Bike hot spots

Cycling in San Francisco is only as safe as its weakest links. Here are a few spots that need attention


When a four-year-long court injunction against new bicycling improvement projects in San Francisco was finally lifted in 2010, there was great hope in the cycling community that the city would rapidly move forward on completing its long-planned network of bike lanes.

Feeding that optimism, Mayor Ed Lee, Board President David Chiu, and other top officials set ambitious goals to increase cycling, even though they did little to provide funding that was up to the task or overcome political opposition that inevitably arises to projects that take space from cars (see "20 percent by 2020," 5/8/12).

San Francisco is still a long way from emerging into even double-digits in terms of the percentage of vehicle trips taken by bike, and a big part of that is many people don't feel safe or comfortable fighting with cars for space on the roads. They want bike lanes throughout the city, ideally more of the physically separated cycletracks that debuted a few years ago on Market Street.

So, on Bike to Work Week 2013, we're taking a look some of the cycling hot spots in the city, places where the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other advocates have been pushing for pivotal bike safety improvements, the opposition they've encountered, and the status on those improvements.

Polk Street: This has become the hottest of hot spots in recent weeks, with an SFMTA plan for cycletracks shot down by local residents and businesses who complained about the loss of parking spaces on this narrow and increasingly congested corridor. SFBC is organizing to restore the bike lanes, starting with a May 14 event at its office.

Masonic Boulevard: Cars turning left from Fell onto Masonic, which bisects the bike-friendly Panhandle, used to be one of the most dangerous spots in the city, a problem that was largely solved with a special bike-signal light. Next, the SFMTA is proposing to take a lane from cars on that fast-moving thoroughfare and install bikes lanes all the way to Geary, with important funding decisions on that project coming up this summer.

Fell and Oak Streets: There's finally been some recent progress to this short but important east-west connection after years of delays and broken promises. Cycletracks on each busy street to connect the Wiggle to the Panhandle were approved in October, with an appeal denied the next month as Fell got new striping. But it was only in the last week that Oak finally got two blocks of temporary bike lanes, with parking spaces still standing in the way of the final block.

Second Street: After years of political haggling and community meetings, the SFMTA is finally on the verge of approving bicycle and pedestrian improvements on this dangerous car-clogged artery. The latest plans call for one-way cycletracks running next to the sidewalks on both sides of the street separated by a raised median with street trees separating riders from rows of parked and moving cars. Look for community meetings on the project in June.

Caesar Chavez Boulevard: This busy street got some much needed improvements earlier this year, with good bike lanes on the eastern portion, clearer signage for automobiles approaching the confusing maze as Chavez crosses I-280, and pedestrian safety improvements. Now the city just needs to continue what it started and complete the bike-lane link all the way to Valencia.


I think i might see about 2 a year.

It's a fast, high-volume arterial route and so highly unsuitable for bikes. Same for Cesar Chavez.

It makes far more sense for bikes to use parallel streets. Cyclists say they want physical segregation from cars and the simplest way to achieve that is to put them on different streets.

Why do cyclists always want to ride on the streets that are obviously most suitable for cars? Same goes for Fell/Oak, bush/Pine, Franklin/Gough, Geary, Van Ness, Lombard, Broadway etc.

Separate but equal is the way here.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 6:01 am

There is a bike lane two block east that has been there 20+ years.

Posted by Matlock on May. 14, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

So why are they whining about not being able to ride on a quasi-freeway?

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

yesterday on the Embarcadero.

Of course there is a perfectly suitable bike lane in place there, but the fucker -- coming up behind me at about 18mph -- evidently thought his sense of safety and comfort were more important than following the law or respecting *my* saftey.

He was soundlessly coming up behind me when I changed directions to take advantage of a pit-stop opportunity I noticed, and swerved within a few inches of me without slowing in the least.

I've got some real problems with this push to promote this artificial target of bike trips because it seems obvious that enforcement of laws regulating bicyclist conduct is going to end up being kept at low priority.

If there is going to be a de facto legalization of cycling on the sidewalk, then there needs to be a lowered speed limit for such uses.

Another aspect of this promotion of bicycling trips which negatively impacts pedestrian safety are the proliferation of bike racks -- which are inexplicably often painted to blend into the sidewalk's own coloration.

Under the ADA, ever stairway stop has to have a contrasting color line on its edge to allow sight impaired citizens to navigate them safely, but evidently there is no law -- or no enforcement -- to make sure that bike racks can be seen by those with limited vision.

If bicycling is promoted at the expense of pedestrian safety, then the net effect is a lowered quality of life except for those who drive from private garage to private garage while never needing to occupy public spaces: the Willie Brown's of the city.

If bicycling is continued to be used as a pretext to harm all drivers by eliminating public parking spaces, then it becomes a force for gentrification as the greater percentage of drivers thus harmed are those who do not have the luxury of private garages and chauffers.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 14, 2013 @ 7:19 am

By not respecting the rights and resources of others, they give us little reason to enhance their own rights and resources.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

if you take a walk thru the Panhandle. Despite the fact that there are very large, bright, white letters on the mixed-use path telling cyclists to go "SLOW" they race down the pathway even though they know it is also used by children, old people, the disabled, dogs and a variety of other path users.

When cyclists are the vulnerable ones, say on major city streets, they whine like there is no tomorrow. But when they are the bigger, faster traffic, they treat the rest of us exactly like they complain that drivers treat them.

It's not a coincidence that cyclists have killed two pedestrians in the last two years.

Posted by Susan on May. 14, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

if only half of the Panhandle was closed off to bikes and was pedestrian only we wouldn't have this problem...

wait,... what??

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

cars cannot use the bike lane but that bikes can use the car lane.

Yet in the Panhandle, they think people should keep to the south path, where bikes are banned, and not use the north path.

Personally, as a pedestrian, I make a point of ALWAYS using the north path. It is, first and foremost, a recreation area and not a commuting freeway.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

use whatever path you want, but don't complain about (responsible) bikers using a shared lane when there is a pedestrian-only lane about 50 yards away. (I'm with you 100% if you have a gripe about idiots riding too fast when there are pedestrians around, but in reality, the majority of bikers I've seen are usually pretty under control and courteous)

And the Panhandle IS a commuting freeway for bikers who want to avoid the insanity of biking on Fell/Oak. Furthermore, as you say, the Panhandle is a recreation area as well, and last time I checked, biking is a recreational activity in addition to being a mode of transpo.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

The reason the panhandle pathway is not a commuting freeway for bikeys is that "freeway" implies "fast." Bikeys are expressly admonished to not ride fast.

As for Fell/Oak, there is *no* "insanity" in riding on them. The lights are timed. If you want to ride *fast*, then simply turn out onto side streets during high traffic times and rest up a bit, then return to the roadway when it is clear of traffic and go on sprinting along. It is a very fast and efficient way to travel I can probably beat any asshole riding too fast on the panhandle path that way.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 14, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

if you read my post, I specifically said that I'm not down with people biking too fast through the Panhandle. I used "freeway" because the previous poster used that term. But give me a break, the Panhandle isn't used by bike commuters every day? Of course it is.

any of course, you're right. No danger at all in riding down Fell or Oak. Timed lights mean faster cars. and lets face it, there are more cars, driving faster, on Oak and Fell than almost anywhere else in the city. compare how many people bike the Panhandle as opposed to on either of those two streets, and it is as plain as day that is is quite dangers, nay, practically insane, to bike them when there is a safe, car-free path called the Panhandle.

your douchery knows no bounds, it is kind of impressive, in a sense

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 9:38 am

Bikes on the Panhandle mixed-use path ride as if there were no people there (let alone kids, dogs etc.) And they talk as if they don't think there should be people there.

The irony is that when you give bikes some extra access, they then treat it exactly like car drivers treat the roads, which is exactly what cyclists normally complain about.

What part of that huge SLOW sign don't they get?

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 9:55 am

who bike too fast in the PH. Clearly there are.
But to say that biking on Fell/Oak isn't dangerous because the lights are timed or some other nonsense like that is just stupid.

and I don't understand your extra access/treat it like car drivers treat the roads thing. are you saying that cars don't give a shit about bikers and then bikers don't give a shit about peds?

whatevs, I'm out of this silly conversation

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 11:27 am

to be a fughead.

I explained that "commuting freeway" was a misnomer because the term freeway denotes "fast" but the fughead was evidently unable or unwilling to accept an argument based on fact which conflicts with its self-delusionary beliefs.


I never claimed that people didn't commute in the panhandle, I only stated that unless you are one of those asshole helmeted bikeys who rides too quickly past children, baby carriages, hearing impaired people, the elderly, and anybody else enjoying a perfectly legitimate walk in the park on the north path, that my technique of turning out onto side streets while the large groups of speeding cars whiz by allows you to transit the area more quickly and quite safely.

This sort of fughead needs a sharp stick in the eye -- or one in the spokes -- before it'll take notice of anything outside its own fugheaded self.

Here's lillipublican's rule: ride slowly on the sidewalk and dismount in the presence of pedestrians. Don't assume people have the capacity to avoid you because bikes make little noise and they may be hearing impaired in any case.

When riding on mixed use auto/bike lanes *DO* *NOT* ride slow, you fucking pain in the ass.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 17, 2013 @ 11:33 am

Panhandle mixed-use path that is very clearly aimed at cyclists.

Those who seek to ignore that imperative will likely encounter problems.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

It will never achieve the cycling rates of places like Copenhagen or Amsterdam - places which are flat as a pancake. You could build heated, air-conditioned, covered and separated bike lanes on every single major thoroughfare in this city and yet most people would chose not to cycle.

And the previous commenter is correct - Masonic is one of the few streets which can be used to transverse the city quickly and of course - that makes it a prime target for Steven. It's a steep street and most cyclists don't even want to attempt it. I can't wait for Rob Anderson to tie this project up for years if not decades :-)

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 14, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

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