Biking in the Bay

Biking in the Bay

Consistently ranked as one of the most bike friendly cities in the United States, San Francisco—where over 3 percent of the population commutes by bicycle—has its sights aimed high. The long-term bicycle plan put into effect five years ago—officially dubbed the 2009 San Francisco Bicycle Plan––has lofty aims to increase bike ridership to 20 percent by 2020 through a series of projects. As of this year, 87 percent of the projects, or 52 out of the 60 projects in the 2009 plan, are complete.

This past year the Bay Area Bike Share opened, and other initiatives will soon see the light of day. A long-term goal includes adding over 30 miles of bike lanes to the more than 45 miles that currently exist in the city. Officials want to make cycling safer and more appealing to everyone. “We are focusing on better connecting the bike network. We don’t want a fragmented approach,” said San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) spokesperson, Ben Jose.

Opened last year, the Bay Area Bike Share (BABS) now has 3,000 annual members and 28,000 casual riders (those with one or three day passes). There are 350 bikes and 35 stations in San Francisco, with another 400 bikes and 35 stations in nearby cities including Palo Alto, San Jose, Mountain View, and Redwood City. The bikes and stations are operated by Alta Bicycle Share, and received $11 million in public funding.

Plans to expand are being put on hold. When the bike-share opened, the original plan was to push out 1,000 bikes across the bay and 50 stations in San Francisco within the first year. But completing this phase—distributing an additional 300 more bikes to the five Bay Area cities and 15 more stations in San Francisco—could take up to two more years. Alta Bicycle Share is changing ownership, and the companies providing the hardware and software for the bikes have filed for bankruptcy. The city wants to add 3,000 more bikes, but this would depend on securing an additional $25 million through sponsorships.

In an area that has become filled with coffee shops, cafes, and parklets, a portion of Valencia Street will get the first raised bikeway in the city (pictured, left). In an effort to improve north/south access, it will upgrade the southbound existing bike lane on a portion of Valencia Street, between Duncan and Caesar Chavez streets. The bikeway will lie in between the pedestrian sidewalk and the road.

This effort is part of the Green Infrastructures and the Mission & Valencia Gateway Projects, helmed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. Along with the new bikeway, the project will also widen sidewalks, build two greened plazas, and install permeable pavement and rain gardens to help capture stormwater. Construction is expected to be complete by mid 2016.

Other raised bikeways planned in the city are on 2nd Street and Masonic Avenue. Each will add a fourth type of major bike infrastructure to the city that currently offers off-street bike paths, protected bike lanes that run along the roadway, and shared bike and automobile routes.

Another planned Green Infrastructure Initiative is the Wiggle Neighborhood Green Corridor. SFMTA and San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) are partnering on this project.

The much beloved Wiggle is a zig-zagged flat route (formerly a toll road) that stretches from Market Street to Golden Gate Park, enabling cyclists and pedestrians to circumvent the city’s hills. Bikers have been using the path for years, but new green sharrows were added in 2012 to make it easier for riders to see the route.

The Wiggle initiative is also focusing on improving stormwater management by bringing in new, permeable pavement. Traffic calming measures are also in the works, including a traffic diverter at Scott and Fell streets and a raised intersection at Page and Scott streets. Improvements are being funded by the Sewer System Improvement Program and the 2011 Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond. They will cost SFMTA approximately $1.4 million.

SFMTA is focusing on making several districts safer and facilitating greater movement in the city. One project, the Polk Streetscape Project, which will include enhancements like green bike lanes, protected bike lanes, and bulb-outs, is undergoing Environmental Review and will be up for approval by the beginning of next year.

SFMTA is also looking at collisions, and have designated areas in the city as Cyclist High Entry Corridors (CHEC). Two of these areas are South of Market and the Embarcadero Waterfront. Another focus is Howard Street in South of Market, which serves as an east-west connector. SFMTA wants to better organize the roadway so people are safer and better oriented. They will narrow existing lanes and install buffered painted bike lanes—a short-term improvement to increase visibility. This would be the first of 24 projects as part of Vision 0—an initiative to bring traffic fatalities in the city down to 0 by 2024.

SFMTA officials are also developing a concrete design for the Embarcadero Waterfront––a 3-mile-long, mixed-use promenade—and hope to have concepts ready by the fall of 2015.

It is not just about making isolated bike infrastructure improvements, Jose emphasized. “It’s about complete streets, a new look at public right of way.”