San Francisco Gets Its First Green Bike Lanes on Market Street

Market_St_green_1_small.jpgThe new green bike lane approaching Market and 10th Streets. Photos: Bryan Goebel.

Cyclists who routinely ride on Market Street from Gough Street eastbound have no doubt noticed a steady stream of changes to the bicycle lanes as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has been adding safe-hit posts and creating the impression of greater safety and dignity for cyclists on the corridor. 

Over the weekend the SFMTA took that process a few giant leaps forward by adding vibrant green paint to the protected lanes to further distinguish the bicycle-only space. The lanes are part of the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets division, which has secured permission from Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to experiment with various pavement colors and treatments in bicycle lanes, the Market Street Calm the Safety Zones, and other areas of the city.

The new lanes are permissible even with the bicycle injunction because they are not technically considered traffic control devices, which are not allowed to proceed until the injunction is fully lifted.

Timothy Papandreou, Deputy Director for Sustainable Streets at SFMTA, explained that the agency has been consulting with traffic managers in Portland and New York City to learn from their similar bike lane treatments, though he noted that neither of those cities have the same limitations the injunction has imposed. 

"It’s our first step and we’re really excited about it," said Papandreou, who noted that cyclists over the weekend were stopping to talk with the work crews adding the color to the lanes and riding them back and forth for fun. "When they went in, people just naturally gravitated to them.
It may attract more people to cycling so it will help us meet our
sustainability goals."

Papandreou explained that this work was possible because of the partial lifting of the long-standing bicycle
injunction. In addition to these treatments, the SFMTA has been able to add some bike lanes, numerous sharrows and bike racks, and
some similar innovative treatments like the bike box on Scott Street at Oak Street. In addition, the agency will soon be installing on-street bike parking and will continue to alter signal work to favor cyclists and pedestrians by slowing traffic speeds.

According to Papandreou, the community feedback has been very positive and the agency is only waiting on the injunction to be lifted before trying numerous other treatments.

Market_St._green_6_small.jpgThe new lanes after 10th Street, where private motor vehicle traffic is supposed to be banned.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Neal Patel was thrilled with the new treatments and said it was inspiring to see the Mayor and the city exploring the new safety idea in San Francisco.

"Coupled with the
physically separated bike lanes I think these green painted lanes are
really defining the bike space on the street and benefitting all road
users by creating greater safety for those on bikes," said Patel.

Papandreou and his team noted that even if there wasn’t data that demonstrated these lanes were safer with green paint than without, the perception that this space is dedicated to cyclists was an important signal to send to cyclists. Patel agreed.

"We are very
excited this is coming just days before bike to work Day," added Patel. "We know lots
of people are riding into work either the first time or they are pretty
new on Bike to Work Day. I think it sends a great message to all the people who are
thinking about bicycling that it’s getting safer."

If creating visibility for cyclists is the most important thing for securing safety and attracting new riders, said Patel, these lanes are a step in the right direction.

"I rode on it this morning on my way to work and
it goes even better than the visibly separated bike lane because you
have this great visible cue and visible path of where you need to be
going," said Patel.

"It’s like this really long ribbon that fades into the
horizon. It’s really fantastic."

  • This was such an awesome surprise to ride across this weekend. I almost fell of my bike from the happy shock.

  • Schtu

    Riding down the green lanes this morning made my Monday!

  • Nick

    The green paint has a way of making the street sparkle. I think people will be thrilled about it when they see it in person for the first time.

  • I just want to add: There was some concerns by the DPT crews out there over the weekend that the street sweepers might do some damage to these sparkly new green bike lanes. However, Neal Patel pointed out that this is the same green paint used in the green bike box on Scott, and that’s held up rather well to the elements.

  • Billy

    Has anyone noticed that paint gets slippery when it rains? I’m assuming it’s the same paint they used for the green-square-of-safety over on Scott and Oak, which in my experience is just short of an ice-rink during a rainstorm. Anyway, not to gripe about an obvious step forward – but I’m just sayin’.

  • Matt

    This is pretty awesome for drivers too. When I’m driving down a street I don’t know well, it can sometimes be hard to tell whether the lane to your right is a bike lane or a right-turn lane, especially since some bike lanes in this city are pretty wide. Green paint would definitely be a nice cue to remind drivers not to enter the bike lane.

  • EL

    Hopefully, the green stuff will last longer than the poo-poo tan stuff they put down on Market that disappeared in one month.

  • agentttl

    Nice to see some green paint, but how about green lanes in areas where it will serve more of a purpose like highlighting conflict areas such as the awkward section crossing Van Ness?

  • Matthew

    I hope the green paint is good for the environment. Too many times we look at the one problem and not at the whole picture. I would hate to learn that the paint is toxic and ending up in the water tables. As I avid biker I love the idea, but as an environmentalist I need to question the whole picture!

  • well @Matthew – if this gets N people to bike to somewhere instead of drive M number of days, it might be a net win. We know that toxic stuff comes out of exhaust pipes.

  • G Unit

    Who’s that hottie on the red bike?? :0

  • Nick

    Is there any reason they didn’t paint all the bike lanes from 8th to Gough? They left out the non-protected lanes near 8th and at Van Ness.

  • the greasybear

    My first ride this morning on the beautiful green bike lane ended sadly–two tourbuses blocked the lane in front of the Hotel Whitcomb and made merging back into mixed traffic dangerous. When will the MTA or SFBC address this mand-made safety hazard?

    Photo here:

  • Diane


    It looks like the official green bike lane ends before the tour buses…

    I’m so excited! I have no reason to bike on Market Street, but I’m going to head on down just for the fun of riding in a well-demarcated green bike lane!

  • Will


    100% correct. People gotta watch themselves when the going gets wet.

  • Oliver

    Now if we could get this on more streets like Valencia and Folsom it would be alot more inviting to people who usually dont bike in the city.

  • Alex

    So does this mean that you guys will finally stop appropriating the sidewalks and crosswalks?

  • Alex – “You guys”..? Oh, I don’t know, “we” haven’t made a decision yet.

  • J

    Alex is right. “We” should be walking our bikes on sidewalks and yielding to peds in the crosswalks. Peds<Bikes<Vehicles — Fair is fair!

  • Shawn Allen


    Very few cyclists ride on sidewalks, and I suspect that those who do are either oblivious or scared. Most of the folks I see riding on the sidewalk in the Mission, for instance, are Latino men who most likely don’t have health insurance and are probably just afraid to ride in the street. I’ve tried talking to some of them about it, but my Spanish is too rusty to have a substantive conversation such a specific topic.

    For what it’s worth, though, I would wholeheartedly support a good old-fashioned public media campaign reminding people that riding on the sidewalk is rude, dangerous, and illegal. Riding in most San Francisco streets is perfectly safe if you take the necessary precautions and ride predictably. And the more cyclists there are on the streets the safer they are for everyone. That’s probably another campaign worth running.

  • Yew-Hoe Tan

    I absolutely love them! and riding with polarized sunglasses makes them even more super vibrant and cool!

  • leah

    Fantastic work, people! Way to go!!!!!

  • Ely

    I haven’t ridden on them yet, but isn’t paint like ice in the rain? They may need to mix some grit into it the paint before somebody gets hurt.

  • the greasybear

    Ely, I rode them last evening in the rain and they’re not slippery.

  • Is that pictogram wearing a helmet?

  • the greasybear

    Good news–saw SFPD chase off a tourbus illegally blocking the green bike lane this morning in front of the Whitcomb.

  • SFPD then charged a work order to the MTA for overtime.

    But good news none the less.

  • John R.

    The new green lanes are great. But what about the lanes on that section of Market that aren’t already benefitting from the soft-hit posts. Like Westbound between 8th and 9th?
    Or Westbound between 10th and VanNess? They get nothing?

  • JohnB

    Does anyone know the life expectancy of a soft post?

    The ones constructed near me were trashed in about 2 weeks.

  • julia

    JohnB: The ones delineating the bike lanes on Market have been there a lot longer than 2 weeks and are still in great shape. Still, if the city wants to replace them with giant blocks of concrete, that’s fine by me.


    On most streets (including Market), much/most of the time, cyclists EASILY match motorist speeds, and often BEAT motorist speeds.

    California has no “mandatory sidepath” regs. In fact, CVC 21208(a) says exactly the OPPOSITE:

    21208. (a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed LESS THAN THE NORMAL SPEED OF TRAFFIC MOVING IN THE SAME DIRECTION AT THAT TIME shall ride within the bicycle lane

    (emphasis added)

    I’ll stick with smooth, predictable, visible traffic flow using the traffic lane. Enjoy your “right hook” collisions, your rain-slicked paint and your “hiding in the gutter” invisibility.