Jan 21, 2012

Sloat Boulevard Goes on a Road Diet

Sloat Boulevard, long one of San Francisco's most harrowing and dangerous streets, has received an unexpected road diet. Previously three lanes of 40+ mph traffic in each direction, the right-most lanes between 21st and Everglade Avenues have been converted into buffered bike lanes. The $130,000 Caltrans project also included restriping, partial repaving, and safety improvements to the street's numerous uncontrolled crosswalks. Adding to the good news, based on the results of a traffic analysis, Sloat should soon see its speed limit reduced from 40 to 35 mph. These improvements are on top of other attention recently paid to the urban highway, including median landscaping and speed radar signs.

Sloat's Road Diet: two lanes of mixed traffic + a 7-foot bikeway with a 4-foot buffer

This development is especially exciting because this portion of Sloat Blvd is a state highway (CA-35) under the jurisdiction of Caltrans. While California's Department of Transportation does have a Complete Streets Program, they have a longstanding reputation of prioritizing movement of automobile traffic over other modes of transport. Nevertheless, the agency has gone ahead with enhancements to the safety and comfort of walking and bicycling on this important street and deserve some sincere credit. For those of us familiar with the traffic patterns on Sloat, there is not nearly enough volume to justify three lanes in each direction. Caltrans completed a traffic study and determined that a lane reduction will not cause any significant delay for people driving.

There has been discussion recently of Caltrans handing over jurisdiction to local municipalities of urban highways, which in San Francisco includes Sloat Blvd, 19th Ave, Van Ness Ave, and Lombard St. The rationale is that cities should have a stronger say in the design of roads which function more as city streets than intercity motorways. Sloat Blvd in particular has little merit for being designated as a state route. These recent changes to Sloat's road layout seem to suggest that Caltrans is rethinking their priorities and that some of these state-controlled roads can operate more like city streets without having to go through the cumbersome process of changing hands.

I know it's pretty wet out there, but go and check out these new lanes!!

More photos after the break.

The right-most lanes in both directions, now home to buffered bikeways, have been repaved, making for smoother two-wheeled travel.

Enjoying a Saturday afternoon ride.

Added in 2010, speed radar signs help people better assess their speed when driving. Unfortunately, 45 mph and higher are typical speeds for this street.

Improvements to the street's numerous uncontrolled crosswalks were also included in the project. Here is a freshly-painted continental crosswalk with "shark teeth" (out of shot) and new "yield" signage.

Bike Route 50, which continues up Portola Dr and down Market St, is now more comfortable for bicycling.

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