Left-Turn Bicycle Lane and Signal Coming to Market and Valencia Next Month

A bicycle left-turn queue will be created in part of the sidewalk on westbound Market Street to the right of the bike lane (where the curb cut is), along with a left-turn bicycle traffic signal. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Construction will begin in October on a fix for the dangerous turn for bicyclists from Market onto Valencia Streets, according to city planners.

As Streetsblog reported last June, a plan [PDF] to install a left-turn bicycle queue lane and traffic signal at the intersection was approved in the SF Bike Plan, but it was unknown when it could be implemented. Ben Stupka, a planner at the SF County Transportation Authority, told the agency’s board of directors yesterday that the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and Department of Public Works are expected to install it next month.

The SFMTA's plan for Market and Valencia. The turn pocket is at the top center of this illustration. "Bicycle signal heads" would be installed at points "C" and "E".

The intersection of Market and Valencia Streets, two of the most heavily-used bicycling streets in the city, saw the second-highest number of car-bike crashes from 2009 to 2011, with a total of 13, according to the SFMTA’s most recent collision report [PDF]. At the top of the list was Market and Octavia Boulevard, one short block to the west, with 21 crashes.

Currently, there are few safe and convenient ways for bicycle commuters to turn from westbound Market onto southbound Valencia. Many bolder riders merge into the vehicular left-turn lane across two traffic lanes, one of which has trolley tracks on it. Otherwise, the only other practical way to cross Market is to walk or ride in the crosswalk.

To provide a smoother link, the project would create a pocket in a piece of the sidewalk (currently an unused curb cut) to the right of Market’s westbound bicycle lane, for left-turners to queue up. Then, on a dedicated left-turn signal phase, bicyclists would cross through an opening that will be created in the existing median island. Similar solutions have been used for decades in cycling cities in countries including Denmark and the Netherlands.

  • The remaining questions are about length: * Will the designed left turn pocket accommodate all who want to use it within a cycle? * How long will the green be and how is actuated? 

    But also I think removing a tree might be justified… and – as I think I commented last June – people going straight will not want to lose momentum here and will run the red, meaning that unless there is a huge delay, the left-turning cyclists will get t-boned. 

    In Denmark they still might design things like this but I think – but am not sure – that in the Netherlands they would have the left-turning cyclists in the natural left-spot BUT okay let’s just hope for the best!

  • I wonder how much room there will be for people to queue up especially during busy times, and I agree cyclists running straight thru the red light could T-bone left-turners. But I think once people are used to this new set-up, the latter will get less likely.

    I wonder why they didn’t put the left-turners on the left side, and make people going straight thru do a slight jog to the right, basically widen the bike lane to the point that there’s room for people waiting on the left side and people going staight can just ride around, with painted lines to direct them

  • I agree that the left bike lane seems the obvious choice for the left turn lane. Maybe this is a subtle plan to expose cyclists to other cyclists’ behavior?

  • I’m guessing they put the left turn pocket on the right to prevent cyclists from getting tripped up in the tracks?

  • The tracks are in the ‘center’ traffic lane right here, though.  From center-median to sidewalk the south-west-bound lane here is today (and the proposed change):

    Median, Left Turn Lane, Traffic Lane with Tracks, Traffic Lane, Bike Lane, (New Left Turn Bike Lane), Sidewalk.

    You could easily flip the 2 bike lanes with no change in exposure to the tracks.

    But I can see that if I want to make a left turn it could be uncomfortable to stop and have auto traffic zooming past on the left and bikes on the right.  Being able to put my foot up on the curb and wait is more comfortable.  (And if it fills up because everyone’s going that way we’ll ask for it to be made longer?)

  •  @twitter-17503143:disqus I’m not sure that makes any sense.  The lanes as they currently (and new design) on the south-west bound lane here are:

    Median, left turn traffic lane, traffic lane with tracks, traffic lane, bicycle lane, (new left turn bicycle lane), sidewalk.

    Reversing the order of the bike lanes doesn’t change the exposure to the tracks.  But it would mean that if I’m turning left on my bike I’d move more naturally to the left side of the bike lane and then have to stop and sit there while auto traffic zooms past me on the left and bikes on the right.  By placing the left-turn pocket on the right side I’m able to put my foot up on the curb and further away from the motor traffic as I wait.  Even if people really do queue up here so much they back up before the left-turn-pocket starts, they can be at the sidewalk which is partially out of the way.  And if it proves to be that common, the pocket/lane could be extended back further.

  • Craig

    It looks like they’ve now torn this out. Did they realize already that it was a terrible idea to have people go right then cut in front of other people to turn left?

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