Eighth and Mission Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick
A new buffered bike lane was striped on 8th Street last week, re-purposing a traffic lane for bicycles on one of SoMa’s fast, one-way motorways. The new configuration, which removes bicyclists from the door zone and provides a much wider lane, is an improvement over the four speed-inducing traffic lanes and skinny bike lane that previously existed. Still, many say it’s just a small step toward a truly safer street.
The bike lane upgrade was included as part of a re-paving project at the urging of bike advocates and D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who wanted to seize the opportunity to re-configure the street striping as a cost-effective way to help calm motor traffic, create a more comfortable space for bicycling, and reduce crossing distances for pedestrians.
“Eighth Street was prioritized partially because of its history of pedestrian injuries,” said Kim. “While SoMa is a mixed use neighborhood, we have many residents — families and seniors, in particular — on Eighth between Mission and Folsom, that cross these dangerous speeding intersections daily. The traffic calming efforts, repaving, bike lanes and speed limit reductions on Howard and Folsom are helping to change that dynamic.”
“Eighth street is an important connector corridor between the Civic Center, Tenderloin and SoMa neighborhoods,” she added. “As the neighborhood grows, I want to see more people walking and biking as their first choice of transportation to make short trips.”
Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, said the organization urges “the city to take advantage of more of these opportunities to piggyback onto existing repaving projects to make low-cost, yet significant, safety improvements.”
“In the case of Eighth Street, it was originally scheduled to be put back the way it was, which was more room for auto traffic than was needed and sub-standard bike space,” she said. “Now, thanks to the changes, we have a more comfortable bikeway for the growing number of people riding and we have a safer street for people to cross on foot.”
However, advocates and readers have noted that the layout is far from ideal. “There’s still the need to slow down the traffic on this street, as it still moves far too fast for what it should be — a neighborhood street,” Shahum said. Some motorists also drive in the bike lane, as it’s wide enough to accommodate them and lacks any physical barrier keeping them out. Muni buses must also now cross the wider bike lane and the parking lane to access bus stops.