Bikers break in Fell Street safety lane

Bicyclists can now Wiggle into the Panhandle with a little less stress now that The City has installed striping for a protected bike lane on Fell Street.

The project, years in the making, finally led the SF Municipal Transportation Agency  to lay down striping between Scott and Baker giving bikers a 5-foot buffer separating them from vehicle traffic.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum told SF Streetsblog:

“The paint and buffer is a great step toward making this intimidating corridor safer, and we’re looking forward to the addition of the other pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements that are planned.”

In the coming months the SFMTA plans to scribble on some bicycle stencils and, eventually, they want to install concrete barriers between the bike lane and car traffic.

And to increase safety for bicyclists, SFMTA will install special bike signals so bicyclists and pedestrians get a few seconds’ head start to cross before cars do.

However, to confuse matters, the new buffer zone used to be the old bike lane. Bikers are now expected to ride in the former parking lane near the curb, not the buffer area itself. SFStreetsblog reports that many bikers are using the buffer zone to ride in, either due to habit or the smoother riding surface.

It’s surprising such a bike-saturated city has taken so long to install even rudimentary safety barriers, especially considering the proven success of buffers and curbs in cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

But as we all know, things take time and politics involve lots of red tape. In fact, last week three people filed an appeal against the project citing a need for further environmental review. SFMTA believes the appeal will be be denied.

SFMTA board member Cheryl Brinkman enjoys the versatility of the new lane and extra space allotted to bikers. She said:

“It seems like it’s wide enough that the fast people can go to the right of the slower people. That’s a great thing. People are going to get used to [the protected lane], and once we start doing a few of these, this is going to be what people expect. You whet their appetite for this kind of infrastructure.”

Ride on SF, ride on.