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

Photo: Meghan Arnold/Twitter

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.

  • murphstahoe

    Great – but the street that really needs it is Townsend

  • Justin

    Here we go again SFMTA, once again doing little pieces of wasting time, while other cities have moved past this squander minimal garbage and this hit and run bike lanes BS, this street like other one way streets in SOMA need PROTECTED bike lanes, preferably PARKING PROTECTED bike lanes. In fact these streets like Howard have enough space to implement them and still retain the same or most of the parking. I don’t understand why it hasn’t happen yet, but in other forward thinking cities implementing protected cycling infrastructure would be done in the matter of months, but instead here in SF it takes an UNREASONABLY long amount of time, more like decades. The problems of an inefficient and BROKEN planning process.

    As I said I’m looking to the day when PROTECTED bike lanes will be implemented on all the one way streets in SOMA, because they make sense and provide the SAFEST experience which would attract new riders.

    The only protected bike lanes in San Francisco SFMTA has ever done right was the one and half block of Polk St, of course it should have never taken 10 years to make it happen because that’s just so BS for it to have taken that long.

    Oh one more thing when PROTECTED bike lanes are implemented on those one way streets in SOMA, if ever???, put them on the left side, it’s better that way and it makes sense like the NACTO Design Guidelines for protected bike lanes on one way streets.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    I would’ve been impressed by this five years ago..

  • iamjared

    Not gonna do much until the bike lanes on Folsom and Howard aren’t also doubling as truck loading zones…. The wide green bike lane isn’t much help when you have to keep cutting into traffic.

  • DrunkEngineer

    Has the Mayor’s optometrist approved the plan?

  • I used the lane this morning and was genuinely surprised and delighted. I kept thinking, “did they do a road diet?” [There are three traffic lanes to the left of the bike lane]. Apparently not (if I read this piece correctly).
    And they did more than just add the buffer. Before 9th, they colored the bike lane green and added a white perimeter stripe to make it more noticeable – as the above photo shows.They also added a supersharrow just after 8th.

    My pet beef with Howard is the Third St. intersection due to the right-turning traffic by the hotel. It desperately needs to place the bike lane on the outside of the right lanes.

  • I’d be happy if they just resurfaced the Townsend bike lane – it’s so bad now that I avoid it as much as possible, particularly eastbound from Seventh to Caltrain.

  • Parking protected bike lanes would make a lot of sense. I hope it’s in the long-term plan for both Howard and Folsom, but buffered bike lanes now bring immediate relief – I suspect protected bike lanes, particularly with the change in parking, would take many public meetings and whatever environmental review SFMTA customarily does for protected bike lanes.

  • JB

    Space for buffer can be made by narrowing all the other lanes. Would that still require a traffic study?

  • I rode Howard on my evening commute a couple times last week from (near) Embarcadero to 8th or 10th or so–about one more than the annual ride that reminds me why I take the Embarcadero on my way home instead.

    It’s less unpleasant in stretches, but man the vehicles stacking up to make right turns from the bike-lane is uncomfortable, many of them where there’s a perfectly good right turn lane they’re only 1/3rd of the way in. Maybe I’ll give it another try this week now that DST started.

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