With more and more bike lanes being allocated and painted green across the city each year, it's rare to hear of one disappearing. But that's exactly what's happening at King Street between Second and Third, which will no longer have any space allocated for cyclists because of what SFMTA has deemed a safety measure.
The bike lane on King Street currently extends past MoMo's, but it ends halfway down the block (between Second and Third streets), and becomes bike sharrows in the center of the lane. For cyclists, this can be confusing: one moment, they have the imaginary barrier of a bike lane, and the next, they're forced to merge into traffic, which is running at a speed limit of 30mph.
As a result, this small stretch of King has proven to be dangerous. In February 2013, cyclist Diana Sullivan was killed on King between Second and Third streets, after being dragged under a cement mixer. (We wrote an article last week that included mention of her ghost bike.)
While deaths like Sullivan's often result in a call to action for more bike lanes and safer streets, the SFMTA has determined in this case that the safest course of action is to remove the bike lane and sharrows from that stretch of King entirely.
"The near-term goal is to encourage people biking in the area to use Townsend when appropriate," the SFMTA's Ben Jose told us. "In the long-term, staff will be examining how biking can be improved in the area through the larger-scale Embarcadero Enhancement Project."
Ben told us that extending the bike lane the full length of King Street was an option the SFMTA considered, but ultimately rejected. "It would require reducing lane widths to below minimum standards," he said. "This would decrease safety and comfort for all road users, since heavy vehicles would need to straddle lanes."
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition spokesperson Chris Cassidy says there's still much more work to be done in order to make this section of SoMa safe for commuting cyclists. While additional sharrows would help make Townsend more bike-friendly, the un-buffered bike lane poses a risk to the heavy number of cyclists who commute in that area. The recent move by Caltrain to encourage more cyclists to commute via bicycle mean that bike traffic in southeastern SoMa will likely only increase.
"We are strongly encouraging the SFMTA to make Townsend safer for people biking southwest of Caltrain," Cassidy told us. "Protected bike lanes on Townsend would send a much stronger message about the SFMTA's dedication to achieving Vision Zero, especially when we're seeing safety improvements removed in the area."
The proposed changes to King Street's bike lanes will go next to an SFMTA Engineering public hearing, then be submitted for final approval by the SFMTA Board of Directors. If they're approved, work will start by the end of this year. We'll keep you updated.