Bike lanes, cars may be on crash course – SFGate

C.W. Nevius, Chronicle Columnist
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Source: SFGate

Leah Shahum, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition (on orange bike), says the bike lanes are improving. Photo: Aaron Bialick / SF

The good news is that there have never been more lanes dedicated to bike traffic in San Francisco. The bad news is bikes and automobiles are still crashing into each other.

Part of the problem is simply sharing the street. But there’s also a concern that the green bike lanes may actually be encouraging collisions.

“It’s a huge improvement,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition. “But it is clearly not there yet.”

Just as an example, take the Market Street Slalom, where the green lane runs along the curb to Van Ness, then veers out to the middle of the street for a couple of blocks, then goes back to the curb.

And that stretch comes after the Octavia and Market vortex, which some think may be the most dangerous bike/car intersection in the city. Bikes come down a hill on the right side while drivers slow down and attempt to turn right. If they don’t see the cyclists, they may turn directly in front of them.

“That’s an illegal left turn onto Octavia by the way,” says Shahum. “We really need more enforcement there.”

The new bike lanes in Golden Gate Park have also been criticized. Although the lane is separated from traffic on John F. Kennedy Drive, bikes travel between the curb and parked cars. Pedestrians say they run the risk of being run over by bikes when they cross the lane to their car, and cyclists worry that someone getting out of a car will open the door without looking and knock them off their bike.

Monday night the Bike Coalition held a group ride along JFK to see how the lanes are working.

Shahum says she’s heard some of the same worries, “but we’re definitely hearing the concerns lessen with time.”

C.W. Nevius is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. His columns appear Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail: Twitter: @cwnevius