How watching paint dry could help San Francisco cyclists


San Francisco and its transit agency have lofty goals. Half of all trips made in San Francisco by 2018 will be by modes other than cars, and 20 percent of vehicle trips will be by bike in 2020, if the city has its way.

One major obstacle to both of those goals is paint. Yeah, the gooey stuff. 

Sup. Eric Mar convened a hearing on bike expansion strategy today, exploring a newly released report he requested from the budget analyst which outlines the (bike) path to a more fixie-friendly San Francisco.  

The report outlined obstacles to expanding bicycle use in the city and gave many recommendations on raising funds, but one of the lowlights was a series of backlogs in the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority’s Traffic Paint Shop, which paints bike lanes and sharrow signs on pavement across the city.

The problem is, the bike lanes aren’t getting painted. At least not all of them.

“I felt, with bike advocates and others, pissed off,” Mar said, of the lack of progress on bike safety implementation in the city. “This hearing is coming from much of those frustrations.”

The paint shop’s backlog of projects stretches all the way back to 2010, according to the report. The Bay Guardian contacted the SFMTA for a response, and were told they were in the process of finding someone from the paint shop to speak. 

But that might be hard to do, as one of the contributing factors the report outlined is a lack of leadership. The paint shop has had a managerial vacancy since April of 2011, and though the position was briefly filled in June 2012, it was just as quickly vacated again.

This spells problems for the city’s bike expansion goals.

“The Traffic Paint Shop was found not able to promptly fulfill all of the work requested resulting in a backlog of projects that delay project implementation including bicycle improvement projects,” the budget analyst wrote in the report.  

So the board of supervisors and bike advocates can achieve new victories, getting project approvals for bike lanes and safety improvement projects left and right -- but until the paint shop shapes up, some of those projects may be pushed back years. 

They also lack an electronic database system to track its project’s progress, creating further slowdown, according to the report. 

The paint shopped developed a plan to address the issues that have caused the backlog, but the solutions have not been completely implemented. Their new database, for instance, would not go online until 2014, and only if the funding is made available.

They’ve made some progress though. The total backlog at the beginning of 2013 was 394 projects uncompleted, and are now down to 149 projects.

The report shows they are slowly addressing concerns, but the source of the problems themselves have not been addressed.

The Sustainable Streets Division, the umbrella division of SFMTA that implements bike capital projects, also has issues keeping up with its workload. Bridget Smith, a deputy director working in the division, told the budget analyst they would need anywhere from 15-20 additional planners and engineers to meet the city’s transportation growth needs.

The projects are not just about expanding bike use, but about making rides safe. Amelie Le Moullac was killed while cycling on Folsom back in August, and her death was cited during the hearing as a catalyst for the safety projects to pick up the pace.

Douglas Nicolson, a dues-paying member of the SF Bike Coalition, spoke at the podium to Sups. Mar, John Avalos, and Mark Farrell. 

“Bicycling is my primary means of transportation, I’ve ridden my bike through SoMa every day,” he said. “Looking into the future, my girlfriend and I are starting to think about having kids. Will I still be able to depend on a bike when I have someone who depends on me?”

Mar told the Guardian this was a first step to push for more funding and support from the mayor and the board to expand bike capital projects and safety throughout the city. “According to the findings of this report, San Francisco cannot afford not to fund bicycle infrastructure,” he said.


Guest likes some Vicodin with his Vodka

Posted by Uriah Heep on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

Who is guest?

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

collect detritus thrown off by the larger wheels of cars; also due to the camber of roadways.

Remember when Willie made a big deal about changing the simple lined-off crosswalks into the "zebras"?

I think that some sort of non-skid paint scheme which provided a uniform light color (which does not get slippery when wet, etc.) for bicyclists to ride on and which helps them see detritus in their path would be a boon to bicyclists -- especially those who ride at night.

(Of course if the paint department can't even get lines painted, maybe that's too ambitious.)

*real lillipublicans or fake? Reader must decide.

Posted by lillipublicans* on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 11:39 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 6:57 am

As the city's new class grows things get done much faster and much more cheaply than before.

I enjoy the battle for entitlements amongst our progressives. The city is here for them, and only them, as GPD proves, all it takes is a theory of why you are owed and you should get it.

The bike lobby should get their way because they are the antidote to the car lobby, which there is none.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 9:17 am

I imagine that there would be hundreds if not thousands of people who would voluteer a couple of hours on a Sunday to paint some friggin' lanes and "sharrows" on the streets. Why this needs to become some huge logistical, bureaucratic clusterf*ck is beyond me.

(and the whole car vs. bike bickering in this thread was as predictable as it is lame)

Posted by guestD on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:04 am

and the new paint would wear off in a few weeks.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:19 am

if the Paint Shop did the work?

Posted by guestD on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:42 am

The major funding for bike projects comes from Car Registrations. None/Nada/Zip from Bike fees. And how many friggin' planners does it take to screw in a light bulb?
And the City is so screwed up - they spent hundreds of thousands to put a segregated bike lane on Cargo Way that noboby uses, but they can't get a painted lane the entire length of Market (which is the obvious choice for a dedicated bike lane)?

Posted by Richmondman on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

Yeah that bike lane on Cargo is a real head scratcher.

What they shoulda done was rip out the RR tracks on Illinois.

Its a miracle nobodies gone down in front of one the cement trucks that go barreling along Illinois.

Posted by Pete Moss on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

I think I've seen you there rummaging through trash bins.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

Is that you Cowboy?

Hey, Candy wants her shower cap back.

Tuan says: Hi!

Posted by Pete Moss on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

Most eastsiders know that the train tracks along Cargo and Illinois are fairly critical to the ship repair operations near 20th Street. The "Donald Trump Memorial" Port mandates they stay regardless of any future street retrofitting in the area. Maybe Pete's campsite is in GGP and he doesn't get over to the east side much.

The Cargo St. bike lanes should have been a side-by-side PATH on the north (east) side of Cargo, as an extension of the existing sidewalk. The side-by-side bike path (20'-25' total width to accommodate peds/skaters/etc.) should then be extended all along the east side of Illinois St. north to China Basin. All future development of the port property east of Illinois St. should be completely car-free, which allows the east-side of Illinois bike/ped/skate path to be relatively free of future car/bike interactions (collisions).

If the Port wasn't so busy planning to build high-rises for millionaires and mega-corporations on "its" (OUR!) property, maybe they'd be developing the land they control as if the other 99% of SFers actually mattered.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

city. That's not true of most cities. Question is this - did the city pay a fair market value for it? Or did they expropriate it?

But yeah, a lot of Pete's story really doesn't hang together so well. Although I can believe that he cannot get it together to have a real home.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

actually thinking for yourself. Kinda like religion with shiny pieces of metal and pieces of green paper instead of mythological tales of apples, floods, miracles, virgin birth and other hokum.

Like almost all the rest of this great land, the city of SF stole the waterfront fair and square from the previous inhabitants; in this case, I believe the Ohlone.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

What 'story' are you talking about?

I posted 4 sentences stating an opinion on some street improvements the City could make, or not.

Are you on drugs Guest?

Posted by Pete Moss on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

This would explain the confusion, the anger and the paranoia. Not to mention the terrible memory loss, where he can't remember what he posts day to day.

Though you could convince me that he does some acid occasionally as well, he claims to have money, so heavy acid use doesn't go too well with being employed.

I do notice he posts in the middle of the working day, so maybe he is really just a dope smoking trustafarian of the sort he likes to complain about all the time.

That would be classic.

What do you think Pete? What kind of drugs is Guest on?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

Well I heard about these Bath Salts.

Supposed to cause serious disorientation.

Posted by P{ete Moss on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

You talking about the the old shipyard at the foot of 20th?

That place is a ghost town.

The last 2 guys I knew working there were laid off half a year ago.

They've making plans to build something there since I was in High School.

Posted by Pete Moss on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

"The Sustainable Streets Division, the umbrella division of SFMTA that implements bike capital projects, also has issues keeping up with its workload. Bridget Smith, a deputy director working in the division, told the budget analyst they would need anywhere from 15-20 additional planners and engineers to meet the city’s transportation growth needs."

Most of these projects have been on the books for a decade or more by now. Is the suggestion that the MTA has not been doing the engineering work on an ongoing basis over that time and that it needs to hire more planners and engineers?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:06 am

wholesale hiring of staff, even if in theory the work is approved.

Given the massive unfunded costs of healthcare and pensions for city workers, hiring has been pared to the bones, because we quite simply cannot afford another layer of bureaucrats.

If this plan goes a little more slowly, I suspect that most voters are happy with that. These plans and changes often have a lot of popular opposition, and "slow and steady" works for many.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:52 am

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