Fell/Oak bike lane project appealed

The bike lane markings on Fell were removed a week ago, but officials say better ones are coming soon.
Steven T. Jones

Long-awaited bicycle and pedestrian improvements along Fell and Oak streets – a key east-west connection where fast-moving cars create sometimes-scary conditions for cyclists – approved last month by the Municipal Transportation Agency's board suffered a couple frustrating setbacks last week.

First, on Nov. 5, the project was appealed to the Board of Supervisors by area residents Mark Brennan, Howard Chabner, and Ted Loewenberg, who charged that it violates state environmental laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act and should be subjected to a full-blown Environmental Impact Report rather than relying on the overall Bicycle Plan's EIR.

The MTA is confident the appeal will be denied, so its crews went ahead with the project, removing the existing bike lane markings and then just leaving it that way for the last week, creating a confusing and potentially dangerous situation for both motorists and cyclists. It also raised fears among project supporters that the two developments were connected.

But MTA spokesperson Paul Rose told us there is no connection and “we expect to begin striping tomorrow, weather permitting.” He also said the agency heard the concerns from cyclists and this week put up signs urging motorists to share the road with cyclists and placing flyers on cars parked along the stretch.

As for the appeal, Rose said, “We have confidence that the environmental work that went into this project was appropriate and the appeal will be denied.”

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition – for whom this project has been a top priority for years – echoed the optimism and emphasized the extensive outreach effort that has gone into this project.

“I think it's unfortunate that there is the threat of delay to a project that has gone through so many years of community input and has such strong support,” Shahum said. “There are a few individuals who are trying to delay the project, but I'm happy to hear the MTA is moving it forward anyway.”

The appeals hearing has been tentatively set for Dec. 11. Once completed, this will be one of just a few cycletracks – or bikeways that are physically separated from automobile traffic – in San Francisco, something bike activists hope to see more of in the coming years.


Apparently dozens of residents' parking spaces will vanish just so cyclists from Richmond can ride along a 3-lane freeway, rather than on the quiet, leafy streets that surround it on either side.

Could we not just have a handful of streets in SF where vehicles can make reasonable progress? And the cyclists can use the 99% of all the other streets?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

Sure. You can have US-101, I-80, I-280, Park Presidio, and Doyle Drive. Done.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:56 am

The main traffic arteries. Bikes have no place there when there are hundreds of other, safer streets to use.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

Cyclists are not impeding your progress. Your fellow motorists are.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:57 am

impeding traffic, with the possible exception of downhill grades.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

...motorists get four lanes for miles, and bicyclists are just going to take one of those lanes for about six blocks so we can connect from the central city to the bike lane on the Panhandle. What's the problem?

Posted by steven on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

In Frisco, it takes just one Nimby to fuck everything up.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

Because the sclerotic bureaucrats at the MTA and DPW always balance all competing interests correctly the first time.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

Or is that somehow magically different?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

and have been going by that area for two decades.

Don't see why the bike entitled are so worked up around the area.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

The SFBC executive leadership is a simple lot. They are easily distracted by a shiny new parklet so that they won't care about the pilfering from Muni and once they get a bug up their ass, they'll go their version of medieval on it, irrespective of the consequences to others.

The major example of this pathology was during the "Healthy Saturdays" debate in the 2000s. After voters rejected JFK drive closure in Golden Gate Park, the SFBC decided that it knew better and badgered Jake McGoldrick until he passed a watered down version of closure.

This enraged factions in the Richmond and downtown powerbrokers took notice. The began to fund both sides of a recall and crushed poor Jake in the middle. In exchange for a few hours of car free roadway in the park each week, McGoldrick folded and opposed an EIR on the environmental impacts of market rate housing replacing light industrial uses in the Mission which opened the floodgates to thousands of units of luxury condos in the east side.

No matter that those new condo dwellers are much more likely to own cars than the existing Mission residents and make cycling safer. The SFBC got its weekend closure and did not give a shit about how many thousands of Mission residents and employees got the shaft in exchange.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:08 am

Or is that just the usual whinery we hear from Hestor, Welch etc. i.e. we've got our SF property - now we don't want anyone else to have their?

As for SFBC, they really aren't a transit lobby at all. They're a bike lobby and of course bikes are private transit, not public transit.

SF's transit activists are really bike activists. They actually hate a lot of public transit including BART, CS, SFO etc. While they never talk about cable cars, ferries or planes. Only buses - the crappiest part of the system. And the hopelessly over-engineered and cost-ineffective CalTrain.

All these groups are better categorized as car haters.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:33 am

New luxury condos are not the same thing as immediately post-quake Edwardians, thanks, nice try.

I agree that the "sustainable transportation community" has no time for sustainable transportation when there is a shiny parklet "over there" for them to play with, they're reduced to a negative anti-car agenda.

The only way to get people out of their cars is to make the investment in making transit favorably attractive, but nobody in government nor in activism wants to do that.

I don't think that there are any rational claims that the CS is going to be a major component of a sustainable rapid transit network, its been value engineered to obsolescence shortly after completion.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:54 am

interest in seeing less new supply because that makes existing units more valuable.

The CS isn't a magic bullet but I see no reason why it won't be at least as useful as the other streetcar lines, and probably more useful than the "streetcar to nowhere" - the Sunnyvale line, built as a blatant piece of racial pandering.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

You remind me of progressives who think that everything is about race.

The voters passed the four corridors plan in 1988 or so that called for LR to replace the 15 Third, 38 Geary and Van Ness bus lines.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

And why would a democratic government take steps that would add housing supply and likely push tens of thousands of taxpaying, struggling homeowners underwater in their mortgages?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

Is that really the best rationalization you've got for adopting a self-serving NIMBY'ism?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

There are about as many (1355) foreclosed homes on the market now as there are luxury housing units in the pipeline.

No problem, allow developers to suck money out of San Franciscans' equity because developers buy the government.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 6:46 am

eager and much more creditworthy buyer, while each of those new build homes will also sell.

For some weird reason, liberals think the answer to a housing affordibility crisis is to never build anything.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

You like government foreclosing on people in effect by creating new housing supply while existing San Francisco families struggle because that is what the Holy Seer Ayn Rand wrote in the sacred scripture.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

You're trying to argue that new homes shouldn't be built in SF because that might devalue your home. Foreclosures don't happen because home values decline but because people default on their mortgages. Pay yours and you'll have no problem.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

Foreclosures happen when homeowners are under water and are loathe to pay down debt that is worth more than their homes. When government adds supply during these times of economic uncertainty, it drives down the price of homes and causes more homeowners to go under water and into foreclosure.

This is all shifting more resources from San Franciscans' equity into the pocket of politically connected developers.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

lose his home if he cannot make the repayments. Solvent homeowners do not simply decide to default on their home loans, thereby ruining their credit records, simply because of the temporary ups and downs of RE prices.

You bought a home and so have a vested interest in there being little or no new supply. We get that in the same way as we get that when Hestor and Welch play that self-serving game.

But don't insult our intelligence by trying to turning your greed into an ideology. i've been round the block too many times to buy that shallow angle.

Why not just admit that you prefer SF housing to remain unaffordable to most simply and only because it helps your bottom line?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

You just won't be happy until existing San Franciscans pay tribute to developers and hypothetical San Franciscans in the form of lining up and bearing gold bricks on red velvet pillows with golden tassels, will you?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

people who build homes when all you really care about is your own home value. The only solution to housing affordability in SF is to build more housing, and yet liberals are in a bind because they hate supporting anything that someone might make a profit out of.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

I care about leaving San Francisco in better condition than I found it so that people seeking refuge here like I did can in the future.

This proliferation of luxury condos is the embodiment of contempt for the good things about San Francisco that are being clearcut for a quick profit.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

It might be nice if SF is a "refuge" but it's more important that housing is geared to the economic success without which SF won't be anything.

Your blind hatred for those with money and for developers and bankers gets in the way of any feelings you may have for all those aspiring residents who want to buy their own home in the city.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

Conservatives believe that the unfettered "free market" is the best arbiter of competing interests, but those of us who are not Ayn Rand libertarians can see first hand the impacts of the market tsunamis that roll across the economy every now and again and have other ideas.

Used to be that the government stood between citizens and corporations, but government has been captured by corporations and is being used as a battering ram against citizens and the communities into which we breath life and vitality.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

have molded government as a perfect facistic corporate partner to the point that leftists are compelled to consider libertarianism as a refuge.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

The function of social policy in San Francisco should be to increase marcos' real estate values, by forbidding anything that might reduce the value of his condo.

This is called "progressivism".

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Nov. 17, 2012 @ 6:01 am

Voters rejected the plan twice I believe, then the bike folk by-passed the citizens and went to the board and got their way.

The left turn from the wiggle and the few blocks to the pan handle is hardly dangerous as is. Before the bike lane I just rode up the street that is between Haight and Oak and then crossed over after Divis. It takes a little common sense to get around the city. Maybe fixing things up a bit in front of the Arco station? Tearing out all those parking spots for the bike entitled is a waste.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

This appeal is a complete waste of time and resources. Funny, when the project was being debated, Ted Loewenberg insisted his opposition to the project was all about safety http://www.kusf-archives.com/2011/12/kusf-in-exile-120511-7-730-pm-folks...

Now he seems to have no problem delaying the Oak Street improvements and further risk the safety of thousands of cyclists every day, while the appeal focuses on EIR and ADA challenges. Is it still all about safety, Ted?

The very worst of our society is on display in this episode. A sad day for the city and for the desperately needed movement to shift our culture.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:41 am

Each one of them chooses to take high-speed, high-volume vehicular thruways like Fell and Oak. Even when just one street over, on Page, I see cyclists happily and safely riding along with nary a care in the world.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:51 am

Page has a big ass hill, few cyclists are in shape to bike up that without a care in the world.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:58 am

If you don't like hills, don't live in SF

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

And if you don't like sharing the road with cyclists, maybe you shouldn't live in San Francisco, which has serious limitations on how many automobiles its roads can handle. You should be thanking cyclists for choosing not to add another car to the congested roads or body to the overburdened Muni system.

Posted by steven on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

Motorists buzz cyclists on Page just the same. If I am going to have to deal with motorists anyway, might as well take the most direct, flat route.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

Nobody forces you to take the fastest, busiests routes.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

State law exposes the City to litigation for maintaining dangerous conditions for legal uses of its streets. With enough evidence that the City's traffic treatments on a given street are dangerous, and after notifying the City to correct the danger, damages can be sought for injuries.

It is probably cheaper for all involved to just follow the law and make streets that cyclists use safer even if it means slowing down cars but not if it means that those slow cars will slow down transit.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

those cars will then engage in risky manoevers to overtake, putting both themselves and (particularly) cyclists at risk

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

Your theory sounds nice, but it lacks any evidence beyond your personal observation.
Decades of statistics have shown that the faster cars go, the more drivers' vision is narrowed and focused ahead. On a highway, for example, it is necessary for a driver to look further in the distance in order to safely ensure that they have enough time to react to sudden changes in traffic flow. The drivers' periphery is eliminated in order to focus on this task. It happens whether you know it or not, and its absolutely necessary in THOSE situations, like a highway. When you have as much cross-traffic as you do on Fell and Oak (especially on these selected 3 blocks), this "tunnel vision" is dangerous. Put simply, drivers on these streets are in a "highway mentality", when they are not actually on a highway; it is a COMMUNITY! People live here (myself included), and I don't know what it's going to take for these few angry drivers to realize this: while YOU are just zipping down a street to get across town, WE actually live here, and want to live in a community that is safe to walk and bike in. Throughout the city, the nation, and the world, since traffic-calming measures began implementation decades ago, time and time again we have seen a drop in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

Paul Rose is lying---again. There's been no environmental review of this project. The gave it an exemption from review. In fact this project was listed in the Bicycle Plan that was litigated as a "long-range" project that would be reviewed later, which was another lie.

There's no reason that cyclists uncomfortable riding on Oak and Fell Streets---and I don't blame them---can't use nearby Page and Hayes Streets. The only serious hill on Page is between Divisadero and Broderick.

If this and other bike projects---including the Bicycle Plan itself---ever gets on the ballot, city voters would reject it all. Of course City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition will make sure that never happens.

Back in 2004, the city allowed the residents of Page Street to vote on the dumb traffic circles, and they rejected them, as did the Fire Department. The city won't make that mistake with the bike projects! Here they come, whether we like it or not!

Posted by Rob Anderson on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

Rob, not only is there a serious hill to climb on Page, but it's one that takes cyclists away from the bike lane on the Panhandle, the destination for all the bikes on Fell Street. Would you honestly prefer that thousands of cyclists a day dominate Page (I'm sure the residents there don't) rather than use the world-class separated bike lane on the Panhandle? That just doesn't make sense, except to those who don't bike and/or who have an irrational resentment of this mode of transportation.

Posted by steven on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

Steven, "world class" tends to mean very expensive and not very functional.

The MTA has come across a new shiny object, the separated bike path, and is deploying it to all sorts of locations in diverse circumstances without even a trial run. Once they get a hammer, every problem is a nail.

The MTA should make Fell a trial project to avoid CEQA review and see if this damn thing even works as advertised.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

As a walker there, I've enarly been hit a couple of times by bikes. The problem is that there is no bike lane in the Panhandle - it's actually a mixed-use path and of course park users must have priority over commuters.

So maybe a better solution is to ban bikes from the Panhandle altogether and pur a bike lane the entire length of Page. There's really only one short hill, and it would separate traffic far better than an invasive bike lane on Fell.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

There is a pedestrian path that is bicycle free on the south side of the Panhandle for pedestrians' convenience. If bicycles on the north path scare you, then you've got a safer option. The choice is yours.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

Back in the mid-1990's the SFBC pointed out the acute need for a super bike highway linking the core SF job corridor along Market St to populated westside neighborhoods. A safe, direct, and efficient route from the Ferry Bldg to the panhandle (more than 50% of the distance to the ocean) is the spine from which many other direct, safe and relatively flat routes would get cyclists to within a few blocks of their home. Aside from a few segments that need a little better engineering, this crucial bike route is mostly in place.

Two key segments where this core route is not in place, however (and have been the cause of signficant safety issues over the years), are the few blocks of Fell and Oak between Scott and the panhandle. Out of the totality of SF asphalt and parking spots the space at issue amounts to about .00001% of total public space (and I may not have added enough 0's). It's a small segment of public space, but it needs a drastic redesign since the benefits are so significant.

This Fell/Oak project is critical for newer cyclists, as well as for younger, elderly, and more cautious cyclists. There is no way the city will come close to meeting its increased ridership goals unless these types of riders are accomodated, especially along such a core route into and out of the city center.

There is currently a nice segregated path through the panhandle, and a lovely cruise on the wiggle through the lower Haight, and a relatively nice ride on Market St (which is getting better all the time), but the few blocks along Fell and Oak create significant safety concerns. I hope the court reviewing the EIR adequacy is made aware that cyclist's lives are in danger each day these route improvements aren't in place.

As for segregated bike paths, for decades many cyclists have been clamoring for segregated bike pathways, at least for the major bike arteries. We want to be able to get to Point Z from Point A without having to worry about dying or significant injury from an "accident" with a car. Society doesn't expect peds to share the same transit space with cars, and we shouldn't expect bikes to share space with cars on busy streets. Of course, with the city's cross-street layout there are hundreds of problematic intersections that require all road user types to accomodate each other, which mostly happens already. At some super busy intersections one can imagine four different signals for cars, peds, bikes and MUNI.

If the litigants prevail on the need for a separate EIR it's a bump in the road. It will cost the city some time and money, but this project will be implemented one day because it's a crucial link in an effective bike network and both the mayor and BOS are 100% committed to a core bike network. If additional EIR work is required, let's hope the city learns how to craft EIRs better for the hundreds of other future bike projects so that future litigants are routinely rejected by the courts and vexatious litigant penalties imposed.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

...are doing what all people do in the face of true believers, they are making you fight for every inch. Think about pro-lifers coming up with new ways to torment people and pro-choicers fighting every inch of the way. You are the pro-lifer in that equation.

It's nice to have a bike lane Between the wiggle and the panhandle, something better around the arco station would help out. For years I just rode one street over and was fine. Other than around the arco station it's fine.

The thing is, at most a few percentage points of people will ever ride, 99% of the people who say they would ride if ts marcos mentioned, years ago the voters decided not the open GG Park more often, then what did the bike people do? They went crying to the BOS and got what they wanted. So here was more of this or that will not. I've known dozens of people who start riding around for a few months and lose interest, not because of the danger, but because they are lazy. I can't believe anyone takes that "if you build it they will come" argument seriously. Don't you people have any life experience?

Posted by matlock on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

Oh cut and paste hot keys !*&#

The thing is, at most a few percentage points of people will ever ride, 99% of the people who say they would ride if there was more of this or that will not. I've known dozens of people who start riding around for a few months and lose interest, not because of the danger, but because they are lazy. I can't believe anyone takes that "if you build it they will come" argument seriously. Don't you people have any life experience?

Posted by matlock on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

What about the wiggle to Scott to Hayes or Grove to Baker to the panhandle and avoid Oak and Fell altogether. That was the preferred route in the 90's. I often walk from the Mission to the lower Haight on Steiner between Duboce and Haight and feel like I'm taking my life into my home hands to avoid bicyclists barreling through the wiggle without regard for pedestrians.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:18 pm