How San Francisco Can Make Its Streets Safer For Cyclists

For those of you who do not get around by bicycle, you may not know that the door zone, the space in a bike lane between the cyclist and a parallel parked car, is one of the biggest threats to bicyclists in San Francisco. According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), dooring is the second most common form of injury collision involving cyclists, behind unsafe speed, though the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition contends that dooring is the highest injury collision type caused by motorists or their passengers. The good new is the San Francisco Municipal Transportation agency is piloting a series of projects designed to encourage bicyclists to steer clear of the door zone. On sections of Polk Street, for example, the SFMTA has painted a batch of T’s in the bike lanes that are supposed to guide bicyclists away from the door zone. The design proves to be an improvement over the standard bike lanes, yet it does, at the same time, underscore the fact that there is not much space available for cyclists to ride safely. Research shows that bicyclists are only given a very narrow area of a space in a bike lane when a car door opens, about one to two feet wide, depending on the width of the lane and size of the car door.

The SFMTA is also trying out this T style cross-hatch design on 17th Street between Dolores and Guerrero streets, and they have installed the T design in the bike lanes on Howard Street between 5th and 7th. The T design is becoming more and more cities across the country and is a feature that is highlighted in the Urban Bikeway Design Guide put out by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). The SFMTA has done before/after studies on both Polk and Howard where they were able to reduce the number of cyclists riding in the door zone. In a 2006 study in Howard Street, the average distance from the curb where cyclists rode increased from 10.3 feet to 10.9 feet, with 24% riding in the door zone before and 10% after. In a 2009-10 study on Polk Street, the average distance from the curb where cyclists rode increased from 10 feet to 10.4 feet, with 41% riding in the door zone before and 30% after.

The SFMTA says the T installations have been effective so far. They are also considering implementing left side bike lanes. Left-side bike lanes are conventional bike lanes placed on the left side of one-way streets or two-way median divided streets. They offer advantages along streets with heavy delivery or transit use, frequent parking turnover on the right side, or other potential conflicts that could be associated with right-side bicycle lanes. The left side bike lane benefits are:
• Avoids potential right-side bike lane conflicts on streets,
• improves bicyclist visibility by motorists by having the bike lanes on the driver’s side,
• provides consistent facility configuration in locations where right-side travel lanes are subject to rush hour parking restrictions and other flexible uses,
• minimizes door zone conflicts next to parking because of fewer door opening on the passenger side of vehicles,
• fewer bus and truck conflicts as most bus stops and loading zones are on the right side of the street.
If Bike lanes are to provide a measure of safety, then they must provide minimum safe distance from cyclists. This world is changing, and as more people become conscious of the environment, interested in sustainable living, and turn to public transportation and bicycling, then society and governments must move along with those changes. Consequently, as this happens, it is imperative that urban planning designs evolve to include safer routes for cyclists.

If you have been injured as cyclist and believe you are not at fault, you should contact firm for a free consultation. Our personal injury attorney has over 10 years experience representing cyclists injured in accidents. We know that bicyclists are often blamed for accidents that are not their fault, and our bike accidnet attorney will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.