San Francisco police concerned about new bike lane confusion
SAN FRANCISCO —
More and more people are using two wheels instead of four to get around in San Francisco, but authorities expressed some concern Thursday that confusion by drivers over brightly colored new bike lanes could lead to accidents endangering cyclists.
San Francisco bicyclists are increasingly claiming their share of the city’s roads. Cycling increased 96 percent between 2006 and 2013. The city boasts a network of 215 miles of bicycle lanes and shared-use paths, aimed at enabling more people to get out of their cars and onto two-wheel transportation.
But police on Thursday told KTVU the growth of new designated bike lanes is sparking concerns about the interaction between cyclists and motorists at intersections.
Specifically there is concern that confused or careless drivers attempting right turns are cutting off cyclists.
“There’s a lot of confusion as to how to properly negotiate certain segments of the roadway,” said San Francisco Police Commander Mikail Ali. “Cars making right hand turns at intersections is probably one of the number one sources of conflict between motorists and bicyclists.”
Ali said many drivers don’t realize they must merge into the bike lanes to make right turns. The key, he said, is to use the broken lines in the bike lanes as the cue to “take” the lane- while keeping an eye out for bicyclists.
Cyclists can either stay behind the car in their lane or pass on the left.
“Signalling is a huge component,” said Ali. “The idea there is to simply avoid the potential collisions that have occurred, in some cases fatal, where a car’s making a right-hand turn in almost a button-hook fashion.”
It’s the kind of turn that Ali blames in part for the death of 24 year-old Amelie Le Moullac, killed last August by a truck turning a corner at Folsom and Sixth streets. Four bicyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles in 2013. One has died so far this year.
On Market Street in the city’s Financial District, cyclists said reckless right turns by motorists are a daily danger.
“I’ve pretty much learned to just swerve to the left when it happens,” said Stephanie Koehler. “Like, use my instincts as fast as I can to get out of their way.”