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Howard Bike Lane Gets Wider and Greener — Will Protection Come Soon?

The Howard Street bike lane in SoMa, between Sixth and Tenth Streets, was widened and got some green paint this week. While it's no protected bike lane, we've already heard from bike commuters who say the buffer zone and contrast make the ride a bit more comfortable.

For the SFMTA, these improvements are low-hanging fruit to pluck while shaping bigger plans protected bike lanes on Howard and Folsom Street, a couplet of one-way streets. Howard's new buffer zone, which isn't as wide as Folsom's, was created by narrowing a 15-foot wide traffic lane, which didn't require a lengthy environmental review.

Folsom's bike lane was widened with a buffer zone between Fourth and 11th Streets in late 2013 by removing a traffic lane, and was fast-tracked as a pilot project after Amelie Le Moullac was killed by a trucker at Folsom and Sixth. The bike lane on Eighth Street also replaced a traffic lane in 2013.

The old Howard Street bike lane. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The most harrowing stretches of Howard and Folsom remain the easternmost sections, which connect to destinations like the coming Transbay Transit Center. But last June, SFMTA planners said the Howard bike lane east of Sixth can't be widened without a traffic lane removal and a traffic study, which they said they may look at closely this year.

The Transbay Center District Plan does include protected bike lanes on Folsom in both directions, east of Second Street. Those are supposed to start construction this year, according to an SFMTA presentation last June [PDF]. A fix for the frightening Bay Bridge on-ramp junction at Essex Street was also approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors last year, but no timeline for its construction has been announced.

As for Folsom west of Second, the street could get a one-way or two-way protected bikeway, as called for in the Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study (EN TRIPS) and the Central SoMa Plan. Environmental review for the bikeway was set to finish last year, but city agencies haven't announced a timeline or design yet.

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