SFMTA Approves 2nd Street Protected Bike Lane Redesign, Ponders Car Bans

Second Street will get raised, protected bike lanes, sidewalk extensions, and Muni boarding islands with a redesign approved yesterday. But SFMTA Board members wonder if car restrictions are needed, too. Image: DPW

The SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday unanimously approved a redesign of Second Street which will remove traffic lanes and add safety upgrades like raised, protected bike lanes and sidewalk extensions. After years of delay, SFMTA Board members and some attendees at the meeting said it may not go far enough, and that the agency should consider car restrictions to prevent private autos from clogging the street.

The redesign [PDF] will remove two of Second Street’s four car traffic lanes and bring one of the city’s first routes with raised bike lanes protected from motor traffic by curbs and parked cars. Muni boarding islands will also be installed to allow buses to make stops in the traffic lanes and passengers to alight without conflicting with bike traffic.

The approval is “a resounding victory for safer SoMa streets,” wrote SF Bicycle Coalition Business and Community Program Manager Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, in a blog post. The SFBC submitted support letters from nearly 100 residents and a dozen businesses on the street, Cosulich-Schwartz told the SFMTA Board, noting that it’s the only north-south bike route in that area of SoMa.

Walk SF’s new policy and program manager, Cathy DeLuca, also lauded the plan. In addition to safer crossings (including removal of dangerous double-turn lanes at Harrison Street), and more room for pedestrians, she noted that the protected bike lanes will “make it easier for pedestrians and motorists to navigate” Second, which is “in the heart of such a fast-growing part of our community.”

The redesign “will give the residents, employees, local business, and visitors who use Second Street the great street they deserve,” Davi Lang, an aide for D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, told the SFMTA Board.

DeLuca noted that the plan for Second is the first street redesign to come out as part of the citywide Green Connections plan.

Second’s redesign has been delayed for years. Most recently, completion was pushed back a year from its previous schedule, to fall of 2017, apparently due to delays in completing the environmental review. Before that, the year-long construction was scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

The plan was upgraded from a much less ambitious proposal originally included in the 2009 SF Bike Plan, which would have only added painted bike lanes in the door zone. The planning process was re-thought when the original project was apparently forgotten after a communication breakdown between the SFMTA and Department of Public Works, which led the redesign. In the community design workshops that followed, starting in 2012, protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety upgrades emerged as the top priorities for neighbors.

A painted "safety zone" at Second Street and South Park. Photo: Nicole Schnedier, Walk SF/Twitter
A painted “safety zone” at Second Street and South Park. Photo: Nicole Schnedier, Walk SF/Twitter

The SFMTA has already made some near-term upgrades this year such as painted safety zones, continental crosswalks, and green-backed sharrows.

The goal of the more ambitious redesign, city planners say, is to dissuade drivers from using Second as a shortcut to Highway 80. Once the street has only two car lanes, drivers are expected to adjust and stick to the designated nearby freeway routes: the wide, one-way streets like Third, Fourth, Harrison, and Howard that dominate SoMa.

Several taxi drivers at the hearing complained that they wouldn’t be exempted from the bans on left turns and on right turns at red lights, which are intended to make intersections safer to cross and keep Muni buses moving.

SFMTA Board members, including Malcolm Heinicke, the SFMTA Board’s most vocal proponent of getting private cars off of Market Street, said the redesign may not go far enough to keep cars from blocking buses and crosswalks on Second. It’s “too in the middle,” said Heinicke, who suggested banning private autos while still allowing taxis. City planners said car restrictions could be considered after the redesign is implemented.

Second Street neighbor Patrick Valentino also said the plan could go farther. “It’s okay to have a street that isn’t friendly to cars,” he said.

  • BBnet3000

    How wide are the cycletracks? It seems quite an oversight to not have included that in the presentation.

  • the_greasybear

    This redesign is worth the wait. So much better than the original plan.

  • Sounds nice, but this should have been completed 15 years ago when the ballpark opened and all the new office space started popping up along 2nd and 3rd. Certainly someone should have seen this problem coming.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    If the plans are to scale and the traffic lanes are 10-12′, the cycle track should be 6-7′ wide (perhaps varying at points).

  • gneiss

    Great. Another approved project that we can watch SFTMA and DPW delay indefinitely as they fail to get themselves organized to complete the work, just like the rebuilding on Masonic. Sometimes I think that the only reason why they approve these projects is so those departments can show they are making progress, when in fact, there is no political will to get them done.

  • ARRO

    The elephant in the room is what plans does SFMTA have to re-route traffic headed for I-80? It is mentioned de-emphasizing this route, but that does not magically make any existing traffic headed for I-80 disappear and simply pushes gridlock onto other streets unless there are plans to enhance flow for autos/taxis on other corridors.

  • i thought when the SF Bike Plan came out in the early millennium that bike lanes would be implemented soon after on Second. It’s taken a while longer, but the silver lining to the delay is the design got many times better. It’s likely that the construction schedule will slip a bit, but it’s really moving forward now and will be completed. That’s fantastic! Woo hoo!

  • jamiewhitaker

    I am quite pleased with this much-improved for pedestrians and bicyclists plan – and gotta say that the approach in SoMa should always be to earnestly involve the neighbors from the start in order to get the best result that folks who have to live with it will support (mostly).

    The original plan was half-assed and, worse, the community outreach was performed by a condescending smartass from SFMTA coming to our neighborhood group and telling us what some folks had planned without involving the community that they were going to shove down our throats whether we liked it or not. Well, neighbors were not in the mood to be bullied in 2009.

    SoMa residents, in general, know transportation is a wreck in our part of town and not coordinated with Planning Department approvals for huge buildings at all, so it seems. There is the tricky problem of there being Rincon Hill and not much connectivity between South Beach and Rincon Hill from Beale over to 2nd, but hopefully folks figure things out … And hopefully CONGESTION PRICING sees the light of day downtown to throttle some of the traffic volumes heading to the Bay Bridge on weekday evenings at least.

  • murphstahoe

    gotta say that the approach in SoMa should always be to earnestly involve the neighbors

    This is the best approach *everywhere*

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Great, another 2 years. While I applaud this finally getting approved, the process for bicycle improvements in this city is horrible. Other cities around the country are able to design and build protected bike lanes in months, not decades. Copenhagen would still be the car-centric city it was in the 70’s if their planning process was as inefficient as San Francisco. Done is better than perfect! At the rate they’re going, San Francisco will finally get a useful network of complete and protected bike lanes connecting every neighborhood in the city right around the same time the world’s oil supplies run out!

  • voltairesmistress

    As a driver trying to reach the Bay Bridge, this is going to make my trip tougher. But as a walker and biker in South of Market, this is finally going provide a safe route and a pleasant street to use. I fully support it completely and hope that it provides a living example that people can see as an alternative to cars only streets. This is a great example of the fact that sometimes you really do need to sacrifice the convenience and ease of one mode’s users for another’s, that there is only so much street space and sometimes that means subtracting from car users’ use and comfort.

  • p_chazz

    Unless the neighbors oppose bike lanes as they did on Polk Street, in which case you shove it down their throats.

  • SF Guest

    How is a walker going to be provided a safer street to use with the upcoming changes?

  • jd_x

    Did you read the article? Because it answers your question: “In addition to safer crossings (including removal of dangerous double-turn lanes at Harrison Street), and more room for pedestrians, she noted that the protected bike lanes will “make it easier for pedestrians and motorists to navigate”

  • voltairesmistress

    The Second Street plan will by its design reduce the numbers of cars pushing through that corridor, reduce speeds through visual clues to drivers like trees and streetscape that suggest other non-car users’ presence, reduce turning cars, and protect pedestrians from cars by providing a bike lane between sidewalk and car lane, and provide muni raised islands for waiting for buses or just standing out of traffic. So, does that list help you see how this 2nd Street design will provide pedestrians with a safer street to use?

  • theqin

    It seems unlikely that the 10 bus will move any faster down 2nd unless they turn it into a transit only lane/ban cars.

  • Mario Tanev

    They weren’t neighbors, but business owners that overwhelmingly live elsewhere and drive to their businesses.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    I think business owners count as neighbors, but they probably shouldn’t receive the outsized influence that they do.

  • murphstahoe

    That was a rhetorical comment, your rebuttal will be summarily ignored.

  • SF Guest

    The SFMTA PDF link above was more helpful.

  • Jimbo

    this will definitely increase pollution by making the freeway backup and traffic worse.

  • p_chazz

    A business owner is certainly a member of the local community, since they earn their livelihood there.

  • the_greasybear

    If true, then the fault lies with people who choose to drive cars into and out of downtown San Francisco despite the new configuration. Driving = pollution. Stop driving = less pollution.

  • No true. The back up of cars is from capacity on the bridge (it’s really full) not capacity on Second Street. Cars will get on the Bay Bridge at exactly the same rate.

  • Congestion tolls on those Bay Bridge on ramps would solve the neighborhood grid locked traffic vehicle storage waiting to get on the Bay Bridge mess. Technically pretty easy to do in this day and age of sensors and computers, but really hard to get approved politically. But a great idea.
    I believe there used to be a toll station going east bound.

  • Jimbo

    have you ever waited for the bridge? once on the bridge, you actually go pretty fast, even druing rush hour. the backup to get on is caused by a narrow funnel to get on a wide bridge. narrowing the funnel more will cause more pollution

  • Jimbo

    who cares whos fault it is? the end result is more pollution. should we be designing streets to cause more pollution?

  • If you design streets to give people the option of not driving, perhaps they will choose not to drive.

  • City Resident

    or, it will encourage more people to ride transit and thereby reduce pollution; congestion (and fees) is the best way to get people to choose environmentally sustainable transportation

  • NoeValleyJim

    A small vocal minority should not be allowed to derail a process approved by the majority. Their concerns should be addressed if possible, but it is never possible to please everybody.

  • Jimbo

    you mean like the 3% of people who cycle, whose voice is the oudest at all these meetings? Should they only be allowed to ahve 3% of the attendance

  • NoeValleyJim

    17% of San Franciscans bicycle every week. Once 17% of San Francisco streets are dedicated to bicycling, then that will be fair.

  • Justin

    Now that SFMTA has approved it, how about expediting this very important project along with other vital and important ones like i.e Masonic Ave and get it to the construction phase ASAP. When it comes to improvements in cycling and especially PROTECTED bike lanes, SFMTA and other city agencies will find a way to delay it and make the same old BS excuses!!!!

  • So you’re saying that if Second Street were 5 lanes of traffic to the bridge, then there’s be no funnel effect.

    It isn’t.

  • Flatlander

    That’s actually not how congestion works…It’s not that the bridge is wide, but rather that it is narrow. Basic traffic engineering shows that once you’re in the bottleneck (in this case, the bridge) traffic flows well. Streets upstream from the bottleneck are the ones that get the congestion.

    It is highly possible that narrowing 2nd Street could actually improve other approaches to the bridge (really, other approaches to the 1st Street on ramp, like 1st Street itself) as it would not have to contend with as much traffic from 2nd.

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