SFMTA Open House Gets Feedback on Bike Lanes and More

SFMTA took public comment on three different streetscape projects Monday night. Photo: Streetsblog.
SFMTA took public comment on three different streetscape projects Monday night. Photo: Streetsblog.

Some 30 residents of the Western Addition, Lower Haight and Hayes Valley neighborhoods (plus some interested folks from outside the area) showed up Monday night to the auditorium at John Muir Elementary School to learn about SFMTA’s plans on three different, but related, projects: the Western Addition Community-Based Transportation Plan, the Lower Haight Public Realm Plan, and the Page Street Green Connections Project. From SFMTA’s release about the meeting:

  • The Western Addition Community-Based
    Transportation Plan’s overall goal is to
    improve the community’s transportation
    options and enhance access to more
    employment and education opportunities.
  • The Lower Haight Public Realm Plan is
    working to develop a community-based
    vision that will complement and enhance the
    neighborhood’s public spaces.
  • As part of the Octavia Boulevard
    Enhancement Project, the Page Street Green
    Connections Project is about making Page
    Street a more walkable, bikeable, and
    sustainable corridor in the Hayes Valley
    neighborhood.

Streetsblog readers can follow these projects and make comments via SFMTA’s web page. Two things immediately stood out. On a table at the center of the room, SFMTA had left the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) manual. The cover features what is now widely accepted as the preferred design for bike lanes: make them protected, either by bollards, curbs, planters, or–in this case–parking.

If protected bike lanes are to be the new normal, it has to be reflected in SFMTA graphics, as seen here on the cover of the NACTO manual. Image: NACTO.
If protected bike lanes are to be the new normal, it has to be reflected in SFMTA graphics, as seen here on the cover of the NACTO manual. Image: NACTO.

And on the other hand, SFMTA’s boards for Golden Gate. In option B, they are proposing to eliminate a traffic lane to provide a wide, buffered bike lane. But, at least in the illustration, it’s still unprotected. It still forces cyclists to ride along the door zone. And it still invites double-parked cars and trucks to block it.

*WHATSHERFACE* was one of several locals who wanted to know why SFMTA is still considering door-death lanes. Photo: Streetsblog
Gail Baugh was one of several locals who wanted to know why SFMTA is still considering door-death lanes. Photo: Streetsblog

Which left Streetsblog wondering, along with many other visitors at the meeting, why, in 2016, is this kind of a bike lane still even in play?

Adrian Leung, a Transportation Planner at SFMTA, stressed that the designs were just early options and parking-protected bike lanes on Golden Gate are still on the table. He said parking-protected bike lanes have their own trade-offs and the public is less familiar with them. But Gail Baugh, an interested resident, disagreed, saying everyone knows what they are from the lanes in Golden Gate Park. Lanes that run alongside parked cars “just knock off cyclists,” she said. James Sword, a resident of upper Haight agreed and was “shocked they don’t have parking-protected lanes.” Option “A” seemed better, with a median protected, bi-directional bike lane on one side. But it eliminates parking on one side of Golden Gate. And as any Streetsblog reader knows, eliminating parking ends up complicated, expensive and politically difficult to achieve.

One SFMTA official mentioned that parking-protected bike lanes reduce the overall number of parking spots too, since driveways and corners have to be day-lighted so motorists who are pulling out of driveways can see oncoming cyclists. Still, there are solutions to that, such as putting some angled parking on a side street, to make up for the loss of spots. And besides, going by the renderings, Option “A” eliminates the parking lane on one side, so how can loss of parking be the explanation?

Other neighbors, such as Makela Clay, who lives near the intersection of Oak and Steiner, suggested they improve street lighting, to make pedestrians feel safer at night. Leung said they’d like to but it’s difficult since street lighting is managed by the Public Utilities Commission, not SFMTA. But he said they’re working on it.

What's his name took __ for presenting the usual, door zone, parking lane/bike lane at Monday night's meeting. Photo: Streetsblog.
Adrian Leung, a planner at SFMTA, explained schematics of possible changes to Golden Gate and Turk at Monday night’s meeting. Photo: Streetsblog.

It’s good to see SFMTA presenting multiple projects at a large neighborhood forum. But they need to realize that unprotected bike lanes are constantly obstructed and provide no real protection, as Streetsblog has repeatedly made clear. All bike lanes, except on the narrowest, most lightly traveled streets, have to be protected either by bollards, a raised curb, planters, parked cars, or whatever. Driveways or lost parking is not a reason to keep presenting door-death lanes as an option: tried-and-tested solutions for protected bike lanes exist for all road conditions, including roads with driveways. How many people have to get hurt before this is understood?

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Thank you for taking the time to report on this. Most people don’t think much about bike lanes or what type they are, but when people see protected bike lanes they’re much more likely to pull out their bikes and use them.

    The only reason we don’t have more protected bike lanes in this city is because of the cars-first supporters. They have successfully kicked the butts of bicycle supporters in public relations campaigns, forcing the watering down of even modest bicycle improvements.

    The fact that the SFMTA routinely hides most bicycle improvements under projects that completely leave off any mention of the word ‘bicycle’ speaks volumes to the power of the cars-first supporters, and to the failure of bicycle supporters to promote biking as a viable transportation alternative.

    Please continue reporting on this important issue, because it has an enormous impact in the quality of life for everyone living here.

  • RichLL

    The link you provide that shows how a parking-protected bike lane can co-exist safely with driveways features a suburban location where the houses, and therefore the driveways, are fairly far apart.

    That is not the case in SF where, in many cases, the buildings are hard up against each other and where every building has a driveway and garage that is most of the width of the building.

    So on many blocks in SF there is little room for street parking anyway because of all the driveways, and therefore not many parked cars to provide protection.

    While if there are fewer driveways and garages for parking, then the local residents will be more dependent on street parking, which means removing it can cause more hardship unless it is replaced on a like-for-like basis.

    Also, unlike the suburbs, the sidewalks are crowded. Bike lanes next to the sidewalk, as shown in your link, quickly lead to wheelchairs, strollers, skate boards and shopping carts using the bike lane, plus joggers and pedestrians.

    So it’s important that the provision of such lanes be considered on a case-by-case basis, which is why meetings and feedback like this is important. What works in one neighborhood may be unsuitable for another,

  • gneiss

    I think when an SFMTA official says that the “city isn’t ready for parking protected bike lanes” what they really are saying is that people aren’t ready to give up their ability to illegally double park their cars and trucks in the streets when they need to. At present, the SFMTA is measuring their progress in terms of how much bicycle infrastructure they are putting on the ground. Paint is easy and cheap. It is familiar to drivers around the city, and they know that the consequences surrounding double parking in it are low, so why oppose it? The end result is a win for the agency, as they can then add it to their numbers for completed bicycle infrastructure.

    Unfortunately, these treatments won’t move the needle much on mode share as most people, particularly those with kids, aren’t going to start using those lanes. The painted lanes still throw people into traffic every block with people double parking, which no parent in their right mind will subject a child less than thirteen to, and most people will still see as dangerous given that you have to mix it up with unpredictable drivers of two ton metal boxes. If we really want to get our city to 20% mode share of bicycle trips, they need to get serious about creating protected infrastructure that will get people who aren’t already riding bikes, particularly kids, onto the streets.

  • shamelessly

    We also unfortunately have a bad implementation of parking protected bike lanes in Golden Gate Park that includes no physical barriers. As a result, drivers park cars in the buffer zone, making the bike lane all door-zone in some situations. As a cyclist, this puts me in a death trap if I can’t spot it ahead of time and merge over to the main traffic lane instead.
    I want to see more parking protected bike lanes, but only if they’re done safely.

  • gneiss

    Agreed. The city could have easily put in low rubber curb treatments at the edge of the parking lanes to prevent this behavior but instead used just paint. Using these instead would have reduced the incidence of this issue and is a relatively inexpensive solution.

  • alberto rossi

    We paint pictures of streetcar boarding islands. We paint pictures of pedestrian bulbouts. We paint pictures of bike lane protection. Vision: Zero Loss of
    Parking.

  • I personally don’t mind sharing my bike lane with other users, especially if neither of us is a lethal threat to the other. I’ve seen wheelchair users blocked on the sidewalk and need to use the roadway–better in an 8-80 protected bikelane than mixing with fast moving vehicles.

  • RichLL

    I think that is great if you can share with slower users of the lane.

    Some peoples’ experience with the North Panhandle mixed-use path is that not all cyclists are that flexible, patient and generous.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    The Golden Gate Park bike lanes are are awful and everyone knows they’re awful. But they were implemented on a shoestring budget before any protected bike lane (aka cycletrack) specifications were established.

    The Golden Gate Park bike lanes wouldn’t meet AASHTO, NACTO, FHWA or Caltrans specifications that govern how protected bicycle lanes should be designed. But all of these standards are relatively new and didn’t exist at the time when the Golden Gate park bike lanes were built.

    These aren’t the only dud protected bike lanes. There are several others in other cities in the US that have similar design flaws, which is what helped established writing rules for how protected bike lanes should be built. So don’t worry! Now that these standards are in place, it’s very unlikely we’ll see too many more Golden gate park type mistakes.

  • Justin

    Regarding street improvement options for Golden Gate Ave, there’s one option i notice that is totally missing, that is having one PARKING PROTECTED bike lanes, can be on either side, with two remaining ONE-way traffic lanes. What’s best about this option is that it removes little to no parking yet it accommodates all the street safety desires. The question is what side of the street would the PROTECTED bike lane go? I’m so curious to why that option isn’t included when it should be???? Golden Gate Ave can have the PARKING PROTECTED Bike Lane, retain most of the parking and reduce unsafe speeding through narrowing the remaining two lanes on this street without converting it to two-way. This would be the perfect balance between the two other proposals. I hope this option will find its way through these community meetings.

  • RichLL

    Well, the thing with parking-protected bike lanes is that it is the parking that protects you! So we don’t need to remove it.

    Which is why it works less well on blocks where there are lots of garages and driveways, and therefore less street parking.

    The holy grail with bike lanes is to enable them without taking out either parking or traffic throughput. The only way I know to do that is to convert pairs of 2-way cross-streets into alternate one-way streets, and then use the width you save to create front-in or diagonal parking.

  • I think it’s great that you can non sequitur.

    There’s a midstreet pedestrian crossing from the Kodak HQ building in Rochester, NY to a parking lot with plenty of signage about pedestrian right-of-way and zebra crossing paint on the roadway to mark the crosswalk, but cars almost never stop.

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