This past weekend we went to Oakland and biked up on the new East Span of the Bay Bridge. The East Span started construction in 2002 at a final cost of $6.4 billions and it was recently opened on Labor Day. It was built to replace the old bridge due to earthquake safety hazard.
It is truly a bridge with a bike path built from the start. Golden Gate Bridge’s bike path was originally built for infantry to cross it during WWII.
It’s 3.4 miles (5.5 km) bike ride from the entry point (Oakland’s Maritime St.) to near the end of the bridge. There’s another entry point on Shellmound St. in Emeryville. The actual length of the bridge is 2.2 miles (3.5 km) and sits lower than the old industrial bridge with a 2% incline (an easy climb for both biking and walking). The bike path has a speed limit of 15 mph (24 km/h) and both bike/ped path is 15.5 ft (4.7 m) wide. Unfortunately, I think the pedestrian path is narrow causing many pedestrians to spill over onto the bike path. Still, it was a lot of fun and the location is not as windy and noisy as the Golden Gate Bridge. Indeed, this is definitely going to be a tourist trap but I hope it doesn’t get as crowded as Golden Gate Bridge though.
The bike path does not open all the way to Yerba Buena Island yet because there’s a section of the old bridge that is blocking the bike path. The entire bike path will be completed by 2015 when the old bridge is dismantled. When it does, it will make a great recreational ride. Just picture yourself riding from Oakland or Emeryville, across the gorgeous Bridge, through a natural island called Yerba Buena Island and end in Treasure Island for lunch. It could be a nice 30 miles/48 km round trip depending on where you begin.
This sign was located on Maritime St. entry point in Oakland.
On our way to the Bridge…
When I saw this, I really want to bike inside. It’s too bad it’s going to get demolished.
Great modern architecture!
Notice pedestrians are walking on the bike path. I hope this gets straighten out in the future.
Farewell old Bridge! Thanks for the wonderful 77 years.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was really ecstatic about the implementation of the Bay Area Bike Share (BABS) and I think it is a sign that bicycles are less marginalized in SF than previously. Having the bike shares lends great legitimacy to the whole bicycle movement. It’s not just obligatory bike lanes going down. Now, the city is backing and putting actual bikes on the road.
Just riding this bike around town branded with its official Bay Area Bike Share logos, I feel that I get more respect from motorists. Now if these anti-cyclists get angry at us like they often do, while riding these bike shares they would be putting the blame on the city too. We’re no longer fringe outcasts in the mean streets of SF. We are now officially backed by the government, consummated in the coolness of a celeste green color.
Right on the day it was launched, Nellie and I couldn’t wait to get on one. We had tried City Bikes in Copenhagen and it was a terrible system, but of course it was implemented in 1995. My workplace has a free bike share system but it is rarely used due to its campus location on hills. So, I was hoping for a better overall system.
We just wanted to test out the bikes so we got the 24 hours pass. The 24 hours or 3 days pass is inconvenient because you would have to buy it at the kiosk, not online. You would have to first to stick your credit card to purchase, it gives you a 5 digit code on a small piece of paper, and enter it into the keypad on the rack. Then you have five minutes to pull out a bike from the docking station (if you don’t undock your bike within the grace period, repeat the process), then when you want to get a new bike at the next kiosk you would have to do the process all over again. I thought it was annoying. However if you purchase the one year membership of only $88, you just swipe the key fob (which they mailed to you) over the keypad and you get the bike instantly.
So we set up a test ride around South of Market (SOMA) to get lunch, errands, shopping and dinner in the end. We got the bikes at Townsend and 4th St kiosk across from the the Caltrain station, and rode toward the Embarcadero because that was the safest route to get to Financial District for lunch. It took us 25 minutes to get to the kiosk at Market and Battery St close to Specialty’s, our lunch place. On the way there, we passed 5 other stations!
It was a little exhaustive pedaling the 50 lbs (23 kg) clunky bikes for 25 minutes but it was very comfortable. They absorbed shocks very well from cracked pavements and potholes. We felt safe riding them, even without helmets. It’s probably due to a few reasons; the upright position you’re sitting provides a better all around view of the surrounding; the stability of the bike from the weight and fat tires; high visibility from the bright celeste green color; and the bike can’t go that fast. These bikes should fit anyone from 5 ft (1.5 m) to over 6 ft (1.83 m) tall. Moreover, I like that the seat post has markings on it to help adjust the next bike you rent to your specific height quickly.
The nice thing is that we just dock the bikes without having to find a pole (bike racks are rare in the Financial District) to lock them. We walked 2 small blocks to get lunch at Specialty’s. That was a nice one hour lunch and felt pretty relief that we didn’t have to worry about leaving them outside. When we were done, we walked another small 2 blocks to get to another kiosk at Market and Sansome St. We stick our credit cards into the machine to get the 5 digits code again to get the bikes. That is about the only hassle we experienced all day – swiping our credit cards to get the 5 digits code and entering on the keypads.
Then we rode for a few blocks to Union Square for shopping. We docked the bikes at Market and 4th St. We usually don’t take our bikes to Union Square because of bad experiences. I have two friends that got their saddles stolen. Also in our first few months living in SF our bikes were stolen in the vicinity, albeit we used cable locks. Even though now we have u-locks, but we still don’t want to take any chance.
After shopping we walked to Howard and 3rd St to get some photos for this blog. We wanted to get some cool looking people and their bikes going home from a long day’s work. Howard St is a one way thoroughfare going from east to west, and it has a high volume of bicycle commuters. Then we rented the bike again to get dinner at Tin’s (our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the city). It was pretty cool to ride down on Howard St with a bunch of bike commuters.
Tin’s is located on Howard between 5th and 6th and guess what, a BABS kiosk was nearby. Wonderful! Dropped off the bike at Howard and 5th St, and walked half a block. After dinner it got dark, so we returned to the same station, picked up the bikes and rode almost 2 miles (3.2 km) home passing one other bike share station on the way.
It was such an easy and pleasant experience with the bike shares at our finger tips. Most bike share stations are located in SOMA (and Market St.) which I think is wonderful. SOMA is such a large neighborhood with some sketchy areas and shops/eateries that are located far apart. Walking could be long and dangerous, so bike shares help in these kind of situations. Moreover, these bikes are available 24/7 any time you need to be transported. You can’t count on taxis and buses during odd hours. Now you may not need to buy a new bike since these bikes are available. It’s almost like you have your own bike but without any maintenance to worry about. Pretty cool, eh!
Even though we didn’t encounter many issues with the system as would be expected at its start, the BABS system can certainly be improved. Here are some of the things that may help:
- There must be a way for kids younger than 18 y.o. to use them besides having their parents or guardians be around to borrow them for them.
- I find the process of checking out bikes for the short-term 24 hour or 3 day memberships to be inconvenient as I explained above. Since it’s part of the public transit system, I think it would be great to be able to use the Clipper card with it.
- Why do all bike shares weigh so much? Nellie has a hard time picking up the bike onto the sidewalk.
- Having a built-in lock would be a nice addition I think. What if you need to make a quick stop in between stations, like for a quick coffee? Maybe, a cup holder to go with your coffee?
- They should put a map near the handlebars visible from the seat of the bike that shows where the locations of the kiosks or a smartphone app to display availability of bikes.
- When they expand this next year, hopefully they will put a few stations in other neighborhoods such as the Mission District, Dog Patch, and Mission Bay.
- In addition to SF and the cities on the peninsula having bike share stations, Oakland should have them too!
More related posts:
For those of you who don’t know what’s the point of having a bike counter- well, it’s the same thing as doing a survey/poll. After data collection, Market Street may be justified in getting more bike infrastructure investment (crossing fingers) and a traffic mobility reassessment. Plus, it’s cool to see the numbers increase in real-time for all those bicycle boosters and data geeks out there.
The bicycle counter is located on the south side of Market St. between 9th and 10th Sts. to count bicyclists heading eastbound. Market Street has the highest amount of bicycle traffic in San Francisco, so it’s a no brainer to have it there.
Let’s take a look at the historical data on bicycling in SF and then at the numbers coming from the counter:
SF boasted an increase of 71% in bicyclist counts between 2006 and 2010. Unfortunately, in the last 5 years SF saw the same rate in bicycle theft. These two data sets sort of correlate with each other.
Additionally, bicycle trips account for 3.5% of all trips in 2010, an increase from 2% in the year 2000. But have these numbers gone up since 2010? I am still waiting and eager to see data showing that jump because everywhere I ride, I see a lot more bicyclists.
But it’s also possible that the percentage of trips made by bicycle remained the same even as the number of bicycle trips went up, because it also seems like there has been a large uptick in car trips (and congestion) which many have observed in the city. So after accounting for that, the percentage of bike trips may sadly still remain at 3.5%.
Now let’s take a look at the numbers coming from the bike counter:
First, the counter only collects data on Market St. and possibly has some glitches. It’s been reported that not every bicyclist gets counted, that vehicles are sometimes counted, and that there’s a 5% error rate (source).
Nevertheless, according to the bike counter posted on the SFMTA’s website, the number of bicyclists that were registered has jumped from an average of 2,032 per day in May to 2,715 in August (excluding outliers) within 4 months. Although the number of daily riders is small, that’s a 25% increase! In addition, the August weekday count of 3,132 almost tied with Bike to Work Day’s count of 3,231 which is incredible! Many people that came out to ride for BTWD are not regular bicycle commuters and perhaps now, these occasional riders have become regulars!
The increase could have also been due to the warmer months. But I doubt it has much to do with that because the climate in SF is pretty mild all year round, and it’s been especially warm throughout this year so far.
You’ll notice that there is no data for the months of June and July. It’s possible that when the counter was shut down for the Market St. repaving back in June, the counter was also re-calibrated and fine-tuned (we don’t know for sure) affecting the counts for May. So the count could have already been at the same level as in August and there might not have been an actual increase.
It’s too bad that during the months of June and July, there was no data input. If it wasn’t turned off for the re-pavement, it would have told us more about the change. For example, a slow increase would confirm the 25% increase from May to August.
If there really was an increase, it would be great to see it continue in this upward trend. Maybe this road will soon eventually outdo Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge as the busiest bicycle corridor in the nation.
What a very sad last week it was for the bicycle community. Amelie Le Moullac of 24, was on her way to work last Wednesday morning. She was riding her bike on a striped bike lane going straight on Folsom St. in the SOMA neighborhood when a truck driver made a right turn on 6th St. and killed her. It was the driver’s fault but of course he wasn’t cited.
Since 2011, the last five bicyclists’ deaths had all resulted from colliding with truck drivers at intersections in San Francisco. This seems like a common theme here. This is all too familiar when cycle tracks are not put in. I hear these kinds of stories coming from London as well. 50% of cyclists’s deaths in London involve trucks. The reason I think is that cities like London and San Francisco are very auto-centric and both have a rapidly growing bicycle culture. However, both have dysfunctional bike infrastructure which is composed of striped bike lanes. As a result, cyclists are forced to share roads with motorists. In just about any city with this kind of set-up, tragic fatalities with motorists are bound to happen.
The street Amelie was a riding on is a one way thoroughfare with 4 lanes. This is one of many streets (pretty ridiculous for such a small and dense city) in SF which are very suitable for large trucks to be on. The construction frenzy in the city has also brought in dozens and dozens of these trucks. Add to the fact that truck drivers can’t see you because they sit 8 ft/2.4 m above ground with a huge blind-spot on the driver’s right side.
Either reduce speed limits on these kind of roads (and enforce it), ban all right turns, or put in real bike infrastructure. Bicycle commuters are going to take this route because it is one of 2 routes (from the central neighborhoods) with some sort of bike facility that leads to downtown. It’s unfortunate that we have a long way to go to have safe streets throughout SF for bicyclists. Since our city is not going to implement any of these soon, the responsibility to be safe is on us bicyclists. Below are some tips that may help you to be safe.
1. Always look over your left shoulder moments beforehand when crossing an intersection.
2. Don’t speed through intersections, prepare to stop.
3. Be visible to drivers by being out in front at a junction when waiting for a green light.
4. Listen for loud trucks if you can. I know the city can be very loud a lot of times.
5. Be assertive and take the whole lane if you have to. You have the legal right to.
6. And always pass to the left of a vehicle to avoid a right hook, this is when a car merges suddenly to the right to make a right turn sandwiching the bike rider between the car and the curb.
Rest in peace, Amelie.
I have ridden most if not all of SF major streets and they always require my full attention. When you are riding into a major intersection, you have no protection. The only protection you have are the red traffic lights on either side of you. You hope that the stacked cars on both sides are aware of the red lights or the car next to you doesn’t right-hook you. You feel almost naked and you need to hurry across. What a scary moment.
You aren’t over-analyzing in these situations because almost 50% of all crashes happen at intersections in urban areas. Most of these accidents involve motorist-pedestrian and motorist-bicyclist, and of course they usually result in fatal injuries. In addition, 3 of the 5 most dangerous intersections in San Francisco for cyclists are located on Market St., a major corridor for all modes of transportation.
The most dangerous intersection in the city is at Market St. and Octavia Blvd. which had 10 pedestrian or cyclist accidents last year. The reason is that there’s a wide 101/80 freeway ramp to the left with very heavy traffic.
At the bottom right corner (see image above) is a bicycle path and that is where drivers make illegal right turns onto the freeway ignoring the no left turn sign and concrete island, resulting in many pedestrians/bicyclists crashes.
In April of this year, a couple of green bike sharrows were installed here. A nice improvement but it is not visible enough to motorists. Green crossing also needs to be installed on the opposite side of the street. Recently, a red light camera was approved to be installed there as well. I hope these measures will help.
Bicyclists are as vulnerable as pedestrians and pedestrians get crosswalks, but I don’t see why bicyclists do not get their own “crossbikes”? Even better if crossbikes come with their own traffic lights, but that is wishful thinking.
Let’s take a look at another major intersection on Market St. This stretch has 6 car lanes, while Van Ness Ave. (cross street) has up to 7 car lanes and again leads to the 101 freeway a few blocks away. So by any definition, this is another dangerous intersection for cyclists. This section has a green protected bike path on Market St. and it disappears for a long distance of 75 ft./23 m. You feel safe until you enter into this no man’s zone.
SFMTA is not going to install bicycle traffic lights anytime soon, SFPD doesn’t enforce traffic violations, and red-light camera installations require a lot of money and state approval. So what would be a simple and cost-effective measure to implement? Similar to the concept of green painted bike lanes- cyclists need to maximize their visibility on the roads.
Look to Copenhagen for that easy fix. All you need is paint and a bike stencil. No parking removal, road dieting or traffic reconfiguration to worry about- and you wonder why the SFMTA still hasn’t implemented this in all major intersections.
H. C. Andersons Blvd (west to east), a 10 lane boulevard intersecting a 5 lane street, is a huge crossing in Copenhagen. It is common to see blue paint “crossbikes” at large intersections such as these. Would you feel safer riding through this intersection with blue paint the entire way through?
If you don’t believe this measure could work because it is in Europe. Well here is an example closer to home: A 2-hour plane flight north of us, Vancouver, Canada is doing this exact thing. On Dunsmuir St., it has a true bi-directional cycle track and when it meets a wide cross street such as Seymour St. (image above), a green “crossbike” is marked at the intersection. This green paint is to alert drivers to pay attention to bicyclists and the green marking also guides bicyclists through safely. This measure also makes pedestrians safer.
This is a cost-effective safety measure to implement and I hope the SFMTA is working to install these on every intersection with a wide crossing.
After living and biking in San Francisco for a good amount of time, we will undoubtedly hear at some point, “I crashed SF train tracks!” or we will ourselves succumb to the treachery of the tracks.
I casually surveyed 20 folks that I know that ride bikes including Nellie and myself, and about 8 have been victims of accidents on SF’s train tracks. Albeit a small sample size, that’s a 40% rate!
How could this be possible?
Well, if there are 72 miles (116 km) of light rail tracks in a 49 sq. mile (127 sq. km) city and the main artery is like Market Street, a major corridor for bike commuters with rail tracks throughout, it is very likely anyone who rides a bike more than a mile on any given day will have to cross a train track.
These tracks are very treacherous in that the size between them is just enough for a bike tire to fit, not to mention their surface is very slippery. So if a bike tire is not getting caught in them, the tire is gliding on them. Cyclists have to try to cross them perpendicularly, which is not always easy to do and on wet days, they must ride slowly and cautiously to ensure their tires don’t lose traction as they cross them.
Here is an example of the kind of tracks we have in SF. The photo above was taken at the corner of 25th St. and 3rd St. in the Central Waterfront neighborhood. Those myriad of rails just makes my heart beat 10 times faster whenever I cross them. What if you have to make a right or left turn there, your turned front wheels could easily become aligned with the angle of the curved tracks.
Then there is this sort of infrastructure where a cyclist has to share the vehicle lane with light rails and vehicles. What do you think are your chances of getting your bike’s front wheel caught in the tracks? Riding between the tracks is like a balancing act. I have seen a few that crashed, especially at Critical Mass (this is usually the route Critical Mass takes when first starting out from their meetup spot). The gaps for light rail tracks are about 1.5 in/38 mm (on the straights) to 2.0 in/51 mm (on the curves) wide, so most tires on bicycles of SF would get caught in them.
Furthermore, you know it’s a pretty common occurrence in San Francisco when shops sell t-shirts and stickers that come with this phrase/symbol (see images above). (The t-shirt used to belong to Nellie until I started wearing it when I crashed about 6 weeks ago… my right wrist hasn’t completely recovered yet.)
As much as I do not want to encounter train tracks when riding a bike, if I want to live in a city with good public transportation I will have to accept it. However, train tracks that are actually still being used are not as problematic. It is the train tracks that have been abandoned but still left in place that need to be removed. They pose a great deal of hazard to many cyclists for a couple of reasons. They were put down before bike lanes and sometimes even before proper paved streets were put in. Secondly, because they have been abandoned, they are left to die (eroded) creating more dangerous hazards adjacent to the such as eroded asphalt and potholes. I don’t know how many cyclists have crashed on abandoned tracks versus active tracks but both Nellie and I have been victims of the abandoned variety.
One of the major routes for bike commuters to get from the central neighborhoods to the Caltrain Station and Embarcadero is Townsend St. Recently, I counted about 13-45 bike commuters every 5 minutes during peak hours on Townsend St. heading in the direction the photo (see above) is taken. You can see that the track is located only a few inches from the bike lane. A group of cyclists arriving together to a red traffic light can force anyone of them onto the rail.
Also, there is not one street lamp on the right hand-side of the sidewalk. It is pretty dim at night at that section. Fortunately, bike commuters that come home at night usually go in opposite direction where there are street lamps and no tracks to worry about.
Unfortunately, Nellie took that direction one night riding home. It was about midnight and it was dark along that stretch. She crossed the first track fine to merge into the right turn lane (see photo above) but the eroded pothole next to the track caught her front tire and she fell flat on her face. She was completely dazed, and I didn’t want to take any chances so an ambulance was called and she was driven to the ER. Yep, she got a loose tooth, a few stitches on her upper lip, plenty of road rash, and a bruised forehead.
Just looking at that stretch, it would take an experienced rider with a little luck on his side to cross those double tracks with little room to straighten your bike out again. I think probably it’s best to slow down as much as possible to a walking speed to merge, or to make a sharp right turn at the crosswalk so you go more perpendicularly over them, but you’ve got to watch out for autos behind you in the right turn lane.
I believe this is one of the potholes which Nellie’s bike tire got caught in that night. As you can see, my shoe size is 10.5 in (267 mm) and can easily fit into that pothole. You can cross the track but that pothole next to it can eat your bike alive.
Another part of town that has these abandoned tracks is Illinois St. that runs about 1 mile (1.6 km) long. Yep, that’s a mile in length that you need to keep paying attention to freight trucks, cars, large debris, construction detours, and these nagging tracks that do not need to be there. How inconvenient and dangerous is that? Oh, and Illinois St. is the flatest bike route to go through the eastern neighorhoods. During Bike to Work Day this May, I witnessed two colleagues who were riding down right in front of me on this very same route. Both of them were forced to cross the abandoned tracks due to a construction zone blocking the bike lane and both of them crashed.
Not even a typical fat tire from a Dutch city bike is going to save you from getting your front wheel jammed into it. If you’re going to get fat tires wider than 60 mm or so, you’re not going to have a good time riding in SF.
Well, knowing how SF crawls like a turtle when it comes to infrastructure maintenance and installation, here are some tips that I gathered and learned to avoid train track crashes. Please comment if you have other recommendations.
1. Rule of thumb, cross the tracks as perpendicularly as possible.
2. Do not lean on your bike when crossing. I leaned on my bike and that’s how my bike accident happened.
3. Try to sit upright as much as possible when crossing, even if you have low handlebars, so your center of gravity is more balanced and if you crash you are less likely to land on your head. Or better yet, get an upright or step-through bike.
4. If you ride at night often, invest in those super bright headlights so you can see the ground better.
5. Get wide tires that are at least 35 mm. 35 mm becomes wider when you are seated on your bike because it expands with your weight and that is wide enough to not lodge into active train tracks. Just be careful on the curved tracks because those are 51 mm wide.
But what about in the rain? The metal surface of the tracks gets even more slippery when wet. I don’t know except to use the above tips with very extra care and maybe buy some good tires made for rain.
SFMTA, you gotta remove those abandoned train tracks! Just want to say you can be sued.
On the way to Off the Grid this past Friday, I saw these bright green paint on bike lanes. No, these bike lanes are not separated nor protected. They are just green paint over the original striped lanes but they are an improvement, nonetheless. Maybe private cars, tour buses, and taxis will know not to block it this time… I doubt it though. I guess it’s okay because the Embarcadero these days is like a parking lot during weekends due to all the traffic so it feels kind of safe to swerve in and out of the blocked bike lane into the vehicle lane.
I believe they were painted along the Embarcadero to get ready for America’s Cup which will begin this July.
I noticed that the green bike lanes weren’t completely done so I asked the construction crew manager about how far the green lanes will go. He said that it will start from as far south as Howard St. and end near North Point St. to the north. This CANNOT be right because that doesn’t cover the whole stretch of the original striped lanes from 3rd St. to North Point St. on the Embarcadero. If the purpose of the green painted lanes is to get more people to use bicycles as another form of transportation to get to events like America’s Cup, why are they ending at Howard St. which is 1.4 miles (2.3 km) from the Caltrain Station? Are we getting another disconnected bike route as seen in so many places in SF?
Anyhow, I hope this is temporary until we get a cycle track here. I propose a raised cycle track going northbound without jeopardizing sidewalk space and a southbound buffered cycle track by placing it between parked cars and the sidewalk. This proposal would not take any car space away. Do it!
My first Midnight Mystery Ride (MMR) was about two years ago and it was probably the most amazing group ride I have ever done. It was SF-esque- mysterious, intimate, and awe-inspiring. I was very lucky to experience it on the night that it was hosted by Mission Bicycle Company (they organize the best ones). MMR is held on the 3rd Saturday of every month at midnight with very little information. The only information you will get are the organizer’s name (that could be anyone) and the location of the meetup on that day. I think this concept is what keeps MMR special and underground. The three times that I have been to MMR, I was taken to places that were off the beaten path and even those that a native would never experience.
I have a friend, Dante, who just got bitten by the bicycle bug and I wanted to show him what the cycling community is like at midnight. Also, I haven’t been to one for quite awhile, so it was a good time for both of us to check it out. We met at Truck and Bar Kitchen on 1900 Folsom St. in the Mission minutes before the clock struck midnight. Complete strangers were introducing themselves to us when we arrived. It was welcoming since I haven’t been to one for almost a year.
In the photo below is the leader, Gary (left) for that night. He planned for a leisurely ride, and that was pretty much a chill ride for conversational cycling.
We headed NW on Folsom St. and stopped at the corner of Folsom and 2nd St. for our first social gathering.
After 20-30 minutes at our first stop, we started heading toward the Embarcadero on Folsom St.
When we arrived at the Embarcadero, it was barricaded off for the 36th SF Marathon taking place the next morning, but the security patrol was nice enough to open it up to let us through. The cool thing was that there was not a single car on that street!
The second stop was a beautiful view of the Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge. We met a couple from Sacramento who visit SF on a monthly basis but haven’t seen the Bay Lights. That was pretty special to them.
The final stop was on the Ferry Building pier behind a night club I think. It was pitch black so I couldn’t get any good photos. We did get free music coming out of the night club, but it was pretty bad. =)
There were about 24 people on bikes, all very nice and friendly. It was easy to strike up a conversation with complete strangers and because we all have this underlining understanding and interest in this Midnight Mystery journey, it makes it a whole lot more intimate.
This intimate night was how I remember San Francisco three years ago when Nellie and I first moved here. A peaceful and beautiful night wherever you ride. Personally, I think it’s almost sad in order to feel that again, I have to ride in the middle of the night to get this wonderful experience.
Watch our video of that night:
Three months ago, we wrote about how Diana Sullivan was killed by a cement truck driver due to a poor bike lane design (or lack threreof) on King St. Any cyclist that was heading westbound on King St. would have soon found out that the bike lane they were riding fairly safely in would suddenly disappear right under their pedals when they reached midblock between 2nd and 3rd Sts. Not only did the bike lane disappear, but it was followed by a strangely placed single bike sharrow that told cyclists to ride closer to the curb. It was an odd set up because the sharrow was placed off to the side and not in the middle of the lane where it should’ve been and there were no other bike sharrows to follow. By riding close to the curb, drivers would try to squeeze by cyclists and perhaps clip them because the width of the car lane is not wide enough for cyclists and cars to share. It was also possible that drivers, especially large truck drivers (large blind spot to his right), would not see a cyclist and could run them over (as in the case of Diana on this very street and the recent death of Dylan Mitchell in the Mission District).
Well, a couple of weeks ago I was riding home from a 6 hours ride in Marin County. I passed that one oddly placed sharrow and to my surprise, it seemed to have been moved to the center of the lane. I then saw another sharrow following and then another one… and they all were placed right in the center of the car lane! I was really exhausted that day from the long ride and from a bad crash I had on a train track, and I wasn’t so sure about what I saw. Was I imagining things? I had to go back the next day to check it out again. Low and behold, they were all there!
Although I am grateful for the small improvement the City has made to this important corridor, it still needs a lot more work and I still have some major complaints about it. If the City has now put down more bike sharrows, why not extend them all the way to the Caltrain Station on 4th St. I don’t know what’s the point of having bike sharrows that end at 3rd St. Does the City really think cyclists are just going to disappear on 3rd St. after the bike sharrows are gone? Or maybe the City is expecting cyclists to risk their own lives after 3rd St. to the death monsters (aka cars).
In actuality, bike sharrows are stupid and they are even more stupid on a fast and busy street such as King. There are still no speed limit signs posted, intersections are far from each other, and it leads directly to a freeway on-ramp: this encourages motorists to speed. As I mentioned in a previous post, the minimum design requirement for a street such as King are dedicated bike lanes.
So, it looks like the SFMTA and DPW still have their work cut out for them in regards to King Street. They’ve checked off only two of the items on this list, below. Anyone think they will ever be able to do all that needs to be done?
What’s Wrong with King Street Checklist:
1. Fix single bike sharrow placed oddly off to the side which encourages cyclists to unsafely hug the curb 2. Fix that there are no bike sharrows to follow after that one bike sharrow
3. Need to paint bike sharrows all the way to the Caltrain Station not just stop at 3rd St.
4. Need bike facilities on the other side of King Street going in the opposite direction from the Caltrain Station to the ballpark
5. Auto speed limit signs need to be put up
6. Reduce auto speed limits
7. If sharrows are used, at least put up a “Share the Road” sign as some drivers still don’t get the message from the sharrows
8. At minimum, a dedicated bike lane should continue from the Embarcadero onto King Street and go all the way to the Caltrain station without interruption
9. The same as #8 for the other side of King St. going from the Caltrain to the ballpark (Also, similar to #4 except this explicitly calls for a dedicated bike lane and not just wimpy sharrows)
Looking back, the much desired Better Market Street project was originally supposed to break ground this year and finally fix an important and congested street that badly needs an overhaul. It was later pushed to 2015. But now, the Better Market Street organizers (part of the SFMTA) want to further delay the project by another two years so they can study the Mission Street alternative (putting protected bike lanes onto nearby Mission Street instead of Market). That means that cyclists will have to wait until 2019 for completion. That means there will be another six years of having an insufficient bikeway on an important and increasingly congested corridor. That means that the cycling community may not get the kind of bike lanes they need and want on the street they need and want them to be on. This has members of the SFBC and bicycling community in SF concerned and even infuriated.
In response to the announcement to delay starting bicycle improvements on Market Street from 2015 to 2017, the SFBC organized a Market/Mission Survey Ride back on March 4th to take a closer look at the issue. With the SFBC’s Planning Director, Neal Patel and an SFMTA project manager, Andrew Lee and a dozen SFBC members, we rode around the area to survey both streets and share our thoughts.
The tour was very insightful and helped me form my opinion on which street would be the better alternative, Market Street or Mission. I started out in staunch support of bike improvements on Market, but must admit that after the tour, I wavered. It did seem that Mission was not as bad of an alternative as I thought. However, after more time considering, I returned back to the conclusion that Market Street would still be better, although Mission does have a lot going for it.
Market Street has more cyclists riding on it than any other street in this country, carrying an estimated 5,000 cyclists per day. Already, before any sort of bike facilities were put in, cyclists were already using the street, the shortest and most “natural” route to their destinations. Remember, two of the big reasons commuters cycle is because it is more convenient than taking public transit and it takes the stress out of owning a car in the city. So naturally, cyclists will want to take the shortest, most convenient route. Even if Mission Street is built for bicyclists, Market Street will probably still attract a large number of riders. I am no urban planner, but I do know that traffic engineers need to design streets according to how people naturally move about in the city.
4 Reasons Why Market Street is Preferred by Commuting Cyclists:
1. There are two dozen MUNI bus stops and four BART stations along the street that complement multi-modal transportation.
2. Market Street is connected to the Wiggle which is the flattest way to get to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. Market Street combined with the Wiggle is the most direct, best and shortest route for cyclists from west to east and vice-versa.
3. It can bring you to important centers for jobs, commerce, and recreation such as City Hall, Union Square, Downtown and the Financial District, South of Market (SOMA), Ferry Building, and the Embarcadero to name a few.
4. It also has 3 miles (4.8 km) of shops, retail and eateries and for most of the street, car parking is not allowed. This kind of street scape sets up very well for both pedestrians and cyclists to frequent.
So the question is, “Why is Better Market Street still trying to reinvent the wheel by looking into Mission Street for the bike highway and in the process delaying the entire project?” Andrew from the SFMTA stated that it’s obviously the cost and the complexity involved of renovating Market Street to accomodate both bicycles and buses. The 1.5 mile (2.4 km) section between 8th Street and the Embarcadero currently does not have enough space for both. The sidewalk curbs would have to be scaled back a few feet all the way to the BART entrance to make room for a cycle track. The fire hydrants would need to be moved back affecting underground piping. So it would require a lot of major structural reconfigurations (see image below). More info on what would need to be done for this is here.
With the city’s population growing at 1% annually and the relocation of major company headquarters like Twitter and Dolby to Market Street, placing the bike highway on Market is going to not just accommodate current needs, but also prepare this city for the future. It may be an expensive project of $350 million USD, but investing in cycling infrastructure is the best return on investment this car-centric city can afford. To conclude, Market Street is and will continue to be the selected route cyclists will choose to ride despite its urban jungle of a mess. However, like I said, Mission Street does have something going for it which I will discuss in another post.