Duboce/Church Re-Opens With New Boarding Islands, Green “Bike Channel”

Photos: Aaron Bialick

Muni riders, bike commuters and pedestrians passing through the re-opened Duboce and Church junction this morning were welcomed with wider boarding islands, fresh pavement, and a newly-painted, lime-green “bike channel.”

The bike channel, which runs between the sidewalk and the widened boarding island on the north side of Duboce, is coated with the same bright shade of green seen on the sharrows the SFMTA is rolling out on the rest of the Wiggle. The color, which was added using a grant from the Bikes Belong Foundation, should help clarify the right of way for bicycling and not to walk in the bike lane. The channel will be marked with bicycle stencils, and markings will also be painted to guide bicyclists over the rail tracks.

Car access onto westbound Duboce from Church is now closed. Few motorists will be affected: Left turns from northbound Church were already banned, and southbound Church begins just one block to the north.

Boarding islands were also widened on the south side of Duboce and east side of Church. The rebuilt islands, which appear to be raised higher than the old ones, received a new brick-lined treatment, as have curbs extended along Duboce. New railings are also being installed on some islands.

The junction feels a bit quieter with new tracks and smooth pavement carrying trains, cars and bikes. The center transit lanes appear to be set off more distinctly by new concrete surfacing, which also makes for smoother track crossings for bikes and strollers. The surface treatments, along with some new raised pavement bumps, should help deter drivers from using the transit lanes. New train signals also help operators take turns negotiating the busy intersection.

Crews were hard at work making the improvements during last week’s nine-day shutdown of the N-Judah and disruption of the J-Church lines. They’re part of the ongoing Church and Duboce Track and Street Improvement Project, expected to be completed in roughly a year. They also come as green-backed sharrows, ladder crosswalks, and daylighting are being implemented along the Wiggle.

More photos after the break.

New raised pavement bumps deter drivers from illegally entering the transit lanes on Duboce.
A smoothly surfaced intersection.
Passengers prepare to board on the newly rebuilt J-Church inbound island.
Train traffic signals help operators take turns.
Car traffic continues to disproportionately clutter the multi-modal junction. (In case you're wondering, the N-Judah Shuttle is there because the line broke down for some time this morning.)
  • Zack

    After passing through this morning, I’m a fan of the improvements!  It would be great if they just closed that whole intersection to cars, but as usual, don’t see that happening.  But I’m glad the boarding island is larger, should provide more room for people to stand without spilling onto the street.  It would be great if there were some “” reminders or something similar on the islands as well, I don’t remember seeing that in the plan.  Just to remind people to actually look before crossing the bike lane.  I’m super mindful there biking by, but it would be great if everyone paid a bit more attention too.  But with the bike only section and the re-paved surface after that, it’s a much more pleasant couple blocks.  Repave Waller next, please?

  • Sprague

    Another step forward for Muni riders and bicyclists.  Much more of this is needed throughout SF. We need more transit and bicycle prioritization and automobile restrictions to make this city more livable and safer.

  • At first glance I thought that last photo was a “before” image with so many cars. They really should block cars from that stretch.

  • Great photos Aaron!

    Question: Are people still allowed to drive to the left of the boarding platforms on Church or are the lanes Muni only as on Duboce? The last photo makes me think the former.

  • Peter M

    Are they going to put shelters on the new islands? Those stops could really use them.

    Though they should have put in high platforms for the N. It looks like there would have been more than enough space for them with the reconfigured roadway on Duboce. Still, the new platforms are a big improvement over the crappy narrow ones that used to be there.

  • a ‘bulb out’ that doesn’t endanger cyclists? amazing. happy dance.

  • Anonymous

    This is great. Really glad to see the widening boarding platforms, the clearly-marked bike-lanes, and the repaving of the road around the tracks which was a nightmare for cyclists before.

    But I have no idea why they need to allow cars at all on Church between Market and Duboce.
    And for the stretch of Church between Duboce and Hermann, it should be a
    dead-end only accessible from Herman (since there are garages on this block, local traffic would still
    need to be allowed … but absolutely no reason motorists need to be
    using it as a thoroughfare like in the above picture).

  • I actually looked and found no signs that cars were prohibited from driving in the center lane. So as far as I know, it’s still allowed. Why? I have no clue (especially since cars have to merge into the same lane anyway as they cross the intersection).

  • Anonymous

    It would be nice if there were a sign that rerminded bicyclists to stop for pedestrians and not go flying through the intersection…

  • mikesonn

    I don’t recall there being any bike-ped crashes there, but I do recall a drunk driver thinking the Muni underground was a quick route to the Bay Bridge – maybe you need to reconsider which signs are most important.

  • Cars banned from Church would probably switch to Sanchez/Steiner on the Wiggle instead. Not saying this is a reason to not pursue it, but it makes it more complicated.

  • Yes, let’s have a sign at every intersection telling everyone what they’re supposed to do.

    The more signs we have (we already have too many), the more they will be ignored.

  • I think I remember signs on the project diagrams.

  • Gneiss

    Don’t forget that the 22 bus line also transits on Chruch through this area.  That would add an extra complication for access – you’d need to somehow ban private autos, but not the buses.

  • Nor can I recall seeing anyone “flying through” here on a bike. To me, it feels difficult to do anything but tip-toe, minding the tracks, the (formerly) bumpy pavement, the trains, cars, buses, and pedestrians… Have you tried it, pchazzz?

  • Anonymous

    Probably true, which is why they need to dead-end (whether with bollards or otherwise) Sanchez as well. I mean, the reality is, motorists can’t be using local streets as thoroughfares. I think Berkeley has done a great job realizing this, since most of their residential streets dead-end. Cars passing through need to be confined to the thoroughfares, not local streets. And especially not local streets that are one of the city’s largest bicycle thoroughfares.

  • Gneiss

    My experience has been a need to tip toe as well.  As an added issue, car drivers coming north along Church don’t often look right on the opposite site of the intersection (where I usually wait to cross) before moving forward, as there’s no expected car traffic that direction.  Makes it tough to scoot across on a bike, particularly if it gets backed up in that direction like the picture above shows.  It would be nice if there was a bike activated stop phase (like in the Netherlands) on that signal pole which appears to be getting installed.

  • The Greasybear

    Meanwhile, in reality, cyclists do not and cannot “fly through” Church and Duboce.

    I look forward to enjoying the new green bike channel. 

  • @Gneiss You’re essentially describing lower Market Street.

  • @002ec2dcc5273303fbfd34e45385ab64:disqus  You’re essentially describing lower Market Street.

  • According to the plans I’ve seen, there will be shelters: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/03/10/church-and-duboce-project-to-revamp-major-transit-and-bike-corridor/

    And it’s hard to tell in the photos, but the new platforms are a bit higher.

  • Anonymous

    @002ec2dcc5273303fbfd34e45385ab64:disqus Yes, like @azb324:disqus said, you handle it like lower Market St. However, you could also have bollards that are automatically triggered to lower by the buses (and emergency vehicles). I have seen this before (can’t remember where though) and it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to implement.

  • Zack

    I’d agree with you if I saw that happening more.  What I see way more is pedestrians walking out from the boarding islands without looking and the same at the entrance for the Duboce bikeway.  I’ll be halfway or more across Church heading to Market and a pedestrian will start to cross without looking.  Then I have to either try to dodge around or stop in the road, both of which put me in danger.  It’s a crowded intersection for sure, and I agree with you that everyone needs to be observant a bit more patient there.  Maybe to help with the issue of people walking out from the boarding islands they could put fences like they have on the ones on Market, directing people to the crosswalk where they’re protected from us flying cyclists.

  • one driver into that tunnel, mike? it happens more than once per year, and also into the N-Judah tunnels…

  • Peter M

    I saw two drivers almost drive into the east end of the Sunset Tunnel while they were doing this work. With the new configuration of Duboce with the sidewalk extension at Noe, it looks like more drivers are getting confused and following the N tracks towards the tunnel.

    Did they put any of those bumps on the tracks there or paint the area to try to keep cars away from the tunnel?

  • Anonymous

    I think that the temptation to whizz thtu the bike channel will prove too tempting for speed demon bicyclists. All it takes is one N Judah patron stepping into the bike channel without looking and WHAMMO!

  • I think that the temptation to whizz thtu the bike channel will prove too tempting for speed demon bicyclists.

    Interesting. What do you base your opinion upon?

    All it takes is one N Judah patron stepping into the bike channel without looking and WHAMMO!

    Interesting. The cyclist is a SPEED DEMON, but the pedestrian who walked into an open travel lane without looking where they are going is a “patron”

  • The Greasybear

    murph, pchazzz sees flying demon bicyclists where none exist because he is feverish with anti-bike bias.

  • Gneiss

    Another idea might be to set up that block of Church like a dutch ‘woonerf’ a shared space where pedestrians, cars, and cyclists are all given leave to move across the street area.  Car traffic could be significantly slowed by adding textured pavement and sloping the sidewalks to indicate that pedestrians can step off the pavement anywhere, in addition to putting raised cross-walks and either end of the road.  Engineering the street so a speed of less that 10 mph would be relatively easy given the current state of pedestrian movements across the block and the street furniture that already exists.

    I believe it already acts like that, with many people walking mid-block to get to shops opposite the Safeway.

  • GL

    On a side note, this intersection is so “blah”, with the back of Safeway, two featureless apartment houses, and a retail store that doesn’t really have much of an activated presence at the corner, plus a bunch of not-so-human-scale tunnel-entrance infrastructure.  Yet, there are tons of people coming and going here, and it’s an important bike crossing and transit station. It can be a bit sketchy feeling at worst, and at best it still feels like a major transit crossroads that has been treated as an afterthought from a public space perspective. 

    How about some active uses fronting onto this space? Revive that dinky little coffee shop and give it some quality outdoor seating, or something, anything. 

  • Anonymous

    May I remind you that the rules of the road apply to bikes as they do to cars so peds have the right of way. Perhaps the green bike channel should be green and yellow striped to indicate caution or there should be crosswalks in the bike channel.

    My observations are based on the simple fact that many if not most bicyclists will speed thru an area that is sheltered from cars as is the bike channel.

  • The only difference is that the channel is now painted green, making it more obviously a bike lane, where as before it was just pavement. If anything there will be less accidents, not that I can really recall there ever being any there.

    It’s also painfully obvious you never bike through here, because no one ‘flies’ through. The trolleys, the tracks, the cars, the busses, the pedestrians and other bicyclists usually means that people go pretty slowly through here.

  • @pchazzz:disqus  To remind everyone, CvC 21950 says.. “Don’t be a dick”

  • @pchazzz:disqus please read the CA DMV handbook regarding pedestrian responsibilities: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/misc_lic_info.htm#pedestrianresp. This bit is relevant: “Yield the right-of-way to vehicles when you cross a street between intersections and in areas with no pedestrian crosswalks or signals.” 

    In short, getting hit because you were a dumbass who stepped into the street without looking is a lot different than getting hit because a motorist/cyclist didn’t stop at a stop sign or red light.

  • Shmoozilla

     I think the real concern for pedestrians are car drivers who roll through the stop sign on Duboce before turning right on Church. With the wider boarding platform, the traffic lane is narrower and wider vehicles encroach on the painted path of travel from the platform to the crosswalk.

  • Anonymous

    I think this intersection could greatly benefit from the green bike arrows they are implementing on the wiggle. Having to make that weird diagonal journey across an intersection full of tracks is pretty treacherous because you can’t move with the car/MUNI traffic in either direction. I’m not really sure why there isn’t a stop light here.

  • Anonymous

     @002ec2dcc5273303fbfd34e45385ab64:disqus Yeah, I’d be down with that … except you have those middle-of-the-street boarding platforms that make this hard. The way such plazas work is that there are no curbs so the whole area is level and it’s a sort of free-for-all since curbs normally designate off different areas. I think given that Muni trains don’t board at street level and need a platform, this will be difficult.

    By the way, Zagreb’s Trg Jelacica, though much bigger than the Church/Duboce area, does this quite well:
    http://www.visit-croatia.co.uk/photos/zagreb_photos/16_big.jpg

    The trams board at the street level so you don’t need boarding platforms. And it also helps that the area is, if not car-free, definitely “car-lite”, so that really helps.

    I have to say though, if nothing else, why can’t we get a decent bike lane on Church between Market and Duboce? I mean, it really sucks right now (and even with the overhaul). You are squeezed between buses, trains, dodging the Muni tracks, cars flying up to the stop sign, cars pulling out of the Safeway (can’t they at least close the entrance to the Safeway lot on Church St?), and of course pedestrians everywhere. It really is ridiculous as a cyclist right now. I definitely feel like, along with Fell/Oak, this is the worst stretch of the Wiggle.

  • Anonymous

    You know, now that I think about, they really need to combine the N and J boarding platforms into one stop. I don’t even know if that is possible without tearing down some nearby buildings, but it really is silly to have two stops so close. What a horribly designed intersection …..

  • Anonymous

    @Sean Rea – A bike channel is not a “street”.

  • As noted in the article, the SFMTA plans to make those markings.

  • @pchazzz:disqus source? Appears to be a road to me.

  • The Greasybear

    I rode the bike channel today. As already noted by others, the photos don’t reveal how high the expanded boarding platform is raised above the green roadway. While there will always be jaywalking, the new setup is more intuitive than the old and should help keep pedestrians and bikes at a safe remove on this stretch of Duboce. 

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps you are right.  The definition of street seems to be rather broad “a public thoroughfare, usually paved, in a village, town, or city, including the sidewalk or sidewalks.”  So, I suppose that the bike channel could be considered part of Duboce Street.  If it is a street, then there should be a crosswalk or crosswalks from the curb to the island.

  • mikesonn

    There is no need for crosswalks from the curb to the island.

  • mikesonn

    I think the part I like the best about the “bike channel” is that there is still a full block in this city that isn’t tarnished with a curb cut and an ugly garage door. So pleasant!

  • Anonymous

    It was my interpretation that they are painting the white bikes on the currently green lane. I must have skipped “and markings will also be painted to guide bicyclists over the rail tracks.”

  • Sprague

    A “bike channel” would be a welcome improvement to the 17th Street pedestrian plaza at Castro and Market.  On the northern edge of 17th Street, between the gas station and the F-line boarding island, there is room for a two-way bike channel.  Westbound bicyclists could be guided across Market Street via a northbound crosswalk alongside the pedestrian crosswalk on the eastern side of the Market/Castro/17th Street intersection..  Since 17th Street is a traffic calmed bike friendly street, it makes sense to encourage and enable cyclists to legally ride it in its entirety.  The MTA appears receptive to such improvements, and I think it’s reasonable to say that such a treatment would already be in place if SF streets were being managed by Dutch, Danish, etc. street planners.

  • Dave

    Yes definitely. 17th Street is an important link in the citywide network and it’s basically blocked off by that (truly) lovely plaza that was designed without the bike network in mind.  

  • Anonymous

     Agreed. Except it’s technically only 1/2 a block. We can only be so bold to wish for an entire block!

  • mikesonn

    It goes from Church to Fillmore, but not all the way to Steiner. Guess that’s “a block” but not the full distance we’d prefer. Guess that’s the best SF has to offer these days.

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