Loving the Blue Bike Lane in Brisbane


While all bicycle facility improvements in San Francisco remain at a halt because of a disruptive bike injunction, other Bay Area cities are moving ahead. Take Brisbane. Our reporter, Matthew Roth, snapped this photo of a blue bike lane that was installed near the Brisbane/South San Francisco border in early January. The concept was thought up by a working group of professionals and bicyclists and Fehr and Peers, a transportation consultant firm, designed it.

This stretch of Bayshore Boulevard near the northbound Highway 101 off-ramp is a dangerous conflict spot for cyclists because of speeding motorists, narrow shoulders, limited visibility and broken roadway surface. It’s also a major north-south connection for cyclists commuting from San Francisco to San Mateo County.  At about 400 feet it may be the longest colored bike lane in the Bay Area and was designed to improve sight distance between bicyclists and motorists.

Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, is envious:

It’s pretty astonishing that our neighbor to the south has
surpassed San Francisco — supposedly a gold-rated biking city — in
advancing bike innovations. Colored bike lanes have been used
effectively in places like Portland, OR for a decade, but still SF
lags behind. Unfortunately, the Municipal Transportation Agency and the City
Attorney’s Office have shown an aversion to innovation when it comes
to sustainable transportation improvements. Historically, they have
been unwilling to try anything new. Meanwhile, other cities are
charging ahead with smart, effective safety improvements that
encourage more biking. It’s time for SF to catch up.

The MTA, as we wrote recently, is preparing to do a colored bike lane experiment in the city once the injunction is lifted but it wants to gather data first about bicyclists in San Francisco.

  • Troy

    I like the idea of colored lanes except for one nagging question. Aren’t those painted lanes more slippery? I’ve always thought those Portland lanes looked a bit slick.

  • Supervisors need to call hearings on why the City Attorney and MTA have apparently fabricated obstacles to innovative street treatments such as colored bike lanes.

    This is yet another case of staff cutting policy out of whole cloth that is at odds with policy expressed repeatedly by the voters and Supervisors.


  • those dudes

    Yeah, now Brisbane is more bike-friendly than SF! Give me a break – ever tried to pick up groceries on a bike in Brisbane? The post acknowledges that this area is dangerous for bikes because of speeding motorists, narrow shoulders, limited visibility and broken roadway surface. But it fails to note that blue paint does nothing to address any of these issues, and as Troy notes, will likely serve to make the surface of the bike lane slicker. Blue lanes have nothing to do with sight distance either – sight distance is the distance a driver can see at a given point on a road.

  • patrick

    to “those dudes”:

    just because the lane is painted doesn’t mean it’s slippery, if you put the right materials in the paint it can be provide more friction than asphalt, plus being more visible to drivers.

    I don’t thin anybody is seriously saying that brisbane is more bike friendly than SF, just that they have made more progress than SF in recent years (even if it’s only 400 feet of painted bike lane)

  • JP

    Regarding Troy’s comment, yes, regular pavement markings can exhibit less friction (be more slick) when wet. However the there are special pavement treatments, such as the one shown here, that are designed specifically for bike lanes (same goes for ped crossings) and are no more slippery than regular asphalt. One example is the ‘Ride-A-Way’ treatment by Integrated Paving Concepts (note I do not work for them, I’m just aware of their sales literature).

  • Pavement markings don’t need to be wet to exhibit less friction. I once bit it on 14th Street heading east preparing to turn left onto Folsom, riding the stripe between the double left turn lanes heading for Rainbow, rear wheel slid out from under me at speed. It was a bright sunny day. There was blood.

    But that technical problem is solvable, the political problem is not just convincing staff that safety is a priority after the fact, but inculcating a culture where precaution favors protecting San Franciscans from injury rather than protecting the City from theoretical legal exposure based on the tendency towards bureaucratic institutional conservatism.

    Perhaps I’m out of step with the mainstream, but I think that the best approach is to encourage incremental developments across the board on all systems, bike lanes, pavement markings, enforcement, equitable roadway investment, rather than to focus on any single treatment.

    Unfortunately, paid advocates tend to focus Ahab-like on approaches where they’ve invested much of their institutional time and prestige, throwing good money after bad on such “victories” as Healthy Saturdays or the 1997 Bike Plan Update, so the general public interest of cyclists as represented is perturbed by the need of advocates to recoup their institutional losses so that they don’t look like they’ve been spending the past decade spinning their wheels.

    If the cost of deploying an innovative treatment that increases safety is risk of the City being sued by CalTrans, then I’ll prioritize provable safety over theoretical lost money.


  • Colored Pavement adds color to existing pavement- so it’s just like any other pavement.

    It’s not a surface treatment, which is what is often slippery, especially when wet.

  • Peter

    i digs! props to the Brisbane crew!

  • those dudes

    What’s shown in the photo above is clearly not some special pavement – it’s just paint. My bet is that it’s more slick than the adjacent pavement.

  • Gavin

    Please take the time to visit http://www.integratedpaving.com/government/ride-a-way/?context=ride-a-way_main.
    Ride-A-Way is the product used on the project. In terms of skid resistance, it is as high, and in some cases has higher skid resistance than the pavement. From the link you will notice this product is used worldwide. The city of San Fran should look at using this too.

  • the other doods

    Those dudes, please do the research before jumping to a cynical conclusion. I know its easy to be so negative when responding to a blog. Just make sure you have all the facts before you do so, or people that are “in the know” about this stuff will just think your an idiot.

  • Patrick Herlihy

    Lots of props to the City of Brisbane for this. I’ve ridden on this bike lane a few times now and I actually don’t like a few things about that section of road:

    1. Further up from the painted section there is a rumble strip separating the traffic lane from the bike lane. This causes problems: lots of gravel accumulates in the bike lane and there’s no option to safely move out of the bike lane should it be blocked (as it was last time I rode it). In general, I’ve found rumble strips to be the enemy of cyclists.

    2. The painted section crosses the freeway flyover at one place but it’s usually safer to cross earlier when there’s a break in traffic. I’ve seen some motorists get a little confused about how they should act at that crossing.

    I’ve not ridden the painted section when wet but it does seem to grip quite well anyway – I was wary of this the first time.

    Again, lots of props to Brisbane for doing this!



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