SFMTA May Test Two-Way Bikeways on the Embarcadero

SPUR's vision for an "EmBIKEadero." Image: Carrie Nielson

A two-way protected bikeway along the Embarcadero could get a trial in the coming months. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is considering implementing a temporary two-way bikeway along the waterfront during the next America’s Cup events in October, according to an agency report. The agency is also developing plans for a more permanent bikeway along the Embaracdero near Pier 39, from Kearny to Powell Streets.

During the next America’s Cup yacht races, which are scheduled from October 2 to 7, the SFMTA “is investigating the feasibility of a trial two-way cycle track on the east side of the Embarcadero,” according to an agency report to the Bicycle Advisory Committee [PDF]. “A lane of northbound traffic could potentially be converted to a temporary two way cycle [track]. Staff is working with the Port and local merchants to develop the concept further.” No details on the length of the bikeway are currently available.

A two-way bikeway on the Embarcadero, or an “EmBIKEadero,” was recommended in a report [PDF] from the SF Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) and in the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting the City campaign. “Creation of a separated two-way bike path alongside the Embarcadero would enhance the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike,” SPUR wrote on Streetsblog last year. “Promoting multi-modal connectivity along the Embarcadero will help ensure that the public can access and enjoy its waterfront for the duration of the America’s Cup and beyond.”

The Embarcadero as it exists today. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/elithebearded/4004285894/##Eli the Bearded/Flickr##
Approaching Pier 39, many bicycle riders use the brick lane with trolley tracks reserved for the F-Line streetcar or the crevice of road space beside it. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/2947887571/##Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious##

Currently, much of the Embarcadero has painted bike lanes, but they’re frequently blocked by drivers, and the conditions are hardly welcoming for people who aren’t comfortable riding next to motor vehicles. Bike riding is also allowed on the Embacadero’s wide north side pedestrian area, but people on bikes sometimes come into conflict with pedestrians. As the SPUR report noted, “Loading vehicles, excessive street furniture, and constant conflict with other cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers creates an obstacle course for cyclists. Bike lanes and the shared-use promenade do not meet the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.”

Meanwhile, the SFMTA report provides a glimpse of what might be in store for the area near Pier 39:

The SFMTA is working with the Planning Department and Pier 39 to develop a solution to provide dedicated space for bicycles along the Embarcadero, from Kearny to Powell streets. The current plan is to remove one of the two westbound vehicle travel lanes from Kearny to Powell, and install a two-way physically separated cycletrack in its place. This would require circulation changes in the area, particularly affecting the Pier 39 garage. The City is working with the Pier 39 garage to determine whether these changes are feasible.

The report doesn’t indicate how soon that project could be completed.

  • Anonymous

    This makes so much sense. These are standard across Canada.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great idea, if the length is long enough to be useful. Too often, the bike lanes are blocked by double parked cars and delivery trucks, especially around the Ferry Building.

    How are turns in and out of the 2-way bike lane going to work? If you are heading north in the bike lane and need to turn left, onto one of the cross streets, how do you get out of the double-bike lane and into the left turn pocket?

    Even more confusing is if you’re heading south and need to make a right turn into one of the side streets. You can’t just merge right into oncoming car traffic.

  • justin

    This is definitely at the top of my list of no-brainers that the city needs to implement immediately. I commute often on the Embarcadero between North Point and 3rd, and it is very unpleasant. I try to ride in the bike lanes, which as everyone says, are mostly filled with cars and trucks. The east sidewalk is out of the question, since pedestrians do not deserve to have bikes speeding past, legal or not (I feel the same about the panhandle).

    The bigger issue is that the Embarcadero seems to serve as a long on/offramp to 280. In the morning going north, you ride with impatient drivers swerving between lanes, and there is absolutely no safe way to turn left on to Market. In the evening, it is a parking lot ripe with exhaust, and I always wonder who is going to abruptly swerve into the bike lane for a right turn or parking spot. I heard someone from SFCTA mention at a SPUR event once the possibility of tearing down that part of 280 — what a welcome project that would be!

    It’s the waterfront for god’s sake — why do we need a highway/arterial on it? Turn it into a park.

  • mikesonn

    There needs to be pedestrian islands on the car side of the bike lane. We can’t be forcing pedestrians to cross against two-way bike lanes and then continue against all those lanes of traffic.

    Also, do something about King btwn 3rd and 4th. NOW.

  • ubringliten

    I agree!  I think this should stretch all the way pass Hyde St though.  This should make Fisherman Wharf area more pleasing and help tourists with riding their Blazing Saddle rentals easier.  There are so many tourists I see riding on the light rail track and that is so dangerous.

  • Anonymous

    The bike lanes should be signalized so that there is a red signal for bicyclists to stop for pedestrians when there is a walk signal to cross Embarcadero. 

  • mikesonn

    I’m assuming the intent is to create a bikeway that is uninterrupted, hence my request for an area for pedestrians to wait for the walk sign.

  • Anonymous

    Peds will need to cross the bikeway–are you saying bicyclist shouldn’t have to stop for them? I was envisioning curb cuts at the crosswalks with painted stripes in the bikeway to show that it is a crossing zone. There isn’t any room for an island between the bikeway and the car lane. Plus, it would interfere with wheeelchair access.

  • mikesonn

    I’m not saying anything, the negative assumption is all yours, which isn’t surprising. And it would not interfere with wheelchair access if put at ground level.

  • Rachel H.

    San Francisco has a world-class waterfront. A two-way protected bikeway that welcomes family cycling makes enormous sense. It will be great for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the waterfront and be able to stop wherever they choose. Bike Portland and other sites report that cyclists spend more money than car drivers/passengers, as they stop at cafes, outdoor music, etc.

    A two-way protected bikeway will be a great complement to the coming bicycle share. The two together will increase cycling more than either alone.

  • Agreed. Ban bikes between 3rd and 4th.

  • mikesonn

    Todd X, what? The bike lane disappears at 3rd that is why 75% of cyclists hop up on the sidewalk. Which is interesting perspective on what happens when infrastructure isn’t readily available, even worse when it is and it disappears a block away from one’s destination.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not making any assumptions @mikesonn:disqus, I’m asking a question trying to understand what you have in mind.  Usually, an island is an area of curb that is raised above street level, which is why we call them “islands”.

  • mikesonn

    An island doesn’t have to be raised at all. Put soft hit posts and paint off an area. Done and done.

  • guest

    To clarify:  the planned trial for October is for a one-way facility.  The two-way trial would likely happen next year and extend up to Jefferson.

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