Bike Lanes: What Everyone Not-So-Secretly Wants
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.