John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The protected lane is meant to keep cars in their place and cyclists off the sidewalk.
San Francisco just elevated the cause of bicycling safety … by about 2 inches. The city’s Municipal Transportation Agency has debuted its first-ever raised bike path, providing one long (or two short) blocks of protection in the heart of downtown.
The new lane, which stretches along Market Street from Gough to 12th Street, is the first of several such paths San Francisco will build through next year in accident-prone locations. The idea is cyclists will choose the designated path over chugging down the sidewalk, and cars will find it more difficult to roam into cyclist territory.
The lanes are a pilot project, but one the city already sounds quite proud of, to judge from a press release:
The SFMTA, which oversees all ground transportation in San Francisco, is taking an innovative approach with the demonstration, testing four different raised bikeway designs simultaneously. This approach will allow the agency to test future applications of raised bikeways with different elevations and slopes, as well as collect feedback from street users on the designs.…
“We’re looking forward to the implementation of this experiment as we continue to search for new ways to improve the quality of life in the City,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “The pilot will provide us with the real-world experience to evaluate raised bikeways in San Francisco.”
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition visited the site and describes a sort of Frankenlane full of different test angles: “One of the most obvious differences is the varying slant of the curb between the bike lane and the street, with some stretches more vertical than others.”
The lane arrives a year after the state government passed a bill making it easier for cities to create elevated and other kinds of protected lanes. (A separate bill from 2014 authorizes local governments to fund such paths with vehicle surcharges.) With its new lane, San Francisco now sits in the rare circle of places that have embraced bicycle elevation, including Copenhagen, Milwaukee, and Chicago.