Three years ago, the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Gavin Newsom approved a plan to improve amenities for cyclists on San Francisco streets, including more bike lanes, “bike boxes” to improve safety at intersections and more bike parking. In stepped car-centrism crusader Rob Anderson and lawyer Mary Miles, asking for the plan to be scrapped because The City didn’t dot its i’s and cross its t’s on the Environmental Impact Report. And the plan has been in legal injunction limbo ever since.
But last week Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch offered a compromise after the city re-wrote the EIR. While not entirely lifting the injuction, the city can go forward and get things done — at least, many of the items which can be undone. So new lanes can be striped, bike boxes put in place, “sharrows” added and bike parking installed. Hooray! For now.
According to Bike NOPA, the SFMTA had a press conference planned for this morning (it’s since been postponed to Thursday) — for once, the agency will be able to enjoy some positive press (except maybe from Anderson and suburb-dwelling San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius). The location will highlight the new bike box on Scott Street along the Wiggle.
Last week also saw improvements along Market street, where new beige paint indicates that cars need to slow down for pedestrians leaving Muni islands and the hordes of cyclists. (Beige? Really?) Not that drivers have necessarily noticed, as San Francisco Citizen‘s Jim Herd learned the hard way by getting doored.
How will the new amenities affect cyclists and motorists? Well, for starters, drivers will have lines that clearly demonstrate the proper clearance for passing cyclists — at least three feet — in the form of 3.7 miles of new bike lanes. What does it mean for Muni riders? Well, “sad, angry old man” Anderson points to said EIR and says it may slow down bus service on streets with new bike lanes, but both anecdotal and MTA evidence have pointed to faster commutes down Market during the recent trial urging automobiles away from the east-bound lane past tenth. Fewer automobiles ultimately means faster Muni service. Who knew?
As for these bike boxes? Well, the idea is that automobiles are to stop further back from intersections, while cyclists group up in the area between that line and the crosswalk. Of course, cyclists are allowed to take the lane, box or no box. However, I imagine it will take more than a few tickets from the police before it sinks in for drivers who don’t cycle themselves. After all, the bike-crossing light connecting the panhandle’s mixed-use paths still confuses drivers turning left from Fell onto Masonic. Might have something to do with the fact that there’s only one in the whole city, and they are even rarer across the state and nation.
The MTA has promised to move quickly now that the judge has issued a ruling, so you should start seeing improvements along popular routes sooner rather than later, and ongoing progress in the coming months. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is throwing a party at Dolores Park Cafe tonight — with food and drink ten percent off with your SFBC membership card. The organization is also going to go on a ride touring recently repaved roadways, but will also be carrying cans of spray chalk to mark potholes and report them to 311 along the way.
So there, motoring enthusiasts — never say cyclists never did anything for you.
Photo by Chris Phan.
Jackson West has ridden a bike around the San Juan Islands, up and down the Cascades, in Vancouver, Seattle, Brooklyn, Austin and all over the Bay Area. He hopes Judson and Nate savor their brief moment in the sun. Have any bike-related questions? Send an email!