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.


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.

  • crazyvag

    How about soft-hit poles?

  • Rio

    A few weeks ago I saw a pick-up truck take out three if them without even blinking,

  • mx

    There’s a missing “Bike Network Junction” that’s always been conspicuous: Market St. The Embarcadero and Market are both supposed to be major bike corridors, yet there’s no connection between them (short of walking your bike across the plaza or bouncing over the cobblestones on Don Chee Way, which is probably not something I’m supposed to do). I’m not quite sure how a connection would work, but it seems less than ideal that it’s not even being considered as part of this plan.

  • Quit whining. 3 or 4 years for this project versus decades for the DTX.

  • City Resident

    Definitely agree – and it seems the SFMTA does too. Their design concept included the following statement: “The Better Market Street Project is currently at the 15% design milestone and is expected to release a draft Environmental Impact
    Report (EIR) by the end of 2018. A formal connection for people bicycling between The Embarcadero and Market Street has not been identified and would need to be considered as a future, separate effort.” –

    On a related note, there is mention of a possible major redesign of the plaza in front of the Ferry Building – Harry Bridges Plaza (which is in the middle of the Embarcadero, between what used to be called Justin Herman Plaza and the Ferry Building). Their drawing/rough proposal seems like there could well be increased automobile congestion blocking the E and F lines in this area, specifically due to nearly all northbound Embarcadero motor traffic having to cross both streetcar tracks twice – which would almost certainly increase blocking of the box and also result in collisions that slow and interrupt Muni service. Here’s some of what the SFMTA writes about this (also see link above): “The Embarcadero at the Ferry Building, with Harry Bridges Plaza at the center, was designed to avoid having to walk across six lanes of traffic “in one go.” The result has worked relatively well for pedestrians, but leaves the plaza and Ferry Building disconnected from each other. With the Embarcadero Enhancement Project assuming two travel lanes in each direction at Market Street, it begs the question: Is there an opportunity to knit the two back together?”

  • City Resident

    The design concept includes the possibility of removing the crosswalk on the south side of the Embarcadero and Broadway intersection. This should be a non-starter. Haven’t we learned not to remove crosswalks in urban environments?

    The SFMTA did learn from past mistakes and reinstated crosswalks, after decades without them, in Hayes Valley and possibly elsewhere. Please do not consider crosswalk removal, especially at locations that are well used by pedestrians and will likely see increased pedestrian use in the future. Crosswalk removal is anti-Vision Zero – as it likely will cause some pedestrians to continue to cross in the same location, but without the benefits and protections of existing infrastructure.

    Please see link for more info:

  • Flatlander

    I was biking on Folsom near 2nd and an amateur with a moving truck took out tons of poles. He thought it was hi-larious 🙁

    I’m pretty unenthused about safe-hits these days, especially given how fast they get taken out and create another hazard…

  • Greg Rozmarynowycz

    They keep people from casually using the bike lane as their personal parking/unloading zone, and beyond that act to psychologically slow drivers down and physically legitimize cyclists on the road.

  • Bruce

    Officially, bike routes 30 and 50 continue onto Steuart Street at the end of Market and then left onto Mission to the Embarcadero, so the City doesn’t consider it as an intersection on the Bike Network. Of course, no bike rider actually does that.

  • Bernard Finucane

    These are a crazy idea. what’s the point? Why not real protection?

  • crazyvag

    To protected from taxi/Lyft/Ubers blocking the lane. Plus, without any lanes being shifted, it helps make the lanes more self-enforcing.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Safe hut posts are much better than nothing, and they cost a magnitude less than curbs and bollards. The point of these posts is that fire and rescue vehicles can run over them when there’s an real emergency. With curbs and bollards, they have to figure out how and where fire and emergency vehicles will park which requires expensive studies and planning. With soft hit posts, all that work is avoided. From what I’ve seen on 7th and 8th Street, soft hit posts do a very good job most of the time. I’d prefer a concrete protected buffer lane eventually, but protected bike lanes should always start small simple and cheap to evaluate the concept before doing expensive and permanent landscaping.

  • mx

    Thanks. Besides the inefficiency of that, and the folly of riding down Steuart wedged between stopped buses and streetcar tracks, it’s also not signed. It looks like there’s a tiny route 50 right arrow sign at the end of Market, but that’s useless.

    Our bike signage is built around the idea you’re a hardcore cyclist who has carefully studied the bike network map (which doesn’t even include the numbers anymore) and know what route 50 is. We need routes and wayfinding that applies to the “rider who casually picked up a GoBike and could use some handy pointers to relative safety” set (I’m looking at you, abrupt western end of the Panhandle multi-use path).

  • robo94117

    With all the bike traffic and pedi-cabs, I don’t think this will be sufficiently wide. Also, riding against car traffic on the right and bike traffic on the left seems unsettling. I’m imagining that this could be a draw for distracted tourists on rental bikes who would clash with impatient road bike riders, like on the GG Bridge. The sidewalk is supposed to be a multi-use path but it’s too popular with pedestrians to work for cyclists.
    Wouldn’t wide, uni-directional, protected bike lanes on each side be a better idea? Why did they leave out the most confusing bit: Where the streetcar tracks and cobblestones take over the right lane? What’s the problem with striping a proper bike lane through the Wharf and Aquatic Park?


A screen shot from CBS KPIX 5's report.

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