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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Support for Eastbound Paul Ave Bike Lane

According to SFMTA, cars should menacingly intimidate bikes
so that their car friends have a place to sleep.
Thanks to SFMTA and Supervisor Cohen for hosting the meeting regarding the bike lanes and parking on Paul Ave this past Thursday. However, I was disappointed that the meeting was less of a continuing discussion than it was advertised to be. I was also disappointed to see that there had been a complete capitulation to the parking advocates and disregard in the proposed design for the City's Vision Zero efforts and the safety of a growing segment of the population who want transportation options. Below I have outlined why Supervisor Cohen and the SFMTA board should support keeping the bike lanes as they currently are.


Residents who live on and around Paul Ave have identified speeding, lack of on-street parking, sidewalk parking, and personal safety as reasons to remove the bike lane in the eastbound direction. Speeding may or may not have gotten worse but we won’t know until a new speed survey is completed. Regardless of the results of this survey, new speed cushions should probably be considered for Paul Ave. Parking and sidewalk parking have long been an issue and will continue to be until the number of cars in the neighborhood is reduced. Improving the bike infrastructure is one way to accomplish this. Crime in this neighborhood in 2017 is less than half what it was in 2010, so personal safety has improved significantly and shows no sign of reversing since or as a result of the installation of the bike lanes, so residents are likely confusing insecurity with inconvenience. To use any of these as reasons to remove the bike lanes and replace them with sharrows would be to rely on untruths or incomplete information in the decision-making process. Sharrows are not a solution when creating viable bicycle infrastructure, and as such should not be used on Paul Ave to replace the existing bike lane. By suggesting sharrows as a compromise, city leaders need to realize that sharrows do next to nothing to improve safety and do absolutely nothing to contribute to increased bicycle use when compared to bike lanes, which do. In our transit first, Vision Zero city, to replace a bike lane with sharrows in favor of parking would be nothing short of immoral. As such, I strongly encourage Supervisor Cohen and SFMTA to rely on data and facts to support keeping the existing bike lanes and not allow them to be removed in favor of parking spaces.


Residents identified speeding, lack of on-street parking, sidewalk parking, and personal safety as reasons to remove the bike lane in the eastbound direction and replace it with vehicle parking and on-street green-backed sharrows. Below I address those concerns and discuss why sharrows are not a viable alternative to bike lanes.


The posted limit is 25 mph. An SFMTA engineering and traffic survey of average speed data collected between 2004-2010 showed the average speed to be 24.65 mph with 18% of drivers exceeding the posted limit by an average of 8 mph. A new speed survey has apparently been scheduled for August.

Anecdotal reports of increased speeding by those opposing the bike lanes should not factor into a decision regarding the bike lanes until a new SFMTA speed survey has been completed.

Lack of parking/Cars parking on sidewalk

Google street view images of the side streets south of Paul Ave from the past nine years indicates that sidewalk parking has always been an issue. Residents I spoke with at the meeting backed this up, saying that sidewalk parking has been an issue for years.

The only way to address the lack of parking is to reduce the number of cars in the neighborhood. Improving transit and bike infrastructure are two ways to do this. Eliminating illegal in-law units and incentivizing people to reclaim their garage space for car storage and reduce the number of cars they own are three other things that could be done. A study of the number of cars registered to addresses in the neighborhood plus a door-to-door survey of residents should also be done along with a count of on street parking spaces to gauge supply and demand.

Personal safety

As per DataSF, the number of incidents reported to SFPD shows that the neighborhood has become safer in the past eight years, with crime in the first seven months of 2017 less than half what it was in the same period of 2010.

After being relatively consistent from 2010-2013, crime has been on a downward trend in the neighborhood for the past four years, dropping to less than half of what it was 2010. Claims of reduced personal safety are simply not borne out by the data. More likely the case, people simply don’t like the inconvenience of having to walk a few extra yards from their cars to their homes.

Existing Lanes are Needed

Vision Zero and a connected bike plan are crucial to the growing bike riding population in the Southeast neighborhoods of San Francisco. Paul Ave, in particular, is a vital link in that bike plan and as such deserves its existing improvements to bike network. Without it, we would be denying supporting the introduction of Jump and GoBike to the Bayview and Portola, which includes a GoBike corral at Paul and San Bruno Aves. Residents I spoke with at the community meeting mentioned their surprise at how well-used the new bike lanes were already, and with increased safety and new bike-share options, it will only increase.

Sharrows vs Bike Lanes

A study by civil engineers at the University of Colorado looking at bike lanes vs sharrows vs nothing showed that bike lanes not only increased bike use but also increased safety. Sharrows had about as much effect on ridership as doing nothing, while sharrows might actually make it less safe for cyclists who erroneously feel they give them a sense of security while actually providing none at all. A conclusion of this study was that the use of sharrows with speed limits over 20 mph was simply immoral.




Best Option

Retain the existing bike lanes in both directions; install speed cushions (if a survey shows speeds to be more than 5 mph over the posted limit) and/or reduce the posted speed limit to 20 mph; and enhance the bike lanes by installing soft-hit posts (which would also reduce speeds).

Worse Option (but maybe the only true compromise)

Before doing anything else, study the efficacy of moving the bike lane from the roadway to the sidewalk. The north sidewalk along most of Paul Ave is 12’ wide, so taking 5’ for a bike lane is feasible. Bikes could enter and exit the bike lane via existing driveway curb cuts. The bike lane would have to be located on the north side of the sidewalk (away from the curb) and should be painted bright green with appropriate signage where it crosses the few driveways that it does warning drivers and cyclists. Prior to reaching Bayshore, the bike lane could enter the road for a short distance, replacing the existing right turn lane with a protected bike lane.

Worst Option

The least safe option would be to reinstate parking and paint sharrows in the eastbound direction. If this option is chosen, then the entirety of eastbound Paul Ave from Third St to Bayshore be painted in a continuous green stripe with the periodic placement of sharrows. In addition, speed cushions should be installed and the speed limit reduced to 20 mph.


There is no good or valid reason to remove the eastbound bike lane on Paul Ave. and their removal should not be supported by Supervisor Cohen and must be rejected by the SFMTA board. To remove this bike lane would be an immoral step backward against people who use a mode of transportation of which the City of San Francisco is working hard to increase. The Southeast has an oft-held perception that it is left out of Citywide improvements, so we can't lose one of those improvements the minute a few residents realize that they will be slightly inconvenienced by it to give others a chance at using transportation options besides a car.

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