Mayor Lee Calls on SFMTA to Move Quickly on Fell Street Protected Bikeway

The current bike lane on Fell Street would be transformed into a curbside cycletrack. Image: RG Architecture for SFBC.
The current bike lane on Fell Street would be transformed into a curbside cycletrack. Image: RG Architecture for SFBC.

Mayor Ed Lee’s comments to Streetsblog earlier this week that he would like to “quickly” see a physically-separated bike lane trial on Fell Street along The Wiggle came as exciting news to bicycle advocates who are proposing a continuous green stretch along the curb from Scott to Stanyan Streets.

“I want to get to that experiment on Fell Street quickly because I’d like to see how these lanes that we are dedicating would be away from the open doors, and away from fast traffic,” the Mayor told Streetsblog.

Both Fell and Oak, which run adjacent as one-way arterials, present an ideal opportunity to build San Francisco’s first parking-protected bike lanes, and to begin restoring some of the safety and civility the neighborhoods knew before traffic engineers began turning the quiet streets into residential freeways.

“We’re encouraged to hear Mayor Lee’s interest in making Fell Street safer and more inviting for everyone, and look forward to working with the city to help get this bikeway on the ground,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum.”Creating a physically separated bikeway on both Fell and Oak Streets will be essential to connecting our city with safer streets and helping more people of all ages to feel comfortable and confident biking.”

Bicycle advocates have urged the SFMTA to experiment with a physically-separated lane on Fell Street, especially on the three blocks of Fell between Scott and Baker. Those blocks currently connect the popular Wiggle bike route with the multi-use Panhandle Park path for points further west, as well as connections north and south.

Cyclists cite the ongoing hazards of traveling along fast-moving traffic and maneuvering around vehicles that fully or partially block the bike lane, especially at the entry to the Arco gas station at Divisadero. Although car and bicycle traffic moves more smoothly through that area since the SFMTA installed new lane configurations, difficulties remain. Bike riders also have to watch for car doors swinging open on other portions of Fell.

A rendering of one recommended option on Fell Street from ## the City.##

Despite those conditions, the route has become very popular since being striped over a decade ago, because it is a major east-west connection. Ridership has nearly doubled on that portion of The Wiggle in recent years. According to the latest SFMTA data, 52,055 people rode on Fell Street between Scott and Divisadero last September. Most of those rides took place in the evening commute hours, when the street is busiest and the bike lanes are most often obstructed.

The very popularity of the route has caused some consternation among other users of the Panhandle Path, especially older pedestrians and parents with young kids. Fast-spinning bicyclists and walkers easily get in each other’s way and conflicts appear regularly on the narrow mixed-use path. In this case, non-bicyclists are becoming strong supporters of a separated bike lane on Fell, if the new facility reduces fast bike traffic on the multi-use path.

“A physically separate bikeway up Fell street would be a tremendous benefit to the Panhandle,” said Jarie Bolander of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA). “Not only would it provide a safe way for bicyclists to commute east and west, but it also calms traffic and would make it more pleasant to stroll in the Panhandle. In addition, the Panhandle needs some major upgrades and this project is a great way to bring focus on those efforts.”

The SFBC is urging the SFMTA to install green physically-separated bike lanes from Scott to Stanyan on Fell and Oak, acting as a couplet for bike traffic. The changes would look similar to the several blocks of green separated bike lanes on Market Street, but could utilize parked cars instead of soft-hit posts to separate vehicle traffic from bicyclists.

The SFBC proposes two options for addressing the safety problem. The first would be to remove the parking on the south side of Fell and the north side of Oak to permit space for bike lanes, using a design almost identical to the popular bike lanes on Market Street.

The alternative would be to keep the parking but convert the curbside space into a bike lane, reduce the number of lanes on Fell and Oak from three to two between Scott and Baker, and from four to three lanes between Baker and Stanyan. It would  allow cars to park along the outside of the bike lane with a five-foot buffered space between the bike lane and parked cars.

Grand Street in Manhattan. Photo: ## New York##

It took a matter of days to install a similar treatment on Grand Street in New York, which now has 14.8 miles of protected bikeways, compared to less than a mile for San Francisco. The Grand Street lane is about a mile long and provides a crosstown connection leading from downtown Manhattan to the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. The Fell and Oak improvements would be similar and just as easy to do.

The option to maintain parking is one that will probably be favored most by residents concerned about tight parking in the neighborhoods. It would also benefit people on foot because it could be accompanied by bulbouts and other pedestrian-friendly treatments at intersections, making it easier and safer to cross Fell and Oak Street.

The area is a prime location to experiment with the proposed design, which has also been successful in Vancouver and Portland. It also works well because there are generally few residential curb cuts and driveways along the proposed green bike lanes. In spots where curb cuts do exist, the bike lanes would become dashed.

The Arco station presents several complications, and any solution will likely yield less-than-perfect results, but advocates believe city officials can eventually get rid of the curb cuts at the troublesome location. For now, though, the SFBC’s recommendation is to have the curbside bike lane become dashed where it crosses the curb cuts, and allow drivers to queue up in a left turn-lane on the outer side of the bike lane.

The city has recently shown more willingness to experiment with innovative projects and avoid the great-study-on-the-shelf syndrome. Mini-parks and parklets throughout the city have earned rave reviews among early skeptics and changes to lane configurations have always been a feature of traffic in the city.

The SFBC, neighborhood leaders, and other livability advocates hope – and urge – the city to adopt the separated bike lanes on Fell and Oak to improve safety and traffic flow for all road users.

This story is a collaborative piece from Streetsblog San Francisco and BIKE NOPA, a website that’s “all about bicycling and livability in San Francisco’s North Panhandle neighborhood.”

  • Mike

    For the gas station issue, you should take a close look at 8th Ave between W. 13th and Horatio in NYC. There, a protected bike lane passes by the entrance to a much-used gas station. What the city did is basically add a wide service road, about 13-15′ wide, with sharrows, separated from the thru lanes by a concrete median. In that section, cars accessing the gas station mix with bikes, and do so slowly. The treatment has generally been a success.

    Unfortunately, Google Maps satellite view doesn’t show the bike path yet (it just shows the former non-protected bike lane), but you should be able to get the idea from street view, which is newer.

  • Mike
  • Seven

    The second SFBC option (reducing the number of lanes) would significantly delay the crosstown commute for the Muni 16X bus. Thousands daily depend on the 16X to get to their jobs downtown.

    Why all the hate for Muni riders, SFBC?

  • John Murphy

    Seven – do you have a link to anything supporting your assertion?

  • Seven

    John Murphy, I have nothing but common sense and experience behind my assertion that removing a lane on Fell will significantly slow the vital Muni 16X commute downtown.

    Given the lack of data in this article, what would you like me to provide?

  • Caleb

    Reducing the number of lanes does not necessarily lead to constricted movement or slower traffic. In fact, some times the opposite is true. Anecdotally, I’ve witnessed times when, on Oak street just east of Shrader, the usual 4 lanes were reduced to 3, traffic actually flowed more smoothly and more consistently with the speed limit due to less lane changing, fewer lane count transitions, and delaying of cars merging off of Shrader until near the end of the signal cycle.

    You can also see this effect on some 2-way roads which have undertaken a “road diet” where 2 lanes in each direction are replaced with 1 lane in each direction with a left turn zone in the middle. Removing the turning queue from traffic actually reduced congestion in the main flow lane, more than compensating for the lost travel lane.

    More lanes does not necessarily mean more capacity in the sense of vehicles-per-time.

  • Seven, I’m sure your heart lies with those poor Muni folks. I have nothing but common sense and sarcasm to back up my assertion.

  • Seven

    mikesonn, why all the hate for Muni riders?

  • Oh Seven, I hear there is a nice site you may enjoy.

    Dude, I AM A Muni RIDER! I depend heavily on Muni. I also depend heavily on my bike. And walking. And talking. This is not hate for Muni riders, my god. You should be out there asking every driver why they hate Muni and feel the need to slow it down with their 2-ton space waster to carry their lone self on the same route that is served by a Muni express route. My goodness man.

  • And on that same note, we are all Muni riders. Go to SFGate if you want to bitch at people for not caring about Muni. How about we move pass your “nothing but common sense and experience” approach and have a rational discussion about the pro’s and con’s of providing safe, dignified bicycle infrastructure on a heavily used bike route.

    I think we’ll all be able to see on-time performance of the 16x in a couple months. And, heaven forbid, the sky does fall, you’ll have actual numbers to back up your assertions.

  • On second thought, telling you to go to SFGate isn’t fair. But I do feel strongly about being accused personally, and this blog being accused, of not caring about Muni. It is meant to stifle debate and it has no place here. If you feel Muni isn’t being given a fair shake, that is one thing, but to say there is “hate for Muni riders” is just ignorant and false.

  • I am excited to hear that Ed Lee is moving forward on this. The solutions mentioned in this article would be an excellent improvement. Why the city is so scared to shut down two out of four curb cuts for a company that has created the worst environmental disaster in United States history is beyond me, though…

    Aaron emailed me for a quote for this article which didn’t appear in the article, which is fine, but I might as well put my quote in the comments section here:
    The residents will benefit from improvements by being respected as human beings. They will be able to walk safely and breathe fresh air outside of their homes. They will be spared stressful traffic and honking noise while trying to relax inside. Their children will be able to play outside. These are basic human rights issues.

  • jd

    I think this is a fantastic idea, and a great place to show-off the first protected bike lane in San Francisco. Great to see the mayor behind it.

    I feel that they should remove a lane of traffic rather than a lane of parking though, since lack of parking is actually a symptom of too many cars on the roads. So you get to the source of the problem when you limit the cars on the road. Although, as others have pointed out, it’s not even clear that going from 3 to 2 lanes will make traffic worse, especially since the lights are timed on Fell anyway. Further, I’m a huge believe in the concept of: make driving suck while simultaneously making other options (public transit, bicycling, and walking) better, and many people will stop driving and the level of traffic will eventually stabilize at the same level as it was when it was 3 lanes.

    So remove a lane of traffic and put the bike lane on the other side of the parked cars with a 3-4 foot buffer (painted or otherwise) between the bike lane and the parked cars (this is key!), and this will definitely encourage people to cycle. And if they extend it alongside the panhandle (which I think they should do), I think many cyclists will take it instead of the multi-use path through the panhandle; I know I would. Also, they should make sure that driveway entrances are sufficiently daylighted with regards to parked cars so that drivers don’t turn quickly into the driveways and not realize there is bicyclists on the other side of the parked cars.

  • taomom

    Since west of Baker there is very rarely congestion, maybe it makes sense to take away a lane of parking from Scott to Baker, and then take away a lane of traffic from Baker to Stanyan.

    I will miss riding through the trees and grass of the Panhandle, but the buffer of the parked cars should help reduce the noise and fumes of the car traffic to a bearable level. Am curious how the Fell bike lane will get across Stanyan and onto JFK? And from Oak how to turn right onto Scott? (I guess just stop and cross with Scott southbound traffic?)

    At last the reign of the Three Blocks of Terror is coming to an end. I forecast a spring of great bicycle happiness.

  • Nick

    People will now be freaking out about their precious cars being “too close” to fast moving Fell traffic.

    Bicyclists are not being selfish when they demand safe travel conditions. Fell has been a dehumanizing experience for thousands of cyclists each day.

  • jd

    taomom: good idea regarding using Baker as the dividing line between taking away a lane of traffic or a lane of parking.

    And I agree about missing riding through the greenery of the panhandle. I would also add that it’s so nice to be around people — whether walking, on a bicycle, or just hanging out — than dealing with the noise, danger, and pollution that accompany cars. So I too would prefer to ride through the panhandle, but if you’re on the other side of parked cars, you’ll pretty much already be in the panhandle with only a curb between you and it. You can just look slightly left and there is the whole park. Not as good as being right in it, but close.

    The thing I dislike about this discussion of Fell St bike lanes is: how come nobody ever talks about going back east on Oak St!?!? That totally sucks. As sketchy as it is, at least Fell St has a bicycle lane. Oak St, on the other hand, has zip. So why aren’t we talking about that as well? It’s like we’re designing a two-way road but only considering one direction. And I would argue that Oak is a bigger problem anyway.

    Of course, going east requires bicycles to cross Oak St at some point to get to the Wiggle, so it will not be as straightforward. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. I think you either have to have bicyclists cross Oak St at Scott, or way back at Stanyan (assuming the bike lane on Oak runs from Stanyan to Scott). Personally, since crossing Oak will probably require bicycles to stop or nearly stop, I think Stanyan is better for this since you don’t have any speed at this point (in fact, you are going slightly up hill here if coming from JFK Drive); it would suck to have to stop at Scott after coming down the big hill on Oak St. Plus, crossing Oak down by Scott is more “in the middle” of the Oak St Freeway where traffic is already used to treating the road like a freeway. Back up at Stanyan, since it is a big intersection with lots of bicycle and pedestrian traffic, drivers are more aware of other road users and so it is a better place to force the crossing. So it would require some creative thinking, but you just force cyclists to cross at Stanyan and then run the bike lane all the way down the right side (on the outside of parked cars) to Scott.

  • jd

    Nick wrote: “People will now be freaking out about their precious cars being ‘too close’ to fast moving Fell traffic.”

    Hah. So true. But it might then give them some empathy with what cyclists have to put up with routinely, and that in turn might actually lead to better bicycle infrastructure. It will also highlight just how insane it is to have such fast-moving traffic in the middle of our cities, especially in a highly residential area, especially one that is surrounding by a huge park. It’s high time car drivers start taking a little of their own medicine; it’s already crazy enough that car drivers think other more vulnerable road users have to put up with their danger, pollution, and noise.

  • the greasybear

    Like other cyclists who love riding the Panhandle trail, I’m loathe to give up the most beautiful bike path in the city. For a separated lane on Oak from the Wiggle to the park, however, I’m willing to make the trade. Pedestrians win, cyclists win, and motorists will adjust.

  • Belgand

    I live a block off of Fell and I bike regularly and I really fail to understand the need to have a new bike lane along the Panhandle. Yes, there are problems with people walking along the path, but it’s a solved problem: the path along Oak is pedestrian-only. Just move to the other side of the park and everything is solved. Cyclists have a nice, protected roadway and pedestrians have one as well. Just post more signs and the problem will correct itself.

    A protected bike lane along the Wiggle would be great though. Whenever there’s a bike lane in this city it’s almost always filled with some asshole double-parking in it. Too many drivers seem to believe that bike lanes aren’t real or something and are just an extension of the parking lane. We really need to step up enforcement of this most entitled of crimes that clogs our streets for everyone. I once had the fun of being on an N-Judah that was stopped for 15 minutes because of some jerk who double-parked and blocked the tracks. No matter what form of transit you’re using double-parkers will find a way to make it worse on an almost daily basis.

  • Walter


    You can’t just move pedestrians to the Oak Street side path in the Panhandle, because they (we) won’t go. The Panhandle is a recreational area and so the idea that any part of it should be segregated and available to only one group of park user is repugnant.

    Since, as GreasyBear states, it’s the most beautiful bike path (note, not lane) in the City, then why not relax, slow down, enjoy the view and learn to share?

    If you object to car-only lanes in GGPark, then you should object to bike-only paths in the Panhandle.

  • We at the Wigg Party are really excited about Mayor Lee’s position on this issue. Hopefully we’ll see more follow through than we got from the last Mayor.

    As for the debate about taking away either a lane of traffic or parking between Scott and Baker, we advocate for the disputed lane to be a “flex lane” – traffic during the day, and parking at night. This should satisfy all parties.

    Additionally, we feel that a separated line along the Panhandle is a big win for everyone. It wouldn’t mean that cyclists would be barred from using the mixed-use path, but it would likely ensure that the vast majority of the bike traffic would be out of the park and on the street (particularly when you remember that there will be an identical protected path on Oak St. as well).

    We’re looking forward to hashing out these small details and finally finding a solution to possibly one of the most crucial and one of the most dangerous sections of our bicycle infrastructure.

  • Several months ago I found myself frustrated by the mixed-use path through the panhandle. As a cyclist, I’m allowed on only one of the two paths, but pedestrians seem to overwhelmingly choose the Fell Street path.
    So I started running on the Oak Street path as a research project. It turns out, there are a number of differences; most strikingly, 1) the Fell St. path is much better maintained (fewer bumps, no discontinuities in paving), and 2) the Fell St. path is better landscaped (I would go so far as to say “prettier”). So I get why pedestrians want to use the Fell St. path.
    Regarding the Fell St. lanes, these days I don’t have much of a problem at Arco — the last few times I’ve riden past, the cars were queued up along the curb, leaving the bike lane free. I’ve had a few near-collision experiences at the driveway between Divisadero and Broderick, though. Drivers either make a sudden left turn across the bike lane without looking (motivated in part by being in high-speed traffic and not wanting to get rear-ended, I’m guessing), or pull in slowly, corking up bike lane traffic. This has me thinking about a post on Streetsblog several months ago putting forth the theory that bike lanes are not good urban design because conflicts are built into their designs.
    Finally, is it just me, or does the bike lane narrow in its last few feet, approaching the intersection of Divisadero & Baker? Maybe it’s just that large trucks tend to park there, but I often feel like I’m merging with the lane of traffic next to me going into that intersection, which is scary.
    I really appreciate all the ideas and energy for making this stretch safer — and I love the idea of a protected bike lane all the way to Stanyan. What if Oak and Fell both went two-way again, with one street bikes-only??

  • Nick

    If all else fails, couldn’t they reduce congestion on the Panhandle Path by ALLOWING cyclists on the south side path?

    There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why not to. (Similar to how cyclists are banned from both sidepaths along MLK Drive. Some of us want to go slow and take our time you know.)

  • janel

    Thank you Mayor Lee!

    I hope this project actually does move quickly and connects to GG Park to relieve bike/ped congestion in the panhandle.

  • SF Amputee

    I depend on Muni because I’ve had one of my legs amputated.

    While I respect the right of bicyclists to share the roads (when the bicyclists abide by the same traffic laws that drivers do; yes, I’m talking about all of you stop sign runners!), it makes *zero* sense to remove a vital lane of travel on Oak or Fell.

    The number of cars and buses that use Fell and Oak Street everyday *far* exceeds the number of bicycles, and removing a lane of travel would greatly increase the amount of traffic congestion on those roads (just look at the ten minute backups that have occurred at rush hour when construction has closed one lane at various times over the past few months). To make things worse, moving vans, delivery trucks, vehicles turning right or left and blocked by pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. are frequently blocking one lane of traffic already at various times.

    Mayor Lee!!!!: We need to consider what makes sense for the most people in this city, not just special interest groups like the bike coalition.

    Besides, bicyclists who do not feel comfortable with the cars on Oak/Fell can continue to use Hayes or Page/Haight as they already frequently do. Please do not cripple the movement of traffic through the city.

  • I Cycle

    Stupid, F-ed up idea that will screw up traffic to benefit folks who (if they had an ounce of sense) would use Hayes to transit between Baker and Scott, in both directions. But no, let’s spend money we don’t have to try an experiment that we already know won’t work, and end up further alienating non-cyclists. Sweet!

  • Michael

    @the previous two commenters: first, no reason to pit transit against cycling. Both contribute to reduced emissions, better urban form, and increased social equity through more affordable transportation options.

    That said, Fell/Oak serve a very minor role for Muni, with only a boutique rush hour express service running one-way for an hour or two each day. Nowhere near the volume of cyclists moving through all day in that corridor. Hayes and Haight, by contrast, are busy Muni routes throughout the day and increased traffic of any kind (bike or otherwise) might actually hamper service.

    If we’re really serious about improving Muni service, the conversation needs to move to also giving buses a dedicated lane on Fell/Oak in the peak direction during rush hour, in addition to building this critical piece of bike infrastructure.

  • Belgand


    As I said, I live on Hayes. I walk through the Panhandle constantly because it’s the only way to get around. At the same time I also bike through it because, well, it’s one of the very few protected bike paths in the city and happens to be part of what is probably the most important East-West corridor for cyclists in the city and is only a block off from my apartment.

    My point isn’t about it being segregated (although is it also so repugnant that the Oak side path is segregated for the exclusive use of pedestrians?), but that this is a completely unnecessary action that just hurts everyone and creates needless duplication. If we need to have a bike-only path it makes more sense to use the existing path that is already overwhelmingly used by cyclists. If pedestrians are complaining about the massive bicycle traffic they should use the Oak street path (which is what I do currently, it seems far more polite). Taking away a lane of traffic just to provide another bike lane, one that runs on the street next to cars and is subject to traffic lights seems pointless. Even if it is enacted you probably won’t see much use of it because of the aforementioned lights. I’m not saying that we need to force pedestrians to one of the two paths, but I will say that it’s the more reasonable option and that, in my personal opinion, it’s more courteous for them to use it and leave the Fell path to cyclists rather than obstinately insisting on getting in people’s way. How about at least putting up signs warning “Fast-moving bicycle traffic. Pedestrians urged to use Oak Street path.”

    Is it beautiful? Do I care? I’m not a fan of “natural beauty” to begin with, but it’s certainly not a reason I’m picking it. I ride along it because it’s out of traffic and because it’s the most convenient possible route for me to take. And it clearly IS a bike lane. That’s the reason why it’s striped as one and why there’s a little “exit lane” striped in at Schrader to direct cyclists onto the lane that leads into the park, complete with bicycle-only traffic light.

    It’s not an issue of being unable to share. I share the road all the time and have absolutely no problem with it. I come to a complete stop at all signs and lights, I use signals, I don’t cut between lanes of traffic or do anything that a car wouldn’t do. At the same time there’s an issue of common courtesy. If you’re walking along a major bike route it seems reasonable to keep slower traffic to one side and not crowd both sides of the path for yourself. Pay attention to your surroundings. Look both ways before trying to cross the North-South path through the park so you don’t jump out in front of someone. These are all the same rules that all traffic should follow whether on the path or on the street.

    “If you object to car-only lanes in GGPark, then you should object to bike-only paths in the Panhandle.”

    Where the objection to car-only lanes in Golden Gate Park comes from I don’t know. I have absolutely no objection to it. Actually I have an objection to Sunday Streets (and, no, I don’t own a car) which I see as fairly repugnant and exclusionary. Turning over a major car route to the exclusive use of pedestrians and cyclists is no better than pedestrians trying to force cyclists off of the Panhandle path. No one form of transit is better than any other and I use all of them depending on the circumstances. It’s just too hard to find parking in this town and owning a car is far too much hassle. I don’t ride a bike or use public transit because I think it’s inherently superior, just more sensible given the circumstances.

    As for transit along Hayes, as I said, I live on Hayes. There really isn’t much traffic along it. Honestly the majority of traffic comes from Muni who isn’t held up so much by traffic as they are by an inordinate number of stops between Divisadero and Masonic (they cut stops west of Masonic last year, but only used this as a means of removing the two or three stops that actually had shelters… so no shelters anymore aside from the useless one at the outbound stop on Shrader, i.e. the end of the line) which occur at every block. Car and bike traffic really aren’t going to make any impact on what are generally quiet residential streets. Seriously, 80% of the traffic is either from Muni or ambulances coming and going to St. Mary’s.

    This really needn’t even be an issue, aside from putting in the useful protected bike lane for the three blocks of Fell along the Wiggle: cars drive along the three existing lanes of traffic, bikes ride on the north (Fell side) path through the Panhandle, pedestrians walk along the south (Oak side) path through the Panhandle, and Muni uses Hayes, Haight, and Fulton. Rather than wasting time and money on a pointless new idea to solve a non-existent problem we should just learn to work with what we have now. The solution is here already.

  • John Murphy

    “Like other cyclists who love riding the Panhandle trail, I’m loathe to give up the most beautiful bike path in the city.”

    Please come to Bernal/Mission sometime, and enjoy the “natural beauty” of the bike path going EB under 101 at Cesar Chavez!

  • Sprague

    The Wigg Party’s position of having the left auto lane of Fell between Scott and Baker be used as a “flex lane” (moving cars by day and parking cars by night) seems like a good way to help get this project to fly and satisfy all road users. If travel lanes on this stretch of Fell are reduced to two (instead of the flex lane option), a bus only lane (during the already very limited times when the 16X is operating outbound) from Gough until the lane reduction at Scott would help keep Muni riders moving past much of the traffic congestion this project may cause.

    For longer distance bike commuters or cyclists in a rush, a protected path continuing alongside the Panhandle would be of great use. Furthermore, the stretch of Fell from Baker to Stanyan would benefit nicely from a road diet. This would likely result in slower and safer vehicle speeds and less lane changing (a plus for safety, I imagine). Also, park users of the Panhandle would benefit from having auto traffic moved a further twelve feet or so away from the northern boundary. This would result in a slightly quieter park experience with slightly cleaner air.

    Ideally a Fell Street protected bike lane from Baker to Stanyan would be designed in such a way that cyclists would not have to stop at each red light (except for at Masonic, of course). Such a design, albeit for a multi-use path, has been in place for decades along the Marina Green. Along the Fell Bikeway, pedestrian crosswalks at each intersection would help ensure pedestrian safety.

  • Walter


    The simplest reason why there cannot be a bike-only lane going east-west in the Panhandle is because there is north-south pedestrian traffic at each block from Stanyan to the DVLC.

    So there’d have to be crosswalks every “block” with pedestrian priority, so bikes would still have to go slowly.

    (I also don’t know how banning pedestrians from a Panhandle bike lane could ever be reasonably enforced).

    While if the Panhandle bike lane were removed to Fell, then you’d share and benefit from the vehicular priority over north-south pedestrians.

    Seems the simple choice is this. Do you want “slow and scenic”? Or fast and ugly”?

  • Walter,

    “Seems the simple choice is this. Do you want “slow and scenic”? Or fast and ugly”?”

    I know you are a simplistic person, but that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. A lane along the park on Fell (and hopefully Oak as well) that is buffered by parked cars and planters (for example) would still have the feel of the park. The Panhandle path would still be open to cyclists, but now they would just have another option if they chose. Why one or the other?

    And while I’m engaging you against my better judgement, “The Panhandle is a recreational area and so the idea that any part of it should be segregated and available to only one group of park user is repugnant.”

    So I’m sure you are in favor of making Masonic (and every roadway within the park) 5mph with raised pavement and cross hatch paint to signify that the area is mixed use for cars/peds/bikes? I mean, how dare one type of user control so much space just for itself?! Can you imagine the nerve of those drivers?!

  • Hopefully somebody from Adobe reads this blog and is a position to revoke the Photoshop license of “RG Architecture for SFBC.” My eyes!

    On a more serious note, the Panhandle is a park. It should maintain its status as a park, and I really don’t think that banning pedestrians from the prettier southern path will help in that regard. The bike path there now is multi-modal. Hopefully encouraging commuters (and other cyclists who are more interested in passing through the park than enjoying it) to use a separate path outside the park itself will make the mixed-use path inside the path calmer for both cyclists and pedestrians.

  • Walter

    Separated Cycle Tracks (i.e. bike lanes between street parking and sidewalk) aren’t currently approved as a standard treatment in the CA Manual of Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD) which tells cities what they can and can’t do with their street configurations.

    Do we know that this proposed exemption would even be allowed?

  • Brilliant, let’s do this.

  • Bicycle Rider

    I love the idea of protected lanes, and would love to see more of them. I wish for it every time I ride to 7th street from the Embarcadero on Townsend and am forced into traffic by drivers who use the bike lane as a parking lot. This would also protect cyclists from drivers who have neglected to train themselves to remember to look for cyclists before making dangerous u-turns.

    Regarding MUNI, it’s my personal belief that we need more MUNI lines, more bus stops, cheaper fares, dedicated bus lanes, and a stronger union to protect the drivers from being forced into impossible routes. We need better CalTrain services, Golden Gate Transit routes, etc… We also need REAL affordable housing in the city to stop the gentrification that forces people to drive long distances to work.

    I’m failing to understand, however, how a protected lane would hurt MUNI riders (I am a working class MUNI rider who has never owned a car, nor been able to afford one. I have to ride a bike with terrible brakes in all sorts of crappy conditions because of MUNI cuts).

    Did I miss something? Is there a proposal to cut bus stops on this route? If so, that sucks and I’m completely against it. If not…stop your knee-jerk reaction against people on bicycles!

    Finally, I do have to ask, in areas where cities have provided protected bike lanes next to sidewalks, have there been many pedestrian/bike collisions? Sometimes I think I’ll meet my death, not by a car door or distracted driver, but by a jaywalker or jogger.

  • Dan

    Some of these comments are ridiculous. I especially like the exchange between Seven, John Murphy, and the ensuing commenters. “Getting rid of a driving lane is going to be terrible for traffic” “DO YOU HAVE ANY EVIDENCE?!” “…” “Well, if you don’t have any EVIDENCE that it’s bad for traffic, let’s just all assume that reducing lanes will make traffic BETTER!”

    I have more experience with Fell, but reducing the number of lanes on Fell by 1/3 will reduce Fell’s throughput by more than 1/3. Right now, the central lane can handle more cars than the other two because nobody makes turns from it. The lanes with turning traffic are slower because of conflicting pedestrian traffic (and because bikers turn left onto Fell from Scott against the light). But if a lane is removed, there will no longer be a middle lane.

    Fell and Oak are major arteries for people living in the Sunset and Richmond. They get backed up even with three lanes. When there was construction recently, which was well signed, it was just awful. We shouldn’t remove a lane from them just because it seems less controversial than getting rid of parking without some studies done and an assurance that it’s not going to create a traffic mess. People complain about lost parking but in this instance we’re talking about 6 blocks of one-less-side of parking vs reducing the capacity of Fell and Oak along their entire length by creating a huge bottleneck.

    Even leaving aside the inconvenience to drivers, which I doubt I’d get much sympathy for here, when cars are stuck in stop-and-go traffic instead of freely flowing to their destinations, it results in *worse air quality for everyone.*

  • jd


    You’re not thinking long-term enough or big-picture enough. It is a well-known phenomenon that when you add more lanes on a freeway, for example, they become just as congested as when there were less (see LA for more on this phenomenon). As a corollary, it implies that taking away a lane will not have any net effect on the traffic in the long-term (in the short-term, as your intuition suggest, it will, but then people get sick of the traffic and find alternatives, thereby reducing traffic).

    This whole concept, which I highly suggest you read about, is explained quite well here:

    I like the quote: “Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt.”

  • I’d like to note that there are many other factors that affect flow of traffic besides the amount of lanes, like timing of lights and speed limits, etc. I suggest instead of us all speculating without any diagnostics, we let the traffic engineers actually model the changes and report back before we support or kill a project.

    I too am concerned about what kind of congestion a two-lane Fell or Oak St. might have, but I know enough about traffic engineering to refrain from judging solely on my intuition.

  • Frank


    The central lane of Fell is quicker for another reason too. Double parkers. There is invariably a cab, delivery truck or other temporary blockage in both the left and right lanes, if you drive the length of it.

    Anyone who drives it regularly (or similar 3-lane routes like Bush and Pine) knows that unless you take the center lane, you’re going to get stuck somewhere, and then have to wait to merge back into the busy center lane anyway.

    So I think two good lanes could work in place of one good lane and two bad lanes – if and only if the double parking was eradicated. Sadly I don’t know how to solve that problem. Thousand dollar fines?


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

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 […]

Streetscast: An Interview with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee supports the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting the City vision, promises to “very aggressively” carry out Gavin Newsom’s executive directive on pedestrian safety, and said he has a commitment from the SFPD to do more aggressive enforcement of drivers in the Tenderloin to make the streets safer for those on […]