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Posts from the "Connecting the City" Category

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Trial Bikeway on the Embarcadero Next Month Will Be One-Way Only

The SF Bicycle Coalition's vision for a protected two-way bikeway on the Embarcadero. Image: SFBC

We reported last week that the SFMTA is considering testing out a two-way bike lane on the Embarcadero during the next America’s Cup races in October, according to an agency report. However, America’s Cup spokesperson Jane Sullivan tells us that the lane will only serve one-way traffic in the northbound direction, and no trial bike lane will be provided in the southbound direction.

Essentially, the trial will be limited to designating one northbound traffic lane for bicycles only. It would begin just north of the Ferry Building and end at Bay Street, said Sullivan. Bicycle riders would then be routed on to Bay, then North Point, to avoid major cruise activity at Pier 35, she said. Sullivan also noted that the bike lane will provide emergency vehicle access.

The possible two-way bikeway noted in the Bicycle Advisory Committee report [PDF] was considered at one point, but the report may be “outdated,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose. Only a one-way, northbound trial lane was approved in the America’s Cup environmental impact report, he said. A trial two-way bikeway could still come during next year’s races, though a decision has yet to be reached, he said.

It’s encouraging that the SFMTA and America’s Cup are testing out bicycle infrastructure during the events, but without providing a safer, more convenient two-way protected bikeway, they might be missing out on a massive segment of visitors who would potentially come by bike, if they were provided with better bicycle facilities. Let’s hope that the trial bike lane this year leads to a top-notch bikeway along the SF waterfront in the near future.

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SFMTA May Test Two-Way Bikeways on the Embarcadero

SPUR's vision for an "EmBIKEadero." Image: Carrie Nielson

A two-way protected bikeway along the Embarcadero could get a trial in the coming months. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is considering implementing a temporary two-way bikeway along the waterfront during the next America’s Cup events in October, according to an agency report. The agency is also developing plans for a more permanent bikeway along the Embaracdero near Pier 39, from Kearny to Powell Streets.

During the next America’s Cup yacht races, which are scheduled from October 2 to 7, the SFMTA “is investigating the feasibility of a trial two-way cycle track on the east side of the Embarcadero,” according to an agency report to the Bicycle Advisory Committee [PDF]. “A lane of northbound traffic could potentially be converted to a temporary two way cycle [track]. Staff is working with the Port and local merchants to develop the concept further.” No details on the length of the bikeway are currently available.

A two-way bikeway on the Embarcadero, or an “EmBIKEadero,” was recommended in a report [PDF] from the SF Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) and in the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting the City campaign. “Creation of a separated two-way bike path alongside the Embarcadero would enhance the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike,” SPUR wrote on Streetsblog last year. “Promoting multi-modal connectivity along the Embarcadero will help ensure that the public can access and enjoy its waterfront for the duration of the America’s Cup and beyond.”

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Contra-Flow Bike Lane May Finally Come to Polk Street Next Summer

An SFMTA Bike Plan project would install a contra-flow bike lane on Polk Street, separated from motor traffic by a concrete median, where a car parking lane now exists. Photo: Google Maps

A long-awaited bicycle connection linking Market Street to northbound Polk Street is on the horizon. The two southernmost blocks of Polk, which currently only allow southbound traffic, could get a protected contra-flow bike lane by this time next year.

The project, which would add a northbound bike lane separated by a concrete median [PDF], was part of the 2009 SF Bike Plan but left unapproved by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors — one of 15 such projects. The space for the contra-flow lane would come from a car parking lane and some existing buffer space, and it would extend as a painted bike lane past City Hall to connect to the existing bike lane which begins at McAllister Street.

The plan for a contra-flow bike lane on Polk at Market. Click to enlarge.

“This project has been stalled for far too many years, leaving an intimidating gap along a critical north-south bike route,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “Even as an experienced bicyclist, I feel uncomfortable riding on the streets parallel to this section of Polk Street, but that’s the only legal alternative. The city needs to move with more urgency to build the bikeway on this southern end of Polk Street and stop leaving people biking in the lurch here.”

The delay was apparently due to unresolved technical design negotiations with managers of the adjacent Bill Graham Auditorium and the Archstone Fox Plaza apartment building, each of which has a loading dock entrance which the bike lane would cross. However, an SFMTA report issued in June [PDF] said agency staff planned to present proposed designs to those stakeholders as well as the SF Department of Public Health, located at Polk and Grove Streets (Streetsblog has put in a request to SFMTA for an update on those negotiations). The project’s environmental impact report was approved as part of the Bike Plan, but the final design would still need to be approved at a public hearing and go through the SFMTA Board.

SFMTA planners are also looking at including a left-turn bike box at the intersection of Market, Polk, and Tenth Streets, which would provide a waiting area for bicyclists on eastbound Market to make a two-step turn onto northbound Polk. However, according to this month’s SFMTA report [PDF] to the SF Bicycle Advisory Committee, that addition would be complicated by the ongoing construction of a tower at 1401 Market, which will occupy a traffic lane until January 2014. “[SFMTA] staff is looking at options at the intersection to accommodate the traffic and bike box,” the report says.

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As SFMTA Adds Finishing Touches, JFK Bike Lanes Remain Awesome

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Photos: Aaron Bialick

Three months after San Francisco’s first parking-protected bike lanes were striped on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, the street continues to thrive as a calmer, safer place all users. The flocks of people using the lanes this summer appear to include more families than ever, and by and large, drivers and pedestrians seem to have adapted well to the new configuration.

The SFMTA finally completed some finishing touches last week to improve the connections between the new lanes and the Panhandle, which had been delayed. An SFMTA staffer said there had been mix-ups in the street painting schedule.

The initial confusion and complaints among drivers using the new arrangement, which places parked cars to the left of the bike lane, seem to have dissipated. In May, the SFMTA stenciled “No Parking” markings in the buffer zones to deter drivers from parking where the road narrows and there is no room for parked cars. The measure appears to have been highly effective, and the remaining illegal parking seems mostly limited to the area around weekly evening events at the de Young Museum and Academy of Sciences.

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Envisioning the Wiggle as a People-Centered Greenway

Scott Street between Oak and Page Streets. Image: SFBC

The SF Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) has posted new visuals on its website depicting how streets on the Wiggle could be transformed into greener, traffic-calmed streets oriented toward safe walking and bicycling.

The Wiggle, the flattest route connecting the east and west parts of the city, is already a magnet for bike traffic. However, as the SFBC notes, new riders can get confused by the twists and turns of the route, and high-speed motor vehicle traffic makes cycling feel too dangerous for many people to consider riding.

The renderings of Waller Street and Scott Street draw on concepts that emerged from last year’s ThinkBike Workshops, in which planners from the SFMTA and the Netherlands sketched out redesigns to enhance the experience of pedestrians and cyclists on major bicycling corridors. The SFBC envisions wider sidewalks, more public seating, higher-visibility bike markings, and streets engineered for automobile speeds that don’t threaten people traveling on foot or by bike.

The SFMTA is taking some steps toward the ThinkBike vision by rolling out ladder crosswalks and green-backed sharrows emphasizing pedestrian and bicycle priority along the route.

The SFBC’s renderings are part of its Connecting the City campaign to make SF streets accessible for all-ages cycling. The top priority for the campaign is a seamless “Bay to Beach” bicycle route, including the Wiggle, that feels safe enough for anyone from 8 to 80 years old to ride.

The SFBC also has a survey for the public to share their thoughts on the renderings.

Waller Street between Steiner and Pierce Streets. Image: SFBC

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Overwhelming Support for Fell and Oak Bikeways at SFMTA Hearing

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Nearly 100 attendees packed a City Hall room this morning for a hearing on the Fell and Oak bikeways, where supporters of the project overwhelmingly outnumbered detractors.

Photo: Mark Dreger, San Franciscoize

Dozens of speakers, young and old, said the project was vital for improving the safety of people who already bike as well as those who will only feel safe riding with the separated bike lanes.

“The three blocks of terror, as I call them, really have been a big impediment to me biking in San Francisco,” said Julia Uota, who lives in the Richmond. “I am new to biking, and I’m terrified to bike Fell Street on my way home. During rush hour, I make it a point of getting off my bike and walking as a pedestrian on the sidewalk, where it’s not really wide enough to have a bike next to me.”

D5 Supervisor Christina Olague told hearing officers: “My office hears from people who ride bicycles through this area, including parents biking their children to school, people biking to shop on Divisadero, and people of all ages biking to work. We must prioritize this kind of project and safety improvements, I believe, in our district.”

Although SFMTA staff said they couldn’t approve the project for recommendation until the environmental review is finished, it’s expected to go to the SFMTA Board of Directors in the fall or winter. Staff said the project could return for another public hearing for official recommendation to the board, depending on the changes in the finalized designs, which would be informed by the comments at today’s hearing.

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Also Tomorrow: Crucial Hearing for the Fell and Oak Bikeways

public hearing tomorrow for the long-awaited protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets could be key in determining how soon the project is approved and completed.

Image: SFMTA

Advocates say a strong show of support is critical to ensure the project is approved without delay. Although agency staff won’t make a decision whether to recommend approval of the project to the SFMTA Board of Directors tomorrow, hearing officers will take comments from the public that could influence the project’s design details and implementation timetable.

The project would provide vital safety upgrades for bike travel on the three blocks linking the Panhandle and the Wiggle — currently fraught with danger from high-speed traffic that deters many would-be riders and sometimes leads to confrontations between drivers and cyclists.

Although the SFMTA says the project could be implemented no sooner than next spring, D5 Supervisor Christina Olague, a strong supporter and former president of the Planning Commission, told Streetsblog she thinks it can go in by this fall.

Completing environmental review on the project, she said, should be a top priority for the Planning Department. “America’s Cup was, and I think we’ve seen other huge projects that have been top priorities.”

“This creates jobs, and ultimately it creates safer pathways for cyclists, people who want to bicycle with their families, for pedestrians,” said Olague. “I think it’s something people will love once it’s in place.”

The hearing takes place tomorrow at 10 a.m. at City Hall in Room 416. You can also email staff at sustainable.streets@sfmta.com.

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SFMTA Drafting Design Standards to Streamline Innovative Bike Treatments

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A sample diagram of parking-protected bike lane guidelines.

The SFMTA is developing a new engineering guide for bike infrastructure that should help bring street designs like protected bike lanes to more San Francisco streets. Known as the Innovative Bicycle Treatment Toolbox, the guide promises to accelerate the city’s adoption of high-quality bikeway design treatments.

Intersection guidance markings also known as "green-backed" or "super" sharrows.

“The Innovative Bicycle Treatment Toolbox creates standardized guidance for the city of San Francisco in the use of new bicycle treatments being implemented throughout the U.S.,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.

The guide is based on proven designs for bike infrastructure that more American cities (including SF) are implementing to make bicycling safer and more accessible to a wider range of people. While these treatments are becoming more common in the U.S., they have yet to be established in “official traffic engineering regulations such as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) or the Highway Design Manual,” said Rose.

The treatments included in the toolbox: protected and buffered bike lanes, door-zone bike lane treatments, green paint on bike lanes and intersection guide markingsbike boxes“safe-hit” posts (a.k.a. “traffic channelizers”), back-in angled parking, “green wave” signal timing for bike speeds, “two-stage left turn” markings, and “neighborhood greenways” (a.k.a. bike boulevards).

“These are smart, innovative designs that, once implemented in the right places, will make San Francisco’s streets safer and easier to bicycle on,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “We commend the SFMTA’s work in thinking out of the box and urge them to move forward with implementation on our many city streets that need improvement.”

Though the SFMTA has already implemented most of the treatments in the toolbox, they aren’t widespread. The most recent examples are the city’s first parking-protected bike lane in Golden Gate Park and the green-backed sharrow markings guiding riders through the Wiggle.

A two-stage left-turn treatment.

The SFMTA plans to use these treatments more frequently to reach its goal of 20 percent bike mode share by 2020. By establishing its own guidelines, the agency can “ensure consistency and predictability of these new treatments within our jurisdiction, while providing discussion of how these new treatments are addressed in existing regulations,” said Rose. ”This toolbox will help planners and engineers decide whether an innovative treatment is appropriate at a given location that is slated for bicycle improvements. It will also make it faster and more efficient for engineers to design the innovative facilities.”

Streamlining this process is critical to the widespread adoption of cycling in the city. The current rate at which the SFMTA is rolling out improvements is widely seen as insufficient to meet its ambitious mode share goals.

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JFK Protected Bike Lanes Get Seal of Approval From the Bike-Savvy Dutch

The SF Bicycle Coalition's Andy Thornley leads the Dutch-orange bike caravan on John F. Kennedy Drive. Photo: Aaron Bialick

This year’s celebration of the Dutch Queen’s Day in San Francisco was a bit special.

When the event’s 100-or-so celebrants traversed the city by bike in the second annual “Market-to-Mill” ride (Market Street to the Dutch windmill in Golden Gate Park, a.k.a the Bay to Beach route), the orange-clad caravan traveled through San Francisco’s first bicycle lanes designed with a Dutch standard of safety in mind.

Bart van Bolhuis, Consulate General of the Netherlands, told Streetsblog that riding the new parking-protected bike lanes on John F. Kennedy Drive felt like cycling in his home country. “Especially biking with 100 people dressed up in orange,” he added.

Bart van Bolhuis, Consulate General of the Netherlands. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A key feature of the JFK bikeway, Bolhuis pointed out, is the buffer area which separates bicycle riders from the door zone and provides space for people getting in and out of their cars. Most conventional bike lanes in San Francisco place riders in the path of opening car doors on one side and passing cars on the other. Drivers also make regular incursions into the bike lane to maneuver into parking spaces or double park. That creates an obstacle course that’s too stressful for most people to ride in. By placing bicyclists to the right of parked cars, JFK is the first street in San Francisco designed to accommodate car parking while eliminating those hazards.

“People have to feel safe on their bikes, and these kinds of bike lanes are very helpful,” said Bolhuis. “The most important thing is that it will create safety, and the feeling of safety, for other kinds of bicyclists as well — mothers with children, elderly people — and that’s something we have to establish in this city, not only for the brave, but also for the people who want to bike in nature, or to school.”

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It’s Not That Hard to Find People Who Like the JFK Bikeway

Just a hunch: Might the kids riding in front of Stanley's camera like the new bike lane? Image: KRON 4

Much has been made about the “strangeness” of San Francisco’s first parking-protected bike lane in Golden Gate Park, which employs the type of design that other American cities are increasingly using to improve safety and raise bicycling rates.

As someone who lives next to Golden Gate Park, I’ve been going out of my way to ride on John F. Kennedy Drive almost every day since the easternmost section was installed a few weeks ago. The sense of safety and dignity that the protected bikeway affords is highly enjoyable. And day by day, as more drivers grow acclimated to the new arrangement and fewer block the bike lane, I’ve watched a growing number of children and casual bicyclists enjoy riding on a calmer, quieter street in a space that truly belongs to them.

Callie, 7, gives the new bikeway a thumbs-up. Photo: Aaron Bialick

There are ample signs that drivers are getting used to it. In fact, after crews striped the second of three sections yesterday between the de Young Museum and Stow Lake Drive, I found all the cars parked where they’re supposed to be.

Still, floating parking lanes are new to San Francisco, and some members of our local media just can’t resist sensationalizing this transitional phase, focusing on the initial complaints of a few people who aren’t used to it yet. When KRON’s Stanley Roberts went out to JFK Drive last week, he seemingly ignored the swaths of riders, young and old, who use the reconfigured lane. “It was hard for us to find someone who likes it,” he told viewers.

Well, it wasn’t hard for me as I made my way along JFK Drive yesterday. Pretty quickly, I found Colleen and her 7-year-old daughter Callie, who live in the Inner Richmond and regularly bike in the park twice a day. They said the new separation from cars makes them feel safer.

“I think that once the car drivers get used to it, it’ll be easier,” Colleen said. “Right now, they’re confused, and once they understand they’re not supposed to park in the bike lane, it’ll be good.”

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