Have you noticed? San Francisco streets are changing. From new bikeways, to pedestrian improvements, to on-street bike parking and better public space, our city streets are becoming safer and more bike and pedestrian friendly.
And some of the biggest changes to our streets have started as pilots. Parklets and required right turns on Market Street are just two successes that began as demonstrations. Now it’s hard to imagine life without them.
Your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been active in instituting pilots all across the city. Recently, we worked in conjunction with BART and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition to implement a pilot removal of the BART bike blackout period. If you travel regionally by bike, this August’s pilot probably made your Friday commute easier. Before that, through our Great Streets Project, we helped launch pilots that opened up public space around the city—from parklets to 17th Street plaza to Powell Street Promenade.
And we’re getting ready to embark on the next round of pilots: separated bikeway trials across the city.
SHOWCASING SEPARATED BIKEWAYS
Separated bikeways, parking protected bikeways and raised bikeways seem like simple concepts if you’ve ever traveled to places like Copenhagen, Holland, Montreal, Berlin, Mexico City and, increasingly, New York City and Chicago. But if you haven’t visited these cities — or you aren’t familiar with the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting the City vision — these new kinds of bikeways may sound as strange and confusing as parklets did four years ago.
That’s where pilots help. Pilots allow people to sample a design idea, to understand how it works, and for the City to evaluate what’s working or not — without making expensive or permanent changes. These pilots whet the public’s appetite for innovative projects, while making your ride safer.
Three pilots — on 2nd Street, Polk Street and the Embarcadero — are poised to help both refine the design of separated bikeways and also help educate San Franciscans, most of whom have never experienced one, about their benefits. And it’s all happening over the next year.
Your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is working with local landscape architects and designers, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, Department of Public Works and other agencies to help develop and pilot three demonstration blocks over the next year that include the next generation of bikeways. For all these projects, the demonstration block(s) will be a key step towards building a permanent, full and successful project.
»» 2nd Street: As part of the 2nd Street Improvement Project, led by the Department of Public Works, we are working with community members, businesses and designers to help the City test street design concepts that arise during the community process. The pilot is intended to inform the community process along this key neighborhood destination and corridor link between SOMA and the rest of the city. Look for a community-led demonstration project on 2nd Street this Fall that includes, among other things, a separated bikeway.
»» Polk Street: The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is using the planned repaving of Polk Street to kick off a project to rethink Polk Street as a place that’s even more vibrant and safer for walking and biking. We are connecting the city with designers and other resources to help them develop a compelling demonstration project that should include a separated bikeway. The demonstration project should be on the ground in early 2013.
»» Embarcadero: The America’s Cup has focused attention on our waterfront, including the Embarcadero. The “People’s Plan,” the City’s plan for the event, calls for a separated bikeway on the Embarcadero for both the trial events in 2012 and the main event in Summer 2013. We are working with the City and local stakeholders to use the planned separated bikeway to test a robust, bikeway that can serve as a model and inspiration for a permanent re-imagining of the Embarcadero.
There are key lessons of both the parklet movement and the pilots of required right turns on Market Street at 6th and 10th Street that can be applied to this separated bikeways pilots. First, is the importance of design and bringing a placemaking approach to the projects and investing in meaningful evaluation. Parklets would not have become popular and well loved if the designs were not almost uniformly beautiful and appropriate to the neighborhood. Similarly, the bikeways of the future must be the kind of design that makes people smile and creates a sense of pride and distinction to the street — bolstering shopping and fostering a sense of community.
This may sound like a lot for a mere bikeway, but take heart: New York City has, in many cases, set a great precedent for ensuring that their next generation of bikeways truly improve the street and neighborhood on all levels. We can, and must do it right. This is why we are working with a number of leaders in the design world to develop a toolkit of attractive, modular parts that can be used to demonstrate the next generation bikeways — and more — on these three streets. We want you to have that same experience you did when you saw your first parklet: the “oh” and “of course!” and “more!”
And beyond that first reaction, you’ll also be able to test it and see for yourself whether you like the new designs; San Francisco is still in the early stages of figuring out optimal designs for some of the next generation bikeways. Your feedback will be essential in that process. We plan to work with the City and local groups to ensure that there is a robust evaluation process, looking at all aspects of the demonstration projects, so that people’s feedback can drive changes to the project. On the Market Street pilot, the project initially had a required turn at 8th Street, not 10th. But feedback from users and others helped the City to tweak the project before it was finalized and made permanent.
Civic innovation is so rare, even in our startup city. San Francisco has been proven that it can be a leader in embracing new ideas. This coming year will be an exciting opportunity to see that energy go toward the bikeways of the future, bringing them here to us to see, use and tweak — today. We hope that you will be a part of this moment.
As people who bike in San Francisco, we hope these pilots will make your commute to work and trip to the store easier, safer and more fun. But we also hope you get involved in these campaigns, and ensure that 2nd, Polk and Embarcadero pilots are as successful as parklets and the required right turn on Market In the next year, you will be hearing a lot from us about how you can help shape, build, market and evaluate these demonstration projects.