Mar 13, 2012

"8-80 Friendly" Bicycling in San Francisco

Following up on my "Eight to Eighty" post last week, I went out this weekend to explore some of the (close-to) 8-80 facilities we already have in San Francisco. While we do have a handful out there, the number one issue we're dealing with is a lack of continuity and connectivity. It's wonderful if a father can ride with his daughter on the Panhandle or Wiggle, but what happens when they reach those three treacherous blocks of Fell and Oak Streets? The same goes for intersections – if you don't feel comfortable crossing the street, it doesn't matter how you feel mid-block. A bikeway is not useful if you can't get anywhere.

In this post, I'm going to focus on four bike routes in the City which are close to being fully "8-80 friendly". I'll start with two on Connecting the City's "Bay to Beach" route, because with only a little bit of attention, we can soon realize 3.5 miles of continuous 8-80 bikeways along this stretch. We already have the wonderful Panhandle, the Duboce Bikeway, and JFK Drive's parking-buffered cycle track is almost complete. With some additional traffic calming measures on the Wiggle, a cycle track on Fell & Oak, and improved connections between all of these facilities, anyone will be able to enjoy a safe and stress-free journey from Market Street all the way through Golden Gate Park!

Note: You can click on all images to enlarge them.

Panhandle Path is one of SF's most beloved bicycle routes. It's my favorite part of my commute home. I like to slow down, take in the nature, and watch how everyone is enjoying the park. But the multi-use pathway, shared between people walking, jogging, and bicycling, is started to get congested – especially during peak hours. The path is not wide enough to accommodate all of the people using it. Right now we're working to get a cycle track on the three blocks of Fell & Oak which connect the Wiggle to the Panhandle (Scott to Baker). Connecting the City envisions eventually extending this separated bikeway all the way up to Stanyan Street. Since we have 4 lanes of traffic on Fell/Oak along the Panhandle, which is unnecessary even during peak hours, we can quite easily make this happen and still retain parking. Those who prefer the Panhandle could still use it, but I think many would regularly opt for the park-side cycle track.

Originally a through street for all forms of traffic, the block of Duboce from Market to Church was closed to motorized traffic when the Muni Metro subway was being constructed. It's now home to the Duboce Portal of the Muni Metro system, serving the N-Judah and J-Church lines, a walkway, and an "8-80 friendly" cycle track. Mona Caron's stunning mural paying tribute to SF bicycle culture ties it all together. The problems lie at either end – a maze of Muni tracks and a necessity to cross to the diagonal end of the intersection. Participants in last September's ThinkBike workshop came up with some wonderful ideas for improving these intersections in just a couple days. I hope these and other measures can be implemented soon as part of the ongoing Duboce/Church Street Improvement Project.

More after the break.

I can't say how many times I've been yelled at for bicycling on the Embarcadero Promenade (a.k.a. Herb Caen Way...). Constructed after demolition of the Embarcadero freeway, the promenade is technically a multi-use path part of the larger San Francisco Bay Trail. (I am happy to see that new signs were installed last month clearly noting this designation – see the photo above). But bicycles frequently don't fit on the pathway, as it's regularly congested with thousands of people walking – especially from the Ferry Building to Pier 39. I intentionally avoid riding on these portions because it's simply too crowded. Many say people should simply bicycle in the on-road bike lane, but those familiar know that lane is narrow, very close to heavy traffic, and isn't well-marked. It's clearly not a facility the full 8-80 spectrum of people are going to feel comfortable using. SPUR first came up with the EmBIKEadero concept in 2009 – a bi-directional cycle track on the bay-side of the Embacadero roadway. With the America's Cup on the horizon, when hundreds of thousands of people will be moving along the waterfront, there is no better time than now to trial this cycle track.

Finishing off at Crissy Field – I think this bikeway is most like the cycle tracks I dream of for San Francisco. Up on a curb, bi-directional, wide, and clearly-marked – it's a really well-done facility. But it still needs some work. Whenever I walk along this pathway, I feel like there's not enough space for people to walk. You can see in the photo that the width is only sufficient for two people to walk side-by-side. I'd like to eventually see the path widened, without damaging the sensitive native habitat. I'd also like to see crossbike treatments (a crosswalk for bicycles!) at the two roads which provide access to the Crissy Field parking lot.

While these are only four nearly "8-80 friendly" bike routes, plenty more exist in San Francisco. I hope that we not only work to "finish off" these facilities, but also address the greater issue of continuity that I started with. Continuity is a major criterion for whether a facility is "8-80 friendly", perhaps the most important, and we've got a long way to go on this front.

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