Concerned bicyclists stopped by the Mission Police Station Community Room Wednesday night to give feedback on a treacherous portion of 17th Street.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency held an open house to discuss the 17th Street corridor between Sanchez and Church streets where many bicyclists have had their tires caught in between the Muni tracks.
One particular intersection at 17th and Church streets has a maze of Muni tracks crossing over each other that trapped Alex Goldman’s bike tire as she crossed. Fortunately, she was not injured:
“It’s so hard to proceed through this in a safe way.”
Goldman said she liked the idea of a protected bike lane on 17th Street, which is one of ideas shared with the by public at the open house by transit agency.
She knows that parking is an issue in The City as she owns a car herself, but said if The City was serious about Vision Zero – the goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024 – it needs to prioritize projects like protected bikeways.
Transit officials said that there would be challenges in putting in a two-way protected bike lane including the loss of parking on one side of the street, and issues with bicyclists maneuvering in and out of the two-way protected bikeway. The two-way setup would also require more crossings for bicyclists over the Muni tracks. The bikeway would also be narrow.
A one-way protected bike lane on both sides of the street would mean the loss of parking on each side of the street between Sanchez and Church streets.
The SFMTA said there currently 29 parking spaces on the North side and 19 parking spaces in the South from Sanchez to Church streets.
Another proposal was removing the Muni tracks, but transit officials said that idea is out of the question.
The F-Market/Wharves will use those rail tracks occasionally to get to and from the transit agency’s Cameron Beach Yard on Geneva Avenue.
Officials also looked into putting in what’s called a “Flangeway Filler” between the rail tracks where bike tires can fall into and get caught, but they said no products can handle streetcar or light rail vehicles.
Other nearby streets such as 15th Street and 18th Street were looked at by the transit agency to see if a bikeway would work, but were not ideal to connect to the rest of 17th Street, which would require more turns for bicyclists.
Dan Birken said he bikes on 18th Street and would rather have cars honk on him there than to ride on 17th Street because of the rail tracks:
“The tracks are just terrible. I’ve never had my wheel caught in the things, but I’m afraid of it every time.”
Other ideas considered included giving pedestrians and bicyclists a head start before traffic can begin moving, but that could be lengthy process, the SFMTA said.
The transit agency would need to get new traffic signal heads and rebuild the signal system, which could take months to complete once the SFMTA secures funding.
Crews have already begun work around the rail tracks in fill in potholes and should complete the work by the summer, transit officials said.
Asumu Takikawa said he wanted to see a protected bikeway on 17th Street:
“I think safety should be the number one priority especially given the mayor issuing an executive order saying please attempt to try to build the best bike lanes.”
The SFMTA plans to hold another community meeting on 17th Street after it looks over the comments and suggestions from Wednesday night’s open house.
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. He covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent over a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a native in the city and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Email tips to email@example.com.
Can somebody explain to me just how a protected bikelane would result in the loss of parking spaces? If they put the bikelane up against the curb, wouldn’t they just move the line of parked cars out 4 or so feet and still have about the same number of parking spaces (maybe losing one at the corner to accommodate streetcar turns)? Am I not getting something?
And then, when there is a double-parker – which I think is the major cause of the bike incidents – he will just be blocking other cars, not causing bikes to have to cross the tracks. OHHHH! THAT’S gotta be it: they don’t want cars blocking cars. Am I right?
There’s currently not an actual bike lane on this block — just one lane of all-vehicle traffic each way, plus a row of parking each way. Adding a bike lane will necessitate removing something else — either a lane of traffic, or a row of parking. So a protected bike lane would require taking out the parking on the opposite side of the street, unless a lane of traffic was instead removed and the street was made one-way. I agree with you, though, that it seems much more palatable for motor vehicle drivers to block bicycle lanes rather than blocking lanes that other motor vehicles use.
I beg to differ: I ride that street very often – in fact, just yesterday. While it is true that there is not a painted bike lane (it is an official bike route, though) there is room for a line of parked cars, a bicycle lane, and if a car drives with his right-side wheels between the tracks (which is what they always do when they are passing a cyclist, and there is plenty of room for this) room for a vehicle – on either side of the street. So if the parked cars were 4 feet out, there would be room for a bike lane by the curb, and still room for a driving lane.
A protected bike lane would need to include a buffer so cyclists don’t get doored by passenger doors. I’m pretty sure if you crunch the numbers for 2 full travel lanes, 2 full parking lanes, a bike lane, and a buffer zone, and compare the total to the state mandated minimum widths for all of those pieces, there just isn’t enough room.
You might be right: I was not taking a buffer-zone into consideration. But I would be willing to forgo a buffer zone if necessary; the one in GGPark is barely wide enough to afford protection anyway as I have many times found out, and as 17th is now, we must ride in the death/door zone anyway. And every car has a driver, but many (if not most) cars don’t have passengers, so our odds are better on the right side of a car. I personally don’t have any difficulty hopping tracks, but I do worry about so many others who go down hard.
If you put in a protected bikeway here and allowed parking between it and the roadway, the parked cars would sit on top of the tracks, thereby not allowing any F-line cars to pass. Actually, it would completely block the travel lane too so nothing would be able to pass. Basically, the street is too narrow for a parking protected bikeway – it would have to be just a protected bikeway, similar to what is on Fell and Oak between Baker and Scott.
Also, 4′ of space between parked cars and a sidewalk is far too narrow for a bikeway. It would need to be much, which would put the parked cars on the tracks. To compare, the bikeway on JFK is 6′ wide with some sections of buffer that are 3′ wide for opened car doors. What you are proposing is less than half as wide as that!