Golden Gate Avenue Bike Lane Installed, But Is It Safe For Cyclists?

Golden Gate Avenue Bike Lane Installed, But Is It Safe For Cyclists?
Vehicles traveling in the freshly-painted Golden Gate Avenue bike lane. (Photos: Randall Dietel/Twitter)
By Brittany Hopkins - Published on June 29, 2016.

Despite the city's swift action to install a bike lane on Golden Gate Avenue from Polk to Taylor, one cyclist who bikes Golden Gate Avenue daily says that now that the lane is in place, a collision between a driver and a cyclist is inevitable.

In mid-May, the SFMTA Board of Directors approved the Golden Gate Avenue Safety Project. In addition to adding the eastbound bike lane from Polk to Market, the project entailed reducing vehicle travel lanes from three to two, narrowing those lanes to slow vehicles and implementing pedestrian safety measures like painted safety zones, crosswalk upgrades and traffic signal improvements.

Golden Gate Avenue from Polk to Larkin.

However, over the past week, San Francisco cyclist Randall Dietel, who bikes Golden Gate daily, felt the need to stand on Golden Gate Avenue on the freshly-painted sharrow in an attempt to keep motorists from pulling into the bike lane. Over the past week, Dietel has captured and shared video on Twitter of numerous cars driving in the lane.

After being assaulted by a motorcyclist while filming yesterday afternoon, Dietel jumped on the phone with us to share more details about the problems he's seeing with the bike lane's design, and ways he thinks the city could remedy the problem.

While Dietel said he was "impressed with the city's ability to spin their wheels and actually put paint on the street" seemingly over night, "paint is not enough." One of the most dangerous problems he's seeing is traffic backing up at Golden Gate at Taylor, he said. Motorists in the right-hand turn lane trying to cross Market Street onto Sixth are then pulling into the bike lane "so fast they don't look." 

While Dietel says he's not trying to be a vigilante, he is trying to bring awareness to the bike lane's "incomplete design." And standing in the lane filming does seem to be changing motorist's behavior.

But a similar problem is also occurring at Jones and Golden Gate, which offers two left-turn lanes onto Golden Gate, he said. There he believes the turn radius is tight and cars are traveling too fast when making the turn. Cars in the inside left-turn lane are then drifting into the outside lane on Golden Gate Avenue, forcing cars traveling in the outside left-turn lane into the new bike lane at high speeds.

When it comes to concerns over motorists speeding, Dietel says he's not alone. During his time monitoring Golden Gate Avenue, he says staff at St. Anthony's have shared their own concerns with him about vehicles speeding in the bike lane, where pedestrians aren't expecting cars either.

On potential solutions to his concerns, Dietel said he'd like to see the city place the bike lane between a parking lane and the sidewalk. "Or at least put up white posts" as seen on Market Street.

SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said today that posts are on the way. "The buffered bike lane is primarily paint today, but some white safe hit posts will be installed now that paint work was completed last weekend." 

Jose also confirmed that the SFMTA is working with the SFPD Traffic Division to coordinate enforcement on Golden Gate Avenue.

Dietel noted that he did see two officers on Golden Gate at Leavenworth yesterday citing speeding drivers. 

As for whether the department plans to refine the bike lane's design, Jose said, "We have been and will continue to monitor traffic and usage of the bike lane. We are also looking to make adjustments to the design as needed."

Feedback on the project can be submitted through SFMTA's social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) or emailing the project manager, Dan Provence, at Dan {DOT} Provence {AT} sfmta {DOT} com.

Golden Gate Avenue isn't the only corridor Dietel is monitoring. On Tuesday evening, he took his radar gun and camera to Seventh and Howard and 30th and JFK, two intersections where cyclists were killed in separate hit-and-runs last week.

In roughly 30 minutes at 30th and JFK, Dietel said he saw about six cars going 20mph over the speed limit. And over at Seventh and Howard, he says he witnessed many motorists traveling at 35mph and higher to make the light.

The point he's trying to make: while some are trying to suggest that these collisions were the results of two "bad apples," speeding occurs every night, he said. "It's crazy out there now. I don't know what we can do but talk about it."