Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Proposed for Second Street

An option for one-way protected bike lanes on Second Street. Images: SFDPW

Second Street could get protected bike lanes, sidewalk extensions, lane reductions, greening and more under options presented to residents last night by the SF Department of Public Works and the Municipal Transportation Agency.

Of the four options presented, one would include one-way protected bike lanes (or “cycle tracks”), and another would include a two-way protected bikeway on the street’s west side. Bikeways in both of those options would be separated by planted medians and could include bicycle traffic signals at each intersection, planners said. The other two options included painted, unprotected bike lanes, either with parking on both sides or with a center turning lane (removing parking on one side) like the one on Valencia Street.

The alternatives, which would redesign Second between Market and King Streets, were based on visions proposed by groups of residents at a workshop in May.

These improvements would be made under any option.

With any of the alternatives, the street would get a road diet, with four traffic lanes reduced to two. Planners said the street would get also pedestrian safety upgrades along the corridor, like corner bulb-outs, curb ramps and raised crosswalks at alleyways. The dangerous dual right turn lane at Second and Harrison Streets would be removed, converted into pedestrian space and possibly opened to development. (Architect David Baker, who writes the blog Great Second Street, would have rather turned it into a “BARKlet”.)

Both of the protected bike lane options would include bus boarding islands to the left of the bike lanes, meaning Muni buses would stop in the traffic lane. To help speed up the 10-Townsend and 12-Folsom Muni lines, which run on Second, the SFMTA is already proposing prohibited left turns along the street from 4 to 7 p.m., said DPW Project Manager Cristina Olea. That change, which would help get left-turning drivers out of the way of buses, is expected to go to a public engineering hearing on October 5.

The option for a two-way bikeway on the west side of Second.

Between Harrison and Townsend Streets, the west sidewalk on Second could be widened from 10 to 15 feet, but Olea said the east side would be too expensive to widen within the project’s budget due to the high cost of “undergrounding” utility poles. “If those utilities get undergrounded, we could widen the east side at that time,” she said.

Baker, whose architecture firm is located on Second, said it was “really sad” the east sidewalk would remain narrow. “They will never widen it within my lifetime,” he said.

The planning process for Second re-started after the project was apparently forgotten after a communication breakdown between the SFMTA and DPW, forcing the County Transportation Authority to redistribute its funds to other projects. Whereas the original plan had only proposed painted bike lanes in the door zone, the quality of the improvements proposed exceed the old plans by leaps and bounds, said Baker.

“The controversy [with the old plan] was whether the bike lanes would be 5-foot or 3-foot, and now we’re talking about whether we want two-way or one-way cycle tracks — yeah!” Baker exclaimed with a thumbs-up. Although it was Baker who recently drew up a vision for one-way bikeways on Second, he said he didn’t favor one option strongly over the other.

The project would cost $6-8 million, and planners expect to present a “preferred alternative” at the next community meeting in November. Construction, which would take a year, is currently scheduled to begin in July 2014.

The option for unprotected bike lanes with a center turn lane.
The option for bike lanes without a center turn lane.
  • ” Construction, which would take a year, is currently scheduled to begin in July 2014.”

    Isn’t this the same street that will be complete ripped apart by the Caltrain/HSR tunnel (AKA DTX)?  I seem to recall they were planning on the cut-and-cover construction method for that tunnel.

  • Sprague

    What wonderful proposals to redo a public street so that it will work better and feel safer and more enjoyable for all who use it.  I hope that only those proposals that include truly protected cycletracks advance.  Especially in congested (and flat) downtown areas, bike infrastructure improvements that feel safe for the age 8 to 80 crowd will go a long way to growing the bicycle mode share (bike lanes alone won’t).  Downtown SF should be criss-crossed with protected bike lanes and cycletracks – especially connecting residential and commercial areas (just like great European cities have learned to do).  Thank you to David Baker for his advocacy and thank you to Streetsblog for its coverage.

  • I agree about the importance of truly protected bike lanes. While riding most of the length of Valencia Street today (to see the parking day installations) I had to swerve into traffic two to four times *per block* to get around double-parked cars, trucks and vans. It occurred even when there were empty yellow commercial meter spots ten yards away. It was ridiculous, not to mention difficult, stressful and unpleasant. (And then there were the cars, accelerating with a roar then stomping on their brakes block after freaking block because they are clueless about the 13 mph signal timing. If car drivers actually knew of the 13 mph signal timing on Valencia, I really believe 90% of them would take Guerrero instead.)

    Unprotected bike lanes are not bike lanes, they are de facto double-parking lanes that bicyclists can occasionally ride in. 

  • jry

    Karen and everyone, please tell SFMTA this. Valencia is horribly dysfunctional, the bike lanes mostly unusable. Here is an email exchange I had with sustainable.streets@sfmta.com. Clearly they do not understand that “improving Valencia for bicycle traffic” does not mean painting a line within a few feet of parked cars and then letting everyone park on it. 

    me:
    Why are cars allowed on Valencia at all? Nearby Guerrero, Mission, and S Van Ness already serve as arterials. Cars do nothing but harass pedestrians and bicyclists, park in bike lanes, and generally ruin the character of the neighborhood. The sidewalks are overflowing and the area is very well served by transit — why can’t you give us one street where we’re free of the violence and nuisance? This is a Transit-First City; why can’t we experience that for real, and not just on paper? At the very least, how about forced turns every few blocks like they do in Berkeley, to discourage through traffic?
    SFMTA:In general our approach in this area has been to make traffic calming and roadway improvements to Valencia to make it a better street for pedestrians and bicyclists while retaining some through vehicular functions to serve the local businesses and for neighborhood circulation.  Valencia was reduced from four traffic lanes to two, with left turn lanes provided at intersections. Signal timing has been adjusted to suit bicycle travel speeds.  While it is true that prohibiting traffic and parking on Valencia would improve cycling conditions even further, we have tried to avoid setting up a situation where one street is improved at the expense of other adjacent streets.  In this case, diverted traffic from Valencia Street could end up on Mission Street, which is an important transit street, or on South Van Ness Avenue or Guerrero Streets.  While these streets are designated as through arterial streets, they are also residential streets, and we have gotten complaints and concerns in the past with changes that would result in more traffic travelling on those streets.  The present arrangement is therefore a balance between these different concerns, preserving San Francisco’s open street grid while improving Valencia for bicycle traffic. Thanks,Ricardo OleaSFMTA

  • I’m really hoping for the above version of the two-way cycletracks, looks like it would be the best protection for cyclists. Would make Second a pretty striking, pedestrian and bike oriented street.

  • Mom on a bike

    @72562d2e1fb45be3e000db0b5a81dc59:disqus Thanks for writing that message. It’s safe to say the question Aaron posed about the state of cycling in SF falling behind gets a resounding “yes.”

    The floggings with crappy road design will continue until morale improves.

  • Sprague

    Thanks for sharing the dialogue with the MTA, jry.  I’ll send them an email suggesting the green signs announcing traffic signals are set for 13 mph speeds should be larger – so that motorists get the message, too.  If cars were rolling along at speeds comparable to that of cyclists, it would be less unpleasant to pedal there.  Of course, I would love to have the street closed to motorists, except for deliveries and local traffic.  I understand the counter argument about a corresponding increase in traffic on parallel streets – but a big part of the idea of having bicycle corridors (like Valencia) is to grow the bike mode share.  If it’s done right, there should be no increase in traffic on parallel streets.  What about having Valencia be closed every Sunday (ie. 11 am to 5 pm) for starters?  (I’ll mention that, too.)

  • Does anyone have details on the “bicycle traffic signals”? Do they mean dedicated left signals, signals which would allow motor vehicles and bikes to go straight, and also bikes to turn right (so then a right signal which would be for motor vehicles only….) 

  • voltairesmistress

    If Valencia with all its bike lane infrastructure isn’t working, then I can think of no better argument for protected cycle tracks on busy corridors.  We don’t even “see” how it’s not working in some ways: children and elderly are simply absent from the unprotected bike lanes we have.  I certainly wouldn’t allow a child to bike on Valencia until he/she had several years of experience biking and be of an age to make judgments about traffic, timing, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Last I heard, there are no dedicated funds yet for the DTX. They need to build the train box at Transbay and electrify Caltrain before doing that, which could be a while. 

  • Upright Biker

    I noted on my ride to work the other day that the SFMTA has already removed the innermost arrow from the former dual right turn at 2nd and Harrison. There’s a bit of confusion at the change, but drivers seem to be getting it.

  • Anonymous

    Valencia’s bike lanes are pretty laughable though. They are narrow and not even fully striped. People park in them all the time and a ton of inexperienced cyclists that think they are experienced routinely cut off other cyclists, ride the wrong way in the bike lanes, etc. Valencia could use seperated or buffered lanes, sure. What Valencia could really use is a two-way cycle track. That way, cyclists and cars are seperated and it makes it safe for cyclists to pass (on the left) other cyclists. In addition to a two-way cycle track, the green wave might need a bit more tweaking too. That would cut down on red light running (without even slightly glancing left or right) by both cyclists and drivers. Curb cuts and bulbs and other traffic calming measures wouldn’t be too shabby either.

  • David Baker

    The tunnel on Second would be a deep bore which doesn’t disrupt the surface except where the tunneling machine is put in and taken out. That’s the way the Central Subway is being built, and it’s my understanding that the current technology makes this method less expensive as well as less disruptive than cut and cover.

  • mikesonn

    The Central Subway is a deep bore, um, and there is a TON of surface disruptions. I understand mostly for the stations, but still, there has been massive utility relocation.

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