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SFMTA Board Approves Eastbound Protected Bike Lane on 13th

13th Street where it crosses Folsom. This summer it will finally get eastbound bike lanes. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick unless otherwise indicated

The board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) gave final approval yesterday for a plan to install parking protected bike lanes on the eastbound side of 13th Street in SoMa. "This fills an important gap in our bike network," said Charles Deffarges, community organizer for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), during the board meeting's public comments period. "The existing stretch of 13th Street has three lanes of fast traffic and is dangerous."

Jennifer Wong, Transportation Planner with SFMTA's Sustainable Streets Division, explained how this project--to add eastbound parking protected bike lanes from Folsom to Bryant--is a response to the 57 fatal and injury crashes on this stretch over the past five years, 30 percent of which involved cyclists.

As Streetsblog readers will recall, the eastbound bike lane on 13th street is something the SFBC has long sought. It's unclear why this project languished, when parking protected lanes were put in on the westbound side almost two years ago.

Meanwhile, the Mayor's Executive Order on Safety, issued last August, required SFMTA to build three bike lanes in nine months. It specified lanes on 7th and 8th. SFMTA said the 13th Street lane would be the third. SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, during his report to the board, addressed the progress in SoMa in fulfilling the Mayor's directive. "Seventh is now open for full use between Mission and Howard, and Eight Street will be done in the next couple of weeks, in time for Bike to Work Day."

But since SFMTA's deadline is May 4, they're only going to have two, max, of the three required bike lanes completed (although it's unclear what consequences, if any, there will be for not meeting the deadline). 13th Street isn't even supposed to start construction until this summer.

Image: SFMTA

Streetsblog did a fresh survey of the area and, indeed, a good hunk of 7th's protected bike lane is open. It certainly makes for more secure cycling. The bus-boarding islands are installed and in use on both streets, and the green paint, hit posts, and other markings and signs are mostly now in place, at least on 7th. So there's definitely been progress since March.

A long stretch of 7th Street's parking protected bike lane is now open for business.
A long stretch of 7th Street's parking protected bike lane is now open for business.

Reiskin also pointed out that the agency had learned from Valencia Street's short parking protected bike lane that education is important to get people to park where they're supposed to. So this time signs were put up proactively, to instruct people to park and load from the left side of the bike lane, instead of against the curb. See below:


Unfortunately, whoever painted the curb didn't get the memo, and even though the sign says to load passengers in the buffer zone, the curb says "passenger loading," as seen below:


With predictable results:


Also, Streetsblog remains puzzled as to why SFMTA installed its first protected intersection at 9th and Division, but continues to use mixing zones as the default treatment everywhere else. Streetsblog biked through both types of intersections again in SoMa, just to get a fresh view, and the difference can't be overstated--mixing zones are confusing, tense, and problematic. Almost without fail, cars ignore the shark teeth markings telling them to yield and instead block the bike lane, forcing cyclists to weave between automobiles.


Still, it's good to see progress on the ground. The bus-boarding islands are working well. Streetsblog watched a disabled woman navigate one with an electric wheelchair and she didn't seem to have any problems.

All in all, it's an improvement for all road users.

"Congratulations on the project," said Cheryl Brinkman, chair of the SFMTA board, at yesterday's meeting. "I know the parking protected bike lanes are really what the community wants to see."

Meanwhile, Streetsblog thanks Devon Warner and others with the "Ride of Silence," for reinstalling Kate Slattery's ghost bike--a stark reminder of the sad circumstances that brought the Mayor's focus on SoMa in the first place.


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