The Failure of the Market St. Raised Bikeway

On Wednesday, November 2nd, SFMTA installed safe-hit posts along their raised bike lane demonstration on Market St. between 12th and Gough streets. While this is a win for SFMTrA, which publicly called for and funded our own safe-hit posts for this stretch only months prior, SFMTA should have solved this problem long ago. Our streets are in crisis and SFMTA wasted a year and significant financial resources for a bike lane that offers no additional protection from the original lane.

We believe SFMTA’s addition of safe-hit posts on Market St. Raised Bikeway demonstration is wholly inadequate given the enormous cost and wasted time to create this temporary solution. We demand more. We call on SFMTA to:

  • Provide a higher level of protection for bicyclists than our group of concerned residents has regularly provided. 
  • Immediately test permanent bollards, planters and sidewalk-level raised bike lanes to protect the Market St. cyclists.
  • Redesign the mountable raised bike lanes on Masonic, Polk and 2nd Streets before they are built.

One year ago, in November 2015, SFMTA removed the safe-hit posts and green paint on this stretch of Market St. to test out four types of raised bike lanes. The demonstration was built to gather feedback and evaluate the potential designs and to inform a "seamless implementation" of raised bike lanes about to be constructed on Masonic, Polk and 2nd streets.  

However, even though best practice abroad calls for raised bike lanes to be level with the sidewalk, all of SFMTA's test sections were designed to be mounted by vehicles. SFMTA claims this is so that paratransit vehicles can park in the bike lane to unload passengers on the sidewalk. But with a sidewalk level with the bike lane, paratransit vehicles could unload directly onto the bike lane.

As many expected, the Market St. Raised Bikeway was immediately filled with parked vehicles and derided by cyclists, but SFMTA never responded to these well-documented concerns.

Though the evaluation period was scheduled to be complete in the Spring of 2016, SFMTA still has not released their results. But when they presented to NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) in September, they said that "if used, raised bikeways should be at sidewalk level or separate from roadway with parking, landscaping or other buffer.” SFMTA further admits that "raised bikeways are much more expensive than bikeways separated with paint and plastic posts."

Their evaluation of the Market St. Raised Bikeway is not being used to influence designs on other major street redesigns that have been in the works for years. Masonic, Polk, and 2nd St. are all slated to receive two inch tall mountable raised bike lanes. These raised bike lanes will come at a huge expense to taxpayers and provide no meaningful protection for cyclists. 

SFMTA has also spent four years planning and constructing a mountable raised bike lane on a short stretch of Valencia St. This lane, when complete, will be protected by a line of parked cars between the bike lane and the travel lane. Using a barely raised bike lane to prevent cars from infringing on the lane is a huge waste of limited resources. Cheaper solutions are just as effective and could be implemented on a much wider scale than one half block.

SFMTA spent an entire year to replace the Market St. Raised Bikeway with something functionally equivalent to what was originally there. Mountable raised bike lanes are not protected bike lanes. While we believe the safe-hit posts provide an affordable and quick fix, they are not a permanent solution. A mountable raised bike lane with safe-hit posts does not provide adequate physical protection, especially given the very high costs. These lanes do not prevent a reckless driver from harming people on bikes.

SFMTA claims they don't have funding for a city-wide network of protected bike lanes, so why are they wasting money on mountable raised bike lanes that have no additional benefits to inexpensive and quick-to-implement paint and safe-hit posts? For the price of these mountable raised bike lanes, SFMTA could provide miles of additional bike lanes protected by bollards, curbs, or planters.

We demand more. We demand drastic transformation of our streets to keep vulnerable road users safe.