Section of Arguello Blvd in the Presidio Widened for Sidewalk, Bike Lanes

Arguello, before (left) and after (right). Photos: SFCTA

City officials held a press conference yesterday to tout the widening of Arguello Boulevard in the Presidio to add sidewalks and bike lanes. Previously, the short stretch of road had only shoulders for people to walk and bike on, squeezing between guard rails and motor traffic. It’s one of the first projects to be funded by a local $10 vehicle registration fee increase which city voters passed under Prop AA in 2010.

Photo: SFBC

Supervisors Mark Farrell joined officials from the SF County Transportation Authority, the Presidio Trust, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and Walk SF at the event to promote the project  as an “expedited safety” improvement, though the road is used more for recreation than A-to-B travel, and planners didn’t face the challenges that come with reallocating space for walking and biking on city streets (the road was expanded on to park land).

“For years, bicyclists and pedestrians have traversed a dangerous stretch of roadway to travel on this route,” said Farrell in a statement, noting that private philanthropists paid for much of the project’s design and construction. Of the $1,120,769 in total, Prop AA revenue underwrote $350,000, and $750,000 came from other sources, according to the SFCTA.

“Not only have we managed to expedite the delivery of this important safety project thanks to Prop AA,” said Farrell, “but we’ve also done so by bringing together a federal agency, private philanthropy, and public dollars — a truly creative and collaborative approach to meeting the needs of San Francisco residents.”

There does seem to be a missed opportunity with the design of the bike lanes. The lack of driveways and car parking seems to provide prime conditions for raised, protected bike lanes on a curb, rather than painted bike lanes on the roadway.

Still, the SF Bicycle Coalition noted it’s “one more link in better biking and a crucial connector to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Supervisor Farrell sits with Walk SF’s Nicole Schneider (left) and others as Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton speaks. Photo: Charity Vargas Photography
  • Easy

    Totally a missed opportunity. No patting yourself on the back for installing outdated infrastructure that New York and Chicago have already moved on from.

  • baklazhan

    I dunno, I feel like they were a missed opportunity.

    I would like to know what the average speeds were before and after. Narrower roads with cars going 25 are not necessarily more dangerous than wider roads with bike lanes, where drivers go 35.

    I think that this would have been an excellent place to put in a two-way cycletrack, which is physically separated from auto traffic. Dramatically better for cyclists, especially novices, and there are few intersections which tend to be the biggest downside of such designs.

  • p_chazz

    Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

  • J

    Outdated, yes, but both NYC and Chicago still install plenty of mediocre bike facilities. In NY especially, they continue to install striped bikes lanes on streets with heavy double parking, then they act shocked when the bike lane is full of double parked cars. Point being, that the vast majority of progress and publicity is happening on a few select corridors, and is not yet the sea change we are fighting for. We need to keep pushing, or we’ll see more missed opportunities like this.

  • Upright Biker

    If they had replaced the seismically-unfit Doyle Drive with a tar-and-gravel, two-lane road with ditches, would we be expected to “not look a gift horse in the mouth?”

    There’s nothing wrong with being disappointed that in a place that offered such tremendous opportunity, we ended up with a second rate, decades old solution.

  • 94103er

    Tell that right to the face of a cyclist who wants to take his kids on a ride. As usual, everyone assumes that cyclists are mostly men clad in Spandex who don’t mind rubbing shoulders with 2-ton vehicles–when in fact the Spandex-clad types shun bike lanes anyway. So you don’t get a whole lot of usage and clueless folks like you say “See? Not many people bike in the city.” Ad infinitum.

  • murphstahoe

    Hey – that cyclist didn’t hit you, he almost hit you but he didn’t. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, buddy.

  • p_chazz

    So ride on the sidewalk. You will in any event.

  • SFnative74

    I think these improvements make sense given the context of the roadway. The Presidio uses two-way paths in some areas very effectively, but I don’t think such a facility would make sense on this section of roadway due to the potential for awkward connections with existing one-way facilities at each end. Also, separated bikeways everywhere would be great, but the budget for such facilities is usually much higher. Even great cycling cities like Amsterdam use bike lanes – sometimes on urban commercial roads with parking – so I think it’s a mistake to dismiss them out of hand. Wanting the gold-plated solution for every application is understandable but not very realistic, especially when funds are limited and the miles of roadway needing improvements is vast. Count me as a cyclist and walker that uses Arguello who is grateful for these improvements.

  • Gezellig

    That is definitely a good point but at least NYC has at least a select handful of good retrofits to showcase in the first place.

    Meanwhile, SF continues patting itself on the back for doing things like adding a Second-Class (aka Caltrans Class II) Bike Lane on Cesar Chavez, which looks like the *Before* image of NYC’s recent redo of Broadway!

    Before: http://i0.wp.com/www.beezodogsplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/dot_changes_17b.jpg

    After: http://i1.wp.com/www.beezodogsplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/dot_changes_17a.jpg

    That’s embarrassing. And shows just how far behind SF is. Almost nothing SF is building is 8-to-80, Vision Zero, 20% Modeshare infrastructure.

    I’m sure NYC is still doing some conventional lanes, but they’re not touting them as if they were some Great New Thing and the momentum is clearly towards much better infrastructure.

    More images of NYC road diets: http://www.beezodogsplace.com/2014/02/17/transformative-road-diet-images/

  • als

    Did I miss something? The section I’ve been riding my bike on is all of 0.2 miles – 2 tenths of a mile long – and that’s enough to get the mayor to show up, enough to set up a stage and a podium, 2 tenths of a mile? – oh, it is a two sided road so I guess it’s actually 4 tenths of a mile of improvement. Wow!

  • coolbabybookworm

    The mayor wasn’t there. The supervisor who’s district the park is in or next to as well as the supervisor who is chair of the SFCTA were there. I think the big win was probably the walking path.

  • p_chazz

    Bad analogy. There is a bike lane now where there wasn’t one before. That’s an improvement, just not as much of one as you would like. In your analogy the change would be significantly worse. A better analogy is a spoiled child who throws a temper tantrum on Christmas Day because he got the best present his parents could afford and not the pony he wanted.

  • Gezellig

    It is true that separated bike lanes don’t need to go everywhere.

    The difference, though, with the Netherlands is that its conventional bike lanes are on streets with much lower speed limits than here. I believe Dutch guidelines dictate that such lanes can only exist on streets with speed limits at or below 30km/hr (18mph), above which separated infrastructure is mandated. Whereas sky’s basically the limit here. In addition, Amsterdam is certainly not building any (or at least hardly any) new conventional lanes–in my experience the ones it has are almost always occasional remnant stretches from decades ago that haven’t been upgraded yet.

    The other thing missing here is that we don’t have shared-space Bike Streets (painted red with signage indicating bikes have priority, Cars Allowed as Guests, etc.). In an American context imagine a street whose entire width is a continuous green supersharrow with prominent “Bike Street: Cars Allowed as Guests” and “Speed Limit: 15mph” signage. Shared space setups can definitely work well, but the problem is we’re not doing it well.

  • p_chazz

    Oooh, back in the knife drawer, Miss Sharp!

  • SFnative74

    Guidance in the Dutch CROW manual shows that a two lane street with a speed limit of 50 kph (30 mph) can have a bike lane if it is part of the “Basic Network” (I think the diagram means to say “< 750 bikes/day"). With a higher class bike route or a volume higher than 500 cyclists per day, it would be a cycle track or parallel road in NL.
    http://sustainabletransportationholland.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/CROW-Manual.png

  • J

    Indeed. SF hasn’t done much of significance outside the JFK bike lanes and the 3 block stretch of Fell and Oak. Even those took forever. Meanwhile, since 2007, NYC has built over 30 miles of protected lanes, which are forming an ever-more connected network across the city. It’s not perfect, but unlike SF, there are major strides being made in NY.

  • J

    Nope.
    The analogy would be parents who really wanted the child to learn Spanish, due to all the benefits to them and the child. They talked endlessly about how much they want the kid to learn Spanish. The kid was also excited about learning Spanish. For Xmas, the kid really wanted the latest Rosetta Stone, which was shown to help people learn Spanish the fastest and do it the most frequently. Instead, the parents bought a vintage Spanish textbook from the 1950s, which cost just slightly less than Rosetta Stone. It sort of works, but it’s a big missed opportunity for both parties, and there’s not a good explanation why to not choose the better option.

  • Gezellig

    Absolutely. While I do realize you can’t just put in comprehensive top-notch infrastructure everywhere overnight, my frustration is that SF already *has* been spending lots of time and money on road diets that often end up being mediocre at best.

    Sometimes people assume that the reason more protected infra isn’t being built is cost, but many cities have proven it can be done fairly cheaply. For example, while NYC’s road diet and cycletrack on 9th St–complete with refuge islands, trees, dedicated signals–cost about $1.5mil per mile (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/7031/ddot-will-extend-successful-15th-street-cycle-track/) SF proposes yet another conventional-lane road diet for a $2-5 million redo of 6th St in SoMa between Market and Howard, which is 0.2 miles (http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/SFMTA_Unveils_6th_St_Proposal_With_Road_Diet_Bike_Lanes_Wider_Sidewalks_12116.html).

    Some protected-infra projects have actually ended up being the cheaper option, as was reported for some projects such as the Cully Cycletrack in Portland due to the cheaper cost of materials underneath the cycletrack than would’ve been required had it been a conventional-lane extension of the road. Maintenance costs are often lower over time, too, since there’s no expensive wear-and-tear from cars wandering onto them (and if SF we don’t even have to worry about keeping cycletracks clear of snow).

  • Gezellig

    Thanks! I knew it was a little more complex than the simple 30/kph rule so that makes sense. This table also shows options for built-up areas–I’m sure standards are also different for more rural areas.

    I wish CROW in its entirety were available somewhere online but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  • Gezellig

    Exactly.

    In addition, this is obviously local-context-dependent but sometimes separated infrastructure projects have even been cheaper, especially due to the lower cost of materials required on and underneath cycletracks as compared to those required on and under conventional roads (after all, cars aren’t wandering over onto them so the whole aspect of auto wear-and-tear is nonexistent).

  • EastBayer

    As a frequent bicyclist who loves bike lanes but hates cycle tracks, I don’t really understand the infatuation on streetsblog. Is it just because it’s Dutch and a lot of Dutch people cycle? That could be correlation, not causation…

  • coolbabybookworm

    There’s a lot of reasons why cycle tracks are great, but the main one is that they make the most people feel comfortable enough to bike. Where have you used cycle tracks to determine that you hate them because there aren’t any in San Francisco?

  • EastBayer

    Mostly, I can tell from the design that a passenger door is going to door me (since most car passengers are even more oblivious from car drivers), or I’m going to get stuck behind slower cyclists, or one poorly placed obstacle (garbage can or parked car) could trap me in the cycle track, intersections become weird since the partial separation from traffic is enough to reduce my ability to monitor traffic, but not enough to safely ignore it. I very much LIKE the ability to safely merge into a different flow of traffic (the motor vehicle lane) when circumstances call for it

    But since you asked, I didn’t like JFK (though the buffer helped with the passenger-side dooring issue, it seemed like it would be wasteful in a more space-constrained situation, and I have ridden on some others in Cambridge and Montreal)

    But to turn that around a bit, shall I assume that everyone here on streetsblog has ridden on cycletracks enough in other places that they know that not only they will love them but other prospective cyclists will as well?

  • coolbabybookworm

    I’ve enjoyed the cycle tracks I’ve ridden on, mostly in the Basque Country and Berlin. Cycle tracks or separate paths are industry standard for roads with fast traffic, and while the US is different than Europe, we don’t need to re-invent bike infrastructure so much as adapt the best designs to our cities.

    In regards to JFK, that’s a substandard infrastructure, but it has made JFK safer for everyone, especially by slowing down drivers. No cycle track should overlap with a passenger door zone, that’s ridiculous. I enjoy the parking protected bike lane section much more than the unprotected streets in the park, especially after witnessing the aftermath of a collision on the unprotected part of JFK.

    I don’t get the whole “stuck” in a cycle track issue. They should be wide enough to get around a slow person or obstacle. If people were proposing an 18 inch cycle track I would have a problem with that, but that isn’t the case. If there is some kind of issue like a downed tree branch then you can stop and get around it, but how often is that going to happen? I saw a trashcan fall into the market street cycle tracks (again, pretty substandard) and people went around it. If there are people or slow cyclist ring a bell or say on your left. We need to be able to share our streets, especially with other cyclists and pedestrians

    Mixing zones are an issue, but not one that’s better with on street bike lanes (which are actually in the door zone, although not in the presidio since no cars). A good example is Fell street that had an on street bike lane and now has more space, no parking, and pylons in some spaces with a clear green paint mixing zone. I would say the current configuration is far better than the previous one. Cyclist behavior, or lack of riding on the sidewalk, confirms that and a Portland State study is currently being conducted on it. Plus with the new bike lanes on Fell there is now enough room to pass a slower cyclist without going into 30 mph car traffic.

  • EastBayer

    Fair enough. I live in a city where the standard garbage can is enormous (maybe even 3′ on a side?) and the presence of one of those things in my path of travel with a curb on my right side and buffer on my left would make me very uncomfortable. And I can’t help but think that the European-style cycle tracks depend to some extent on people not acting like complete idiots, whereas here in the states you really must depend on people acting like complete idiots…(wrt passenger side dooring and finding a way to park to block the cycle track – people double-park in bike lanes now, but then you have easy recourse in just merging into the motor lane)

    And I think I disagree with the idea that cycle tracks are no worse at intersections than standard bike lanes. There’s less time to merge into the appropriate position (left of a right-turning vehicle) but more generally, the concept of not being able to monitor traffic on my left side with peripheral vision (due to a line of parked cars) is stressful if I have to negotiate with that traffic at the next intersection.

    Mostly I take issue with people here acting like it’s a done deal that cycle tracks are clearly superior. It might, however, be the right tool for the job in certain circumstances.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Not all cycle tracks are protected by parked cars or rely on parked cars to be properly parked/drivers to not be idiots. Even on JFK that’s really only been a problem a handful of times. Market, Fell, and Oak are examples of sort-of-cycle-tracks with no parked cars. Frankly, we just have too many parked cars (and moving ones) on our streets and we’re not going to have good on street bike lanes or cycle tracks as long as that’s the case.

    I think people on streetsblog want to see world class bike infrastructure on at least one street so we can experience it and decide how we feel first hand. Instead we get a bunch of baby steps that we have to fight years to see.

  • Gezellig

    I’m a Californian who lived and worked in the Netherlands (2011-2012) so when I praise Dutch infrastructure it’s from day-in day-out experience doing all the things I needed to do: get to work, appointments, see friends, run errands, etc.

    Doing it all by bike there is stunningly easy in large part due to the existence of core separated routes which make things stress-free, even at high bicycle volumes. People on bikes are pretty good at negotiating space with each other, especially when encouraged by good thoughtful infrastructure.

    Let me be the first to say I don’t just blindly follow anything Dutch—and in fact I strongly disagree with a few policies of theirs such as allowing (some) mopeds on (some) cycletracks (I don’t think any mopeds should be allowed on any cycletracks). However, in general the Dutch set the gold standard for how to design bike infrastructure, including separated infrastructure like cycletracks.

    Separated infrastructure isn’t necessary on every street, but in general the bigger the road the more necessary they are.

    I think one important thing to point out is bad cycletracks are bad. I really don’t mean that in a flippant way, but really at its face value. Just because it’s separated doesn’t mean it’s immediately good. It needs to be designed well.

    So of course a well-designed cycletrack absolutely does not have the doorzone issue, is smoothly paved, wide enough to allow for passing, has protected intersections

    , smart signaling, etc.

    Obviously we can’t and won’t just carbon-copy cut/paste every design from the Netherlands, but the same laws of physics and human nature apply there as well as here and they’ve done a lot of trial-and-error over the decades so their exemplars are a great place to start.

    Besides the proven greater safety of separated cycletracks, the other huge issue is modeshare. Conventional lanes simply aren’t boosting modeshare all that much, though they’re better than nothing for those of us who’ve already decided to bike. But that’s a pretty small percentage.

    There are actually a lot of residents (the so-called “Interested but Concerned”) in any given city that are definitely interested in biking, but wouldn’t ever consider doing it to get around given current infrastructure. Cities such as DC, NYC and Long Beach that have implemented protected cycletracks have already noted how much greater modeshare on those routes shoots up pretty much immediately after completion.

    This is another reason why we absolutely must push for more and better of these designs to be implemented, especially in a city that loves talking about 8-80/Vision Zero/20% Modeshare but hitherto has done very little to make that actually happen.

    As for the behavioral issues like trashcans and people acting like idiots, it’s not quite accurate to assume that the Dutch are some saintly group of people whose human nature precludes them from bad behavior. Dutch drivers are still many in number and also wanna get from A to B as quickly as possible, and in fact their ped/bike death rates due to car drivers was quite a bit higher than that in the US during the 60s-70s (meanwhile its bike modeshare was dropping precipitously as it continued pushing auto-centric new designs). Now it’s much lower than that of the US.

    What happened?

    Only in the past 35 or so years have they really reversed course with progressively better bike/ped infrastructure which addresses all these issues (how do cycletracks account for obstacles, driveways, 4-way intersections, roundabouts, etc.) that people raise here as supposed cycletrack-killers as if no one had ever encountered that issue before.

    Because humans live there let me reassure people that there are selfish idiots in the Netherlands, too. But the infrastructure is designed to minimize the impact they can have on others. Here, our infrastructure positively encourages bad behavior at almost any point.

    Oh, and did I mention modeshare? 🙂 I’m not an urban planner by trade or anything close to it, and didn’t even own a bike prior to living in the Netherlands, nor did I ever consider it as a means of getting around because the American cities I’ve lived in positively discourage it at most points. In other words I’m a former Interested But Concerned. What changed for me? The revolutionary experience of riding on a good protected cyceltrack for the first time and having that “Eureka!” moment. As in…wow, this is so blatantly obvious why the $%#&% are we not doing this back in the US?!?!

  • Richard Mlynarik
  • djconnel

    Indeed, the Federal Government isn’t big on walking. Look @ Conzelman in the Marin Headlands: massive “stimulus” project and it’s still focused almost exclusively on driving.

  • 94103er

    Hmm, sidewalks in the Presidio…not many of those (other than this new one, apparently). Try harder next time.

  • Upright Biker

    Going off the pictures above, it appears that the bicycling facilities are essentially the same now (ok, maybe a few inches wider) as they were before. The difference is the sidewalk, which is very nice and on which it seems you would prefer me and my children ride (per your comment above). They are _spoiled_, after all, and always throw tantrums when I try to subject them to the perfectly reasonable dangers of biking next to hurtling, multi-ton boxes of metal piloted by yammering, texting, self-entitled drunks.

    Children these days!

  • p_chazz

    There are already plenty of hiking trails in the Marin Headlands.

  • djconnel

    And yet when the federal shutdown closed the road to cars, there were a large number of cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the relatively easy stroll up Conzelman. Segregating pedestrians to rocky dirt trails lined with poison oak isn’t the action of a pedestrian and cycling friendly organization.

  • Peter M

    What are you talking about? They put in a new trail all along Conzelman when they rebuilt it.

  • djconnel
  • p_chazz

    You must not hike the trails in the Marin Headlands or you woldn’t say that. Beside when I go walking in the headlands I prefer being on a trail to being on a sidewalk.

  • murphstahoe

    Given that Dan does 50k trail runs in the Headlands, you must not be right.

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