Separated bikeways on Oak and Fell finally up for approval

The bike lane on Fell, which creates conflicts between cyclists and motorists entering the gas station, has been protested.
Steven T. Jones

After three years of delays and broken promises, the fate of a dangerous but vital bike route in San Francisco will be decided on Oct. 16. Oak and Fell streets, one of the few major east-west byways in the city, carries tens of thousands of cars each day, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Right now, there is no bike lane on Oak, and the stripes on Fell are only two feet wide with no buffer, putting cyclists inches from heavy traffic.
But all that could change. If the transit agency gives it the green light, the perilous Oak-Fell corridor between Scott and Baker will gain needed concrete barriers and wider bike lanes, according to SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose and bike advocates.
“This has been a long push,” said Leah Shahum, president of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a vocal advocate of the project.
If passed, separated bikeways, crosswalk enhancements, traffic signal timing changes, and parking mitigation measures would be installed by the end of 2012, Rose said, and construction of bulbouts and a concrete bikeway barrier would be put in by the summer of 2013.
The project has met repeated delays, despite Mayor Ed Lee’s promise that it would be done by the end of 2011.
A section of the major bike route “The Wiggle,” its the only game in town if you’re a cyclist who wants to cross the city from east to west. But not everyone favors the fix.
Blogger and anti-bike activist Rob Anderson, who sued San Francisco for not performing proper studies on bike lane projects in 2005, calls it a slap in the face to people who must drive to work.
“It shows no sympathy or understanding for working people in the neighborhood,” Anderson said. He bemoaned the loss of parking as particularly harmful to residents in the area, which would lose 35 parking spaces, according to SFMTA data. “It’s all about making cyclists comfortable.”
Shahum agrees with Anderson on that point, arguing that's the best way to encourage more people to get on a bike. “Poll after poll, survey after survey say that the biggest deterrent to biking is safety,” Shahum said. Its not just about the accidents, it's also about people perceptions.
If the bike lanes were more safe, more cyclists would ride them, Shahum said. This would pave the way towards San Francisco’s goal of increasing bike ridership to 20 percent of trips made in San Francisco by the year 2020, which is enshrined in legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors two years ago. Currently, about 3.5 percent of bike commutes in the city are by bicycle, a 71 percent increase from 2005, according to the city’s “2012 State of Cycling Report.”
One San Francisco politician says that the city wasn’t pedaling fast enough on the redesign. District 5 candidate Christina Olague sent a letter to the SFMTA two weeks ago urging the transit agency to pick up the pace and break ground by year’s end. That may have been a factor in SFBC's subsequent decision to give Olague it's top endorsement, with Julian Davis gets its number two spot.
Shahum said the SFBC plans to turn out its members on Oct. 16 to ensure passage of a project it has sought for years: “We can breathe when it's over.”


McAllister is the superior alternative when going from downtown to the Panhandle. So you climb 20 more vertical feet but you save a third of a mile and all that time staring at red lights, particularly the one at Octavia "Blvd." Plus you stay off of the Wiggle, which seems a bit overloaded these days...

And going the other way, there's Oak and Golden Gate and so on...

Posted by Jim on Oct. 02, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

Why do cyclists always want to ride on the only streets in SF with decent volume and speed? Just take an adjacent alternative.

There is no way a segregated bike lane can be created without messing with parking or vehicular thruput. How can the one percent who cycle dictate this crap to the 99%?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 4:50 am

Stupidest use of 1% / 99% I've ever seen. Bikes aren't 1% in spirit or in numbers (RTFA).

And why streets with volume and speed? Because SF has smartly laid wide streets where the route is flat, but then they were striped for the users most able to navigate steep hills. Now SF is working to fix that.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 9:45 am

Oh yes - akin to the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta is that glimmering "20% of all trips by 2020" goal. It is is "enshrined" in our city's consciousness. I know I repeat that mantra every day upon waking up and before going to sleep.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 02, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

A 71% increase in bike commutes sounds impressive, but means going from 2.05% of total commutes by bike to the current level of 3.5% bike commutes. San Francisco will never reach 20% of commutes by bicycle! Just because the Board of Supervisors would like it to happen, doesn't mean bike ridership will come anywhere close to this. There is only one city in the country that has over 10% bike commutes (Davis, CA with 22%; pretty flat terrain, much smaller population, and lots of college students). The city with the next highest percent of bike commutes is Boulder, CO with 9.9%. San Francisco, at 3.5%, is way down the list and is on par with Minneapolis, where people have to bike through snow 6 months of the year.

I think the main reason more people in San Francisco don't bike is because of the hills - not because of safety! San Francisco should continue improving safety for bikers and pedestrians. However, adding bike lanes in locations that might result in a slight up-tick in bikers while negatively impacting the quality of life of neighborhood residents and businesses through a loss of parking spaces, etc. does not seem like an equitable trade-off. Especially when there are other streets in the neighborhood where bikers could comfortably ride.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

Since the lights are completely predictable, its easy to alternate between sprinting along at 20-25 mph and then turning out and killing a bit of time on side streets while the major traffic goes by.

I don't like the coercion of taking away public parking and lanes. The moves make it possible only for the ultra wealthy with garages to drive vehicles despite the fact that many trademen and other workers depend on vehicles due to their type of work or shift.times.

Bulb-outs and other "traffic calming" schemes which needlessly and stupidly remove parking seem like vandalism.

The bicyclists, unless they ride rain or shine, summer *and* winter -- in short unless they aren't contributing to peak loading of Muni when it is the most in demand -- are making a quite dubious or at least mixed contribution to sustainability.

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 02, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

I'm glad I'm not the only progressive who feels that way. As a bicyclist, a pedestrian, and driver (with members of my immediate family who also regularly use MUNI), I recognize the need for some sort of balance. We all need to live together in this small space and not demonize one particular group. And that includes drivers. I'd love to get around solely on a combination of bike, and wonderful public transportation, but unfortunately that's not the reality that I live in. It's not the reality that many people live in, and we need to acknowledge that. The needs of bikers should be balanced with the needs of everyone else.

I've biked that route many times. Some of the changes are great -I like the wiggle, for example. But I also think Fell and Oak are fine just the way they are.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 02, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

You've just made the case that only people who can sprint 20-25 MPH should ride a bike in SF. Not true.

However, they do ride rain or shine.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 9:39 am

There are no "two feet wide" bike lanes in San Francisco. The bike lanes on Fell are the standard 6-7' wide and are not that dangerous except by the gas station and sometimes the DMV, especially when compared to truly dangerous bike facilities on the east side of town.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 8:39 am
Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 9:08 am

It has to happen sometimes, right?

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 9:12 am

These comments are a joke. It's called global warming and peak oil people. Don't give me your petty little bullshit excuses - we need to get people on bikes. This project is essential for a large percentage of people to feel safe on a bicycle. Wake up and smell the permafrost.

Posted by Not A Moron on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 9:57 am

What's a joke is expecting that more people will ride bikes than will take transit, especially uphill and into the wind as the westbound wiggle/panhandle are.

Rarely is the shortest path in politics a straight line. Often, when one helps similar causes advance, one advances one's own cause further and faster than if one tried the brute force approach.

Such is the case as relates to bicycles and transit. Every dollar spent on transit, assuming the MTA spends it on transit, has more benefit to cycling than spending $1 on a cycling project.

Removing auto lanes for bike lanes can and does delay transit. The Bike Plan EIR revealed 3 delays deemed "significant" under CEQA, delays of >= 6 min. It also revealed a whole host of delays not deemed "significant" under CEQA.

Those "insignificant" delays ran from a handful of seconds up to more than 5 min and there were a whole host of them. Taken cumulatively, these delays caused by removing auto lanes for bike lanes would consume all of the time savings that the TEP promises.

This is not a pro-car argument, rather a pro-transit argument. Auto delay translates into transit delay for a surface system. Thus, any auto delay that delays transit must be fully mitigated or else that will simply keep more folks and push more folks to auto travel.

And we're not just talking a few bucks here. We're talking hundreds of billions of dollars in regional rapid reliable transit investment if we are to offer carrots to motorists instead of being all stick.

The SFBC has been offered and taken shiny objects from the MTA in the form of parklets and bike lanes and now CEQA transit impact analysis evisceration in the TSP/TSF. They can be bought for real cheap.

Until transit run times are valued as a scarce public resource and all discretionary projects are forced to mitigate their transit delay impacts 100% and pay 100% of the cost to handle the new load they put on the creaky system, all of this talk about peak oil and carbon is for naught.

Until folks can get from dispersed housing clusters to dispersed job clusters that change over their work lifetimes, raising the cost of commuting without providing viable alternatives will elicit a backlash in the same way that scraggly old naked trolls with cock rings are eliciting a backlash against public nudity.

That's the way that politics works, bitchez.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 7:33 am

You've obviously put in a lot of thought into this post - unfortunately, not enough thought is put into actually looking at what improvements are going to be made. There is no proposed removal of traffic lanes in this project, thereby making your entire argument null.

Next time you want to spend 20 minutes writing a condescending post, you might want to get your basic facts straight. But, you're right - that's pretty much the way politics works.

Posted by Not A Moron on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:47 am

All of you who that Fell and Oak are fine as they are... how selfish of you! You are completely ignoring the people who don't ride on those streets right now because it doesn't feel safe.

Fell has a bike lane but you're sandwiched between parked cars, where doors might open suddenly and which may pull out of the parking lane, and fast moving cars on your right side.

2,000 people a day use that day nonetheless, but many more would make trips to the west side of the city on bike more often if it was safer. Oh, and the loss of 35 parking spaces... come on, figure it out already. That area just needs a residential permit zone, that will probably result in less cars parked there, also if you own a car you need to be prepared to pay to store it, I pay to keep my car in a garage because I have no street parking but you don't see me out complaining and feeling entitled to a free street parking spot at the expense of safe travel for cyclists. I bike more than I drive but I know sometimes driving is necessary, but you have to be prepared to pay the price, you are not entitled to it!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 10:38 am

All this talk from "progressives" about bicycle infrastructure exacerbating the working man's plight - get real. A true progressive wouldn't have his worldview stuck in the 1930s. The challenges we face are much bigger than the bourgeois - we have planetary system that is on the brink of collapse. Time to update the term "Progressive" - if you aren't focused primarily on our planetary crises, you are not a Progressive.

Posted by A Real Progressive on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

collapse too. Thank God our SFMTA is so forward thinking!

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 3:11 pm