David Baker Architects

URBAN CYCLING

HOW-TO: Bicycle Toolbox


See all How-to's

BICYCLE LANES: In Fairfax, Marin County, with vegetated swale for storm water.

Click on any picture for a bike-network slideshow.

A world-class bicycle network for San Francisco!

In San Francisco almost 50 percent of our carbon footprint comes from transportation. As a result of the challenges of global warming and the finite nature of cheap and plentiful oil, people are interested in encouraging transportation options with lower environmental impact. One of the simplest and most cost-effective strategies is encouraging everyday transportation by human power: bicycles! Not only is bicycling energy-efficient, it also relieves congestion and parking since bicycles are much more space-efficient than cars.

The national bike advocacy group, the League of American Bicyclists, has classified San Francisco as a Gold Level Bike-Friendly Community, with positive reviews of the city's engineering, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation. Still, much is to be done. San Francisco is in the midst of implementing a bicycle network. This is the result of grass-roots advocacy combined with the GREEN aspirations of City government. So far the process has been very slow, made even slower recently as the result of an injunction against the plan for insufficient environmental review. In the next few years the current plan will be implemented and it should foster an emerging bicycle culture. Right now, in spite of the current less-than-ideal situation, 16 percent of San Franciscans use bicycles frequently for everyday transportation. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has set a goal of 25 percent for the year 2012.

What is a Bike Network Toolbox?  It's the set of tools the designers have to implement a network that is safe and encourages bicycling. The list below describes accepted strategies to accomplish this state. Unfortunately  in California, we have to make do with a partial tool set—one that doesn't facilitate a complete network. Not all strategies in the list below make sense, or make sense without modification for local factors, but the big-picture truth is that cities like Paris have aggressively installed far more elaborate, costly, multifaceted, and connected bicycle networks than we have anywhere in the United States, including Gold Level cities such as San Francisco. The results have been dramatic increases in the amount and share of trips by bicycle, with commensurate drops in congestion and pollution.  San Francisco deserves a world-class bicycle network, and it's time to encourage the City to supplement and refine its toolbox in the hopes of getting there.

 

 

 

BICYCLE LANES: This bike lane is in the Golden Gate Park Concourse in front of the de Young Art Museum.

BICYCLE LANES: The SFMTA has gotten very creative recently with efforts such as this colored, and dashed even, bicycle lane near the intersection of Fell and Divisadero Streets, the site of the infamous cheap Arco station car/bike conflict zone.

BICYCLE LANES

A common and effective strategy in the United States

These lanes are a common form of domestic bicycle infrastructure. They consist of a 5-foot or wider lane delineated by a painted line. They define bicycle space very effectively and are inexpensive to construct. They are technically referred to as a Class II bicycle facility.

Perceived negatives include the lack of separation from motorized traffic, which leads to the tendency for some cyclists to ride to the inside of the lane, making them vulnerable to "dooring," or running into a quickly opened car door.

SHARROWS: The Sharrow (from "shared arrow") is a sanctioned California traffic device. It is a shared-road arrow to claim space for bicycles amid cars.

SHARROWS

"Shared arrows": developed in San Francisco

Often it is impossible to complete a bicycle route with dedicated lanes, which require significant roadway width. Small bicycle-route signs have proved to be ineffective in strongly identifying these routes. The San Francisco MTA Bicycle Program came up with the idea of "sharrows", a word made from "share" and "arrow."  These symbols work very well. They remind motorists of the presence and rights of bikes and really affect drivers' behavior. Due to our local program's efforts, this symbol has been added to the accepted California Traffic Control Devices, which means that engineers across the state can utilize it without fear of excessive liability.

SHARE THE ROAD SIGNAGE: A "Share the Road" sign on Hayes Street in San Francisco.

SHARE THE ROAD SIGNAGE: A shared bike-and-baby lane in France.

SHARE THE ROAD

Signage to change behavior does help to make a dignified place for different users.

BICYCLE BOX: Portland recently instituted a bike box program in response to some "right hook" fatalities.

BICYCLE BOX: London has implemented bike boxes at a high percentage of intersections.

BICYCLE BOXES

This is a device that is allowed in San Francisco, and there are a few implemented around town. It is widely used in European bicycle networks. The notion is to get the bicycles in front of the cars, making them very visible and helping reduce the "right hook" effect and other dangerous maneuvers by unaware or distracted drivers.

BICYCLE TRAFFIC LIGHTS: The green light in Vienna is good.

BICYCLE TRAFFIC LIGHTS: Vienna's bicycle traffic lights have the best "stopped cyclist" symbol.

BICYCLE TRAFFIC LIGHTS

This is another strategy that is allowed but rarely implemented in California. In European cities, bike traffic lights are very common. They are frequently combined with bicycle boxes, giving the bikes an official head start on the car traffic behind.

There are a couple of places that could use bicycle traffic lights in San Francisco immediately. One place is at the bike box on 14th Street where it intersects Folsom. Right now there is an extended pedestrian walk light that bikes could start through the intersection on legally with enhanced safety. The second is at the "Schrader Valve" designed by Mike Sallaberry of the SFMTA near the end of the Golden Gate Panhandle mixed use path. The idea is to let bikes cross diagonally across the intersection on their own traffic light, which is a normal one. There is a bike symbol and arrow painted on the street but it's somewhat confusing without the little red and green bicycles.

In general it's a big boost to cyclists moral to have their own little traffic lights.

BICYCLE CONTER-FLOW LANES: The counter-flow bike lane allows bikes to ride legally the opposite way on a one-way street.

COUNTERFLOW BIKE LANES

These lanes allow bicycles to travel "upstream" on a one-way street. This is useful, as many streets have been made one-way to facilitate automobile flow, incidentally creating a barrier for cyclists. A local example is the last two blocks of Polk Street just north of Market Street. The SFBC has proposed—and the City is very slowly implementing—a counterflow bike lane on this stretch that will allow much better bike access to City Hall.

BICYCLE ON-SIDEWALK LANES: This on-sidewalk bicycle lane in Budapest is striped with contrasting stone.

BICYCLE LANES ON-SIDEWALK

In the States we always place bike lanes in the street, while Europe frequently has bike lanes on the sidewalk. One factor against sidewalk lanes in San Francisco is the opposition of senior and disabled advocates, who are concerned about people being run over by rogue cyclists. Also, there is a fear that cyclists will shoot out across intersections from the sidewalk area and be hit by drivers who don't anticipate their presence, and whose view is obscured by parked cars, newspaper boxes, or some other sidewalk feature.

BICYCLE CROSSWALKS: This bicycle crosswalk in Paris uses multiple bike symbols.

BICYCLE CROSSWALKS: in Paris using colored pavement to alert cars to the presence of crossing bikes.

BICYCLE CROSSWALKS

In the U.S., we typically don't extend our bike lanes through intersections. The result of this is when a rider come to a challenging place to ride, the protective lanes disappear, contrary to all logic. This isn't by accident: This strategy is prompted by liability concerns. A city can't be sued by a person injured in a bike lane that wasn't there in the first place. There is also the idea that a terrified rider is going to behave in a more conservative manner. The European systems tend to be complete: The lanes are striped right through the intersection, with colored pavement and bicycle symbols alerting drivers to the presence of bikes. It may not be any safer, but it feels safer, and the result is more people cycling.

Colored counterflow bike lane along the Marne River near Paris. The green lane allows cyclists to ride against traffic on a one-way auto street.

COLORED PAVEMENT

Widely used in Europe, this tool is being used to denote more hazardous cycling situations in Portland, Oregon.

A separated bike lane, almost a road, in Jiaxing, China, near Shanghai. Chinese bicycle traffic is still great, although people are buying cars as fast as they can.

This separated bike lane in Budapest effectively keeps the cars from encroaching on cyclists, yet allows regular street cleaning and drainage.

CYCLE TRACKS

A more secure bike lane with a one- or two-way lane separated from car traffic by a barrier. Again common in European cities, it is infrequently implemented in the U.S. Objections include the difficulty of allowing frequent curb cuts, and concerns about cyclists shooting out into intersections from behind a screen of parked cars. The European designs address this by installing a number of warning devices at the intersections, and by a less-generous curb-cut policy. Additionally there is concern about the separation barrier obstructing street sweepers. This is an equipment issue. San Francisco has small street sweepers, but even so, curb barriers complicate street sweeping. One of the first American examples was just implemented in 2007 in New York City, where it seems to be working very well.

BICYCLE-BUS LANE: Located in Paris. The sign on the curb specifies hours when deliveries are allowed as long as the trucks pull halfway onto the sidewalk.

BICYCLE-BUS LANES

This is a controversial technique, but one which sometimes makes sense. In Paris for example, the boulevards cut through a nest of ancient streets. Their original intent was to facilitate rapid travel between different districts. Road space on these boulevards in in great demand, and the Parisian traffic engineers' solution has been to install bus-bicycle lanes, frequently separated by curbs, with extreme video enforcement to keep cars out.

BICYCLE BOULEVARDS: This giant bike symbol denotes a Berkeley Bicycle Boulevard.

BICYCLE BOULEVARDS

The idea is to designate an entire street as a Bicycle Boulevard. Berkeley has done a nice version of this by using very large bike symbols to claim the space for bikes. Also Berkeley's secondary streets feature frequent closures that keep cars from using them as speedy shortcuts. This enhances the bicycle boulevard by eliminating aggressive non-local automobile traffic.

Next to the Marne River, this French traffic-calming design includes both a pinch (an abrupt narrowing of the street) and a speed table (a ramped sidewalk-level stretch of road), strategies that force cars to slow down.

TRAFFIC CALMING

There are a number of design strategies to reduce the speed of motorized traffic. These result in a friendlier environment for bicycles as well as greater pedestrian safety.

BICYCLE PATHS: This off-street mixed-use bike path in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle is a nice ride. It gets a lot of use by joggers and would benefit from 30-inch gravel "shoulders", which are good for runners and reduce pedestrian conflict with bicycles. For some reason, the San Francisco DPW refuses to mark the path with bicycle symbols.

BICYCLE PATHS: off-street bike path next to Crissy Field in San Francisco's Presidio features three separate but equal asphalt lanes. It's not a successful design since it doesn't accommodate runners well and doesn't make intuitive sense, so people don't stay in the specified slot.

BICYCLE PATHS: This mixed use trail in Copenhagen uses clever graphic dots and stylish bollards to separate the pedestrians from the cyclists.

BICYCLE PATHS

This is a wide, completely separate road for cyclists, though frequently shared with walkers and runners. It has a recreational character, even though it's a great way to commute. There is a nice example in San Francisco in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle. Caltrans recommends a 10-foot-wide path, with shoulders on either side for joggers, which works well. If the shoulders are paved with decomposed granite (or D.G., a compacted dirt surface that is relatively smooth), the width of impervious paving is limited. This is good for shared trails, as runners like the more resiliant dirt surface. In more rural situations, the entire path can be D.G., making a very relaxed and beautiful trail such as the one alone the Marne River near Paris.

Technically this is referred to as a Class I bicycle facility in the U.S.

BICYCLE PATHS: recreational path along the shore at Crissy Field Park in the Presidio is not for fast road cyclists, but is a fun ride for others.

"O" racks, a variation on "U" racks at Mint Plaza, a public right-of-way in San Francisco. The galvanized finish has a lot of character and is less costly than stainless steel.

BICYCLE PARKING 

Providing secure and convenient bicycle parking is a key element in encouraging cycling.
Unfortunately bicycle theft is very common, so being able to properly secure a bike is extremely important. There's much more detail on bicycle parking here.

A bicycle wayfinding sign in Paris.

A bicycle wayfinding sign in Vienna.

BICYCLE WAYFINDING SIGNS

There are international standards for these signs, which are placed along major bicycle routes to direct cyclists and advise them of distances. Berkeley has done an excellent implementation of these signs.

Velib! bike sharing system station in Paris.

The Minneapolis Nice Ride bike sharing system by Bixi.

BIKE SHARE

Paris has implemented an ambitious—more than 20,000 bikes—automated bicycle-sharing program named Velib. It has been an instant success, with many Parisians newly taking to the streets on bikes.

BICYCLE LANES: In Fairfax, Marin County, with vegetated swale for storm water.

BICYCLE LANES: This bike lane is in the Golden Gate Park Concourse in front of the de Young Art Museum.

BICYCLE LANES: A bike lane with a special warning for a hotel drop off zone in downtown Portland. Note the custom modification to the biking guy.

BICYCLE LANES: The SFMTA has gotten very creative recently with efforts such as this colored, and dashed even, bicycle lane near the intersection of Fell and Divisadero Streets, the site of the infamous cheap Arco station car/bike conflict zone.

The new improved, "green Backed Super Sharrow".

SHARROWS: The Sharrow (from "shared arrow") is a sanctioned California traffic device. It is a shared-road arrow to claim space for bicycles amid cars.

SHARROWS: This polite and tiny sharrow was used to mark Portland's bicycle boulevards. Called the "dinner plate", it's the opposite approach to "in your face" Berkeley giant sharrow. It's been replaced with the standard sized SF sharrow.

SHARE THE ROAD SIGNAGE: A "Share the Road" sign on Hayes Street in San Francisco.

SHARE THE ROAD SIGNAGE: A shared bike-and-baby lane in France.

SHARE THE ROAD SIGNAGE: bikes and pedestrians on the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland.

SHARE THE ROAD SIGNAGE: This sign might help keep the bicycle lane on Valencia Street in San Francisco free of double parking cars.

BICYCLE BOX: Portland recently instituted a bike box program in response to some "right hook" fatalities.

BICYCLE BOX: London has implemented bike boxes at a high percentage of intersections.

BICYCLE TRAFFIC LIGHTS: A bicycle traffic light in Budapest.

BICYCLE TRAFFIC LIGHTS: Vienna's bicycle traffic lights have the best "stopped cyclist" symbol.

BICYCLE TRAFFIC LIGHTS: The green light in Vienna is good.

BICYCLE CONTER-FLOW LANES: The counter-flow bike lane allows bikes to ride legally the opposite way on a one-way street.

BICYCLE CONTER-FLOW LANES: A counter-flow bike lane separated from auto traffic with a car park lane. Note the green flex bollards. Photo by Mark Hogan.

BICYCLE ON-SIDEWALK LANES: Paris.

BICYCLE ON-SIDEWALK LANES: This on-sidewalk bicycle lane in Budapest is striped with contrasting stone.

BICYCLE CROSSWALKS: This bicycle crosswalk in Paris uses multiple bike symbols.

BICYCLE CROSSWALKS: in Paris using colored pavement to alert cars to the presence of crossing bikes.

BICYCLE CROSSWALKS: with red pavement paint in Vienna.

BICYCLE CROSSWALKS: Chevron markings continue through the intersection in New York City.

Portland Hawthorne Bridge right turn conflict colored pavement design.

Portland Hawthorne Bridge right turn conflict colored pavement design.

Portland Hawthorne Bridge right turn conflict colored pavement design.

Colored counterflow bike lane along the Marne River near Paris. The green lane allows cyclists to ride against traffic on a one-way auto street.

A colored bike lane near Paris.

This line is made to last! Copenhagen, 2008.

Two different "colors" done with durable granite pavers in Copenhagen.

A Parisian separated lane with a parking lane on the auto traffic side.

A separated bicycle lane in Paris.

A separated bike lane, almost a road, in Jiaxing, China, near Shanghai. Chinese bicycle traffic is still great, although people are buying cars as fast as they can.

This separated bike lane in Budapest effectively keeps the cars from encroaching on cyclists, yet allows regular street cleaning and drainage.

This separated bike lane in Budapest effectively keeps the cars from encroaching on cyclists, yet allows regular street cleaning and drainage.

A wide separated bike lane made by converting a portion of a street near Paris.

CYCLE TRACK: San Francisco's first on Market Street, with the City Traffic Engineer, Jack Fleck, checking it out. The "soft hit posts" are an excellent strategy to deter all but the most determined double parking cars and trucks.

BICYCLE-BUS LANE: Located in Paris. The sign on the curb specifies hours when deliveries are allowed as long as the trucks pull halfway onto the sidewalk.

BICYCLE-BUS LANE: In Paris, with bus!

BICYCLE-BUS LANE: A straightforward bicycle-bus lane in Portland, Oregon.

BICYCLE BOULEVARDS: This giant bike symbol denotes a Berkeley Bicycle Boulevard.

BICYCLE BOULEVARDS: A nice bicycle boulevard sign in Emeryville, California.

BICYCLE BOULEVARDS: A traffic diverter on a Bicycle Boulevard in Portland alows bikes to go through, even if ridden by Andy Thornley, but forces cars to turn. The lush planting adds to the beauty of the streetscape.

Next to the Marne River, this French traffic-calming design includes both a pinch (an abrupt narrowing of the street) and a speed table (a ramped sidewalk-level stretch of road), strategies that force cars to slow down.

This angled back in parking in Portland is safer for cyclists in the street. This design has been considered in SF for the Townsend Street improvements.

BICYCLE PATHS: This off-street mixed-use bike path in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle is a nice ride. It gets a lot of use by joggers and would benefit from 30-inch gravel "shoulders", which are good for runners and reduce pedestrian conflict with bicycles. For some reason, the San Francisco DPW refuses to mark the path with bicycle symbols.

BICYCLE PATHS: off-street bike path next to Crissy Field in San Francisco's Presidio features three separate but equal asphalt lanes. It's not a successful design since it doesn't accommodate runners well and doesn't make intuitive sense, so people don't stay in the specified slot.

BICYCLE PATHS: recreational path along the shore at Crissy Field Park in the Presidio is not for fast road cyclists, but is a fun ride for others.

BICYCLE PATHS: This bicycle path leads to the Golden Gate Bridge through the Presidio.

BICYCLE PATHS: bicycle-only lane on the Golden Gate Bridge is an awesome ride. The slow and wobbly tourists often out number the fast-riding roadies.

BICYCLE PATHS: A beautiful bicycle path that goes from Sausalito to Mill Valley on an old railroad right of way across a tidal marsh.

BICYCLE PATHS: has this great off street mixed use path. The dirt (decomposed granite) shoulders are great for joggers, helping reduce conflict with the bikes in the middle. The dimentions are 30" shoulders with a 10 foot wide paved path in the middle, 15 feet wide overall.

BICYCLE PATHS: The Tiburon mixed-use path with many people sharing the space.

BICYCLE PATHS: very nice off-street bike path through the park strip of the ring road in Vienna.

BICYCLE PATHS: French mixed use path just outside Paris.

BICYCLE PATHS: beautiful decomposed-granite off-street bike trail along a portion of the Marne River, on the outskirts of Paris.

BICYCLE PATHS: An off-street bike path in Paris on an old railroad right-of-way.

BICYCLE PATHS: A beautiful bike path near Bryce Canyon in Utah.

BICYCLE PATHS: A UC Santa Barbara a complete network of separated bike-ways has been installed.

BICYCLE PATHS: Pedestrians mixing with bikes on fast separated bike-ways can be a problem. At UC Santa Barbara they have installed these symbols on their well used and fast network.

BICYCLE PATHS: This trail was built on top of the BART ROW and connects the South san Francisco with the San Bruno BART stations.

BICYCLE PATHS: This mixed use trail in Copenhagen uses clever graphic dots and stylish bollards to separate the pedestrians from the cyclists.

BICYCLE PATHS: The Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis is a rail-to-trail that cuts across the middle of the town from east to west.

BICYCLE PATHS: The historic Stone Bridge over the Mississippi, as it runs through the former Minneapolis milling district, has been converted to a mixed use trail.

BICYCLE PATHS: Minneapolis has an network of off street bicycle trails which connect most neighborhoods in the city. The wild nature of these urban trails is wonderful. This especially wide trail has separated bicycle lanes in each direction, and a third separate lane for pedestrians.

"O" racks, a variation on "U" racks at Mint Plaza, a public right-of-way in San Francisco. The galvanized finish has a lot of character and is less costly than stainless steel.

A nice bikeway sign on the Riverwalk Trail in San Jose.

A bicycle wayfinding sign in Paris.

A bicycle wayfinding sign in Vienna.

The signs in San Francisco were innovative at the outset, but they are pretty much useless by current standards.

Wayfinding sign along a bike boulevard in Emeryville.

The 236 km Luberon velo loop trail in the south of France uses these wonderful simple signs to point the way. There is a clockwise and a counterclockwise sign, depending on which way you ride the loop.

One of my favorite bicycle trail signs is for the Luberon train in the south of France. It's simple, clear, and has great style. Color coded for whether you are riding the many hundred kilometer loop clockwise or counter clockwise.

This major rails-to-trails route cuts across mid-town Minneapolis and connects to the major other Class 1 bicycle trails.

Velib! bike sharing system station in Paris.

This map on the Velib rental kiosk shows the location of this pod and other nearby locations in the district in Paris.

The bike-share program in Vienna is named Citybike Wien. It was done by Clear Channel and is aesthetically quite inferior to the Parisian Velib system by Decaux. The ads on the skirt guards are particularly unappealing.

The Minneapolis Nice Ride bike sharing system by Bixi.

Detail of Nice Ride bike sharing station showing payment/check in station and map/advertising unit.