SFMTA Adds Markings to Guide Cyclists Across Tracks at 17th and Church

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is testing out new street markings to help cyclists safely negotiate hairy intersections where bike routes and rail tracks meet.

Looking eastbound on the north side of 17th, facing Church.

The SFMTA added guidance markings this week to the intersection of 17th and Church Streets, where the 17th Street bike lane meets Muni’s F-Market and J-Church streetcar lines. Car parking spots near the corners were also removed to improve visibility and provide more room for cyclists to maneuver safely.

The dashed lines and sharrows direct cyclists to cross the tracks at nearly a perpendicular angle, which minimizes the risk that bike wheels will get caught in the track crevices — a common bicycling hazard in San Francisco. Similar treatments have been used in Seattle.

“We’ve heard reports of crashes at 17th/Church and are trying this design to determine if it’s effective in improving the angle people take when they ride across the tracks,” said Mike Sallaberry of the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Subdivision. “We’ve taken some observations already and will continue to do that to see if the design could be improved or applied elsewhere.”

Although SFMTA planners have also discussed adding similar markings at the bike and transit junction of Church and Duboce Avenue, Sallaberry didn’t say if those will be implemented.

Similar track-crossing markings were included in the 17th Street Bike Plan project, which originally proposed extending the bike lane west of Church. The plan was revised to cut the bike lane short, to avoid directing bicyclists to ride in the narrow space between parked cars and passing trolley cars. Instead, bicyclists are expected to share the lane with trolleys.

Removing the car parking lanes on that block of 17th, while politically contentious, could provide a much safer space for people cycling on the street, but there are no known plans to do so.

More photos after the break.

The north side of 17th looking westbound from Church.
From the south side of 17th eastbound, facing Church.
Photo from the ##https://www.facebook.com/pages/SFMTA-Livable-Streets/129234557115666##SFMTA Livable Streets Facebook page##.
  • I certainly appreciate removing cars parked at corners to provide better visibility and more room to negotiate intersections.  Will see tomorrow when I ride this intersection if the guidelines are  helpful.

    I once saw a young woman fall at this corner after getting her wheel too close to one of these tracks, but she was going south on Church, so I don’t think the markings would’ve helped in her case. The only bike accident I’ve ever had (knock on wood) was when my wheel got caught in a track on 30th near Dolores.  I wasn’t going fast and just ended up with a bloody elbow, but ever since then I’ve been *extremely* cautious about the angle at which I approach these tracks.  Even more so when it rains and they are wet.

  • Off topic, but do you know of research that compares white and yellow crosswalk markings to see if one is more visible than the other, or more effective at ensuring driver compliance?

  • mikesonn

    I like this, it is a good thing but you still have riders going between parked cars (directly in the door zone) and the tracks.

  • Sergio Ruiz

    This looks like an effective treatment for avoiding the rail hazard. However, the merge back into the traffic lane seems way too short and abrupt. A bicyclist would need to look behind for oncoming traffic and would be forced to stop or crash into the first parked car if there is oncoming traffic. At least two more parking spots should be removed to allow for longer merge.

  • I am getting worried about these cyclists that can’t find their way around without a lot of arrows and color-coded swatches of paint on the road. I hope they don’t get too distracted to remember to check traffic signals and stop signs, and watch for pedestrians, cars and buses. I also wonder how slick this paint will be in the rain. I remember getting in trouble on a motorcycle a few years ago, turning on a painted line.

  • Abe

    I don’t think these markings will affect people’s attention to more important signs and signals any more than painted lane markings already do.

    A further advantage these markings provide is to let all road users know the expected path of cyclists through the intersection. I doubt most drivers are conscious of the weaving path that a cyclist must take to safely navigate the tracks in this town. Now it’s laid out in black and white!

  • Davistrain

    Just for the record, the “crevices” next to the streetcar rails are called “flangeways”.  And yes, no matter what you call them, they are a concern to bicyclists.

  • Sprague

    I agree, Sergio – especially for westbound cyclists.  Since the safest way to cross these tracks is to do so on the far right side of the intersection, cyclists are even further removed from the travel lane and, from my experience, this entices some drivers to kick up the speed.  Because the cyclist is so far to the right, practically at the curb, motorists may falsely believe that the cyclist isn’t planning to continue along 17th Street and therefore they may not expect them to merge back into traffic a few feet later.  An improvement to this new design would be green paint to more clearly indicate the new bike zone to drivers or further parking removal.  Thanks for posting the great photos, Aaron.

  •  I dont know any research, but as a driver, white is SO MUCH more visible. The yellow crosswalks with just lines (not zebra) are pretty much invisible.

  • Went through this intersection both ways this morning. Going east was good, the markings were helpful and it was great to have the extra space while waiting at the intersection, out of the zone of car exhaust fumes. Going west, however, the markings divert you too far to the right. This was bad because 1) the northwest corner of the intersection was flooded from a backed up storm drain, but also because 2) it just isn’t what a bicyclist would naturally do, and 3) it is probably less safe than more safe because, as Sprague said above, it renders car drivers likely to misread your intent to continue on 17th st. It is not necessary to cross tracks at a perfect 90 degree angle. In my experience (and again, I am *extremely* cautious about Muni tracks) crossing at a 45 degree angle is fine. You just don’t want to go much more acute than that.

  • No, but white is the regular marking, yellow indicates there’s a school nearby/school route.



This Week: Zoning, Oakland Arts, Church Street Bike Safety

Here are this week’s highlights from the Streetsblog calendar: Wednesday today! 100 Years of Zoning. Zoning started a century ago with the 1916 New York City Zoning Resolution. Join a panel of scholars and practitioners for a retrospective on the first 100 years of zoning and what it means to the Bay Area today. Wednesday, today! Feb. […]
This drawing from the Hub plan is part of SFMTA's proposal for 11th in SoMa. Image: SFMTA

11th Street Project Ignores Intersection Dangers

The SFMTA held an openhouse last night to get feedback on initial designs for bike and pedestrian safety improvements on 11th Street, which runs from Market to Division. Some 20 members of the public, most of them cyclists who commute through the area, showed up to see design boards and talk to SFMTA officials at […]