SFMTA to Widen Bike Lane, Remove Traffic Lane on Folsom in SoMa

SFBC rallies for safety improvements on Folsom Street in August. Under a new pilot project, the right-hand traffic lane will be removed to create a wide, buffered bike lane. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfbike/9568972205/in/set-72157635170626009/##SFBC/Flickr##

The SFMTA will re-purpose a general traffic lane to widen and buffer the existing bike lane on Folsom Street between Fourth and 11th Streets by the end of the year, the agency announced today.

The pilot project, which comes about six weeks after 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac was killed on her bike by a truck driver at Folsom and Sixth Streets, will upgrade the current narrow bike lane to a buffered bike lane, apparently similar to a project implemented on Eighth Street last July, when that street was repaved.

In addition to providing a less stressful and more visible lane for bicycle commuters on Folsom, the redesign should help tame motor traffic and shorten the distances pedestrians must cross in front of moving motor vehicles on one of SoMa’s notoriously dangerous one-way, high-speed motorways.

“This is great news for the huge number of people who bike, walk and live along Folsom Street, one of SoMa’s busiest thoroughfares,” the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post today, noting that Folsom is the sixth-busiest bicycle route in the city. “For far too long, these huge numbers of people biking have had to pedal next to fast moving traffic, with no buffer. We are proud that our advocacy has resulted in a quick plan to mitigate this.”

“The buffered bicycle lane in this pilot will create a safer, less intimidating street,” said Mayor Ed Lee in a statement, “while giving us an opportunity to study how measures like these can be implemented in dense and rapidly growing areas of San Francisco to make our city streets safer for everyone.”

The new bike lane is expected to resemble the buffered bike lane implemented on ##http://sf.streetsblog.org/2012/07/13/8th-st-buffered-bike-lane-a-step-up-but-when-will-soma-really-feel-safe/##Eighth Street last summer##. Photo: Aaron BIalick

As we’ve reported, a two-way protected bike lane on Folsom is called for in the Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study (EN TRIPS) and the Central Corridor Plan, but it’s undergoing environmental review, which is expected to be completed in June 2015. The protected bikeway wouldn’t be implemented until some time after that.

The SFMTA said in its news release that the pilot project will help the agency “measure the change in travel volumes along the corridor, diversion of traffic, and right turns on adjacent parallel and cross streets,” which will help inform the Central Corridor environmental impact report.

“As complex complete street projects take time to design, environmentally clear and build, this pilot project on Folsom Street will make the road safer in the interim while also presenting the opportunity for further analysis,” the agency said. The SFMTA expects to schedule a community meeting as part of its upcoming outreach on the pilot.

As development in SoMa ramps up, said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, “We must respond with strategic investments in transit infrastructure and traffic calming.”

“SoMa has the highest number of traffic collisions in the city,” she said. “Folsom Street is a key corridor unifying the SoMa neighborhood, connecting our residents from the Mission to downtown. This pilot project is critical to boosting safety and travel for both cyclists and pedestrians.”

This project takes the important step of reallocating street space from motor traffic to bike traffic — enough space for a protected bike lane. Claiming that space now should make it easier to convert this design into a protected bike lane in the future. But by the same token, it’s frustrating that the space will be set aside so soon, but San Franciscans will have to wait years for a truly safe bikeway design where motor vehicles can’t intrude.

  • timsmith

    Great news, except it’s only in one direction. Guess I’ll be taking bike share to downtown (if it’s expanded) and BART back.

  • Paul

    FWIW, Folsom south of 20th looks like it’s getting bike lanes, too. The existing 4 lane road is marked for new striping on the new blacktop.

  • Anonymous

    If this indeed turns out like the scary bike lane on 8th Street, then there’s no real buffer at all–and motorists will continue to use the lane, just as they do on 8th.

  • Anonymous

    While 8th Street could easily be much, much better than it is, the amount of space there is a vast improvement over the door-zone lane that used to be there (and that currently exists on Folsom).

    This is an improvement for Folsom– one that actually reclaimed space from the Almighty Automobile. For that I am thankful.

  • Upright Biker

    Great news. A real win for the neighborhood and all citizens who travel along Folsom.

    But make it like 8th Street? I can’t imagine a worse outcome, for people traveling by car or by bicycle. When I travel that street by car, I’m confused. When I travel it by bike, I’m frightened.

    How about we honor Amelie by placing the parked cars between bikes and moving traffic, and redo the intersections to like the ones they have in Holland? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA

    That would be a fitting tribute.

  • Anonymous

    At the very least, the 8th St bike lane (and the new Folsom St bike lane) needs green paint. Some drivers simply don’t realize that it’s a bike lane, as the bike lane + buffer is the same width as a regular traffic lane. Placing some Bott’s dots in the buffer would be good as well, as these would give any car driving in the bike lane a bumpy ride, without posing a danger to cyclists or preventing access to parking.

  • Walk Eagle Rock

    My understanding is that for any city in California to implement cycle tracks that adhere to the CA Highway Design Manual (the design manual that governs bicycle infrastructure design in CA) we need at least 6 feet for operational use by cyclists and at least a 3 foot buffer between the cycle track and parked cars. If there is enough space to do this, the next barrier to implementation is likely intersection design– I believe bicycle specific signals would be required and movement for right turning vehicles be somewhat restricted so as not to conflict with the bicycle traffic. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t push for bold bike infrastructure, but the political will and funding is likely there to do buffered bike lane now as an immediate intervention to improve safety

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, SFMTA continues their practice of pretending no one lives east of 4th Street. Should we start calling East SoMa “PalestineSF”?

  • Paul

    Didn’t every community reject SFMTA plans to transform 2nd St with bike lanes, etc?

  • mikesonn

    I think East SoMa came out in support of 2nd Street and it is just waiting for funding. But I’m sure the East Bay didn’t like the prospect of losing their 6 block long freeway onramp to the Willie Brown Bay Bridge.

  • Anonymous

    I like this junction design very much. The driver will look for pedestrians and cyclists at the same spot. It makes it easier for drivers and safer for cyclists all at once.

  • Josh Handel

    Should it be raised/protected/green/curbside? Yes. Am I incredibly thankful to the city for this interim improvement? YES!

  • I’m pretty sure the project to finish the Folsom Street bike lanes from 20th to (I hope) Cesar Chavez includes Class II (regular unbuffered) bike lanes in both directions.

  • This is great news. Folsom has actually become a congested bike lane lately and this will give riders a lot more space to maneuver. That’s a good thing.

    Though not perfect I personally find the 8th Street lanes much better than before. I think eventually the parked cars will get moved to the outside of the lane, there is enough space to do that now with the reduced car lanes. Besides the need for timed signals when this is done there are still issues to resolve with the disabled drivers who are loathe to cross the bike lane. Complicated, but we’ll get there eventually.

    Kudos to SFMTA and Mayor Lee for moving this forward in real time. Great job folks and much appreciated!

  • Anonymous

    2nd street is a freaking shit show.

  • mikesonn

    If 21A wasn’t there, I’d never step foot on it.

  • Bruce Halperin

    Doesn’t Howard go the other way?

  • Huh? With the green light and no congestion, the cyclists who are going straight will be crossed from behind by drivers turning right, who are also going faster. If the driver slows down, also for anyone on their right and behind, then they will already slowed before encountering the crosswalk and pedestrians crossing with the same green.

    If the driver tries to accelerate ahead of the cyclist – which they are not supposed to but there is nothing stopping them – then they will be going too fast when they encounter pedestrians crossing.

    If there is congestion and the cyclist is going faster than motor vehicles, the position of the bike will change very quickly relative to them.

    In sum, too many variables, too dangerous. So we wait for more than two more years — but fortunately the SFMTA is going to put a Fear Counter here so we can quantify their apathy.

  • I just saw a design similar to this in Sedona, at least for pedestrians. It is also how many intersections work in the Netherlands. The car makes the turn (under 10 mph), then looks for pedestrians/bikes, who are now clearly visible in front windshield. If there are pedestrians/bikes crossing or soon to cross, car stops and waits. They are out of the stream of traffic just enough not to impede it.

    It is especially useful on a two-way street where there are left turns because it means means the turning decision where the driver is scanning for gaps in traffic is made separately from the decision of whether there are gaps in pedestrians/bikes. The driver does not have to judge both at the same time. Even on right turns, the bikes/pedestrians are put in driver’s prime vision, not in blind spots. Yes, it depends on the car slowing down as he/she turns, but all safety now depends on that as well. Any car that right hooks a bicyclist while turning (through speed and lack of careful looking) is also quite capable of running over a pedestrian at the same spot.

  • Regarding this terrible design from 8th St. which very experienced adult cyclists have no business applauding: Mixing zones are the GMO’s for bike infrastructure.

    With the green light and no congestion, the cyclists who are going straight will be crossed from behind by drivers turning right, who are also going faster. If the driver slows down, also for anyone on their right and behind, then they will already slowed before encountering the crosswalk and pedestrians crossing with the same green.

    If the driver tries to accelerate ahead of the cyclist – which they are not supposed to but there is nothing stopping them – then they will be going too fast when they encounter pedestrians crossing.

    If there is congestion and the cyclist is going faster than motor vehicles, the position of the bike will change very quickly relative to them.

    In sum, too many variables, too dangerous. So we wait for more than two more years — but fortunately the SFMTA is going to put a Fear Counter here so we can quantify their apathy.

  • Beef Vindaloo

    Are you sure about this? I’d be quite surprised if that was the case, having bike lanes in both directions on a one-way street.

  • Mario Tanev

    It’s a two-way street on that segment.

  • Jessie Jewitt

    This is Amelie Le Moullac’s mother. While I applaud the SFMTA’S efforts to make SF streets safer, I am shocked that they continue to pursue me for payment of a ticket that Amelie received 10 days before her death. Are there no compassionate human beings that work for that organization?

  • Beef Vindaloo

    I see- I didn’t read David’s comment carefully enough and got confused because David was responding to timsmith, who seemed to be referring to the one-way segment of Folsom that this article was about.

  • 94103er

    Don’t worry, this isn’t really helping anyone much. As usual, it’s the most dangerous grid transitions that are left untouched. ‘Pilot programs’ = where we can slap some paint down at least cost to drivers.

    Lipstick on a pig.

  • I often ride 8th Street from Folsom either just to Harrison or all the way to whatever street Trader Joe’s is on. 8th is certainly better than it was, but it is far from good enough.

    Last night at 7:15, I was on 8th just south of Folsom, ready to get on my bike in the bike lane, maybe 1/4th of the block down. Huge SUV turns right from Folsom right into the bike lane.

    Me (thinking as I’m ready to get on my bike): This is a bike lane. The SUV should not be driving down it. I’m not going to get out of this SUV’s way.

    SUV: starts driving down bike lane towards me.

    Me: get on my bike, start to pedal

    SUV: roars around me, gunning engine, cuts in front of me in bike lane as soon as possible, roars to intersection where he/she is eighth in line to turn right on Harrison at light.

    Me: while light at 8th/Harrison is red, right turning cars ahead of me are chaotically blocking both the tiny bike straight-through lane and most of the right hand lane. I have to decide to squeeze through them or wait in line behind them, which would entail me breathing their nasty fumes and taking one, maybe two additional light cycles to make my right turn. If I squeeze through to the left of the right turning cars (and there isn’t much room for this anyway), how can I later turn right without risk? I decide to squeeze through to the far right while all cars are stationary because there is some space but end up two cars back from front because there is absolutely no room.

    I want to bike down Harrison where there are two right turn lanes onto 7th. This means by Harrison/7th I have to position myself in the second lane from the right, pretty much the middle of traffic. Cars on Harrison are fast moving, many fresh off the freeway. From experience I know the only way to manage what I want to do is go immediately once light turns green for me at 8th/Harrison and race to next light before fast-moving traffic gets to me. But there is no room and the right turning cars on 8th may squish me. I notice many pedestrians waiting to cross Harrison. I get off bike, go up on sidewalk around pedestrians waiting for light. Light turns green, I go down curb, get on bike, turn onto Harrison while crossing pedestrians create a shield for me from turning cars. (Thank you, pedestrians.) I race to Harrison and 7th and am in front of cars when that light turns green.

    I have had much better luck with this intersection on Saturdays and weekday mornings, but It is no wonder most people in San Francisco are unwilling to bike in these conditions.

  • timsmith

    Does anyone have a view onto 8th street from their home or office? Would be really helpful to get some time lapse footage of just how bad (or not bad) the driver abuse of that lane is.

  • Upright Biker

    Review the video and you’ll see that no special signaling is required. The only reason that this isn’t being done now is that it’s not something that U.S. traffic engineers thought up themselves, so they’re busy trying to think up something much more complicated (like 8th Street) that includes all sorts of markings, signals, and signs to explain that complexity to road users.

    Just look at any roundabout in the western U.S.– Instead of a simple roundabout indicator sign, there are all sorts of stop signs, yield signs, and keep right signs cluttering up the place instead of letting users intuit and navigate accordingly.

  • Walk Eagle Rock

    I know, I know, believe me! I want Dutch infrastructure, I’m just stating potential barriers we face to implementing that, given that California cities are supposed to follow the CA HDM when designing bikeways.

    An LADOT bikeway engineer told me that while cycle tracks aren’t actually illegal in California, their design must adhere to the specifics in the CA HDM and that apparently requires: minimum 5′ lane with 2′ shoulders on each side, calling them “bike paths” (which I believe legally makes them an optional facility, a win for the VC’s).

    I’m not sure what the intersection requirements are when implementing cycle tracks in California, but the Dutch style of intersection would undoubtedly be considered “experimental”

    Our goal should be to get more “experiments” that prove Dutch-style cycle tracks are safe. That’s what I’m trying to figure out– how do we get a city to invest in that? Or how do we get California to formally adopt Dutch style infrastructure as the standard? This is a huge barrier in my mind and I don’t see us getting past it any time soon. Best we can get are CA HDM compliant “bike paths”

  • Anonymous

    disabled as in blue placard handicapped, or disabled as in rejects who haven’t mastered the art and science of driving?

  • The SFMTA EN Trips visionary plan is to make both Howard and Folsom two way. Howard would be for cars and trucks, losing it’s unprotected bike lane, and Folsom would be for transit and bikes, gaining a two way protected cycle track. Given the amount of bike traffic on Folsom already I think the two way track would have challenges accommodating the future bikes traffic.