Bike Coalition Says ‘No Way’ as City Backs off Protected Bike Lanes on Turk

Painted Buffered Lanes Failed Miserably on Golden Gate, so SFMTA Proposes them for Turk

Much of Turk, in its current configuration, has three traffic lanes and two parking lanes. Image: Google Street View
Much of Turk, in its current configuration, has three traffic lanes and two parking lanes. Image: Google Street View

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), for the first time ever, is opposing a bike lane.

Protected bike lanes are the proven standard for making streets safer for cyclists of all ages and abilities. However, once again, the city has backed off a protected bike lane project, this time on Turk through the Tenderloin. SFMTA made the announcement of the new paint-only proposal for a door-zone bike lane on Turk at Friday’s engineering hearing at City Hall.

No surprise, the SFBC is livid. And this time, they’ve drawn the line:

On Friday, your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition joined Sup. Jane Kim and local residents in unanimously opposing the SFMTA’s plans to build an unprotected, paint-only bike lane on Turk Street. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s opposition to the SFMTA’s deficient proposal for Turk Street marks the first time we have opposed a bike lane in our 46-year history.

The explanation that SFMTA has given for the change is opposition from the San Francisco Fire Department, which, ostensibly, is concerned that protected bike lanes will interfere with ladder trucks. That should already raise skepticism, since there are parking-protected bike lanes all over the world, including just across the Bay on Telegraph in Oakland. Fire departments have managed to deal with them.

For more background, former Streetsblog SF editor Bryan Goebel did an in-depth analysis of the back and forth about Turk and upper Market’s bike lanes between the fire department and SFMTA in his blog, Human Streets. Put simply, because of the tall buildings on Turk and the overhead wire for Turk’s trolley buses, the fire department says with a parking protected bike lane its ladder trucks would not have sufficient clearances to get to high windows.

The result: “SFMTA staff have proposed a road diet and buffered bikeway on Turk as a near-term safety improvement that can be installed quickly,” said Ben Jose, a spokesman for SFMTA.

Streetsblog has reached out to the SF Fire Department to ask more questions and will update this post accordingly.

SFMTA’s original plans for Turk call for a road diet which, among other things, reduced the number of travel lanes and added a parking-protected bike lane, as in the diagram below:

In this diagram, SFMTA removes a travel lane to create a bike lane--but leaves both parking lanes. Image: SFMTA
In this diagram, SFMTA removes a travel lane to create a bike lane–but leaves both parking lanes. Image: SFMTA

It should be noted that if the bike lane is protected by a second curb or planters or bollards instead of a wide row of parked cars, fire trucks get the same or better access and clearances than they have now.

In other words, maybe this has more to do with preserving parking on both sides of the street than it does with fire access.

“We haven’t been able to come up with a protected bike lane design that works for everyone,” said  Luis Montoya, SFMTA’s Planner for Livable Streets, in his statements at Friday’s hearing.

“Rampant double-parking in the unprotected Golden Gate Avenue bike lane has proven that the SFMTA did not do enough to protect my neighbors who bike,”  said Mary Kay Chin, SFBC Board Member, Bicycle Advisory Committee Member (District 6), during her public testimony to the engineering hearing on Friday. “Now the City wants to repeat that dangerous mistake on Turk Street…they’re asking for City approval of a watered down, unprotected bike lane, placing all of us in danger, once again.”

Jane Kim, the Supervisor for the District, who sits on the engineering committee, is pushing SFMTA to keep the protected bike lanes in this current plan. One idea is to satisfy the fire department by eliminating parking in front of tall buildings. “The fire chief did agree yesterday to do an on-sight walk with our Tenderloin residents and the Bike Coalition to identify which buildings the fire department is concerned about accessing,” said Kim. “We’d really like to see a protected bike lane in the Tenderloin and we’re worried about the precedent that we’d set by just having a buffered bike lane.”

Streetsblog hopes that the fire department also considers the direct upshot of having a protected bike lane, since other cities, such as New York and Vancouver, have found they improve response times. “For our downtown protected bike lanes, we designed them to be wide enough for a fire truck,” explained Lon LaClaire, who manages Strategic Transportation Planning for the city of Vancouver, Canada, in an earlier article for Streetsblog. He said the bike lane doubles as an emergency access. “A bike can jump onto the sidewalk to let an ambulance pass—a car can’t do that. So the lane is a life saver.”

Either way, it would be irresponsible, given all the carnage on our streets, for the SFMTA to walk away from its commitments–even in the “short term”–to keep all road users safe. “Following the death of two women biking on one night, Mayor Ed Lee issued an August 2016 Executive Directive requiring ‘that all infrastructure implemented on the City-designated high-injury network be the highest achievable quality, including Class IV protected bicycle lanes,’” said Charles Deffarges, SFBC Community Organizer, also at the hearing. “A paint-only bike lane along Turk will not only be a danger to San Franciscans but will go against the city’s commitments to smart design and safe streets…Our City leadership can not continue to gut protected bike lane projects in the face of their obligations to safety on Turk or any other Street.”

Be sure to make your opinions known to the SFMTA. Email Ed Reiskin (ed.reiskin AT sfmta.com) and the SFMTA board (MTABoard AT sfmta.com). The SFBC asks that emails are cc’d to Community Organizer Charles (charles AT sfbike.org).

  • SF_Abe

    You got me– IF someone were to die in a fire (or let’s just say waiting for emergency personel at all since SFFD spends most calls dealing with medical emergencies rather than fires) and the reason help did not arrive was because they couldn’t maneuver the truck down a street due to its protected bike lane (which has never been shown to be the case) then i will feel very bad about it. But I don’t think that will happen.

    And if you want to water down this bike lane and keep Turk Street from being safer based on this hypothetical scenario, you (and the SFFD) will have to show some actual evidence.

  • SF Guest

    The controversy over building a protected bike lane is not whether SFFD can access the street; the article states: “the fire department says with a parking protected bike lane its ladder trucks would not have sufficient clearances to get to high windows.”

    Tall buildings are harder to access with overhead trolley wires.

  • bobfuss

    The burden of proving evidence surely lies with the person proposing the change and not with the person who wants no change?

    The reality is this. A parking protected bike lane will narrow the usable road width for vehicles. If the road here was wider then that might not matter (like on Turk further West). But here SFFD say its a problem and, as the experts, we should accept that.

    Your only fallback position is to “take out the parking” (which it often is). But then you are punishing the local residents a different way.

    So this situation screams for a compromise and, as the arbitrators in these situations SFMTA (backed up with their considerable resources and expertize) recommends a painted bike lane.

    Everyone gets something. Nobody gets everything. There are no total winners or total losers, So why not?

  • bobfuss

    I think there are a couple of things. Certainly if the parked cars are moved further towards the center then that may impact the ability for SFFD to get the right angle of attack for its ladders, hoses etc.

    Another factor is that fire trucks have very wide turning radii which is why they advocate for more width to maneuver.

    Overhead wires are also an issue, but then so are people who live on narrow alleyways, up stairway and so on. I think SFFD just don’t want anything that makes their job harder, and I understand that.

  • SF_Abe

    “The burden of proof and evidence surely lies with the person proposing the change and not with the person who wants no change?”

    Why? The street is being redesigned no matter what, and they way it is now is hurting real people.

    “…as the experts, we should accept that.”

    As the experts, they should be able to provide real evidence for their claims. So far they have not.

    “…take out the parking… But then you are punishing the local residents a different way.

    Remember, the residents on and around this section of Turk street don’t own many cars. They don’t need this parking.

    “Everyone gets something. Nobody gets everything. There are no total winners or total losers”

    The next person who is struck on this stretch of Turk will lose pretty big. If they die I can’t imagine a more total loss. Tell me, what are motorists giving up in Muni’s watered-down design? Is it remotely comparable to the safety the rest of us are losing?

  • SF Guest

    Precisely, and that’s why SFFD has strict guidelines on street widths for emergency access.

    http://sf-fire.org/sites/default/files/FileCenter/Documents/2114-5.01%20Street%20Widths%20for%20Emergency%20Access.pdf

  • bobfuss

    We are just recycling the same arguments over and over. Your position seems to be that in order to avoid even a tiny risk of a cyclist having an accident, we should re-design and re-engineer every road in SF. And that where SFFD, the locals or anyone else objects to such changes, they should just be over-ruled because the only thing that matters is that no cyclist should ever be exposed to any risk or stress.

    And I’m saying that cycling, as cute and adorable as it is, remains a fringe transportation modality. And therefore while we should accommodate cyclists where we can, we should not regard them as the primary driver of road design.

    I can see how, if you ride a bike on a daily basis, you want the world to evolve around you. But can you not see that the vast majority who do not ride a bike and do not want to, are more important in the grand scheme of things?

  • CarsRuleBikesDrewl

    Dude, you soooooo Jabba.

  • SF_Abe

    “We are just recycling the same arguments over and over”

    I’m merely stating my case, which you keep dancing around as though this is a high school debate.

    “Your position seems to be that in order to avoid even a tiny risk of a cyclist having an accident, we should re-design and re-engineer every road in SF”

    I’m not talking about every road (or, actually, street). I’m talking about Turk Street, in the Tenderloin. A neighborhood with less than 10% car ownership. And I’m not talking only about cyclist injuries (of which there is more than a “tiny risk”). A protected bike lake on Turk would make the street safer for all users. Even motorists!

    “And that where SFFD, the locals or anyone else objects to such changes, they should just be over-ruled”

    Nope. Anyone who objects should be heard, and the merits of their argument weighed against the evidence. Right now locals aren’t protesting– we want calmer streets in the TL. Only the SFFD is objecting and they are offering no evidence– only FUD.

    “And I’m saying that cycling, as cute and adorable as it is, remains a fringe transportation modality”

    I’m sure they’re flattered that you think cyclists are cute. Cycling is a small percentage of commute traffic precisely because it’s been marginalized. The biggest reason people give for not biking is that it’s too dangerous. You (and people like you) arguing to keep it dangerous. You are arguing to keep the tenderloin dangerous and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    “I can see how, if you ride a bike on a daily basis, you want the world to evolve (sic) around you.”

    As a matter of fact I don’t ride a bike on a daily basis. After I moved to the TL my bike use dropped dramatically because the streets have been engineered to be so dangerous and unpleasant (all for the convenience of those driving through over the safety of those living there). This is not about cycling. It’s about the damage motorists inflict upon communities– damage they are often unaware of. Real, life-altering damage.

    You have made it clear that you support that damage and oppose this particular effort to curtail it. Let the (real, not hypothetical) blood be on your hands.

    Shame. On. You.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See what a clever thing I am doing here. I used to think it was John Murphy who was posting as RichLL Commentary Track, and in fact, I really still do, But as much as I hate John Murphy, I hate Corvus more. After all it was Corvus who told everyone I was posting as AlTate, as Todd, as Timpson, as bobfuss, and just the other day as my newest alias, Susan. So if I act like I always thought it has been Corvus attacking me, I may get a newbie who doesn’t yet know what a dreadful troll I really am to have sympathy for me and hate Corvus too. I know that all the folks who claim they really hate me, that I am one of the worst trolls ever, don’t really hate me, but are just jealous because I score so many empty points with my fantastic logic, and the fact that I am such a wonderfully prolific poster, better than anyone ever, with 39 out of 109 posts in this one thread alone, way more than any of you dunces. Admit it, I am the greatest.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See how I score those important imaginary points by claiming that more people agree with me than with you even though I have nothing but my shining personality to back up my claim.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See how I deflect and twist things to suit my needs? I have said many times that I love to double-park, and that bikes need to wait behind my until I choose to leave, but although I feel it is “legit” for me, I argue against any legitimacy when I want to.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See how I say “we” are recycling the same arguments over and over, and with my brilliance, I actually convince you less intelligent folks that I mean it is “you” repeating yourself. But as we all know, I say the same things over and over again. But the important thing to remember is that it is you repeating, not me.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See how I make you think I have logic on my side when I say that about people who live on narrow alley ways, like there would be a need for a parking protected bike lane there. But that wouldn’t occur to most of you slow thinkers. Which is why I am so good at what I do, why so many people love me.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    Oops, I must have to admit I made a little bit of a mistake here by adding “as well” when I accuse John Murphy of having two accounts. I hate getting caught using aliases, so I usually deny everything, but I am not worried as I am sure none of you are smart enough to catch that. And even if you do, it will just convince you that I only have two Disqus accounts rather than the many more I really do have and use.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    This ploy never gets old and I laugh every time I trot it out. By saying Agreed like that, I make everyone think that I am just affirming a previous poster’s opinion, and no one is clever enough to look back and see that the person I am pretending to agree with said nothing of the kind. Brilliant, don’t you think?

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See what I am doing here when i suggest, so seemingly sensibly, that a little humility might go a long way. You would never guess that I never show humility myself, would you? Well, would you?

  • bobfuss commentary track

    This is one of my favorite tricks that I know fools all you fools every time. I just make up a figure and state it as fact. I don’t worry that anyone could do an internet search and find that there are more than 4.4% cyclists now, that the number has just about doubled in the last few years. But I pulled that 3% out of my ass some years ago and have stuck with it. And no one is smart enough to call me on it. Isn’t that something? I am so clever.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See how I can toss in a threat but seem like I am offering advice? It’s one of my better tricks, and one that I don’t use often because i don’t want people to start realizing.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    Seriously, folks. Just because I posted a third of all the comments on this thread hardly makes me a troll, or at least not a garden variety one. Dat just hates me because he is unable to refute my superior arguments. Poor guy.

  • bobfuss

    Seriously folks. Just because Corvus keeps setting up Disqus accounts solely to troll and stalk one of the most enthusiastic contributors here hardly makes him a troll, or at least not a garden variety one. Because hate is appropriate when somebody doesn’t agree with Corvus. That’s how angry, bitter and insecure he is.

  • bobfuss

    If you want to disagree with the US census I suggest that you take it up with them.

    The number nationally is about 1%, by the way

  • bobfuss

    So you are simultaneously arguing against humility and for it. Impressive.

    But remember that I am the one arguing for consensus and compromise here.

  • bobfuss

    Read again, there was significant common ground between the two positions.

    Here’s an idea. Why don’t you contribute on the topic rather than obsessing on individuals here?

  • bobfuss

    Sorry but the “also” qualified the citation of two aliases and not any aliases that may or may not exist themselves. I merely noted that it was curious how Murphy got a pass for engaging in doppelgangers.

    That said, Disqus allows duplicate accounts so we should not be too harsh on Murphy.

  • bobfuss

    Whether or not a bike lane would exist on a narrow street is immaterial to the point I was making. So you committed there the very error that you are wrongly claiming that I did.

  • bobfuss

    The point was both broader and stronger. When someone utters lines of arguments that I had refuted earlier, then it is appropriate to note circularity in the debate, to save the time and energy of those readers who like to follow the cut and thrust of debate here

  • bobfuss

    Wrong. I never said that I “love” to double park. Not that technically it is “legit”

    Rather my focus was on the inevitability of double parking given that the city has failed to provide enough parking and, indeed, continues to remove it.

    Likewise I feel sure that cyclists do not “love” illegally blowing through stop signs. Please try and empathize better with your fellow citizens

  • bobfuss

    Given that over 70% of SF voters live in a household with at least one car, rising to 80% in the Bay Area and 90% nationally, I’d say that it is guaranteed that mine is the majority view

  • bobfuss

    No, it cannot be Murphy because he has blocked me (or so he claims anyway) whereas you clearly read every word I write.

    Plus Corvus’s convoluted and prolix syntactic style is a giveaway.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See how I duck the part where I can be shown to be wrong, and restate the national figure as if that was the figure we are discussing. I avoid looking wrong at all costs.

  • bobfuss

    No, the census has data by location. Take a look and you will see.

  • bobfuss commentary track

    See how clever I am continuing to insist that a 7 year old census is the best evidence and ignoring the SFMTA’s own data from 2014 that even back then 4.4% of all trips in SF were on bicycle. I fool all you less intelligent readers into thinking that I am right. I score a lot of empty points with this technique.

  • bobfuss

    If you’re asking me whether I trust the national census over a narrowly-defined, self-serving, local civic function for valid data, then yes I do.

    But if you were really correct that drivers are switching to cycling then presumably we’d see far fewer cars on local streets. Be sure to let me know when you see evidence for that proposition.

  • bobfuss

    I do not support damage or harm. But I do demand more from those who seek change than merely a maudlin appeal to sentimentality and an aversion to any risk.

  • bobfuss

    What purpose does that ugly concrete barrier serve?

  • bobfuss

    Getting people to calibrate their claims against more official and objective sources isn’t “clever”. It’s merely the kind of fact-checking that everyone should engage in before tossing out numbers.

    I know how SFMTA gets its data, It sends out interns to count vehicles at a few intersections. So yeah, stick them on an intersection on the wiggle and you might just get 4%, but broader and more extensive studies are more reliable.

  • SF_Abe

    You are arguing for the status quo, which is damaging and harmful.

    There are real lives at stake here– this is not some abstract theoretical debate exercise. It is not merely “sentimental” to value one’s own life and the lives of one’s neighbors. It is not an “aversion to any risk” that drives those who work for safer streets, it is a rejection of unnecessary and catastrophic risk.

    What does his excellency “demand” from neighbors trying to improve a dangerous and generally nasty street? And what (other than a keyboard and internet connection) qualifies him as the arbiter of Turk Street?

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