Survey War Over Panhandle Protected Bike Lanes

Six lanes for cars. How about one for bikes? Image: Google Maps
Six lanes for cars. How about one for bikes? Image: Google Maps

There’s a survey out from the Panhandle Residents Organization (PRO|SF) asking local residents whether they would like parking-protected bike lanes added to Fell and Oak along the length of the Panhandle.

The survey is in response to a preliminary study done by SFMTA in August. From the SFMTA’s report:

Protected bicycle facilities parallel to the Panhandle have potential to provide additional capacity for travel by bicycle between San Francisco’s eastern and western neighborhoods, but would come with trade-offs in terms of on-street parking supply and/or vehicle travel delay on Oak Street.

Proposed cross-section of Oak, reconfigured with a parking protected bike lane. Image: SFMTA
Proposed cross-section of Oak, reconfigured with a parking-protected bike lane. Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA study indicates that the project would cost between $1.6 million and $3.9 million, depending on the choice of road treatments. As Streetsblog readers surely know, the Panhandle currently has a pedestrian path and a mixed-use bike path, but conflicts among fast-moving cyclists, joggers, leisurely bikers, walkers, and tourists are problematic.

Whether or not this project will get done, of course, depends in large part on the support of the local community. The North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) did a survey of its residents this past summer. And here’s what they found: “After two months of gathering input, 700 plus responses came back with more than 70 percent of the respondents supporting a protected bike lane,” wrote Tim Hickey, in the NOPNA newsletter. “This strong support will be very helpful in showing city officials and leaders that there is a demand for this street improvement.”

So why is PRO|SF doing a new survey? Tricia Stauber, community coordinator for the group, told Hoodline that it is “…to gather information regarding neighbors’ thoughts and ideas about how they feel about having three lanes of traffic instead of four going from Baker to Shrader streets.”

To clarify, sources close to the community groups told Streetsblog that PRO|SF is trying to gather information to make a case for keeping Fell and Oak as they are–with four traffic lanes and two parking lanes. That may be why the new poll is geared towards residents on the Panhandle, some of whom are vocally opposed to bikes lanes.

Catherine Orland, District 9 representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee, found and shared the PRO|SF survey link on the San Francisco Bike Ride Crew Facebook page, which brought it to Streetsblog’s attention. To her, everybody in San Francisco uses Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle, and the streets around it and everyone has a right to chime in on any survey purporting to represent the wishes of San Francisco residents. “The Panhandle is a community good. People from the Richmond, to the Sunset–all people who commute through there either by bike or by car… their voices need to be represented as well,” she told Streetsblog.

A parking protected bike lane along Oak might look like this one along Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Image: Google maps
A parking-protected bike lane along Oak might look something like this one on Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Image: Google maps

“San Francisco’s population is growing more rapidly than our infrastructure and cycling is increasing rapidly as a method of transportation, according to the SFMTA. The mixed use path is adequate, for now, for commuters, pedestrians and more leisurely cyclists, but the path is getting more crowded as the population grows,” wrote Melyssa Mendoza, Bicycle Advisory Committee representative for District Five, in an email to Streetsblog. “We believe our community members deserve the type of infrastructure that we know for certain calms traffic and creates safer spaces for all.  We believe our communities deserve livable streets. The Panhandle bike lane is one method to achieve these livable streets.”

Orland said she’d like to see the park remain a tranquil place where tourists and joggers and bicyclists can interact slowly and comfortably, whether walking, jogging, biking at a slow to moderate pace, or having a picnic. Protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak would be more for the mass of bicycle commuters just trying to get between home and work, she said.

What do you think? Do you think the existing paths in the Panhandle are sufficient? Post below. And take the survey.

  • frenchie16

    The final request for comments notes that “There will be no signal lights regulating cyclists to stop at the cross streets of Cole, Clayton and Ashbury”… but those three streets mentioned all end in T-intersections and don’t cross the panhandle, so they wouldn’t actually cross the bike lane at all, and there would be no potential for conflicts.

    But they bring it up in a way which is sure to dredge up fury over “scofflaw cyclists” running lights…

  • Roger R.

    Yup.

  • Dave Moore

    I believe the potential conflict they are concerned about is between pedestrians and cyclists.

  • dat

    Read the survey questions carefully and you’ll see that many of them are biased, leading questions. The survey is not neutral in any way, they’re aiming for a particular result.

  • dat

    Why does the headline have incendiary language? “War”? Really? If 70% of respondents are in favor of one result over the other that’s considered to be a ‘war’? As for ‘vocal opponents’ sometimes the dumbest dog has the loudest bark. Not everyone who can make a blog post in some dark corner of the internet has a cogent argument.

  • murphstahoe

    Those Pedestrian hippies should get a car. Problem solved.

  • No competent sociologist would vet this survey.

  • SWITRS data is very clear that the true threat to pedestrians in this corridor has 4 wheels. The SFMTA explained this at a HANC meeting, but they were talked over and shouted down.

  • Dave Moore

    On one hand, the bikes are safe from cars at those T’s, so letting them go w/out stopping is a good sized benefit to them. On the other hand pedestrians could be facing a white walk signal and not realize a cyclist (or group of cyclists) is moving quickly towards them from the side. It might be dangerous for the lead cyclist of a group to stop quickly in that scenario as the pedestrian suddenly steps off the curb (from the Panhandle side).

    Is there another example of a roadway like this in the city? The signage seems challenging both for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Dave Moore

    On the plus side for pedestrians, it appears that the current design would remove a parking spot on either side of each crosswalk, on both sides of the street, giving more visibility both for cars and bikes. So maybe that increases safety overall. Hard to tell. Maybe the whole thing would be better if pedestrians had to gain the walk signal by pushing a button and that would put up a hard red for both cars and bikes. That could include cars making right turns, who frequently come down the hill fast on the southern side to make their green.

  • gneiss

    It is no different than any other crosswalk in the city where vehicles are required to yield to people in a crosswalk, irregardless of the light change. Creating an island between the road and bicycle lane would be the surest way to minimize potential injury as it would add a refuge and reduce the crossing distance for people walking, just like is installed at Duboce by Church St.

    I’d also add that on the Panhandle, cyclists going east-west do not yield to pedestrians walking north-south, so many people walking in this area are already aware of the presence of non-yielding cyclists.

  • Dave Moore

    What I’m concerned about is whether we’re creating another Fulton St, where we have what is essentially a freeway, albeit for bikes, with crosswalks in the middle, where dangerous conditions are the norm. I don’t want to have to Frogger around bikes. Or play chicken with them. Or do some other animal analogy.

    The existing interactions on the Panhandle are poor. I wouldn’t use them aspirationally.

    I’m not saying this can’t be accomplished, but the impact on pedestrian safety shouldn’t be ignored.

  • gneiss

    Let’s say this again – bikes are not cars. Your concerns are overblown. Cyclists are at significant risk for injury along with any pedestrians they hit. While the risk for pedestrians of getting gravely injured is not zero, it is infinitesimally small compared to the risks posed by automobiles driven by motorists. Letting arguments about cyclists hitting pedestrians dominate the conversation misses the very real elephant in the room, which is the inherent power different that exists between motorists and others.

  • Dave Moore

    It is entirely reasonable for me to have an opinion about my safety when a specific change is proposed for my neighborhood. When you condescend to me you do nothing to help your cause, and likely drive people away. This isn’t about “bikes vs cars”. This is about whether this one change makes people less safe and whether aspects can be altered to mitigate the impact.

    Note: safety isn’t measured entirely by deaths. I believe pedestrians should feel that it is safe to step off a curb when a sign says they can. Just because a bike isn’t likely to kill them doesn’t mean we should turn it into a video game.

    2nd note: I’m not saying that protected lanes on Oak and Fell are bad. Personally I’d rather they removed the parking along the Panhandle entirely and built a separation more like they did between Scott and Baker, leaving the extra lanes of traffic.

    3rd note: do you know the plan for routing bikes from the north side of Oak to the south side at Baker?

  • City Resident

    Dave, the attached link (from the SFMTA) provides fairly detailed info about the plans, including the options for routing bikes from the north side of Oak to the south side at Baker. There is also information about measures that improve pedestrian safety (including related to concerns you mentioned). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/52294c64e4b0abcfdb47042d/t/57de2b0e9de4bbf2fdd117b9/1474177808768/PanhandleProtectedLanes_PreliminaryAnalysis_FINAL_08222016+copy.pdf

  • Frank Kotter

    Take the ‘survey’ and you might see what the headline means. It’s a total shitshow.

  • Frank Kotter

    With the closing statement or with the survey in general? Did you take it?

    Every question was ‘considering the negative effects X,Y and Z, do you favor taking this action.

    Total bullshit and I hope the results are viewed with the obvious goals of the data outcomes in that light.

  • Frank Kotter

    Any trans policy experts here to explain to me why the plan is not to remove the very limited parking on the outside curb lane in order to create a truly protected, unencumbered bike lane? Most of it is free anyway due to curb cutouts.

  • Dave Moore

    I was referring to the specific potential conflict at the T’s. The two prior comments were claiming that there was no conflict between cars and bikes there but I was pointing out that there remained a risk of one between bikes and pedestrians. I wasn’t talking about the overall survey.

  • Frank Kotter

    Got it. Thanks.

    I would just point out that a pedestrian crossing a single bike lane of 7 feet is two steps and quite easily accomplished with or without control devices. I don’t see it as being an issue at all.

  • murphstahoe

    I don’t think that the “cars are worse” argument holds sway here. The intersections we are talking about “look” like a T where cyclists would have a clear unfettered route but it’s not, there is a crosswalk there, and the crosswalk should be respected.

    It is definitely tricky because the rationale for the traffic lights there isn’t for pedestrians, it’s for cars turning onto Fell, and while there is pedestrian traffic it’s not heavy.

    Basically – “Idaho Stop” should prevail here – you have to stop, and can continue through the light when safe. But that’s not something that can be rationally implemented at these intersections.

  • San Franciscia

    A path on the parkside would present no conflicts with the streets approaching the park or with the driveways–it’s safer and lots more conducive to faster cycling, which is the entire point. Also, cyclists approaching the panhandle on Fell are already on the south side of the street. Making them cross is complicated and fraught with safety issues.

  • MatthewEH

    Quite honestly, I think the sensible solution for spaces like this — pedestrian wants to cross at an intersection, bikes are likely to coast through because of the Ts — is simply to put bike signals at the Ts, and switch them to flashing yellow when the parallel car traffic has a red. Reinforce with signage: “bikes must yield on flashing yellow.”

    Also put in reminders to pedestrians to look both ways before crossing the bike lane, not just one way.

    This is effectively what people *do* on the Prospect Park West lane and it seems to work alright. Though not what any traffic control devices indicate should be done.