Eyes on the Street: Buffered Bike Lanes for Students on Ortega in the Sunset

This school year, Ortega Street offers parents a safer street to walk and bike their kids on in the Outer Sunset, as seen here at 40th Ave. Photo: SFBC

The SFMTA has installed new bike lanes and traffic calming measures on Ortega Street in the Outer Sunset, bringing a safer commute for parents and students in time for the start of the school year. Ortega runs along Sunset Elementary School and AP Giannini Middle School, which occupy the four blocks between 37th and 41st Avenues.

The improvements, funded in part by a Safe Routes to School grant, include a bike lane with a buffer zone in the uphill direction on the stretch along the school, and a conventional bike lane in the downhill direction. Ortega also has new pedestrian islands, speed humps, continental crosswalks, daylighting, and sidewalk bulb-outs to calm car traffic and make it safer to cross the street. They were previously expected to be installed by the end of 2012, with the bike lanes in by summer of last year, and it’s unclear why the project was delayed.

The safety upgrades were championed by Nik Kaestner, the director of sustainability for the SF Unified School District, who bikes his kids to school on “a heavy Dutch cruiser,” he told the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Asked about the benefits of these projects, Kaestner pointed out that “walking school buses and bike trains also build community and allow students to arrive at school ready to learn… Ensuring that students have a variety of ways of getting to school means that students from disadvantaged areas have the means to get to the school of their choice.”

See more photos after the jump.

The bike lanes run all the way from 20th Aveune to the Great Highway. Photo: Gabriel Ho
Bulb-outs were installed to narrow crossing distances, as seen here at 37th Avenue. Photo: Gabriel Ho
Photo: Gabriel Ho
  • twinpeaks_sf

    That median island is weird (and you know someone is going to park in the red zone). Should have put the bikeway along the curb and the parking inside. Oh, but the children…

    Otherwise good stuff. The Sunset’s extra wide streets could use some love.

  • Gezellig

    As with other paint “buffered” lanes it’s better than nothing but I don’t understand why with all the space they couldn’t just do parking-protected cycletracks on these things.

    Speaking of that area, has anyone ever heard of any plans to improve/upgrade the multiuse path on the west side of Sunset? If there’s anywhere in the city with ample right of way for a wide cycletrack + sidewalk, it’s there.

    Plus the current pavement is often bumpy with tree roots and intersections don’t have bike signals. I’m surprised how rarely this route is mentioned but it’s a totally useful north-south route connecting the protected bikeways of Lake Merced and GG Park and beyond.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Sunset Blvd indeed could be a really nice N/S connection. The SFPUC’s Sunset Boulevard Greenway project is looking at the street, but it doesn’t appear any real improvements for walking or bicycling are coming. You might recall this article: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2013/08/22/without-traffic-calming-sunset-blvd-project-a-missed-chance-to-save-lives/

  • coolbabybookworm

    Not the best possible result, but still an improvement. The streets in the western neighborhoods are so wide there’s almost always room for even minor improvements like unprotected bike lanes.

    I’ve been seeing tons of happy families and kids biking to school this week, as well as walking, and taking MUNI. It disproves the idea that you have to have a car to raise kids or that you have to use a car for every trip.

  • Gezellig

    Yeah, that whole stretch really is ripe for a redo beyond just the rain gardens, as mentioned in the link.

    For me it’s important as a N/S bike route–I’ll go out of my way from 19th (20th is marked as a bike route) due to the hills because Sunset is a lot flatter and more pleasant.

    And obviously this remains one of the most dangerous stretches for those on foot, as well.

  • shanan

    I love bike lanes they make the streets safer for everyone

  • GetHubNub

    I believe there’s no such thing as a safe bike lane and that it should be unlawful to place children on the back of bicycles. I also believe those pet on wheels that trail bicycles hooked to the back should be banned as cruel and inhumane due to the condition of our roads. It’s one thing to take your pet to the bike path to enjoy a day at the beach, quite another to ride your bike in major traffic and bad roads in San Francisco.

  • GetHubNub

    They do make the roads safer ,but nothing’s full proof. Some drunk or texting distracted person can still veer off and hit you.

  • gneiss

    That happens if you are driving in a car as well. Being in a car doesn’t prevent you from getting killed by any of those conditions either.

  • gneiss

    GetHubNub – What you ask is unreasonable. It’s like saying that we should ban walking because people get killed walking across streets in crosswalks.

    My wife and I take our daughter and return home from school on a trailer bike almost every day of the school year. It’s faster (15 minutes) than walking (40 minutes) using a car (20 minutes in morning traffic) or MUNI (40 minutes). If you aren’t just trolling, please tell me why you think our daily commute should be unlawful.

  • Gezellig

    True, but you have to admit life is full of potential risks in everything we do, even staying home and hiding under the covers in bed. From the National Safety Council, check this out:

    http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/injury_and_death_statistics/Documents/2014-Injury-Facts-43.pdf

    –> Biking (‘pedalcycling’) as a whole is statistically much safer than being a pedestrian or occupant in a motor vehicle. This may surprise some as our society has gotten used to the weekly carnage of car and pedestrian “accidents” as “normal” background noise, despite the constant tragedy.

    –> All of said activities are far less common still than cardiopulmonary disease and even car deaths are slightly less common than suicide. Even sitting on your couch in the living room statistically carries some risks. Fires can break out. You can bang your head on the coffee table. An earthquake can make the bookshelves fall on you. etc.

    The question is:

    1) how comparatively common are these incidents, and

    2) are there smart ways we can reduce those statistical risks?

    One way which does make bike lanes safer is by physically separating the bike lanes from moving traffic, especially at intersections where the great majority of conflicts occur.

    Imagine if more of our intersections looked like this:

    http://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/intersection-after.png

    Instead of this:

    http://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/intersection-before.png

    Or more of our streets looked like this:

    http://img.sfbay.ca/home/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/bike2-750×563.jpg

    Instead of this:

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2012/07/polk.jpg

  • Greg

    Walking is more dangerous than biking? That chart also says that walking is more dangerous the riding a motorcycle. Really? Or is that just because more folks walk than those other activities?

  • Gezellig

    Presumably, though I couldn’t find the details on how the NSC calculated those.

    It’s definitely also interesting to compare activities’ comparative risk per [unit of measurement]*[capita].

    For example, how dangerous X activity is per person per minute compared to Y activity per person per minute. When comparing biking vs. driving:

    “…the accident risk per hour of the two activities is roughly equal.”

    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/06/13/bicycling-the-safest-form-of-transportation/

    By the way, this is with our current national status quo of very car-centric infrastructure, which we are now gradually moving away from in fits and starts. Compare to the Netherlands, which is about 6x safer still both because of decades of a virtuous feedback loop of more and better infra capacity and safety which encourages more ridership which encourages more and better infra capacity and safety, etc.:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Growth_and_underinvestment.PNG

    Needless to say, it’s pretty clear that as a society we rather irrationally pick and choose certain activities to brand as Very Dangerous when those don’t necessarily square with the facts, even in our current status quo.