We're Close to Turning SF into a Bike Utopia

Mar 20 at 10am

Rejoice — bicycle utopia is coming! Sort of. Maybe by 2020. At the very least, your San Francisco riding experience is going to be very different by then. Big plans are afoot to redesign key thoroughfares and routes to prioritize cyclists, pedestrians, and public transit, and to separate different types of road traffic.

Six years from now, planners estimate, Market Street will have been repaved and re-engineered from Octavia to Embarcadero, recasting the boulevard into one of the state's premiere transit-first corridors. The San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Agency may have also completed a major traffic-calming and "neighborhood greenway" initiative along the Wiggle.

These two projects come packing serious street architecture: Separated bikeways, more car exclusions downtown, "bulb outs" into speed zones such as Fell Street, raised crosswalks and "speed tables" at intersections to enshrine pedestrians and slow traffic.

It's gonna be awesome. Twenty years ago, Market Street was a craggy, pitted war zone and there wasn't even a full-time bike policy job at the Department of Parking and Traffic. This was the street that gave rise to Critical Mass, a movement that went global.

The city estimates that any average Thursday sees about 6,000 cyclists on Market Street.

Two decades later, bikes are among the pillars of SFMTA's "transit first" planning, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition brings muscle to City Hall. The city estimates that any average Thursday sees about 6,000 cyclists on Market Street, riding in and out of downtown, alone or swarming in organic critical masses to occupy safe riding space on the urban asphalt. 

Despite this amazing progress, one pesky thing you're still not going to be able to do legally is treat a stop sign like a yield sign. It may make perfect traffic sense, but it's a state-level battle and bike advocates say they lack political capital for it.

Locally, you can help build bike utopia by keeping up on the city's transit-infrastructure plans, showing up at public meetings, and registering public comments. Planning decisions made over the next few years will affect San Franciscans for generations. So if you want to get some enhanced yield signs in the traffic-calming mix as a workaround for that annoying stop-sign problem, now's your opportunity. 

Helpfully, the SFMTA has posted its entire bicycle strategy online, plus a listing of 20 active neighborhood improvement projects with lots of details for you to totally wonk out on. You might also want to check out the bike coalition's take on plans for the Wiggle and Market Street.

By 2020 advocates aim to triple the number of bike rides annually statewide, which could make cyclists more of a force at the polls, and maybe even usher in a new era of pro-bike policy in the Golden State. Let's make San Francisco the capital city of the bike utopia still to come.

Image from Thinkstock

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