Why Doesn’t San Francisco Have More Buffered Bike Lanes?

By: Katie Short

Buffered Bike Lanes in San Francisco According to the SFMTA, there are 8,713 weekday bicyclists in San Francisco, with an estimated 6% of all trips made in San Francisco by bike. San Francisco is in the middle of implementing a comprehensive bike pathway plan. Without question biking is a big part of transportation in San Francisco. While San Francisco has 45 miles of bike lanes in the city, and is planning on adding more - very few of those miles include buffered bike lanes. 

As bike ridership has increased in San Francisco, so too have the rate of accidents. According to a 2008 San Francisco Bicycle Coalition survey, 27% of coalition members reported they had been in collision with a car within the last two years. 

We have to wonder if this has something to do with our lack of buffered bike lanes separated from traffic and other transit. 

San Francisco Bike Lanes Could be Safer 

Like DC, Chicago, and New York City, San Francisco has worked to improve the safety conditions for cyclists by re-painting their bike lanes. In 2009, San Francisco painted several city bike lanes green to help demarcate space reserved for bikes.

However, these painted surfaces actually posed danger and made it harder for cyclists to maintain traction while riding, particularly in wet conditions, leading to many accidentsSafety fail.

Bike Lanes 2.0 - Buffered Bike Lanes Prevent Accidents

According to a 2007 survey by Transportation Alternatives, 52% of respondents felt safer in buffered lanes. Conventional bikes lanes lack partitions between the traffic and the cyclists.

Partitions go a long way to protect cyclists by physically buffering portions of street routes so that cyclists are separated and protected from traffic. Buffered bike lanes prevent cars from casually drifting over and eliminate the likelihood that a car door will fly open into the path of an unsuspecting cyclist. This is the #1 reason for motorist-caused bike accidents in San Francisco. Ouch!

San Francisco already has a handful of partitioned bike lanes, located on Market StreetDivision Street, and Laguna Honda Boulevard. These lanes are reserved for roads with high traffic volume, and while they are time-consuming and costly to roll out, San Franciscans need more of them.


Part Time Travel Lanes To Accommodate Separated Bike Lanes


San Francisco has tried less expensive means of establishing bike lanes to improve bike safety, like the green painted bike lanes, but these efforts only reduce the vehicle blockage of bike lanes by about 40%.

SFMTA is currently considering proposals for separated bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Baker Street. Neighbors have lobbied for these changes for years.

San Francisco Transportation Needs Your Ideas

Reset San Francisco is working hard to reset transportation in San Francisco including making our streets safer for all of us – however we may travel. The primary goal of transportation in San Francisco should be the safe and efficient movement of people, whether by bike, car or public transportation. We need to work to solve the issues faced by all of San Francisco’s modes of transportation - motorists, bicyclists, transit riders, and pedestrians.

That is why on Tuesday, August 23rd Reset is holding a panel discussion on transportation in the city. We hope you can join the important conversation. Please join us.


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Phil Ting's picture

We Need Separate Bike Lanes

I spent a year in Beijing biking everywhere.  While there were a lot fewer cars and buses, I always felt safe because there were so many buffered bike lanes.  I never really appreciated the bike lanes in SF until I started biking more and I really appreciate them when I bike with my children.  It's the difference between feeling safe or constantly worrying about being run over.  They are very cheap relative to all the other transit improvements in our budget.  Check out Market Street the next time you are down there - the change is huge!

Eric Jaye's picture

Worth a watch

Just shared by SF Bike Coalition:


"Citizen on $30 bicycle equally important as someone in a $30,000 car."

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137