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Will SFMTA Make its Deadlines for Protected Bike Lanes?

Only a few months remain to fulfill a specific requirement of Mayor Lee’s order on safety. Photo: Streetsblog

Recently, District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy committed to protected bike lanes in his district from Octavia to Duboce on Market, as part of the Upper Market Street Safety project. But despite Sheehy's support, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) leadership delayed a key hearing and, according to a report in the SF Examiner, the protected bike lanes were "quietly removed from the approvals process altogether."

From a statement on the SFBC web page, confirming the story:

Instead of following Sup. Sheehy’s lead...the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) leadership instead delayed a hearing on those two blocks of safety improvements. That’s just unacceptable in a City committed to Vision Zero.

Apparently, the Fire Department had objections. "The SFMTA is working closely with our partners at the San Francisco Fire Department to review the proposal for parking-protected bikeways on Market between Octavia and Duboce," confirmed Ben Jose, a spokesman for SFMTA, in an email to Streetsblog. Streetsblog has inquiries out to the mayor's office for more details, and will update this post accordingly. Sheehy's office, meanwhile, declined to comment, except to say that he still supports protected bike lanes on Market.

Protected bike lanes on Market to the start of the Duboce bike path and the Wiggle are a no-brainer, and it's hard to fathom what fire concerns have to do with it. Yes, fire trucks need to be able to get up the street, but there's no reason a fire truck can't drive in a protected bike lane (or up the trolley tracks) in an emergency. Furthermore, how can it even be called a "safety" project without protected bike lanes? Streetsblog can only hope whatever is going on with the fire department, protected bike lanes will still make it into the project.

Yet another delay to a vitally important bike safety project brings up another issue.

Readers will recall that after the deaths of Kate Slattery and Heather Miller, Mayor Ed Lee issued an Executive Order to city departments to improve bike safety by specific deadlines:

Here's item #3 of the order:

3. Direct SFMTA to accelerate key projects in the capital plan to meet the goals outlined in the 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy by completing three [emphasis added] protected bike lane projects within the next nine months, including safety improvements on 7th Street and 8th Street.

May 4 will mark nine months.

With the delay on Upper Market, it seems that won't be the third protected bike lane project completed by May 4. What about the protected bike lane proposed for Turk? Nope. "The Turk Street bike lanes are likely to be in limbo for a while longer because of the 950 Market Street development that was recently approved," explained Ivy Lee in Supervisor Jane Kim's office, " and street closures when needed would make any bike lane unfeasible."

Surely, SFMTA can't think that Valencia's new parking protected bike lane, which was under construction before the order, and which runs only a tenth of a mile, qualifies as the third protected lane?

"A new parking-protected bikeway will be implemented on 13th Street in the eastbound direction from Folsom to Bryant streets," replied SFMTA's Jose.

That means a third of a mile, under 101, eastbound. It should be noted that the westbound stretch already has a protected bike lane, and advocates have been pushing SFMTA to add the eastbound bike lane for some time.

The third protected bike lane under the order will be a 1/3 mile lane in the noman's land under 101. Image: Google Streets
The third protected bike lane will be a 1/3 mile lane in the no-man's land under 101. Image: Google Streets

And what's going on with the improvements on 7th and 8th, the two streets specified in the mayor's order?

Streetsblog did a survey of the couplet this morning. On 7th, from Market to Townsend, there was no sign of anything going on, except for the posted notice pictured at the start of this story. Here's a shot of the bike lane under I-80:

Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

No signs of protected bike lane construction, but plenty of cars and trucks parked on the existing lane, such as this Prius, one car length from a legal parking spot.

Eighth, on the other hand, has some new bus boarding islands, necessary to avoid forcing bikes and buses to jostle for position at every bus stop.

Bus boarding islands were the only hard evidence of progress on 8th, at Folsom and Howard. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Bus boarding islands were the only hard evidence of progress on 8th. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Can SFMTA actually still build a fully protected bike lane through the South of Market neighborhood, on 7th and 8th by May 4, if two bus boarding islands is all that's gotten done so far?

SFMTA seems to think so. "Work began on March 3 with construction of transit boarding islands on 8th Street at Folsom Street and Harrison Street," said Jose. "Construction is scheduled to be completed in May, weather permitting."

Let's hope they pull this off.

Meanwhile, the Bicycle Coalition is still livid about Upper Market. "Even with a wave of public support, and zero public opposition, the SFMTA fails to deliver long-planned protected bike lanes on a City-identified high-injury corridor," said Chris Cassidy, a spokesman for the group. "From the hundreds of people that wrote to the Agency's board, to Supervisor Sheehy, the public message to the SFMTA's leadership is clear: Do your job."

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