Will SFMTA Make its Deadlines for Protected Bike Lanes?

Only a few months remain to fulfill a specific requirement of Mayor Lee's order on safety. Photo: Streetsblog
Only a few months remain to fulfill a specific requirement of Mayor Lee's order on safety. Photo: Streetsblog

Recently, District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy committed to protected bike lanes in his district from Octavia to Duboce on Market, as part of the Upper Market Street Safety project. But despite Sheehy’s support, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) leadership delayed a key hearing and, according to a report in the SF Examiner, the protected bike lanes were “quietly removed from the approvals process altogether.”

From a statement on the SFBC web page, confirming the story:

Instead of following Sup. Sheehy’s lead…the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) leadership instead delayed a hearing on those two blocks of safety improvements. That’s just unacceptable in a City committed to Vision Zero.

Apparently, the Fire Department had objections. “The SFMTA is working closely with our partners at the San Francisco Fire Department to review the proposal for parking-protected bikeways on Market between Octavia and Duboce,” confirmed Ben Jose, a spokesman for SFMTA, in an email to Streetsblog. Streetsblog has inquiries out to the mayor’s office for more details, and will update this post accordingly. Sheehy’s office, meanwhile, declined to comment, except to say that he still supports protected bike lanes on Market.

Protected bike lanes on Market to the start of the Duboce bike path and the Wiggle are a no-brainer, and it’s hard to fathom what fire concerns have to do with it. Yes, fire trucks need to be able to get up the street, but there’s no reason a fire truck can’t drive in a protected bike lane (or up the trolley tracks) in an emergency. Furthermore, how can it even be called a “safety” project without protected bike lanes? Streetsblog can only hope whatever is going on with the fire department, protected bike lanes will still make it into the project.

Yet another delay to a vitally important bike safety project brings up another issue.

Readers will recall that after the deaths of Kate Slattery and Heather Miller, Mayor Ed Lee issued an Executive Order to city departments to improve bike safety by specific deadlines:

Here’s item #3 of the order:

3. Direct SFMTA to accelerate key projects in the capital plan to meet the goals outlined in the 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy by completing three [emphasis added] protected bike lane projects within the next nine months, including safety improvements on 7th Street and 8th Street.

May 4 will mark nine months.

With the delay on Upper Market, it seems that won’t be the third protected bike lane project completed by May 4. What about the protected bike lane proposed for Turk? Nope. “The Turk Street bike lanes are likely to be in limbo for a while longer because of the 950 Market Street development that was recently approved,” explained Ivy Lee in Supervisor Jane Kim’s office, “….construction and street closures when needed would make any bike lane unfeasible.”

Surely, SFMTA can’t think that Valencia’s new parking protected bike lane, which was under construction before the order, and which runs only a tenth of a mile, qualifies as the third protected lane?

“A new parking-protected bikeway will be implemented on 13th Street in the eastbound direction from Folsom to Bryant streets,” replied SFMTA’s Jose.

That means a third of a mile, under 101, eastbound. It should be noted that the westbound stretch already has a protected bike lane, and advocates have been pushing SFMTA to add the eastbound bike lane for some time.

The third protected bike lane under the order will be a 1/3 mile lane in the noman's land under 101. Image: Google Streets
The third protected bike lane will be a 1/3 mile lane in the no-man’s land under 101. Image: Google Streets

And what’s going on with the improvements on 7th and 8th, the two streets specified in the mayor’s order?

Streetsblog did a survey of the couplet this morning. On 7th, from Market to Townsend, there was no sign of anything going on, except for the posted notice pictured at the start of this story. Here’s a shot of the bike lane under I-80:

Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

No signs of protected bike lane construction, but plenty of cars and trucks parked on the existing lane, such as this Prius, one car length from a legal parking spot.

Eighth, on the other hand, has some new bus boarding islands, necessary to avoid forcing bikes and buses to jostle for position at every bus stop.

Bus boarding islands were the only hard evidence of progress on 8th, at Folsom and Howard. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Bus boarding islands were the only hard evidence of progress on 8th. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Can SFMTA actually still build a fully protected bike lane through the South of Market neighborhood, on 7th and 8th by May 4, if two bus boarding islands is all that’s gotten done so far?

SFMTA seems to think so. “Work began on March 3 with construction of transit boarding islands on 8th Street at Folsom Street and Harrison Street,” said Jose. “Construction is scheduled to be completed in May, weather permitting.”

Let’s hope they pull this off.

Meanwhile, the Bicycle Coalition is still livid about Upper Market. “Even with a wave of public support, and zero public opposition, the SFMTA fails to deliver long-planned protected bike lanes on a City-identified high-injury corridor,” said Chris Cassidy, a spokesman for the group. “From the hundreds of people that wrote to the Agency’s board, to Supervisor Sheehy, the public message to the SFMTA’s leadership is clear: Do your job.”

  • bobfuss

    SFFD does have some legitimate concerns.

    Those fire tricks have a very wide turn radius and any infrastructure that decreases the lateral road width potentially restricts the mobility of the fire trucks. That is why in many cases a parking-protected bike lane isn’t possible, because it takes out the width of those bike lanes by pushing the car park lane further out into the roadway..

    And of course emergency vehicles are entitled to use bike lanes.

    Likewise, obstacles like bollards and planter boxes can block access to houses that are having an emergency.

  • jd_x

    How do they put out fires in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, etc with all their protected bicycle lanes?

  • gb52

    Fire trucks must hate cars and traffic too… and those pesky double parked vehicles that don’t simply move when there is an emergency. I agree that in some cases SFFD has legitimate issues, but in other cases it’s a resistance to change. Wide bike lanes and transit lanes are GREAT for emergency vehicles to use if they are kept clear of other vehicles. Additionally, with all the new traffic signal systems being put in place by SFMTA we should be able to help first responders cut through the gridlock by either holding a green light or going to an all red phase once it is safe to do so.

  • Stuart

    Guess what else decreases the lateral road width: street parking.

    Guess what else can block access to houses that are having an emergency: street parking.

    But for some reason you always trot this argument out as an objection to bike lanes, while never mentioning it when you are explaining why the city has an obligation to provide drivers street parking pretty much everywhere in the city.

  • bobfuss

    Emergency services can easily move parked vehicles if needed and, indeed, I’ve had my own vehicle move by SFPD.

    But if you can persuade the 70% plus of SF voters who live in a household with at least one vehicle that they should vote to remove all on-street parking then, hey, knock yourself out.

  • bobfuss

    So your big point is that if only we get rid of the 500,000 or so registered vehicles in the city, we can all be free and hold hands and sing kumbayah? Sign me up assuming, of course, that the voters agree with you.

  • bobfuss

    So your big point is that a modern, Western spread-out hilly US city is identical to a medieval, flat congested city? And that our voters think identically?

  • murphstahoe

    No – it’s not. A medieval city would be much harder to deal with than this one!

  • Stuart

    Oh look, a straw man; what a shock. Your constant need to make up arguments that people didn’t make is pretty tiresome. You’re the only person here who has said anything about removing all street parking.

    The actual point is of course that in practice, the overwhelming majority of roads in the city are made narrower by parked cars–most are far, far narrower than Market would be with one less lane–and those cars can also impede emergency access to buildings nearby, and yet somehow emergency services still manage to function.

    The idea that “in many cases” narrowing roads for protected bike lanes “isn’t possible”, which was your claim, is simply not true. The actual reality is that the city has a significant amount of leeway to decide how to allocate street width between many competing interests. Occasionally making that trade off in favor of bicycle infrastructure is no more impossible than it was impossible to, say, make Dolores median parking official for the convenience of churchgoers and park visitors despite objections from some neighbors making the same argument about fire trucks.

  • Stuart

    You do realize that your frequent fallback to “but the voters!” when you run out of real arguments is seriously undermined by the fact that the majority of voters in SF consistently side against your cars-uber-alles position, right? (E.g., Measure L in 2014.)

  • Remember, most of what the fire department responds to is not fires or in-building medical emergencies, but motor vehicle crashes, caused, yes, by unsafe, overly wide streets. A perfect storm. SFFD needs wide streets, which guarantees crashes, which justifies SFFD access, and around and around we go.

  • bobfuss

    Depends what question is asked.

    A fluffy feel-good measure promising fewer accidents or cleaner air will win every time

    A specific measure to remove all on-street parking would fail with a landslide

  • bobfuss

    The parked cars have to be there because hundreds of thousands of car-owning voters need them.

    But an off-side bike lane provides extra riad width and enables access by emergency vehicles when needed.

    That’s why we do that over 90% of the time

  • bobfuss

    I disagree, because the expectations of California residents is very different

  • Stuart

    So you’re saying that a straw man that nobody has suggested wouldn’t pass? Wow, that’s a compelling argument.

    Why are you so obsessed with an argument nobody is making? Is this the root concern that’s driven you to make hundreds (thousands?) of anti-bicycle posts here under your various aliases? Do you think any incremental movement towards better bike infrastructure is a slippery slope to the government taking away all cars?

  • gneiss

    What’s frustrating about the statement from SFMTA about objections that SFFD have in the proposed street designs which include protected bike lanes, is that they are not currently public. When SFMTA finally does present their watered down designs, we have no idea of the deliberations that went on between the various departments in city government that led them to their presentations. What required, is better transparency in the process to help people make informed judgments about what’s getting presented to the public.

  • bobfuss

    You claimed that the voters would always support pro-transit, pro-bike, anti-car voter initiatives, so it was logical to give you an example of one that they would not support.

    The voters really haven’t been asked a tough question on this yet. Asking them to support “transit first” or “vision zero” really doesn’t count.

  • Eli

    Sure, I can tell you. My college roommate’s father was a fire fighter in Utrecht.

  • Eli

    And this is why I am presently sitting at the airport about to board a flight to Europe for tech job interviews.

  • Michael Doucet

    I agree with you. These people have no clue how policies affect populations in the long run. How did “open spaces” work out for your rents and mortgages? Morons.

  • uniblab_2.0

    yeah good luck with hoping ed lee or his sfmta board will ever do any of the lovely things they talk about in the speeches that secure the bicycle coalition’s endorsement.

  • bobfuss

    What is your big plan for taking away the vote from people who you think are “morons”?

  • Michael Doucet

    I don’t have any plan to take their vote away, I just have a plan to make as much cash as I can in California and then move. Could be a wonderful state if the elected officials stopped bothering people and making others worry about things that they shouldn’t be worried about.

  • c2check

    They also use smaller vehicles, and good biking and transit options mean there are fewer other cars in the way.
    And crashes tend to kill more people than fires in most cities

  • mcas

    Wait wait wait… I smell something fishy: do you have any proof that Amsterdam and Copenhagen have fire stations at a higher density than other cities?

  • mcas

    “Emergency services can easily move parked vehicles if needed…” I’ll have whatever you’re smoking… the sheer existence of red curbs at fire hydrants proves you wrong…

  • bobfuss

    Obviously vehicles can be towed. But the cops and fire guys have master keys that can them into most vehicles and start them up. If car thieves can do that why the hell do you think that cops can’t?

  • mcas

    What? You’re ridiculous, @bobfuss:disqus. Police and Fire Departments do not have ‘master keys that can them into most vehicles and start them’. Seriously… whatever you’re smoking must be good.

  • dat

    Concern troll is concerned.

  • Eli

    Feel free to research that yourself and let us know, so we can triangulate.

    Also, Amsterdam is an unusual Dutch city — it’s often pretty crappy for biking these days.

    I’m not sure it’s a meaningful template for how things are done elsewhere in the Netherlands. (admittedly, I happen to be there there right now)

  • Eli

    Also, the above statement is not a correct construct operationalization of the phenomena in question.

    You would not expect to find “more” fire stations in Netherlands vs. other countries. There are countless other variables that would affect the need for fire stations vs. other countries: building type, density, frequency of vehicle collision, etc.

    Rather, one would expect to find more stations built out in existing cities at the same aggressive traffic calming was installed ubiquitously in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • bobfuss

    It was an explanation and not an expression of concern.

  • bobfuss

    Tell it to my uncle. He’s a cop and can get into most cars in less than a minute. Do you seriously think that cops can’t move vehicles if they want to? If so, you’re the one smoking something good.

  • mcas

    @disqus_PGgzRgiyOE:disqus — so, you just contradicted your own statement? You said ‘..they build more fire stations to ensure they can still deliver the needed level of service…’ Then replied to yourself saying, “You would not expect to find “more” fire stations in Netherlands vs. other countries.” Is this Schrödinger’s Fire Station?

  • mcas

    Sure, @bobfuss:disqus — what’s your uncle’s name and phone number? I’d be happy to ask him about these magical keys that can unlock and turn on any car. Maybe he and I can work together to put the entire locksmith industry out of business and become millionaires. Seriously, who is your dispensary?

  • bobfuss

    Google “skeleton key” and “master key”.

    And of course car thieves achieve the same result even without those keys.

  • mcas

    Seriosuly… @bobfuss:disqus — no. Just no. You can google it yourself, and you’ll see that Skeleton Keys are for antique cabinets. For universal entry to commercial buildings, Fire Departments use a Knox Box, which has a universal key to open a box that has a *key specific to the building* — which, by it’s sheer existence disproves your claim. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knox_Box

  • Eli

    Uh, no. They built out more fire stations in the 1970s and 1980s (as stated above) to accommodate traffic calming.

    Anyway, you have now failed both logical reasoning & reading comprehension. So I have better things to do. You are now on my block list.

  • bobfuss

    So your final point is that a car, once parked, can never be moved?

    I’m sure that car thieves, cops and towing companies will be fascinated to hear that a parked car is like a building.

    Keep it up, you are hilarious.

  • mcas

    @disqus_PGgzRgiyOE:disqus OK — let’s keep it simple: Can you provide any link to support your claim? I’ll take a news article, a spatial analysis, an journal… anything — other than a random internet comment confirming your claim.

  • mcas

    C;mon, @bobfuss:disqus — we’re not talking about tow trucks or hotwiring a car. You claimed the PD and FD have a special key to unlock and start anyone’s car — find a link on the internet to prove that claim.

  • bobfuss

    All are possible. Cops have master keys as you’d expect, but they can also tow or hotwire a vehicle. Lots of options.

  • mcas

    Too true, @bobfuss – all are possible. Maybe you really are right — and there really is a magic key that no one on the internet has ever mentioned ever… Keep on smokin’ the good stuff, bruh.

  • bobfuss

    I never said that. But I think it’s cute that you believe 100% of all knowledge is on the internet. You must be under 30.

  • mcas

    @bobfuss:disqus you said, “But the cops and fire guys have master keys that can them into most vehicles and start them up.” There is just no evidence that anything close to that exists. I’m over 30, but I do assume anyone making wild, unsubstantiated claims in comment sections who can’t provide any link as back-up is clearly full of it.

  • bobfuss

    Funny because when I googled those terms I got millions of hits. And since you adorably believe that all knowledge can be googled, that should count.

    But hey, if you want to believe that nobody can ever move a vehicle other than the owner, then good luck to you.

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