SFMTA Lays Out Draft Targets to Improve Walking and Biking

This morning the SF Municipal Transportation Agency is presenting its strategic plans to reduce pedestrian injuries and increase bike ridership over the next five years at a staff workshop with the agency’s board of directors.

It’s an important moment for livable streets in San Francisco, and we’ll be bringing you detailed coverage after the workshop. In the meantime, here’s a look at the targets the agency is setting for its walking and biking programs.

The Draft Pedestrian Strategy [PDF] sets out to cut pedestrian injuries in half and increase walking from roughly 19 percent of all trips to 23 percent by 2021. A major strategy is to re-engineer at least five miles of “high priority segments” per year, including 10 bulb-outs per year. To pay for it, the agency will need to secure about $6 to $8 million in additional annual funding for pedestrian safety.

From an SFMTA presentation on the Draft Pedestrian Strategy.

The Draft Bicycle Strategy [PDF] lays out three scenarios that vary based on the amount invested in bicycling. The “Strategic Plan” scenario — the medium choice — is projected to raise bicycling’s share of all trips to 8 to 10 percent by 2018. The more ambitious “System Build-Out” is projected to raise bicycling mode share to 20 percent. In one sense, the funding gap is substantial. Under the status quo, the agency would have $30 million to invest in bicycling between now until 2018, while the “Strategic Plan” scenario calls for $190 million over the same period. Within the context of the agency’s overall budget, however, the ramped-up investment in bicycling is not asking for all that much. The SF Bicycle Coalition pointed out that even under the “System Build-Out” scenario (total cost: $500 million for infrastructure), bicycling would still account for less than 8 percent of the SFMTA’s capital spending.

From the SFMTA's Draft Bicycle Strategy. Click to enlarge.

Stay tuned more details on each plan.

  • mikesonn

    I see 4th and Stockton are “high priority”. You know what would work well to make those streets more safe? Transit only!!

  • Anonymous

    I notice 5th street hasn’t been identified as a route needing improvement, since it’s the defacto route between Market and Caltrain and the street dead ends at the train tracks (and therefore shouldn’t have much car traffic) I think it’s a great candidate for some pedestrian and bike upgrades.  

    I think SFbikecoallition is trying to push for 2nd street improvements to serve caltrain-downtown commuters but I really think there is a lot of potential at 5th street too.

  • Anonymous

    That said, it seems like a fantasy to think of even a handful of those streets getting work done after seeing how long it has taken/is taking Fell and Oak. Oh what a wonderful change to the city if even the strategic plan scenario was built, here’s hoping for the system build out! (just wrote an email to the Eds)

  • Jeremy

    I think 20% is crazy ambitious for biking in a city as hilly as SF, and I’m used to 100 mile rides. Trains in tunnels seem to get the job done much better.

  • Anonymous

    Most of the city is actually flat or a slight grade, though some of the hills are quite impressive it really depends on where you’re going. I can’t remember the last time I biked “up” a hill. I’ve bike around hills, near hills, edged around hills, but I haven’t had a steep climb since I visited my friend up towards the top of Bernal Heights. 20% is certainly ambitious, but that has more to do with the current state of the streets. I think 20% is possible if we can make the changes that need to happen.

  • I downloaded and read both the Draft Bicycle Strategy and the Draft Pedestrian Strategy.  Interesting stuff. For instance, even in San Francisco people still use cars for 33% trips under 1 mile. Both strategies say the right things and would even be visionary if they’d been published back in 2005. But in 2013 they suffer from a certain anemia, from a desire to make small changes a little at a time in the hopes car drivers won’t notice and won’t go ballistic. And they hope to do it with the spare change they can find in the couch cushions of the SFMTA budget.

    How to make a livable, dense, walkable, bikeable, family-friendly, elder-friendly city that has a healthy populace and a healthy economy? By not assuming that cars must come first and people second. By not eking space for transit, walking and biking out of the crumbs and gutters that remain after cars have filled the streets, but rather by giving cars room only after transit, walking and biking needs have been met. Is this radical? Yes.  Would it be expensive? Actually, given how much we subsidize cars through pollution, accident costs, road repair, health damage, environmental damage, climate change, and gasoline subsidy, putting people first and cars second is far, far cheaper than what we are doing now. And if we don’t make these changes, the devastation of climate change will ensure we simply won’t have an economy, rendering all talk of what is expensive moot.

    In the end, creating more bulb outs does not create a walkable city, not when cars screech around corners at 20 mph whether anyone is the crosswalk or not. In the end, bike boxes and a few more bike lanes do not create a bikeable city, not when a double-parked Pepsi truck forces you into forty mph traffic. In the end, count down signals at intersections don’t make you safe when any texting or drunk driver (both of whom abound but are very rarely arrested in San Francisco) can send you to the hospital in an instant. 

    In the end, in any city there is only so much space, and private vehicles are enormous hogs of it. As the city grows in density (already in the cards with the new housing projects in the pipeline and inevitable due to declining world net energy), we don’t just need slower, calmer, more responsible motorized traffic. We need less motorized traffic. And we will not achieve this as long as driving is cheap, more pleasant, safer, and more convenient than walking, biking or transit. If we say, oh yes, we’ll give bikes, pedestrians and transit the space they need just as soon as people no longer want to drive their cars, nothing will change in San Francisco until the oil is entirely gone. If we wait until Muni is “fixed” before we discourage car use, we will wait forever.  If we wait until bike mode share is 10% before bikes have a connected network of safe, pleasant bikeways, we will wait forever. We necessarily have to take space away from cars *before* the volume of car traffic declines in order to get car traffic to decline. Which means someone will have to take some political heat. No one wants to give up space, status, or privilege, and so it’s not surprising that car drivers object when theirs are threatened. Arguments about fairness, about costs, even about survival are not going to make all that many converts. If the city waits for car drivers to be happy about the loss of subsidized car storage or reduced car travel lanes before it is willing to take action, then we will continue to inch along at glacial speed. Our streets will be choked with the additional cars the new housing brings to our roads (even if all the units have off street parking), we will fail to reduce our greenhouse gases by more than negligible amounts, city healthcare costs will continue to rise, our air quality will worsen, the poorest of us will have the slowest/most dangerous transportation options, and the portion who insist on driving will continue to endanger and make miserable those who either can’t afford to drive or who wish not to.

    All cities, but especially one as dense as San Francisco, have to redesign their entire definition of Level of Service (LOS) to be not how fast cars can move around but rather:
    –how long does it take to travel a mile by transit, bike or on foot during both peak and off peak times?
    –what is the likelihood of death or injury by crime or accident when traveling said mile by transit, bike or foot?
    –what is the air quality and what are the noise levels experienced by someone traveling by transit, bike or foot?  For those on bike or foot, how pleasant is the physical environment in terms of trees, plantings, variety of buildings, etc.? If street traffic moves faster than 20 mph, how great is the physical separation from said traffic?
    –what is the level of congestion for someone traveling by transit, bike or foot? What percentage of transit riders must stand because all seats are full, how often are bicyclists and pedestrians impeded by construction, double-parked cars and trucks, vehicles parked on the sidewalk, etc.? For those on bicycles, how often are they forced to come to unnecessary complete stops? If street traffic moves less than 20 mph, how many cars per minute traverse each block?

    This redefined LOS then needs to be evaluated for each neighborhood and for each travel corridor.  Goals should be set for transit speed, air quality, noise levels, separation from fast-moving traffic, length of cycling without need for stops, etc. (I could certainly go on. At the very least, transit needs to average 12 mph in each neighborhood, instead of the current 8mph. Then even the farthest SF neighborhoods would be within 35 minutes downtown by transit.) And then streets should be redesigned to achieve this LOS for transit, bicyclists, and pedestrians. To achieve this form of LOS would mean:
    1) The city has no obligation to provide overnight car storage. Car storage should only be allowed in places where it does not conflict with LOS goals.
    2) Where necessary, travel lanes and current car storage should be turned into transit-only lanes and bike lanes until LOS goals are met. Only on streets and in neighborhoods where LOS goals are being met should daytime or overnight car storage be allowed. In addition, car storage should be eliminated at all dangerous intersections (daylighting) to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
    3) All residential streets should have a speed limit of 20 mph, and, except at peak travel times, less than one car should traverse a block per minute. Residential streets should be for neighborhood traffic only, with all other traffic routed to arterials. Most residential streets should have some sort of traffic impediment every three blocks allowing bikes and pedestrians to pass, but no vehicles except emergency ones. Such streets would be appropriate to be shared spaces for bicycles and vehicles without need for extra bicycle accommodation such as bicycle lanes.
    4) City parks should not be used as arterials,Golden Gate Park especially. Creating a one-way loop for vehicle traffic would allow access to the park for those in cars while reducing 90% of cut-through traffic. Street parking should be charged in the eastern half of the park. Bike traffic on both JFK and MLK in the park should be two way for bicycles.
    5) Being an important pedestrian and tourist area, the entire Union Square area should become transit, bicycle and pedestrian-only, from Market to Post, and from Powell to Grant. This would follow the trend of many European cities in creating a safe, tourist-friendly, car-free city center. In addition, allow no private vehicles on Market St east of Van Ness.
    6) Being an important pedestrian and bicycle corridor, Valencia Street should allow cars to travel no more than four contiguous blocks before a forced turn. In addition, only even numbered streets should allow cars to traverse east-west. (Odd-numbered streets should dead end at Valencia for all except emergency vehicles while being open to bicycles and pedestrians. Traffic lights would be eliminated at these streets.) In the evenings, half of all parking spots should be reserved for passenger pick up/drop off and no cars/taxis should be allowed to block the bike lane in any circumstance. (A design similar to this would work also for Polk St.)
    7) On any street where the traffic moves faster than 20 mph (and there is not an equally flat route with a bicycle lane or under 20 mph traffic within one block) the street must offer a physically-separated bicycle lane that is impossible for vehicles to swerve into or double-park in.
    8) Because wide, one-way streets with long blocks resemble freeways, and drivers cannot resist treating them as such no matter the posted speed limit, Howard, Folsom and Harrison should be returned to two-way streets with bicycle lanes going in each direction.
    9) Secure bike parking at street level (that does not require carrying a bike down a flight of stairs) should be offered at all BART stations, as well as at the West Portal, Castro, and Church street Muni stations. Large pods of bikeshare rentals should be offered at all BART stations.
    10) In most places, four way stops should be turned into 7 mph yield-to-pedestrians and yield-to-traffic-on the-left traffic circles. In this way bicyclists will simultaneously reduce travel time and become more law-abiding. Cars will also benefit at pedestrian-free intersections.
    11) On important bicycle corridors, lights should be timed to 12 mph. (This would include Valencia, 14th St., Folsom, Howard, Fell and Oak between Baker and Scott, Market, Townsend, Embarcadero, Polk, and I’m sure there’s more.)  On important transit corridors, transit should have signal priority (i.e. as transit approaches, the light stays green or turns green for it.) Where necessary, eliminate left turns on high density streets (such as Divisadero) where LOS transit times are not being met.
    12) Police stings for failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks should be carried out both in the afternoons and evenings for both motorists and bicyclists. This will have the added benefit of catching many, many vehicle drivers with no license or suspended licenses. The cars of such drivers should be impounded for sixty days, first offense, and permanently for subsequent offenses. Failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and other forms of reckless driving by a vehicle driver (such as going more than 10 mph over the speed limit or hitting a bicyclist) should result in a 60 day license suspension. Truly reckless bicycle riding (coming within a foot of a pedestrian) should result in a mandatory traffic safety class first offense and impounding the bicycle on subsequent offenses. Hitting a pedestrian–by motorist or bicyclist–should result in at least a night in jail.
    13) Residential Parking Permits should be instituted in every neighborhood in the city. The city should work with the state legislature to allow RPP charges to based on both neighborhood density and length of vehicle. In fairness, all curb cuts should also be charged to property owners based on cut length and neighborhood density. In dense neighborhoods, the charge should be on the order of $30 per foot of vehicle or curb cut per year. Less dense neighborhoods would run from $10 – $20 per foot. All vehicles parked on the sidewalk or off street illegal areas should receive a ticket equal to the maximum yearly RPP charge in that neighborhood. Anyone should be able to purchase a one-day RPP permit for all but the most congested neighborhoods for $20 with a simple on-line transaction. Congested neighborhoods should run from $30 to $50 for a one day permit, depending on demand, and neighborhoods close to Golden Gate Park should cost $50 for a one-day pass during special events in the park. All residential parking permit income should be spent on street and neighborhood improvements in the neighborhood for which the monies are collected.
    14) In congested areas, all businesses or commercial activities offering free parking to employees or customers should be charged a $1000 congestion inducement fee per year per parking space.
    15) At intersections where more than twelve people cross during any given signal cycle, pedestrian scrambles should be installed so that pedestrians and vehicle traffic are not in conflict during the signal cycle.
    16) The city should actively discourage (through high parking charges, public relations campaigns and tickets to drivers violating traffic laws) people from outside San Francisco bringing cars to San Francisco. No hotels should charge less than $50 a night for parking; city parking garages should charge higher fees to non-residents than residents. The city should actively encourage non-residents to take BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, the ferries and Muni by working with these agencies to create family passes (discounts for families traveling together), late night transit runs (until 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights), and PR campaigns in outlying communities encouraging public transit use when coming to San Francisco. In addition, the city should encourage BART to connect to Marin County and extend to San Jose, and Caltrain to increase volume of service. The city should also sensibly either redesign or abandon the abjectly poorly-designed Central Subway and instead work on putting the N-Judah underground the entire way to 9th Ave and installing a light rail line down Geary (underground east of Gough) as soon as possible. And, of course, the City should in general make Muni frequent, pleasant, quick, reliable and easy to figure out, so that people from out of town are willing to use it.

    I’m sure others could add to this list, but if San Francisco really wants to achieve the goals they purport to in the Bicycle and Pedestrian strategies, these are the kinds of things that need doing.

  • Ubringliten

    E-bikes will solve the problem. My wife and I rented e-bikes and rode up to the top of Bernal Heights Park with little effort.

  • Brilliant essay on local economic opportunities, Ms. Allen. Any chance you can use that tremendous brain power of yours to figure out how to talk people into paying for so much that they are accustomed to getting “for free”, or which they claim to be paying for through their property and fuel taxes? Remember, most people we’ll need to move won’t even have the attention span to be able to read through your comment above, or talk for more than 3 minutes about changing the status quo.

  • voltairesmistress

    Your vision for San Francisco is Singapore. Do you want the authoritarian regime it would require for implementation?  How about the disciplining of the population that does not share your vision?  The worst evil is committed by well-intentioned people with grand visions that don’t accommodate difference.

  • mikesonn

    Currently, 95%+ of this country doesn’t accommodate difference when it comes to transportation. It is “own a car or GTFO”. I really don’t understand why this is your new battle hymn.

  • the greasybear

    Karen, I agree “someone’s got to take some political heat” for promoting and implementing these mostly excellent ideas–and I think *you* should be that someone. Run for Supervisor or Mayor. Seriously–even if you don’t get elected, you could at least use the process (and media attention it garners) to advance the discussion.

  • davistrain

    Ms. Allen: I don’t live in SF, so I don’t have a vote in the matter, but if you did run for public office, a lot of people would vote for you.  I would especially endorse restoring electric railway service to Geary St.  Your proposals all make sense but some of them violate Catren’s Law: “In any given historical event, someone gets
     their toes stepped on.”  Your ideas for adding or increasing parking fees would definitely bring forth howls of outrage from car owners.  Ideally, there should be large parking facilities in Colma (where the City has been “parking” its deceased citizens for decades) and 24-hour a day BART service.  Also, how about a BART line running up 19th Ave (CA Highway 1) all the way from Daly City to Marin County, with special trains with flatcars for tranporting through travelers’ cars to keep them off City streets?  (this last proposal is somewhat less than serious, but goes along with the general spirit of the article).  If the powers that be in the City want to do more than just bloviate about “safe bicycling” and “transit first” (while they cruise around in cars and SUVs) they should at least get some of your proposals into the active discussion stage.  And yes, to really get some of these concepts into reality, the voters would have to amend the city charter to add the office of “Philosopher-King” or “Chief Knocker of Heads Together”.  Maybe SF does have some lessons to learn from Singapore.

  • voltairesmistress

     Mikesonn, I assume you are replying to me, voltairesmistress, though you never deign to use my account name.  My comments about accommodating multiple mode use, sharing the road, and differing points of view have been largely consistent over time.  No new battle hymn there.

    Ms. Allen is highly informed on transportation issues, but her gloomy vision of environmental collapse and peak oil is out of whack.  She repeats it time and again in overly long posts.  Many Streetsblog readers then “like” her views, something I chalk up to how most blogs become self-selected pools of like-minded commenters.  I have been speaking up a little more these last few days, because I had some time off from work.  Probably won’t have that kind of time as of tomorrow, so that should spare you, mike, from getting irritated.

  • mikesonn

    @732c4803eb2e277d0054b17154744686:disqus You avoid addressing my main point.

  • her gloomy vision of environmental collapse and peak oil is out of whack

    Sadly I sort of want a citation on this one. Certainly there are plenty of citations supporting her premise. At the least using “out of whack” is hyperbolic.

    I got excited that we might end up with the “good side” of the current dilemma with a December that had excessive precipitation. Then it only rained half an inch in January and we are behind schedule anyway, with a lot of the December water already released into the rivers to provide flood control for January rains that never appeared. My spring crops germinated fine but are way ahead of schedule for growth leaving them susceptible to frost, and the mucked up jet stream keeps bringing in random arctic fronts (albeit not as cold as an arctic front would normally be).

    Unless the climatologists who have advanced the hypothesis regarding climate change are completely wrong, there are troubles ahead. Every year the position of the naysayers softens a bit – “oh, the earth is warming but it’s not man made” which translates to “I can no longer refute the data so I will find some reason to claim we can’t do anything about it anyway so I don’t have to carpool”.

  • Gneiss

    votairesmistress: Total vehicle miles (VMT) traveled in the US peaked in 2007 at 3,038,328 million miles and the federal governments estimate for this year is 2,945,266 million.  When you compare the VMT over the last 5 years with increases that took place over the previous 25, you’ll see that a profound shift in behavior has taken place – largely driven by higher liquid fuel energy costs.  We are all frogs in water that is slowly heating up.  We won’t really know that the water is boiling until we see the bubbles around us.

  • Graff Bill

    If you want to make walking a lot safer start enforcing the no biking on sidewalks rule. At most only kids under 12 should ever ride bikes on sidewalks. I am a senior 70years old and NEVER use my car within the city except for a very long distance(1.5 hr.on Muni) trip to VA hospital from my inner Mission home. I use walking in my area and Muni for medium trips. But just walking down Bryant Street to 16th means dodging bikes ridden by adults on the sidewalk. Bryant has few cars at any time so there is no reason for bikes to be on those sidewalks. How about Valencia Street with ultra narrow sidewalks and a bike lane on both sides and bikes merrily trying to go on sidewalks at medium speed with many pedestrians? Bike riders should understand they are NOT to compete with walkers for the sidewalks. Is San Francisco ever going to tire of kissing bike rider butts? Their priority is after walkers I hope. Most bike riders are under 50. I know the City’s new priority is younger childless people with $$$ and not the poor, seniors or families but let’s be fair.

  • Bill Carpenter

    Bay Bridge? 

  • mikesonn

    I rarely (read never) see people biking on the sidewalks. Is this really a problem?

  • Fran Taylor

    I try to stop cyclists on the sidewalks with “Can I ask you a question?” If they stop, I point to my gray hair, tell them I’m 63 and recently had a hip replacement and I’m still not too chickenshit to ride my bike in the street. So don’t they realize their healthy young (usually male) ass on the sidewalk makes them look like a wimp? I’ve actually gotten quite a few sheepish responses. I hope they translate into changed behavior.

  • The only people I see riding on the sidewalks in SF are junkies and immigrants. One group does not care, the other doesn’t know any better. If they did know better it turns out it’s actually a lot less safe for them to ride on the sidewalk.

  • Anonymous

    I never notice the cyclists on the sidewalk (probably because I’m biking in the street) but my brother did when he was visiting. I pointed out that everyone who bikes on the sidewalk probably (and as murphstahoe said, they often look) like they don’t have health insurance, whereas the cyclists in the street probably do or don’t care. Not that this solves the problem, but I’m always a little more empathetic when I realize that. The other cause is places where one sees cyclists on sidewalks are often dangerous and hard to navigate.  Cracking down on sidewalk behavior is often a veiled way of punishing the poor and homeless, rather than making our streets safer for bicyclists or making our health system more equitable (ha).

  • Complaining about sidewalk cycling is just finding another way to complain about cyclists in general. How else do you explain that one of the hues and cries when we discuss making an on street bike lane better – something that would attract cyclists to riding on the street – is responded to by saying “cyclists can have bike lanes when they stop riding on the sidewalk!”

  • Gezellig

    You’re identifying a symptom of a problem (infrastructural inequity), but not a solution to it. Few people *want* to bike on the sidewalk, but car-centric infrastructure may make people feel like they have to at times.

    The good news is building good bike-specific infrastructure largely solves this:

    If someone’s still biking on the sidewalk there, *then* throw the book at them. In the meantime, this is definitely an issue, as well:


  • I’m glad they’re avoiding any improvements in Golden Gate Park, which is a cartopian dream!

  • Golden Gate Park(ing) – Refuge for the Weary Motorist

  • Gezellig

    It’s not enough! We wouldn’t have to even deal with those pesky foot and bike users in the park in the first place if the Silent Majority in SF would finally stand up to those elitist bipedalists.

    SF could really stand up to those with bike-curious tendencies who’ve been tempted off the path of righteousness (aka freeways) by implementing these beautiful, timeless solutions as originally planned:



    The dream of the 50s is alive in SF-land!


This Week: How SF Plans to Boost Walking, Biking, and Transit

Planners at the SF Municipal Transportation Agency are set to present the agency’s five-year Strategic Plan tomorrow, laying out a framework to improve walking, biking, and transit in the city — stay tuned for coverage. Here are all the highlights from the Streetsblog calendar: Tuesday: SFMTA Board: Special Strategic Plan Workshop. The SFMTA will present its five-year […]

With WalkFirst, SF Takes a Data-Driven Approach to Pedestrian Safety

The city recently launched the WalkFirst program to lay a data-driven, participatory foundation for the effort to attain the main goal of its Pedestrian Strategy — cutting pedestrian injuries in half by 2021. In the coming months, staff from the SFMTA, the Planning Department, the Controller’s Office, and the Department of Public Health will field public input […]