December 20, 2012

Alexis Chavez

Anyone who has tried to navigate the streets of San Francisco knows how difficult it can often be to make a left-hand turn, and attempting to do so on a bicycle is no different. In this city, three right-hand turns are sometimes required in order to cross that pesky street you can’t turn left on; yet, transportation authorities have come up with a solution for one of the city’s most popular intersections.

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Municipal transportation agency announced the installation of the city’s first ?Bicycle Bay,? which aids those on bikes in making a safer and simpler left-hand turn from westbound Market Street onto Valencia Street?at a better angle for the streetcar tracks and without having to cross two lanes of traffic like before.

The bike bay, also known as a jughandle because of its shape, features two green-painted bike lanes. The lane closest to the sidewalk is a left-turn pocket, which allows those who wish to turn a safe place to wait until the bicycle traffic signal is green. The other lane is for those continuing west on Market Street.

?The new design is easy to navigate and helps reduce stress when making the turn on to Valencia,? San Francisco resident Arien Krause said. ?It’s always great when the city makes efforts to help grow the bicycling community and improve safety.?

The two lanes split bicycle traffic on Market Street, which already features protected green lanes outfitted with safe-hit posts, with little confusion. The installation of the turn pocket clears the way for all others to continue straight, creating a safe passage that connects two of the city’s busiest cycling corridors. The SFMTA has also put up signage and added green paint and sharrows to alert the public of the changes.

The project is part of the city’s Bicycle Plan and is another effort made by the SFMTA to increase safety for all roadway users.

?The bicycle bay connects two of the busiest bicycle routes in the City,? Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation, stated in a press release. ?It allows bicyclists to safely make this turn with reduced risk of tires getting stuck in the tracks or conflicting with car traffic. This makes for a safer and more comfortable ride between two major corridors in the City.?

The bike bay installation is just one of the few improvements in San Francisco that include bike traffic signals to help in crossing busy streets. Other intersections that have bike lights include Fell Street and Masonic Avenue, Page and Stanyan streets, and also Shrader and Fell streets, to name a few.

Other traffic signal improvements include the ?Green Waves? on both Valencia and 14th streets, which time traffic signals for bicycle speeds. The green wave is modeled after examples used in other cities, and overall promotes motorists to drive at calmer speeds in busy thoroughfares where higher rates of pedestrians and those on bikes are found.

?The new turn adds to the other great Valencia improvements of wider sidewalks, bike lanes and the green wave, which have welcomed even more people to biking,? Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said in a statement. ?We look forward to seeing how this common sense project improves the safety and comfort of the huge and growing number of people who pedal these key biking streets every day.?

See all Protected Bike Lanes blog entries

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