San Francisco Bike Facilities: Green Conflict Zones

Posted on 06/28/2012


Green merge zone on Embarcadero at Bryant in San Francisco, nearly right below the Bay Bridge

I had a brief trip to San Francisco earlier this week. I wrote this earlier post about excellent bike facilities in SF, and there’s plenty of great coverage at SF Streetsblog… but I like to bike around places I visit, and to see what lessons they might have for Los Angeles (see my recent San Luis Obispo article, too.)

I typically take my bike on Amtrak when I visit San Francisco for extended periods. This time I had a shorter trip, with a neice and nephew in tow, so I left my bike at home. I easily rented a good-quality city bicycle at Bay City Bike Rentals and Tours in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. The second stop I made was the San Francisco Bike Coalition headquarters not far away on Market Street – and I picked up their excellent San Francisco Bike Map and Walking Guide. The map shows bicycle facilities – plus locations of bike shops and bike rental businesses. There are plenty of convenient easy bike rental locations – mostly in the more touristy locations, including Fisherman’s Wharf and along Golden Gate Park.

There are lots of folks riding in S.F. – and the city has done quite a bit to implement safe and convenient places to ride. There are plenty of good lessons for Los Angeles, so Bikas plans to do two or three posts showcasing San Francisco bike facilities.

Today Bikas will show and tell on San Francisco’s very new green-painted zones where bike lanes conflict with right-turning car traffic. I found out about these from this SF Streetsblog article. Bicycling on SF’s new green zones, I found that they’re actually fairly similar to what Los Angeles has done with green conflict zones on First Street in Boyle Heights, and a continuous green lane on Spring Street downtown. Both of these L.A. pilot green bike lanes include similar green conflict zones, though the L.A. examples actually include a lot more green. 

I am of two minds on lots of green bike pigment. In some ways it’s good to have plenty of green color to make bike facilities visible and prominent, but the materials, installation, design and maintenance all cost money. So I tend to favor a more judicious use of green color – only in the places where it’s most needed. This is more-or-less like what San Francisco has done. (Note that I don’t mean that as a critique of L.A.’s green pilots. I am happy to see L.A. experimenting with green bike lanes. LADOT has  done their pilot green projects fairly well, and learned what works and doesn’t.)

So… here’s a look at three of the (five, according to SF Streetsblog) new SF green conflict zones. Similar to L.A.’s these are basically dashes that show cyclists going straight ahead in places where cars are merging to turn right.

Adjacent to S.F. City Hall, there’s a new green zone on Grove at Polk:

Green painted bike lane conflict zone immediately south of San Francisco City Hall – on eastbound Grove at Polk

The green painted area highlights the eastbound Grove bike lane which continues straight, which conflicts with cars turning right-south on Polk.

Green conflict zone on Grove at Polk, view looking east

The green on Grove is actually tiny. I almost missed it. It’s only four dashes, but it makes a lot of sense. It’s all that’s needed for a relatively shallow right turn lane in a nice tight urban center.

I am a sucker for high-profile facilities in prominent locations.  In addition to making for good photos, these facilities have symbolic value in visually showing that (whether entirely true or not) the governmental powers are supporting and legitimizing cycling. I also like it that it shows off bike facilities to elected officials and city staff. Recently, these prominent city-hall-adjacent facilities have, of course,  been done well in Los Angeles and in Long Beach.

At the top of the post is a photo of the greened conflict zone on Embarcadero at  Bryant. Here’s another shot:

Green bike lane conflict zone on Embarcadero, looking south

The green dashes highlight the bike lane proceeding straight ahead where cars turn right onto Bryant.

My third and final example is located on westbound Division at 9th:

Green conflict zone on San Francisco’s Division bike lanes at 9th – below the 80/101 Freeway exchange

Similar to the other examples, the Division bike lane continues directly westbound, where cars turn-north on 9th Street.

Green conflict zone on San Francisco’s westbound Division bike lane, view facing west. Right turn only lane onto 9th is on the right

This location is a fairly wide street – where two differing street grids converge (we have similar intersections in L.A., for example, 4th Street at Hoover and Reno), so there’s a painted triangular median.

San Francisco’s green conflict zone on Division at 9th, view east, standing in the painted triangular median island. Right turn only lane is on the left.

All in all, these seem like very good uses for green coloring – in these cases paint. Sometimes these are done with thermoplastic – which is basically a longer lasting version of street-marking paint. They are a relatively inexpensive solution to make cyclists more visible and safer in merging areas that can be uncomfortable and stressful.

So… where would you like to see this treatment in Los Angeles?

Historically L.A. had just eliminated bike lanes in places where there is prevalent right-turning car traffic. A gap is definitely better that a bike lane that hugs the curb and sets up riders for a right-hook collision.

I used to think that this sort of treatment would make a lot of sense where the Sunset Boulevard bike lanes intersect with Griffith Park Boulevard… but now that part of GPB is closed to traffic, and transformed in L.A.’s first Streets4People public plaza: Sunset Triangle Park.

A few other potentially worthwhile L.A. locations that come to my mind (not that I think we should drop everything and do these – probably still better to continue to add more new bike lane mileage):

  • northbound Eagle Rock Blvd at York
  • southbound Eagle Rock Blvd at Avenue 36 (becomes Fletcher)
  • eastbound 7th at Bixel
  • northeastbound Silver Lake at Glendale Blvd
  • northbound Hoover at Union
  • northbound Los Angeles Street at 101 Freeway

Where do you think green conflict zone markings might make sense in Los Angeles?

Posted in: bike lane