Coming to 13th Street: SF’s First Downtown Parking-Protected Bike Lane

13th Street is set to get a westbound parking-protected bike lane between Bryant and Folsom Streets, among other improvements this spring. Image: SFMTA

San Francisco may get its first downtown parking-protected bike lane on 13th Street this spring. The SFMTA will be taking comments on the plans at a hearing tomorrow morning.

The bike lane would be installed only in the westbound direction of 13th underneath the Central Freeway, from Bryant to Folsom Streets. It would complement the existing eastbound bike lane on 14th Street, providing a safer route on a “key east-west corridor for people biking to destinations like the Caltrain Station, the Mission District, AT&T Ballpark, and the South Beach area in general,” said SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose.

It would be the city’s first parking-protected bike lane other than the one on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. Like the JFK bike lane, the 13th Street redesign is a big change to the geometry of the street that doesn’t require much in the way of construction. All it takes is painting a curbside bike lane with a buffer zone between parked cars.

Although there are plans underway for similar designs on other streets, including Second Street, the 13th Street project is apparently on a fast track to be implemented first.

Jose said a four-block bike parking-protected bike lane on Bay Street along Marina Middle School, which was originally scheduled to be installed last fall, may be implemented around the same time as the 13th Street one.

The 13th Street project would set a real precedent, demonstrating how SoMa’s wide, car-dominated streets can be tamed with protected bike lanes. A general traffic lane will be removed to create the bike lane, calming motor traffic.

“This project helps connect two important bike routes and addresses a serious safety gap on a street that has had two fatalities in as many years,” said Chema Hernández Gil, community organizer for the SF Bicycle Coalition. “We’re glad to see the SFMTA take action to make people safer, and hope similar improvements can happen on the other side of Division to improve safety for people biking in either direction.”

Photo: Google Street View

Jose said an eastbound bike lane on 13th has not been proposed yet because it would apparently require a longer planning process, and “we are trying to expedite the safety improvements in this current proposal.”

Along the corridor of 13th, which turns into Division, Jose said there were 106 traffic crashes from 2007 to 2012 between Folsom and the traffic circle at 8th, Townsend, and Division Streets. In October 2013, 78-year-old Cheng Jin Lai was killed on his bike by a Muni bus driver at the intersection of Bryant, Division, and 11th.

Division was targeted for safety improvements in the SFMTA’s list of 24 Vision Zero projects to be installed in 24 monthsJose said the project would also include pedestrian and bike safety improvements at several of the notoriously dangerous intersections along the corridor.

The 11th Street intersection would get pedestrian safety upgrades, and 9th and Division would get a new sidewalk, painted bulbouts, and new stop signs. The one-way block of 9th Street, north of Division, would become two-way. In addition, the traffic circle at 8th, Townsend, and Division would get “improved [bike] channelization and sharrows,” and the existing bike lanes on Division between the traffic circle and 9th would be “enhanced” with “more separation including a parking-protected design.”

These design measures represent some solid first steps toward the comprehensive redesigns that advocates have called for along 13th and Division. The timeline also shows how quickly the SFMTA can implement safety measures, which usually take years to reach fruition instead of months.

The project will be on the agenda for a hearing tomorrow at 10 a.m. at City Hall, Room 416, after which it’s expected to go to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval in February. You can weigh in on this project, as well as the Polk Street redesign, by speaking in person or emailing sustainable.streets@sfmta.com.

  • the_greasybear

    Paint is not protection. Over and over again, we have been shown painted lines on the roadway are not enough to prevent motorists from constantly shutting down bike lanes, “protected” or not.

  • SF_Abe

    Does this mean we’re ACTUALLY getting a sidewalk on the SW side of 9th between Brannan and Division?!!!!! (squeeeeeeeeeeeee…!)

    With this, and the upcoming stoplight at 16th & San Bruno, my walk to work is going to be 60% less terrifying!

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    Two blocks is better than none, I guess, but what do you do when you get to Folsom? It’s a great connector to the Mission, but what about the Wiggle?

    I ride east on 14th every day on my way to work near the Caltrain station, but coming home is a chore if I travel through the area. I currently take 7th to Market, but would prefer a more direct route. I hope this two blocks is eventually extended up Duboce to the path behind Safeway. It’s too crazy of an area to mix with traffic as it is now.

  • What does that have to do with the proposal at hand?

  • Thanks, Prop L!

  • Gezellig
  • Gezellig

    1) Love this breakneck timeline! Why can’t it *always* happen this fast? (I may have to ask some of the friendly SFMTAers who go to the SFTRU Pub Crawls at the next one coming up in a couple weeks)

    2) Make sure to write in to sustainable.streets@sfmta.com about this and especially the Polk St redesign, especially if (like me) you can’t go because it’s during working hours.

    We really need to show support for this kind of stuff!

  • shamelessly

    Hopefully the lack of grass next to the curb will prevent drivers from walking in the bike lane like they do in Golden Gate Park. But are there any new ideas to prevent drivers from parking in the door zone and creating a protected bike lane peppered with hazards? Soft hit posts would interfere with opening passenger-side doors, but what about gluing those little bumps to the roadway on the edge of the parking space, so drivers get tactile feedback if they cross the line?

  • Greg Costikyan

    My experience in NY is that “parking protected” lanes work a lot better than ones that are purely painted. E.g., today, I found the painted but unprotected lane on Carmine Street occupied by any number of (illegally) parked vehicles. However, the parking-protected lane on Lafayette was clear (except for a bit where employees of a parking lot had blocked it by “clearing snow” into a unnavigable section of the bike lane to allow their parkers easy access to the lot).

  • Sprague

    Finally some good news. The lack of protected bike lanes in SF is frustrating and dangerous, Every time I bike these streets I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands, with so many aggressive and impatient motorists. Protected bike lanes are a big win for bicyclists and motorists alike. I know that motorists must be frustrated by bicyclists taking the lane – I sure have been honked at and buzzed plenty. If any politician is halfway serious about a 20% by 2020 bike modeshare goal or about Vision Zero, then the MTA had better start producing such bike infrastructure on dozens of streets and perhaps hundreds of blocks.

  • Gezellig

    And not cave to pressure to water down designs and take years to implement them, either.

  • Gezellig

    Also, in addition to sustainable.streets@sfmta.com it wouldn’t hurt to also include the following people when you write in and show your support for protected bike lanes all up and down Polk and elsewhere (such as 13th):

    MTABoard@sfmta.com

    Julie.Christensen@sfgov.org

    MayorEdwinLee@sfgov.org

  • coolbabybookworm

    As the article said, other projects like a bike lane on the other side of the street would trigger a longer planning process. I think that’s usually code for environmental review due to CEQA and/or requiring more engineering time.

  • Maybe SF’s first Dutch Junction?

  • KWillets

    Empirically speaking, 13th St. has a shit lane not a bike lane.

  • HuckieCA

    Have you seen those few blocks of Duboce St. during rush hour, not to mention the intersection at Mission with the Freeway exit? That’s insane when you’re in a car, let alone being a daredevil on a bike. There’s not even a parking lane through much of that stretch to give up for a normal bike lane, let alone a protected one.

    You could take 11th, though I doubt that’s any more convenient than 7th. If you are going further west, 17th St. is nice. But otherwise, yes, there’s a huge hole right there in terms of good biking options.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    I don’t have a good answer here either. Maybe a contraflow lane all the way up 14th?

  • 94103er

    Yeah also, the grade on Duboce and 14th is really brutal westbound.

    It’s time for a serious discussion about eliminating parking on one side of 15th. I’d then suggest a cut-through the median on Market and the defunct recycling station next to Safeway to connect to the Wiggle via Dolores. Either that or extend the no-parking zone all the way to Market. And of course in saying that, I know of the wrath that would ensue from nearby residents.

  • HuckieCA

    That’s actually an interesting thought. Or make the current bike lane on 14th bi-direction, though honestly, it also needs to be protected. 14th is definitely a mess in the mornings, especially with all the current construction. On any given morning there’s a half-dozen semis parked in the bike lane and/or someone has dug a giant hole across the street or bike lane. :-/

  • gneiss

    Hear, hear! I think removing parking on one side of 15th would go a long way towards creating a viable couplet to complement the bike lane on 14th. It would go a long way towards reducing the conflict one feels while riding on 15th, particularly on the narrow blocks between Valencia and Sanchez where you either take the lane or get squeezed out of traffic.

  • Sprague

    Rather than eliminating parking, how about eliminating one lane of traffic (at least along the one way part of 15th Street – between Mission and Guerrero)? 15th Street could have a westbound parking protected bike lane along this stretch and 14th Street’s bike lane should probably be parking protected, too (all the way from Market Street to Folsom). A westbound parking protected bike lane on 14th Street would be great, too.

    There is a real dearth of westbound bike lanes in the area north of 17th Street and certainly some streets like 14th or (the one way segment of) 15th could handle a diet. (I’d also be happy to see a westbound parking protected bike lane on 16th Street from Folsom to Market, with the elimination of one of the two westbound general traffic lanes to allow for this, but this would harm TEP’s planned improvements to the 22 and I begrudgingly recognize how congested a route this already is for automobiles.)

  • love_me_do

    how is this “downtown”?

  • Gezellig

    Removing a car traffic lane (making it a one way street for cars) but preserving parking is exactly what I was thinking, too. I’ve thought for awhile that this might be a great strategy for a lot of such streets–why?

    1) You don’t have to have the parking wars

    2) Residents who drive can still access their streets and park as needed but they get a traffic-calmed street

    In addition, there is no Muni line on 15th, further simplifying any street changes.

    Also! Though the width of 15th is the same throughout, parts of 15th (Mission to Minna) already only have one travel lane for cars. There’s totally room for a protected bike lane:

  • theqin

    Is the design posted anywhere? I am wondering what the exact design is like since there are a number of potential right hook conflicts due to the way the intersecting streets are angled. Presumably this would be worse if there were parked cars blocking the view of the bike lane unless there are mitigations made.

  • Gezellig

    I assume Aaron will be writing an update at some point (if he was able to make it to the SFMTA hearing this morning).

  • SFnative74

    He probably meant the first “urban” parking protected bikeway, with the other being in Golden Gate Park.

  • murphstahoe

    15th is a great street to ride on.

    The problem is getting to 15th. Turning left off of 13th/Division is scary as hell. I started turning right on 11th and left on Harrison and simply crossing 13th. Skips the unprotected left turn off of 13th/Division and actually can beat the timing on some of the lights.

  • Thrilled about this. This will make my bike rides home from both Trader Joe’s and Caltrain significantly better. Drivers treat this section of 13th/Division like a freeway, and it’s more than a little stressful leaving the protected bike lane at Bryant and then having motorists buzz me at 40 mph as they try to make the light at Harrison. Also, the pavement along this stretch is often terrible, making bringing eggs home dicey.

    To get to Caltrain going east, however, there will still be the nasty block between Harrison and Bryant with no bicycle infrastructure whatsoever. (My route to Caltrain is to take 17th to Harrison, Harrison to 13th.) Right now I ride in the right hand turn lane (which extends almost the entire block for unknown reasons), positioning myself for the bike lane on the other side of Bryant, but of course this makes right hand turners unhappy with me. Again, the visual cues are such that people see this street as a mini-freeway and go very fast. (50 mph is not unknown on this stretch.)

    Also, whoever at SFMTA who thinks 20mph downhill on 14th Street is a bicycle “green wave” either has a malicious sense of humor or intends only twenty-somethings to ride bikes in San Francisco. Yes, there are some bicyclists who enjoy riding quite fast down this hill, but they can take the lane and go the speed of the cars. For ordinary people, riding 20mph in a bike lane sandwiched between traffic and parked cars is simply not safe, no matter how nice the hill is. Car doors open, drivers dart out from parking spaces and other drivers swing around you and come to a sudden standstill so they can peruse sidewalk sales or get coffee. Not to mention the broken glass and construction nails you have to swerve around constantly to keep your tires intact. You cannot possibly stop for (or avoid) these hazards in time if you’re going 20 mph. Get rid of the parked cars, put in a double-wide bike lane (that is occasionally cleaned by street sweepers), and then I will be willing to go 20mph on 14th between Dolores and Valencia. 20 mph is still way too fast for Valencia to Folsom. In Copenhagen green bike waves are a civilized 12 mph. 20 mph is motorized vehicle speed. Cut us non-daredevils some slack.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    Interesting! I’ll try this next week.

    A box left turn at Harrison isn’t too bad there.

  • murphstahoe

    The 11th street route is faster as you skip two annoying lights and replace them with two favorable ones.

  • murphstahoe

    “To get to Caltrain going east, however, there will still be the nasty
    block between Harrison and Bryant with no bicycle infrastructure
    whatsoever. (My route to Caltrain is to take 17th to Harrison, Harrison
    to 13th.)”

    The vast majority of observed riders would turn right on Treat/Alabama/Treat/Division and make the (illegal) left onto Bryant to 13th. (or, if coming from 14th, go through the Best Buy parking lot to Division to the illegal left).

    My observations lead me to believe that the left onto Bryant is illegal because traffic backs up on Bryant such that left turns can’t happen – unless you are on a bike and just filter between cars. There is a blind right off of Division onto Bryant there and stopped cars gridlocking Bryant would be a big problem. Of course, I see plenty of motorists make the illegal left as well.

    Any reason you take 13th?

  • Richard Mlynarik

    There’s a blind right hook potential at EVERY intersection.

    But that’s OK because, “protected”. Also, Copenhagen.
    Just keep saying chanting it … and never venture through any intersections.

  • Justin

    Good to see that they will, of course that’s assuming they don’t water it down and then eliminate it later on and then take forever. SFMTA should also install parking protected bike lanes on most of the one way streets of the SOMA i.e. Folsom, Howard, Bryant and so forth, those would really be some of the first “downtown,” parking protected bike lanes that can be easily be installed due to the large width of those streets. Of course that’s also assuming that these projects can be done in a timely manner at lightning efficient speed, at least no more than a year, preferably half year for all planning, design and construction. Just imagine how many riders and new riders it can attract and the potential.

    Secondly the city should really get serious about demolishing and removing the rest of the central freeway, it’s seriously ugly and it’s not necessary for it to be there at all. It would really make that 13th and Division street more welcoming.

    I just hope that SFMTA this time will get it done right, no water downs, and complete these projects done right and thoroughly, with efficient speed.

  • hp2ena

    Richard is correct. While the bike lanes are protected, the turning radii at the intersections – particularly at the alleyways – are designed in a way that favors speeding cars, which can cause right hooks. I suggest either reversing the direction of the alleyways such that they feed onto 13th (not off), or having these intersections intersect at 90° to discourage speeding.

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