Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mixed Outcome for Bicycle Blocks in San Francisco's New Paving Plans

Patch paving of mid to lower Market Street earlier this year.

The recently repaved intersection of McAllister and Van Ness.

Part of the Divisadero Corridor makeover and repaving now underway.

The grinding of the old asphalt before the filling with new.

The streets most-used by San Francisco bicyclists fared generally well -- with some serious exceptions -- in the city's slashed Five Year Paving Plan. A combination of the Department of Public Works' commitment to the city's Transit First policy, advocacy by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and the already poor condition of the streets that cyclists share with motorists helped keep many priority bike blocks in the resurfacing schedule.

After City Hall dropped the streets repair bond just before it was to appear on this month's ballot, an overhaul of paving plans was undertaken, often stretching street work from five years to fifteen years or more. The result for all street users is more than wear and tear. What's going on for hundreds of our untended streets is structural damage that will worsen and become increasingly more expensive to repair. In the reconfiguration of the paving schedule, priority bike blocks took a hit, but it could have been much worse.

By Fiscal Year (July 1 to June 30), here's some of the repaving cyclists can expect-- but always with the caveat that the projects are subject to available funds and coordination with utility construction. These aren't all the bike blocks to be repaved, but they are the ones most used.

FY 10-11
Wiggle bike route (two of the roughest surfaces in or near the Wiggle): Steiner between Waller and Duboce; and Sanchez between Duboce and 14th. (Note: the current utility work on these blocks is not part of the eventual repaving).
Bosworth, from Diamond to O'Shaughnessy
Holloway, from Harold to Junipero Serra
Howard, from Stuart to 2nd, and from 3rd to 4th
7th Avenue, from Hugo to Noriega

FY 11-12
2nd Street, from Market to King
17th Street, from Pennsylvania to Potrero; from Bryant to Valencia. (Note: The Potrero to Bryant repaving has been advanced to the current fiscal year)
Cesar Chavez, from Guerrero to Hampshire
Parnassus, from Clayton to 5th
Point Lobos, from 42nd to the Great Highway

Kirkham, from 7th to 12th, Funston to 15th, 19th to 37th, and also from 37th to the Great Highway with a less expensive surface treatment
Columbus, from Union to Beach
Silver, from Bayshore to Palou
And, at long last, Market Street, from Main to South Van Ness

FY 13-14
Eureka, from Market to 23rd Street
Polk, from Bush to Beach
20th Avenue, from Lincoln Way to Pacheco

FY 14-15
Polk, from Market to Bush
17th Street, from Valencia to Ord

Note: A full list of streets to be repaved can be found on the DPW web site here. Select the "Proposed Paving" for the 200 page PDF.

Which paving projects were delayed that might most concern bicyclists?

Folsom, from 6th to 10th, now scheduled for FY 16-17
Arguello, not so bad now but can it wait for repaving until FY 19-20?
Potrero, Alameda to Cesar Chavez, now set for FY 19-20 and FY 20-21
8th Street, Market to Townsend, no paving planned

Folsom is especially important as a major bike route today, but it will likely see even more bike and vehicle traffic in FY 12-13 when Market Street undergoes its major makeover. Repaving Folsom before then becomes even more important.

Resurfacing Folsom is complicated not only by lack of funds. Like all streets in San Francisco, Folsom can only be torn up once every five years. Repaving projects must be coordinated with the construction schedules of the various utilities in the city. As a result, the Five Year Paving Plan becomes an intricate dance of many partners.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition already works with DPW staff to identify priority bike blocks that might be advanced in the paving plan, but the scarcity of funds for the city's infrastructure severely limits the possibilities. Obtaining the financing for essential street repair requires political leadership and public willingness to accept some of the financial burden. For now, bicyclists can appreciate the high percentage of bike blocks scheduled for repaving.

Related information:
In the "2008 Survey of Bicycling in San Francisco," 185 respondents (representing 10% of the total) said they had a serious fall while riding a bicycle in the last two years due to broken or irregular pavement or potholes.

See this recent post for a longer discussion of the withdrawn streets bond measure and the impact of dwindling street repair funds on one San Francisco neighborhood.


  1. Wow thanks for this comprehensive overview! Is there any way we can make Market more of a priority?

  2. We all wish! Whatever the city does to Market Street is going to stay that way for 20 years or more. We better get it right and make it a "complete street" in every way, one that really serves pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and, to a degree, motorists. Fortunately, the city is experimenting now with different traffic options and more creative use of the public spaces that should contribute to the re-envisioning that Market Street deserves.

    Short answer: Market IS a priority, and let's hold the city to 2012-2013. And support the experimental changes underway.