Bicycle lane in Golden Gate Park cause for concern

Photo by The Richmond Review

[This article reprinted with permission from the January 2013 issue of The Richmond Review.]


By Thomas K. Pendergast | The Richmond Review, January 2013

On a Saturday morning the foreign tourists queued up in front of a bus near the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

Standing scattered across a bicycle lane in a loose group of about a dozen people, they did not notice a bicyclist bearing down on them. He whistled first, then yelled “hello!” at them so they would see him coming.

The tourists moved and let him through but the confusion was on every face. Why was this bicyclist so pushy and why didn’t he just go around the bus on the other side?

They obviously had no idea that they were blocking his bicycle lane.

Farther down the road the sidewalks were clogged with pedestrians and a jogger was running fast, so he moved across the grass strip and into the middle of the bicycle lane to go around them, which caused the bicycle rider coming up behind him to move left into the parking buffer zone, around the jogger and only a couple of feet from a row of parked cars.

City planners and the SF Bicycle Coalition are set to create more of these “cycle tracks” around San Francisco but opposition is growing against the design found along John F. Kennedy Drive, near the east side of Golden Gate Park, with some disabled people and even some bicyclists saying that this design is more dangerous for them than not having any bike lanes at all.

A survey found that most of the buffer zones adjacent to the 22 parking spaces reserved for disabled people along that bike track are between six and eight feet wide, although some are between four and five feet wide.

Howard Chabner is confined to an electric wheelchair because he has Muscular Dystrophy.

“For people who use wheelchairs and people who have difficulty walking it’s important to be able to park next to the curb,” says Chabner. “Many people such as myself who have a wheelchair or a scooter, we have a mini-van or a full-size van with a ramp or a lift; in either case it’s much more common for the ramp or the lift to be on the side. Instead of that, to have to park away from the curb and basically have to deploy your lift or your ramp into a very narrow buffer zone or into the actual bike lane itself, that’s really dangerous.”

Chabner says he raised these concerns when he first learned about the cycle tracks, but he claims his complaints and the complaints of others fell on deaf ears. He became so frustrated with the process that eventually he resigned from his position as the chair of the Physical Access Committee (PAC) on the Mayor’s Disability Council.

“The way we found out about this project was that we were being asked about where the blue zones should be but we didn’t know anything about the project,” he says. “By the time it came before our committee, we were told it was basically a done deal and the only real input we could have would be where the blue zones would be located.”

A spokesperson for San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA), Paul Rose, denied the Physical Access Committee was cut out of the loop.

“MTA staff have met multiple times with advocates for people with disabilities throughout the design, construction and evaluation process,” says Rose. “As a result of those discussions, staff made key adjustments to the project design to better accommodate disabled parking in blue zones and elsewhere along JFK Drive. After the project was constructed, staff led a field visit with members of MOD’s Physical Access Committee and the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee to discuss how the new design was functioning. At one point, individuals from that committee wrote an e-mail thanking our staff for increased efforts to reach out to the disabled community on innovative bike projects.

“We acknowledge that despite the design changes that we made to address some of these concerns and despite our initial findings that people feel safer as a result of the design, advocates remain concerned about parking-buffered cycle tracks in general. We plan to address these concerns in the project’s final report, which should be ready for distribution in February.”

Bob Planthold, a representative of the Senior Action Network, had polio as a child and uses crutches to get around. He says members of that group only found out about the park cycle track right before the Rec. and Park Commission met to approve it.

“We heard about it on a Friday afternoon and the following Tuesday, (the Rec. and Park Commission) was going to consider this,” says Planthold. “So there was effectively no time to delve into the issue and to deal with some of the questions that we’ve been talking about.

“Rec. and Park, when some of us showed up, totally ignored us. They unanimously approved it and commented only about how it was great for the bicyclists, ignoring the safety concerns of all vulnerable pedestrians, whether parents with a baby stroller or a person with a disability,” Planthold said.

A confused driver parks incorrectly along JFk Drive in Golden Gate Park. Photo by The Richmond Review

The Recreation and Park Department, however, provided a letter to the commission dated Oct. 20, 2011, the day final approval for the project was given, which noted that the Environmental Impact Report for the plan was certified by the San Francisco Planning Department in June of 2009. Plus there were two public workshops held to examine the project, one in June and another in August of 2011.

The letter also claims that MTA staff presented the project to the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority (GGPCA) on Oct. 5, 2011, at which time approximately 30 speakers from the public addressed the authority, most of them speaking in favor of the proposal. The GGPCA also received more than 200 letters supporting the configuration and four opposing it, according to the letter.

But at least one bicyclist is not happy with the design. Joe Corio describes himself as belonging to the “bicyclist activist community,” and says he is a former bicycle messenger and has participated in Critical Mass.

“I believe the general consensus amongst my friends is that the bicycle tracks on JFK are not good, at times dangerous, and at times misleading for experienced cyclists,” says Corio.

He lists off some of the hazards that experienced cyclists have to deal with on the current configuration:

“Slower and unpredictable cyclists on the track; unpredictable pedestrians crossing right in front of you, i.e. you never know when they’re going to cross at the drop of a hat or when they’re actually going to step back and look at their iPod; and the hazards of the road, the storm drainages, are all right in the cycle track and a lot of debris often catches there. … So, you’re dealing with a lot of unpredictable stuff in a small space. There’s no way to bail out over the curb and there’s not a lot of safe room to bail out on your left side into traffic anymore.”

Corio likens the experience to riding though a narrow canyon because the line of sight has been reduced by parked cars on the left.

There is one critic who sees the possibility of a more positive outcome to the issues raised by the JFK bike track.

Jessie Lorenz is the blind executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center SF.

“The way it is now, if you get out of the car you’re in the line of fire,” says Lorenz. “In my personal situation, I have a seeing-eye dog and I have a two-year-old child, so I can’t imagine that parents’ groups are happy with this arrangement either.

“Since this has happened it has led to some strategic relationships between the disability community and the bicycle coalition,” she says. “We’ve had some productive discussions so I don’t think a design like this will just be shoved through again. I have some real concerns about safety … but this has led to a lot more productive discussions about public spaces and for that I’m really grateful.”

“It’s unfortunate that the track is how it is at the moment but there are other tracks that are going to be built in San Francisco and how can we think about things so that we’re looking at all of our citizens?” she added.


  1. I think those lanes are so much more dangerous. I’ve used them. Just plain dumb. Sorry, what ever hipster urban planner Yale graduate that came up with the idea- it doesn’t work.

  2. This article proves that even the best designs will have detractors. The bike lanes are amazing…they are the reason my family chose to live in the Inner Richmond. I ride them every day to and from work and they are the only lanes in the city I could imagine letting my kids ride.

    I believe the survey mentioned in the article showed the same thing…most cyclists, pedestrians and drivers feel that JFK has gotten much safer.

  3. These lanes are terrible.
    They are dangerous for bicyclists: now they ride in a narrow canyon and have no place to escape if a door opens in front of them. Even worse, on every right turn there is a blind merge and the cars turning right can easily run them down.
    They are dangerous for pedestrians: when somebody crosses the road they are very difficult to see for the drivers. Exiting from a car with a stroller or wheelchair is a problem now.
    And esthetically the roads are much worse now – they look very busy and crowded, although that’s the least of the new design problems.

  4. Not sure we can blame that car’s parking job on “confusing” bike lanes. Need just a little tiny bit of pattern recognition here, folks.

  5. I see more cyclists and runners out in the car lanes now than before, as the new lanes are too narrow, full of people getting in and out of their cars and leaves. I love biking and running in GGP, but these new lanes are ridiculous.

  6. I think the real question is why is Golden Gate Park a parking lot? The entire length of GGP has free parking. I’m sick and tired of San Francisco subsidizing parking spaces for cars. The bike lanes are relatively dangerous in either configuration, with a laundry list of hazards, all posed by automobiles. Close GGP to autos.

  7. What a ridiculous one-sided article. Pendergast made no attempt to contact anyone who actually appreciates the new designs and instead comes off as a curmudgeon.

  8. The new bicycle path is terrible. The passage way for cars to drive through is extremely narrow and extremely congested. It might be safe for the bikers (although they also have passage ways on the side-where the pedestrians are able to walk) but it is very dangerous for people trying to get in and out of their cars. Drivers have to almost exit on the passanger side for safety purposes. Not only is it a hazard but it is also an eyesore to the park. It makes the park look like a parking lot and there really aren’t that many cars in the park but it appears as though there are. It is absolutelyl disgusting what they are doing to this city and this park. I am very disappointed in the decisions that are made.

  9. Perrin hit every point. Aside from the horrific safety issues, I strenuously object to it based on aesthetic grounds. It has choked off the beautiful, grand, meandering and visually OPEN boulevard that is JFK Drive and turned it into the equivalent of the Embarcadero Freeway. Shame on anyone who had anything to do with this!

  10. I’m pretty sure that “confused driver” is just turning around, not parked. The same two red cars can be seen in the other picture.

  11. It’s probably time to start a reasonable discussion on closing the park to automobiles. They built an underground parking lot; perhaps the park should do more to get all these cars under the road. I suspect that more people would enjoy the park more if we got rid of all these cars.

  12. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this configuration was specifically designed to make driving/parking so hard/dangerous as to discourage people from driving at all. typical SF backdoor approach to enforcing ideological political choices. of course this is as usual done at any/all cost, so nevermind how dangerous it is to bikers/peds also

  13. I am a cyclist and ride through GGP frequently. While my initial reaction is to support the JFK bike lane improvements (any acknowledgement, promotion, and progress for cycling is a good thing!) I have to admit that the new lanes are problematic. I want to be in support of the Bike Coalition (I am a member) and the work the city has done to try to improve things for cyclists, but frankly JFK was not really unsafe to begin with. It is a low and slow traffic area that had very wide shoulders for biking that allowed plenty of room to avoid driver-side doors and other hazards. Now, the protected curb-side bike lane becomes a parking space for strollers while parents load/unload kids, or tourists consulting maps or having conversations. I have to use my bell and voice more than ever now to inform people that they are in the bike lane. The new lane is also where all the manhole covers, utility bunker plates, and drains are located, which means constant maneuvering to avoid major bumps that are uncomfortable to ride over and bad for skinny bike wheels. And, although I haven’t had a problem (yet), I imagine the complaints about the lane being in a “canyon” that is difficult to escape from are very valid. It means watching for hazards from both sides and having little room to swerve or stop. On a less critical level, it also means less room to pass slower cyclists, forcing the faster passer into the striped buffer zone where dooring becomes an issue again. As cyclists in SF we are very experienced with dealing with parked cars on one side and moving traffic on the other – these lanes present a new and confusing environment, even for experienced cyclists. And as for educating drivers, it has been quite a while since the improvements took place and drivers are STILL having trouble figuring out where/how to park. It is not unusual to come upon a car parked in the bike lane months after the change took place. GGP is a destination for first-time, one-time, non-repeat visitors, so the idea that they will eventually “learn” how to park correctly in this new set up won’t really ever come true. I fully support the concept of safer biking and better accommodations for cyclists, but JFK seems to be a bit of a miss.

  14. This is the worst possible decision for everybody’s safety – pedestrians crossing the road, bikers, motorists. Every time I see these lanes, I ask myself “what have the people who came up with this been smoking?” or “who got a big buck for approving such a stupid idea?”

  15. I agree with all the above comments. I feel less safe while riding in the new bike lanes, dodging pedestrians and car doors. Often, I’ll pull into the driving lane where I feel most safe. Worst design of bike lanes I’ve ever ridden.

  16. I ride these lanes several times every day and only rarely do I have to ring my bell or say “excuse me.” Don’t make a big deal out of something new. You’ll get used to it over time, as most tourists already have.

    On the bigger picture, I have to agree with Matt – there are way too many cars parked on the streets for anyone’s safety. Why isn’t handicapped parking free in the underground parking structure? How about addressing that?

  17. I don’t think the current set up is perfect, but I think it’s an overall improvement. Given the mixed use of JFK it’s not really all that bad.

    People drive/bike a lot slower through the park now that it’s not a generous three lanes. Bicyclists don’t have to swerve into other traffic lanes when a tour buss just stops in the center of the street to let off a load of tourist. Cars are parking closer together now instead of the previous uninterrupted curb space.

    I’d love to see the intersections at Conservatory Dr. and Nancy Pelosi Dr. get roundabouts or traffic circles.

  18. I ride in these lanes every day. While the change was a noble idea, they do not work. I can’t agree with the previous comment that “most tourists already have” got used to it. Tourists are new in town by definition, so there is no getting used to it for the vast majority of them. I constantly have to let people know I’m riding towards them – constantly. I can’t blame the tourists either – all they see is a nice wide area to stage their strollers or check out their guide books – to them, it is not clear that they are in a bike lane. I understand the confusion. Then the problem for the biker becomes how they are going to get around the blockage, which is next to impossible as they’re hemmed in by the parked cars. I have yet to find myself in an emergency evasion situation, but it’ll probably happen at some point – it’s a real concern.

  19. Being a bicycle commuter that ride through Golden Gate Park twice a day, I prefer the old non-existent bike lanes. Here are things you have to dodge now:

    – small kids
    – strollers
    – pets
    – oblivious tourists/people walking or chatting in the lane
    – people walking into the lane to car without checking both ways first
    – segway tourist groups taking up all the lane
    – u-turning cars into the lane
    – cars double-parking in bike lanes
    – bike tourists going slowly while riding in pairs next to each other in the lane

    Not to mention the wide-open view and feel of pre-bike lanes Golden Gate Park landscape was such a wonder and calm sight. Now it just look and feel cramped and ugly.

    I know that the bike lane design was from Europe, but those Europeans designed it for the urban areas, and not for the nature part of town.

    To the commenter at the top that said that this bike lane is the only one he’d consider letting his kids ride—well, I suppose the bike lane succeeded in making tourists and fair-weather bikers feel “safer,” as those kind of people do not care for efficiency. But for us who go through the park many times a week, we know from experience that Golden Gate Park deserves better than this blight.

  20. Poor design. SFMTA did not think about real world impact of these design changes. Let’s hope they don’t implement this “solution” elsewhere in the city and will reverse course on GG park soon.

  21. I ride that stretch regularly, as I did before the lanes went in. While not perfect, the lanes are for me an improvement. SFMTA data shows that average car speeds on this stretch have slowed down – which is always a win. For those folks who are mobility impaired, crossing JFK drive is now divided into three separate, smaller crossings with slower traffic. From the perspective of riding in the lanes, I feel more connected to the park, less to the roadway as my view of the park is unimpeded.

    I also drive through the park from time to time in my pickup truck. I don’t have a problem staying in the lane, or parking within the designated area without overlapping either the road or the buffer strip – as I did to visit the conservatory of flowers (to see the Voodoo Lily I read about on this blog) on my way to the grocery store last week.

    As far as journalism goes, I found this article to be a one-sided diatribe. There was no attempt at balance, to find anyone who held a different perspective, nor to look at data – like the average speed data collected by SFMTA thus far. If I were Mr. Pendergast, I would feel ashamed to have authored this article because it displays a lack of journalistic craft and integrity. How long was the project in planning stages? How many public meetings were held, how often and where? Where changes made to project implementation in design and timeline to take input from advocates for the mobility impaired into account? None of these details were presented.

    The standard of quality of our park should not be measured disproportionately on the ease of driving to it and parking, but, rather needs to take into account measures of how it is used as a destination for recreation – which includes walking, jogging, biking, skating.

  22. It’s all part of the latest San Francisco “innovative” redesigns- take something that used to work and revamp it unnecessarily. Revamped bike lanes and parking for “ease” of use, that abomination on 23rd Avenue and Anza Street to make life “easier” for everyone.

  23. I agree with the above. I really don’t like those lanes and think they are confusing and dangerous. I hope that the powers-that-be reverse course and bring back the old lane system very soon.

  24. Jeffrey Gray: “SFMTA data shows that average car speeds on this stretch have slowed down – which is always a win”
    The drivers slow down because they can’t see the pedestrians anymore. Are you absolutely sure it’s a win?

  25. Of these lanes are successful all over the world so somehow here in SF they are “hipster” and dangerous.

  26. SFBear: What evidence do you cite that drivers slow specifically because they can’t see pedestrians anymore? Most people are taller than a parked car, and the crosswalks in the park all have parking free daylighting preceding them – so even those low to the ground in mobility scooters and wheelchairs would remain visible. Smaller children should be accompanied by a responsible adult near the street. Slowed car speeds give drivers more time to observe and react to inputs.

    Why aren’t they slowing because they want to be careful with their own vehicles, or because the way forward is not an unimpeded straightaway and their skills at driving are not up to the task. Or because for once, they realize the risks of drivers in parked cars throwing their doors open without looking. The point being, there are many reasons this design slows traffic.

    The risk of catastrophic injury to a vulnerable road user goes up significantly with even small increases in vehicular speed. (For but one study – see this one from the AAA: https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2011PedestrianRiskVsSpeed.pdf) Anything that reduces that speed is a huge win – regardless impetus. The park should not be a high speed thoroughfare. Lincoln and Fulton both are nearby, straight, multi-lane roads with 35 mph speed limits. Use those if you need to go fast.

  27. I ride these tracks twice a day 5x a week and have since the new paint went down. No issues. No close calls.

    The buffer zone is adequate and sure beats the high ‘doored’ coefficient of the previous paint.

    If you want to ride faster than 15 mph then you’re in the wrong lane.

    Yes you will have disoriented tourists. Be a good ambassador – slow down and say hello. That’s usually enough to make them realize they are in the path.

  28. I literally cried when I understood what was happening. The destruction of a key part of Golden Gate Park…it was fine before. And has anyone tried to take a leisurely bike ride alone or with children? You are forced into the sidewalks for safety.

  29. As a cyclist myself, I’m all for well-planned bike lanes, but I find the ones along JFK uncomfortable to use, for reasons already stated. I agree with Joan, that the openness of JFK has been compromised. I think it was actually easier to cycle there when it was a wide road. Car traffic is not normally supposed to travel fast in that area, and the times I’ve needed to ride away from the shoulder, I felt I could safely take the lane and ride with cars at a similar speed, as part of the normal traffic flow.

  30. i also do not like these lanes. as a shorter person, i have a hard time seeing over cars when i need to go through the lanes to take a left hand turn. thus i cannot see if a bicyclist is in the other lane before i start going (specifically this is at the cut out at 6th ave).

    i respectfully disagree with hugh. as he knows, i am a slow rider, especially on my city bike, but i have had more than a few close calls with clueless pedestrians and tourists. the language barrier can be a point as well. i have found they do not really respond or know what to do when i ring my bell.

    i’m not sure what the fix is here. i have no idea if these are permanent bike lanes or just an experiment. these lanes should be reviewed and have all people who have a stake in these discussions take part. i was unaware of the disability group who did not have a say in these decisions, and that is rather disturbing. yes, we want better bike lanes, but it should not be at the cost of another group’s needs.

  31. I feel safer biking through GGP with my 3-year old on my bike now… but I agree GGP wasn’t too bad before. What I’m really looking forward to is the city extending separate bike lanes to the rest of the city. They seem to work great in New York, Chicago, Portland, and in Europe. I’m tired of getting buzzed by cars passing too closely & double-parking when riding in non-separated bike lanes.

  32. For the past 7 years I have been in Golden Gate park 10-15 hours a week, running, cycling, training, driving and PARKING. I would say that I spend a lot more time in the park than most San Franciscans or tourists. I am always curious about the people who argue these things – how often they are actually in the park?

    As a cyclist: I can tell you that this is not successful. The cyclists now ride in a blind alley. We are still in danger of passenger doors opening. When people are loading in and out of vehicles there is no way to get around them. Most people are used to getting out of the passenger side of a vehicle onto a curb not a freeway. I see families hustling their children in the cars in fear of cyclists mowing them over because I see many cyclists who seem to think this is a speedway where they don’t need to stop.

    Also, I am seeing many cyclists who do not want to use this lane and are in the road anyway.

    As a driver: The new configuration on JFK is incredibly dangerous, not only for cyclists but for drivers (who have rights too). We deserve to drive to the park, PARK our cars and enjoy. You now step out of a car directly into traffic. No space, no buffer.

    As a lover of GG park: JFK which used to be a big open road, where honestly I never noticed cars parked, now looks like a parking lot, cramped and ugly.

  33. As a hiker, driver, and once-upon-a-time bicyclist, I agree the new arrangement of JFK is awful. The old lanes were far too wide, but there ought to be a way to have striped them with a clear bike lane and a striped “door zone” as new buffer. Then, put a bike path along the east side of JFK stretching from the Panhandle to Speedway Meadows for tourists, family riders and novices…oh wait, that’s been there for 40 years. I am entirely in favor of cyclists being able to ride in the street in perfect safety. But here in the park it seems as if they could have spent more energy improving the Class I bike path, or whatever it is that people now call a cycle track, with extra striping (lanes and a pedestrian strip) on the existing eastside path. Which I won’t argue is perfect now.

  34. I am a cyclist and I agree with the comments from other cyclists that these new lanes, while well-intentioned, are not working.

    I have had more close calls since these lanes were installed than I ever had along that stretch in the last 17 years of riding in the park. I simply do not see the logic of a set up that requires motorists to exit their cars DIRECTLY INTO THE BIKE LANE to get to the sidewalk!!

    The lanes should be removed and replaced with clearly striped parking areas along the curbs, buffer zones, and bike lanes. Until then I will happily continue to ride in traffic, for my own safety and that of the motorists/pedestrians.

  35. We need one way streets to clear this mess up. Let’s make JFK one-way westbound and Martin Luther King eastbound for every vehicle that travels on them with wheels. It would help circulate traffic throughout the park instead of it all congesting in one place. Miss your turn, just go around one more time (or go home if its easier).

  36. It’s absolutely horrible. Very congested, tourists are confused, and it’s looks ridiculous. It’s my route to work each day and I hate it. After the city adds up the number of accidents and doors torn off by passing cars will they do something about it and change it back.

  37. @Joan Cadinha Pulizzano: You say that because of confusing or potentially dangerous paths for cyclists riding along DFK Drive, you “are forced into the sidewalks for safety.” Your comment illustrates perfectly how people can forget about anyone’s interest but their own. First, it is against the law to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, not bicyclists. I was in the park one Sunday–the day when the entire road is free of cars andwide open to rollerskaters, bicyclists, joggers, and skateboarders — and I was nearly hit by a woman and her two kids who chose to ride their bikes on the very narrow sidewalk instead. Wreckless and inconsiderate.

    I agree with those posting here that the new “design” offers fewer evasive action options and is aesthetically unappealing. As for driving through the area, having cars parked in what seems like the middle of the road is also confusing and potentially dangerous. I’ve driven from Fell St. onto JKF in the evening, when here and there a car is still parked where one wouldn’t expect a car to be. The first time I came upon one of these “randomly” parked cars, I thought it had gotten stuck and been abandoned. I almost it it (it’s dark in the park at night and tail lights from a parked car don’t reflect well). I’m surprised there we don’t hear about cars getting rear-ended, especially in the evening.

    Sorry to be so critical, but I wish this were an experiment, with an opportunity, after say six months, for public input to determine whether to keep or abandon the current configuration. Let the people speak!

  38. The current configuration is definitely an improvement. Riding outside of the door zone is huge – so much safer for those of us that ride below 15 mph. This stretch of the park is not perfect, but it is working better!

    The bigger picture: better public transit to the Richmond and the Sunset = better public transit to GGP = less cars in GGP = no parking lot. More access to people with disabilities, more access to residents and tourists = less congestion for everyone.

  39. I’m a cyclist and I hate these lanes. Frankly riding in traffic is much more predictable, with better visibility, than riding in these lanes. I’ve seen too many cars cutting across the lane to make a right turn. And, I have two children, when I’m driving my car there’s no safe side to let the kids get out of.

  40. Personally I’d have liked both directions to be together, on one side of the street. Not only would there be more “spaciousness” but the buffer zone would be combined to be twice as wide as well, which would also provide room for loading.

    Maybe it could be done on the other half of JFK so that people can judge the difference.

  41. There are several things I like about the new configuration.

    Cars drive slower now. They drive slower because the lanes are narrower. When I’m driving my car, I can observe the speed limit and have fewer cars tailgating me.

    When on my bike, if I am “trapped” in the bike lane, at least a moving car, that can easily kill me, is not on either side of me.

    If folks exit parked cars from the driver’s side without checking for traffic, at least a bicycle will not be hit. I think folks exiting their car will be more careful when they risk being hit by a moving car.

    When cars parallel park, the do not interfere with bike traffic. Cars make fewer u-turns since they have less room, and u-turns are not predictable to cyclists and other cars, so are dangerous.

    Some of the negative points raised by others do make sense, although I support the current configuration. I think we need to try some different things and allow time to get a better sense of how they work. I think it’s irrelevant how the street “looks” with regard to the cars. The cars are present in either configuration. If we don’t want to see cars, then ban them from the park.

  42. I’ve been cycling for 42 years and for all the reasons cited I am absolutely opposed to this new design. A bicycle is a vehicle. It does not need to be protected or sheltered from other vehicles. Cyclists are safest when they behave like vehicles and follow the Vehicle Code. Since the change, I either avoid JFK or ride in the narrow car lane. One of the few times I used the bike lane I was nearly hit at 8th Avenue by a motorist turning right to exit the park. He did not expect to see a bicycle on his right side. My wife also nearly hit a pedestrian who simply stepped off the curb and into the lane right in front of her. The worst part of this is that motorists think there is a bicycle lane and bicyclists will ride in the bike lane. So they don’t expect to see me in the car lane. But I know I am safer in the car lane. I cringe at the thought that the City might replicate this disaster on other streets. JFK must be put back the way it was and this idea must not be replicated anywhere. I’ve been to Amsterdam perhaps 20 times and they have nothing like this there.

    This design works for no one. It is unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians. Inconvenient for motorists and ignores the concerns of the disabled community. Please write to your supervisor and demand that JFK be put back the way it was.

  43. From an earlier post on metermadness.wordpress.com

    State designs standards :
    p. 15 of the June 26, 2012 edition of the Highway Design Manual, 1003.2 Class II Bikeways (1) a, “Bike lanes shall not be placed between the parking area and the curb. Such facilities increase the conflict between bicyclists and opening car doors and reduce visibility at intersections. Also, they prevent bicyclists from leaving the bike lane to turn left and cannot be effectively maintained.”

    Wonder how many rules have been ignored by the SFMTA in their rush to disrupt our lives. And, we wonder who will file the first complaint.

  44. I wrote a letter to SFMTA and SFBC half a year ago. Maybe posting it will help ease my mind.

    Dear SFBC and SFMTA:

    With regard to the recent redesign of JFK Drive in Golden Gate
    Park, I believe the new design with bike lanes on the far right,
    with parked cars in between them and the other travel lane, is
    generally less safe and less appropriate for travel than the previous
    road design. While the intent of the design may be to make less
    experienced cyclists feel more comfortable by being separated from
    moving cars, in reality I believe this is a case of the perception of
    safety being increased at the expense of actual safety.

    On only a few recent bicycle commutes through there, I’ve experienced
    the following problems:

    – sprinklers meant to water the verge, misaligned to also water the
    bike lane. Because of parked cars blocking the way, I couldn’t just
    move left to escape the water.

    – same-direction pedestrians and joggers in the bike lane. “On your
    left” was ineffective because they were wearing headphones.

    – cars parked too far to the right, narrowing the path. It is
    significantly more difficult to park a car without the curb as a
    guide, and isn’t surprising to me that people mess it up.

    – slower cyclists riding two abreast in the path; parked cars on the
    left and curb on the right meant there was no way to pass.

    – pedestrians crossing the road outside the crosswalk, between
    parked cars, without looking for traffic in the bike lane. Because
    of the proximity of the parked cars, they were not visible until I
    was almost upon them, necessitating emergency maneuvers.

    – a dumpster placed fully in the bike lane, luckily in a spot where
    parking was not allowed so there was a way to move over to get
    around it.

    Additional trouble that I can foresee but haven’t experienced:

    – Short merges with right-turning cars almost surely mean conflict.
    The previous merges were much longer, giving everyone room to see
    other road users, signal their intent and drive or ride accordingly.

    – Short line of sight at some of the crosswalks, again due to parked
    cars, means that cyclists who don’t stop at the stop signs have
    little time to react to pedestrians crossing. While it’s totally
    inappropriate to fail to give pedestrians the right of way, it is
    a fact that many riders do not stop, and the situation is now a much
    greater safety issue since neither party can see the other coming.

    – Riders who decide that due to issues like all of the above, they
    will choose to ride in the primary vehicle lane instead of the bike
    lane, now have only the single narrow lane to share with cars. If
    they’re not moving at typical car speeds, this will promote driver
    aggression and further safety issues as cars either pass too closely
    or must time their move into the oncoming lane to pass.

    The previous road design had room for motor vehicles, bikes, and
    parked cars, in most places even with the car doors wide open.
    Lines of sight were long, allowing plenty of time to react to other
    road users. Same-direction travel lanes were adjacent, rather
    than blocked by parked cars, allowing movement between them when
    conditions warranted. The new setup has lost all these features. In
    no way is it an improvement. I sincerely hope that no more of our
    streets are redesigned in such a manner.

  45. “The way it is now, if you get out of the car you’re in the line of fire”.

    I find it strange that every article someone is quoted about having to exit their vehicle with cars going by.

    It’s your responsibility to make sure it is safe to open your door, whether it’s into a bike lane where you may kill someone or into a lane where a giant vehicle may clip your door off.

    If I make a mistake I’d rather the “gentle” reminder of having my door ripped off my car, then the much worse situation of being responsible for the death of another human being.

    Sorry, I just can’t take articles like this seriously. Ignore the whining and start paving cycle tracks!

  46. The thoughtful commentary here is really helpful in getting a strong sense of what the neighborhood is thinking.

    Supervisor Mar is taking the lead on future tweaks to the bike lanes. While he fully supports more cycle tracks throughout the city to meet health and transportation goals, he is also very concerned about the accessibility and safety of seniors and persons with advisability. Furthermore, he understands–as it is mentioned here– that not even all bikers are totally on board.

    Everyone’s input will be really important as San Francisco moves to designing complete streets, which means that cars need to share the street with not only bikers but also pedestrians.

    Keep sending in the input, and if you want to know any specifics for want to talk to me one-on-one, send me an email: Peter.Lauterborn@sfgov.org

    Peter Lauterborn
    Legislative Aide
    Supervisor Eric Mar

  47. The new lanes make riding through there way more difficult. I have to dodge anything and everything while making sure I don’t get doored. I prefer to just ride with the cars now…at least I can see.

  48. Sadly, I also think it’s going to take someone getting severely hurt for them to seriously reconsider this design.

  49. Are we all talking about the same bike lanes?

    In six months of riding them every day, I’ve seen cars parked in the lanes maybe three times. I’ve seen pedestrians standing in them a handful of times, but nothing a polite “excuse me” doesn’t resolve. On 99.9% of days, I see none of these issues.

    Some commenters have complained about a risk of getting doored but there is several feet of buffer between the bike lanes and the cars. I am never, ever at risk of getting doored.

    I also read many people claiming they find the lanes so dangerous that they now ride with the traffic. I have not seen anybody doing this even once in the past six months. Are these comments hyperbole or are we just missing each other?

    Is this the age-old culture clash between casual city riders and those who take their biking more seriously? A study from Portland (http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/158497) found that only 7% of the general population are “enthused and confident” cyclists, while 60% are “interested but concerned”. If we want to match the 50% bicycle mode share of cities like Copenhagen, we need to continue to reach out to the “interested but concerned” by investing into best-practices like the JFK bike lanes.

  50. why does the MTA think the seperate bike lane configuration is needed? the bicycle, automobile and pedestrian traffic was working before the new configuration. why doesn’t the MTA focus on soem issue that actually needs attention. if they want to change something in the park, ban those giant diesel burning buses.

  51. I ride these lanes every day to and from work and I very rarely have had any issues. Even on a busy Saturday morning, a little courtesy and a little less speed is all it takes to navigate these lanes without a hassle. I think some of us are forgetting how it was before: just fine for those of us who are strong/agressive riders, but totally unacceptable for younger kids or a relaxed park ride. The new configuration also has the added benefit of slowing down traffic – making “cutting through the park” a less attractive option. If you have to get somewhere fast on your bike and the bikeway is congested with users (a great thing), the main lane is still available to you, so long as you can keep up with traffic.

    Be excellent to each other.

  52. Separated bike lanes like these are used all over the world with great success. I’ve never had a problem here, in fact I feel very relaxed and safe riding in them. There is a wide buffer between you and the car doors. People are polite and there aren’t any double parked cars as there are in regular bike lanes. Particularly odd are the drivers complaining of danger while getting out next to the car lanes. It’s exactly the width of any normal street in SF, it’s just not enormously wide as before. These are great and I can’t wait for more to be installed throughout the City.

  53. We cycle JFK to commute and for recreation. It was difficult both before and after the new bikelanes. As one can discover any Sunday, the problem is not really bicycles nor walkers, but the Cars! Golden Gate Park was never intended to be a motor speedway, jammed up with free storage of metal boxes on the public right of way. Cars can zoom up and down Fulton and Lincoln. They can also access museum parking from those streets. Without the cars on JFK there would be no problem with bikelanes of any kind!

  54. I can’t agree more with the posters saying that the park should be closed for the cars. Screw the elderly, disabled and breeders with strollers. They don’t bike or run so they don’t need the park anyway.

    Seriously though, I know this lady who is on the wrong side of 90. Almost every day her daughter picks her up and they drive to the park for a walk. Any suggestions how they would get there if the park is closed for the cars?
    The underground garage provides access only to a small area of the park. Public transit? Well, when you are 90 years old, take a bus and let me know how it works out for you.

    And it’s only one example. Same applies to the disabled and families with kids.

    I understand that you are annoyed with these metal boxes. Really, who needs them? You and me can easily run or bike to the park and would probably only appreciate the extra workout.
    But there are many people who depend on cars. Be careful what you wish for, you may be one of those people some day.

  55. If it wasn’t broken, why was it fixed? The new configuration is terrible. Not only are the bikers at risk, but people in cars are also in a lose-lose position. If they exit on the driver’s side, they’re stepping into traffic. If they exit on the passenger side, they’re risking crashing into a cyclist. Most streets with bike lanes in the City have parking adjacent to the sidewalk, then a bike lane, then an auto lane. Why not have this configuration in GGP as well?

    Peter, can you ould tell us what the process is for getting this configuration changed? The good news is it’ll just take a few buckets of paint.

  56. Jean-

    The MTA is collecting data on the project now and should come out with something soon. A “PreliminaryEvaluation” has been done and that information can be read here.


    We will be pushing the MTA to make adjustments based on the kinds of complaints we see here and in other places.

    To your question about “Why not have this configuration in GGP as well?” most bike riders don’t find this comfortable on busy or higher speed streets like JKF, Fell, Oak, Market, and Masonic. Its similar to the discomfort some drivers I know have driving cars right next to LRVs on Church, Ocean, or Judah.

    We’re going to work towards a more balanced solution that still embraces safe access to cars but also high end bike facilities as well. Overall, the City will need to try new things as we build “complete streets” that balance everyone’s needs while diverging from the status quo of road structure. So keep sending the helpful comments!

  57. Using actual data from the above list from of Comments #1-58, I counted at least 29 comments that unambigously said they did not like the new bike lane configuration. If there was any abiguity, i did not count it it in the 29. That is at least 50%. (And most likely more). The Preliminary Evaluation linked in Item 58 said at least 61% were in favor of it. Granted it is still a draft, but I cannot trust the evaluation.

  58. The negative comments were in No. 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 39, 42, 44, 46, 47, 49, 52, 57. (Total is 29 negative comments out of 58 at the time of counting). Dispute that!

  59. Counting blog comments is probably not the best way to get a representative sample of people’s opinions…

  60. Alai, I think you should have added that your comment is your opinion. But I do not agree with your subjective comment. It is objective data based on the readers responding to this blog– yes, it is not a true representative random sample based on best practice sampling and error analysis, but it does show that maybe I should be suspicious of the city’s analysis. I guess you would rather make gut decisions because it supports what you want which is known as “confirmation bias”. This forum is not meant for “flaming”. The point is, that based on this sample, at least half of the people responding (through Comment 1-58) do not like the new lanes. That cannot be disputed– biased or not. I’m wagging my finger at you and think you are a big “doody”, too.

  61. My primary observation on the new bike lanes is that separating them somewhat from the vehicle traffic lanes seems to have been a signal that cyclists should ride a bit faster and ignore the stop signs and pedestrian crossing rules. I find them much more dangerous as a pedestrian. I have taken to holding an arm out when crossing any road in SF to signal my intent, but I am nearly struck daily by cyclists.

  62. The statistics in the official evaluation linked earlier (as well as my intuition) are that the new bike lanes made riders slow down, since they’re not ‘competing’ with cars, and the space is narrower.

  63. For those opposed to these new lanes cheer up. All we have to do is wait for some unfortunate cyclist, pedestrian, motorist or disabled person to be killed or injured. Given how dangerous these lanes are it is only a matter of time. Also, given that putting a bike path between parked cars and the curb is illegal under the highway design manual, the City may be sued. As a cyclist for more than 40 years, I have to wonder if it is really a good idea to get more people cycling in the City. My experience is that these “newbies” are a danger to themselves as well as others. If the Bicycle Coalition is so concerned about cycling safety, it should encourage its members to wear helmets and follow basic traffic laws. I see so many cyclists riding like idiots I would prefer to go back to the days when there were fewer people riding bikes. At least before you could depend on other cyclists to pay attention, pass on the left and generally follow the laws. . Now I have to worry more about getting hit by another cyclist than a car.!!! Come on newbies, stop riding like idiots or STOP RIDING.

  64. Yes, any accident on the new lanes will be considered proof positive that they’re a lousy design, and that they should be removed. Meanwhile, we tolerate any number of injuries and deaths on existing designs with nothing more than a shrug and a “what a tragic isolated incident”. An old lady was struck and killed at Geary & Arguello two years ago– did it result in changes? Of course not.

    As for removing newbies from the roads, that would be a terrible idea: safety is very strongly correlated with the number of cyclists on the road. The more there are, the safer everyone is.

  65. The root of the problem is the typical road cyclist’s matching spandex outfit. They are much too aerodynamic and cause a boost in ego. We should all cycle in wool suits and capes and only ride beach cruisers and then I think the paths will work out just fine for everyone due to a reduction in speed and an end to whistling at pesky tourists to get out of the way. ; )

  66. As someone who rides regularly on my own and is generally comfortable riding in traffic, I was initially averse to the change on JFK. I certainly appreciate improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure but didn’t immediately see the benefit from making parking protected bike lanes. I work for the YBike program for the Presidio Y, and regularly lead rides with youth around the city, teaching youth not just how to ride a bike but what the rules of the road are (and why they exist).

    I changed my mind after leading youth on bikes down the new lanes on JFK, and am now glad the parking protected lanes are there. We didn’t have nearly the concern about car-dooring; with a buffer, passengers could open their doors. When we saw people preparing to cross the path, we slowed down and waited. While I don’t expect all interactions between different road users to always be so positive, it was far easier to make eye-contact and communicate when we didn’t have to also be concerned with being honked at or squeezed by other cars, which was often the case in the old configuration. It was a lot less stressful, and made it easier for us to enjoy the ride.

    These type of lanes aren’t meant for the “road warriors” who are comfortable with, or even enjoy riding in traffic. Our streets should feel safe, inviting for a variety of modes and road users; not just those who are O.K. with braving the status quo. Individuals and families who want to ride their bike shouldn’t have to go through a “braving urban traffic” rite of passage. If you are comfortable riding in traffic, like riding fast, and find yourself incensed at people biking slower than you’d like, you’re welcome to ride with vehicular traffic; we have to share the road with different people, not just different modes.

    When I’ve driven down the new design in JFK I’ve definitely found myself driving slower – which is definitely a good thing. The creator of Golden Gate Park, William H. Hall, intentionally designed the roads and pathways in GGP to be curved and winding, in part to discourage horse-and-buggy drivers from speeding (the speed limit for GGP for horses and buggies in the 1880?s was 10mph).

    While improved signage for drivers and other tweaks could likely ameliorate some of the issues brought up, ultimately the individuals who park incorrectly are outliers. Given that this is the first “parking protected” cycle track in SF, and that they’re not very common in the U.S., it will undoubtedly take a while for people to adjust (and some just won’t get it, or just won’t care and will park in the lane regardless). I will say that poor drainage in the cycle track is something that needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later. There are also undoubtedly some lessons to be learned about addressing accessibility concerns.

    I can understand concerns from drivers having to wait for traffic to pass to safely exit. That being said, in the previous setup drivers still had to look and wait for cyclists riding in the door-zone, so the former configuration wasn’t without concern for drivers entering/exiting their cars. Ultimately, we have a limited amount of space on our public roads and have to prioritize what uses we want to support and emphasize; all setups will have trade-offs.

    Furthermore, widening the roadway to try and fit everything, especially in a park, is not a wise course of action. After all, the public space in Golden Gate Park was intended to be, and still is, a recreational area for people; not a speedway, nor a storage space for vehicles.

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