Eyes on the Street: Bike Lane Replaces Car Parking at Fort Mason

This bike lane appeared on the northern end of Van Ness Avenue at the east end of the Fort Mason Tunnel. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A new contra-flow bike lane separated by paint and plastic posts has appeared at the northern end of Van Ness Avenue, providing a safer link between the ped/bike paths that run through Fort Mason and Fisherman’s Wharf.

The bike lane apparently replaced a lane of car parking on that stretch. I spotted the bike lane last weekend, but I don’t know when it was installed — I couldn’t find any information about it online. With the location being at Fort Mason, the project may have been led by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

What a refreshing change to stumble upon, and a nice complement to the redesign and two-way traffic conversion of nearby Jefferson Street.

Upon visiting areas heavy with tourists, it’s interesting to reflect on how strongly residents and merchants often cling to the current design of our streets, while tourists passing through likely have no idea the street was ever any different. Visitors rolling down this bike lane on rental bikes may just assume that such a level of safe accommodation for bicycling is normal in San Francisco. If only.

Update: Commenters on this article report that the bike lane appears to have been installed for the America’s Cup races this summer.

Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • MCR

    I think it was installed sometime during the America’s Cup. I ride that route often and didn’t notice it prior to the event, but I definitely noticed it during.

  • mikesonn

    It has been there since before this year’s America’s Cup races (so maybe April/May).

  • Ditto. I think it was temporary during the AC trial runs and has slowly evolved to this.

  • Easy

    Refreshing for a bike lane to just pop up quietly without a big fight.

  • Bruce Halperin

    They did this during the America’s Cup in August, I think.

  • Mark Dreger

    It’s simple, I like it. And wide.

    There’s no delineation of space within really – it’s just a shared bike/ped zone, an extension of the side path. Mosey around and pop in and out as you please. Good stuff!

  • Upright Biker

    That used to be one of the “weak links” that I had to traverse with my kids in getting from North Beach to Marina Green/Crissy Field, and I’m thankful they’ve made this positive change. The reclaiming of Jefferson Street in Fisherman’s Wharf from auto-centric design was another good move.

    Now, how about some improvements in the streets that lead _down_ to the Embarcadero/Wharf/Marina/Presidio so that we can get to these wonderful places, with our 8-80 families, in greater safety.

    I’d offer Mason Street below the new Joe Dimaggio Park and North Beach Public Library as the first opportunity. Now that Mason is closed at Columbus, how about narrowing the less-used traffic lanes and putting in a protected, curbside bike lane?

    What “lead-down” streets would all of you propose?

  • Dan

    Agree that this was left over after AC. I’d like to see the old tunnel opened-up for bicycle traffic. That would leave a grade-free trip from AT&T park to Crissy Field

  • Chad

    Now how about we reopen the Fort Mason Tunnel and use it too?

  • Tim Bracken

    This will be much safer for bicyclists in that one little stretch of Van Ness. That is, IF they use the new bike lane. Just a few days ago, I saw a bicyclist almost get doored in this very spot because he decided not to use the bike lane.

  • Sean

    I had a bike accident there a few years ago, I came down the hill and swung a little too wide and my arm and head hit the side of a car. This lane would have saved me back then.

  • Lego

    Agree! I live just in North Beach and feel endangered riding to those wonderful (and somewhat car-free) places. It’s discouraging – I’d go there much more often if it wasn’t for the scary streets that surround this area.

  • There was another decision here, too: that of the person that opened the door into lawful traffic: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc22517.htm

  • Yes! 🙂

  • Lego

    It was a refreshing surprise! And sorely needed.

    (Naively?) I guessed it was a response to relieve the longstanding insane, unsafe conditions for the throng of (mostly) bike rental riders through that corridor.

  • Upright Biker

    That would be great. I heard they were going to reopen it and run the E or F line out to Fort Mason, but nothing seems to be happening on that front.

  • mikesonn

    You can thank former Supe Alioto-Pier for stopping that.
    -can’t find any of the old streetsblog stories about how she got the city to turn down federal funds. Something along the lines of Marina didn’t want commuters to park there and take F-line to downtown.

    Old SPUR event from 2011:
    http://www.spur.org/events/calendar/streetcar-extension-fort-mason

    But this looks promising.
    http://www.streetcar.org/blog/2013/03/milestone-for-fort-mason-streetcar-extension.html

  • Tim Bracken

    Agreed. Drivers have an obligation to look first before opening their doors into traffic. But many don’t. All the more reason to use an extra-wide protected bike lane when there is one instead of driving inches away from the parked cars.

  • Lego

    The second picture is like a breath of fresh air!

  • Extra caution is always key, yes. Especially when tourist (drivers/parkers) are involved. Of course then you have the tourist bike renters in the bike areas… 🙂

  • David Mischel

    I think this change occurred as part of the America’s Cup process for handling crowds. I rode to many of the races along this route and it was in this configuration at that time.

  • Len Conly

    Commuter parking can be controlled by proper pricing of curb parking.

  • Sprague

    A tunnel for cyclists is appealing, but a tunnel to serve an extended F (and E) streetcar is even more appealing. If streetcar service is extended to Fort Mason and, ideally, beyond to the Marina Green and Crissy Field, many visitors to these wonderful waterfront parks (and neighborhoods) will likely opt to travel there without their cars. This would be a big win for SF. I now recall a proposal (perhaps accessible via one of the SPUR links provided by Mike Sonn elsewhere on this thread) that would have entailed a pedestrian and bike path along the shoreline of Fort Mason (built out on a pier-like structure). This, too, would allow grade-free travel between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina Green while allowing the tunnel to be used for rail transit.

  • mikesonn

    The path around Ft Mason, over the water, was floated (pun intended) by SFBC in their “Connecting the City” plan.

    http://www.connectingthecity.org/routes/bay-trail/

    PDF of Ft Mason portion
    http://www.connectingthecity.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/fortmason-plan1-101208.pdf

  • Dan

    It’s gone now 🙁

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