Great Highway Re-Paving to Come With Minor Bike-Ped Upgrades

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The Great Highway, the motorway that divides Ocean Beach from the Outer Sunset and Richmond, is set to get some bike lane and pedestrian improvements north of Lincoln Way as part of a nine-month re-paving project started this week by the Department of Public Works.

The 6-foot painted bike lanes planned between Lincoln and Cabrillo Street would be an addition to the original SF Bike Plan [PDF], which only called for bike lanes north of Cabrillo and along the length of Point Lobos Avenue. Last Friday, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency gave preliminary approval at a public hearing to extend the lanes south to Lincoln past Golden Gate Park, and the project is expected to receive final approval from the agency’s board of directors at an upcoming meeting.

While much more remains to be done to create a safer, less car-dominated Great Highway (see SPUR’s long-term vision, which includes fewer traffic lanes and a two-way, protected beach-side bikeway), the bike lanes and pedestrian refuge islands will provide some improvements in the meantime.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum praised the SFMTA’s adjustments to the Bike Plan, calling it “a great example of city staff working together to layer bicycling, walking, and traffic calming improvements into a repaving project, so that the benefits are tripled.”

“If this project is approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors, we will have a much more ‘complete street’ along this section of the now-intimidating Great Highway, and all road users will benefit,” she said.

The road space for the bike lanes will be created by narrowing the Great Highway’s four traffic lanes. Point Lobos Avenue, which runs by the Cliff House, will go on a road diet under the Bike Plan, with two of its four traffic lanes replaced with median space and a buffered bike lane in the northbound direction. The southbound, downhill traffic lane is only slated to receive sharrows.

The southbound bike lane, shown here in the original bike plan ending at Balboa Street, is expected to be extended in both directions to Lincoln Way.

Currently, the Great Highway does have a shared bike and pedestrian path on its east side, which runs from Sloat Boulevard (on the south end of the Sunset District) to Fulton on the north end of Golden Gate Park. However, the path is narrow and frequently crowded, and there is no bike lane option north of Fulton.

The bike lanes are part of DPW’s $7.3 million project to re-pave all of the Great Highway and implement the first DPW streetscape improvements to be funded by Prop B bond funds, according to the agency’s website.

Between Lincoln and Fulton at the edge of Golden Gate Park, DPW says it will add a landscaped median and pedestrian refuges, as well as ADA-compliant curb ramps at intersections.

SPUR's long-term vision for the Great Highway south of Lincoln, as shown in the Ocean Beach Master Plan.

DPW says the streetscape improvements came out of SPUR’s Ocean Beach Master Plan, a long-range vision which calls for many more changes, including the eventual removal of two traffic lanes on the Great Highway south of Lincoln and the creation of a protected bikeway. The road diet would make the crossing more welcoming for people walking and biking to the beach, and prepare the highway for anticipated damage from erosion on the road’s southern stretch in the years ahead.

In a post on the SPUR blog last July, Ocean Beach Project Manager Ben Grant explained that DPW Director Mohammed Nuru proposed including the landscaped median in the re-paving project as a short-term measure, inspired by the SPUR plan.

“The project will install landscaped medians where today they exist only in paint,” wrote Grant. “It will improve pedestrian safety and access to the beach by providing shorter crossings and pedestrian refuges, as well as clarifying rights of way on large swaths of currently unmarked pavement. It will also improve the aesthetics of the highway, as well as its environmental performance, by providing much-needed greenery and increasing permeable surfaces for stormwater infiltration in what is now a large, undifferentiated slab of asphalt.”

DPW expects the project to be completed by October.

  • Can we please stop pretending medians are pedestrian improvements?

  • beach cruiser

    A path on the east side, what is basically a shared-use path for beach cruisin on the west side along the sand wall, and now bike lanes on the roadway!

  • keenplanner

    It could certainly do with less bitumen in general. 

  • mikesonn

    This! Exactly!

  • Prinzrob

    Agreed. If what we want is more green space, then put it along the sidewalk where people can actually enjoy it.

    In an urban space both medians and right turn slip lanes are an automatic fail, in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Having a little breathing room on the uphill side of Point Lobos will be great. 

  • Anonymous

     @af99b6a1ac7619468678e177083caff5:disqus Exactly. I keep watching these damn medians popping up everywhere (McCoppin, Bryant at Cesar Chavez, etc.) and all I can think is: what a waste of space, and what urban planners still think this type of suburban urban design makes our cities livable?. Putting that green space out as an island between car lanes makes it completely unenjoyable for pedestrians. Just spilt the median in half and add the width to the sidewalk/bike lane on each side and it will have the double effect of not only making it actually much more enjoyable for pedestrians/cyclists, but also slowing cars done since it’s been shown that medians encourage speeding and other reckless behavior because they make motorists feel safer since they are protected from colliding with on-coming traffic.

  • Gneiss

    The mid-street medians on Divisidero are a classic example of how this fails for pedestrians and cyclists.  It would have been far better to have taken that space in the middle and narrow the street with bike lanes and pedestrian bulb outs at the corners rather than waste it in the middle of the road on a median with spindly vegetation that no one can enjoy.  I hope SFMTA does not make the same mistake on Masonic.

  • reality check

    It costs about 10- to 30x more to add width to a sidewalk than to add a median. It’s not so simple to say “just take the 10′ wide median and add 5′ to each sidewalk!”

  • And a wider sidewalk is worth something, and a wider median has negative worth. The ROI for sidewalk widening is higher.

  • reality check

    Hey able-bodied commenters, tell a slow-moving pedestrian (elderly, disabled, etc) that a median has negative worth. A median wide enough to feel safe with traffic moving around while you rest or wait for a chance to cross can be huge.  Sure, a wider sidewalk is great, as is a narrower crossing due to bulb outs, but a median has its value.

  • Abe

    @RealityCheck, only IF you are willing to accept that it takes two light cycles to cross one street. It would be better to have crossing times that allow slower movers enough time to cross in one go (with adequate countdowns).

    So even as pedestrian refuges, MOST of the median is wasted space. Only the ends near crosswalks serve any purpose others than speeding up auto traffic.

  • Joel

    @df4b98aef659ee5ae18426484a7d261b:disqus  Traffic islands (or “thumbnails”) are often a good compromise to protect pedestrians near intersections. Medians don’t really do anything except collect rainwater and  decrease the perceived friction with opposite flowing traffic, encouraging faster vehicle speeds.

  • The Facts

    When will you people stop discounting head-on collisions as not deadly? There is no evidence that medians encourage speeding. Research has shown the exact opposite – they decrease pedestrian collisions. Past links provided in previous articles here do not prove that medians encourage speeding.

    Pedestrian signals ARE timed for most people – even the handicapped and elderly. People who are caught in the median either disobey the signal (thus not having enough time to cross the entire street), or are the very, very tiny part of the population that cannot make it across in one cycle. That is why the median is there.

  • 94103er

    Head-on collisions are not deadly if you are driving at a speed limit that is appropriate for cities. That is to say, 20mph.

    I don’t have to say ‘research has shown that’ because when laws of physics and common sense get together, it turns out you can come up with a decent street design. 

    Speaking of which, It mystifies me that common sense wouldn’t clue in street designers that medians are a waste of money and wider sidewalks/bulb-outs/cycletracks pay for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    @5c6e74f9c4be18e3e0b82b7e5f4c701f:disqus wrote: “There is no evidence that medians encourage speeding. Research has shown the exact opposite – they decrease pedestrian collisions.”

    Ah, there most certainly is. See, for example, this:

    If you don’t want to read it, here’s the conclusion:

    “The objective of this investigation was to explore the effect of different median barrier type on traffic speed. Through a speed study at several sites, the observed speeds in most sites were found to be higher than the expected speed predicted by HCM. Compared to the no barrier configurations, F-shape concrete median barriers were found to increase the comfortable speed of drivers in both 70km/h and 80km/h sites included in the study. Thrie beam barriers were found to have little effect on driver speed in the 80km/h site while the W-beam barrier was found to increase the speed of drivers. In contrast, F-shape concrete barriers on which a chain link fence was installed were found
    to reduce driver speed.”

    “These results have serious implications for the selection of appropriate barrier types which have not yet been discussed in the literature or documented in the major design guides. Therefore, more research using a larger sample is needed to confirm the speed effects of different barriers. If these findings are shown to hold, then a review of the current best practice relating to barrier selection and installation is required as the recommendations in the HCM did not predict the expected change in speed very well. Median barriers are an integral part of our roadway infrastructure and a better understanding of their effects on driver behaviour may allow better use of these roadway appurtenances.”

    You want to know what *really* saves lives of both motorists and pedestrians and cyclists? Slowing cars way down (“20 is plenty”). We shouldn’t be wasting precious real estate on medians which is effectively useless to residents and pedestrians; we should using that space on the edges of the roads where, though it will cost more, has a higher return-on-investment.

    Further, as @8d10b7eff74566923270734eea223235:disqus pointed out, if you truly are concerned about the elderly crossing the road, then we should be timing the signals so that they have plenty of time (and slowly the cars down makes it much harder for a motorist not to see a slow, elderly person). And if you still want a “refuge” for them (just the idea that they need refuge from the urban blight that is cars should say enough), there is no reason to have the median extend *all* the way down the road: it’s only needed at intersections.

  • The Facts

    That doesn’t say anything about comparing speeds on a road with or without a median. It only compares different types of medians.

    No major city has major streets with a 20mph speed limit. Unrealistic speed limits will only find drivers disobeying all speed limits.


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