San Francisco Bike Facilities: Revisiting the Wiggle

Posted on 07/10/2012


Oh Boy! The third installment in Bikas’ vacationary tales of the city… of San Francisco. See also: the welcome greening of the conflict areas and the mysterious parking-protected JFK bikeway. Today, we re-visit San Francisco’s “The Wiggle” – arguably the most popular bike route in the know universe.

San Francisco’s The Wiggle in 2011 – bike box in the foreground, left turn bike lane and sharrows in the distance – click for article and larger images

The Wiggle is a very flat bike route that takes riders from Market Street to the Panhandle – avoiding the hills that San Francisco is known for. It was popular with cyclists long before the city installed bike-specific infrastructure there.

When I visited The Wiggle in 2011, it featured bike route signage, sharrows, a bike box, a short stretch of green-painted bike lane, and even a bike-only left turn lane. Perhaps the most impressive thing about The Wiggle is that when I just hang out there, I see more people moving by bike than by car. I am not sure if there’s a street in L.A. where this would be true. (yet!) 

I revisited The Wiggle on June 25th 2012, and it had a number of new features. I’ll cover them from south to north.

Near the beginning of the Wiggle, on Duboce at Webster, streetcars, bikes (plus peds, and, well, other stuff) share the street.

Here’s a photo of the new treatment:

The Wiggle’s Green bikeway slot through the streetcar boarding platform bulbout.

It’s basically a short bikeway slot cut into the sidewalk – located between the streetcar boarding zone and the rest of the sidewalk. It’s designed for bike-ped conflict… but I think that’s ok. Traffic-calming guru Ian Lockwood once said to me that L.A. needs more bike-ped conflict (ie: I interpret this to mean that we non-motorized folks can all slow down, look each other in the eyes, and negotiate a bit, where needed.)

The green color and the different level (the bikeway is at street grade, and the rest of the island is just above at curb grade) distinguish the space a bit, so peds and cyclists know to keep an eye out for each other, but each can still get across easily.

I think that a design like this could make some sense for Downtown L.A.’s 7th Street, where both bike lanes and a street car are planned.

The wiggle is mostly comprised of fairly narrow streets, so bike lanes aren’t easily added, unless something else is removed. To mark the route, the city uses sharrows – plus route signage. For much of The Wiggle, ordinary sharrows have been upgraded by adding a big bright green backing:

Green-backed sharrows on San Francisco’s The Wiggle – on Steiner Street

At intersections, these green-backed sharrows follow the turns where The Wiggle wiggles:

Sharrows show and reinforce the left turn at this intersection on San Francisco’s The Wiggle – at Steiner and Waller (I think)

These green-back sharrows are very visible – slightly reminiscent of Long Beach’s green sharrow lane. I don’t know that I would recommend them all over L.A. (mostly because they’re more expensive than ordinary sharrows – and probably still less effective than lanes, in my opinion) but they seem like a good treatment for higher-volume bike routes, especially ones that turn or wiggle. They might make sense for gap-closures, too. Generally L.A. bike facilities end at (or just before) intersections, so I think that this sort of in-intersection treatment could fill a gap.

Lastly (and more Wiggle-adjacent than actual Wiggle) the end of The Wiggle is the Golden Gate Park Panhandle, which includes a bike path, in the park, but more-or-less parallel to Fell Street. Where the bike path crosses Masonic, The city has installed a bicycle signal:

Bicycle signal where San Francisco panhandle bike path crosses Masonic. Masonic is in the foreground, Fell street is on the left.

It appears that the bike signal helps prevent conflict with Fell Street drivers turning left across the path, similar to bike signals on Long Beach’s protected bike lanes.

This treatment makes me think about the Metro Orange Line bike path. Generally L.A. bike paths will disappear at this sort of intersection, then resume immediately afterward. Cyclists are left off on the streetcorner and use the existing crosswalk, with its signalization. I think that stop-cross-start-again is ok for now, especially in locations  with plenty of car traffic, and somewhat limited cyclist traffic. Signals are relatively expensive. As cycling becomes more popular (maybe as gas prices rise or ??) this sort of bike signal may make sense in higher bike-volume locations along the Orange Line – perhaps at L.A. Valley College.

What do you think of these San Francisco facilities? Where do you think they might make sense in Los Angeles?