SFMTA Extends Howard Bike Lane to Embarcadero But Leaves a Gap

Howard looking east between Beale and Main. Sharrows are now in the left-most lane on this block, where the Bike Plan originally called for a continous bike lane. Photo: Google Maps

SoMa’s westbound bike lane on Howard Street was extended east to the Embarcadero last week, creating a link from the waterfront to 11th Street. However, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency apparently left a gap on the block between Main and Beale Streets, where Howard passes the temporary Transbay Terminal. According to tipster Hank Hodes, the SFMTA painted only sharrows there, forcing bike commuters to ride in a lane with motor traffic, even though a continuous bike lane was called for in the SF Bike Plan.

The Howard bike lane serves as half of SoMa’s east-west bike corridor, along with the eastbound bike lane on neighboring Folsom Street, and is “a route preferred by many riders over Market Street for its minimal transit and straight angled intersections,” noted Hodes. But commuters hoping for a continuous bike lane that doesn’t suddenly dump them in motor traffic are apparently out of luck.

Howard at Steuart Street. Photo: Hank Hodes

We have an inquiry in with the SFMTA as to why the change was made, but one possible explanation is that curbside bus parking for the temporary terminal ate up space that would have been allocated to the bike lane, and no alternative plan to allow for the bike lane was created. Under the SFMTA’s Bike Plan design [PDF], the space for the bike lane on that block would have been carved from a 12’6″ traffic lane (and part-time parking lane), but that lane doesn’t appear to exist today. The “existing configuration” shown in the Bike Plan design, it seems, was altered to create room for a wider bus stop lane on the opposite side of the street.

Since most of the real estate for the new bike lane (including the originally planned section between Main and Beale) comes from reallocating the excess width of existing traffic lanes, no car parking was removed. A one-block eastbound traffic lane was removed between Steuart and Spear, however, which should help calm car traffic.

Bicycling on Howard has increased dramatically since the SFMTA implemented the main stretch of the bike lane between 2001 and 2006. During that time, the number of bicyclists at Howard and 5th Streets climbed 300 percent, according to city data provided by the SF Bicycle Coalition. From 2006 to 2011, the number of bicyclists at Howard and 11th Streets increased by an additional 104 percent, according to the SFMTA’s 2011 Bicycle Count Report [PDF].

See more photos after the break.

The Bike Plan design for this project shows a 12'6" traffic lane (shared with part-time parking), which the bike lane would have been carved out of. That lane seems to have been removed since this plan was made. Click to enlarge.

The new bike lane on Howard, looking east from Main. Photo: Hank Hodes

Howard between Steuart and Spear, where an eastbound traffic lane was removed. Photo: Hank Hodes