SFMTA Finalizing Fell and Oak Bikeway Design. Will It Be Ready By Summer?

The proposed bikeway would replace a parking lane as seen here on Fell at Divisadero Street. Alternative designs could include a separate signal phase for bikes and turning vehicles. Image: SFMTA

Planners are narrowing down the final designs for the Fell and Oak bikeway project, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) is calling on supporters to ask the mayor and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin to ensure the project gets on the ground by summer as expected.

“The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition urges the SFMTA to implement separated bikeways on Oak and Fell Street between Scott and Baker Street as soon as possible,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “We know city officials have heard from hundreds of people that these blocks are some of the most frightening for everyday bike commuters, and countless more just won’t bike because it feels so unsafe. Our goal is to connect the city with safe, comfortable bikeways that are welcoming for people of all ages, especially the growing number of families riding in this area.”

SFMTA planners are currently selecting a final design proposal after fielding community input last month. Among the decisions they have to make: whether to install a two-way bikeway on Fell that then splits into separate east- and west-bound routes at Divisadero, or go with completely separate one-way bikeways; which design treatments to use at intersections; and whether to include an overnight car parking lane [PDF].

A two-way bikeway option would split eastbound bicyclists off Fell Street right onto Divisadero to connect to Oak Street. Click to enlarge. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA staff announced at the meeting that they eliminated the contentious option of removing a travel lane due to the car congestion that might result. Instead, the bikeways will replace car parking — a choice that has met with resistance but could show the SFMTA is willing to stand behind its Transit First Policy as it builds out bikeways identified in the SFBC’s Connecting the City campaign.

Shahum said the SFBC is “eager to help the city look for replacement parking to offset those that might be lost on those six blocks of Fell and Oak in order to make conditions safer for all road users. We’ll also continue to work with neighborhood groups to improve safety from the Panhandle to Market Street both for those living in the area and those traveling through, whether bicycling, walking, or driving.”

The project may include some novel intersection treatments to help minimize conflicts between bicycle traffic and turning drivers, including separate signal phases, similar to the signals at Fell and Masonic. Another design adapted from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, known as a “mixing zone,” would merge the bikeway with a turning lane for vehicles, using green paint and bicycle sharrows to highlight space that cyclists and drivers share.

The SFMTA plans to present its final designs at a community meeting by April, and bike advocates are hoping the agency can implement the project by Bike to Work Day on May 10.

Click to enlarge. Image: SFMTA
Click to enlarge. Image: SFMTA
The overnight parking option with a one-way bikeway. Click to enlarge. Image: SFMTA
  • Why not extend the two-way bike lane on Fell all the way to Scott rather than have bikes go down Divisadero? I would much rather ride east to Scott and then turn right than turn right on Divisadero and then make a difficult left (or a two step left turn) onto Oak. Also Divisadero is car choked with nasty fumes, whereas this part of Scott is relatively low traffic and pleasant.

    The only really tricky part will be cars turning into the Falutti Plaza garage but at least without the parked cars there is more visibility.

  • Oh boy we get a Masonic/Fell interaction on every block, including one where cyclists will get some extra speed from the decline from Baker to Divis.  This will end up bloody as hell.

  • Extra speed? Many cyclists travel too fast through the Panhandle, making daily park users feel unsafe. Bikes going faster isn’t going to improve pedestrian safety.

  • Caleb

    Prohibiting left turns from Fell onto Broderick and from Fell onto Baker should eliminate the conflict you mention.  Eliminating left turns at those streets shouldn’t have a large impact on traffic.  The safety benefit of this is probably also why this proposal has the bikeway linking back to Oak on Divisadero: to prevent conflict between eastbound cyclists and left-tyurning autos.

  • Interesting about the no left turns on Broderick and Fell–didn’t spot them before.  If they’re that easy to install, why not put a no left turn off Fell onto Scott so bicyclists can turn left on reds?

    As to the cars turning left from Fell onto Divisadero, they will still have to deal with westbound bikes, so I don’t see the benefit of making eastbound bikes turn there.  The cars are probably more likely to see the bikes coming at them than the bikes coming from behind them as they wait to make their turn.

  • totally ridiculous to have one-way streets still, but i guess this is a small very step in the right direction.

  • J

    Wow. This project sure involves a ton of debate for a measly 3 block stretch. I can’t imagine what kind of debate will be needed for a protected bike lane of a significant distance. 

    Also, I don’t get why they don’t just ban parking during peak hours. Surely speeding is a big problem during off-peak. Removing the barrier of parked cars will simply make the road look even wider, encouraging even faster driving. The graphs from SFMTA make it look like parking should be banned on Fell from 2-7pm, and on Oak from maybe 6am – 6pm, with parking allowed all weekend. To truly reduce speeding you need to remove excess capacity. Why not calm traffic while you’re already messing with the street?

    Also, there is nothing shown for pedestrians. Since parking is being eliminated, there is no longer room for ped islands. You could still install neckdowns on the side opposite the bike lane, but the islands are what really reduce ped crossing distances and keep peds out of the bike lane. NYC installs ped islands as standard practice when they put in protected bike lanes.  In NYC, the ped improvements alone have won community support for protected bike lanes. *sigh*

  • Edward Hasbrouck

    Where does this language about “traffic lane removal” come from?  There was never any consideration of ‘removing” traffic lanes. what was being considered was replacing some of the all-vehicles traffic lanes with nonmotorized-vehicles-only trafic lanes.

    Language that presumes that bicycle traffic lanes aren’t traffic lanes reflects an erroneous assumption that bicycles aren’t a component of “traffic”, but are something else, deserving only of separate (and consequently likely to be lesser) treatment rather than entitled to be considered in the design of general traffic lanes and facilities.

    This is the sort of backward and discriminatory — yet still standard — thinking that *should* have been eliminated by the “transit-first” clause of the SF charter. Traffic is a mix that includes pedestrian traffic, nonmotorized vehicle traffic, and motorized vehicle traffic.

  • Justin

    Virginia, I agree, as a bicyclist I usually feel uncomfortable riding on the panhandle path because it’s often not safe and a nuisance for people walking. So sometimes I ride up Fell, and always down Oak, and am constantly harassed by drivers expecting to drive at freeway speeds. 

    These bikeways need to extend the whole length from the wiggle to Stanyan, for the benefit of everyone. I tried bringing this up at the open house last month, but mostly heard replies of “but this plan is already hurting drivers enough…”

  • Anonymous

    Is it just me, or does anyone else here think that a Dutch-style junction like the one shown at the link below would solve the cross-traffic issue at Fell and Divisadero?

    I agree that for eastbound bike traffic, sending them right down Divisadero and then forcing them to wait in a bike box for the signal to change at Oak is not a great solution. Any one of the other cross streets with a single lane of traffic each direction seems like a better option, as they would allow cyclists to make a regular left turn onto Oak, and not force them to make a box-turn.

    I’m not entirely won over by a bike lane on Oak, at all, since the CVC would force cyclists to use it even if they are going to turn left eventually. Without bike lanes, cyclists can either ride to the far left or the far right, whatever is most appropriate for their destination. Of course, a complete solution would involve changing all of these streets from one to two-way, since any non-highway, three lane, one way street in an urban environment with significant non-motorized traffic is pretty ridiculous in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    @72562d2e1fb45be3e000db0b5a81dc59:disqus “These bikeways need to extend the whole length from the wiggle to Stanyan”
    Hear, hear! I couldn’t second that enough. The Panhandle path was designed as a recreational facility and can’t handle both the pedestrian and bicycle traffic already using it, let alone what will be experienced in the coming years.

    @Virginia:disqus I think that’s what Logan is saying, that it is already dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians at existing speeds, but with the extra downhill momentum they will be even faster and more at risk for collisions.

  • Anonymous

    I’m partial to the two-way bike lane idea, but I don’t see why it must be on Fell. Put it on the left side of Oak (left side so the eastbound bikers are the ones closer to eastbound traffic), and forget Fell entirely. Reasons: one gas station instead of two, no Divisadero lane required, no need for both Fell & Oak between Divis & Scott.

    And, yes, it should be extended all the way down to Stanyan. Unlike here, there are four traffic lanes which is clearly unnecessary since they get squeezed down to three anyway.

  • @yahoo-O7O5PZTXGOCIF7RBYAYPHU36XA:disqus frankly, I’ve never understood why cyclists are confined to one path in the panhandle but pedestrians are free to pick either. This seems counter to their safety; I don’t particularly like having to go around them in the panhandle at night while trying to gauge whether or not a cyclist w/o a light will be coming at me from the other direction.

  • Sprague

    My two cents: Having a shared bike lane and left turn lane on Fell at Divisadero may reduce some of the merit of this project.  Such close car-bicycle interaction is contrary to encouraging the full spectrum of the 8 to 80 crowd to feel safe bicycling.  Also, a two way separated bikeway should ideally continue to Scott, so that eastbound riders can then head south along the Wiggle.  Eventually, bicycle congestion may clearly require an eastbound separated bikeway on Oak Street from Baker to Scott.  All that being said, this plan is a step forward and would be a welcome improvement for all road users.  (Motorists, please don’t forget that better bikeways result in more bicyclists and hence less automobile congestion.)

  • “By summer.”  May 10th is not quite summer. Summer solstice falls on June 20. Don’t want to be too picky here but let’s not use language that gives the SFMTA any wiggle room. Let’s be exact. The city CAN do this by Bike to Work Day on May 10th. We’ve been waiting way too long.

  • Anonymous

    It would be amazing if this bike lane, whatever the details end up being, is implemented by Bike to Work Day.

    But regarding the details, as @Prinzrob:disqus said, I don’t understand why we can’t just learn from the masters of bicycle infrastructure design, the Dutch, and really design the intersections correctly.

    And I agree with others here that, if the bike lane is not extended to Stanyan, then the panhandle path needs to be cleaned up. Namely, pedestrians *only* on one side and bicyclists *only* on the other. It really is weird that pedestrians can use both while bicyclists can only use one. The path was designed before the area of the revival of the bicycle as a form of transit, and it just can’t handle the growing traffic.

  • @google-c1054b713ae4d63cc3ebaf620c20fb35:disqus  i’m confused why you are complaining about pedestrians on the path but not screaming about the cyclists riding in the dark without lights.

    Also, while there is no left turn at those intersections, A) people will take lefts anyway, B) there are driveways.

  • @facebook-100001895311343:disqus I was complaining about that too, in a roundabout way. Issue #1 is that cyclists are riding without a light. Issue #2 is that pedestrians can pick either panhandle path while cyclists are supposed to ride on one.

    It would make more sense to either limit each path to a single mode of transportation (ala the GGB) or limit each path to traffic in one direction. I am not suggesting this because I am anti-pedestrian; rather the two modes have two different average speeds and it would seem safer to segregate them.

    You are correct in your assessment that the idiots riding without lights are a problem regardless of the current arrangement.

  • Caleb

    I’m all for the Dutch-style intersection posted above, but I think to achieve the safety benefits, Fell/Oak would need some serious redesign.  You’d never see a Dutch city with what amounts to a highway of one-way couplet streets like this, for instance.   SFMTA says that removing a lane for autos would cause major congestion.  I think major congestion could be a good thing if it makes people think twice about which mode of transport to use!

  • peternatural

    Even if pedestrians were prevented from using the bike path, it can still be tricky just crossing it on foot, when packs of bicyclists come speeding along and don’t yield to pedestrians. On the other hand, usually I don’t have to wait more than a few seconds (if that) to cross on foot, so it’s not terrible. But a separated two-way bike lane in the street would be nice.

  • bicyclists do use both paths even though the Oak st. side is posted as no bikes. It would be nice if the narrower path was repaved so it might be more appealing to people with mobility impairments who currently share the Fell St side with bikes.

  • annicb_sf

    I agree that there should be a bike lane on Oak travelling in the same direction as traffic…but on the right side as most East-bound cyclists are turning right onto Scott to catch the wiggle. And keep to one West-bound lane on Fell so everyone is riding with traffic.

  • Anonymous

    Well, assuming they start from the Panhandle, they’re going to have to cross Oak at some point, so it doesn’t really matter much if you go on the left side, crossing at the end, or cross at the beginning and continue on the right side. I specified the left side because if you have a two-way bike path, I think it’s better to have the bikers closer to the car lanes traveling in the same direction the cars do. It sounds like you’re in favor of the one-way paths, which I don’t mind, but will probably meet more opposition due to replacing more car parking spots.

  • Dve

    This change will undo the improvement we got by adding the long lane for Arco customers to line up while waiting to enter the station from Fell. This will cause massive congestion on Fell as drivers wait for bikers (maybe in two directions).

    Add to that the potential inability to take lefts on either Broderick or Baker and you’re looking at a mess as people try to get south of Oak / Fell.

    It seems like Baker would be a good place to experiment with alternative intersections, as it’s considerably wider than other streets. It’s already difficult to make that left, with bikers riding from the panhandle and through the crosswalk either to turn against traffic onto Baker or Fell or on sidewalks. 

  • Thosedudes

    Stop waiting, and start talking with the people who live along these blocks and are probably pissed about losing parking. If you bring them on board, something might happen

  • Ian Brett Cooper

    How are they mitigating the increased danger to cyclists posed by segregated infrastructure at intersections?

  • Sarah

    The path through Panhandle is not now, and really can’t become, ostensibly a “street” for bikes only. It is a path that is bike-friendly. I can’t think of a single city I’ve ever lived in that had a bike path in a park setting that was only for bikes. It is in a park, which is a pedestrian-friendly area. That isn’t going to change.

    The path currently is a) paved and ADA friendly, something the path on the Oak side is not, and b) has trashcans, an important fixture for dog owners, and also is something the path on the Oak side does not have (between Masonic and Baker). Bikes are traffic. Just as cars need to see bikes as another legit form of transit on the road, the bikers who use (and too often race through) Panhandle need to see that they are vehicles alongside pedestrians, and be respectful and cognizant of the slower traffic. 

  • We’ve had it for 3 years and it turns out to be safer. I guess the designers were informed by knowledge more recent than Jerrold Kaplan’s 1974 study — the one most frequently cited by the type of person who still insists on the seg-re-gat-ed label for bike infrastructure.

  • The Ohlone Bikeway in the East Bay has a separate bike path, though amblers wander onto it routinely.


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