Accidents prompt repainting of green bike lanes in San Francisco

In December 2009, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, three supervisors, numerous activists and a throng of media representatives descended upon Scott and Oak streets to watch politicians lay down a coat of fresh green paint for The City’s first colored bike lane.

At the time, Newsom said the new lanes would put San Francisco in the class of internationally recognized bike-friendly cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam. He might have been a bit hasty in that proclamation.

Maintenance crews have been recoating those much-vaunted green bike lanes over the last several weeks, following reports that the paint made the roadway slicker and more dangerous for cyclists. The last straw came when a motorcycle officer crashed on the green paint during a rainstorm earlier this month.

Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates bike policies in The City, said the new coating includes a granular sand mix that makes the paint less slick for bikes. The new mixture of paint will be used now every time the SFMTA puts down painted bike lanes.

Josh McDonald, a bike courier, said the old green bike lanes on Market Street were hazardous, particularly after a rainstorm.

“It’s paint, so when the lanes get wet, your wheels really lock up when you apply your back brakes,” said McDonald. “It’s just one more hazard we have to deal with.”

Instead of simply adding new paint to the roadway, the SFMTA should have mixed in green paint with asphalt before laying down the bike lanes, said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, a transportation planning group.

“The green paint is not a long-term solution,” Radulovich said.

Rose said the SFMTA has plans to mix asphalt and paint and repave the green bike lanes, but that is expensive, and the agency is still working on finding funding for the project. The new coating will cost about $100, he said.

Rose did say that the SFMTA hasn’t received any complaints from cyclists about the slickness of the paint, and San Francisco Bike Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said the green paint is a nonissue for her group’s members.


Ain’t easy bein’ green

Less than 1 mile: Length of green-painted bike lanes in San Francisco
34: Miles of bike lanes that will eventually be added under the SF Bike Plan
8,713: Weekday bicyclists in San Francisco

Source: SFMTA

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