Open House Tomorrow Examines Protected Bikeway Along the Embarcadero

A temporary protected bikeway on the Embarcadero proved wildly popular last year. The SFMTA is finally looking to install a permanent bikeway between Fisherman’s Wharf and the ballpark. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The SFMTA and other city agencies will hold an open house tomorrow to kick off planning for a protected bikeway on the Embarcadero.

No specific proposals have been put forth yet, but a report [PDF] on the SFMTA website promises that the agency will “develop a conceptual design and cost estimate” for a “a bicycle facility that is physically separated from moving or parked vehicles and pedestrians.” Options for the project are expected to include a two-way protected bikeway on the north side of the street, and a pair of one-way protected bike lanes on either side of the street.

“What we’re hearing and observing everyday — hearing from the port, primarily — is that the status quo is no longer sustainable,” SFMTA Senior Transportation Planner Patrick Golier told SFBay.

Port Planning Director Diane Oshima praised the idea of “allocating space and increasing predictability, so that people start to adopt a culture of understanding [of] what acceptable behaviors are,” SFBay reported.

The effort comes nearly a year after a wildly popular temporary protected bikeway was tested along a short stretch of the Embarcadero, to encourage visitors to bike to the America’s Cup yacht races. Last July, the SFMTA added green paint to the existing bike lanes, making them more visible to drivers and discouraging them from blocking the lanes. Despite the paint, the street remains both one of the city’s most fearsome, and yet most popular, bicycle routes.

As SFBC community organizer Janice Li wrote in a recent blog post: “Even with the bike lane, the fast-moving traffic and lack of physical protection or separation makes it an unwelcoming ride for even the experienced. Vehicles regularly park in the bike lane, forcing bicycles into fast-moving traffic.”

People are allowed to bike on the Embarcadero’s northern sidewalk, but it’s typically crowded and can be difficult to share.

“These conditions have led to some collisions, many close calls, and detract from the comfort of all users,” the SFMTA’s report says.

Biking on the Embarcadero today. Photo: SFMTA
The SF Bicycle Coalition (not the city) put forward this vision for a protected two-way bikeway on the Embarcadero. Image: ##http://www.sfbike.org/email_templates/Embarcadero_3_9s.jpg##SFBC##

Aaron Naparstek, who founded Streetsblog in New York City, had a chance to weigh in on the experience of biking on the Embarcadero on a visit last week. As relayed on BFF.FM, he told SF Examiner reporter Jessica Kwong that “something like a really nice two-way protected bike lane seems natural.”

“It’s San Francisco’s waterfront, there’s a lot of tourists, a lot of activity,” he said, comparing it to waterfronts in Chicago and New York which have protected bikeways. “I could see the Embarcadero being the equivalent of those two places, except San Francisco is an even more beautiful city and it could be nicer.”

According to the SFMTA report, bicycle counts conducted last year found between 800 to 1,000 bike commuters using the Embarcadero on weekdays during the two hours between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

SFPD data shows that between 2006 and 2011, 84 people were injured on the Embarcadero while walking and biking, including “two pedestrians that were fatally injured, four pedestrians that were severely injured, and three cyclists that were severely injured,” the report says. “Approximately 75 percent of the [Embarcadero] is categorized as a Cycling High Injury Corridor,” which are the six percent of city streets where 60 percent of injuries occur.

The SFMTA report says planners have been studying the existing conditions on the Embarcadero since the temporary trial last September. Golier told SFBay that the project will be funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and has a budget of $500,000. There’s no timeline for construction yet, but the SFMTA expects to have a final design developed by fall of 2015.

  • I’m hoping to be there tonight!

  • coolbabybookworm

    Can’t happen fast enough. I just hope the cycle tracks are wide enough to accommodate the diversity of riders that will use the route, including room to get around pedicabs. I love the pedicabs, but not being stuck behind them when I’m in a hurry.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Like this? One can dream…

  • Justin

    I am so going to be there! All I can say is lets get it done ASAP. I would like to see the first option which is a two way PROTECTED bikeway on the waterfront side. Done right with no water-downs and I know it will be a HUGE SUCCESS! I just want to see this project start construction ASAP with the least amount of wasteful unnecessary political red tape and government bureaucracy

  • tj

    The city is proposing three alternatives, none of which is appropriate for the a the large group cyclists who use the Embarcadero as a primary route for commuting to an from work. While the SF Bike Coalition’s and one of the city’s proposals for a sidewalk level two way track may be appealing for tourists and the “broader spectrum” that the SFBG is laudably trying to serve, it would be disastrous for commuters and other cyclists who commute by bike in large part because it is a fast and efficient way to move around the city. Would any serious cyclist consider riding on the track shown in the illustration above – having to slowly follow the woman whose shopping bags would cause her to weave back and forth across the lane and negotiate tourists walking down the sidewalk level path? I think not. For these riders, the separated two way path would be the equivalent of closing Fell and Oak streets and rerouting all car drivers onto Page Street.

    Put in the separated pathway for the “broader spectrum” that would undoubtedly be better served by such a configuration, but please do not take away the commuter cyclist-friendly street level green lanes that are now appropriate to most of the 800-1000 commuters and recreational riders that use this route on a daily basis.

  • murphstahoe

    The street level lanes SB suck rocks. A 2 way track on the water side eliminates the brutal right hooks, battery and one other where we get sharrowed into a right turn lane.

    I worry about peds using the cycle track if it’s at sidewalk level – perhaps a curbing and green paint will make it clear.

    It’s a lot easier to pass a woman with shopping bags than a limo parked in the lane

  • murphstahoe

    I commute occasionally on the Embarcadero and took a few helmet cam tracks. I am now thinking it should be a key part of the cycling advocate toolkit to collect helmet cam data to bring to these meetings to drive home to planners – and more importantly the SFMTA board and BoS – the specific repeated conditions that drive the needs. I’m not talking about the extreme anecdotes, just the simple repeated cobditions that lead to an increased probability of incident.

    Just saying “the pedicabs” is not as compelling as a cam shot of waiting behind one for 2 blocks while pinned in by traffic. Or displaying the move needed to get to the left turn on North Point.

    This is another place Strava data would be useful – what chunks are avoided? I turn on North Point to avoid the wharf, but what does the data say?

  • Roan

    The woman with the shopping bags really isn’t the problem. Think about the pedicabs already using the NB Embarcadero bike lane.

    The planners are well aware of the pedicabs being a problem: right now the lane is 5′ wide, and the pedicabs are just a few inches short of that, so if you’re on a bike you can’t pass a pedicab without moving out into traffic, and if you’re driving a car it’s a bit scary to pass a pedicab whose left wheel is on the line. If they go with two one-way tracks (I hope not), they need to make them wide enough so you can pass pedicabs, because you wouldn’t be able to move out into the street or onto the sidewalk, you’re stuck between two curbs. A two-way track (my preference) would hopefully be 13′ wide like the one they’re planning for Terry A Francois, which would be wide enough that you can pretty comfortably pass a pedicab as long as there isn’t also another pedicab coming at you in the other lane.

  • Chris J.

    In your experience, what’s the better placement for something like this — a helmet cam or a handlebar cam?

  • murphstahoe

    Helmet. Your eyes/head track the interesting stuff.

    Also, drivers will start to notice cams on helmets…

  • Zero

    The street level tracks are already painted green and every day I find myself having to go out into the street because people want to run the wrong way in the bike lane and won’t budge as if you are invading their space. They are just as bad as non cyclists in the cyclist car on Caltrain.

  • Zero

    There is a good video on youtube about a guy from the Netherlands pretty much saying how ridiculous us Americans car when it comes to bikes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2THe_10dYs

  • I also expect peds in cycle track because that’s what they do in NYC — even though they have to step down off the curb.

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