The Left-Turn Bike Signal at Market and Valencia Is Open for Business

Photo: ##https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=470884396284012&set=a.129453683760420.11389.129234557115666&type=1&theater##SFMTA Livable Streets/Facebook##

It’s officially rideable: The left-turn pocket and traffic signal connecting Market and Valencia Streets is finished as of today, the SFMTA announced on its Livable Streets Facebook page. Finally, the bicycling gates from Market to the Mission have been opened to people who don’t feel comfortable merging across three traffic lanes and a set of streetcar tracks to turn left with car traffic. A simple but incredibly useful upgrade.

The green-backed sharrow (not pictured) in the center of the street seems like a nice touch, but the concrete divider in the bike lane has drawn some skepticism from observers during construction. If you pass by it on your commute today, let us know in the comments how it works for you.

  • mikesonn

    I share my skepticism about the concrete divider. Unnecessary. If ever there was a time and place for a soft hit post or two.

  • Anonymous

    Any plans to install more of these around town? Especially some of the left turns off of the Embarcadero?

  • No room for error. No physical separation. A T-boning cyclist heading up Market hitting someone going to Valencia will fly into the motor vehicle lane. Clogs caused by lots of left-turning people will do similar. Would it be possible to use more of the sidewalk?

  • Upright Biker

    Hmmm. Now cyclists will have to yield to other cyclists. This could result in some interesting engagements, as it were.

  • I guess it seems perfectly reasonable.

    Soft-hit dividers to keep cars separated from bikes.
    Absent-minded drivers get a gentle tap to remind them they are outside of the lane.

    Concrete barriers to keep bikes separated from other bikes.
    Absent-minded cyclists flip head first into incoming traffic.

    Would it destroy the budget to add a more active flashing light system like they have on the cross walk for City Hall? Tons of people bike without lights at night.

  • Kyle from the Triangle

    I think this may be the exact kind of infrastructure needed to calm bicycle traffic. When it’s bicycles thrown into an all motor vehicle fray, you get the wild west and a self-selected group of riders (read: the totally agro assholes a lot of people [esp in the Lower Haight…] complain about). Making bicyclists now interact with other bicycle traffic by fostering a rules based ridership culture will hopefully calm everyone down a bit.
    Plus it really sucks to spill going over the tracks there! Great change!

  • Upright Biker

    Actually, the oncoming traffic will _in theory_ be stopped, as the Valencia left turn for cyclists will halt cars headed west on Market. 

    So it will only be cyclists who disregard the signal who might get t-boned into the lane.Yes? I think my physics are correct…

  • Upright Biker

    …or are westbound cyclists allowed to continue on even when Valencia-bound cyclists are crossing?

    I suppose we’ll find out tonight…

  • Pretty much. Remember that red light that hangs over the cross walk?

    Cyclists -should- be stopping but never had a reason to in the past.
    Personally I haven’t seen anyone use that crosswalk when I commute.

    I’ll be stopping from now on, and heck seems like I’ll be a good barrier since the straight-through lane seems wide enough for one bike.

  • Mario Tanev

    I like the barrier and the lane splitting as a formalism of the city’s commitment to bicycle transportation. I think it will attract riders who will feel that the city has actually thought things through rather than just plastered some bike lanes. However, I feel the barrier is probably dangerous and unnecessary at least for now, since I think bicycle riders could have managed with simply one wider bicycle lane.

  • the greasybear

    Looks great!

  • The only time someone would be turning onto Valencia from here would be when all the traffic heading up Market should be stopped.  Even should cyclist be so bold as to run the red going up Market and T-bone another cyclist turning onto Valencia, the auto traffic would be stopped by the red.

  • Anonymous

    Went through this today, seemed intuitive, and nice. Thanks SFMTA. Hopefully the Market street shoalers/light runners get there is a reason to actually stop here.

  • Could be worse, right?

    I like the cut away for the left turn. No doubt this is safer than the old merge and track hop, but the area that remains for continuing up Market seems awfully narrow for the amount of traffic this spot sees during much of the day now, specifically afternoon/evenings. Mandatory single file is more of a hazard for all involved especially when considering wherever Market st is sans soft hit posts drivers like to get right on that white line, or worse, to keep from getting hit by the streetcars (or at least I presume that is their excuse).

    My biggest complaint is this little build out seems to ignore the reality of addition bike volume as cycling numbers continue to grow. I foresee a lot of cyclists using both sides of that little chunk of road furniture to keep heading up the hill (with the green light, thank you very much) if a bike is not already stopped in it. That is until someone goes arse over tea kettle on it, and it is replaced. I can’t imagine very many bike on bike t-bone scenarios as someone wanted to spew as excuse to call cyclists assholes but whatevs.

    Added bonus is that this little stretch of BICYCLE lane is now a lot less motorcycle/scooter friendly due to the narrowing, so maybe they will stay in the auto lane here a bit more often.

    Bike infrastructure without experimentation, and life without adventure would make things pretty boring.

  • 94103er

    YES! More please! And now, let’s fix the horrible Duboce/Market and Dolores/Market intersections. But that’s going to be a heck of a lot more engineering.

    I could use this new turn all the time and then turn WB on 15th to get home, but 15th isn’t that great either. I just wish they’d fix the car-centric concrete barrier that messes up the Wiggle’s connection to Dolores (and EB Market). So much new housing going up in that area–time to make a big change.

  • The Embarcadero (northbound) REALLY needs one of these at North Point.  There is already a super wide parking lane there, you wouldn’t even need to subtract any sidewalk space to make it happen.

  • Roy Crisman, my scenario does not say that the cyclist heading up Mkt is most at fault… if the person making a left makes a mistake of any kind, even just sticking out a foot or two, they would get T-boned… resulting in further problems. 

  • Do cyclists not have to yield to other cyclists already? What do they currently do, pass through each other like evanescent beams of light?

  • Anonymous

    This is a bold and visible statement that “BIKES BELONG”! I might still do the left lane merge, maybe it’s a bit small for future increased bike volume, but that doesn’t matter, this is in your face stone and green paint stuff. Kudo’s to the SFMTA and DPW for an excellent addition to SF bicycle infrastructure.

  • Lukespray

    I used this yesterday and was a bit baffled by the layout. It seems counter-intuitive that they would set up a left turn lane on the far right side. Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to use the right hand side (where the “pocket” is) for through traffic and use the left hand side for a left turn lane?

  • @peternatural:disqus I’ve certainly had a couple try.

  • Just like on the highway, sometimes you have to exit right in order to go to the left.

  • mike

    I like Roy’s succint analogy, but to provide more details on the design, routing cyclists to the right to turn left addresses a few issues:
    – It allows better orientation of turning cyclists towards the bike signals and to Valencia (imagine lining up in a left turn bike lane, facing down Market – would that be more desirable?)
    – It maintains a straight path of travel for the faster through cyclists
    – There’s more room for left turning cyclists to wait out of the way with this configuration rather than if it was a straight narrow turn lane

    Though it may be somewhat counter-intuitive, it is similar to how vehicles exit to the right to leave a traffic stream, and with the signage and pavement markings, hopefully it’s not that difficult to figure out.

  • mikesonn

    Biggest reason, go over tracks perpendicularly.

    This is just a box turn, makes perfect sense. My only complaint is using a concrete “median” when a couple soft hit posts would have done the trick just fine.

    http://www.cyclelicio.us/2011/box-turn/

  • mike

    Regarding the island, it better separates cyclists waiting to turn left and those continuing through. It is also useful to have a sign stating clearly where traffic must stop with the red light. It’s not a typical intersection so it may not be clear to some where one is supposed to stop, and there was a tendency for some (many?) to ignore the red light. Placing the sign off to the side of the bay on the sidewalk would put it outside the line of sight for most on Market and make it nearly useless, so it was placed closer to those who need to see it – on the island.

    The island’s clearly signed and painted with reflective paint, and the pavement markings leading to it split the traffic to go around it.

  • Some point out that this could cause a bicyclist running the red light to hit another bicyclist who happens to be turning left from the left turn pocket. But it really should be noted that this is a pedestrian crossing as well and bicyclists actually really do need to stop here already when anybody is crossing.

  • keenplanner

    I can already picture the hordes of thru-traffic cyclists blowing through the light and the left-turning bikes either waiting or conflicting.  I would have put the left turn on the left, at least, and smoothed out the passage on the right.  More realistically, the turn should have been integrated into the auto turn pocket, since most riders use it anyway.  The issue is how to get riders across the traffic lanes intact, or unimpeded. 
    While we’re here, one of the things that makes this part of Market a small clot of confusion is that there is often SB Gough St. car traffic turning R on to Market, and they often push forward onto the crosswalk or halfway into the lane and get stuck, causing cyclists to have to weave through the stopped traffic to proceed towards Octavia. 
    Since the Octavia light is long, and usually red, cyclists uncomfortable with the merge/turn could cross Market there and take the “secret passage” bike path down to McKoppin/Valencia.

  • I used to think I was a cynic, but I guess I’m just somewhere on the spectrum…I’m prepared to be wary and get angry at some taint-face that can’t stop for me when I have the right-of-way.  (Though that applies to everywhere I have right-of-way.)

    We’ll have to wait to see if the hordes prove themselves as unruly as feared.

    Previously I saw 2 modes to get to Valencia:  some crossed the lanes of traffic and the tracks to use the traffic left-turn pocket and some stayed in the bike lane up to the crosswalk and used that.  A bicycle-indicator on the regular left turn pocket would still require dealing with 2 lanes of traffic and crossing the 2 rails at a mostly parallel angle in the middle of that traffic.  I’ve always been aware of the dire consequences of falling down in traffic when I’ve made that maneuver.  The new bike pocket is definitely more “8-80” friendly, providing a legitimate, well marked version of the previous crosswalk option.

  • Bigblackbike

    Small problem: the line at which cars are supposed to stop is not clear to many drivers. So they blow thru the bike crossing signal. Several previous lights also have “vague” stopping lines, so for sloppy drivers, this is the third in a series of red lights to roll thru, with little consequence. The bike signal is too short given the number of lanes to be crossed, the volume of bikes crossing at that point, and the signal undermined by sloppy drivers rolling thru it. This enhancement needs more work. I was almost run over yesterday afternoon by a Lexus SUV who blew past the stop signal. Light was over by the time he vacated the intersection.

  • Anonymous

    @mikesonn:disqus But the soft-hit posts don’t protect you as well from the not-paying-attention driver. I much prefer the concrete median.

  • mikesonn

    @jd_x:disqus This “curb” won’t do that either. Plus, thru cyclists aren’t protected anyway.

    Still don’t like it.

  • I think a lot of the OMG!! was reacting to it while it was under construction.  The day the island was built and no paint was laid out there were construction signs which really ate into the bike lane and made it more challenging than necessary.  Today it’s much better.

  • Sprague

    This morning, I rode through for the first time since this has been open.  Bike traffic was light at the time.  I like it and thank the MTA for this improvement.  It’d be great to see more green paint on the ground at intersections (especially at Gough but also where the bike lane crosses from Market to Valencia).

  • mikesonn

    I’d love to see this treatment on Market at Sansome. I make that left by stopping along the curb and crossing with the walk sign. http://goo.gl/maps/GUzOy

  • mike

    Thanks for the comment. The stop line was widened soon after you posted
    this comment to make it clearer where people are supposed to stop.

  • mike

    I should add that the signal timing is being reviewed too, along with observations of where people are stopping when they see the red light on Market.

  • Under what code or authority is this left-turn “bike bay” facility mandatory for bicyclists — as evidenced by the white sign? Voluntary signs are a different color if I am not mistaken.

  • murphstahoe

    The sign says “use bike signal” and applies to cyclists in the turn bay. If you aren’t in the turn bay, it doesn’t apply.

  • If it is truly advisory only, it should be white lettering on a green background, as should the sign that precedes it and is located before the bicyclist can enter the turn bay.

  • SFnative74

    As you approach in the curbside bike lane, it becomes split in two, with the right half to Valencia and the left half continuing onto Market. So yes, it is mandatory to go to Valencia if you choose to be in the right half of the lane approaching the bike bay.

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