Tomorrow: Support a Safer Upper Market With Protected Bike Lanes

A view from the bike lane at Market at 16th Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA will hold an open house tomorrow on bike and pedestrian safety upgrades along upper Market Street, which could include bulb-outs to calm the street’s wide, dangerous intersections and protected bike lanes on some segments.

The SFMTA’s proposal hasn’t been presented yet, but safe streets advocates say they worry the bike improvements may not be as ambitious as they should be. Early proposals have met with opposition from a contingent of merchants who want to preserve — you guessed it — car parking.

Street Fight author Jason Henderson, a member of the Market-Octavia Community Advisory Committee, said the committee is “really excited to see a fully separated” protected bike lane, particularly on the uphill block of Market between Octavia Boulevard and Buchanan Street, which funnels bike commuters to the entrance of the Wiggle.

That bike lane segment was recently painted green and widened, and a handful of parking spots were removed near corners at Upper Market intersections in 2011 to provide more room at some points where the bike lanes were squeezed. But drivers regularly block the bike lanes on Upper Market, and riding on its rough pavement without protection from traffic can still feel harrowing.

“It needs to be wider than I think they’re considering,” said Henderson. “We need to need to be building for future capacity — not [the current] 3.5 percent bicycle mode share — but 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent.”

According to the SFMTA’s website, the project will be split into near-term and long-term upgrades. The quick improvements include painted bulb-outs (the SFMTA calls them “safety zones”), adjustments to signal timing, more visible crosswalk striping, and right-on-red restrictions.

The long-term upgrades would include concrete bulb-outs and “enhanced bicycle lanes” with “increased separation.” No timeline has been proposed for either phase, but the initial improvements are expected to remove only a handful of parking spots, while safer bike lanes could replace a couple dozen.

Danny Yagedar, a member of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, said residents are eager for improvements to make Upper Market’s very wide intersections “feel like a more cohesive, pedestrian-friendly environment.”

“You have to cross six-way intersections to walk around,” he said. Neighbors are excited about “any effort to make that a safer, less car-heavy atmosphere.”

The SFMTA’s proposed pedestrian safety improvements are expected to draw from the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District’s 2008 community vision plan, which inspired the recently-completed Castro Street redesign.

Like on other neighborhood commercial streets, most people don’t get to Upper Market and Castro by driving. As Hoodline reported, a survey Yagedar recently conducted found that along the Upper Market/Castro business corridor, 59 percent of people arrive by foot, 15 percent by transit, 17 percent by car, and 4 percent by bike.

“That would suggest we need to focus our energy on making it a better environment for people who walk here from their house or come here by transit,” said Yadegar. Still, “the loss of any parking spot is going to be met with opposition, most notably from a handful of merchants that feel very strongly about parking.”

Henderson said support from Supervisor Scott Wiener will be key to getting ambitious improvements that dramatically change the car-centric status quo.

Wiener said that the proposals he’s seen so far, “I like, and I think will improve Upper Market for all users.”

“We’ll work through the parking issues,” he said. “The parking loss would be pretty spread out along Upper Market, and I imagine we’ll be able to find replacement spots.”

Andrea Aiello, president of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, said providing safer bike lanes would invite more people to get to the neighborhood by bike.

“If you make it easier, safer, and more enjoyable to ride their bikes, people do it,” she said. “Even in hilly San Francisco.”

Tomorrow’s open house will be held at the IBEW Local 6 Meeting Hall at 55 Fillmore Street (at Hermann Street) from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

  • shotwellian

    This probably would be a separate project, but we really need an eastbound bike lane on Market from Eureka to Castro. People on bikes coming down from Corbett have to use that stretch since 17th is one-way, and right now there’s nothing, not even sharrows.

  • Yes! And they just repaved that stretch too.

  • Gezellig

    Looking forward to this!

    Of course my dream for gigantic intersections like the Noe+Market+14th craziness is something along the lines of these:

    Btw, lest anyone say “we don’t have room for that,” these intersections along Upper Market are actually larger (MapFrappe comparison below). A modified ovoidal version could work:

  • twinpeaks_sf

    I actually studied this particular intersection and provided it as an example to someone who suggested that streetcars are not compatible with roundabouts. It’s a very elegant junction and is quite amazing to watch the ballet in real life. Most everyone understands how to negotiate each other’s right-of-way and few conflicts occur. Granted these streets in Amsterdam carry far less (though not an insignificant amount of) auto traffic – but if you elevate transit and bicycling to this level of quality, more people will be motivated to leave their cage and hop on a tram or bicycle.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    I’ll add that those 3-street intersections along Upper Market are completely unaccommodating for people walking. If you want to walk east- or westbound on Market, you have to wait through two light cycles to make it completely across – as I’m sure many of those reading here know all too well. At least for the Market/Noe/16th intersection, you might close (or make local access only) Noe St, as is already done regularly for the farmer’s market with little trouble. Let’s bring this and other ideas to the meeting tonight!

  • This sort of protected infrastructure is what we need if biking is ever going to become viable for most people. My question is how can we make this happen? The SFMTA has already said publicly that protected intersections are never going to be considered because “we’re not ready for them”. The SFMTA has a policy of throwing a scrap bone of 1 block of a partially protected bike lane for every project they do so they can claim they’re doing something to promote vision zero while preserving car-first interests. The SFBC seems to be taking Zoloft because they cheerily promote every scrap bone that’s thrown to us without questioning the direction we’re going or offering a better vision for a bike friendlier San Francisco! What can we do to change this?

  • djconnel

    But first you’ve got to convince SFFD that deadly intersections aren’t necessary to prevent the city from burning to the ground.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    I witnessed fire trucks passing right thru the roundabout on the actual tram tracks. Easy as pie.

  • jonobate

    I think you could create a parking protect bike lane on market pretty easily without removing any parking – just switch the position of the parking and the existing bike lane. There are few driveways on Market in Upper Market so this should work fairly well.

  • jonobate

    Yes, but there’s a nasty constraint between Diamond and Collingwood where the old Market St Subway exit is located. You’d need to remove a traffic lane to provide a decent bike facility at that location.

  • shotwellian

    Good point — it might turn out that something like 40th Street Oakland style super sharrows are best for this short stretch to encourage people on bikes to take the lane (and avoid getting caught in the tracks leading to the old subway entrance) and ensure that motorists expect this.

  • Gezellig

    Not only are streetcars compatible with roundabouts, multiple streetcar lines are possible with them. When I lived in Amsterdam I often passed through Weteringscircuit, where north-south tram lines and east-west tram lines converge and perform their own roundabout in the middle of the car/bike/ped roundabout:

  • Gezellig

    I think a good start is continually pushing for culture change by showing up to things like this and showing that we are, in fact, “ready for them” (i.e. protected infra and esp. intersections).

    For example, I went to the Berkeley Bike Plan open house last week. Some pics of the event and people’s feedback:×540.jpg×540.jpg×540.jpg×540.jpg

    There were over 130 people who showed up, which really seemed to take the city engineers and staff there pleasantly by surprise. Person after person after person mentioned the need for protected bike lanes, “Copenhagen-style/Amsterdam-style” bike lanes, low-stress networks, etc.

    I got the impression that the staff was increasingly realizing that this stuff has passed from strictly wonky obscure technical knowledge to concepts that are becoming mainstreamed. The general public is now increasingly aware of and asking for this kind of infra.

    Though there definitely are awesome people at SFMTA who “get it” there are also more milquetoast types who will only start to consider more innovative solutions if popular support constantly reinforces it (also, important point: this divide also applies to the city leadership itself–it’s not just the SFMTA itself).

    So, let’s bring up this same kind of stuff this evening!

    (Also, thanks to whoever organized it–it’s actually at a time when people who work all day can go to. I hate when I have to miss these things because they’re scheduled smack dab in the middle of the workday).

  • jonobate

    I’m not really a fan of the Oakland 40th St super sharrows. I worry that it’s sending the message to drivers that it’s okay to drive over this big green strip for an extended period of time, and they’ll start doing that over regular green painted bike lanes.

    Solid green should be used for cyclist-only space, and intermittent green should be used for space where bikes and cars are mixed. I would rather use regular green-backed sharrows on this section of Market to encourage cyclists to take the lane, or just remove a traffic lane and do the job properly.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Yes, they can go around the circle too, just like their rubber wheeled pals!

  • shamelessly

    I keep thinking about those horrible pinch points biking west on market like the one at Laguna, where at the stop line there’s only one car width between the streetcar boarding island on the left and the bulb out on the right. Is there any way to add protected infrastructure for cyclists to those places?

  • I hope those weren’t small firetrucks. SFFD’s starting to get a complex about having the smallest trucks in the country.

  • Sprague

    As I bike this stretch (17th and Market streets, both east and west of Castro) I sometimes wonder how a European city would integrate bikeways into such a streetscape. Certainly, there’d be a two-directional bike path on 17th Street along the northern edge of Jane Warner Plaza with bike crosswalks across Market and Castro. And on 17th Street west of Castro the (westbound) bike lane would probably be like a cycle track (or protected/grade separated from the roadway). Further up 17th Street (up to Eureka Street) the bike lane would be parking protected.

    And 17th Street eastbound (between Eureka Street and the Pink Triangle Park) could easily accommodate a parking protected contraflow bike lane. Adjacent to the Pink Triangle Park, things get a bit tight but a road diet along this short stretch would help to slow cars as they zoom up 17th Street. It seems to me, that a bicycle friendly European city would be able to attractively implement protected bikeways along such a stretch of roadway in a manner that truly encourages cycling and does not adversely effect motorists (while helping to tame speeding). There’s no reason to expect less from the SFMTA.

  • Sprague

    Absolutely jonobate! This really seems like “low hanging fruit.” If the SFMTA truly wishes to make San Francisco’s streets safe for the “8 to 80” crowd then parking protected bike lanes along major multi-lane roads are the bare minimum type of infrastructure needed to achieve this. Market Street is a natural bike corridor and Upper Market undoubtedly has the width. Its bike lanes could easily (and probably cheaply) be converted to parking protected lanes. I’m sorry to have missed tonight’s meeting.

  • SF_Abe

    They make up for it by having the loudest trucks.

  • M.

    Convince the City that they can also get sued for failing to put best practice in place. And finding a lawyer willing to take that on.

  • M.

    Other cities like Zurich install rubber gaskets on either side of embedded tram lines so anything can pass over them safely and without wearing down the rails. We’re too innovative and impoverished to consider such measures.

  • Jimbo

    “building for the future..not 3.5 , but 10 and 20%” is a joke. most of the bike lanes in the city are empty 99% of the time . we are never going to get to 10% of people commuting via bike and even if we did the current capacity could hold it

  • Gezellig

    most of the bike lanes in the city are empty 99% of the time .

    psssttt….most of the car lanes we have are empty the vast majority of the time:

    Also, when protected bike lanes in SF such as that below are built, people use them:

    It’s the subpar ones people avoid. Lesson learned…bad bike lanes are bad. So let’s stop building them:

    I wonder why no one’s using the bike lane!!

    we are never going to get to 10% of people commuting via bike

    Who said anything about 10% commute modeshare?

    –> Biking to work is not the same as overall trips in the city taken on a bike.

    –> Nor is biking to work the only or even primary low-hanging fruit.

    –> It’s the other trips we make throughout the week of 1-3 miles or less.

    –> Notice even in the Netherlands and Denmark most people don’t bike to work, but cities there regularly achieve and exceed 20% *trip* modeshare.

    That being said, SF’s modeshare goals of 20% are indeed not being backed up by infrastructure that would support such a goal. C.f. any double-parking/doorzone bike lane.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Part of the reason bike lanes are less crowded is that the same amount of asphalt will carry many more people on a bicycle than in a car. If we get a decent network of protected bike lanes, we will be at 10% in a flash. Davis is pushing 25% and is much hotter than San Francisco.

  • Jimbo

    davis is a college town. the only city in the US with higher biking than SF is portland, and despite a large increase in bike lanes, the % of bike commuters has completely levelled off. We will never get to 10%. we should be planning for the future, which is zero emission cars. some investment in a usable subway line would go a long way as well

  • Gezellig

    davis is a college town.

    Yet way more than just college kids bike there (also note how many college towns–in other words, all of them in the US–have much lower bike modeshare than Davis).

    Davis is also a town which, after a big push in the 60s started to neglect its bike infra comparatively for a couple decades. In the 70s-90s its newer areas too often looked more like this:

    than this:

    Modeshare declined quite a bit by the 90s. It’s since inched back up in the 20s after they started working on it again. Some newer stuff from Davis:

    Lesson learned? There’s nothing special in the water about “bike crazy” Davis. Average people will bike in the infrastructure supports it. However, most people won’t if the infrastructure is lacking. Even in Davis.

    despite a large increase in bike lanes,

    –> Bicycling constitutes ~4% of trips in SF, but only ~1.4% of roadway space in SF is dedicated to bicycle lanes.

    –> 75 percent of all bike lane miles were built since 2000.

    That’s pretty good return on investment, especially considering bike infrastructure has hitherto been only 0.48% of SFMTA’s budget:

    the % of bike commuters has completely levelled off.

    Also, commute modeshare =/= overall modeshare.

    we should be planning for the future, which is zero emission cars. some investment in a usable subway line would go a long way as well

    You speak as if these things are somehow mutually exclusive with bike infrastructure.

    Again, bike infra is currently at 0.48% of total funding, 1.4% of roadway space and at least 4% modeshare.

    With such paltry numbers in terms of investment and space allotment it’s pretty hilarious to conclude 1) biking has “leveled off” and 2) it’s somehow mutually exclusive to other modes (as if people who bike never take the subway or drive?!).

    Remember, this isn’t about -ists or -ers vs. other -ists and -ers.

    A pluricentric model supporting multiple mode choices is what Complete Streets are all about.

  • murphstahoe

    Zero emission cars still get stuck in traffic, still run people over, still require copious amounts of parking.

  • Gezellig

    They don’t solve this problem, for sure:

  • SF Guest

    [Survey needed] How many drivers who read this blog have run people over? I haven’t run anyone over.


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