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Posts from the Bike Lanes Category

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Four Protected Bike Signals Coming to Polk Street By May

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The SFMTA has promised signals to separate southbound bike traffic from right-turning drivers at four intersections along Polk Street by May. Image: SFMTA

Today the SFMTA announced details about the first package of safety upgrades coming to Polk Street in the next few months. They include signals at four intersections that will give southbound bike traffic a separate phase from drivers turning right, making Polk the second street in SF to get the configuration.

By May, the SFMTA said it would install the bike signals at all four intersections in the Polk plan: Geary Boulevard, Ellis Street, Eddy Street, and Turk Street. The signals “will be implemented to address existing right-hook crash patterns,” the SFMTA said in an email announcing the upgrades.

The prevailing design of SF current bike lanes calls for people on bikes to merge with right-turning cars, putting them at risk of drivers who turn without looking. At the four Polk intersections, right-turning drivers will have a separate lane and signal phase. The configuration is widely used in cities like Amsterdam, and is planned for protected bike lanes on streets like Second.

The only street in SF that already has the configuration is Cargo Way in Bayview, where a two-way protected bikeway separated by a fence was installed in 2012. A similar configuration exists at Fell Street and Masonic Avenue, where a left-turn signal was installed to protect people in a crosswalk along the Panhandle’s mixed bike and pedestrian path.

As part of the first batch of improvements on Polk, the SFMTA said the conventional southbound bike lane will be extended from Union to Post Street by April. That space will apparently be created by narrowing traffic lanes.

When construction of the rest of the Polk project starts next spring, the southern segment of the bike lane will get green paint and a buffer zone. Many sections will run curbside, eliminating the risk of dooring.

The northbound Polk bike upgrades will also come next spring, with the construction of a raised bike lane from McAllister to Pine Street, which won’t include separate signal phases at intersections.

Pedestrian safety improvements are on the way this spring, include zebra crosswalks at 25 intersections and painted bulb-outs at five intersections. By summer, the SFMTA said it will install leading pedestrian intervals, which “allow pedestrians a few seconds of a ‘WALK’ signal before vehicles receive a green light at certain intersections.” By that time, daylighting will also be in place at “various intersections,” along with “new and relocated” loading zones to reduce double parking.

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Eyes on the Street: Idiots Continue to Park in the Oak Street Bike Lane

Looks like some tickets are in order.

Even with planted protective barriers alongside the Oak Street bike lane, some drivers haven’t got the message and continue to park or stop in it. It’s not clear if the violations are happening less often, and it’s still early in the learning curve, but the hope had been that the planters would send a stronger message to drivers to stay out.

The design leaves large gaps in the physical protection around curb cuts and the approaches to intersections, where turning drivers merge into the bike lane. There are no plans to expand the protective islands.

For now, San Franciscans have to rely on the SFMTA and SFPD to provide consistent enforcement against violators. That’s another work in progress.

Photo: Al Sharff

Photo: Al Sharff

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Eyes on the Street: The Oak Street Bike Lane Is Now Protected

The Oak Street bike lane now has protective concrete planters. Photo: Mark Dreger/Twitter

At long last, the Oak Street bike lane has physical protection from motor traffic. Long-awaited concrete planters were completed last week.

“We’re thrilled that the final pieces are finally coming together to make the bike lanes on Oak and Fell achieve the high level of protection San Franciscans were originally promised and that we have advocated strongly for,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “Protected bike lanes are one of the most powerful ways to make San Francisco safe and inviting for people of all ages to bike. This critical corridor will now be a safe, attractive route for people biking and local residents, and will make the roadway more predictable for people driving.”

Next up is Fell Street’s three-block counterpart, completing the link between the Panhandle and the Wiggle, the flattest central route between the eastern and western neighborhoods. Fell’s concrete planters and finishing touches are expected to be completed by the end of April.

The first step in the redesign was to create a curbside bike lanes with a painted buffer. In an October 2013 survey, many bike commuters who use the route — currently, roughly 1,800 a day — said those changes made them feel safer and more likely to bike on Fell and Oak. The new concrete planters should make the route even less stressful and send a stronger signal to drivers not to park in the bike lanes.

In related news, the SFMTA Board of Directors last week approved the new residential parking permit Area Q to provide some regulation for car parking in the neighborhood. The idea was developed during planning for the Fell and Oak bike lanes since they required the removal of about 100 parking spaces, with about half added back on nearby streets.

Check out more photos of the Oak bike lane at Hoodline.

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Howard Bike Lane Gets Wider and Greener — Will Protection Come Soon?

The Howard Street bike lane in SoMa, between Sixth and Tenth Streets, was widened and got some green paint this week. While it’s no protected bike lane, we’ve already heard from bike commuters who say the buffer zone and contrast make the ride a bit more comfortable.

For the SFMTA, these improvements are low-hanging fruit to pluck while shaping bigger plans protected bike lanes on Howard and Folsom Street, a couplet of one-way streets. Howard’s new buffer zone, which isn’t as wide as Folsom’s, was created by narrowing a 15-foot wide traffic lane, which didn’t require a lengthy environmental review.

Folsom’s bike lane was widened with a buffer zone between Fourth and 11th Streets in late 2013 by removing a traffic lane, and was fast-tracked as a pilot project after Amelie Le Moullac was killed by a trucker at Folsom and Sixth. The bike lane on Eighth Street also replaced a traffic lane in 2013.

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Police Ticket Cyclists Who Fail to Navigate Market and Octavia’s Bad Design

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City planner Neil Hrushowy was among the few bike commuters who weren’t “behaving badly” at this poorly-designed bike junction, according to KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts. Image: KRON 4

Police were seen ticketing people on bikes navigating a poorly-designed junction at the dangerous Market Street and Octavia Boulevard intersection yesterday in the latest “People Behaving Badly” segment from KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts.

The bike lane’s design is so flawed, in fact, that the only bike commuter Roberts showed navigating it properly happened to be one of the city planners leading its redesign (and, no doubt, has paid closer attention to it than most people).

“Most choose the incorrect way and ended up with a ticket,” Roberts said in the segment. (Roberts said he didn’t know that his model cyclist was a city planner, but I recognized him.)

“We recognize that it is not an intuitive design for cyclists,” said Neil Hrushowy, Roberts’ model cyclist and the program director for the SF Planning Department’s City Design Group. “I think anyone’s going to feel comfortable recognizing that it’s the less appealing route for cyclists, which is why you see them coming through the intersection the other way.”

The junction in question has a path for bicycle riders headed southbound on Octavia as they prepare to make a left turn on Market. People must skillfully maneuver through a curved bike lane that runs between curbs through a traffic island, thrusting them alongside freeway traffic. When they reach the other side of the intersection, the path to the Market bike lane is blocked by a barrier installed to prevent drivers from making illegal right turns on to the freeway — the real danger at the intersection.

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Yielding to Cars-First Merchants, SFMTA Board Approves Polk Plan As Is

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted unanimously yesterday to approve the watered-down plan to redesign Polk Street with a protected bike lane along one side of the street for 10 of 20 blocks.

The board rebuffed efforts by member Cheryl Brinkman to preserve the possibility of adding protected bike lanes along the upper half of the corridor before the project is constructed. Instead, the board added the condition that SFMTA staff would report on the impacts of the redesign a year after it’s completed, when they will consider extending protected bike lanes in a follow-up project.

The decision came after a four-hour hearing, where hundreds of people spoke. Roughly half called for a bolder project that puts safety first, and the rest — many of them merchants — opposed the project in order to preserve car parking.

The board did not discuss the block of Polk between California and Pine Streets, where Mayor Ed Lee’s optometrist successfully lobbied to remove bike lane protection from the project six months after it was presented to the public. When asked if he’d taken any action on the project, Mayor Lee told Streetsblog last week, “We shouldn’t promote bicycle safety over pedestrian safety over cars and parking. I think they’re all going to be important.”

Supervisors Jane Kim and Julie Christensen, whose districts share a border along Polk, weighed in at the hearing.

D6 Supervisor Kim took the stronger stand for a safer Polk, calling on the SFMTA to “prioritize people over cars and to model Vision Zero for the rest of the city.”

“As someone who’s a beginning cyclist… if you want more people like me driving less, I’m going to want to see protected bike lanes,” said Kim. “That’s just the reality.” With heavy motor traffic and steeper grades on nearby streets, she said, “Polk Street is the only corridor that we can have a protected, green bike lane for the entire north-south” route. She also said she was “disappointed” about the removal of the bike lane on the block between California and Pine.

Christensen, who was recently appointed by Lee to fill David Chiu‘s District 3 seat, called on the board to approve the project as-is, so as not to delay the pedestrian safety improvements or undergound utility work, and “continue to debate the merits of changes further north.”

Unlike Kim, she did not make the case that a safer design should be an urgent priority. “We have thousands of people storing their cars on the street,” said Christensen. “While we want to discourage them from doing that, that is not going to change overnight.”

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SFMTA Board Approves Watered-Down Polk Plan, May Revisit It Later

Half of one side of Polk will get a protected bike lane under the approved plan. Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted today to approve the plan to redesign Polk Street with a protected bike lane along one side of the street for 10 of 20 blocks. After a four-hour hearing, the board approved the plan with the condition that SFMTA staff would report on the impacts of the project a year after it’s completed, when they will consider extending protected bike lanes along the upper half of the corridor.

“Of course, we wanted the full suite of Vision Zero improvements along the length of Polk,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “But the improvements that were approved today are the foundation to build on and as we work through the massive construction on Polk, and the safety improvements are implemented, the MTA’s data-driven approach, I predict, is going to show that safety improves, traffic is reduced, businesses thrive, and will back up the case for extending pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements for the entire length of the street.”

We’ll have more coverage of the hearing tomorrow.

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SFMTA Cuts Block of Polk Bike Lane Fought By Visionless Mayor’s Optometrist

Polk at Pine Street, where the SFMTA has rolled back plans for a protected bike lane which was disliked by Mayor Ed Lee’s optometrist. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has nixed a block of protected bike lane planned on Polk Street, where merchants including Mayor Ed Lee’s optometrist have vocally opposed it to preserve car parking.

The raised, protected bike lane between California and Pine Streets was removed from Polk’s plans six months after they were presented at the final public open house. SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin ordered the reduction, as shown in emails [PDF] obtained by Madeleine Savit, who founded Folks for Polk to advocate for a safer street. Reiskin and the SFMTA Board of Directors are mayoral appointees.

The Polk redesign, which is up for a vote by the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday, has been fiercely opposed by a group of merchants called “Save Polk Street,” which has spread misinformation in its campaign to preserve parking. Under the proposed plan, partial bike lanes would be installed by removing about 30 percent of the 320 parking spaces on Polk, or 8 percent of parking spaces within a block of the street. About 85 percent of people on Polk arrive without a car.

“Mayor Lee in his new frames!,” reads the caption on a photo posted by Hiura and Hiura Optometrists. Photo via Yelp

Drs. Hiura and Hiura Optometrists, which posted a photo on its Yelp page of Mayor Lee in “his new frames,” had a “Save Polk Street” flyer on its reception desk when Streetsblog visited the business today.

Dr. Ronald Hiura told Streetsblog that he has “talked to the mayor and SFMTA Board members personally,” which “could possibly” have driven the removal of the bike lane on his block. “I was happy to see that they have revised that one-block issue,” he said.

Streetsblog asked Mayor Lee today if he had taken any action on the Polk plan, noting the protests from some merchants over losing parking. He didn’t say he’d pushed the SFMTA to change the plan. “I’ve been meeting with the MTA,” said Lee. “They’re the experts. They have so many issues to balance, and I just want to make sure I embrace a very strong balancing process.”

“I’ve heard from many different groups,” Lee told Streetsblog. “I know we want to make the streets safer, make it bike-friendly, small businesses don’t want to lose parking for their constituents… I can’t have a particular position on it except to endorse the most balanced approach that they have because there’s issues that should not be in conflict. We shouldn’t promote bicycle safety over pedestrian safety over cars and parking. I think they’re all going to be important.”

A rendering of the raised, protected bike lane planned on lower Polk at Fern Street, a block-and-a-half from where it will end. Image: SF Planning Department

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Eyes on the Street: Construction Begins on Fell and Oak Bike Lane Protection

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The Oak bike lane at Divisadero Street, where one of the first protective islands is taking shape. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Crews are at work building the planted concrete islands that will separate the Fell and Oak bike lanes from motor traffic. As we reported earlier this month, the long-delayed project is now supposed to wrap by April. The new construction is a sign that city agencies may make good on that.

This week crews carved up the asphalt at several spots along the Oak Street bike lane’s buffer zone, from Baker to Scott Streets, to prepare for the installation of the islands. The construction barriers provide a preview of the better sense of protection along the bike lane once the islands are complete.

According to Department of Public Works spokesperson Dadisi Najib, DPW and the SF Public Utilities Commission expect to finish the islands on Oak by March 20, and work on Fell will be completed between March 2 and April 30.

The protective bike lane islands are the final component of the safety measures going in on Fell and Oak. Pedestrian bulb-outs with rain gardens have been under construction for months.

Hopefully, the islands will also finally send the message to drivers to stop parking in the bike lanes, and the ranks of daily bike commuters who use them will swell from the current level of roughly 1,800.

Oak at Baker Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Market Street Has More Bike Traffic Than You Thought

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An unprecedented jump last month (on the right) reported by the Market Street bike counter appears to be explained by an improvement in the counter’s accuracy. Image: SFMTA/Eco Counter

The Market Street bicycle counter has been undercounting two-wheeled traffic — and not because of a computer glitch. Starting last month, the counter reported a huge jump in bike commuters. How come? All indications point to a recent tweak to the bike lane that guides more riders over the counter’s underground sensor.

On several days this year, the counter has tallied nearly 4,500 people cycling eastbound on Market at Ninth Street. On most weekdays, at least 3,700 riders have been counted. That’s about 1,000 more riders, on average, than were counted each day last January.

Last month may have been California’s driest January on record, but weather doesn’t explain the jump. Even in the warmest months last year, ridership typically ranged from 2,700 to 3,200. Prior to 2015, the record was 4,045, set on August 7 last year.

So what changed in the first week of January? The SFMTA installed plastic posts along the bike lane’s edge that guide bike riders to stay in the bike lane and roll over the bike sensor. Previously, many bike commuters passing by the counter rode outside the bike lane, instead using the adjacent traffic lane since it was closed to cars in 2009.

SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said that based on the agency’s manual bike counts, the bike counter remains about 95 percent accurate, the same rate as before. It’s “plausible” the posts explain the recent jump in the bike count, he said. No other likely explanation has been put forth, though the SFMTA has yet to verify with the counter’s manufacturer that it does not need to be recalibrated.

Getting a better read on Market Street bike traffic is one more way the SFMTA is improving the understanding of how San Franciscans’ travel habits are changing. Earlier this month, the agency reported its new survey methodology has revealed that most trips in the city are made without a private automobile.

Hat tip to Joe Chojnacki for pointing out the data jump.

Today’s count as of about 6 p.m. Photo: Aaron Bialick