San Francisco May Get Its First Green Bike Lane on Fell Street

Picture_10.pngImage: SFMTA

San Francisco would get its first green bike lane under a new MTA proposal (PDF) to fix the troubled intersection of Divisadero and Fell streets near the entrance to the Arco station, where drivers queuing up to get gas obstruct the bike lane and block the sidewalk, creating hazardous conditions for people who ride bikes and walk.

As BIKE NOPA first reported, the MTA has scrapped a previous plan to fix the problem. The new plan would remove several parking spaces on the south side of Fell, according to the MTA’s James Shahamiri, who notified advocates of the proposal Thursday:

This space would be used for vehicles to queue to enter the gas
station. Importantly these vehicles would be to the left of the bicycle
lane. We are also proposing to color the bicycle lane green. This would
be the City’s first green bicycle lane.

The proposal includes hashmarks leading up to the intersection and dashed green pavement across it.

The news that San Francisco could get its first green bike lane was cheered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, whose efforts have been stymied for three years by the bike injunction. The MTA, however, has recently been moving forward with a series of promising new treatments, after a partial lifting of the injunction, including a reconfiguration of the protected bike lane on Market and 10th streets, and the city’s first green bike box.

"After the successes in New York City, in South San Francisco, in Portland, in Long Beach, everywhere, they understand that painting bike lanes green is an important aspect for both safety, and for bike rights, and making sure drivers understand that cyclists do have a right to the road," said Marc Caswell, the SFBC program manager.

Caswell said he also hoped the configuration would help drivers recognize the importance of not blocking the sidewalk "and allow pedestrians safe and free access." 

The MTA proposal was presented for the first time last night to NOPNA, the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, to rounds of applause and unanimous support. It must still be approved by the MTA Board, probably sometime in early April.

The intersection has long been a trouble spot for people who ride bikes, but fortunately, there have been no serious injuries, according to Caswell.

Picture_11.pngWhat shade of green will the MTA use for SF’s first green bike lane? How about a Portland green? Photo: Su An Ng
4256939097_7f114bbdb1.jpgOr a New York green? Photo: Smotron

  • @JohnB Hold whatever opinion pleases you, but don’t put words in my mouth. What I wrote was that I don’t ride in dedicated bike lanes when a reasonably safe street is available. Any other meaning you referenced in your comment exists in your mind, not mine.

  • JohnB


    I was responding to two of the specific points you made. Both were about problems in using the existing bike lanes:

    1) You choose to use adjoining streets rather than the Fell St bike lanes. I understand and agree; others here have said that is safer and more pleasant. That fits with my belief (which may not be yours) that the bike lane should never have been put on Fell, and should be removed.

    2) You see lots of distraction on the Panhandle bike lane. As one of those distractions myself, I agree with you on that too. And I was adding my view that bikes should continue to share that space with others rather than have a high-speed bike-only path that discriminates against other park users.

    I hope that clarifies where I was agreeing with you and where I was adding commentary.

  • Barbara

    The town of Brisbane installed something like this a year or two ago. It’s nothing new to the area.

  • Jessica

    I’m just daydreaming, but wouldn’t it be great if most roads in the city were shut off to POVs, and only open to bikes and buses? Daydreaming is fun. Also, that Arco station needs to move.

  • Mike Bike

    No 1-ft curb is necessary. A small 4inch curb is all that would EVER be needed, (see image above) but I still dont think thats even necessary, unless we are talking 2 way bike traffic on a one way car 3 lane avenue. The painted widend lane is more then enough for a 1way bike lane for a rider who is comfortable. If you’re a nervous rider you should stick to streets with slow car traffic, dedicated bike lanes or the bus. Nervous riders are whats going to cause an accident on a busy street like Fell. n00bs stay off of Fell.

    John B v v v v v v v v v
    “””But as someone who walks my dogs on the Panhandle every day, I am opposed to any space in a park being dedicated to any one group. It’s a park, after all. And if you want to bike slowly and safely and enjoy the air, that’s fine. But it’s not a freeway for bikes. And with children and dogs running around, the onus is on you to ride with all that in mind.”””

    The South paved lane in the Panhandle is pedestrian only…..
    Just b/c the North lane is pedestrian as well as bikes doesnt give the dog walkers and joggers the right to block the entire 2way bike path.

    “BTW, I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why Fell has to have a bike lane at all but I’ll assume at this point that you don’t want to give up anything you already have and leave it at that.”

    Get on a bike and ride west on Fell, Page, Hayes, Grove, Fulton and then tell us which one is a shallower incline and easier to ride on.

  • Mike Bike

    Nice commentary from David Baker, Architect! Love your work and your comments in this blog. Thanks for adding.

  • calvin

    here is an idea. SF is broke. Motorists speed constantly on nearly every major road. How about SF Police actually ticketing drivers for speeding. I had a cop recently tell me that I should relax when I told a driver to watch out when he moved into the bike lane on Valencia without a turn signal. The most meaningful impact for me would be police understanding cyclists and earning SF money by writing tickets. That would mean more than any painted lanes anywhere for me.

  • Vicky

    So now we’ll have moving cars to the left and right of us? plus how do cars move into the queue? by crossing the green bike lane? This just sounds more dangerous. Close that entrance to the Arco and make a queue for cars on Divis.

  • Nick

    Vicky, and suppose a motorist decides the wait in the queue is too long. They would then unexpectedly veer right into the green bike lane. That would force a cyclist to veer right into the auto lane. Let’s call this “full vehcile dooring.” Another San Francisco original.

  • patrick

    “BTW, I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why Fell has to have a bike lane at all”

    It’s already been explained in this thread, but here it is again.

    Fell connects 2 of the most highly used bike routes in San Francisco: The wiggle, and the panhandle path. All other means of getting there would require a cyclist to go up a quite steep hill. Steep hills are hard for bicyclists. Fell also happens to be a high speed high traffic street, which sharrows do not work well on, therefore a bike lane is needed.

  • Nick

    Back before Fell had a bike lane, people would ride on it anyways because it was practical to do so. Half would be in the street, the other half on the sidewalk. Of those in the street, they would be divided up in either the left hand or right hand lanes. A bike lane organizes all this chaos.

    The green bike box and left hand turn bike lane that just got installed reinforces the idea that Fell is the preferred route.

    Look at the official route going downtown from the Panhandle. It’s not Oak Street. It’s Hayes. Few take it because it is not practical. You know if the City wanted to avoid the years of messiness on Oak and Fell, they could have made the route along Hayes Street into a bicyle boulevard. That would encourage more people to use the official route (in both directions too). Whenever I ride Hayes, I find it to be too fast and dangerous for the trouble. If they traffic calmed it, people probably would have used it.

    And there’s also the history with Fell. People have advocated for so many years for it, suddenly giving up on it seems like wasted effort. Kind of like a bad marriage.

    “Hayes Bicycle Blvd” – they should build it anyway as it is an offical route.

  • JohnB


    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you advocated for a Fell St bike lane for so long that it’s hard to give up.

    The debate about whether it makes sense is lost in the big fight that always erupts around such things.

    The problem with putting bike lanes on the most “direct” routes is that the most direct routes are all high-speed, high-density auto routes. I’ve seen bikes on Bush and Pine and I tend to think that’s insane given the trouble even I have with other maniac drivers and I’m surrounded by a cage of (German or Swedish) steel.

    Isn’t the fun of cycling to take the quiet, slow, scenic routes? And where is the fun in dodging speeding SUV’s and double-parked delivery trucks on Fell?

    As for biking on the sidewalks, that’s more an enforcement issue since it is illegal and dangerous.

  • agentttl
  • Annie

    Does anybody continue one more block on Scott from the Wiggle, make a left on Hayes and then another left on Baker to reach the Panhandle? I’ve never tried it so far because it is longer but I don’t feel safe on Fell. The Arco station is a problem but also double-parking – often between Divisadero and Broderick.

  • patrick

    I’ve thought about it, but by the time I get there I’m pretty tired, and the idea of going up hill unnecessarily is not very attractive, so I’ve never actually done it.

  • Nick

    Annie, I’ve tried that route in both directions. It would be worth the climb if those few blocks were turned into a Bicycle Blvd. The traffic on Hayes is potentially more dangerous than on Fell. You get autos zooming by you to make the lights.

  • JohnB


    There are a lot of businesses on Hayes that require truck deliveries, and it’s a bus route, so it’s not a good choice for a bike route.

    Nor is Fell for the reasons Annie and others have given.

    The characteristics of a street that should have a bike lane are that it should have few commercial businesses requiring truck deliveries, and not be a busy or fast auto-thruway.

    So quiet, residential streets work best.

  • patrick

    I just got home from my commute and I was in a pack of about 30 cyclists up market street and about 15 up Fell. That was the most riders I’ve ever had the pleasure to ride with! It was a beautiful thing… looking forward to the greening of the Fell bike lane.

  • Mike Bike

    I took the wiggle home last night and once I got to Scott and Fell I looked up Scott at the hill torwards Hayes….and there was no way I was climbing another hill to turn an intercetion to climb another hill to turn yet another intersection to go down a hill and cross an intersection all to miss Divisidero… thanks.

    When you are on a bike on a busy street, you need to be aware of your surroundings, make turn signals, stand on your pedals to try and be seen by the cars looking to weasel their way from the gas st. onto Fell, look behind you before you cross Divisidero to make sure cars arent trying to make the left hand turn onto Divis. BE PREPARED TO STOP!

  • Zeke

    Why does the City allow the gas station owner to underprice other stations, and create this traffic hazard? This one business owner creates a dangerous condition for pedestrians, bicycles and other cars. The City should require the gas station to raise their prices to market level.

  • Sprague

    “Isn’t the fun of cycling to take the quiet, slow, scenic routes? And where is the fun in dodging speeding SUV’s and double-parked delivery trucks on Fell?”

    In response to this comment, bicycling is first and foremost a means of transportation. It’s a way to get to work and to get around. Therefore, especially when one is en route to work or appointments, taking slow routes isn’t productive. Just like transit riders appreciate express routes and drivers often prefer freeways to local streets, bicyclists often prefer speedier and more direct routes to circuitous or especially hilly ones. Bicyclce infrastructure along major roadways sometimes presents the best route selection. Having also lived and bicycled in Vienna, Austria for many years, I know that there often are instances where bike lanes on one way streets (in the opposite direction of traffic) make sense. California and San Francisco may not be there yet (in terms of recognizing the need for this and allowing it legally), but such bicycle improvements may serve some SF neighborhoods well (ie. Fell Street).

  • In general I do prefer quieter streets to car-infested traffic sewers. I always choose the bike lanes on Cabrillo over the quasi-freeway on Fulton, for instance. (Or, for that matter, GG park over Fulton.) When I see people bicycling on Fulton I always assume they must be tourists or insane.

    However, those three blocks of Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker are what presently link the Wiggle to the Panhandle in the flattest, most efficient manner. Even though they are horrible, frightening and stressful, I take them.

  • patrick

    “Isn’t the fun of cycling to take the quiet, slow, scenic routes? And where is the fun in dodging speeding SUV’s and double-parked delivery trucks on Fell?”

    I’ll throw my 2 cents in on that one. Yes, it’s definitely nice to be on a quiet slow scenic route, but for me it’s also fun to dodge speeding SUVs and whatnot. When I’m on a flat or slight down slope I can frequently outpace most of the cars, and I’m not afraid to take a lane when I have an opening, of course others hate that. Some people love hill climbing, I do not. It’s a personal thing as to which part of the journey a person finds fun.

  • Nick

    Where’s SFPD is all of this? Blocking a bike lane is the second or third highest ticket they can give. Where’s the enforcement? Do they purposefully not care?

    The sight of cops handing out tickets to 10 cars blocking the bike lane would discourage the marketing ploy of “cheap gas” very quickly.

  • Mike Bike

    Was someone just complaining about cheap gas?

  • JohnB


    It’s not a case of illegal parking or illegally blocking a bike lane as the driver is still in the car with the engine running and indicating to make a turn.

    Legally, waiting in a bike lane to make a turn is not blocking the lane. It is in fact the correct procedure for a driver according to the vehicle code, and I go a fail on my driving test for FAILING to do that.

    The problem is the nature of the turn there and not how drivers negotiate it.


    The gas there is cheaper than the other places. it isn’t cheap.

  • Shawn Allen

    “The characteristics of a street that should have a bike lane are that it should have few commercial businesses requiring truck deliveries, and not be a busy or fast auto-thruway.”

    That’s not necessarily ideal, John. As others have noted, Fell is the path of least resistance in terms of topology, and as such it makes perfect sense for the city to designate a portion of that street for bicycle transit. I used to live in the inner sunset and commute by bike to the Mission, and Fell was the only reasonable way to get home. Not having to traverse another hill on your way home after a hard day at work can make a world of difference for bike commuters.

    Equitable provisioning of street and sidewalk space to all modes of transportation creates nicer public spaces, discourages speeding (by drivers and cyclists), and better supports commercial businesses by encouraging pedestrians to spend more time on their doorsteps. Segregating modes in an attempt to protect them from one another encourages them to act selfishly in their provisioned areas, and invites conflict in places where they meet. The intersection of Fell and Masonic is a perfect example of this phenomenon: Cars and cyclists get their own private spaces along the entire stretch of the Panhandle, oblivious to one another until they meet at Masonic, where the city has had to resort to signal modifications in order to keep cars from clashing with cyclists and pedestrians in the crosswalk.

    You’re right about the legality of waiting to turn in a bike lane (per CVC 21209(3)), but the more serious problem is drivers that block the bike lane before the turn. The Arco situation is a strange one because most cars turning aren’t going left at the intersection, either; they’re turning into the gas station. The problem I see most frequently is cars stopped in the lane and turned almost perpendicular it, which sometimes prevents passage by bikes on both sides. Whether that’s legal or not is mostly irrelevant to me. It’s just flat-out rude.

  • Mike Bike

    I know gas isnt cheap….I know that Divis and Fell gas stations have the cheapest gas in the city. Hence why every cabby fills up there.

    Ive just never herd of anyone ever complain about cheap gas before……

  • JohnB


    I happen to agree with you that segregating traffic causes problems. But that’s not a popular view here, as many have argued that bike lanes should be totally and physical segregated. I share your opposition to that.

    And yes, it’s also my view that the traffic waiting in the bike lane to turn into ARCO is not breaking the law, if they do it right. It is a problem, clearly, and all part of why I use the gas station on the other side of Divis.

    I see why cyclists want to use Fell. for the same reason that auto’s do. I just think it is inevitable that there will be a horrible accident there some day. Be careful out there.

  • Nick

    There was a horrible accident on Fell where a girl died. She was a pedestrian. The street remains as dangerous today as it was then.

    Survey the people who bike commute into downtown. Ask them what the most dangerous part of their route is. I’d bet MTA’s budget deficit that it’s Fell Street.

  • The problem with putting bike lanes on the most “direct” routes is that the most direct routes are all high-speed, high-density auto routes.

    i understand this sentiment, and of course agree with it to a certain extent, but i’d say what i always say — walkers and bikers deserve the most direct routes between A and B. if you want a decent society, that is. motorized vehicles have motors – let them go the long way around.

    other than that, ‘the problem’ is stated correctly — 1) high-speed routes — that’s easy enough to fix — make them lower and low-speed routes, and 2) high-density auto routes — that’s easy, too — make them less dense by giving asphalt over to bikes — slower speeds, big buffered bike lanes, voila! 🙂

    i think we definitely have to get over the idea that we should allow motorized traffic to move through our city at more than 10 MPH — high speeds are just not conducive to a high quality of life. we should look at all major roads through our city and calm them or tear them up. the time to start playing offense is right now. there’s just no need to allow these exorbitant speeds to continue to persist unconstrained by reason or good sense. if that gas station is causing such problems, then _it_ has to go. Simple.

  • peternatural

    I don’t see the connection between a route being “direct” and it being a high-speed, high-density auto route.

    Like Taomom said, if you’re near Stanyan and Fulton and want to get to the ocean, Fulton is a direct route that would suck for biking, but Cabrillo (a block over) is a direct route that is awesome for biking. (And the bike path thru the park is also pretty direct). Other good bike routes that are “direct”: Lake St., Arguelo Ave., Valencia St., Page St., Polk St., Market St., etc. etc. etc.

    Regarding the bike path in the panhandle, which I use daily, it’s true there can be lots of pedestrians, kids, dogs, skateboarders, etc., but I don’t think it’s a big problem. During my usual commuting hours it’s more lightly used, and if it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the path is crowded, so what if I have to go a bit slower? It’s still freaking awesomely beautiful!!! (And worth it to be separated from the cars).

  • Nick

    If anyone is still interested, the MTA released the Engineering Notice today:

    Fell Street, south side, from Divisadero Street to 240 feet easterly.

    Fell Street, westbound, approaching Divisadero Street.

  • reilly

    colored lanes are great, but paint is very dangerous to ride on especially when it is wet. i would much rather see GREEN ASPHALT. yes, black is NOT the only color available for asphalt. not only does it differentiate the area from the rest (like a bike lane) it is MUCH SAFER than paint.

  • slowrider_in-the-slowlane

    I’m not the fastest rider, so Fell is really spooky for anybody who wants to pass me. The traffic is fast there, but it’s really not an issue if people stay in their designated areas and stay alert. So if the bike lane is really busy, oftentimes I’ll go west on Hayes and drop down into the ‘handle at Baker. I don’t have a snafu with Hayes. Every block has a stop sign or light. Traffic moves slowly.

    What also works for me is that if I turn left (west) onto Fell from Scott on a green, westbound cars take the red and held at bay, giving me the opportunity to use a car lane to pass the Arco queue.

    I don’t know why people use Arco. The cheap lowgrade makes some engines ping. That’s not good.

  • cyclotronic

    i haven’t read all the comments, only half or so.

    here is an excellent solution I haven’t seen yet: leave the parking, paint the bike lane green, and hand out tickets to motorists queing up in the bike lane. they’d figure out the gas ain’t so cheap after a while and go elsewhere. i’ve never understood why anyone would want to line up for gas just to save a buck or two anyway.

  • JohnB


    Waiting to make a turn is not illegal.

  • cyclotronic

    it is if your are sitting in the bike lane. if they want to wait they should do it in the car lane.

  • JohnB


    No, you are still wrong. The Vehicle Code requires auto’s making a turn to pull into the bike lane within 200 feet of the actual turn so as to not risk cutting off any bikes by making a right-angle turn directly from the auto lane.

    CA Vehicle Code 21208 and 21209.

    As a cyclist you are supposed to leave the bike lane and pass a right-turning vehicle on its left.

    The idea is to actually prevent the bikes from pulling up on the right of the vehicle when it is about to make a right turn.

    Or in the case of Fell/ARCO, preventing bikes from being on the left of the vehicle as it makes the left turn into the gas station.

    So a ticket should only be issued when a car FAILS to enter and wait in the bike lane. Or of course if a cyclist FAILS to pass the waiting vehicle on the right!

  • cyclotronic

    not to be too pedantic to a pedant:

    CA vehicle code 21209 … 1) To park where parking is permitted. (2) To enter or leave the roadway. (3) To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.

    note the word “intersection,” not driveway to a business, and the lanes are marked with dotted lines in case you don’t no what 200 ft is.

    johnb – clearly you have an agenda and don’t ride a bike.

  • cyclotronic

    and it doesn’t require the auto to enter the bike lane, only allows it.

  • JohnB


    Let me put it to you another way. I got a fail point on my driving test for failing to enter the bike lane when making a turn. So it is clearly required however you parse 21208/9.

    And if you think about it for a minute, isn’t it obviously legislated that way to PROTECT cyclists? It really doesn’t matter to the car driver either way.

    It seems to me that many car drivers and alo many cyclists are not aware of this provision.

  • JohnB


    Oh, and your point (2) about leaving and entering the driveway clearly covers the ARCO situation and driveways in general.

    I don’t ride a bike but I do drive a car. And I have no agenda here except to explain the law to some folks here who appear not to know it.

    Quite why you’d want cars suddenly cutting in front of you to make a turn is beyond me.

  • cyclotronic

    Yes, you can enter and leave the driveway, just not for a length of 200′ down the bike lane. Put on your turn signal, “LOOK” to see if the bike lane is clear, and then turn into the driveway. Not really that complicated.

    The law makes no provision for standing in a bike lane for fifteen minutes while you wait to get gas. Are you even personally familiar with the place in question?

    You do have an agenda here, and that is to confuse the law for people. I went ahead and looked up the law, and saw that you were lying, adding things that are clearly not there.

    You didn’t need to tell me you don’t ride a bike, that much is obvious. you should try it sometime 🙂

  • JohnB


    The law does not specifically state whether a vehicle may wait in the bike lane or not, so you are adding things to the law as well.

    However it is reasonable to assume that you pull into the bike lane in readiness to make the turn, and then have to wait, whether for a light to change, an exit lane to clear of obstruction (as in the case of ARCO) or any other problem that prevents actually making the turn.

    You can’t always see a clear exit for a turn when you pull over to prepare to make a turn. So the law has to allow for that.

    The law appears to allow for up to 200 feet, again depending on obstructions.

    Moreover, I was specifically addressing your comment of some 30 posts ago about how the cops should be ticketing cars that are in the bike lane. As per the above law, they should not and can not. QED.

    And you still haven’t answered the question of why instead you would want a car to make a sudden last-second, 90 degree left turn across an active bike lane, rather than the vehicle gently moving left wherever in that 200 feet when it is safe to do so, and then allow you to freely pass to the right?

    So, big guy, what’s your answer to that?

  • cyclotronic

    “And you still haven’t answered the question of why instead you would want a car to make a sudden last-second, 90 degree left turn across an active bike lane.”

    CA vehicle code 21209 a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207 EXCEPT as follows:
    1) To park where parking is permitted. (2) To enter or leave the roadway. (3) To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.

    Now, it doesn’t say what the penalty is, but you do notice that word “except” (my caps) right? It basically means if you aren’t parking, or pulling in or out of the roadway, or about to turn at an intersection in 200′ ft., you are not to be in the bike lane.

    As for the big guy answer to your question, I’d say the question speaks for itself. You sound like just the kind of driver that is careless enough to run over a cyclist. “…sudden, last second, 90 turn..” Go back and read the first paragraph of post #94 and brush up on your driving skills. I know its hard to imagine being in a car and having to be inconvenienced for even a second by bicycle traffic, but you should try.

  • JohnB

    A vehicle is allowed to enter a bike lane by virtue of your cited #2 and #3. The car is preparing to turn as the Code clearly allows for. The Code doesn’t impose a time limit.

    The issue appears to hinge on whether a vehicle waiting to enter ARCO is “preparing to enter” ARCO. I would say it is very clear that that is exactly what a vehicle is doing and should do. Why else would it be there?

    The only other evidence we have is that the cops NEVER ticket for this.

    As a cyclist, I’d rather encounter a stationery vehicle ahead of me waiting to make a turn than a moving vehicle on my right cutting across.

    We can agree to differ on that. I don’t use that gas station anyway because I don’t like the congestion. But if I did, I would be highly confident that the correct approach is to safely enter the bike lane within 200 feet.

    Is it so hard to pass on the right as the law suggests?

  • Mike Bike

    I believe both of you have some valid points…I also believe both of you are wasting your time bickering about it. You’re not going to convince the other, otherwise.

    John, if you’re wondering how hard it is to pass on the right in 40 mile an hour traffic….get on a bike and do it yourself.

  • JohnB


    I can believe that it is hard to pass on the right on Fell.

    But then if I rode a bike I would never take a 3-lane high-speed, high-volume vehicle thruway for exactly that and related reasons.

    I’d take Hayes. Or I’d join one of the several cyclists I saw on Page today ambling along a near-deserted road with seemingly not a care in the world.

  • cyclotronic

    the fact that the law explicitly mentions 200′ for an intersection would imply that #1 and #2 are merely the passing through the bike lane or pulling into it for a parallel park. by your logic you would be able to drive backwards down the bike lane to get to a spot, or simply use the bike lane as a auto lane and pull into a driveway if you saw a cop.

    I do pass on the right, doesn’t bother me in the least. I apologize for wasting my time defending my suggestion in post #86. I accept my own apology. Pedantry, as much as sophistry, has always fascinated me since my early childhood for it’s unrelenting nature.