SFMTA kills 2-way cycle track idea for 17th St. Here’s why.

It’s Official: It Can’t Happen Here! Two way cycle tracks are too dangerous for two way streets due to unanticipated maneuvers by bicycles.

John Entwistle, Jr. reporting from 17th Street in San Francisco on October 17, 2016.

It seemed like such a great idea. Make one small change to 17th Street and everyone wins. Cars could drive unobstructed. Muni’s historic streetcars could go and come as they please. Parking would be maintained on one side of the street and bikes would get a safe area of their own where train track caused wrecks are not possible and cars can’t menace bike riders. But it is impossible.

It turns out that two way cycle tracks on two way streets have a well recognized and fatal flaw that SFMTA engineers pointed out last week after careful consideration. It creates an unanticipated movement of bicycles at the intersections.

Where two way streets cross a special hazard has been found to exist where cars on intersecting streets are not going to see the bikes approaching from their right. The best example would be Sanchez Street where traffic headed South toward Microsoft Ridge would intersect bike traffic coming from the Castro on the North side of the Street. (Getting dizzy yet?) Drivers at this one intersection would suddenly be confronted with a new and unexpected traffic phenomenon: bike traffic on the wrong side of the street.

The following diagram from the Federal Highway Administration and accompanying explanation illustrates our conundrum perfectly.

15.8 Practices to Avoid

Two-Way Bike Lanes

Two-way bike lanes create a dangerous condition for bicyclists (see figure 15-23). They encourage illegal riding against traffic, causing several problems:
  • At intersections and driveways, wrong-way riders approach from a direction where they are not visible to motorists.
  • Bicyclists closest to the motor vehicle lane have opposing motor vehicle traffic on one side and opposing bicycle traffic on the other.
  • Bicyclists are put into awkward positions when transitioning back to standard bikeways.
To install a two way separated cycle track on 17th Street would require changes to the car traffic patterns. You would have to take full control of the intersections or change a turning option or two or even consider the two-way status of 17th Street itself. SFMTA is unwilling so far to discuss or consider any of those options so the two way cycle plan is officially Dead On Arrival (DOA).
Expect no further reporting on bike path ideas at this site. We are now dedicated fully and with out reserve to the removal of the temporary shoofly tracks on 17th Street from Noe to Church Street. Furthermore, due to the fact that we don’t have a safe bike path serving this neighborhood we need all available parking and even more than we have today. We are therefore forced to fight to preserve and protect every single parking space in this area.
We thank our neighbors for their patience while we worked with SFMTA to consider alternatives to the removal of their shoofly tracks. And we thank the engineers and hard working men and women at SFMTA for educating us in the ways of traffic engineering and for sharing their thoughts and concerns.
And lastly, we thank Supervisor Scott Wiener for tolerating my insults and working hard to bring us face to face with the specific individuals at SFMTA who are responsible for the ongoing horror show of terrible bike injuries on 17th Street. Smoking these varmints out into the open has never been done before in all the years of us getting assaulted and battered by the tracks on 17th Street. I’d be an ungrateful liar if I said he hasn’t helped us by doing this much. Good luck in the election Scott, you helped us a lot more than your opponent.

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