SFMTA, Newsom Support Study of Protected Oak and Fell Bike lanes

The SFBC's rendering of what a protected bike lane on Fell Street could look like.
The SFBC's rendering of what a protected bike lane on Fell Street could look like.

During routine business at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board meeting Tuesday, Director Cheryl Brinkman recounted how enjoyable it was to ride her bicycle on the new physically separated bike lane on Division Street between 9th and 11th Streets. Brinkman said she hoped the SFMTA would consider how it could improve the connection for cyclists between the Wiggle and the Panhandle, including the possibility of adding physical separation to the bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Baker Streets.

“I think it’s such an important connection and I’ve been riding that stretch more and more recently,” Brinkman told Streetsblog. “I don’t know if it’s the quality of the traffic changing, or if I’m getting older, but riding with the moving traffic so close to my handlebars is very unpleasant. I choose not to ride that section anymore.”

Brinkman added that she had heard from several people living in the Sunset and the Richmond districts that they would ride downtown to work if it weren’t for those three blocks along Oak and Fell. “It seems such a shame to have that great corridor but to have those three blocks that way,” said Brinkman. “It shouldn’t be designed so that only the brave cyclists use it. No one should be dissuaded because they are frightened.”

As it turns out, Mayor Gavin Newsom is open to a study to improve that section of the bicycle network. According to Johanna Partin, a policy adviser to the Mayor, he would be “supportive of anything that would increase bike safety in the city.” Partin said Brinkman’s comments were a catalyst for addressing those blocks of Oak and Fell. She said Newsom was going to encourage the SFMTA to look into the possibility of improving the bicycle facilities and was going to ask them to work with the neighborhood to address concerns that might arise about parking, for instance.

“He’s supportive of beginning the process with the neighbors. Because it’s such a heavily trafficked area, there’s going to need to be some significant community outreach and traffic studies,” said Partin. “He’d be very supportive of that, but he wants to make sure the study was thorough.”

Over the past year and a half the SFMTA has tinkered with various treatments to try to improve the conflict between cyclists and cars trying to enter the Arco gas station on Fell Street at Divisadero, including the recent green lane. A group of neighbors and advocates as part of Fix Fell Now! also held weekly protests at the Arco station.

This is the first time anyone with the power to change the street has spoken seriously about traffic studies and physical separation and the news caught even the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition by surprise. The SFBC recently announced its vision for a network of physically separated bike lanes, “Connecting the City,” which included a bi-directional, physically separated cycle track on Fell Street, but they had not heard from the Mayor or the SFMTA about a study.

“We would love to see a continuous separated bike way along the curb from Scott Street to the park,” said Renee Rivera, acting executive director of the SFBC. Rivera said Connecting the City had called for removing a travel lane and moving the parking off the curb so cyclists could ride without worrying about moving traffic or doors swinging open. According to Rivera, the SFBC would support the removal of parking rather than the travel lane because parking would not trigger environmental review under CEQA.

“The key thing is a buffered bike lane,” said Rivera.

Though Newsom’s term is ending in a few weeks and a traffic study and community outreach would take considerably longer, Brinkman said she was committed to following through with the SFMTA staff to test the feasibility of the protected lanes.

  • Cheryl,

    If you can get physically-separated bike lanes on the Three Blocks of Terror you will be a strong candidate for permanent Liveable Streets goddess status.

    Much love,

  • There are two large, expanding holes on Oak in the right lane (used by cyclist coming inbound.) They are both negligence from recent construction. One is between Broderick and Baker and has a large pipe sticking out. The other is between Divis and Scott and is getting deeper by the day. Someone is going to get killed or seriously injured by hitting one head-on and then getting hit from behind, or swerving at the last second and hit from the left.
    SFMTA please respond immediately. I called 311 yesterday and it’s still there.

  • Just for fun, someone should photoshop Newsom’s head on that guy in the suit.

  • Sprague

    Please build this cycletrack and many more throughout the city so that far more riders feel safe pedaling here.

  • David

    Jason – I crashed at that spot last week when they had the trench covered by metal plates when they had become nice and deadly slick from the rain. Called it in to 311 and was amazed that the hazards had seem to have not only doubled but become even harder to detect.

    Otherwise, I’ve been wondering how a buffered cycletrack design would deal with the residential and business curb cuts if it ran along the curb rather than down the middle of the street. I assume neighbors would pitch a fit if their garage access was taken away or even modified, but as a cyclist I don’t want to get trapped in the middle of traffic for 3 blocks either.

  • =v= Great ‘shopped photo up there. Likes like a cross between Reclaim the Streets and a rave.

  • Tetrapoda_Reptilia_Squamata_Lacertilia

    For a long time I’ve been asking SFBC about Oak on those three blocks and I was told 1) it’s not on the radar, 2) ride with the flow of traffic, or 3) use Hayes. I do #2 if I’m in a hurry, brave and/or fatalistic, but normally use #3. An Oak bike lane would be stellar for just those three blocks.

  • Let’s not just start rashly removing a few parking spaces here to make this street infinitely safer, I mean come on people–where the f*#S I gonna park you do that to me?

  • John R.

    When I wrote the SFMTA about the need for some kind of bicycling infrastructure on Oak, SFMTA told me the official route inbound from the Panhandle is up the hill on Baker, and left on Page to the Wiggle. This apparently sounds fine to them.

  • Al

    Curb cuts are curb cuts. They would work fine in the image above, between the pots (you could even make the barriers more substantial, with openings for curb cuts). The people living there will just have to get used to checking for cross traffic before entering their garages– not a big deal, really. Could put a small speed bump between the bike lane and traffic to discourage unsafe maneuvers, but I don’t even think it’s necessary.

    I wonder if they’ve considered a bi-directional path on Oak? That’s my favorite alternative.

  • Nick

    There are quite a few red zones on this part of Fell that were illegally painted over by motorists. The parking supply that would have to be removed is less than what it should be. There is something like 35 parking spaces…only 27 which are legal!

    One example: Fell at baker where cyclists wait for the light change. That used to be a red zone. A queuing area for cyclists. Now it’s a parking spot.

    The fight on this street is going to be over every inch of avaialble space. Why are we ceding area before the battle begins?

  • Seven

    Removing traffic lanes on Oak/Fell will kill my 16X bus commute downtown. It’s not possible for me to bike to work.

    Any solutions for us 16X commuters? I don’t like the looks of this.

  • Sprague

    Unless I am missing something, there is no proposal to remove either parking or a lane of traffic. The parking lane and the bike lane would just trade places.

  • Seven

    The artist’s rendition shows just two lanes of traffic, with parking on both sides. This would be a reduction in traffic lanes.

    Perhaps the artists rendition is inaccurate or I’m misinterpreting it? Can someone clarify?

  • Brenda

    Jason, David: I filed a 311 request today about that pothole on Oak between Divis and Scott, because I nearly wiped out on it this morning in the darkness. A supervisor from SF DPW followed up to let me know that the steel plates were removed because they sent someone to the ER (maybe that was you, David?), and that paving crews are dealing with the hole today. The DPW person was very polite and thorough, and assured me that they will keep an eye on the road conditions there.

  • @Sprague,
    The image is SFBC’s proposal, with no parking reduction, but the elimination of one travel lane. The SFMTA vaguely talked about removing parking as an easier fix, because it wouldn’t trigger CEQA. Removing the lane would have the added benefit of traffic calming (to the great consternation of drivers, I’m sure), but it would be a big lift. The SFMTA could hold a hearing on the parking and decide to remove it without CEQA analysis.

    Nothing has been put forward yet as the ideal, but the tradeoffs are being discussed.

  • Sprague –

    It would require repurposing of one lane due to the needed buffer and probably wider bike lane. A simple switch would leave a crammed, full door-zone lane with no sightlines for drivers accessing curb cuts.

    Seven –

    If the removal is of parking rather than a travel lane as apparently preferred by the SFBC, your travel time on the 16x would be unaffected, if not improved due to reduced stopping for parking.

    But in any case, we should advocate for a bus lane anyway because as a transit rider, you shouldn’t have to be bogged down by private auto traffic.

  • bosky

    Let’s not forget that the whole idea for these new separated bike lanes is to encourage more people to ride bikes instead of driving- thus significantly reducing traffic load. Hard to imagine but “if you build it, they will come”

  • leftcoaster

    This gets my vote. Fixing the Baker / Scott death strip on THE SF east / west bike freeway should be the biggest bike improvement priority in The City.

  • Sprague

    Matthew Roth and Aaron Bialick:

    Thank you for clarifying the matter of the proposed Fell Street cycletrack. (Only now did I see your comments.) I live on Hayes Street near this section of Fell and if a traffic lane on Fell were to be eliminated, there would probably be spillover traffic onto Hayes. From my point of view, this tradeoff would be worth it if the entire neighborhood benefits from much safer (and more attractive) cycling infrastructure. Ideally, in the section of Fell from Gough or Octavia to Scott (where the cycletrack would begin), one lane could be a bus only lane during the commute hours when the 16x is in operation. Then this project could be a win-win for both Muni riders and cyclists.

  • Justin

    They should do it. It would be much safer and it’s just taking out one lane. After all on both oak and fell between stanyan and baker there are 4 lanes. Taking one lane out would not hurt traffic at all. It would make the streets much safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

  • reZz

    the bigger problem is the gas stations at Fell and Davisadero Streets, not the traffic proximity.  drivers do not see the relationship between them taking the bike lane and cyclists using the next available lane.  safety will come from either putting a lane to the right of the “car track” in and out of the gas station or, as we do now, using the adjacent lane and being threatened and honked at.

    the problem is the city providing traffic facility for a private business.  i can see cars being given traffic rights of way at hospitals and schools, but do the big arrows pointing drivers in and out of the gas station THROUGH the existing bike lane not constitute a sweetheart deal by the city for a private business?


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