| Bike Plan Rolls Along Despite Injunction
By Fran Taylor, Member Walk San Francisco May 12, 2008
Paint cans to stripe new bike lanes may be gathering cobwebs, but the design and community outreach that must come first anyway are chugging right along. Physical manifestations of the citywide bicycle network have been on hold since a judge imposed an injunction in 2006 that prohibits the City from so much as installing a bike rack on a sidewalk. But the injunction doesn’t proscribe steps up to actual implementation, and cyclists have used the time to prepare detailed plans. The idea is to get each leg of the bike plan ready while the environmental impact review is taking place, so the physical changes can begin immediately once the injunction is lifted, probably next year.
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Explanations of the injunction available on the websites of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (https://www.sfbike.org/?network) and the Municipal Transportation Agency (http://www.sfmta.com/cms/bproj/bikeplan.htm) offer detail only a wonk could love. The actual proposed changes, on the other hand, are of interest to anyone who lives on or travels on the affected streets.
Proposals in the southeastern City range from simple to mind-boggling. One very basic change would add a bike lane westbound and a sharrow (painted arrow indicating shared roadway) eastbound on 23rd Street between Kansas Street and Potrero Avenue, past San Francisco General Hospital. Requiring no changes to car traffic lanes or parking, new striping would simply redefine existing space.
Kansas Street itself, which runs parallel to Highway 101, may be off the radar for most San Franciscans, but it’s an important commute route for workers at the hospital that sees a lot of speeding traffic. This potentially quiet street offers a straight shot to 23rd from Cesar Chavez Street, which has no direct turn onto Potrero. Side streets deadend at the freeway, and Kansas, wide and unencumbered by stop signs, beckons to drivers to hurry up. Bike lanes on these blocks would not require any changes to parking or traffic except to narrow lanes that are much wider than necessary. Planned medians at intersections would further discourage speeding and offer pedestrian refuge.
At the other end of the complexity spectrum are Cesar Chavez and Bayshore Boulevard. Segments of Cesar Chavez from Sanchez to Guerrero, Guerrero to Valencia, and Valencia to Hampshire all have separate drawings and two options. Both call for removal of a traffic lane in each direction but differ in treatment of medians and turn pockets. In the segment from Highway 101 to Highway 280, one plan calls for removal of a traffic lane, while the alternative suggests removal of parking on one side.
Bayshore Boulevard exemplifies the “you can’t get there from here” challenge facing pedestrians and cyclists at numerous places in the City, especially near freeways, and elaborate redesign drawings attempt to squeeze out some dedicated space for cyclists now forced onto an already inadequate sidewalk and to rationalize the difficult snarl where traffic off the freeway meets local northbound drivers.
The Bayshore and Cesar Chavez proposals both run head-on into a major problem: the 101 freeway maze. Built decades ago, this mess of ramps and over- and underpasses is nearing the end of its “natural” life. Neighbors sick of the noise, pollution, and congestion emanating from the “hairball” are contemplating its replacement. Notwithstanding an earthquake, the old structure will eventually be rebuilt, but not necessarily with the same configuration, which currently makes walking and cycling a daunting experience.
The bike plan is also being folded into more ambitious proposals to overhaul entire corridors and even neighborhoods. Cesar Chavez, for example, is included in the Mission Public Realm Plan being conducted by the Planning Department, which describes the project on its website: “The outcome will be designs for a system of neighborhood streets stressing gracious, accessible, safe sidewalks; closely planted street trees; pedestrian-scaled lights; well-marked crosswalks; . . . bike paths and routes; close and friendly integration of transit; and roadways that accommodate automobile traffic but encourage appropriate speeds.” Working with Planning is community organization CC Puede, which considers bike lanes a crucial element but by no means the defining factor of its vision for Cesar Chavez.
A meeting to explain and discuss in detail plans for bike improvements in the southeastern part of the City will take place Thursday, May 22, at the Bayview Library, 5073 3rd Street at Revere (on the T-Third and near the #23, #24, #44, and #54 lines) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Drawings and descriptions of current conditions and designs for changes are available at http://www.sfmta.com/cms/bproj/Bicycle_Plan_Projects_000.htm. For more information, contact email@example.com.
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