At Last, We Can Celebrate Protected Bike Lanes on Oak and Fell

Protected bike lanes are complete on Oak and Fell Streets between the Panhandle and the Wiggle.

Why are these three blocks of protected bike lanes on Oak and Fell such an important milestone for biking in San Francisco?

They provide a model for how safe and welcoming bike lanes can be thanks to concrete medians that create designated, separate space for people biking.

  • They have completely transformed what was once a terrifying stretch of road for people on bikes into a safe, beautiful bike lane that is comfortable for people of all ages.
  • They are quickly inspiring a lot more people to bike. Even during the first stage of improvements on Oak and Fell, when buffered bike lanes with soft-hit posts were installed, biking doubled along the corridor. Over 800 people now bike on Fell Street every evening.
  • They bridge what was a critical gap in the bike network by connecting the Panhandle and the Wiggle.

Protected bike lanes like those on Oak and Fell help make riding a bike pleasant and practical for anyone who wants to get on a bicycle. Creating a network of protected bike lanes connecting all parts of the city is essential if San Francisco wants to achieve its goal of 8% of trips made by bicycle by 2018.

Oak and Fell show how better street and intersection design for people biking makes the streets safer and lower-stress for everyone. Car speeds have decreased in this corridor; bicyclist behavior has improved; and there have been gains in safety for all road-users, including people walking. (The protected bike lanes also look fantastic, which is good for the neighborhood.)

The Oak and Fell project shows how deep community engagement and tenacious advocacy can yield historic changes on our streets. This project required some parking removal in order to achieve safety gains and it was hard-won. It required years of door-to-door outreach by our staff and volunteers, dozens of community meetings, and hundreds of hours of working with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). We reached out to all local businesses — over 50, as of our last count — and distributed thousands of flyers by hand. Ultimately, the project received unanimous approval in 2012 by the SFMTA.

While it took much longer to become a reality than we hoped, we are thrilled that the Oak and Fell bike lanes are here now. Thank you to the team at the SFMTA for working on this project since it was first conceived back in the late 1990s, and to the folks at San Francisco Public Works, particularly Director Mohammed Nuru, who pushed hard in the project’s final stages to make it happen. Finally, thank you to Supervisor London Breed for continuing to support safety improvements in the neighborhood for people walking and biking.

A huge debt of gratitude goes to the many members who have been so involved in this campaign, spending countless hours on the streets talking to local residents, merchants, and other people who ride bikes about the project. Local neighborhood groups including The Wigg Party, Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, Lower Haight Merchant and Neighbors Association, and Walk San Francisco also played a key role in this project coming to life. Many thanks to Neal Patel, a former staffer here at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who led this project to victory in 2012 and worked incredibly hard to achieve the highest possible level of community engagement.

We love protected bike lanes here at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. We love them so much we want 100+ miles of them across our city. Protected bike lanes create safer, more vibrant, low-stress roads for everyone. Your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is working hard to bring many more to life in coming years. Please join the growing movement to win more protected bike lanes in San Francisco.

Photo by Ellie McCutcheon

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