Eyes on the Street: Folsom Parking-Protected Bike Lane Gets Greener

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For readers who haven’t been on Folsom Street in SoMa in the last few weeks, Streetsblog is happy to report that the new parking-protected bike lane has gotten a lot more green paint since we last reported on it in October. Back then, the lane–the latest of several projects designed to make SoMa safer for bikers–consisted of bus-boarding islands, some stripes, and a splash of green here and there.

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The parking-protected bike lane on Folsom at the intersection with Juniper. At small streets, the bike treatment continues across. At large streets–where it’s needed most–it stops.

Now there’s green almost the entire way through SoMa, even across intersections with smaller streets, such as Juniper (seen above), and at driveways. This makes it clear to motorists to look out for cyclists when turning. Safe-hit posts are also placed in a way that would make it difficult for a car to sweep quickly across the bike lane and intersection without hitting one. Streetsblog hopes that eventually a true barrier, made of concrete, will be installed to protect vulnerable roads users at driveways and alleys. Unfortunately, as shown in the photo below of Folsom and 7th, the bike lane drops out completely at all the major intersections.

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At the intersection of Folsom and 7th, the bike lane abruptly disappears instead of continuing across the intersection.

And, as we know all too well, it’s these large intersections that are most dangerous for vulnerable road users–it’s where we need bike lanes and protection most.

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Between 8th and 9th, across from Vega Coffee. Hallelujah! Work crews actually left some space for bikes to pass during construction.

That said, it’s nice to see these treatments in SoMa going in so quickly–proof that the delays we’ve all grown accustomed to aren’t really necessary when there is political will and leaders are on board. Another positive surprise was that the construction crew working on the sidewalk between 8th and 9th, across from Vega Coffee, endeavored to maintain a protected bike lane of sorts around the construction. Hallelujah! Streetsblog was starting to wonder if construction crews are told to block and obstruct bike lanes intentionally.

Meanwhile, some motorists still managed to block the bike lane–and Streetsblog hopes the irony of the photo below is not lost on readers.

Oh the irony.
Thank you, San Francisco, for protecting us from BlueGogo, Jump Bike, Ofo Bike, etc.
  • shotwellian

    Southbound Folsom between 11th and 13th is also supposed to get a bike lane. Has there been any activity on that part of the project?

  • mx

    Could the GoBike van just have stopped in the red zone in the foreground of the picture instead of blocking the bike lane? Honestly, it looks like they could have left a fair amount of space if they just pulled all the way to the right, as close as possible to the safe-hit posts.

  • crazyvag

    Will the lane continue all the way to Embarcadero?

  • Michael Smith

    Note that the protected lane ends right by the fire station between 5th & 6th. I assume the fire departure wanted to make sure that they would interfere with safety as much as possible. And of course a couple of days ago there was a car parked in the non-protected bike lane right in front of the fire station. The driver was talking with a fire fighter. They could have pulled in next to the curb such that bicyclists didn’t need to swerve into a lane of moving traffic, but well, you know, fire department.

  • Michael Smith

    It’s certainly nice to have this stretch of protected bike lanes but it is completely absurd that the city is planning on waiting years and years before extending all the way to the Embarcadero. I guess someone else has to first die before they actually do so. They should continue the protected lane to 2nd St right away. And they should implement (not plan, but actually implement) from 2nd St to the Embarcadero as soon as the transit buses move off of the surface streets there and into the new Transbay Terminal.

  • Stuart

    There are frequently several cars parked completely blocking the bike lane right in front of the fire department, apparently (based on the stickers on the back and the people going in and out) the personal cars of the fire fighters at that station.

    I’ve been thinking about taking a picture each time it happens, and then next time the fire department tries to pressure the city not to install a new protected bike lane, sending all of them to the mayor’s office and the SFMTA leadership. That might help make it clear that the fire department’s position is about contempt for bike lanes, rather than legitimately trying to find a balance between everyone’s needs.

    Perhaps Streetsblog could highlight this routine and blatant violation of law and public safety sometime? There’s a chance that SFFD cares enough about their reputation that they wouldn’t want to be publicly seen as being anti-safety.

  • Stuart

    There goes any remaining hope that they were going to resurface the new bike lane first. As the photos show, the pavement that used to be parking is much lower quality than the street itself, with far more rough seams. Which makes sense for parking, but it’s not ideal as a travel surface.

    Still, better a bumpy protected bike lane than a lane that’s frequently blocked by massive trucks and that TNC drivers drive as erratically as possible in.

  • Stuart

    Unclear. The long term Folsom-Howard project should extend it to 2nd street according to the current designs. The rest would be part of the Folsom-Transbay project, and that doesn’t seem to have firm plans for bike lane design yet (at least not that I could find on their site).

    And that’s all 5+ years out.

  • How frustrating, another bike lane put on the wrong side of a one-way street! Bike lanes should always always always be on the left side of one way streets because it is much safer. Left hooks are far rarer when drivers can actually see cyclists out the drivers side window. Left lanes are much less likely to be obstructed for the areas that aren’t protected.

    NYC always puts their bike lanes on the left side of one-way streets and it’s much less stressful and safer. I would prefer riding in an unprotected left side bike lane on a one way street than a protected right side lane. Most of the potential conflicts with vehicles happen at intersections, and it’s far safer dealing with the bike lane on the left side of traffic than on the right.

    Why does the SFMTA keep blowing this? This should be instinctively obvious for anyone who rides a bicycle in the city. Would someone please give the SFMTA a clue that they’re doing it all wrong? Is there any justification other than utter laziness and ignorance as to why the SFMTA keeps putting the bike lanes on the wrong side of one-way streets?

  • crazyvag

    There’s another article describing how all sorts of upgrades are delayed because of the want to do it in conjunction with surfacing which waits for sewer and water pipe replacement which is so expensive that it gets delayed by funding and every other imaginable issue.

    This is a low cost paint job and we benefit from safety today instead of 5 years from now.

  • crazyvag

    I agree. The city is probably hiring off for some resurfacing project which is waiting for the construction of the 4 towers along Folsom to be complete.

  • bike_engineer

    While I’m sure it seems like a no-brainer, there are actually a lot of reasons why bike lanes/cycletracks have to be on a certain side of the street, It could be safer access to other routes, utility access conflicts, parking loss, even the collision data could show its safer on the right side. To infer that the SFMTA is just arbitrarily making terrible decisions because they are lazy and ignorant is actually lazy and ignorant itself. Serious thought is put into designing these facilities and to even think that these engineers don’t know what they are doing and you know more than them shows a serious ignorance.

  • bike_engineer

    I’m pretty sure someone keeps tracking my posts and marking it as spam because they disagree, I’ve posted this again:
    “While I’m sure it seems like a no-brainer, there are actually a lot of reasons why bike lanes/cycletracks have to be on a certain side of the street, It could be safer access to other routes, utility access conflicts, parking loss, even the collision data could show its safer on the right side. For example, I am redesigning a cycletrack to go on the opposite side of a road for a SoCal city even though the original side is safer. Utilities and parking removal were the key deciding factors. Serious thought is put into designing these facilities, Don’t be so quick to dismiss engineers decisions because you may not fully understand all of the issues at the location.”

  • ZA_SF

    Poorly timed project – repavement really needed to happen first, to say nothing of the perilous transition for everyone sharing the space.

  • crazyvag

    I wouldn’t call it blowing it. Getting a parking protected bike lane in a street that used to be 5 lanes seems like a huge progress to me. We got 90% of what was needed, so this is called “SFMTA blowing it”, what do you call places where we don’t have a bike lane? 🙂

  • Better to do this than wait for the resurfacing – got it. But damn, Folsom is a helluva street to bike down – so bumpy it hurts.

  • While the parking protected bike lane is a huge improvement within each block, it does nothing to improve the safety within intersections where most conflicts between bicycles and vehicles actually occur. Everything else being equal, cyclists are much safer in an intersection on a one way street with a bike lane on the left side than one on the right. The reason is simple, drivers have a much smaller blind spot on the drivers side of their vehicle than on their right. Why doesn’t the SFMTA consider this when making road improvements designed to improve safety? It’s kind of a pretty serious oversight.

    I love the new protected bike lanes going up everywhere. By without any safety consideration of the intersections, the end result of this new protected bike lane will likely be more cyclists on the road with more cars crashing into cyclists in the intersections where conflicts will still occur.

    Rather than just accepting this gruesome fate, we should asking why isn’t anything more being done to address the safety of cyclists in the intersections. To that end, a left side bike lanes make much more sense.

    Are the engineering reasons for keeping the bike lane on the more dangerous right hand side of Folsom street really that insurmountable as to accept the obvious addiction risks of people’s lives?

  • crazyvag

    I understand your concerns, but your tone of voice makes it sound like a nuclear weapon went off. It makes your idea much harder to decipher. For instance, when you go alway to way to say that “left”
    protected bike lane is “much safer” than right protected bike lane, I gotta wonder what words you’d use to describe relatively safely of protected vs unprotected bike lane. Since you exaggerate all the differences, I’m left to wonder if a protected bike lane is “much much much safer” than an unprotected lane?

    Are you saying that protected bike lanes are more dangerous because they lead to MORE accidents on intersections?

    You have some good ideas, but they get lost in your description.

  • ride_it_like_you_stole_it
  • ride_it_like_you_stole_it

    Eventually there will be a continuous lane from 11th to the Embarcadero. This link is for the project on Folsom from 2nd Street to the Embarcadero, and should be constructed in 2-3 years: http://sfpublicworks.org/project/transbay-folsom-streetscape-improvement-project The lane going in how on Folsom is a precursor to the longer term streetscape project that will be from 11th St to 2nd St: https://www.sfmta.com/projects/folsom-howard-streetscape-project

  • Parker Johnson

    Does anyone else feel like Folsom is more dangerous after the bike lane changes?

  • BicycleFaceSF

    I have the exact same thought every morning on my way to work. I’ve nearly been hit sever times as well. The problem is that you have to dive back into traffic in the same place that traffic has to change lanes to make a right hand turn. Add parked cars to obscure both driver and cyclist’s views and you have a recipe for dangerous collisions which unfortunately, is probably what it’s going to take to convince whoever developed this counter-intuitive disaster to see the flaws and change it.

  • BicycleFaceSF

    I’m always stoked to see new bicycle infrastructure in SF but as someone who regularly commutes to work down Folsom Street, AKA: The Gauntlet, I can’t figure out why anyone would call the recent changes an “improvement” for what is already a dangerous route for cyclists. Just some ideas:

    1. The quality of the road in the new bike lane is horrid. Hello broken spokes and crooked rims. Have fun dodging all the potholes.

    2. Parked cars that have been moved to the left of the bike lane obscure the view of both cyclists and drivers, increasing the risk of collisions when traffic crosses paths near every alley and intersection.

    3. Parked cars also create a fairly inescapable path away from a door flung open from the passenger side of said parked car.

    4. The new path creates unnecessary movement in and out of the line of sight of drivers. Why on earth would anyone think that constantly dodging in and out of traffic would make biking safer? Even when cars are not parked, the new lane requires cyclists to zig-zag back and forth next to traffic creating lots of opportunities for drivers to not see cyclists before it’s too late. I’d prefer a steady path of visibility than to give drivers a chance to forget that there are cyclists around until they come careening back through my path while making moves for a right turn.

    5. The bike lane is still on the right side of the roadway, instead of the arguably safer left side. Considering that the majority of fatal collisions with cyclists occurs when taking a right turn, it’s disappointing that SFMTA yet again didn’t take the opportunity to address that issue.

    Again, I love it when the city actually spends money on bike infrastructure but can we please think it through first? Folsom needed protected bike lanes but this was not the way to do it and has made cycling on this street arguably more perilous. I’m almost tempted to ride in a car lane just so they can still see me!

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