Folsom Street Road Diet Includes Bike Lanes, Bus Bulbs in the Mission

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A redesign of Folsom Street in the Mission District aimed at calming motor traffic and improving conditions for walking and bicycling is one step closer to becoming a reality. A proposal to add bike lanes and bus bulbs is now on its way to the SFMTA Board of Directors.

The street “was identified through the Eastern Neighborhoods process as a green axis, linking major parks and open spaces with a grand boulevard,” according to the Mission Streetscape Plan that is guiding the road diet proposal.

The project would take advantage of a re-paving opportunity to implement short-term lane striping changes from 13th to 24th Streets, laying the groundwork for the long-term construction of green medians developed in the plan from community meetings, said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose. Car-accessible travel lanes would be reduced from four to two wider lanes for buses while accommodating bike lanes, left-turn pockets, and sidewalk extensions at six bus stop corners, also known as bus bulbs.

Although the plan didn’t originally include bike lanes and would reduce planted median space, they were introduced based on feedback from six community workshops. Residents expressed “a lot of interest in calming Folsom Street and returning it to a family-friendly street that people can feel more comfortable walking and biking on,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “It can be done relatively quickly and cheaply, and that’s great.”

The Folsom Street bike lanes would also be welcome as the first continuous connection from the Mission to the existing bike lanes in SoMa, said Shahum. “The Harrison Street bike lane, which is just a couple of blocks over, is already really packed in the morning. It’s going to be great for the growing numbers of people riding to have a welcoming, safe route,” she said.

Ilaria Salvidori, an urban designer at the SF Planning Department’s City Design Group who is working on the Mission Streetscape Plan, emphasized the profound effect the proposed striping changes would have. “The road diet is the biggest step forward in the direction of changing the street,” she said.

The plan’s bus bulbs, which would also include new transit shelters, were particularly favored by WalkSF executive director Elizabeth Stampe at the proposal’s hearing. “I think [the proposal] really has the potential to transform Folsom. In some ways, it’s already a beautiful street – it’s got some of the best tree cover in the city,” said Stampe.

“But it’s very unwelcoming because it’s big and wide and cars travel fast on it, so it’s not much fun to walk on now, and I think this could be a change for the better,” she said.
Click to enlarge. Image: SF Planning Department
  • Run rail on Harrison (again), cancel the buses on Bryant and Folsom and make the latter a carfree canal street (with a bike/emergency vehicle/private disabled persons vehicle lane).

    I still have not seen a reply to my query about Valencia, see that the Bike Coalition seems to be happy with this as is and just now noticed that new bike lanes on 17th are the Semi-Door Zone variety.

  • Aaron Bialick

    Todd –

    I believe you’re describing Amsterdam? Don’t think they’ve got the robot bus boats yet though…

  • Amsterdam Shmamsterdam. No bus on Folsom. Canal. Robot boat operates in a loop, only moves when occupied or when called from boat bulb. Moves at about 10mph. Nobody drowns because it is so quiet that everyone – even inside buildings – could hear not just their screams but their last heart beat under water.

  • I must of missed something. Is this a joke?

    But anyway, this is 2011, the time for door-zone bike lanes is over. Either provide addequate buffer, a protected bike lane, or start making some real bike blvds. STOP feeding us this crap and telling us its gourmet. 8 to 80? Looks nice on paper and sounds nice as talking points, but these door-zone bike lanes ain’t going to cut it. It’s only going to piss off drivers and endanger cyclists.

  • nothing too interesting here, but wanted to refer to a few earlier comments.

    If separation from motorized traffic is based on prioritizing speed for motor vehicles and buses, then it should just be a standard: 30mph+ street and/or buses: separation. 20mph no separation.

    i’m not sure what the ‘prioritizing’ part of the sentence means, but the separation/protection about 20+ mph makes sense — that’s how they do it in civilized countries like the Netherlands.

    Still curious to hear bout the strange Valencia concept. No response to my query about it three weeks ago on the Connecting the City Facebook page.

    i haven’t looked at it in a while, but i’m assuming you’re talking about the center-running cycletrack. in general, i don’t like it — i assume they want to do it b/c all the ‘pedestrian bulbouts’ have made a cycletrack impossible — thus, the other common name for them — ‘cyclist push-outs’. but, who knows…maybe it’d at least be a step up from what’s there now…

    So logically, South Van Ness would be a more balanced choice for a bike lane.

    every street needs to be made walkable and bikable.

    Folsom goes into SoMa. South Van Ness goes into a gigantic hairball.

    agree — if this hairball can’t be made conducive to cycling (allow cycling in/around/through that area), then we have to tear it down.

    Yes, Folsom does go into SOMA but so do Harrison and Bryant. The problem is that those same streets that are two-way in the Mission become one-way in SOMA, so the elegant symmetry and continuity gets messed up anyway.

    agree — those one-ways can’t stand — SF likes to go both ways, baby!

    This would be a great opportunity to move the bike lanes to curbside, making the street safer for all.


    I hope as the plan shapes up, the City considers including bus bulb-outs that do not interfere with the bike lanes, like in the proposed Masonic Avenue plans:

    so yes, if you absolutely _have_ to have bulbouts, make them in such a way that they do not make cycling even more difficult than it already is in this town.

    Bicycles enjoy Valencia, Harrison, Hampshire, 14th, 17th, 18th, 22nd, 24th, and (unofficially) Precita to get around the Mission.

    if by ‘enjoy’ you mean that a very small percentage of the SF population would ever consider riding on those streets, then yes, bicycles do enjoy those streets.

    but i’ll stick w/ my previous comment that every single street/bridge/tunnel/etc. in the city needs to be made bikable for everyone/8-to-80/etc., not just some very small percentage of the population who are brave/crazy/whatever-enough to do it.

    <em.As more people take to the streets on bikes we have more people that do not know/follow the laws.

    that’s why we need to legalize normal, safe behavior, like cyclists running stop signs and red lights.

    as for outlaw motorist behavior, i don’t believe there’s any way to stop it, so eventually we’ll have to ban it outright.

    Oh, can Potrero Ave have this too?

    i think Potrero Ave is going to be reserved for extraordinarily large and fast-moving buses.

    If you look at the Mission, with the exception of Valencia, from Dolores to Harrison, literally every block is an enormous 4-lane highway.

    word to this. that’s part of why it’s so important to avoid using space for medians — if we are going to be taking highly-effective space away from cars, we can’t replace it with minimally-effective space for bikes — that just makes getting around more difficult for everyone, the exact opposite of what we want — we have to do thing right, so that we give mere mortals the chance to ride a bike, too.

    Read more comments…criticizing the SFBC for supporting this plan is absurd. This was not a bike route until the city saw an opportunity

    this is just a dumb thing to say. i and others here and not here, at the City, at the SFBC, indeed — everywhere, see opportunities all over the city all the time — the entire city needs to be remade — it needs to be made walk- and bike-friendly.

    obviously, the easiest thing to do would be to ban cars, trucks, and buses, but that’s not deemed feasible or desirable yet by enough folks, so we’ll just work to slowly give the city over to walkers and bikers, which will eliminate the need for cars.

    when we are redoing a street — whether for sewer or whatever — we have a responsibility to fix it right, not just put it back together in a slightly-less dysfunctional way.

    every redo/rework/job is an ‘opportunity’ — some don’t come up until brutally late in the design/whatever stage — fine — then shoe-horn in whatever you can, but this stuff is not rocket science — it’s easy — if in doubt, leave it out — no medians — simple. but instead of taking that philosophy, the city (and some residents!) seem hell-bent on installing more and bigger medians, to the detriment of bikers.

    I must of missed something. Is this a joke?

    i think the canal stuff is just a weird, unfunny joke — if that’s what you’re referring to.

    IDEA! Since the SFBC doesn’t have enough work to do! How about signing up a PR/Communications intern to be spokesperson for the SFBC in pulic forums? Like, they’re already on the Twitterosphere and the Facebooks, why not a little question-answering on dear ‘ol Streetsblog??

  • The Facts

    I think the reasonings in this thread that medians encourage speeding is false. Since when do drivers want to hit the curb? Never. It damages their car, and if I don’t see any sane driver who wants to damage their car. If there is a curb is on one side of the driver, and another car on the other side, plus a narrow lane, that will slow the driver down because they don’t want to hit anything. When they see the narrowness, they do slow down. Using the fear of head-on collisions to slow down traffic is stupid. What you are saying is that we should not install a median and allow head-on collisions to happen? That’s dumb. A head-on collision is one of the worst types of collisions anyone can get into. If I had a choice between preventing head-on collisions and speeding, I would choose to prevent head-on collisions any day.

    The greenery makes the street look nicer as a whole. Just because you can’t have a picnic in the median doesn’t mean it doesn’t improve the quality of the street AS A WHOLE.

    I can see the point in not having a median on Folsom St since it’s only 1 lane in each direction. However, Masonic (since people are using that as an example) is a 4 lane road with 2 lanes in each direction connecting several neighborhoods. In fact, it’s the only road connecting through some of these neighborhoods too. Folsom would better be served with smaller medians broken up along the blocks.

    I think it’s pretty low and a crime to think that we should not be giving pedestrians a refuge on a street like Masonic. If they are crossing a 4 lane roadway, it’s much easier for a pedestrian to cross 2 lanes at a time and look for auto traffic in one direction at a time. How is that not making it easier to cross Masonic? And before you start your “anti-car, every street should be 1 lane” argument, Masonic needs 4 lanes due to the reasons above – it’s the only street connecting several neighborhoods, so it’s going to need more than 1 lane in each direction, and a major cross-town bus line and allowing left turns will block 1 lane of traffic at the intersections.

  • I think the reasonings in this thread that medians encourage speeding is false. Since when do drivers want to hit the curb?

    did you even bother to read any of the comments, or the study, or the page?

    if you’re interested in narrow lanes, there are plenty of ways to make that happen without using medians — namely, by providing cycletracks so bikes can use this street too. or, at a minimum, provide bike lane buffers.

    or move the car parking to the middle of the street so it’s drivers that are endangering other drivers instead of endangering bikers.

    and if you think that medians should be used to prevent head-on collisions, then why not have them on every street?

    and if you think you only need them on 4-car-lane streets (2 auto lanes in each direction), why? is it because you recognize that having 2 auto lanes going in either direction induces speeding, and the only thing slowing drivers down is their fear of getting rammed head-on by other drivers speeding in the other direction? that’s why we don’t want multiple auto lanes in the same direction — it induces speeding and other outlaw behavior — we’re not going to tolerate it in SF.

    if you’re so concerned about left turns (which seems a bit weird to me, but whatever), then convert the 4-lane roadway into 3-auto-lanes-plus-2-bike-lanes, with a center/suicide/turn lane, and left turn pockets at intersections — simple — no raised median required, and every mode is accommodated at least a little bit.

  • oh – sorry – one more thing — a lot of our streets are HUGE. look at that picture — it’s insane how wide our streets are. when Euro planners see them, they’re like, “Dang, amigos! Y’all got some hella wide streets out here!” (That’s actually how they talk.)

    Well, that provides opportunities and problems. Opportunities for easily-implementable, wide cycletracks, and an opportunity to ask for and get too little. Left alone, of course, people speed through.

    Down here in SJ, we have a beautiful street called The Alameda (basically, a continuation of El Camino Real) — beautiful street — very similar to Folsom in a lot of ways — big sidewalks, big trees, but super-wide street with 2+ lanes going in either direction, a middle/suicide/turn lane, and occasional raised medians — I was sitting at the Chipotle (streetview), stuffing my face, looking out the window facing the street, and saw these two dudes look up and down the street a few times, timidly ease out into the street, then they ran across the street — two grown dudes — probably late 20s or so. That’s the environment that multi-lane highways create when they’re jammed into an urban setting. It was at night, and there’s a crosswalk, but these guys recognized, correctly, that the street was dangerous — that cars were not going to be interested in slowing down.

    The noise of the traffic destroys the sidewalk scene, the potential for outdoor street life. If and when we get full-on cycletracks on this street, it’s gonna be banging, but I expect it’s going to require a lot of work to convince advocates that we need cycletracks. I’m not worried about DOT/city/state officials — they’ll come around — but advocates? Not so sure about that.

    If you look at a Gmap of the street, you’ll notice the map is somewhat accurate in showing the center median exists on at least parts of the street — a raised center median effectively turns any street into a ‘one-way couplet’ — two one-way streets, right next to each other — and you get all the horrible things that one-way streets bring, not the least of which are speeding and noise. On one particularly-busy part of the street (about a half mile north), they did something interesting — they built a tunnel underneath the road — a little underground gerbil run/rape-and-robbery terminal. I’ve never been down there, but I’m sure it feels very inviting.

    And I’ve driven this street in the morning — people wait at other non-signalized crosswalks along the road — you think drivers stop for them? Heck no — I doubt most drivers even know they’re supposed to stop for people.

    Point is – we can’t have these gargantuan, impenetrable roads — roads need to connect people, not keep us separated from one another. We need cycletracks and at max, one auto-only lane in either direction. The city has to serve people, not cars, and the city needs to serve walkers and bikers first, in that priority order.

    [And we get the obligatory cyclist on the sidewalk, b/c you know ain’t nobody gonna ride out on a street with multiple car-only lanes and a raised center median.]

  • The Facts

    Did you bother reading the comments, study, etc? It says medians are useful for some and not all streets. Cycletracks are already part of the Masonic plan. Again, I never said putting medians on every street is a good idea. If you read, and stop doing this stupid point by point nitpicking of everyone’s comment, maybe you would actually read and understand what I’m writing and stop shoving words into my mouth.

    A 4 lane roadway doesn’t always induce speeding. It only induces speeding if there is extra capacity on the street. If there is a lot of traffic, drivers will slow down. If the street is signalized, well-timed signals can also help reduce speeding. Stop making such generalized statements.

    4 lanes to 3? Now, you’re contradicting yourself. First, you say we should narrow the street to reduce the wide-open feel, and now you are saying we should leave a wide open space in the middle. This can induce speeding. Also what happens when someone is making a left turn or a bus is stopping to pick-up/drop-off passengers? Everyone is stuck and only encourages more aggressive driving to speed up to make up for the lost time…which means more speeding and red light running. In Masonic’s case, 4 lanes is needed for safe travel.

    The reason why people speed on The Alameda is because it has the wide-open feel that a median would help reduce that feel. Those 2 dudes crossing the street wouldn’t have to run if there was a median – they could cross 1 direction at a time as I mentioned before. The 35MPH speed doesn’t help much either.

    It all comes down to a balance as you mentioned. However, your anti-car scenario is not realistic as cars will always be needed by some people. There is no large major thriving city in the world that has all its streets having only 1 lane. Yes, not even Amsterdam or Copenhagen which many here love to use as model cities.

  • Peter Smith: The canal idea is not a joke, not at all. I would assume there is a constant water source in Bernal Hill and of course there is one underground roughly around 14th and 15th streets. If there is a grade variation on Folsom then the canal surface would just be deeper in places. If there is an ice age: Ice-skating!

  • If you read, and stop doing this stupid point by point nitpicking of everyone’s comment, maybe you would actually read and understand what I’m writing and stop shoving words into my mouth.

    i read this first paragraph, and the rest of your comment, and honestly — it makes no sense to me — it’s just meaningless gibberish, accusations, denunciations, deliberations, and seemingly, libations. i’m guessing you’re just upset that some people want to be able to bike on this street..?? whatever the case, you’re gonna have to get used to it — we’re taking over the spot.

    i did manage to find a cool little video showing how disastrous medians — raised blocks of cement placed in the middle of busy thoroughfares — can be. firetrucks and ambulances blocked, making crazy, evasive maneuvers into oncoming traffic just to get around said blocks of cement. smart.

    Streets are for cars! Uh, no.

    Streets are for people? Um, negative.

    Streets are for…cement? Yes! Bingo. Now you’re starting to think like an MTA engineer. You have a bright future at the MTA, young driver.

  • The Facts

    Wow Peter Smith. I knew you would resort to personal attacks now that you can’t seem to accept…the facts (ha ha)…about medians. Why am I not surprised?

    As for the video, looks more like a bad design/communication to me. Anything not designed right or communicated properly isn’t going to work well. Just because there’s one bad apple doesn’t mean they are all bad. I find it interesting that you point to a CBS2 story who Streetsblog (on 2/11/11) reports that their news reports on transportation tend to be biased, factually wrong, sloppy and sensational. Looks like they are continuing that trend with this video.

    No MTA for me. Nice try though. I’m just looking at the big picture and all the facts combined with logic. Something you should try.

  • thielges

    Peter – Your comment about that ghastly underground pedestrian crossing in the Rosegarden on The Alameda reminds me that the funding for these sort of “pedestrian improvements” is a charade. These improvements aren’t for pedestrians. Who would want to walk up and down a staircase just to cross a street ?

    Pedestrians prefer a cheap simple at-grade signalized crosswalk. The real reason these expensive grade separations are built is for the benefit of motorists so they don’t need to stop when a pedestrian wants to cross the street. Yet the funding for these so called pedestrian “improvements” often comes from monies earmarked for pedestrians.

    So these sorts of structures are somewhat of an embezzlement of pedestrian funds.

    A similar situation occurs when a streetcar track is routed below or above a street. That massive aerial station and crossing of VTA’s LRT at Hamilton near Hwy 17. comes to mind. That must have cost tens of millions more than a gated level crossing. Who benefits ? Transit riders would prefer a ground level station but the grade separation provides one less reason that motorists need to stop.

    I’m not saying that grade separation is a bad idea. Just that it should not be funded by monies earmarked for alternative transportation.

  • I’m ringing in late on this thread, things heated up in the comments after the initial post and I’m just now returning to the fray. I think we’ll have similar exchanges for a while as we work through the pile of “conventional” bike lane projects (Bike Plan projects and “opportunity” lanes like Folsom) towards true 8-to-80 bikeways across the city. The SFBC’s Connecting the City initiative isn’t meant to be an ultimatum — separated bikeways or nothing — but a visionary roadmap of complete crosstown bike routes, focusing on a few specific segments to get them implemented quickly and well as a model of what the rest of the city can look like. If we stopped and fought for separated bikeways on every project that comes along we’d get ~nothing~ done — we’d slow down the Folsom Street project for a year and not achieve a Fell-Oak cycletrack this year or next.

    SFMTA is showing real hustle and energy as they implement bike projects, upgrading “conventional” bike lanes like Division and Laguna Honda with buffers and bollards (watch for a really sweet Alemany East bike lane soon), and grabbing opportunities (via routine repavement work) to establish bike lanes on non-network streets like Folsom and Marina Blvd (this is a big change, they used to be very much bound to bike routes for making bike facility improvements). The SFBC supports this hustle and applauds new bike lane mileage wherever it’s being added; we’ll work to guide these bike lane projects to be as good as they can be, but we’re happy to have a good bike lane on Folsom where there is none now, and focus our main energies on getting a truly great bikeway on Fell & Oak ASAP, that’s going to be hard enough without fighting over potential incremental improvements to a windfall Folsom St bike lane.

    Todd, I’ve posted some thoughts on a Valencia St center-running bikeway at the CtC Facebook page, take a look and we can carry on that conversation over there:

  • Southvannesstraffic

    It is used regularly by many. Sounds like an attempt to get the bus off of your street and shift it to another street. Shall we make Folsom a private st?


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