SFMTA Publishes Results of Bike Lane Treatments on Market

Different curbs and different treatments are nice, just keep the cars off of them

Cross-sectional diagrams of the four experimental treatments tried by SFMTA on Market Street. Image: SFMTA
Cross-sectional diagrams of the four experimental treatments tried by SFMTA on Market Street. Image: SFMTA

Late last week, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation agency announced the results of a survey on its “Raised Bikeway Demonstration Project” on Market Street. From the SFMTA release:

Here are the four slightly different designs we tested (illustrated above):

A. Wide mountable curb
B. Mountable curb
C. Mountable curb near sidewalk level
D. Vertical curb

Based on survey results, SFMTA staffers are recommending a combination of features, plus bollards or some other kind of protection.

As Streetsblog readers are probably aware, these experimental treatments are on an eastbound stretch of Market Street, from Gough to 12th. They installed the raised treatments in the Fall of 2015 and then did their survey and evaluations.

What are the conclusions?

On the SFMTA’s blog it says that “Based on the evaluation, for busy commercial streets like Market we recommend a bikeway design that’s level with the sidewalk (similar to that in option C), has a vertical curb (as used in option D) and includes buffer areas between both the traffic lane and the sidewalk.”

The survey also concludes that “Mountable curbs, which are angled so vehicles can roll up them if necessary, tend not to be effective deterrents to illegal parking in commercial areas.”

SFMTA had to do a study and an experiment to figure out that a two-inch elevation with a mountable curb wouldn’t deter cars from parking on the bike lane?

SFMTA later installed safe hit posts on parts of the area as well. That’s great. But one has to wonder why safe hit posts, planters, or some kind of physical protection wasn’t the first thing installed–rather than the last.

To quote the guerrilla safety group SFMTrA, “Even though best practice abroad calls for raised bike lanes to be level with the sidewalk, all of SFMTA’s test sections were designed to be mounted by vehicles. SFMTA claims this is so that para-transit vehicles can park in the bike lane to unload passengers on the sidewalk. But with a sidewalk level with the bike lane, paratransit vehicles could unload directly onto the bike lane.”

SFMTrA goes on to complain that “MTA spent an entire year to replace the Market St. Raised Bikeway with something functionally equivalent to what was originally there. Mountable raised bike lanes are not protected bike lanes.”

This Tweet, showing the raised bike lanes on Market, was features on the SFMTrA website. Images: Patrick Trughber
This Tweet, showing the raised bike lanes on Market, was featured on the SFMTrA website. Images: Patrick Trughber

Indeed, Streetsblog has also criticized the “raised” bike lane strategy in past posts.

That said, given this is San Francisco, we’re not sure even a sidewalk-height raised bike lane with a 90-degree curb is going to be enough. Remember, this is the city where cars and trucks park on the sidewalk with impunity. See exhibit A:

If trucks are willing to park on the sidewalk, clearly a raised bike lane needs more than a curb. Photo: Streetsblog
If trucks are willing to park on the sidewalk, clearly a raised bike lane needs more than a curb. Photo: Streetsblog

That photograph suggests another, longer-term fix, however. More on that in a future post.

Meanwhile, SFMTrA is right–if the treatment doesn’t physically prevent cars from driving and parking on the bike lane, then it’s not a protected bike lane, and it should be a non-starter. Even safe-hit posts should be viewed as a temporary fix. Unfortunately, SFMTA is moving forward with designs for raised bike lanes on places such as Masonic with two-inch raised bike lanes but no physical protection.

Let’s hope now that SFMTA has studied the problem, some imaginative re-designs will come to Masonic and other streetscape projects before shovels start turning.

  • Taurussf

    I’m not sure that bike lanes level with the sidewalk are “best practice” in a city like SF.

    Imagine what will happen when a pack of 20mph bike commuters comes up behind a group of tourists on rental bikes. The commuters try to pass the tourists, half go to the left, and somebody falls off the non mountable curb into the street. The other half pas on the right, and because the bike path is level with the sidewalk, they spread out onto it, mixing with pedestrians. when the ones who haven’t crashed yet get right hooked because you can’t merge with traffic before getting to the intersection if there’s a curb in the way.

    Anyway, enjoy the video of someone crashing when trying to merge back onto a non-mountable curb.

  • Maurice

    I’m massively worried that the SFMTA is patting themselves on the back for the rigor of their study, and moving on to spending mucho $$$ building inferior solutions on to Polk, Masonic and 2nd.

    I am eager to be proven wrong.

  • YohanSF

    Hey, @ SFMTA – check it out. I also did a study of raised bike lanes. I googled “good raised bike lane”. Here’s what I found:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c4647bf02a1d794d30b126de75db675c8abaad2fed886fb0e421862a8eb93635.jpg

    Done.

  • Kevin Love

    It is one thing to re-invent the wheel. It is a whole magnitude more serious when someone incurs a “major injury” as an involuntary experimental subject in experiments for re-inventing the wheel. I sincerely pray that the victim sues the city of San Francisco for a heaping pile of money for this design engineering negligence.

    Competent and non-negligent design engineering uses world-class design engineering standards. In this case, the Dutch CROW “Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic.” Which has all the relevant engineering standards.

    If reading a book is too much effort for the San Francisco bureaucrats, there are popular Youtube videos explaining how Dutch curbs work for cycling. For example, see:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2008/12/danger-of-parallel-kerbs.html

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