People for BikesPeople for Bikes

January 20, 2013

Looking back at San Francisco's big year

By: Alexis Chavez

Paved bike lane with rider looking down

San Francisco had a landmark year for bicycle improvements and infrastructure in 2012. From the implementation of physically separated green lanes, to new bicycle traffic signals and more, each development gives added safety to those on and off a bicycle. After years of stalled improvements due to an injunction, San Francisco is more than making up for lost time. In case you have missed any of the new changes, we’ve compiled a list of last year’s highlights.

Separated Lanes

Last spring, San Francisco welcomed its very first parking protected green bike lane. Located on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, the green lane changed the way San Franciscans thought of bike lanes. In this case, unlike traditional bike lanes, the existing bike lane was moved next to the sidewalk and parking was moved outside of the bike lane. A buffer zone between the parking spaces and bike lane provides room for opening car doors. Though the lane was subject to some skepticism, many appreciate the innovation and creative approach to new infrastructure.

The city also welcomed its first on-street, two-way protected green lane on Cargo Way in the southeastern part of San Francisco. A concrete median and chain link fence separate the lane from motor vehicles, providing a safer route to the city’s Bayview neighborhood and Third Street.

Eastern Cesar Chavez Street also got the green paint treatment added to the new separated bike lanes. The lanes were introduced last spring, and green paint was later added to improve visibility and safety.  The paint also highlights the separation of vehicles and bicycles, and can be found on a number of other streets citywide.

Safe Hit Posts

Further improving bike lane safety, safe hit posts have been added to a number of bike lanes throughout the city. Safe hit posts are plastic white posts that provide a physical barrier, deterring motorists from infringing upon the bike lane. Streets such as Market, Division and Laguna Honda have all been outfitted with safe hit posts in the past few years, and last fall, Cesar Chavez Street and John Muir Drive were added to that list.

Bike Traffic Signals

San Francisco is one of 16 cities in the Unites States to use bicycle traffic signals, and streets such as Masonic, Shrader and Fell have been home to bike traffic signals for some time. Last year a few more intersections got the bike traffic signal treatment.

Most recently, a bicycle traffic signal was added at the intersection of Market and Valencia streets. This intersection also became home to the city’s first bicycle bay, which helps create a safe waiting area for those turning left from Market Street onto Valencia Street. Cargo Way at Mendell Street received a bike traffic signal late last summer, which aids bike traffic in crossing the intersection.

Some of the benefits of bike traffic signals include allowing sufficient time for those on bikes to clear the intersection and to reduce potential conflict between bicyclists and motorists.

Green Wave

Other traffic signal improvements include the “Green Wave” on 14th Street, which times traffic signals for bicycle speeds. The green wave is modeled after examples used in other cities, and overall promotes motorists to drive at calmer speeds in busy thoroughfares where higher rates of pedestrians and those on bikes are found.

What to Expect in 2013

There were lots of improvements made in 2012, and this year should be no different. Last fall, striping and green paint were added to the separated bike lane on Fell Street, and work on Oak Street will begin soon. Later this year, traffic island barriers will be installed to protect the new green lane.

Also on the agenda, the Marina Green Bicycle Trail Improvement Project should be completed by the America’s Cup finals later this year. The project will improve pedestrian and bicycle access between Fort Mason and Crissy Field.

San Francisco’s most dangerous intersection for bikes, Market Street and Octavia Boulevard will soon be home to a new camera that will be used for enforcement. The camera will help prevent motorists from making illegal right hand turns from Market Street onto the Central Freeway. Illegal and dangerous turns have been the cause of many collisions at this intersection and the cameras will hopefully improve safety for all those on the street.

Thanks to the efforts of Mayor Lee, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, business owners, volunteers and activists, San Francisco’s streets are becoming a safer place for pedestrians, motorists and those on bikes. The innovative improvements and new infrastructure are all part of the city’s goals to attract new riders and improve safety of existing riders, while striving towards the city’s goal of 20% of all trips by bike by 2020.

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