Long-awaited bike plan on Fell-Oak up for Board approval

S.F. Examiner File PhotoRights of way: Bike advocates say stretches of Fell and Oak streets are too dangerous for riders to share with vehicles.

A long-awaited plan to add separated bike lanes to busy sections of Oak and Fell streets is up for approval Tuesday.

The three-block stretch on both Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker streets is a vital east-west route for cyclists, but many are afraid to ride on the segment because there is virtually no separation between bikes and fast-moving cars, said Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees bike operations in The City, has proposed adding cycle tracks — elevated pathways separated from street traffic — on the three-block stretch of both Fell and Oak.

Shahum, who has been advocating for the bike lanes for more than a decade, said the new paths will attract “thousands” of new cyclists to city streets. Many shun Fell and Oak because the roadways are often jam-packed with fast-moving cars.

“I can’t tell you the number of people who said they would bike to work if not for this stretch,” Shahum said. “It’s so intimidating that people decide to avoid biking altogether.”

Fell and Oak are both flat streets — a godsend for cyclists in hilly San Francisco — and they connect the bike-friendly Panhandle with points downtown. The bike coalition recently counted 4,000 cyclists using the street during a busy Saturday.

Along with adding the separated tracks, the project will include sidewalk enhancements, bike parking and curb ramp upgrades, among other amenities.

It also will result in the net loss of 55 parking spaces — precious real estate in the busy Panhandle neighborhoods.

JJ Strahle, president of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, said he drives his car and bikes in the neighborhood. Even though some residents were concerned about the loss of parking, he said the overall benefit of the bike lanes was too important to overlook.

“No one wants to see parking spots go away,” Strahle said. “But in the end, this project is for the greater good of the community, and for the rest of the citizens in San Francisco.”

On Tuesday, the SFMTA’s board of directors will vote on the project. If approved, the bikeways and crosswalk enhancements could be in place by the end of the year, with the rest of the work being completed in 2013, said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. The project will cost $1.26 million, with most of the funding coming from a recently passed street improvement bond.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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