The Wiggle — the growingly popular, mostly-flat bicycling route connecting SF’s eastern and western neighborhoods — should become more bike-friendly in the next year. After consulting with Dutch bicycle planners, the SFMTA is planning new upgrades to increase the safety and comfort of people walking and biking on the route, including “green-backed” sharrows, zebra-striped crosswalks, and bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets, which planners now say are coming next winter.
San Francisco's first green bike box installed along with a left-turn bike lane on Scott Street two years ago. Photo: SFBC/Flickr
As bicycle traffic increases along the Wiggle, improved crosswalks and other potential traffic-calming measures could help assuage complaints police say they’ve heard from some residents that stop sign violators are making it a less comfortable place to walk. Though no significant bike-pedestrian crashes are known to have been reported, police have begun stepping up enforcement in the area against people on bikes (and drivers, they say) who officers determine to be running stop signs and red lights.
“That’s not going to solve the problem,” says Morgan Fitzgibbons, co-founder of the Wigg Party, a group focused on promoting environmental sustainability in the neighborhoods around the Wiggle. He said rude or dangerous behavior is limited to a minority of bicycle riders, and while an education and outreach initiative on the streets would be a good idea, the root of the problem is that “these streets are simply designed for cars.”
Current stop sign laws, pointed out Fizgibbons, are tailored for car movement. While Idaho has allowed bicycle riders in that state to treat stop signs as yield signs with positive results for nearly 30 years, California requires both bicyclists and drivers to come to a full stop. Advocates say the Idaho approach — which still requires bicyclists to slow down and yield to others who have the right-of-way — simply legitimizes common practice, since people on bikes can safely negotiate smaller intersections like those on the Wiggle without the need for a full stop, while also clarifying expectations between different users.
“If you start designing the streets for the use that it actually receives, then you’re going to engender an attitude of respect from cyclists,” said Fitzgibbons. “I think when you start making the Wiggle a known place [for bicycles], and create that identity around the Wiggle, then you can start holding the cyclists who use it to a higher standard.”
Last September, SFMTA planners looking to transform the Wiggle into a more walkable, liveable, and bikeable place sought inspiration from Dutch planners, who in recent decades have pioneered and refined street designs to safely accommodate people on foot, on bikes, and in cars.