?  (And don’t just tell me what you think based on the artist’s rendering above. I see what that looks like, but an artist’s rendering is not the same thing as an official plan or blueprints.)

  • Anonymous

    cutting off access to a driveway would pretty much be verboten

  • noah

    I mean, that makes sense to me, but I still haven’t actually seen what this plan is.  I obviously don’t trust the artist rendering above, but if it is correct, they are cutting off access to all but one driveway on that block.

  • JamesF

    The City absolutely can NOT cut off access to private driveways unless they are willing to pay massive compensation to the property owners who would effectively see 100K or more wiped off their property values instantly.

    It’s called a government “taking” and the Founding Fathers were sufficiently worried about that to put it in the Constitution. You know, that pesky thing that prevents governments doing whatever they want.

  • noah

    I’m aware of that concept, too JamesF.  But I’d still like to actually see what the plan is before I make assumptions about what it is.  Most of the safety justification for this plan is eliminated if you don’t get rid of the curb cuts.

  • JamesF

    Noah, I agree the safety aspects are compromized if there are active driveways every 30 feet or so. And of course we should always examine plans to fully understand them. But I’d be stunned if the City decided to take the Constitutionally dubious step of exercizing “eminent domain” on a property for no other reason than to make cycling marginally more pleasant.

  • mikesonn

    “LIfe, Liberty and the pursuit of a curb cut”

  • SG

    I’ve just heard about this and hence my comment is very after the fact. Could we please get a non-biased agency to do a survey of people’s actual opinions and not the obviously highly biased Bike Coalition. Form above: “neighborhood surveys done by the SF Bicycle Coalition have shown generally positive feedback.”

  • peternatural

    Just read a little harder:

    ““We still want to do the outreach to the community, to do it correctly and diligently,” said [SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division Planner] Sallaberry.”

  • mikesonn

    Reading harder doesn’t fit the narrative. The sky is falling!

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