San Francisco Gets Ready for Its First Raised Bikeway

SFMTA crews mark an area on Market Street where a raised bike lane will be installed over the next four weeks. (Bryan Goebel/KQED)

A type of bikeway popular in bicycling meccas like Copenhagen and Amsterdam is going to be tested on San Francisco's main thoroughfare starting next month. It's a design that transportation officials say will become more common over the next few years, as the city rolls out a number of long-awaited safe streets projects.

Monday, construction crews from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency began working on the city's first raised bike lane, along two blocks of eastbound Market Street between 12th and Gough streets, where a green protected bike lane currently exists. Construction is expected to take about four weeks

A raised bike lane, separated from auto traffic, has a number of benefits, according to Mike Sallaberry, a senior engineer with the SFMTA's Livable Streets division. First, it raises the visibility of bike riders, improving their safety and comfort level, and is a draw for people  who may feel cycling is a little intimidating.

San Mateo is another community planning raised bike paths. They released these renderings earlier this year.
San Mateo is another community planning raised bike paths. They released these renderings earlier this year. (City of San Mateo)

SFMTA officials say this kind of bikeway also helps prevent vehicles from entering, but will also have to accommodate paratransit vehicles and taxis, which are allowed to enter the bike lanes to drop off passengers with disabilities. Planners also need to figure out how to deal with delivery trucks, and might consider creating drop-off zones.

Sallaberry explained that raised bike lanes haven't been done extensively in the United States, but that city planners have primarily looked to cities like Vancouver, Copenhagen and Amsterdam for best practices.

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"There's no reason to reinvent the wheel, but we do also have to modify it for our local context, our local needs," said Sallaberry.

The bike lane will be raised on different segments from 2 to 6 inches, said Sallaberry. Four types of designs will be demonstrated, and the SFMTA plans to collect feedback over the next six months. One design will have a mountable curb, while another will have a vertical curb.

"The raised bike lane on Market Street that's being demonstrated is an exciting new design that's going to create protected space for people who want to ride bikes in San Francisco," said Noah Budnick, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "It's going to help the agencies working on it figure out how to make raised bike lanes work on all sorts of different streets in San Francisco."

Sallaberry said raised bike lanes are featured in a number of street redesigns expected to start construction next year, including Masonic Avenue, Second Street and Polk Street. A raised bike lane from Octavia Boulevard to the Embarcadero is also featured in one design proposed as part of the long-term vision for Market Street.

SFMTA officials say the area where the raised bike lane is being constructed currently sees about 3,000 riders every weekday.