SFMTA Unveils 6th St. Proposal With Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Wider Sidewalks

Sixth Street today, and as envisioned in the new proposal. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA unveiled a proposal last week to redesign northern Sixth Street by trimming traffic lanes from four to two, widening sidewalks, and adding unprotected, green-painted bike lanes. Intersections on the stretch between Market and Howard Streets could also get features like raised crosswalks, speed tables (like speed bumps, but wider), and textured pavement to tame driving speeds.

“This is super exciting,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. While the plan already calls for converting many curbside parking spots to pedestrian space, Kim would like to see the plan for Sixth go farther, especially between Market and Mission Streets, because residents complain that parked cars are often used to obscure illegal behaviors like drug dealing. “Our residents don’t have cars, so they don’t feel the need for the metered parking,” she said.

Adam Gubser, project manager for the SFMTA, said environmental review on the project is expected to begin in January, which will flesh out how the redesign would affect street safety, car congestion, and the diversion of traffic to other streets. That process is expected to take 16 to 18 months, but there’s no firm construction timeline set yet.

When asked about including parking-protected bike lanes in the plan, SFMTA planners said the unprotected lanes in the proposal should be sufficient since traffic will be calmer and much of the lane will be curbside. They also said greater separation from motor vehicle traffic could potentially be added in the future if more parking is removed on Sixth.

Securing funding for the project, which according to preliminary estimates could cost in the range of $2 million to $5 million, should be a slam dunk, said Gubser. “Given the high pedestrian collisions we’re facing, it’s in line with the Mayor’s Directive on Pedestrian Safety, and the SFMTA’s goals of reducing injury collisions for pedestrians,” he said. “This is a project that is very likely to be funded.”

In the meantime, Gubser said the SFMTA will develop streetscape improvements to make the existing sidewalk space more attractive, including the installation of new lighting fixtures. Earlier this month, the agency installed the city’s first painted sidewalk extensions.

“We’re really hoping to create a different type of street that acknowledges that this is a real neighborhood,” said Kim, “not just a freeway on-ramp.”

See the SFMTA’s presentation on the project here [PDF].

A street-level view of proposed design for Sixth. Image: SFMTA
  • Upright Biker

    Thank you planners, for not showing bright green bike lanes on the rendering. Perhaps now we can discuss the project’s true merits and deficiencies instead of having to spend all our time defending this against howls that it’s “just another giveaway to the bicycling mafia.”

  • As I remember, they were actually shown in green on the boards at the meeting…

  • jd_x

    This is a big step in the right direction, but I can’t understand why we can’t get separated bicycle lanes. instead of these pockets for cars to park in, just put the bicycle lane on the other side of the parked cars. What is keeping city planners from just doing this and creating truly safe bicycle lanes?

  • Upright Biker

    Interesting. If in the end they do paint them green, along with those red intersections in the rendering, perhaps we can just rename 6th Street “Christmas Street.”

    😉

  • Upright Biker

    I stil don’t get why they’re so entrenched in that thinking, either.

    They always talk about “conflict points,” mostly in reference to driveways, but the fact of the matter is that every moving vehicle is a potential “conflict point.” In fact, every car door is a potential “conflict point,” and since every car has a driver at some point but rarely has a passenger, putting the bike lane between the sidewalk and parked cars would reduce the “conflict points” considerably.

  • shamelessly

    I suspect it has something to do with the perceived ability of people to adapt to new parking configurations. People parking cars are used to automatically getting the safety of the curb as part of an on-street parking space. Protected bike lanes take this safety away from the car parking space, and give it to the bike lane instead (hooray!). This (understandably, I think) leaves people parking cars feeling exposed, and the first few times, probably uncertain how to safely get to the sidewalk. Sure, another label for that is “forced empathy with people who bike,” but realistically, politicians don’t like backlash from people who drive. Not sure what needs to happen to get people who drive comfortable with this configuration. Perhaps just stiffer spines in our elected officials to get through the training period?

  • coolbabybookworm

    another option is to have the bike path above the curb like they’re sort of proposing for 2nd street. It enables drivers to park next to a curb and bike riders are more protected.

    This project is a pedestrian safety focused project, so the bike lane is added because there is room, not because SFMTA trying to make great bike infrastructure on 6th street. That’s why it’s not separated. baby steps I guess…

  • AJ

    “Transition zone” appears to be a new planning term for “double parking zone.”

  • Ion Feldman

    Bike lanes will just be used as loading zones as they are everywhere else in the city. smh.

  • Josh Handel

    This plan shows that the city clearly enjoys me spitting on double parked cars.

  • Michael Smith

    I remember battling the DPT trying to get them to change the third-lane, the parking lane, to not be a tow-away lane. The city argued that the car capacity of three lanes was needed at rush hour, pedestrian safety be damned. Eventually they changed it to just two lanes of traffic in each direction. And now the SFMTA is proposing a single lane. We’ve come a long way!

    But of course we still have a long way to go!!

  • Walk Eagle Rock

    Interesting they decided to give generous widths for parking and travel lanes but not for bike lanes. Parking lanes could be 7 or 8ft wide and travel lanes could be 10.5ft, if not 10ft. Should push to make the bike lane as wide as possible by at least narrowing the travel lanes (if only be half a foot, everything counts)

  • Joel

    I hate to speculate on ulterior motives, but my guess is that SFMTA added the transition zones and conventional bike lanes to make the usable road space wider. In this scenario, the street would be just wide enough to accommodate 4 auto lanes if they wanted to remove the bike lanes and parking completely.

  • SFnative74

    A wider parking lane helps cyclists by keeping suddenly opened doors out of the bike lane.

  • Walk Eagle Rock

    True, and I don’t know the exact circumstances for this street (like if a lot of large trucks park along it) but in LA I find bike lanes to be plenty comfortable when parking is 8ft and bike lane is 6ft.

    I’d still say at the very least shave half a foot off the travel lanes and give that space to the bike lane.

  • steve

    They should keep 2 lanes in each direction and just remove all parking. Turn the parking lanes into protected bike lanes.

  • Strangely enough the green paint does seem to reduce the amount of double parking in the bike lane. Its still a big problem with limited enforcement.

  • This is a great step in the right direction. Kudos to the SFMTA and Supervisor Kim.

  • Mario Tanev

    What a horribly wasted opportunity for protected bicycle lanes. This is such a major re-configuration, it’s unconscionable that they are blowing this. Valencia has a similar configuration as proposed, and yes, it is calmer than some other streets but the bicycle lanes get blocked regularly and there is regular conflict with turning cars.

    This could have been the city’s first complete street, with separate signal for bicycles and complete separation. They could have used it to inform other streets on how well the configuration works. Instead, they are just doing the same old.

  • Upright Biker

    I’m all for the green paint when it comes to implementation, but when it’s the only brightly colored thing on the rendering, people tend to fixate on it like adding new bike lanes is the sole reason these street upgrades are happening.

    I’ve noticed some reduction in the double parking, tho it still seems to happen pretty regularly. At least it makes it harder for the drivers to say “they didn’t know.”

  • Prinzrob

    When it comes to bike lanes to the left of parallel parked cars the official bike lane width is not as important as the bike lane+parking lane width. In this case 14 feet (9 parking + 5 bike) isn’t bad, but I personally would prefer that they spend 3-4 feet between the parking and bike lanes as a painted buffer to discourage people on bikes from riding there in the door zone.

    That being said, without a physical buffer there is no such thing as a bike lane, in the Bay Area at least. In most people’s minds it only exists as an auxiliary loading/waiting/parking/stopping space for their cars and trucks. As such, the plan as-is provides no guaranteed accommodation to bicyclists unless it is also accompanied by a physical buffer or at least dedicated & significant enforcement of the law to keep drivers honest.

  • quinine_bubbles
  • Mark Dreger

    JFK failed (at least in the public’s eye – I personally don’t have much of a problem with it) – but that was a very unique street with varying widths throughout, irregular curves, and without an adjacent sidewalk.

    It’s time to try a parking-protected bikeway again, somewhere else. On an active city street that is straight and has a regular geometry. It doesn’t have to be 6th Street, but it could. Cycle tracks work and it’s high time we figure out how to incorporate them into San Francisco’s street system.

    I really like the design by @quinine_bubbles:disqus below, check it out.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    This _looks_ like a big improvement but you can’t cut 6th street from 100 cars to 10 cars just by drawing a picture. How are they actually going to deal with bumper-to-bumper car traffic here? People are going to stop on the speed tables, just like the bozo in the left picture is stopped in the crosswalk.

  • J

    Awesome and so obvious. Why is SFMTA so resistant to this idea? Also, if you grab a screenshot of this and put it in your comment it’ll be easier for everyone to see.

  • Sue

    And again, most of the collisions between bicyclists and vehicles happen at the intersections. These plans do not mitigate intersections, though they are a step in the right direction.

  • Morgan

    Thank you for posing a question that seems to have a basis in reality, something I think is sorely lacking on this blog. Have the rest of you gone completely crackballs? 6th Street is the ingress and egress to 280 (I know, I know – tear it down, tear it down – if you think that’s happening anytime soon — um ok sure).
    This plan is ridiculous.

  • Y

    I’ve been following this project and it is mainly to make 6th street nicer for pedestrians. I find it funny how everyone here is so fixated on this bike lane when the street isn’t even a bike route today. I like the changes because it will calm traffic, make it easier to cross 2 lanes instead of 4, and make for wider sidewalks. Maybe there shouldn’t be a bike lane at all so we can have even wider sidewalks. As for the idea of putting the bike lane between the car and the sidewalk, that makes for narrower sidewalks than is planned. And I bet you that all the people who walk or hang out on the sidewalk will end up spilling into that space anyway. I vote for no bike lane so we can have more space for walkers.

  • SFnative74

    Looks nice but bike lane is too narrow. It’s impossible to ride side by side or pass someone, esp w a hard edge on both sides. Also, the mini sidewalk needs to be at least 4′ or 5′ for people with disabilities to use when they get out of their car or a van. Doesn’t leave much for wider sidewalks.

  • quinine_bubbles

    Thanks – you bring up a good point about loading for people in wheelchairs. I think the bike lanes on 6th Street would be most valuable if they connected down to Townsend, to help bring Caltrain users to Market and avoid the roundabout on 8th. Although 6th street becomes an on ramp, there is currently a pedestrian path alongside it, which could be expanded for bicycle use. The intersection timing could be maintained if the bikes went at the same time as the crosswalk on the NE side of the street. The sidewalks are 2′ narrower than the MTA’s proposal in this scenario.

    http://streetmix.net/-/89536

    http://i.imgur.com/NV9BDi5.png
    http://i.imgur.com/Q6aLBCi.jpg

  • jd_x

    Here’s what I don’t understand. You say you are concerned about pedestrian safety. Yet somehow you would prefer bike lanes be totally removed (!!) rather than car parking? That is completely irrational. Do you understand that it is the cars that are killing and maiming pedestrians? What kind of society do we live in where people would claim to be for pedestrian safety on one hand then on the other propose removing all bicycle infrastructure to make way for more car infrastructure? If you are a pedestrian (and aren’t we all?), then you should be clamoring for more bicycle infrastructure at the expense of car infrastructure.

    And then, to top if off, you wonder why people here are so “fixated on the bike lane” when you perfectly exemplify the kind of discrimination regularly made against an entire mode of transit which has been shown over and again to be one of the most healthy, safe, cheap, efficient, and environmentally-friendly. It’s amazing how you think that it’s okay to completely neglect an entire mode of transit (which, by the way, the city is, in theory, actively pushing to get 20% of trips by bicycle by 2020) when a road is redesigned. And just because it didn’t have bike lanes before doesn’t mean a thing … well, unless we’re ready to start making roads that just so happen to not have any room for cars.

  • Gezellig

    In this Streetmix I kept the same widths as the midblock cross-section SFMTA showed but flipped the parking/bike lanes.

    Um, SFMTA? There’s an *actual* 8 to 80 lane for ya.

    As other commenters have posted I’d prefer a more radical approach such as removing parking on one side of the road for more ped/bike space but even with their own current measurements how is something like this not being considered?

    I agree their proposal is better than the current state but when we have the opportunity to really do something great why propose lackluster 3rd-tier solutions like Class II bike lanes when it takes the same amount of space to just do parking-protected lanes? Especially on major flat routes that need them the most.

    Cannot fathom why this city is so utterly backwards when it comes to bike infrastructure development. How is SFMTA’s proposal even a thing in 2013?

  • Gezellig

    Traffic demand isn’t fixed.

    In fact, lots of cities have discovered that due to Braess’s Paradox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess's_paradox) that they actually reduced overall traffic demand not only on a road-dieted street but also on the streets around it.

    Also, the more you invest in more prevalent (and better) bike/ped/transit infrastructure the more and more of those cars disappear and become pedestrians, people on bikes, and transit-takers.

  • Gezellig

    Exactly. These kinds of bike “solutions” create highly unsafe problems at intersections that are EASILY addressed by installing a cycletrack instead of a Class II bike lane.

    (Video demonstration: http://youtu.be/FlApbxLz6pA)

    The Dutch get it. Why can’t we?

  • SFnative74

    See my comments below. This bike lane would not work at all! 5′ is too narrow when pinned in like this. And no buffer between the parked cars and bikeway.

  • mikesonn

    More double parking lanes w/ bike stenciling. And people say there is a war on cars.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I agree with you that we desperately need better bike infrastructure, but Y does have a point. This is primarily a pedestrian driven project on all levels, community, Jane Kim’s Office, and the SFMTA. I don’t love the current proposal but it is a step in the right direction (yay! for removing auto lanes in SoMa). As the article says, this is going to be a big part of the plan to achieve the city’s goals of reducing pedestrian injuries and deaths. The sooner they can get this in the ground, the better (for them and residents), and they probably don’t want to spend months (years) working on getting world class bike infrastructure when they really just want a lane reduction. Maybe that trade off isn’t worth it to you, but it sounds like it is to many people.

    That said, I really think 6th street would be awesome with parking or otherwise protected bike lanes, especially since 5th and 4th are such messes right now due to subway construction. It’s something that should be relatively quick, cheap, and easy for our city to build and somehow it isn’t.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Yes I’m quite aware. However, this isn’t some induced-demand masterpiece in a greenfield in western Virginia. This is a road that goes lots of places. I would expect it to be jammed up with 2 lanes to the same degree, per-lane, as it is with 4 lanes.

    Really this is more of an expression of how much I hate these renderings than anything substantive. Are they going to also bleach the pavement so it’s bright white? Remove all the signals and trash cans? Are they actually planning to replace all the street lights with the new style in the drawing or was that just the standard street lamp their drawing software offered? Etc. Sorry for being such a nit picker.

  • Luke

    Personally, I prefer having roadway space at my left that I can ride into in case I need to exit the bike lane to turn left or pass another bicyclist. A line of parked cars would make that impossible.

    Plus, it would only take one parked car mistakenly (or defiantly) parked incorrectly against the curb, or any other curbside object (e.g. garbage bins) to trap every bicyclist in the bike lane. Also, since speed differentials contribute so much to injury severity It seems more logical to have a continuum of fast traffic/slower traffic/stopped traffic than fast traffic/stopped traffic/slower traffic.

    I get the reasons why some people like the above configuration, but I really don’t think it’s an open-and-shut case.

  • Walker

    I don’t know why SFMTA is “reinventing the wheel”. Copenhagen already has excellent bikeway designs that have been proven to work. The bikeway should not be out in the street between high-speed traffic and parking cars. The bikeway should be next to the sidewalk, and elevated to the same height as the sidewalk. The tree lane next to the parking lane can be used to prevent dooring and to provide seating for handicapped residents awaiting their ride.

  • Sprague

    Although the proposed redesign is a major improvement over today’s street layout, I agree this is a missed opportunity to not include protected bike lanes. The only way for San Francisco to come even remotely close to its lofty 20% bicycle mode share goal is by redesigning many streets with bicycling facilities that work for the full spectrum of the 8 to 80 crowd (especially streets in flat and dense sections of the city, ie. near Market and in SOMA). Bicycling becomes a much more appealing mode of travel for nearly all segments of society when the risk of bicycle-automobile collision is greatly reduced.

  • Ryan Brady

    I dunno, I think removing parking from corners (bulbouts) solves a lot of conflict between drivers and cyclists at the most dangerous points (intersections).

  • sebra leaves

    I like the way the cars magically disappear when the lanes are cut in half. Just because you can draw it doesn’t mean it will happen.

  • David

    Dear SFMTA,
    Please spend less time thinking of ways to repaint traffic lanes and more time fixing public transit.
    A “Transit First” policy should be exactly that. Make public transit something worth using, FIRST and then go about making it even more impossible than it already is to drive int this town. You want people to drive less? Give them better options!
    Thanks.

  • sebra leaves

    These ideas sound more reasonable than what we are seeing on the drawing boards and on our streets.

  • sf_commuter

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned this yet, my biggest concern with cutting 6th street to 2 lanes is that there is almost always semis/ firetrucks/ ambulances/ police cars blocking the right lane on 6th street. Having only one lane of traffic in either direction means if anything unexpected blocks a lane on 6th street (the city epicenter of shenanigans) there will be no through traffic. I commute down 6th street and some sort of obstruction is a daily occurrence.

    Although equally extreme, it may cause less gridlock to convert the street to pedestrian/ bike only.

    Is anyone else concerned about this?

  • Jeffrey Baker

    That’s true. Every time some deranged hobo stubs his toe the SFFD comes roaring through in a gigantic rescue truck. Perhaps the city can develop a more proportional response to such thing? Paramedic on a moped who can radio for a heavy truck in the .1% of cases where it’s required?

  • joechoj

    Don’t forget – while doors open on driver’s side 100% of the time, doors only open on passenger’s side *maybe* 20% of the time. No buffer in exchange for protection from auto traffic? Bring it on!

  • gneiss

    Bicycling is an excellent substitute to driving. That’s a far better option than driving that they are considering for this street.

  • joechoj

    Consider this benefit to pedestrians: Swapping the bike and parking lanes would mean that when crossing a crosswalk, pedestrians would cross the lanes in the following order: bike lane, parking lane, traffic lane, center line, traffic lane, parking lane, bike lane – sidewalk (phew). If crosswalks are raised across both the bike and parking lanes (bike lanes can be ramped), suddenly pedestrians’ crossing distance is a fraction of what it was before – 2 lanes! There’s a safe island in front of the parking lane, so they only have to cross 2 lanes of auto traffic once the light changes. Bike lanes should be pretty easy for a pedestrian to scoot across when the time is right. (And in the case of a mistake, the consequences are pretty minimal compared to an auto-ped collision.) Huge improvement in crossing times, and potential pedestrian-auto collisions.

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