City Lets Cargo Way Protected Bike Lane Fall Apart

A crew came through in August and repaved the motor vehicle lanes of Cargo Way, but left the bike lane in total disrepair

Public works paved the roadway to the left, but left the bike lanes full of cracks, dangerous furrows, potholes, and other defects. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted.
Public works paved the roadway to the left, but left the bike lanes full of cracks, dangerous furrows, potholes, and other defects. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted.

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As cyclists who use Cargo Way in the Hunters Point/Bayview neighborhood know all too well, the bike lane, once celebrated as San Francisco’s first on-street protected bike lane, is in a state of disrepair, with broken pavement, a dangerous, tire-grabbing groove, and a busted fence. And in a stark display of how some city officials regard bicycle safety, the city repaved the adjacent car/truck lanes in August, but skipped the bike lane.

“I’m not a regular cyclist there (it’s so out of the way I’m not sure it’s on anyone’s regular route). But I do bike there often to get to Heron’s Head Park, often with my kayak in tow. It has been in a state of disrepair for years. Fences busted up by cars, large piles of rocks and trash building up for months if not years, bumpy surface. It’s basically ignored as far as maintenance is concerned, in my opinion,” wrote bike advocate Adam Long in an email to Streetsblog.

Going by the comments section from Streetsblog’s story about the opening of the lane in 2012, pavement conditions weren’t exactly great even when it first opened–they’ve just gotten worse.

The wheel-grabbing groove through most of the center of the bike lane is just one of the hazards introduced by the lack of basic maintenance of the bike path.
The wheel-grabbing groove through most of the center of the bike lane is just one of the hazards introduced by the lack of basic maintenance of the bike lane.
Another view of the freshly topped roadway–and the bike lane at perhaps its smoothest stretch.
Charles Deffarges, Community Organizer for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, shares Long’s dismay with the conditions on Cargo Way. “Repaving projects are opportunities to improve street conditions for everyone,” he said. “We are disappointed that City agencies did not take this opportunity to improve the pavement of the bike lane, instead focusing exclusively on serving people driving. We hope that future efforts by the agencies in charge of Cargo Way will address the maintenance concerns associated with the pavement quality, fence conditions, and debris in the bike lane along Cargo Way.”

Streetsblog has a request for an explanation out to the Port of San Francisco and San Francisco Public Works, which apparently share responsibility for maintaining the bike lane and street, and will update this post accordingly. However, a source close to the agencies said the city decided moving the concrete dividers and fence to repave the bike lane wasn’t worth the money.

More photos of the conditions on Cargo Way below.

Another view of the decayed surface
Unsurprisingly, the sidewalk
The sidewalk is also in terrible shape
Back in October. At least someone removed this hazard.
Back in October, this is what the bike lane looked like after a car or truck crashed into the fence and barrier. At least someone removed this hazard…but the city has not repaired the fence
Windshield perspective
Why, exactly, would the city encourage cars and trucks to turn across the bike lane without stopping, but require cyclists to stop? But at least the city put asphalt where cars have to cross the bike lane.
  • Spencer G

    looks just like the roads throughout SF and marin

  • Folicle

    One problem with protected bike lanes is that they can be difficult or impossible for maintenance vehicles to access them. The same problem exists in cities where there is snow, and the snow removal tracks clear the road but cannot clear protected bike lanes.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    “Cannot clear” meaning they just didn’t bother buying the off-the-shelf snow clearing equipment that civilized cities use for this purpose.

  • Roger R.

    One only has to go as far as Portland. My understand is San Francisco already has some smaller machines for this purpose. They’re just not doing it.

  • A A

    I rode Cargo Way twice a week between April and September for a volunteer project at Heron’s Head. I talked to the crew who was repaving the street and asked them if they were going to repave the bike lane as well and was told that it would be done in about 3 weeks …

  • curiousKulak

    Ok, I ride this every day, and, while its not in great shape, PLEASE don’t make them repair the fences! … like a cyclone fence is going to keep a 5 Ton truck or a speeding Camero from doing you some damage?

    They do seem to sweep the lanes regularly (if infrequently). And while vehicles damaging the fence – which then protrudes into the bike lane – is the biggest hazard, the trash that urban campers accumulate and scatter is the second (several flats to attest).

    I’ve actually been attacked by a crazed camper on this stretch – which is another reason I don’t want them replacing the restrictive cage-like fencing.

    The new asphalt though is pretty nice; I ride it going back to town, where the road is extra-wide anyway, and traffic is light at times. It would be pleasant to have new asphalt in the bike lane too; but that still leaves the problem of the concrete ‘gutter’, which consumes 40% of the lane and produces those tire-grabbing grooves? If you don’t pave the whole lane, thats inevitable.

  • Seth

    DPW has a few vehicles very similar to that, but they are used to clean the alleys in SOMA, Mission, Chinatown due to urine and human waste. you can see them around 2:09 of this video-

  • Roger R.

    Good point about the fences.

  • Roger R.


  • Jeffrey Baker

    I’m sure the irregularity of SF’s sidewalks is partly to blame. No equipment can deal with a sidewalk that is obstructed to a width of < 30 inches, as many are in SF. Signs, boxes, bike racks, parked motorcycles, and other encroachments make it already hard to walk down our sidewalks. You can imagine how hard it would be to drive a machine down them.

  • This is a 2-way lane, plenty of room for trucks.

  • They get that storm drain that flooded for years before the bikelane fixed?

  • Bruce

    I went to college in the Northeast. Every time it snowed, a small army of miniature snowplows would be deployed to clear the footpaths all across campus.

  • theqin

    Cargo Way is the only place in San Francisco where I’ve gotten a flat from a thumb tack.

  • RichLL Commentary Track

    No doubt some of you are wondering why I always seemed so concerned about the wellbeing of cyclists whenever protected bike lanes come up. Why would I care given how much I loathe cyclists?

    That is of course not the real reason I’m opposed to protected bike lanes. The real problems are that I can’t double park in them and that protected bike lanes will encourage more people to bike. Both are intolerable. They don’t sound very good to anyone who doesn’t already share my disdain for cyclists though.

    Enter concern trolling as a tactic. By pretending I’m on the side of cyclists but concerned about the negative impacts I claim protected bike lanes will have on them I appear more sympathetic so more people will be fooled into taking me seriously. This is best done with a fresh account since it relies on people not knowing my real views.

  • So then two solutions, which are not mutually exclusive: buy the right equipment for the job and stop building bikeways to be so bloody small.

  • Not wanting to move the curbs is BS. Pavers that are small enough to fit into that space do exist and if the City is serious about their bikeway program, they need to buy at least one anyway. Some contenders…

  • Aikyu999

    Lack of money is ALWAYS the excuse for a lack of priority! If they prioritize bike lanes, they’ll declare WAR on dangerous streets!

    Wars must be won, regardless of cost! That is why US is in a perpetual Global War of Terror! (It’s all about money!)

  • Aikyu999

    Not the protected bike lanes in China – they are BONIFIED bike LANES! (SF bike lanes are too narrow, and medians are not islands. No comparison with China)

  • curiousKulak

    You mean the one down by the tracks? Still floods.

    I remember right after the install, there was a big storm, and the drain on the next block between Newhall and the PO entrance on Cargo was blocked – with a puddle stretching for about 500′ at least (and it was deep – covering the sidewalk!). Haven’t seen anything like that in a while. I tried to ride thru it, but, iirc, ended up getting off, and slogging thru on foot instead (yuck). The fence effectively caged me in.

    Plus if the fence goes down, it comes down in a wide swarth with greater potential for damage to riders who might otherwise avoid a simple vehicle hit.

  • neroden

    The city has access to paving equipment of the correct width to run right down the bike lane without removing the fence. If they choose not to use it, that’s entirely their choice. They have no excuse.

    (Marven Norman has already pointed this out.)

  • neroden

    It’s trivial to purchase equipment which can run down bike lanes to clear snow or to repave the bike lane.

    Pro tip: it’s the same equipment which is used to clear sidewalks or to repave the sidewalk.

    Available at standard prices from any good manufacturer.

    There’s really no excuse for not buying and using this equipment. My semi-rural *township* owns it.

  • John French

    A visual example from Nanjing:

    Cars go on the other side of the shrubbery (to the left).

  • Nicholas L

    SF leaders are really neglectful and should be replaced.

  • Nicholas L