Bike Lanes: What Everyone Not-So-Secretly Wants

Categories: bikes

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Everybody's got something to say about bike lanes. The funny thing about bike lanes is that they actually make life better, not just for cyclists, but for everyone.

So while the Better Market Street project wants to move bikes over to Mission Street, the SFMTA revealed what almost everybody who has ridden a bike in San Francisco already knows: A bike lane isn't always safe and relaxing.

In fact, the SFMTA says that almost all of the bike lanes in San Francisco are uncomfortable and feel unsafe for pretty much anyone pedaling through the city. That Bicycle Strategy Update and Needs Assessment includes plans to improve many problem spots and lanes around the city, which would cost roughly $200 million. This would put the percentage of money spent on cyclists on par with the percentage of trips by bicycle, which is about 7 percent. By 2020 the total trips by bike will increase to 20 percent.

Even if you're skeptical about installing more bike lanes and traffic control devices, the study "Do All Roadway Users Want the Same Thing?" by researchers Rebecca Sanders and Jill Cooper, from the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at UC Berkeley, claims that everyone does in fact want the same thing: bike lanes.

Why? Because better bike lanes make everyone happier for a whole bunch of reasons, starting with improved safety.

Drivers, pedestrians, and public transit users all said that bike lanes, particularly the ones that are separated from traffic by a barrier or parking, are the one thing they'd like to see most. The SFMTA says that segregated lanes are "comfortable for all user groups," while other kinds of lanes, even those with pylons separating them from traffic, are only comfortable for experienced, enthusiastic, or fearless riders. And these "comfortable" lanes only make up about 10 percent of bike routes in San Francisco.

More comfortable riders and better bike lanes means that drivers can relax because they don't have to share a roadway with hard-to-see and/or unpredictable cyclists. There are also intangibles that go along with adding bikes, such as increased comfort for pedestrians, and added safety due to the "human presence" as Christopher Dolan told CBS Local. Other things also go into making a street friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists; the SafeTREC study also said that features like businesses, cleanliness, lighting, art, beautification, and landscaping all encouraged more frequent visits.

You can see that bike lanes aren't just about appeasing the (relatively small) cycling community, but about giving everyone a more usable roadway. The Better Market Street plan looks great, but moving cycle traffic off Mission could backfire if the plan is to revitalize that transportation corridor. On the other hand, moving cycle traffic to Mission Street, might spur an uptick in bars, cafes, and bike shops, on the parts of that street that aren't already covered with those businesses.

Got opinions on where SFMTA or anyone else can stick their bike lanes? Check out the city meetings on the Market street improvements on July 17 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Parc 55 Hotel, and July 20 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Main Library. Also, the next Citizen's Advisory Committee on June 24th at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.

My Voice Nation Help
sebraleaves topcommenter

Be careful with those superlatives. Everyone does not want more bike lanes because I am someone who does not, and I have a lot of company. According to the national news, a lot of the folks moving into the cities are wealthy retired baby boomers. How many boomers are going to give up their cars and jump onto bikes? How long do you think the condo owners who just paid $2 million plus will put up with paying monthly transit fees while the transit service is cut and Muni rates go up? The natives are already restless. The Muni is a joke. Wait until BART goes on strike. You will wish there was more parking in SF.

Jeremy Lightell
Jeremy Lightell

This is kinda unrelated, but today I saw a van literally drive into the bike lane on Market, between the pylons and the curb, for about a block before trying unsucessfully to merge back into traffic without looking, pissing off a bunch of motorists and then going back into the bike lane and turning off confused-looking onto a side-street. Pretty sure this has something to do with the contents of this finely crafted article, but I can't decide what.

rmajora topcommenter

Market Street is not exactly a typical San Francisco street. What about Polk Street or Masonic Avenue? The city's bike projects on those streets are unacceptable. And are you really endorsing the goofball notion that cycling will be 20% of all trips in the city by 2020? Cycling is only 3.4% of all trips now, which means it will have to increase 2.5% a year for the next seven years. That's unlikely, since it's only increased 1.3% in the last ten years. The whole bike trip is being oversold, and the bike people are already taking up too much room in our political life and on our streets.

Rob Anderson

mrericsir topcommenter

@torankrai They'd be complaining a lot more if those were all cars.


 probably they can use flying cars or build multilevel highway roads.

mrericsir topcommenter

@torankrai Yeah, pretty sure we do.  Given the number of bicycles there, they'd have to level entire neighborhoods to build enough parking garages for everyone.

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