SFMTA Delays Ped/Bike Safety Measures on Fell and Oak Yet Again

Nearly two years after Mayor Ed Lee ##http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/05/12/on-bike-to-work-day-electeds-unite-in-support-of-future-bikeways/##took a ride on Oak Street## in a convoy of city officials and bike advocates, San Franciscans are still forced to mix with cars on the motorway. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The partially completed project to add safety measures like protected bike lanes and pedestrian bulb-outs on three blocks Fell and Oak Streets has once again been delayed by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. Though the project was originally scheduled to be completed by spring or summer, the agency now says components like the protected bike lane on Oak, bicycle traffic signals, slower signal timing, and concrete planters separating the bike lanes from motor traffic may not go in until the end of the year.

Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA had previously said that work on the Oak lane was set to begin in February — after it was originally promised by winter — but only minor changes in striping have been made (the street may appear untouched to the casual observer). The SFMTA continues to cite construction work on the Kelly-Moore paint shop at Oak and Divisadero, which has been occupying the site of Oak’s future bike lane, as a source of delay.

With bicycle riders on Fell left to wait the better part of another year for concrete planters, the SFMTA says it will install soft-hit posts as a temporary measure to help keep drivers out of the bike lane until the Department of Public Works gets the planters designed, funded, and constructed. The SF Examiner has more:

Ed Reiskin, transportation director of the transit agency, said temporary “soft-hit” pylons will soon be added to separate the Fell bike lane from traffic. However, the Oak part of the plan is much more labor-intensive and includes installing signage, removing parking meters and painting new traffic stripes.

Construction at a private business at Oak and Divisadero streets has hampered those efforts, and the Oak project might not be completed until the end of the year, Reiskin said.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said that’s unacceptable.

“I honestly can’t imagine why a project that is three blocks in length and quite simple in scope should be taking this long,” she said. “Multibillion-dollar plans like the Central Subway project are moving at a faster pace.”

Shahum said her organization is requesting that both projects be completed by Bike to Work Day on May 9.

It’s been nearly six months since the Fell and Oak project was approved by the SFMTA Board, and up until then, the agency had chalked up delays to barriers like state-mandated environmental reviews, community outreach meetings, and the time needed to offset the removal of car parking by converting parallel parking spots on side streets like Baker to angled spots. The agency did move swiftly to stripe the Fell lane by November, but it’s baffling to hear the agency produce more excuses for the lack of progress since then.

New York's Kent Avenue bikeway. Photo: NYCDOT via ##http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/09/18/latest-kent-avenue-bike-lane-complaint-truck-traffic/##Streetsblog NYC##

By comparison, in New York, the Department of Transportation built a combined 50 blocks of protected bikeways during the 2012 construction season, including pedestrian islands and bike corrals, on 8th and 9th Avenues in Midtown Manhattan. In 2008, DOT implemented a half-mile parking-protected bike lane on Grand Street within four months of approval. On Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, DOT replaced a parking lane with a buffered bike lane in 2008, causing an uproar. However, the next year the agency proposed a two-way protected bikeway design to preserve the parking and implemented the 1.6-mile, green-colored bikeway less than six months later.

Ben Fried, Streetsblog’s New York-based editor-in-chief, has been following the Fell and Oak saga. He said he’s “blown away” by how slowly the project is moving.

“It’s normal for street redesigns to encounter some hiccups on the way to implementation, but it’s absurd for a relatively simple project that’s just a few blocks long to take more than a year to build,” he said. “The only time I’ve seen anything like it in NYC is when City Hall backed away from projected bike lane projects for political reasons. At this point you have to question Ed Lee’s commitment to making Fell and Oak safer.”

  • Zack

    This is such a joke. ER says that “installing signage, removing parking meters and painting new traffic stripes” is much more labor intensive? Than what? Give me a break, that should be the easiest part of the project and they can’t even get it done? And how hard is it to put some concrete islands in the median that’s already painted on Fell? Maybe they could actually handle installing some solo cups in the meantime? http://brooklynspoke.com/2012/08/20/the-solo-cup-bike-lane/

    Ed Lee and Ed Reiskin again show a complete lack of leadership and commitment to safety of all road users.

  • Fun fact: The first bike lane on Fell was striped by guerrilla activists. The SFMTA painted an official one some time after. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jym/3210388058/

  • Anonymous

    This is yet another example of, as Wigg Party founder Morgan Fitzgibbons correctly noted in the Huffington Post, how our city “no longer leads the country in anything but the distance between our stated values and our actions and a misguided commitment to paralyzing hyper-democracy.”

    Years and years of outreach, revision, mitigation, placation and promises–and look at what we have actually achieved on the ground. Some paint, on only half the planned couplet. Guerilla activists could have achieved that same result in one night. Oh, but just give the city another year….to come up with more excuses for why they cannot possibly manage to get anything done.

    San Francisco’s defacto priorities for Oak and Fell: motorists first, motorists second, motorists third, and maybe one of these decades some substandard leftovers for bicyclists. Maybe. Vote for me!

    We who care about actual progress–and not merely words about progress–clearly must now find a way to get more from the city than pretty words and lame excuses.

  • Easy

    If Ed Lee had to ride a bike this way every day it’d be done by now. There’s no way he’s risking his life getting hit by a car, or going on a detour up the steep hill to Page.

  • I get the sense that City Hall views folks like the Bike Coalition and Walk SF as fringe groups, and that absent a powerful political force the powers that be just let these projects stumble along.

    First market street slipped by YEARS, and now this. Does anyone in city government even care?

    Why don’t we go back to some civil disobedience and start making the oak street improvements ourselves. Paint, signs and some canvas bags for the meters should probably do the trick.

  • Gryphonisle

    Why not enforce lanes? Drivers seem to be getting the idea that the lines are just a suggestion. Why not have the SFPD aggressively ticket those drivers who can’t keep their cars in their own lane, going straight, and especially, in a turn?

  • Anonymous

    I’m impressed there’s that much confidence cyclists won’t be clipping the concrete planters. I view them as more of a hazard than the present configuration. Hopefully I’m wrong.

  • Anyone interested in this topic is encouraged to attend next week’s meeting of SF’s Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC):


    Our April meeting will be Tue 4/9 @ 5:30pm in City Hall Room 408. This month’s agenda includes a presentation on Scott Wiener’s proposed legislation to improve the ped safety upgrade review/approval process, among other items.

    In addition to attending as a member of the public, consider joining us as a member! We have a number of current/pending vacancies, and I’d be happy to talk anyone through the process- contact me at throgers@yahoo.com.

  • J

    The NYC protected lanes include bike signals as well. DC also installs protected lanes rather quickly. While SF leaders talk a good game, in terms of infrastructure on the ground SF is decidedly NOT at the forefront of sustainable transportation and is rapidly falling behind cities like NYC, Chicago, DC, and even Boston.

    With the level of political support for biking seen in SF, any other big city would be the far and away leader in urban bicycle infrastructure. Sadly, SF gets mired in these ridiculous political games and nothing actually happens. It’s time to really rethink the processes surrounding transportation projects there.

  • Another fun fact: though the city is taking years to deal with Oak/Fell bike paths they somehow found the resources and ability to remove the guerrilla striping in just a couple days. They can act quickly, when they choose to.

  • Anonymous

    When it comes to the creation and maintenance of bicycle infrastructure, San Francisco is not merely ‘falling’ behind Portland, Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Boston–we have completely fallen through the basement. It’s arguable whether San Francisco is even in the second tier of progressive bicycling cities anymore.

  • Anonymous

    Per square mile, SF has recently installed more protected bikeways than any of those cities. And frankly, the reality is that many (all?) of those cities take years to install facilities when you look at the breadth of the actual process. There’s just a tendency to cherry pick parts of nice stories to shame your own city. I’ve heard activists in other cities do the same but in reverse, using progress in SF to shame their city. It’s what to be expected…especially from armchair quarterbacks who play city planner behind their computer screen.

  • Well, here I am in NYC telling you that my city is beating the pants off yours. The SF protected bike lane miles are mostly inside a park and not on the type of CBD/core network streets where NYC and now Chicago are rapidly adding protected lanes. The Market Street green lane segments do not count, they do not provide the sense of separation that continuous protected lanes do. There is nothing in SF like the north-south protected bikeways in Manhattan between 34th Street and Houston Street. If SF continues at the pace it’s demonstrated on Fell and Oak, it’s going to take centuries to reach 20% bike mode share.

  • Would have loved some of these improvements back when I rented a room at Oak and Laguna. Oak is a truly dangerous street, and what they should really be doing (in addition to adding the bike lane) is taking the three lanes down to two.

  • Yes, but our hurricane and blizzard control centers are doing a much better job than yours. And weather beats bike lanes when it comes to attracting cyclists.

  • Anonymous

    Miles of bike facilities are not all equal in value. San Francisco’s protected bikeways are in Golden Gate Park, on eastern Cesar Chavez, and on Cargo Way. Only the GGP route is even remotely helpful or relevant to a significant proportion of the city’s everyday cyclists. Chicago, DC and New York, on the other hand, have built protected bikeways into, through and out of their central business districts. It will have taken us a decade to get that–if we ever get it at all–on Market Street.

  • Filamino

    Nice try Ben and greasybear. Stop throwing flames on the bullshit fire. You cannot compare with tight compact SF with the other cities. Separated bike facilities like those mentioned are still not proven to be safer or accepted as you claim. I think it’s great that SF tries separated bike facilities first before putting them elsewhere. Just look at the mixed response that the GG Park separated bike lane is receiving. Just because it’s fine in NYC doesn’t mean SF is favorable. SF still has many more regular and buffered bike lanes and facilities per mile of road available that are helpful using the limited right-of-way, driveways, street network, and political factors compared to other cities. Thank you ride_it_like_you_stole_it for being the only other person with a straight head here.

  • Filamino

    I am more worried about cars hitting the planters and the debris flying into the bike lane or bicyclists riding in the lane. It could be a maintenance nightmare. Hopefully, the planters will be designed to just break apart if hit and fall to the ground.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll take planters over soft-hit posts (or nothing) any day.However, I wish we could just do it right and just put the cycle track up on a curb like every other country with significant numbers of cyclists has figured out. Not only does this completely prevent cars from using the bike lane, but it keeps the debris off the bike lane (something which has become a big problem on SF’s few cycle tracks).

  • Anonymous

    Filamino, you cannot simultaneously demand we not unfavorably compare San Francisco with other cities while declaring SF has ‘many more regular and buffered bike lanes and facilities per mile of road.’ Either we are comparing or we are not–you can’t have it both ways.

    In any case, I don’t believe you–I don’t believe SF has many more miles of helpful bike facilities than New York, Chicago, DC, Portland, Minneapolis, etc.–cities that have all rapidly built safe, useful bike networks, which we still lack.

    A mile of regular bike lane is worthless if it is regularly and consistently closed to bike traffic due to double-parked cars (e.g. Valencia). A mile of buffered bike lane is of no value to the vast majority of cyclists who don’t use it because it is many miles away from routes cyclists actually use (Cargo Way). Sharrows? They mean nothing to anyone, including cyclists (Polk).

    I’ll take the supposedly fewer miles of bike facility if it means the miles we get are useful and safe like the cycle track networks that are being built quickly in downtown New York, downtown Chicago, downtown DC, etc.

  • greasybear – Chavez is used by a *lot* of cyclists.


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