New Protected Bike Lanes Coming to San Francisco

More bike lanes! That’s what cyclist have been crying for, and that’s what they are getting. But not just those ride-among-the-cars bike lanes that you see all over the place, but actual protected bike lanes. This is the holy grail of inner-city street cycling, and on Tuesday, June 19, 2019, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors approved a plan to add these lanes to one of the city’s deadliest stretch of roads in hopes of reducing injuries and fatalities.

The Plan’s Purpose

Years in the making, the plan calls for changes to be made in the city’s South of Market’s Howard and Folsom streets to slow down motor vehicle traffic while speeding up cycling, walking and publi transit. According to city planners, the time has come for the area’s streets to be transformed to keep up with city growth and modern transportation needs.

Originally, the one-way streets were designed to get traffic flowing in the city’s then light-industrial region to free up downtown congestion. Now those streets are part of a transformed region where expensive condos and trendy restaurants and retail shops are pushing out the factories and warehouses. The city wants to make those streets compatible with the times and to reduce the risk to cyclists and pedestrians that continue to flock to the area.

Protected Lanes

For cyclists, at the center of the plan are protected bike lanes going up Folsom and Howard that will be wide enough to allow cyclists to travel in both directions. Concrete “islands” will separate the new bike lanes from the traffic lanes on the south side of each street.

This is good news for cyclists as past studies have shown that a protected lane reduces cyclist fatalities by as much as 90 percent.

Slower Traffic

Other changes will be made as well which is good news for pedestrians. New mid-block traffic lights will be installed to allow pedestrians more options to cross the street and reduce the temptation to jaywalk. Also, these lights will be timed optimally to create more separation between motorists and pedestrians.

Faster Transit

The new design will also include transit-only lanes marked in red to speed up Muni busses along sections of Folsom Street. Also, many pedestrians will have easier access to those busses as nine new boarding islands will be created as well.

Bicycle advocacy groups are behind the changes calling them far reaching and much needed. The only grumble is in the timing as construction won’t begin until 2021 and won’t be complete until 2024. However, this isn’t enough to keep the smiles of the faces of the cycling group leaders.

The Details

Cyclists are also happy with the details of the plan. Some other details of the plan are:

Among the changes:

  • New bi-direction bike lanes on Howard between Fourth and 11th streets and on Folsom from Second to 11th Street.
  • Concrete islands separating the traffic lanes and the bike lanes.
  • The removal of many parking zones that will help in protecting those in the bike lanes.
  • A transit-only lane on eastbound Folsom Street from 10th Street to Mabini Street. This is to speed up the Muni buses that have routes on Folsom.
  • At each intersection, sidewalk extensions will be added to shorten crossing distance and raised crosswalks will be created.

All this is part of a larger plan to get people out of their cars in the city and to get around using one of the many alternative forms of transportation. If everything goes as planned, this plan will make cycling and walking more attractive, reduce the use of fossil-fuel vehicles all while making the streets safer for everyone.

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