SFMTA Says It’s Just Getting Started on Protected Bike Lanes

Mayor Lee rides with SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire (behind) and SFBC Executive Director Noah Budnick (right) on Valencia Street this morning. Photo: Volker Neumann, SFBC

City officials gathered for another Bike to Work Day rally at City Hall today to cheer for bicycling, celebrating a 206 percent jump in ridership since 2006, according to a new annual bike count released by the SFMTA today. There was the usual citation of bike traffic on eastbound Market Street at Van Ness Avenue: 76 percent of all vehicles between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. were bikes.

So, was it another feel-good event in lieu of action? Maybe not…

After significant wins at the ballot box in November, these Bike to Work Day festivities felt a little different. There was legitimate cause to believe the city will accelerate its progress on bike infrastructure.

In 2015, the SFMTA expects to implement or start construction on an unprecedented 23 miles of bikeway upgrades, Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told Streetsblog. Then the real boom in bike infrastructure is expected to start in 2016, when “we’re going to look back and say, that was nothing.”

“We’re definitely going to be seeing more, better, and faster,” said Maguire. “That’s where we want go with the Bike Strategy.” As someone who helped deliver improvements at a rapid clip in New York City, Maguire’s word carries weight.

At the rally, Mayor Ed Lee touted the planned ten-fold expansion of Bay Area Bike Share and noted the need for “more sustainable ways to get around” as development and population increase.

“We are making it easier and safer to bike around our city with improved bike infrastructure and bike-share opportunities,” Lee said in a statement. “Biking isn’t just fun, practical and healthy; it also helps cut down on congestion. Every person on a bike is one less person in your traffic jam or fighting for a parking spot.”

A fine speech, but one that the mayor has given before without making the necessary decisions to back it up. It was only two months ago that Lee refused to say that protected bike lanes, which encourage bicycling and save lives, are more important than car parking.

Here’s the roster of officials who biked to City Hall this year along with Mayor Lee: SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, and Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, Julie Christensen, Katy Tang, Jane Kim, and Malia Cohen. Absent were Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Campos, Norman Yee, John Avalos, and London Breed.

What’s different this year is that voters sent some clear signals at the polls. “Every neighborhood in San Francisco is asking for safer streets,” said Maguire. “What the design looks like on every block is going to be different, but there were victories for Prop A and Prop B, [voters] defeated Prop L — it was proven at the ballot box. That’s the kind of momentum we want to go by.” Proposition L, a cars-first advisory measure, was funded last year by Lee backer Sean Parker.

Image: SFMTA [PDF]
The new citywide bike counts released by the SFMTA show a steep rise in bicycling starting in 2010, after the bicycle injunction was lifted and the city began to roll out the bike infrastructure crafted in the 2009 SF Bike Plan. By now, only a handful of major, capital-intensive projects in that plan have yet to be built. But the bicycling increase has tapered off recently, with just a 1 percent increase from 2013 to 2014.

The 23 miles of bike route upgrades in store for this year, listed in a post from the SF Bicycle Coalition, vary in importance. The projects include the first raised bike lanes in SF, though they’re not very long, with each running for one block, in one direction only. One will be on eastbound Market Street between Gough and 12th Streets, and the other will be on the southern end of Valencia Street at Mission Street (pictured at top).

The first downtown parking-protected bike lane is also coming to two blocks of westbound 13th Street. A similar design for four blocks of Bay Street in the Marina, originally expected last fall, is also promised this year.

The list also includes initial improvements on Polk and Second Streets, which are set for protected bike lane redesigns that were delayed by a year, with construction to start in 2016. Other upgrades include green paint and wider buffer zones for existing bike lane segments on streets like Howard, the Embarcadero, and Webster. Bike lanes will be widened on western Sloat Boulevard and extended on Folsom Street in the Mission. On Treasure Island, 1.8 miles of “sharrows and/or bike lanes” will be added on two street segments.

Two of the SFMTA’s biggest projects included in the 2015 mileage count will break ground this year and wrap up in 2016: the redesigns of Masonic and Potrero Avenues. The SFMTA counts Masonic for 1.3 miles and Potrero for 2.8.

Fell Street's new planted traffic islands. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Fell Street’s new planted traffic islands. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Also included in the mileage are the planted traffic islands recently installed along the Fell and Oak Street bike lanes. The Fell and Oak bike lanes, six blocks of mileage originally promised in 2012, epitomize the frustrating and often inexplicably slow roll-out of safety upgrades that Maguire promises to expedite.

As for what’s coming in 2016, the SFMTA has yet to unveil its next wave of street transformations, but the agency’s Bicycle Strategy identified priority streets in 2013.

Can SF make faster progress on creating a true network of bike-friendly streets? In the city’s favor, Maguire pointed to the recent funding boosts from Propositions A and B, the state’s reform of environmental review under the CA Environmental Quality Act, and a “new focus on project delivery within the MTA, looking for any possible way to cut the timeline down to get projects on the street faster.”

“The political environment will get a little easier with CEQA,” said Maguire. Still, “it’s really important that folks at the Bicycle Coalition and us all work together to build support for these projects.”

  • Mesozoic Polk

    I, for one (and I may be the only one), found today to be a wholly miserable experience. And I even tried to stick to wide, fast-moving, parking-lined arterials like Geary Blvd and 19th Avenue. Imagine those poor souls on Market Street dealing with some 26,000 cyclists until 3:00 pm (according to one planner type on Twitter).

    Tomorrow, hopefully the car-dominated norm — a world filled with sweet-smelling pollution and cheerful honking — will return, and we can all forget about this miserable day.

  • runn3r85

    I’ll believe it when it has been built. It’s convenient to say all this on Bike to Work Day. A whole other situation to actually DO what you say you’re going to do.

    And building a block here or there of bike lanes is not a real strategy. We need actual safe arterials to navigate SF on bike.

  • Give credit to the Mayor. With no opposition in November, save for that always Pesky fellow in District Three, Ed Lee could tell the Progressive cycling community to get lost. But, given the passage of Prop B last November and the huge number of cyclists in The City, The Mayor does not want to be thought of as the Grinch who stole the Bike Lane.

  • Amy Farah Weiss is running for against Mayor Lee. Given Lee’s unpopularity and general voter apathy, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Weiss manages to pull off a win. http://yimbyweissformayor.nationbuilder.com/

  • murphstahoe

    “Given Lee’s unpopularity and general voter apathy”

    You’ve just contradicted yourself. Nobody is unpopular with the apathetic.

  • jonobate

    I like Amy Weiss, but there’s no way she’s going to get elected. She’s not even on the rader of most voters, and if it ever gets to the point where she is on the radar, the ‘progressive’ anti-development forces of Campos et al will organize to keep her out.

  • @Lee Ross – Dunno what your use of the capital-P Progressive is supposed to mean, but the cycling community is no monolith and contains a fair number of neoliberals. The cycling political insiders have for the most part supported all of the Mayor’s bond measures.

  • NoeValleyJim

    What the MTA promises and what the MTA does are often two different things. And even if we get all the things promised we will have what? 16 blocks of protected bike lanes, by my count. This is pathetic. We helped get Prop A passed and all we get is a few blocks.

    Are Masonic and Potrero going to include fully protected bike lanes? Last time I heard Masonic is going to have an elevated lane, but I remember how Polk Street got watered down. I am betting that delivery trucks will still double park in it.

  • jb

    I simply do not see someone in a Tux riding public transit or riding a bike to an event. I cannot see buying a flat screen tv and placing it a bike rack, much less riding Muni. Transit Planning needs to incorporate all modes of transportation period. Additionally transit riders and bikes should have to pay taxes for the fees involved with road maintenance, police funding, and state funding just like people who pay for auto registrations each year.

    DMV fees go to:

    Local government (cities/counties) 40.7%

    CHP 25.7%

    DMV 13.9%

    State highways (Caltrans) 13.0%

    Air Resources Board 1.7%

    Other state agencies 4.3%

    State General Fund 0.7%

  • NoeValleyJim

    You poor babies will have to make due with 98% of the road surface dedicated to you instead of the 99% you have now.

    Most funding for city roadways comes from property taxes. I already pay a very hefty fee yearly in property taxes, probably much more than you do. DMV fees to to State highways, which are subsidized out of the general fund, since DMV fees and the gasoline tax are not sufficient to pay for the costs. Anther freebie you get.

  • jb

    In San Francisco, property tax income goes mainly to the Educational
    Revenue Augmentation Fund, Bay Area Rapid Transit District, the San
    Francisco Unified School District, City and County of San Francisco, the
    San Francisco Community College, and Bay Area Air Quality Management
    District. Other expenses may be added to your property tax bill too. In
    San Francisco, these include the Rent Board Fee, the School Facilities
    Safety Special Tax, the Apartment License Fee, and refuse and water
    liens.

  • Dark Soul

    What about Enforcing People Safety by removing bike people running stop signs.

  • Gezellig

    I wonder what will happen with the SF Bike Coalition voter candidate slate for 2015.

  • Just because you don’t want to do something doesn’t mean that others aren’t already doing it. Roads get paved and supposedly maintained with dollars that come from plenty of other sources beyond what is paid by car owners and users.

  • jb

    Hi Marven I noted all the sources according to Caltrans below that feeds into local road funding. Additionally, SFMTA notes that there was only a 1% bicycle increase in bicycle ridership from last year. That is a small number compared to the increase in public transit ridership.

  • Well, that’s not at all the message conveyed by your comment. Saying “DMV fees go to” is definitely not the same as saying “road expenses are covered by”. Also, with the Transbay Terminal and other transit projects under construction, it’s not like SF isn’t investing in transit. The money for all of the bike projects mentioned here will amount to little more than rounding error for just about everything going on. However, if the can actually be serious and stick to the schedule, there will almost assuredly be an upswing once again in the increase in biking.

  • NoeValleyJim

    http://taxfoundation.org/blog/road-spending-state-funded-user-taxes-and-fees-including-federal-gas-tax-revenues

    California gets 34.4% of its highway funding from use fees, sales taxes, gasoline taxes and federal gasoline taxes. The other 2/3 is paid by the general fund. The situation is even worse at the local level.

  • jb

    According to Caltrans 2014-2015 the overall transportation (roads, transit, airports, seaways, bike routes, and walkways) funding breakdown is as follows: Federal 24% Federal, 27% State, 49% Regional/Local.

  • Alicia

    I wear office and formal clothes on bike all the time.

    I cannot see buying a flat screen tv and placing it a bike rack, much less riding Muni.
    How often do you buy a TV? (or refrigerator, or sofa, or other large item), that makes it worth buying a car just for that? You can have the store deliver the item, or you can take a taxi.

  • jb

    You wear a cocktail dress on a bike? A bike or bus/train will not be the end all for transportation is my point. Cars are not going away. Face it overall Bay Area transit planning has been a disaster. The largest city in the US (New York City a population of over 8million) had a lower traffic congestion rating than San Francisco. San Francisco (population 900k+) ranked 3rd in the nation for the worst traffic despite the 3rd largest public transit (covering 82% of the city) use in the country! San Jose (900k+) also made the list coming in at #7.

  • Alicia

    You wear a cocktail dress on a bike?

    Yeah.

    A bike or bus/train will not be the end all for transportation is my point.

    Nothing ever suits 100% of anyone’s needs, but still, a bike is useful for most things.

    The largest city in the US (New York City a population of over 8million) had a lower traffic congestion rating than San Francisco.

    According to whom?

    San Francisco (population 900k+) ranked 3rd in the nation for the worst traffic

    San Francisco’s population is 852,000, not “900k+”. Not sure how credible the rest of your numbers are.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Automobile usage has been declining in San Francisco. I think we can all agree that less money and less of the roadway should be dedicated to individual private vehicle usage.

  • NoeValleyJim

    What does that have to do with the topic at hand? City streets are massively subsidized by the general fund, including sales tax and property taxes.

  • Yes! That’s exactly what is hurting and killing so many people on the streets. “bike people”

  • Gezellig
  • Leon Foonman

    I suppose they will bulldoze all the hills in SF when the Elderly Bike Riders lobby complains about them. Makes sense, who needs hills?

  • Leon Foonman

    Or slapping them with 2×4’s when they ride on the sidewalks, knocking pedestrians over like bowling pins. They wanted bike lanes, now they can stay off the sidewalk with their spandex jockstraps, hip-flexie-bike-bearded-flannel bicycle seats. Self-Entitled slobs riding bikes on the sidewalks are a threat to public safety, and they suck, too.

  • Leon Foonman

    It’s not our fault that you are a ruthless transplant with too much money, living in Noe Valley and spending your whole day commenting here because your trust fund allows you the luxury of not having to work….Snooty rich transplants suck.

  • Leon Foonman

    The City is now packed with self-entitled transplanted wealthy little creeps that only care about their own particular issues. It will only take another burst bubble to remove them to some place like Austin Texas….Housing prices will collapse back to a more normal level, the Schwinn Army will likely thin out, too, leaving a huge chasm of green bike lanes where public transportation used to be. City Hall will still not have spent one dime on actual infrastructure, like sidewalks, roads and sewers, but we’ll have all the remains of the great techie-hipster-boom gone bust…Ed Lee will spend his dotage on the Waste Management Board with Carol “The Terror” Migden…..

  • Leon Foonman

    They will forget to vote like they did in 2012….

  • murphstahoe

    leaving a huge chasm of green bike lanes where public transportation used to be

    You misspelled “parking” – it is not spelled “public transportation”

  • NoeValleyJim

    What makes you think I am a trust fund baby? I grew up in a trailer park and went to school on the GI Bill after serving three years in the 82nd Airborne Division. What have you done for your county? Or for your City for that matter, other than claim some unique privilege based on birthright?

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Biking is not a fad and it’s not a local phenomenon. Cities all over the world are seeing an explosion in people choosing to ride their bikes in every demographic because riding a bike sucks a lot less than driving or riding public transit! Most trips in urban cities are less than 4 miles; an easy distance on a bicycle. The cost per user for urban bicycle infrastructure is a tiny fraction of what we spend on roads and mass transit. San Francisco is actually lagging far behind other US cities in development of protected bicycle infrastructure. Pittsburgh, Seattle, St Paul, St. Louis, Washington DC, NYC, Eugene, Denver, and Minneapolis are all building more protected bike lanes in faster than San Francisco. Protected bike lanes make biking safer and more viable for everyone by physically separating traffic lanes from biking lanes. It’s puzzling that San Francisco seems to have more anger and opposition to these bicycling improvements than most other US cities.

  • Gezellig

    Some people prefer their small-minded preconceived notions about Anyone Who’s Not Them in the world.

  • Gezellig

    The City is now packed with self-entitled transplanted wealthy little creeps that only care about their own particular issues. It will only take another burst bubble to remove them to some place like Austin Texas

    Hah! Funny you mention Austin. There, those in charge are actually doing a somewhat laudable job to sincerely address infrastructure inequities. There’s less need to “whine” that the city isn’t adhering to best-practices when they’re actually one of the first cities in North America to be building treatments such as Protected Intersections:

    http://peopleforbikes.org/page/-/uploads/GLP/austin%20tilley%20on%20the%20ground.png

    http://peopleforbikes.org/page/-/uploads/GLP/mueller%20protected%20intersection%20600.png

    http://peopleforbikes.org/page/-/uploads/GLP/51st%20protected%20intersection.png

    http://peopleforbikes.org/page/-/uploads/GLP/austin%20mueller%20road%20at%2051st%20schematic.png

    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/05/28/four-cities-race-to-finish-the-countrys-first-protected-intersection/

    Though these are well-documented as being safer for all modes (whether going by car, bike, foot, mobility device), hitherto SFMTA has flat-out refused to consider them.

    I’m not sure if it’s “whining” to hold SF public officials accountable for actually doing their jobs.

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