Oct 3, 2016

MTA says that Fell and Oak streets can accomodate protected bikeways

Fell and Oak Street along the Panhandle can accommodate protected bikeways, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The memorandum by Ellen Robinson, an Associate Engineer with MTA, states that one-way, parking-protected bike lanes could be accommodated on Oak Street and/or Fell Street, which would involve removing one of the four travel lanes while maintaining the width of the existing lanes. Because the road feeds to/from segments with only three traffic lanes, reducing the travel lanes “would have relatively minor consequences in terms of travel delay and traffic operations.”

The cost of the project is increased by creating pedestrian refuge islands and relocating signal poles. With the design proposed, pedestrians traveling across Fell or Oak Street toward the park would get their walk signal and cross over to the refuge islands; then they would check for bikes and cross over to the park when clear. (Because cyclists riding in the protected bikeway would not stop at the signals, it would not be safe to leave the signals where they are, because they would give the pedestrians a walk symbol to cross the width of the entire street, including the bikeway.) Relocating traffic signals costs about $100,000 each. Thus, the low cost estimate for the project, including relocating the signals, is a total of $1,600,000.

The report describes a few concerning issues, such as the exact placement for the bikeway on Oak Street between Stanyan and Shrader (which has a narrow curb-to curb width, and no parking next to the park); and the high volume of left-turning cars from Oak onto northbound Masonic Avenue, which would require a decision between impacting traffic or reducing the quality of the bikeway. Keeping the bikeway next to the park, and replicate the traffic signal configuration at Fell/Masonic (where left-turning cars are held for an arrow), would result in “queues spilling back multiple blocks”; as an alternative, the design proposes to provide a “weave section” for cyclists to move to the right of drivers entering the left-turn pocket, which would mean that cyclists ride between lanes of moving cars for the block from Ashbury to Masonic. 

The report considered the potential for a two-way bicycle facility along Fell Street, with space from removing parking and a travel lane, but did not recommend it; disadvantages included the need to control the bikeway with traffic signals “to facilitate crossing of the protected bike lanes at the six minor streets 'T' intersections,” which reduces the efficiency and attractiveness of the bikeway.  

The MTA report includes this image from Prospect Park, Brooklyn, where a bikeway was installed between parking and a park and traffic signals were relocated

The report notes that the Panhandle multi-use path is a "high demand recreational and utilitarian transportation facility" with 500 bikes and 500 pedestrians per hour at peak times. The North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association reported the results of its survey on the issue, which found "a 72% positive opinion of reallocating one of the four traffic lanes as a parking protected bike lane."

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