By Thomas K. Pendergast
Designated bicycle lanes are coming to Anza Street this summer after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors voted unanimously to lay paint striping down for them from Masonic to 30th avenues.
SFMTA Deputy Spokesperson Stephen Chun said the striping will be completed this summer, with a total cost of $400,000 funded in large part by a grant from District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan’s office.
“Supervisor Chan is in full support of the Anza Street bike lanes, as it improves bicycle network connectivity, pedestrian safety improvements and street-calming efforts,” said Kelly Groth, Chan’s legislative aide.
The project comes from the efforts of the district’s previous supervisor, Sandra Lee Fewer, and was the result of her Central Richmond Traffic Safety Project, which proposed several ideas for improving safety conditions for people walking, biking or being dropped off at schools in the Central Richmond neighborhood.
“Anza Street is a key thoroughfare in the Richmond District and I hope that we can strengthen it as an additional east-west bike route in the neighborhood,” Fewer said in September of last year.
At a Board of Directors meeting in June, the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Director Jamie Parks said Anza Street has “excess travel lanes” that are not really needed to carry traffic and could be eliminated, making the street mostly the same as Cabrillo Street a couple of blocks to the south.
“Where traffic volumes and speeds are low, which is thankfully the case on Anza, a mix of bicycle facilities can be appropriate and that’s why we’re proposing basic, standard bike lanes, or ‘Class 2’ bike lanes as they’re technically called in California,” Parks said.
Yet there is a problem with installing Class 2 bike lanes between Parker and Masonic avenues along the north side of the University of San Francisco’s Lone Mountain campus, which has a steep grade, perpendicular parking and large bulb-outs.
“We’re proposing an uphill climbing lane and a downhill wider shared lane similar to what we have on 20th Avenue, as well as traffic calming on that section of the roadway to further slow vehicle speeds,” Parks said.
But some, including the Board’s Vice Chair Amanda Eaken, called for separated bicycle lanes along Anza Street because with the regular bike lanes there is no physical barrier between motor vehicles and bicycles.
“We’re proposing to put a Class 2 bike lane on Anza but that just doesn’t really seem to rise to the level of the safety and comfort that people come to enjoy in the City,” Eaken said. “I particularly want to push back and raise concerns (about the section between Parker and Masonic). A ‘sharrow’ is effectively sort of a ‘good luck’ to a cyclist (as in) ‘Good luck, take the lane, you better be bold and deal with the cars yourself.’”
David Alexander, co-founder of the Richmond Family Transportation Network, a citizen advocacy group, also pushed for separated bike lanes.
“Argonne Elementary, Alamo, McCoppin, Peabody, Sutro use Anza as a key arterial because it’s flat,” Alexander said. “So right now, a protected bike lane would be preferred. We’re hoping … that further conversations can happen around the Class 3 bike lanes. Because right now, with vehicles you’re seeing on our streets, paint is not going to save my child’s life.”
Parks responded that for Class 3 bike lanes, the perpendicular parking between Masonic and Parker avenues would have to be replaced with parallel parking and the bulb-outs would have to be carved back, which “make it a more complicated design challenge to install bike lanes and out of the project scope (to implement something immediately).”
SFMTA Director Steve Heminger wanted to know why they are not putting in protected bicycle lanes for the rest of the street west of Parker Avenue.
Parks responded that the street is smaller than would be typical for installing protected bike lanes.
“I think it would possibly meet the most minimum possible dimensions where you’d end up with a four-foot bike lane and a four-foot buffer between parked cars and ten-foot travel lanes,” he said. “It would be extremely tight and also with all of the driveways along Anza and the need to have daylighting around driveways for visibility of protected bike lanes; I think what we’d mostly end up with is a long line of Safe-it posts (barriers between cars and bicyles) all the way down the street … not necessarily a better feel for people biking.”
But Heminger was still skeptical.
“It seems like our operative motto for bike lanes is something is better than nothing. But at some point I think we have to say nothing is better than something,” he said. “I don’t know whether it’s this project or five projects from now but I do worry because our objective here is to promote bicycling, especially to promote safe bicycling, and I just worry that we give folks a false sense of security by throwing some paint on the pavement.
“I know the bollards aren’t going to stop a crazy driver from hitting somebody but it’s a lot better than paint on the street.”
It was noted that Anza has a very high density of driveways, especially from Arguello Boulevard to 30th Avenue, and so would require some parking loss which is a sensitive subject in that area. They would need to remove some parking around driveways to improve visibility, which in turn would fill up the street with a lot of plastic posts.
The SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Tom Maguire said the street is not on the City’s High Injury Network list, so given the frequency of driveways along that street, Class 2 is the preferred solution.
“The only step up from this is something that looks like removing almost all the parking; not all but almost all the parking from one side of the street and (installing) a line of Safe-it posts almost from Arguello to 30th and that was not an outcome that was acceptable to the community and frankly I don’t think it would work as well as perhaps you had imagined,” Maguire said. “So the counter factual here is it’s not super optimal.”