Tuesday, June 14, 2011

“Urban Acupuncture” Prescribed for Fell & Oak; SFMTA Anticipates New Bikeway Trial by Summer 2012

This block between Scott and Divisadero would be one of three on Fell to get a separated bikeway

City traffic engineers expect to implement new, separated bike lanes along three blocks of Fell and Oak streets as a trial that could begin as early as spring 2012. Although the final aspects of the proposal await community input and public review, financing with Prop K funds for the planning and design phase is expected to be approved by July. The street re-design will likely involve removal of on-street parking or removal of a travel lane for the three blocks of Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker. City planners believe an upgraded treatment along the stretch is necessary as an essential link between the Wiggle bike route on the east end to the Panhandle path starting at Baker. The discussion occurred this morning during a meeting of the Policy and Governance Committee of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors.

Cheryl Brinkman, a member of the Board of Directors, introduced the new bikeways discussion with an answer to what she sometimes hears from residents, “Why Fell and Oak?" “If you’re a cyclist, you know exactly why Fell and Oak,” Brinkman said. “It’s the flattest, most direct connection. It’s vital for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.”

The SFMTA Board has already made it clear that Fell and Oak should be a priority and has directed staff to develop a plan and a design to implement the change. Bond Yee, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director, told the committee (chair Jerry Lee, Bruce Oka and Brinkman) that he expected a decision in late June or early July to move forward. He expects a final design in “a little over a year.”

Mike Sallaberry, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division Planner, explained that the agency expects to propose a trial design once extensive community outreach has been concluded. “Substantial buy-in from the public is critical,” he said. Brinkman added that the trial phase will be an opportunity to assess any public fallout over the plan. Sallaberry said that to date it is not clear whether the public prefers removing a parking lane or a travel lane. But he said he was encouraged by the public response so far. “There’s a proactive feeling about this project. No one has said ‘no way.’” During the trial phase, staff would complete an environmental review of the project.

Following the committee meeting, Mike Sallaberry spoke with BIKE NOPA in more detail about the project. He suggested opening this segment of the Fell/Oak couplet to more street users was like “urban acupuncture” that would improve the flow of traffic in this part of the city. He also touched on other aspects of the design options:

  • If the project stays on schedule, the permanent installation of the separated bikeways could begin in November of 2012
  • The bike route would likely remain on the south side of Fell street, but placement on Oak remains uncertain with benefits and obstacles on both the north and south side
  • A two-way bi-directional lane is a possibility for just one of the two streets
  • SFMTA will wait to secure funding for the implementation before beginning its outreach to the affected communities
  • Although several neighbors have expressed interest in a bikeway all the way from Scott to Stanyan, the SFMTA believes the better strategy is to implement the shorter segment first. “If we did the whole length now, it would delay the whole project,” Sallaberry explained. “We want to expedite the gap now.”

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