Update: Embarcadero Construction Site Gets a Bike Detour

Advocates say it's better than nothing, but still lacking

Photo: Bruce Halperin via twitter
Photo: Bruce Halperin via twitter

A detour was set up recently for a bike lane blocked by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s “Force Main Rehabilitation,” a water project on the southbound side of the Embarcadero between Broadway and Washington. As seen in the lead image, the city had previously blocked the lane with no plan for how cyclists were to navigate the area.

From John Scarpulla with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission:

In collaboration with MTA, Port, and Public Works, we have implemented a bicycle detour to provide an alternative route for cyclists along the Embarcadero. The new detour route will direct riders to detour at Embarcadero & Broadway before the Force Main project site, turn left onto Davis Street into the existing bike lane, turn left at Jackson Street, turn left onto Washington Street and then reconnect with Embarcadero.

The map below shows the new bike route and existing pedestrian routes around the project site. Bikers that feel safe continuing along the Embarcadero into a short shared lane of traffic may continue to do so.


The fix was created in response to complaints from advocate Bruce Halperin, who commutes through the area, and the advocacy work of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and others.

But Halperin told Streetsblog the chosen detour presents new problems. Broadway is a busy street in its own right–with no bike lane. “At least they’ve put up some detour signs and some advanced warning that the bike lane is closed,” he added.

There's the remnants of a worn out sharrow on the Broadway part of the detour. Photo: From a video show by Halperin
These are the remnants of a worn-out sharrow on the Broadway part of the detour, the only “bike infrastructure” on the street. Photo captured from a video show by Halperin

At the intersection with Broadway, cyclists are either supposed to make a two-stage turn onto Davis or quickly navigate across moving traffic to make a conventional turn. Halperin, another advocate named Joey Babbitt, and Lee Hepner from Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office complained about the dangers of this segment to SFMTA and the SFPUC.

The response came again from Scarpulla. “In order to increase bicycle safety on Broadway, SFMTA is implementing a Bike Box at the intersection of Broadway and Davis streets… SFMTA confirmed this is being expedited and is aiming for it be completed by the end of this week.” He included the picture below (from another city) to illustrate:


Streetsblog has a request into SFMTA for an update on the time frame for when the box will be installed (as of yesterday there was no work being done on the street).

Babbitt, in another email to city officials shared with Streetsblog, asked why the parking lane on Broadway can’t be converted into a dedicated and protected bike lane, at least for that short stretch. “There are two lanes for car traffic in each direction on Broadway, and this particular block has a huge parking lot. Removing a few parking spots for bike safety is absolutely the right thing to do,” wrote Babbitt. “Personally, I have to ride Broadway every day to get to Telegraph Hill and the amount of space that cars are given on that stretch (to Columbus) is out of proportion.”

“…the north side of Broadway ought to be able to accommodate a bike lane to allow a two-step turn onto Davis or even Battery,” wrote Hepner. But, according to the response from Scarpulla, that’s apparently off the table (will District 3 ever get protected bike lanes?) in favor of the aforementioned bike box.

A few things remain unclear: why wasn’t there a bike detour as part of the original traffic plan? And rather than come up with a circuitous detour, why not divert cyclists for a few blocks to the shared Promenade path across the street, as the project did for pedestrians (route shown in blue on the map). “That was what I originally suggested as the best idea,” said Halperin. “Just set up some signs, but they didn’t do any of that, they decided on this roundabout detour, two blocks of which have door-zone bike lanes… I’d guess almost nobody is following the detour.”


The same street in 2017. Notice the posts are a different color. Photo:  
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