New JFK bike lanes are bad for everyone


Golden Gate Park visitors have had a couple months to get used to the confusing new lane configurations on JFK Drive – with bike lanes along the edges of the road and a row of parked cars in the middle – and I have yet to hear from anyone who likes this design. Nice try, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, but this design isn't working for any road users and should be scrapped.

The idea of using a row of parked cars to separate cyclists from motorists isn't inherently bad, and it has worked well in some European cities. But the way this is designed, passengers exiting vehicles must cross the bike lane to get to the sidewalk, creating a conflict that isn't good for either user. It was intended to create safer bikeways, but they actually feel more dangerous and uncertain now.

There are buffer zones where motorists aren't supposed to park, but on busy days they do anyway, with little to fear from parking control officers who rarely venture into the park, often crowding into the bike lane. The design also accentuates the visual blight of automobiles in this beautiful park, with more lanes of cars dominating the viewscape in many spots.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. After my cover story on urban cycling last week, I got a few notes critical of the new design, including an email from longtime local cyclist Thomas Kleinhenz, who wrote, “When the new Golden Gate Park bike lanes went in I scratched my head. Who dreamt this up. It helps no one. Cyclists now ride in a lane between the curb on the right and parked cars on the left. You have cyclists, roller-bladers, rental bikers, and children all stuck in the same lane with pedestrians trying to get to and from their cars.”

Kleinhenz cited state road design manuals discouraging this kind of design, claiming they may even be illegal. He continued, “When I've ridden it, I've had to dodge a child darting out from between the cars and a family of 5 who strolled across the bike lane confused about where to go. I've also been stuck behind Segways and rental bikers, forcing me and another rider to go out into the traffic lane just to top 5 mph. But of course the traffic lanes are now thinner to make room for the new bike lanes. So we're left with one non-functional, unsafe lane and another mildly functional unsafe lane. Meanwhile cars have less room to maneuver, and people getting out of their parked cars are forced to try to avoid traffic on one side and cyclists on the other. While cyclists who don't want to deal with the congestion in the bike lane now must be aware of having car doors opened into them in the now narrower traffic lane.”

His comments are typical of others that I've heard, including those from transportation engineers who are similarly baffled by the choices made here. The SFMTA deserves credit for trying something new, but I'll give them even more credit if they just call this one a mistake and start over. And that is a possibility.

“We're going to continue monitoring the JFK bikes lanes closely and we will consider potential adjustments to make them more intuitive and user-friendly,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told us, adding that the agency will analyze changes in traffic speed and volumes for both cyclists and motorists and parking volume, as well as surveying people's perceptions of the project.

Hopefully some changes will be in the offing, but I think the project is an example of a bigger problem that I discussed in last week's article, and that is political and civic leaders going with the easy bicycle infrastructure projects so they can claim lots of new mileage rather than the more politically difficult projects we actually need.

Last year on Bike to Work Day, newly minted Mayor Ed Lee announced two bike projects: the JFK lanes and new cycletracks on the dangerous few blocks on Fell and Oak streets to connect the Panhandle with the Wiggle, which has long been a high priority for cyclists as it completes a popular east-west bike corridor. Well, the former project got done and the latter got delayed when neighbors complained about the lost parking spots.

Now, because the SFMTA tried to accommodate motorists with too many new parking spots in Golden Gate Park – despite previous promises to decrease street parking in the park in exchange for building a massive underground parking lot – we've ended up with a messy design that only exacerbates conflicts between motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. In their effort to please everyone, as is often the case, they have pleased nobody.


Too bad for them it's trivially easy for me to change IP.

I agree - they are Stalinist.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:20 am

I think that it is much simpler, unfortunately: Aaron Bialick is a prick.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:37 am

They just can't tolerate any dissenting opinion.

At least the SFBG doesn't censor people who disagree with them - i'll give them that much.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:08 am

And the thing is that I actually ride a bike every day everywhere and the mere fact of questioning the dogma to suss out contradictions and political pitfalls was deemed too transgressive for the in crowd.

These people actually believe that people in positions of power who make sustainable transportation promises that are too good to be true, leading them down the garden path, are going to make good on those promises.

More people with means setting planning policy that benefits them irrespective of the fact that absent rapid transit infrastructure investment, new pricey density will only mean more new cars on the roads and even slower transit.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:16 am

along with the myth that SF is a "transit first" city. It's cheap and easy to reclassify a bumper sticker as official policy but, in practice, it's meaningless and we all know that.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:55 am

Nobody reads books anymore.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

Why talk in riddles?

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

All sorts of laws are on the books, but if nobody reads books anymore, what difference does it make the content of those books are?

Government is the Honey Badger, it takes what it wants and leaves other animals to pick up the scraps. It really doesn't give a shit.

Posted by marcos on May. 19, 2012 @ 6:36 am

Interestingly enough, Rob Anderson can still comment.

Posted by Aaron Bialick on May. 18, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

because of his high profile.

But you routinely ban anyone who doesn't tow the party line. I thought things would improve when you took over, but they have not.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

Interesting rationalization. Thanks for explaining my approach for me.

Posted by Aaron Bialick on May. 18, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

You think I don't notice when you've done that? I even got you to ban the IP at the central library, although I haven't checked recently to see if you figured that out yet.

Since I can easily change IP's, it's not an issue, but it shows that censorship is a policy at StreetsBlog. But of course if you want to prove me wrong, then release all the blocked IP's and I'll re-check. I'll give you an opportunity to show you support balance and free speech.


Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

I, and probably Bryan before me (I wasn't aware of when he banned people), give warnings and explicit reasons for banning. I've banned just a few people, and I really hate having to do it, and moderating in general. You can acknowledge the reasons we gave you, or you can continue rationalizing being banned for violating our moderation policies by simply calling it censorship of free speech. Meanwhile, plenty of commenters who respectfully disagree with what we say, and with other commenters, continue doing so freely.

Posted by Aaron Bialick on May. 18, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

nonsense, Aaron. you all are afraid of principled challenge to the shied thinking that drinking too much single issue kool-ade brings on.

to wit: the TSP/TSF scam. You all put forth a fluff piece on this well intended but transit hostile proposal. Rational, critical CEQA thinkers including folks at the Sierra Club are concerned about the legality of the measure and that would both slow transit and retain requirements that bike projects complete environmental review while absolving development projects of analyzing point source impacts.

The echo chamber is deafening, the same able bodied people who never have to build viable electoral coalition's make demands that they're unable to prevail on and go off blaming everyone who does not toe the party line for backlash and falling short. Meanwhile, sucking up to the mta gets minor livability crumbs while transit languishes and decays with seniors, the disabled and working commuters taking the hits.

Streets are as contentious and dangerous as ever, muni runs as slow as ever, but you've got parklets!

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

Yeah, your accusations and assumptions in this irrelevant response still aren't worth responding to.

You're fine without Streetsblog anyway, right? It's not like your indubitably persuasive wisdom has ever gotten you kicked out of anything else.

Posted by Aaron Bialick on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

irascibility that emereges when he gets angry because somebody dares to challenge his "wisdom".

The simple fact is that Streetsblog, unlike the SFBg, cannot tolerate anyone who posts a view criticizing cyclists or supporting cars. your single-minded bigotry and prejudice leads you to lash out by banning people left and right.

Luckily you never have any real power, else you'd be a real manace to society. As it is, you're just an angry control freak.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 5:37 am

Aaron, that's pretty sad.

I'd managed to put together a broad coalition from across the political spectrum to contest the MTA's diversion of transit resources to the SFPD, something that the captured advocacy groups were bought off to support but which is opposed by normal people.

And my magnificent brain has co-led putting together the first comprehensive transportation plan linked with a land use plan in the WSOMA. Of course the land use component is being torn up in order to allow for greater developer profits and the MTA fears pulling the trigger on residentializing circulation on 7th and 8th.

And, yeah, I've also worked with our neighborhood as the MTA technocrats are imposing their vision of growth controls on residents while allowing developers free reign to plop their unaffordable crap housing into our century old existing and economically diverse neighborhoods.

That's the difference between siloed single issue advocacy that is financed by the 1% and has no social justice component, which dismisses anyone who does not drink the Kool-Aid as a pro-car zealot and big picture advocacy that realizes how the interconnectedness of all things plays into building strong coalitions.

This why I laugh when I see SFBC employees taking transit to work as I bike to my FD office every day.

The only reason why the "livable streets" meme carries political heft is that it has significant corporate support because developers and transportation contractors benefit from it. But as I'd pointed out, if it wasn't for the parklet and its concrete embankments blocking access to the 17th Street Bike lane, Sutchi Hui would be alive today. Parklets Kill.

The sad part is that increased density, greater bulks in buildings will make San Francisco windier, shadier and colder which translates into less livable, less walkable, less bikeable because of the nature of climate here.

But you've got your parklets, Aaron, you've got your parklets!!!

Posted by marcos on May. 19, 2012 @ 10:47 am

and Matthew was a little better. But the reason for the ban was nothing more than taking a different position on some issues around bikes, cars and transit.

Apparently that is not allowed. Groupthink is your mandate.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 5:39 am

Nah, he does not ban Rob Anderson because he is such an easy straw man to demolish and is not a threat to the urban planning technocrats that fund streetblog.

He bans others with more nuanced critiques of the Kool-Ade drinkers because we are live threats with valid critiques based on working in communities outside of the Kool-Ade drinkers that the true believers simply cannot handle.

For instance, had 17th Street not been sealed off with concrete embankments for a parklet, cyclists would have had traditional recourse to the east to avoid pedestrians illegally crossing Castro in the crosswalk before their walk signal flashed.

But we have a parklet!!!

Posted by marcos on May. 19, 2012 @ 7:19 am

You guys have fun with that.

Posted by Aaron Bialick on May. 19, 2012 @ 9:57 am

If you can justify your aggressive suppression of contrary comment on your site, then do so.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 10:23 am

They don't censor trolls, but they do censor intelligent criticism of certain people. Make a good point about a weakness of somebody like Avalos, and it will be taken down.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 9:29 am

your post may vanish. Aaron is, i believe, better than the moronic Bryan, but that's not saying so much.

If they're scared of free speech and criticism, then how confident can they be that their message is valid?

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 10:25 am

I couldn't agree more re: the SFBC and bike theft. Bike lanes are very important, but something has to be done about the frequency with which bikes all over SF (and the East Bay) are getting snagged and sold (at Oakland flea markets).

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

... like the new cycle tracks as a bicyclist. I use them once or 2 times a week on my way home from work, or going to and from grocery shopping on Haight Street. But I do wonder what the impact on pedestrians will be.

Posted by Sue on May. 17, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

As a cyclist, I'd proceed slowly, given that it is a park and all.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

The right of way is something to be given not taken. That means following the law and not proceeding into a thoroughfare unless it is safe to do so.

It does not matter who has the ROW when an incident occurs and the pedestrian acted recklessly. Criminal charges are not filed, there is no civil liability.

Carry on with the bicycle hating, the law is never enforced against cyclists, pedestrians get to walk into oncoming traffic with impunity, but we've just got to do something about these dangerous cyclists!!!

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

Just ride more slowly and it's not an issue.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

Proceeding slowly, a selfish woman with an ample caboose was lollygagging on the center stripe, oblivious. Cyclists were coming from both directions, she did not move, we all went around her. As I passed, I said to her: "Bike lane, please?" Her response was an uncivil string of expletives.

Posted by marcos on May. 20, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

I'm from Copenhagen, and to me, that's exactly how a bike lane should look. Except the freaking huge buffer zone seems a tad obsessive, and could be put to better use creating wider bike lanes to avoid the conflicts with slow segways and rollerbladers described above.

It must be a cultural things, since the conflicts mentioned shouldn't happen as bikes have the right of way at the bike path, drivers exiting their cars should wait to cross until the path is clear. That is how it works in Copenhagen anyway.

It also helps avoid doring accidents as most cars a single occupancy (OK, maybe not at this specific location but still), they should open their doors on the opposite side of the bike path most of the time.

Why people would prefer riding squeezed in between faster moving tons heavy chunks of metal and opening doors simply baffles me, having to veer in front of cars when people open their doors is not my idea of safety, but again, must be a cultural thing.

Posted by Stefan on May. 18, 2012 @ 1:08 am

It seems that about 90% of the people posting here are completely ridiculous. These lanes are just fine, they just require people to actually THINK a little before going about their self-important lives. Oh no, pedestrians have to LOOK before crossing a lane of traffic? We all learned that when we were in kindergarten. Oh, poor motorists have to actually look before swinging their door into traffic, because instead of just hitting a bike they might hit a car instead and damage their car? And to my fellow cyclists, fast and slow, KEEP TO THE RIGHT unless you're passing. If people do that, there's plenty of room to pass each other. And if you really want to speed, just hop into the traffic lane and take it. You have that right. Regarding the again stupid comments of "entitled cyclists": We're not entitled, we don't want all the space, we just want some areas to be able to actually ride safely. I totally agree that SFMTA should be focusing more on other areas, namely Fell and Oak. They could rip out that parking, stripe the buffer zones, and be done with that project in a week if they had the guts to actually do it, but they don't, and who knows if and when they actually will. Until then, I'll keep getting buzzed by speeding traffic on Fell and beating traffic riding down Oak as it sits in congestion. As another commented, I actually like riding on Oak from Baker to Scott, it's an exhilarating three blocks, but if I were a parent or wanted to be able to ride at a leisurely pace, there's no way in HELL I would take that route. And streets should be accessible for all users, within reason. Obviously I don't expect to ride my bike on the freeway. But Oak and Fell aren't freeways, they're inner city streets, and connect the two flattest routes through the city. They need to have safety features. Lastly, regarding the Panhandle, just to second another commenter, the North side is a designated bike path, and the entire south route is for pedestrians only. I never understand why more people don't use that southern side. If you're so upset about bikes zipping by, use the other side that's exclusively for you.

Posted by Zack on May. 18, 2012 @ 8:06 am

safe and leafy. I don't know why anyone would take Fell or Oak, bike lane or not. It's a death wish.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:21 am

I'd like to see the Guardian, the SFBC and the WalkSF address the dangers of bikers riding on sidewalks. I have two recent experiences on the narrow sidewalk in front of the Friends School on Valencia, in which I was almost hit by bikers riding really fast. Why they weren't in the bike lane of Valencia is beyond me. Can we have a concerted effort to keep bikers off all sidewalks and get them to use the many bike lanes, specially on Market and Valencia Streets? We could start with stenciled messages at the lowered section of sidewalks for wheelchairs: "BIKERS - DISMOUNT!"

Posted by MPetrelis on May. 18, 2012 @ 8:12 am

Michael, we only ride on the sidewalk because we're trying to avoid all of those jaywalking pedestrians in the street who lollygag through the bike lane as if it were a sidewalk.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 8:19 am

Being a cyclist doesn't have to involve hating everyone else, you know?

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:23 am

No, no, I LOVE pedestrians when they are not jaywalking or otherwise obstructing a legal bicycle pathway such as the north path on the panhandle.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:36 am
Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:09 am

You'd best keep right if you're going to be running on a bike path.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:20 am

The reason is that you can see the bikes coming at you. I prefer that to having traffic approaching me from the rear.

It's the same rule when you're on a street with no sidewalk. The rule is to always walk or run on the left so that you and oncoming traffic can better see each other.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:32 am

Ironic, you calling marcos names. Geeze. I thought you had a point until you revealed yourself to be one of the types who he properly is vexed by.

This is the United States of America. We drive on the right. Dammit. Same for biking, walking, running. In the rare case where you are on a street with no sidewalk, do whatever you like since it might be assumed there is little pedestrian traffic. Do not apply such a technique to any type of pathway striped for two-way traffic. Bozo.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 20, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

because you can see approaching traffic and prepare/evade as necessary.

If some crazed, speeding cyclists is going to hit me, I'd rather see him coming.

Driving on the right doesn't mean walking on the right - you can walk on either the left or the right. No different on a mixed-use path like the one in the Panhandle.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2012 @ 6:05 am

it's NOT a bike path, it's a shared bike ped path.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:47 am

"I have yet to hear from anyone who likes this design"

I like the new design, a lot, and can't wait for the city to install more of these parking-protected bikeways around town.

You have now heard from me, so time to update the article!

Posted by Prinzrob on May. 18, 2012 @ 8:21 am

if the way these lanes are set up currently don't work for you I'm curious what your thoughts are in regards to how to make them better.

Posted by DanO on May. 18, 2012 @ 8:45 am

get a grip on yourself Steve. As a parent with a small child, I can tell you that these new protected lanes are a blessing and we enjoy riding in them. As a long-time urban cyclist, I'm happy to make the transition from fast-riding hot dog, to slower-paced safe riding with the masses, including children and older folks. The notion that we should be designing bike facilities for confident cyclists who want to ride as fast as they want is absurd. If your goal is to increase cycling and make it appealing to everyone, this is the only way to go. If it works in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and (gasp) New York, it will work here. Everything new takes time to adjust to. Once the paint dries for more than a few weeks, MTA can step up the enforcement. Take a chill pill and put away your pitchfork and get some perspective.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 8:51 am

If anyone has something smart to say about improving sidewalk safety for pedestrians, please speak up. Again, Marc is more interested in diminishing or dismissing legit concerns about unsafe bikers and adding nothing to an effort for a constructive discussion. Just because there are some pedestrians who annoy Marc, that is no reason why my safety when walking on Valencia in my neighborhood should be jeopardized by bikers who are too dumb to use the bike lane.

Posted by MPetrelis on May. 18, 2012 @ 8:59 am

No, Michael, just like all gay men are vectors for HIV transmission, it is all that we can do to avoid infecting innocent white people, all cyclists are likewise just holding back the inclination to mow down pedestrians on the sidewalk and we need to stoke hysteria, a panic, if you would, and craft public policy, hastily of course, and appropriately.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 9:20 am

SF DPH: Alarming increase in bicycle pedestrian collisions on sidewalk, immediate steps must be taken!

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 9:41 am
Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:24 am

Don't change the subject: None of those unfortunately tragic incidents involved cyclists riding on the sidewalk.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:39 am