Fell and Oak Safety Features to Finally Be Installed By April

Bulb-outs, rain gardens, and planted traffic islands on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now set to be completed two years late. Image: SFMTA

The final pieces of the protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety upgrades on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now due to be finished by April, according to the Department of Public Works. Assuming this timetable holds up, construction of the project will conclude two years after the originally promised date in spring 2013.

Crews have been at work for months installing the sidewalk extensions and rain gardens on Fell and Oak between Baker and Scott Streets. There have been no signs yet of construction of the planted traffic islands that will separate the bike lanes from motor traffic (except in locations where there are driveways or turn lanes).

The buffered bike lanes on Fell and Oak have mostly remained the same since they were striped without physical protection in September 2012 and May 2013, respectively. One exception was the installation of short-lived plastic posts in April 2013, which were removed after the bike lanes were re-paved less than a year late and never replaced.

At some points during construction, the Fell and Oak bike lanes have been blocked. Photo: Jonathan G/Twitter

Without the traffic islands, the bike lanes remain unprotected, keeping riders exposed to three lanes of heavy motor traffic and discouraging risk-averse people from biking. Drivers often park in the lanes, though Supervisor London Breed has convinced the tow truck company on Fell to reduce that practice.

While most of the basic bike safety improvements are in place, the project delays have been numerous and, in most cases, baffling. During the planning process, the original construction date of spring 2012 was pushed back a year to create more parking on nearby streets to compensate for spaces removed for the bike lanes. In October 2013, the SFMTA and DPW said construction wouldn’t happen that year because the agencies wanted to tweak the designs of the bulb-outs and islands.

Until recently, a sign was posted at the site promising construction would be finished in January 2015. When asked why the project still isn’t finished, DPW staff didn’t answer the question, only providing the new date. 

  • BBnet3000

    Why on the left side? Are we trying to lure British tourists to cycle?

  • Jason

    File under: I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Gezellig

    I always assumed it was on the left side of Fell because the main goal of that stretch is to get people from the Wiggle into the Panhandle, both of which are on the southern (left) side of Fell.

    If it were on the right side of the street that’d require crossing over twice for the majority of people going from the Wiggle to the Panhandle.

  • BBnet3000

    Ah, thanks for the info. Writing from New York where we put all of our protected lanes on the left for no good reason.

  • Gezellig

    Hah yeah this one definitely has a good reason.

    Btw the one on Oak (going the reverse direction from the Panhandle to the Wiggle) is on the right side, of course.

    For a virtual tour of the Wiggle -> Panhandle part:


  • twinpeaks_sf

    From what I heard, NYC prefers left-side bike lanes on *one-way streets* because: [1] they run along passenger doors only (which have a lower likelihood of being opened), [2] fewer left turns occur than rights (but I haven’t seen the data), and [3] the driver is closer to the person biking and is theoretically better able to notice them before their path’s cross. I wonder if they’ve done a comparison study…

  • Gezellig

    I’ve thought for awhile you could probably also do a comparison study on the dual-side, yes, *dual-side* conventional bike lanes around Midtown Sacramento. The first time I biked on one of those streets I was like…wait…what?

  • twinpeaks_sf

    That’s awesone – easier to turn left, though you’d have to be comfortable as a vehicular cyclist.

    I do question the logic of striping two door zone bike lanes instead of using that ROW for a buffered or (better yet) parking-protected path.

  • Gezellig

    Yeah, left turns require crossing two lanes of speeding traffic. If there are a lot of cars it’s not fun. I guess you’re supposed to plan based on whether you’ll be turning right or left down the line and pick a doorzone lane from the get-go accordingly. But it’s not always as easy as that, for various reasons.

    Yeah, I also strongly question the wisdom of striping two 5-ft. lane doorzones instead of any other number of protected options. Apparently it was part of a road diet in 2007 before protected bike lanes were on the radar for most places in California:


    Before road diet


    After road diet


    Sac is hopefully considering better things, though, including a potential protected intersection:


    Davis is also apparently looking into it in a couple of places:


    Will the Sac area be the first in the US to build one? We’ll see!

  • Justin

    Looks like there seems to be a lack of accountability in getting this project done right in a timely manner especially in the past, I would hope that this project gets done ASAP, the time for delaying has to stop, I’ve seen too many delays when it comes to building good PROTECTED cycling infrastructure here in San Francisco. I’m curious if the enhanced “protected,” sections will be painted green entirely? Because the photo in the article with the renderings doesn’t show the whole lane painted green.

    Secondly it would be great if they can build a PROTECTED bikeway extending from Baker where the improvements end, to Fell and Stanyan, or Fell and Shrader, or it can lead into Golden Gate Park, something like that bordering the Panhandle

  • dat

    Is the ‘PROTECTED bikeway’ you’re speaking of different thean a ‘protected bikeway’? Is there a difference between one that is designated with all capital letters and one that is not? I’m still learning all of the jargon and technical terms for these things and the language the city planners use.

  • iamjared

    It’s on the left because the left side of Fell has a few driveways, so you can separate the lane with planters or other barriers. The right side of Fell is almost entirely residential driveways. It’s just a matter of practicality. Additionally, if you move the lane to the right, every bike riding up the Wiggle has to cross Fell to get into the Fell bike lane.

  • Morgan Fitzgibbons

    For those of you keeping score at home, that’s over 4 years since “Mayor” Ed “Gets It Done” Lee called for the city to “fast-track” this project, 2.5 years since the project was officially approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors, and 2 years after it was supposed to be in the ground.

    San Francisco: where it takes 4 years for a 6 block cycling infrastructure project to be completed in the most optimal community political conditions in the entire city.

    Glad we pay those folks at the MTA $600 million every year to be a complete joke.

  • lunartree

    We need to stop waiting for community input at every stop in planning. Getting stuff done will really require making some executive decisions.

  • Justin

    Nah, I chose to capitalize it because I wanted to, to make it standout, why I didn’t capitalize the one under quotations, I just probably forgot, there is no difference to the all caps in contrast to the lowercase in quotations if that’s what you’re asking

  • JJ94117

    Community input has nothing to do with these delays. The local community has been supporting this and pushing for completion since the get-go.

  • Rain__or__Shine

    Am I the only regular user of this stretch who is not particularly excited about this?

    During evening commute hours, this can be a crowded lane – even with some riders using part of the buffer space. When you factor in that the left 12-18 inches of the lane are unrideable (or at least very undesirable), I don’t know that I want huge plant boxes further squeezing me in.

    I’m not saying that I’m opposed to it, I’m just not sure about it. Perhaps I’ll know for sure soon…

  • On a one-way street it’s much safer to put the bicycle lane on the left side of the street because drivers can more clearly see you when making a left hand turn. They should do this along Folsom and Howard. Also the Pan Handle entrance is on the left, so putting a bike lane on the right side of the street would be a mess, forcing cyclists on the wiggle to cross Fell street three times before going into GG park.

  • Gezellig

    You raise a great point–there’s often a disconnect between the practical usability width of a bike lane vs. its on-paper width.


    What a nice 1-ft. “bike”…uhhh…”lane!”

    Actually, even if the lane width stayed the same but it were repaved as level, smooth asphalt (no concrete curb gutter) the practical width would be greatly increased because of course in its current state most people naturally avoid concrete curb gutters and even the several inches of downward-sloping asphalt adjacent to it.

    As for the physical buffers, I think on balance they’re still welcome. Why?

    For one, this will not only be less tempting but less physically possible in most places:




    In addition to the increases in real and perceived safety (not to be discounted in terms of encouraging new bikership!), there’s also the following feedback loop:

    real barriers –> visual narrowing of the road for drivers –> car speeding reduction –> more pleasant experience for people on bikes –> more people bike

    This is especially true for the Interested But Concerned. I’ve introduced several friends to biking via the Wiggle/Panhandle and the lack of true buffering (by anything but easily ignorable paint) on this stretch is clearly the most stressful part. Cars speed by like it’s a freeway and regularly encroach upon or ignore painted bike lanes.

    Yes, this may increase bike congestion at certain points and times but it’s also kind of a “good” problem to have. The more people bike, the greater support there will be for better bike-infra improvements going forward. And of course every trip taken by bike is one that could’ve been by car. Personally, if traffic is going to be slowing me down a bit at rush hour I’d rather that be due to sharing it with lots of bikes rather than lots of cars, if I had to choose.

  • The article referred to this as a bike lane. Is this to be a required to use facility, just as bike lanes are, per CVC 21208?

  • Gezellig

    That’d be interesting to find out. Of course the CVC21208 does also allow for a very broad set of exceptions to the mandatory use law, including:

    “..the person may move out of the lane under
    any of the following situations:

    (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or
    pedestrian within the lane or about to enter the lane if the
    overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the lane.

    (3) When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid
    debris or other hazardous conditions.”


    Points #1 and #3 are especially key. At least in SF this is probably why it’s rarely enforced because of how often it truly is necessary to leave a bike lane.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    According to the 2006 version of the California Highway Design Manual a bike lane next to a gutter should be 1.5 meters wide. That is to ensure that the bike lane is 1.2 meters wide as the gutter is not suitable to ride on. Your first picture does not follow that recommendation.

  • Yes, I’ve heard the same, dunno the ultimate policy document that stipulates this, though.

    I was biking in NYC for a few years and realized I was mostly keeping to the left on one-way streets (without bike lanes). A savvier biker mentioned that her strategy was to be positioned to the left at right turns and to the right at left turns. This of course involves taking the lane as needed (plus there’s all the double-parking to weave around).

    Fell Street is a very different animal, though. It was deployed (twinned with Oak Street, a multi-lane one-way street in the opposite direction) in a fit of pique by traffic engineers who were thwarted by the Freeway Revolt. It was designed as a vengeful traffic sewer through an African-American residential neighborhood.

  • Your CABO colleague Bob Shanteau asserted as much in 2010, before this stretch was reconfigured to add soft-hit posts. Repackaging the assertion as a question is an improvement, I guess.

    I regularly bike in the right lane on Fell in advance of a right turn.

  • What you, Jim Dyer, regularly do is somewhat immaterial to whether the hybrid facility is, as promoted, a bike lane per CVC 21208. It may matter if someone bicycling outside of this “Protected Bike Lane” is involved in a collision and fault is assigned to the bicyclists solely for being out of the bike lane.
    My understanding is that raised barriers were not to be used next to bike lanes, per the Calif. HDM (Yes, I know the requirements for following the HDM were removed by AB 1193.) so, it seems perhaps that the “Protected Bike Lane” might more accurately be called a “Protected Bikeway” or even a “Cycletrack” and the onerous Bike Lane restrictions would not be applicable.

  • Bob Shanteau removed himself from formal CABO involvement a year or so ago. Our loss.
    I am not seeking to improve upon his assertion; i hadn’t recalled it being made. I am asking if anyone knows what the facility is and what requirements are for its use. If any. Will I be subject to a traffic violation or liability in a collision for not using it as a bike lane, when none of the CVC 21208 exceptions apply?

  • Sure, one individual’s actions will always be “somewhat” immaterial, but the point is that one can exercise the exemptions in CVC21208. It would be boffo if an organization would take up the task of getting rid of CVC21208 entirely, so we don’t have to bog down in fussing over what things are called.

  • Bog down? I asked if this IS a bike lane. Do you know?
    I would like to get this settled before someone is cited or injured and a judge or jury will be deciding… a jury of peers that will sadly most likely not include any people who use a bicycle or care about those who do.
    Does the SFBC know? @san francisco bicycle Coalition … Hmmm that didn’t work…


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