Envisioning Protected Bike Lanes and Pedestrian Islands for Second Street

"Protected cycle tracks green and calm Second Street while respecting human powered transport," writes architect David Baker. Image: David Baker + Partners Architects

Advocates for a safer Second Street have released a new rendering showing how the street could function better for pedestrians and cyclists if a protected bike lane is included in the coming redesign.

Baker's sketch shows how Second Street could fit bike lanes protected by parking lanes and pedestrian islands.

Architect and bike commuter David Baker, whose firm is located on Second, posted the rendering on the blog Great Second Street.

“Protected bicycle lanes are great to ride on, and give pedestrians, cyclists, and cars their own space,” Baker writes. “They also provide space for larger trees than are possible with narrow sidewalks alone.”

At a public workshop in May, protected bike lanes were a popular feature in conceptual proposals presented by local residents.

The new green bike channel at Duboce and Church, which runs between the sidewalk and N-Judah boarding island, is an example of a bike lane protected by a concrete island, similar to the one in Baker’s vision. This treatment is “an economical alternative to sidewalk widening since they require less infrastructure,” writes Baker. “Whenever curbs are moved, storm-water drains need to be relocated, which is very costly.”

The SFMTA and Department of Public Works could make Second a much more livable street by incorporating this kind of safer infrastructure, which more and more residents are clamoring for. The next workshop on the plan is expected to be held in August.

  • Jboudart

    I like it, but there should be more cycletrack width, less green buffer.

    Cyclists have a 3 foot bicycling shy distance (CROW manual p48). 

    A 6 foot bike lane increases difficulty when passing. 
    The Dutch know best.


  • Jake Wegmann

    Awesome. David Baker is a fantastic bike advocate, by word and by deed, in addition to his day job as a brilliant architect.

    I do think a little more width in the channel for bikes to pass each other might be a good tweak.

  • Anonymous

    Why bother?  The bicyclists will just ride on the sidewalk, no matter WHAT you do…

  • Andy Chow

    If you for a separated lane, then it would be better to have a wider two way path than two narrow one way paths. A wider path gives faster cyclists to ability to pass slower ones, and the slow ones won’t have to worry some faster cyclists to pass them at close distance. With the current bike lanes configuration, faster cyclists can use the regular lane to pass slower ones.

  • Gneiss

    A two lane bi-directional path would not be an effective solution in this case, particularly at junctions as the lanes are following an existing street.  It complicates how motorists are supposed to look for traffic coming at them.  I agree the Jake – while greenery is nice, it screens the cars view of cyclists and makes it more difficult for them to judge right hand turns at junctions.  Making the lanes wider at the expense of the median width would make, IMHO.

  • Potrero Hill

    Great idea, but protected bike lanes on 2nd (which would be very well used) absolutely need to be combined with other street improvements.  Following the design above, the 10-Townsend would be seriously impeded by turning cars due to the single lane of traffic in each direction. 

    What needs to happen:  (1) No left-hand turns allowed on 2nd to prevent the 10 line from being stuck behind cars turning left, (2) Right hand turn lanes on the appropriate intersections to prevent the bus from getting stuck behind cars turning right.  I split my time between biking and riding the 10 to work down 2nd and the bus already gets trapped at intersections today.

  • Dst

    Aesthetically cool concept, but realistically, every place I’ve seen or used “protected” bike lanes felt more dangerous than just a simple dedicated bike lane, Munich in particular.  I saw numerous collisions between bicyclists and pedestrians in the short time I lived there.  Also seems like making left turns would be difficult and dangerous since there would be a buffer zone one would need to sneak through and from the car’s perspective, you’d be coming out of nowhere.

  • The overall new width seems fine, but the bike “channel” – funny, how USAians invent these new terms – seems too narrow. Is there enough space for side by side plus space to pass?

    Do the trees need so much bare dirt or just enough water by any means (shy of sprinklers… or isn’t there some underground creek near this location?)

    Also, maybe there is not a lot of dogwalking in this area, but most will get walked on the motorized traffic side of the bike channel, meaning that with design people will be darting around parked bikes and over dirt patches (by the way, tree experts have told me that dog pee is not the real problem, just lack of water.) 

    Last not but least, Dst has a very relevant point. It is not enough to design the paths or channels well, but also the intersections. If Second gets a design similar to this for the main channels, then it also needs intersections with dedicated signals for bikes, or all green for bikes if and where appropriate. The missing intersection treatment is the biggest and most irritating hobgoblin of USAian bike infrastructure!

    Wonderful architects like Baker should be able to propose or envision lots of fine details in bike parking, social seating, greenery to absorb water etc. in addition to the path design, but I agree that the Dutch know best and CROW – or additional Dutch expertise – should be followed for technical parameters.

  • Those “pedestrian islands” (LOL) seem like a terrible waste of space. The sidewalks on 2nd are already too narrow to deal with the existing pedestrian traffic.

  • Caleb

    With a protected bikeway on the right side of the street like this, cyclists could make a “Dutch left” turn by crossing to the opposite side of the street, then stopping on the corner and proceeding on the right side of the perpendicular street when the signal changes.


  • Caleb, that is a so-called “Copenhagen Left” (Danish). As I mentioned, the Dutch have dedicated signals in their most advance designs, which are quite common. They would do a turn like this in ONE step.

    The real question here is if anyone else would have noticed Caleb got the country wrong..

  • Anonymous

    I’d say we get SFMTA to move the 10-Townsend over to 3rd Street or up to Main Street and off of 2nd Street…. And the 12-Folsom should return to its pre-December 5, 2010 route that takes it to The Embarcadero so that me and my other several thousand neighbors living in the planned “Transit-Oriented Development” Rincon Hill neighborhood actually have a bus that would serve our grocery store need to go west within SoMa.

  • Abe

    With the added benefit that the 10 would no longer have to do its Market-to-Sansome shuffle which never takes less than 1.5 light cycles.

  • Sprague

    Beautiful design.  With streets like this, we may be able to catch up with the Dutch, the Danes, and the rest of them.

  • The necessary width is debatable, but there’s the argument that islands like these free up space from the existing narrow sidewalk by setting aside new space for activities like loading (cargo and passenger), parking meters, and bike parking — uses which currently share space with walking traffic. Islands also seem to be the only way to facilitate parking and loading along a protected bike lane without dumping people into it.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Thanks to David Baker for supporting this proposal.

    I have to disagree with dst: this sort of design is common in Amsterdam, and it does not cause any problems there. 

  • Oh man, that would make so much sense. But what about going south? 


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