Lots of talk right now about San Francisco Metro Transit Authority’s decision to move ahead with the proposed bikeway on Fell and Oak. This is great news, to make biking (and driving) safer in San Francisco, structural improvements like this one are necessary.
But when you look at this image of the proposed design (below), which would remove parking spaces rather than constricting traffic flow by cutting into driving lanes, that left hand turn gives me plenty of pause. See I have spent a lot of time in Washington DC before working for GJEL, and when the city implemented its bike-friendly updates, part of that was putting in what is essentially the bike highway on 15th street NW.
Most of the design is the same as what is proposed on Fell and Oak, 15th is a oneway, three lane street with heavy traffic. The big difference is that the left hand turn lane does not infringe on the bike lane. At no time do bikes and cars mingle. They even coordinated left hand turn lights with the bike lights to make sure that drivers should never have to worry about sideswiping a cyclist flying up the street.
As a bike-rider, the results were great. The sense of security in using 15th street is unparalleled, and it is an essential artery for riders around the city. Even though there are bikelines throughout DC, it’s worth going to 15 street where you can be sure to be out of drivers’ ways and separated by a barrier.
The city of San Francisco has done something similar at Fell and Masonic, where cameras and light signals ensure that drivers don’t creep into the cyclist thoroughfare.
I think one of the big pluses of the 15th street bike corridor in DC is that it sort of cordones off an area where cyclists feel safe and where cars don’t feel like they are competing for space. It encourages cycling while removing them from the most dangerous and high-conflict areas. Bikers aren’t going anywhere, in fact they are growing in number. Structural advancements, like the Fell and Oak bikeway, are crucial to accommodating the shifting modes of transportation in San Francisco. Smart implementation of just a few such bike highways like DC’s throughout San Francisco could go a long way to alleviating the stressful relationship between bikes and cars in the city.