New JFK bike lanes are bad for everyone


Golden Gate Park visitors have had a couple months to get used to the confusing new lane configurations on JFK Drive – with bike lanes along the edges of the road and a row of parked cars in the middle – and I have yet to hear from anyone who likes this design. Nice try, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, but this design isn't working for any road users and should be scrapped.

The idea of using a row of parked cars to separate cyclists from motorists isn't inherently bad, and it has worked well in some European cities. But the way this is designed, passengers exiting vehicles must cross the bike lane to get to the sidewalk, creating a conflict that isn't good for either user. It was intended to create safer bikeways, but they actually feel more dangerous and uncertain now.

There are buffer zones where motorists aren't supposed to park, but on busy days they do anyway, with little to fear from parking control officers who rarely venture into the park, often crowding into the bike lane. The design also accentuates the visual blight of automobiles in this beautiful park, with more lanes of cars dominating the viewscape in many spots.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. After my cover story on urban cycling last week, I got a few notes critical of the new design, including an email from longtime local cyclist Thomas Kleinhenz, who wrote, “When the new Golden Gate Park bike lanes went in I scratched my head. Who dreamt this up. It helps no one. Cyclists now ride in a lane between the curb on the right and parked cars on the left. You have cyclists, roller-bladers, rental bikers, and children all stuck in the same lane with pedestrians trying to get to and from their cars.”

Kleinhenz cited state road design manuals discouraging this kind of design, claiming they may even be illegal. He continued, “When I've ridden it, I've had to dodge a child darting out from between the cars and a family of 5 who strolled across the bike lane confused about where to go. I've also been stuck behind Segways and rental bikers, forcing me and another rider to go out into the traffic lane just to top 5 mph. But of course the traffic lanes are now thinner to make room for the new bike lanes. So we're left with one non-functional, unsafe lane and another mildly functional unsafe lane. Meanwhile cars have less room to maneuver, and people getting out of their parked cars are forced to try to avoid traffic on one side and cyclists on the other. While cyclists who don't want to deal with the congestion in the bike lane now must be aware of having car doors opened into them in the now narrower traffic lane.”

His comments are typical of others that I've heard, including those from transportation engineers who are similarly baffled by the choices made here. The SFMTA deserves credit for trying something new, but I'll give them even more credit if they just call this one a mistake and start over. And that is a possibility.

“We're going to continue monitoring the JFK bikes lanes closely and we will consider potential adjustments to make them more intuitive and user-friendly,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told us, adding that the agency will analyze changes in traffic speed and volumes for both cyclists and motorists and parking volume, as well as surveying people's perceptions of the project.

Hopefully some changes will be in the offing, but I think the project is an example of a bigger problem that I discussed in last week's article, and that is political and civic leaders going with the easy bicycle infrastructure projects so they can claim lots of new mileage rather than the more politically difficult projects we actually need.

Last year on Bike to Work Day, newly minted Mayor Ed Lee announced two bike projects: the JFK lanes and new cycletracks on the dangerous few blocks on Fell and Oak streets to connect the Panhandle with the Wiggle, which has long been a high priority for cyclists as it completes a popular east-west bike corridor. Well, the former project got done and the latter got delayed when neighbors complained about the lost parking spots.

Now, because the SFMTA tried to accommodate motorists with too many new parking spots in Golden Gate Park – despite previous promises to decrease street parking in the park in exchange for building a massive underground parking lot – we've ended up with a messy design that only exacerbates conflicts between motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. In their effort to please everyone, as is often the case, they have pleased nobody.


roads. Busting thru a red light or stop sign or riding on a sidewalk are all dangerous breaches of the law.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:10 am

You have no evidence that the most recent death was caused by bicyclist or pedestrian error.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:35 am

blew through several red lights. You're free to believe otherwise if you wish, but we'll find out at the trial. I hope he gets hard time.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 11:53 am

I saw someone in an electric wheel chair flying down the sidewalk on Market Street (near Harvest Market) the other day who didn't seem concerned that someone might come out of a store in front of them, and then there would have been a SPLAT! possibly. Don't you have a problem with wheel chairs on the sidewalk too?...especially the electric ones? They are 2 wheels like bicycles.

What about children's wagons on the sidewalk or what about all the wide strollers clogging up the sidewalks where I have to walk out in the street to get around them. What about the wide strollers AND multiple dogs (all lined up together) who line up across the sidewalk where no one can get through. Don't you want to address that too? What is your prejudice regarding cyclists?

I take it that you don't ride a bicycle or at least not to often, because you would understand why cyclists sometimes have to ride on the sidewalk. I ride on the sidewalk slowly and as often as possible because the vehicle drivers are often inconsiderate and reckless. It's much safer on the sidewalk. I'm not likely to get "doored," runover and end up on the pavement or even in the morgue when I'm on the sidewalk. What do I have to say to the people on the sidewalk, such as Michael P? SHARE THE SIDEWALK. It's an old custom we used to do here in the U.S., before the hate-fest started.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

happy for me to walk in the bike lane. My reasons are similar to yours.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

I know you're just trolling (so tiresome), but I'll respond for the benefit of others.

I'm not sure why you would want to be out in the street walking when you have the sidewalk, unless the sidewalk is congested by strollers, dogs, (wheelchairs?) and people. It's usually not congested by cyclists. Being out in the street and walking is not very smart thinking (but then you are a troll...what would one expect?) and being in the bike lane makes you closer to the vehicles. I personally don't like to be close to vehicles on my bike. But I am happy for you to walk in the bike lane, as some people do. I would have no trouble riding around you. With a planet of 7 billion people, you have to get used to being a little crowded and sharing the sidewalks and bike lanes with others.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

peds in a bike lane is not?


Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

You can tell when a disagreement is created out of thin air.

I agree, bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk *slowly* and yield to pedestrians should have every right to enjoy doing so as long as the sidewalk is not crowded. In fact, I think many motorists would be far less bothered by bicyclists if the slowpokes did not clog up the roadway... thinking Market Street eastbound in the mornings...

Electric wheelchair users should *not* speed on the sidewalk: I almost got X-ed out once when I jogged down my front steps just about right into the path of one of those buggers doing 12-15 mph.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 21, 2012 @ 4:24 am

But that's fine. You ride your bike on the sidewalk and I'll walk in a bike lane.

Isn't this fun?

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2012 @ 5:57 am

Totally disagree. These lanes are good for everyone and they work very well.

Posted by MCR on May. 18, 2012 @ 9:25 am

Another poorly researched reactionary article from Steve Jones. What a surprise!

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:00 am

Yes, Steve should have contacted the SFBC to get the party line and stuck to it.

Posted by marcos on May. 18, 2012 @ 10:19 am

For the record, I did call SFBC to get its opinion on this project and never heard back.

Posted by steven on May. 23, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

For Stefan:

Thank you for your post about Copenhagen. You said "it must be a cultural thing." It is a cultural thing as most of these posts demonstrate. It's embarrassing.

Copenhagen and other parts of Europe are so far ahead of the U.S., so forward-thinking as compared to the backward thinking and hate here. I've not been to Copenhagen so I went to Wikipedia and read this:

"Copenhagen is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Every day 1.1 million km are bicycled in Copenhagen. 36% of all citizens commute to work, school or university by bicycle and it is municipal policy that this number should go up to 40% by 2012 and 50% in 2015. The city's bicycle paths are extensive and well used. Bicycle paths are often separated from the main traffic lanes and sometimes have their own signal systems."

36% of all citizens commute to by bike in Copenhagen. That would never happen here. The U.S. is a fat, lazy, car-culture and the hate for cyclist is rather rabid, as demonstrated by the many ignorant, immature and troll-like comments here, which is a mirror image of what the U.S. has turned into. There is a group of us who still bicycle here in the U.S., we just have to ride and ignore all the hate.

If you haven't been here, no need to come. There's nothing here worth seeing that you don't have something better of in Europe. We're full of big, ugly corporate box stores and willfully ignorant people, and they're proud of their ignorance.

Thanks again for your post.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

you have? Really?

Then it's simple, isn't it?

Move to Denmark.

But you've probably never been there so FYI, Copenhagen is a medievil city with narrow lanes and high density - the exact opposite of American. do you think that might make a difference?

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 5:42 am

Copenhagen is a highly modern city with wide streets and fast traffic... It just also has separate bike roads.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

Imagine if American citizens had to defend our country from a warlike aggressor (irony here) and they were a nation of avid bicyclists.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 20, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

I agree with all of the comments to this post. I know that is a strange thing to say and seems a bit like equivocating, but honestly everyone has a point. The main point I'm hearing is that these lanes are different. The primary difference is that they (for better or worse) organize traffic on a street that until now has very much been a wild-west. That's why primarily young male speed cyclist are upset. Motorist are upset. Pedestrians are upset, etc. etc. I hate to be one to promote the "give it time" measurement, but this exact same thing happened in NY when they put in car-buffered bike lanes (near a park no less). After just a year or so, it became everyone's favorite lane. Just give it time. I don't know why we tend to get so emotional about adjusting trivial habits for better and safer use of a public sphere.
(I can't really hate I do it too, but for some reason in this case if you look at this from an engineering standpoint, with respect to safety/mode-share/and accommodating public storage of motor vehicles, this is the safest most efficient way)

Posted by quitely_following_along on May. 18, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

Thanks for the one reasonable post here!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

It's his former district so I'd like to know.

Posted by Troll II on May. 18, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

Not so fast. Inquiring minds want to know how much money was spent on this experiment in Golden Gate Park that most rate as a failure, and how many hours of executive SFMTA time are going into non-Muni projects? When SFMTA claims they have a multi-million dollar budget Muni deficit and demands more funds, the citizens deserve a detailed explanation of where all SFMTA funds are coming from and where they are going. They also deserve a city government that supports their needs.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

maybe it's a good thing. Most of what they do makes traffic worse.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 5:44 am

Why is SFMTA spending so much money that it doesn't have on these unpopular non-Muni projects while demanding more money from the drivers and Muni riders in SF? Has anyone else noticed that SFMTA and BART plan to charge bicycles for parking soon? Does anyone else think it is time to say ENUF already. SFMTA is out of control and the Supervisors and the Mayor need to JUST SAY NO to their expansion plans, or face fall a from grace in the eyes of their constituents?

San Francisco residents and stakeholders in the parking game are lining up to fight back against the anti-car attitude called Transit First that SFMTA is riding on.

Let's start with an examination of the actual income and outlay of the SFMTA. Forget the budget of 2015. What did they take in in 2011 and where did that money go? How much time did SFMTA officials spend on non-Muni projects, such as overseeing the DOT-funded SFPark Pilot program that is causing so much grief among residents in Mission Bay who find themselves saddled with parking meters in front of their homes.

JUST SAY NO to any Supervisor who votes against your wishes on the matter of Sunday Parking meters, as they will probably support putting meters in front of your home when the time comes.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

Even a car can be public transit - taxi's. But bikes are the ultimate indulgence - can only carry one fit, healthy person and little cargo.

A "Transit First" city shouldn't be frittering tis money away on bikes.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

though not always. On the other hand, equating taxis with public buses and trains is offensive. The "transit first" policy you *yourself* cite is *not* about taxi cabs and I think you know that.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 19, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

time, and when used in a communal form, such as a taxi or car share, are more "public" than a bike.

Either way, there is no way a bike can be considered public transit. It's a private form of transportation. moreover it cannot be used by the very young, very old, or disabled.

Here's a handy guide for you:




Car, except when used as a taxi

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

[a bike] "...moreover it cannot be used by the very young, very old, or disabled."

The trolls are so very proud of their willful-ignorance.

Google these: (the spam filter would not allow me to put in the links):

Bicycles for Japan's elderly
website: tokyobybike dot com

U.S. PIRG Report: Young Americans Dump Cars for Bikes, Buses
website: dc streetsblog dot org

Quest88, design, manufacture and supply cycles for children and adults who have a physical or learning disability or have impaired balance.
website: all ability cycling dot com

Learn something.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

Bikes are essentially an elistist, private form of transit for younger, healthy, whites.

The idea that they are mass transit for all is ludicrous.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

Your ageism and racism are both duly noted, and speak to your terrible willful-ignorance.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

Most cyclists in SF are young and white.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2012 @ 5:58 am

Right now in SF, since biking is pretty dangerous, yes most people who bike are young healthy males. In cities where bike paths are fully separate from car lanes, they do tend to be adopted by a much higher percentage of the population.

That's not to say they should be a substitute for buses or subways.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

Cycling strong at 80

According to the report:

“… only 10% of trips by American elderly are by walking or cycling, compared to 43% in Germany, 51% in Denmark, and 64% in the Netherlands.

“The much higher levels of walking and cycling in northern Europe provide important physical activity, mobility, and independence for all age groups, while children and seniors in the U.S. are often dependent on their families, neighbors, and friends for many trips they need to make.”

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 12:46 am

Here's a handy guide for you:



Translation: Sit on your ass and be sedentary, and for the elderly that translates into waiting to die. Sedentary = not healthy.


Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 12:50 am


Car, except when used as a taxi"

A car culture. We see what that's done.

How can someone be on the Internet and be as ignorant as you are? Because you waste your time trolling instead of using what minimal, little skills you might have trying to learn something.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 1:20 am

medievil European city but not when in a place as spread out as America.

I seriously suggest that you relocate as you clearly do not understand our nation.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

Not spam. Just a test.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 20, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

have only been the dominant form of transit for the last 50-60 years. For someone so willing to suggest someone relocate for not having an understanding of the country, I'd say you lack the critical thinking skills to be a good American.

Bike-to-train transit is obviously possible, and your bizarre concepts regarding the limitations of bicycles have no bearing in the real world.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 20, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

Same principle.

Bikes are private transport, not public.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2012 @ 5:59 am

It is not "our nation." That warm and fuzzy rhetoric is a myth. The U.S. belongs to the corporations. Of and for the plutocracy. You still haven't figured that out? You're just allowed to live a parasite.

Would you learn to spell the word medieval? You consistently spell it wrong for someone who tries to come across as all-knowing.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

I always know when I've won a debate when all the trolls come back with is spelling quibbles.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2012 @ 6:00 am

Simple Bicycle Ride Lessens Depression Among Elderly

Health Statistics:
Health benefits of bicycling

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 2:22 am

Absolutely correct, people should not have to think for them selves, imagine having to cross a bike path on your own.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

Jones should tell us where all the "new" parking spaces are in Golden Gate Park. My understanding: the Concourse Authority removed 800 parking spaces from the surface streets of the park to match the 800 created by the parking garage under the Concourse. If he has different information, he should share it with us. Linking an overwrought anti-garage piece by Savanna Blackwell that, oddly, revives the notion of Warren Hellman as Public Enemy #1 only shows that prog cyclists are still bitter about how city voters chose to build the garage.

Posted by Rob Anderson on May. 23, 2012 @ 9:12 am

the garage having an entrance *outside* *the* *park*... and that was interpreted as meaning it could have an entrance *inside* the park. Lawyers.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 23, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

whether the entrance to the parking garage was 100 yards further north or not. And that will be the same 100 "usual suspects" that whine about everything.

Is there really no other issue that you have?

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

that you believe it with all your heart and aren't willing to stipulate to being wrong no matter what, or ...

"I guarantee that no more than 100 voters give[sic] a damn": do you even listen to yourself?

"Is there really no other issue that you have?": interesting rhetorical ploy, coming from a troll.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 23, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

Just a deflection?

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

The entrance to the garage that's inside the park was litigated by those opposed to the garage---mostly the bike people---but Proposition J was ambiguous on the matter, since it merely talked about entrances that "begin" outside the park. The Concourse Authority and the court both concluded that a second, inside-the-park entrance was necessary, and they were right. Garage opponents proposed that all motor vehicles should enter the garage from 8th and Fulton, which was clearly impractical.

The main issue for city voters was access for everyone to the heart of Golden Gate Park, especially since both the new de Young museum and the Academy of Sciences were going to remain on the Concourse.

Posted by Rob Anderson on May. 23, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

"Nah, he does not ban Rob Anderson because he is such an easy straw man to demolish and is not a threat to the urban planning technocrats that fund streetblog.
He bans others with more nuanced critiques of the Kool-Ade drinkers because we are live threats with valid critiques based on working in communities outside of the Kool-Ade drinkers that the true believers simply cannot handle."

Jeez, I guess I was "demolished" and never knew it. And by the semi-anonymous "Marcos," who's actually Marc Salomon. Why the pseudonym for Mr. Nuance? And why doesn't the biggest know-it-all in a city full of them have his own blog? Too busy not drinking Kool-ade, I suppose. Or too busy being a serious threat to the folks who pay for Streetsblog, which somehow keeps functioning in spite of his "valid critiques" that come out of some unnamed "communities" that he claims to represent. Oh, Marc, please share some nuances with me!

Posted by Rob Anderson on May. 24, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

...if pedestrians were, as we used to be, taught to walk on the left, facing the oncoming traffic.

Posted by RickinSF on May. 25, 2012 @ 8:41 am