Streetfilms: Green Bike Box and Left-Turn Lane on The Wiggle

"The Wiggle" is one of San Francisco’s most beloved and cherished
bike routes and guides riders the easiest way between two nasty hills.
It even has its own
Wiki page
.

It’s so popular, it is hard to stand there at any point of the day
and not see mega helpings of cyclists passing thru! (Please note: This
is a camera person’s dream.)  Recently, after
a judge partially lifted a full ban (due to an injunction)
on bike
amenities, the SF DOT striped a unique combo to aid cyclist’s safety and
sanity.  A
green bike box
on Scott Street – believed to be California’s first –
allows riders to safely wait and queue up for a dedicated left-hand
turn lane which runs the length of the entire next block.

Andy
Thornley
from San Francisco Bike
Coalition
took us around to show how it works – and some riders
voiced their appreciation.

  • Another great Streetsfilms! Thanks, Clarence. You got the Wiggle going.

  • Thanks, Clarence. Glad you made it out here.

  • patrick

    Great film! I find the recent changes (bike box & left turn bike lane) to be a vast improvement over what the what was there before.

  • Thanks for the video. The bike box and the left hand turn lane make me very happy as a bicyclist.

    Question: is it okay (i.e. legal) to turn left from Scott onto Fell from the left hand turn lane on a red? I do it (after first checking carefully if anyone is turning off Fell) but guiltily. (I am an avowed non-runner of red lights.)

  • EL

    I love this video because it shows a blatant number of bikes turning left illegally (facing a red light) from Scott onto Fell, and also two bikes riding on the wrong side of Scott to turn left onto Fell. Way to promote bike safety!

  • Nick

    I can’t help notice that there is a huge difference in attention given to the westbound route (Fell) while the eastbound route is ignored.

    And which eastbound route- the official route along Hayes that no one uses? Or Oak Street, the ugly duckling of bike advocacy?

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Actually EL, for anyone who has been there (and I was observing for about an hour on two different days) you gotta make that left sometimes just as the last car passes, and in that time the light has gone green on Fell. Which is what the group of riders did with Andy…they were trying to make the left but three cars were coming at them, they simply waited to make that turn and as they did the light went green. It’s the same thing car drivers do by sitting in the middle of the intersection and making their turn once the light changes.

    But I did observe some left turns against the light, which is why I left some of that footage in to show the behavior here. Though sometimes cyclists have to do what’s is in their best interest for safety, and at this intersection sometimes that is making the left while the light is green.

    What they really need here is perhaps a dedicated 10-15 second sequence where there are all red lights except for a left hand turn signal for bikes. That would do it.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Of course that sentence should have read: Though sometimes cyclists have to do what is in their best interest for safety, and at this intersection sometimes that is making the left while the light is RED (and green on Fell).

  • Nick

    Come to think of it, they should also red zone that first parking spot on Fell. This would give cyclists some “safety space” while making the turn.

  • Nick

    Edit: And take a look at the video at 0.45 seconds and tell me cyclists wouldn’t be safer if that parking spot wasn’t there.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Nick – Do you think they give more attention to the westbound route because it is uphill? That was my perception – that they can only do it for one direction, and since there are more options to ride downhill (and thus less time spent riding and less effort) that with all things equal you should make it easier for the uphill section.

    My two cents, don’t know if true….

  • Noah

    There is no question that it is neither legal nor safe to make the left onto Fell against the light. There have been numerous bike-pedestrian accidents at that intersection caused by precisely that behavior. Also, for those of us who live on that block and back out of our garages, it is very difficult to see a bike coming when it makes the left turn illegally. I’m very careful, because I also bike around the city (and because it’s good manners), but I’ve come very close to nailing a couple of cyclists who made the illegal left at a high rate of speed. Eventually, a cyclist will be killed because they make the illegal turn. It will be even more dangerous when the parking lane is removed in the near future.

    I was glad to see a few police officers there last week, pulling over cyclists making the illegal turn. If the cyclists wasn’t total jerk about it, they just gave them a warning.

    And I’m not talking about people who try to catch the end of the green and just don’t make it. That’s not ideal behavior, but not a big deal. The real danger is the substantial number of cyclists who have no regard for the light whatsoever.

  • EL

    Clarence – Thanks for leaving the footage in. Maybe a dedicated light should be here (if bikes follow it), but Streetfilms/Streetsblog cannot have it both ways. Just as it’s illegal for cars to park on a narrow street with two wheels on the sidewalk to avoid getting hit, it’s illegal to turn left here on a red. And there’s really no excuse for the 2 bikes in the video (at 0:59) that are on the wrong side of the street.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    I agree the 2 bikes shouldn’t be over there. But I only had one cut of Andy riding and since I was filming him never saw the other 2 cyclists misbehaving. Not trying to have it both ways here, I think this video accurately shows the conditions here – the large majority of cyclists are following the law, a few aren’t.

    Again, an added dedicated left hand turn signal for bikes here is the way to go. I saw far too many times, cyclists not being able to make the left when their light turns green thanks to oncoming cars, and they gotta wait until the last one(s) pass thru, which many times makes their light almost red or red and leaves them no chance.

  • MorganicSF

    Love the video… the bike box and bike lanes are improvements but there is still much to correct in this busy stretch of the Wiggle. Fell street in particular is next on the list (did someone say two-way bike lane in place of south-side parking?). Keep up the good work. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

  • In the hundred times I’ve gone through this intersection, I’ve probably witnessed 500 bicyclists make this turn. Maybe only two of them actually waited at the red light for the light to turn green. So I would have to disagree that the vast majority of bicyclists *at this particular intersection* obey the law.

    If I got off my bike and walked it across the second half of the crosswalk, I would be legal, no? Perhaps that is what I’ll do in the future.

    I’m having a hard time seeing how turning left (on a green or red) ever impedes anyone backing out of their driveway?

    Ideally, the city would prohibit cars turning left off Fell onto Scott and then put a green arrow left turn for bikes only onto Fell that would stay green except when oncoming cars going south on Scott have their green.

  • patrick

    Taomom, yes, if you turn mid-block into a driveway and get off your bike and walk it to the intersection you are perfectly within the bounds of the law.

    I also ride through there and agree with taomom that the majority of bikers violate the red, but this intersection is designed that only 1 or 2 cyclists would ever be able to legally make the turn.

    I’m one of the red light runners, and I am fully aware that it is illegal. I think a dedicated left turn light is the proper solution, but until that time I will continue to run the light, I do it slowly and make sure that there are no pedestrians or left turning cars, and I feel that it is perfectly safe. If I get a ticket, I fully admit that I deserve it, and I will certainly not be a jerk to the officer giving me the ticket, as I am knowingly breaking the law.

    I almost never run red lights elsewhere because I feel it’s bad etiquette but this intersection really doesn’t give you an alternative.

  • Sara

    I admit to being one of the red light runners are this intersection, and I hate it. I am a stickler when it comes to not running red lights, but there is no good way to get through this intersection, regardless of where the light is in its cycle. I agree that a cycle-only turn light would make a world of difference at this location.

  • CBrinkman

    I run that red as well, one of only two in the city I routinely treat as a stop/yield. My take away from that fabulous StreetsFilm is that we need to reduce the number of cars on Scott Street and slow them down. Make it a real bike blvd with a dedicated turn onto Fell. And put better markings so the drivers understand what the bike box is. Yesterday we saw an SUV using the left turn lane for bikes to make a left turn onto Fell.

  • Noah

    I appreciate the comments of the people who run the light with regret, especially the person who does it slowly. I certainly appreciate it more than the cyclist who almost hit me at that corner, then yelled at me for it. I would only add that, if you really must make the illegal turn, take care not only to look for pedestrians or left turning cars, but also cars backing out of the driveways.

    Of course, we’re all going to have to deal with new traffic patterns if the city approves turning the parking lane into an ARCO lane on Friday. I know a lot of cyclists support this, and it does make the Fell & Divis intersection better. But it makes the rest of that block worse for everybody except people using the ARCO station. Neighbors and cyclists should get together to oppose the changes.

  • Also worth noting, the time when you can legally turn left on a red light (after stopping to check for traffic) is when turning from the far left lane on a one-way street into the far left lane on another one-way street. This applies to many of the intersections on Howard and Folsom

  • Nick

    Noah and others who live on that block of Fell: Do you suppose the new design(originally intended for cyclists) may benefit residents as well?

    Consider how much noise the blocked bike lane creates. I was walking through the other day at rush hour and the amount of screeching tires, then honking, and then loud engines speeding away was extremely noticable. I imagine any resident who lives within yelling distance of ARCO has problems with the specific noise created by the current design.

    And if anyone who supports the plan and wants to see it passed, consider filming or recording this noise to play at the hearing. There’s likely to be some opposition and this is a good way to quell it.

  • I don’t understand why the merge to the left turn bike lane can not be made after the intersection with Oak.

    Also as far as I’m aware, in Europe where the bike box was invented, they are only utilized with an advance bicycle signal (bikes get a green signal head a few seconds before cars do to to clear the box). This reduces the possibility of a bicyclist getting right-hooked as they approach the bike box when the light just turns green. I have yet to see an advance bicycle signal utilized with a bike box installation in the US. In this instance without the advance bicycle signal, bicyclists approaching the box at the intersection of Oak are at risk of getting right hooked by an unsuspecting driver.

    This is the reason why there was a law suit over their use in Portland by a few supposedly “obstinate” old-time vehicular cyclist.

    If cyclists had an advanced bicycle signal I would have no objections to the use of bike boxes but I have yet seen evidence of one bike box designed in the US with this critical safety feature.

    I’m all for bicycle facility innovation but I refuse to drink the cool-aid.

  • I too picked up the illegal looking left turns onto Fell St on the StreetFilms site before anyone else. Clarence explained the reason there within minutes of my mentioning it. (Damn he’s fast!)

    Understanding the problem better this is all the more reason why an advance (and/or delayed) bicycle signal head should be used at the intersection with Fell. California is one of the few states that legally allows for Bicycle Signal Heads by including them in their CA MUTCD so there should be no reason for not using them.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    The first two gents blowing the light though really did jump it quite a bit. Still – thought it would be interesting to show the cyclist behavior here both legal and illegal. Certainly has gotten the debate going….

  • patrick

    Andy B from NJ, yes, the bike box is not perfect, but I assure you it is far better than the situation before, which basically meant people either lined up to the right of the cars, still subject to right hook, and then had to negotiate cars to get over to the left lane for the turn, or lined up in front of the cars in the crosswalk, thereby violating pedestrian right of way.

    I agree an advance bicycle signal would be great, but this is still a big improvement.

    I also agree that the two guys did jump into the contra-flow lane far too early, there’s really no need for that.

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