Design for Embarcadero Protected Bike Lanes Presented; Advocates Scoff at Timeline

A rendering of the two-way bike lane planned for the Embarcadero. Image: SFMTA
A rendering of the two-way bike lane planned for the Embarcadero. Image: SFMTA

The Embarcadero will have two-way, protected bike lanes on the water side of the street–in four years. The new designs were presented to the public Thursday evening, on the second level of the Ferry Building.

“Let’s talk about the old days, when across the street there was a double-decker freeway,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin at the open house presentation. “It was a great decision by Mayor Art Agnos to tear that thing down.”

But that, of course, was a quarter-century ago. And, said SFMTA officials at the meeting, in the age of Uber and Lyft, climate change, and increasing demand for safe bike lanes, it’s time for things to change again.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin addressing the crowd at last night's presentation. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless indicated
Supervisor Aaron Peskin addressing the crowd at last night’s presentation. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless indicated

According to SFMTA, between 2011 and 2016, 241 people were injured while traveling on the Embarcadero, including two fatally. Collisions have been increasing over time. Those numbers do not include the death of Kevin Manning, a pedicab operator who was killed in June by a hit-and-run driver.

Since it will be years before the protected bike lanes in the lead image are installed (see timeline below), the city intends to put in enhanced, buffered bike lanes “beginning Monday,” said Peskin.

embarcaderotimeline

Advocates at the meeting, however, were not convinced more paint will have any effect (see the last photo in this post).

“It’s for a measure of safety,” said Casey Hildreth, the Project Manager for SFMTA. “But we know it’s not enough… that’s why we’re also committed to a two-way bike lane on the water side.”

Pedicab operators __
Pedicab operators Aaron Martinsen and James Tracy

Putting the timeline aside for a moment, some also had questions about the chosen designs.

James Tracy, seen above in the red jacket, is a pedicab operator who worries that pedestrians will step into the bike lane and he’ll have no way to swerve out of the way if the bike lane is at street level. “They need guard rails” to keep pedestrians on the sidewalk, he said. Aaron Martinsen, also in the photo above, was concerned that the bike lanes didn’t appear wide enough for pedicabs to safely pass.

Francis Gorman, a tour guide, worries about unloading tour buses at Alacatraz Landing on a bus boarding island rather than directly at the curb. She fears tourists, unfamiliar with the area, will immediately step off the boarding island and walk right into the path of cyclists. “I’m not against the protected bike lanes, but I’m concerned about that location.”

Embarcadero projectmap

Hildreth told Streetsblog they are still working out how the bus boarding island will work, and if it will have a sidewalk-level crossing, with ramps, to force cyclists to slow as they approach this potential conflict zone. Railings to guide pedestrians at key locations are also on the table.

Either way, “I’m not very excited with the near-term project,” said Kyle Grochmal, an advocate and Streetsblog contributor. “They’re talking about three or four years before the long-term project.”

Grochmal wants the city to follow the example of 7th, 8th, and 13th streets in SoMa, and figure out a way to install parking-protected bike lanes in the near term, instead of just painting wider buffers. He also wants parking-protected bike lanes on Samsone and Battery streets as an alternative to the Embarcadero while studies on the long-term project are completed.

Despite the green paint added last year, the existing Embarcadero bike lanes are routinely blocked by private auto and delivery drivers. Photo: SFBC/Twitter
Despite the green paint added a few years ago, the existing Embarcadero bike lanes are routinely blocked by private auto and delivery drivers. Photo: SFBC/Twitter

It was nearly two years ago when SFMTA held an open house to first get input for this project. And despite protests and pushing, and Kevin Manning’s death, it seems little has happened to accelerate things. “The time for safety improvements on the Embarcadero was yesterday,” wrote the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier, in an email to Streetsblog. “Recognizing that we are seeing encouraging momentum on this project, the SF Bicycle Coalition hopes to see the SFMTA put in as many near-term improvements as possible to improve this known high-injury corridor.”

What do you think of the designs? And how do you feel about the interim measures for the Embarcadero? Post your comments below.

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