For Protected Bike Lanes, Protesters Put Their Bodies In the Street

Advocates Use Human Chain to Keep Cars off Golden Gate Bike Lane

A cyclist greeted by a bike lane protected by humans on Golden Gate. All Photos Streetsblog/Rudick
A cyclist greeted by a bike lane protected by humans on Golden Gate. All Photos Streetsblog/Rudick

Cycling advocates created a protected bike lane on Golden Gate with their bodies this morning, near the intersection with Market Street. The demonstration, which lasted through the height of the morning rush hour, was organized by members of SFMTrA, the guerrilla bike-infrastructure group.

Some 15 advocates showed up, donned yellow t-shirts and stood, arm to arm, in the buffer of the existing bike lane on Golden Gate. The idea was to keep motorists off the lane, of course. But, more importantly, the protest was designed to highlight the watering down of the Turk Street and Golden Gate Avenue safety projects, currently in development.

One of the lead organizers, back turned to conceal his identify, with yellow t-shirts.
One of the lead organizers, back turned to conceal his identify, with yellow t-shirt.

Streetsblog readers will recall that the original SFMTA plan was to have a parking protected bike lane on both Turk and Golden Gate, but push back from the San Francisco Fire Department and others got the city to propose a “Revised Block Design”–bureaucratic speak for the usual striped lane along the row of parked cars (which Streetsblog has repeatedly called out as dangerous and nearly useless).

This outraged cycling advocates, including the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which came out against the new Turk Street lane design. As most people familiar with the area already know, this design has been an utter failure, notably on Golden Gate, with motorists continually blocking the bike lane, which many now deride as the “double parking lane.”

The first protesters arrived a little before eight in the morning. Matt, one of its organizers, handed out bright yellow t-shirts. Note that Streetsblog opted not to use last names since the protest involved standing in the middle of the street, which is, of course, illegal. That said, a policeman stopped to watch briefly before driving away in his cruiser.

What motivated these people to stand in the middle of one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets? According to SFMTA’s own data, “On average, one person walking or biking is hit by a car every 38 days on the six-block stretch of Golden Gate Avenue between Van Ness Avenue and Market Street (48 in a five-year period.)”

“I bike Market to Polk to bring my son to school,” explained Dana, who came to the protest after dropping off her son. “Because Golden Gate is just too dangerous.” Greg, another protester, lived for eight years in New York before moving to San Francisco. He said he was impressed by the top-down nature of safety infrastructure implementation in New York. “They did really well,” he said, talking about the rapid pace at which that city implemented parking protected bike lanes. “I’m generally not a fan of benevolent dictatorships, but Janette Sadik-Khan got stuff done,” he said, referring to that city’s famous Transportation Commissioner. He said San Francisco lacks good leadership. “There’s generally support from the community, but there are too many warring factions.”

Another view of the protest.
Another view of the protest.

The protest spread over about half of the block from Taylor to Jones. As cyclists went by, protesters shouted “fight for protected bike lanes!” Cyclists replied with “thank you” or “nice work guys” and waves.

An unofficial safe-hit post, installed by SFMTrA, at the end of Golden Gate at Market.
An unofficial safe-hit post, installed by SFMTrA, at the end of Golden Gate at Market.

SFMTrA, meanwhile, is already planning another human-chain style protest, next time on Valencia.

  • Elias Zamaria

    Good article. One correction: Transform is a think tank. The guerrilla bike infrastructure group you’re probably thinking of is SFMTrA.

  • Roger R.

    Thanks Elias. SFMTrA, as you know, also goes by SF Transformation. I was trying to figure out a way to keep the group more distinct from SFMTA, so I decided to use their alternate name…but I conflated it with Transform instead. 🙁 Anyway, fixed now. Thanks again.

  • Corvus Corax

    Thank you yet again, SFMTrA! I’d love to join you when you mobilize on Valencia St.

    I see that we can sign up for email notification of SFMTrA activities at the bottom of their web page.

  • Kevin Love

    This is a great demonstration! A big thank you to everyone who showed up to help make San Francisco a better city for all its people.

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