San Francisco Bike Facilities: JFK Parking-Protected Bike Lane

Posted on 07/04/2012


San Francisco’s new parking-protected bikeway on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. Note that the cars on the left are parked. The parking is on the left of the bicycle lane.

It’s the second post from Bikas recent trip to San Francisco. See also Bikas’ earlier post about San Francisco’s new green bike lane conflict zones (and our S.F. sketches if you’re into that.)

Today, we’re going to report on San Francisco’s new protected bike lanes on JFK Drive. This bike facility is located on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park; it extends from Transverse Drive to Stanyan Street, which is where the panhandle begins. 

These sorts of bike facilities are common in much of the world, but here in the U.S. they’re innovative. There’s not yet a uniform language as to what this facility would be called. Generally when a bikeway is parallel to a roadway, and there’s something (a curb, parked cars, bollards, etc.) between the bikeway and the car traffic, then it’s a “protected bike lane” and that’s what SF Streetsblog calls it. The SFMTA website calls this facility a “separated bikeway” or “cycletrack.” The SFBC website calls it a “parking-protected bikeway.”   I’ve heard New York City folks call these a “floating parking lane” too. Whatever you call it, it’s an excellent facility.

What makes it “protected” is that there are parked cars to the left of the bike lane. Nearly all bike lanes in Los Angeles have parking on the right (the only exception is where there isn’t any parking.) Here’s SFMTA’s graphic showing how the JFK Parking-Protected Bikeway works:

Diagram – from SFMTA website – shows how parking has been moved to the left of the bicycle lane.

This sort of facility is unfamiliar for L.A. cyclists. If my description isn’t clear, maybe watch this video from Portland, Oregon:

Having bicycled protected bike lanes in New York City and Long Beach, I had come to think of protected bike lanes as fancy expensive facilities that require relatively costly new bike-signals and curb-work… but seeing San Francisco’s JFK treatment, I realized that in the appropriate settings, protected bikeways can be fairly cheap. I didn’t have time to ride the whole length, so I may have missed something, but it appears that the only cost here was lane-marking paint – no signals and curbs required – so that would lower the financial barriers for creating these facilities.

Sign gives road users details on where to find out more about the parking changes

I suspect that one of the potential hurdles for this kind of facility is just getting the word out and making drivers, cyclists and pedestrians aware of how to use the new facility.

The photo to the left shows the sign that directs drivers and cyclists to call SFMTA for information.

According to the SFBC newsletter, bike coalition volunteers were out along JFK passing out information on how the new configuration works.

Reading some online accounts, there have been some issues with occasional cars parked in the bike, but I didn’t encounter any of that.

Entering the park near the panhandle, here’s what it looks like:

Parked cars on the left, cyclists riding the parking-protected bikeway on JFK Drive in San Francisco

This street is especially well-suited for a protected facility: high levels of bicycling, with no (or few) driveways.

Here’s the way the facility works at a stop sign intersection:

Approaching a stop sign on the JFK drive protected bikeway.

Markings in the bikeway indicate “Merge Ahead.” The blue striping in the above photo indicates a handicap parking space – located near curb cuts near intersections.

Here’s a shot closer to the stop sign:

Stop sign intersection on San Francisco’s JFK Drive protected bikeway

At the bottom right of the photo is the crosswalk (across the bike lane) where handicapped folks can cross the lane to the curb cut. The bike lane ends momentarily, turning into a shared sharrowed right turn lane. The protected bike lane resumes at the far side of the intersection. It seems like this treatment would work ok at a signalized intersection, too… Though it drops the protection at the intersection (so maybe it would be less welcoming for beginner cyclists), it seemed to work fine.

Look ma! No curbwork! No bike signals!

So… dear Los Angeles readers… where should we do this sort of parking-protected cycletrack in Los Angeles?

Joe’s guess at what criteria might make it work well:

  • relatively few driveways
  • relatively few intersections
  • relatively high volume of bicyclists
  • existing parking

Where in Los Angeles?

(Note that LADOT says we can’t do this – but they’ve said that all the time about all kinds of things from sharrows to CicLAvia to road diets to you name it.)