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Bicycle Safety

Eyes on the Street: Market Street Bike Lane Puts the Squeeze on Cyclists

Market_St_10th_1_.jpgThe bike lane on Market at 10th St. was already narrow before the installation of safe-hit posts. Photos by Josh Hart.

Cyclists traveling inbound on Market Street are being squeezed into an unnecessarily narrow bike lane as a result of safe-hit posts installed to enforce the new required right turn at 10th Street. The posts, put in place by the MTA to the left of the existing bike and right-turn-only lanes, have shaved what was already a skinny passage for cyclists.

Some cyclists are questioning why the opportunity wasn't seized to widen the bike lane as part of the reconfiguration. The narrowness and frequent occupation of the bike lane by cars waiting to turn right have led many cyclists to abandon the official lane in favor of the cross-hatched area to the left of the posts. In fact, a brief site survey found that over 80 percent of inbound Market St. cyclists chose the cross-hatched area over the official bike lane. There is concern, however, that those who continue to use the marked lane are putting themselves at risk of being doored by drivers dropping people off in the right lane.

On January 26th, due to conflicts between right turning cars and non-motorized traffic at 8th Street, the MTA moved the required right turn for private vehicles up to 10th, where the lack of a Muni boarding island means that there is (at least ostensibly) more room for cyclists and drivers to maneuver. In general, there has been widespread praise for the move, part of the ongoing Better Market Street traffic pilot program, which also includes a required right turn at 6th St. The move to 10th has decongested two additional blocks of Market, and has led to a noticeable improvement in conditions at 8th and Market, where there is heavy pedestrian activity around the entrances to the Civic Center BART/Muni station.

Market_10th_2.jpg 80 percent of cyclists, in a brief survey, avoided the designated lane and used the cross-hatched area instead.

The MTA's Timothy Papandreou reports that feedback surrounding the 10th St. move has been mostly positive, though there have been a few concerns expressed about the width of the bike and right-turn lanes. He explained that the safe-hit posts at 10th are mainly intended to enforce required right turns, whereas the posts lining the westbound Market St. bike lane between 9th and 10th streets are designed to discourage double parking in the bicycle lane.

"The city is looking to extend the safe-hit posts along Market St. bike lanes from 8th St. to Octavia soon, although loading zones and other conflicts may result in gaps in the protected lane," Papandreou told Streetsblog.

Neal Patel, Community Planner at the SFBC, said the new configuration is not ideal for cyclists but marks an improvement over the former configuration, with fewer cars farther down Market. "We continue to work with the MTA to identify solutions both in the short- and long-term and encourage all cyclists to make sure they continually provide feedback directly to the city."

As a temporary traffic experiment, the required right turns along Market are exempt under the California Environmental Quality Act until the end of March, at which time the city will assess the impact, and either remove the required turns, apply for an extension of the trial, or make it permanent. The city is looking into ways to make the required turn self-enforcing, without the presence of staff.

While short term improvements to Market are being implemented, a medium to long term visioning process is being carried out that will guide Market St. improvements over the next several years -- in particular, improvements to be carried out in conjunction with Public Works' scheduled repaving of Market from Van Ness to Steuart St. in 2013.

Those with comments about the new configuration at 10th or the Market Street trials in general are encouraged to provide feedback to the city at or by calling 311.

MTA_worker.jpg This city employee told us that he is more mindful of cyclists' needs since his niece started riding a bike. As for the bike lanes at 10th St., he asked "why can't they be to the left of the posts?"

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