Yet Another T(weak) to Fell Street Arco Bike Lane

Fell_ARCO_bike_lanes.jpgThe new arrows to instruct drivers to queue earlier. Photo: Michael Helquist.

Michael Helquist at Bike NOPA has another update to the Fell Street Arco bike lane saga. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has striped new arrows in the curbside lane that they hope will compel drivers to move out of the bike lane and have dashed the bike lane.

Michael reports:

Although SFMTA does not explicitly inform Arco customers about the curbside line-up with street markings, the agency added more left turn arrows beginning at mid-block as well for a total of six. The extra arrows begin about 75 feet before the Arco entry, and were not needed to direct drivers into the left turn onto Divisadero. This fine-tuning of the approach to Arco and Divisadero — combined with more outreach and media alerts to drivers — may tip the scale to greater use of the queue.

While I hope Michael’s analysis proves correct and drivers change their behavior to reduce the conflict and limit danger to cyclists, none of these symptom treatments deal with the cause of the problem.

Staging a few interns at the station to politely ask drivers not to create a danger for other road users is not the way to fix the problem. Short of closing the driveway and installing a protected bike lane, this issue will not go away.

I hope we don’t have to wait for a serious cyclist injury or fatality before the city does something to eliminate this liability. I don’t think City Attorney Herrera could argue successfully in court that the city had done enough to mitigate the hazard if this is the best it gets.

I also wonder, as have numerous activists staging weekly protests at the station, whether the SFMTA would react the same way if this traffic back up were affecting Muni or other city functions.

Can you imagine such a half-hearted attempt to fix a similar problem in front of a fire station?

Check out Michael’s post and feel free to join in my Friday venting session in the comments.

  • MTA doesn’t do anything if it’s MUNI that is being slowed because of turn/queuing issues. Example, 3rd St during the evening rush – there is NO enforcement of the bus lane and drivers are free to block it while trying to turn onto either Folsom or Bryant. Then on top of that, drivers try to be the last car through the light usually resulting in them stopping in the middle of the intersection.

    Then you can talk Stockton for days.

    Sadly, I don’t think there will be much action (especially to the extent of closing the Fell entrance) until someone gets hurt. I really hope I’m wrong, but this little bit by bit, paint here and there approach isn’t instilling much confidence that they actually want to address the real issues.

  • JOKE

    WTF?? This does not accomplish anything.

    Someone is going to die because of the safety hazard caused by Arco’s underpriced gas. Unfortunately it will be the City that pays the lawsuit because MTA has FAILED to abate the hazard.

    CLOSE THE DRIVEWAY!! The City can easily revoke the curb cut. Problem solved!

  • Ok, this may be in left field, but I didn’t feel like going for a walk for my break today.

    $.03/gal cheaper at Aroc so about $.60 on a 20 gal tank.
    Driver burns .2 gal/hr idling or .03 gal in a 10 min wait to get Arco gas.
    @ $3.06/gal driver wasted $.10 to save $.60 so going to Arco nets you $.50.

    Not sure if my math is right or even my line of thinking. But I’d have to say that my 10 min is worth more then 50 cents.

  • Bernard

    I don’t think the city should remove the driveways, that just creates problems further along (say at Divis and then Oak as motorists try and reroute themselves to the Divisadero entrance), and it’s likely to get the city into a lawsuit with Arco. Unfortunately, the station is in a bad location to receive customers and Fell is the best option for MANY drivers. As much as this situation pisses me off, I believe it requires extensive education for drivers and proper signage. Then, enforcement. If the city took the time to cite drivers for illegal maneuvers, they’d make a fortune! Hell, deputize me Gascon! I’ll rake in $10,000/day for all the laws I see broken on my commute!

  • eugho

    The Arco entrance gets a lot of press, but the gas station on the west side of Divisadero also has a curb cut or two onto Fell. If Arco’s Fell entrances are closed, drivers might just start using that station – moving the bike-vehicle conflict to the west side of the intersection (where vehicles are speeding up after the light, not slowing down at the red light at Divisadero).

    Also, very little is said about the tow truck company between Diviz and Broderick that seemingly always has a trucks parked in the bike lane or trucks backing up in the bike lane and into their garage.

    Lots of things are going on along these two blocks, and the queue lane has only been in place a short while. I’m sure it will take some adjusting to, but eventually people might start understand that lining up at Arco is just like lining up at Trader Joes Masonic. Speaking of which, why not require Arco to have an attendant like TJs?

    Regardless, I’m a fan of a cycle track between Baker and Scott.

  • I saw this, and I’m pretty sure dashes signal to drivers less restricted movement into the lane, not more. Seems like a step backward… but the arrows could help, I guess. Why is the bike lane still not green, though? I thought that was their next step from the beginning. At this point, I’d be really glad for it.

  • Future Calling

    I have to say, one thing I do appreciate is MTA’s willingness to “experiment”. I’m sure we’d all agree on this forum that the measures taken so far fall quite short of what is needed to make this a safe corridor, but i think some nod should be given to the spirit of experimentation; this is how we can learn what works and what does not work such that we can apply these patterns citywide. Example: the separated, green-painted bike lanes on market street work, the bike box seems to work OK, fell street is a work in progress…

    That said, if we want to look ahead a few steps, it is hard to imagine a solution for this very critical linkage in the cycle network that doesn’t involve a fully-separated bikeway (yes, this means moving or removing parking and curb cuts… suck it up, this is required sometimes as urban areas grow). To minimize disruption, i would actually recommend building a separated 2-way montréal-style cycle track along the north side of oak street, and forget about fell entirely. This would address the westbound danger problem as well as the total lack of any cycle provisions for moving eastbound from the panhandle to scott street.

    mikesonn, I’m with you on the bus lane blockage issues… I am starting to think this is a psychological issue: california drivers will drive on anything, and i mean ANYTHING, as long as it is grey or black. I propose to paint the dedicated bus lanes a different color (perhaps orangey-red), then go on a spree of painting any potentially contentious point where bikeways cross auto lanes in the green color. Start now with establishing expectations with a simple, bold device.

  • Most gas stations that I frequent have one way entrances and exits. If one of the driveways on Fell were eliminated and the remaining one made into a one way exit, with the Divis. side made into an exclusive entrance, I think that would help with a lot of the issue of crowding cars. It wouldn’t be a total solution, but it would help flow just a bit and make changes to the street more effective. Not to mention it wouldn’t cost anything and would be easily understood by drivers.

  • Our weekly protests have a website and a Twitter account now. You can check out all the videos on our website.
    https://fixfell.wordpress.com/
    https://twitter.com/fixfell

  • AlexR

    Move the bike lane to the right side of Fell street from Scott all the way to Stanyan. Move it out of the Panhandle = fewer bicycle vs. car conflicts at Panhandle & Masonic, and no more bikes vs. peds/joggers/strollers/dogs/hobos conflicts along the Panhandle path. Do something similar for Oak Street. A radical solution, yes, but it’s overdue!

  • Sue

    I like Adrienne’s suggestion — but would prefer that both the entrance and exit be on Divisadero. Completely segregate the bikes and cars, and make egress entirely the problem of car-drivers.

  • I’ll be there at 5:30 today. Anyone care to join?

  • Great, Aaron! See you there!

  • move the bike lane on this block to the north side of the street.

    it would be nice to have it happen so that after the light has turned red for cars, a bicycle only green could come on, to allow them to go through the light and get to the other side of the street without being run over. however this would probably confuse most drivers, who see green and think “me go fast now.” so instead, have the intersection blocked to autos with red signals and turn on the walk signal for east-west travel to allow this.

    problem solved.

  • airAndMagic –

    Then people get to the Panhandle how?

  • Joel

    Just curious, has Streetsblog attempted to interview the station owner? It seems like he/she is the only stakeholder who hasn’t been represented in this conflict.

  • @Joel He has been fighting against any changes for years, and the status quo disproportionately benefits him and harms others.

  • Joel

    @Stuart – Yes, I’m aware of those points and I wasn’t making any attempt favor one side or another. This driveway is obviously a problem that will not solve itself. However, that was not my question. As one might learn in any Journalism 101 class, a quality article should attempt to represent as many sides of a conflict as possible, and to date, I don’t know anything about his reactions to this issue. If someone could direct me to an article that includes his view, or if Streetsblog could cover it, that’d be great.

  • @Joel: Sure, I can agree with that. I don’t like the guy but it might be a better quality story with an attempt to contact him, at least.

  • Nick

    This may be a little off topic…. but is there any chance they’d ever sell the DMV and extend the Panhandle one block east? I guess it would be very difficult to build a new DMV in another neighborhood. I mean who wants thousands of cars driven by incompetent motorists in their face? It’d be tantamount to an act of disrespect. But still! You can do it to cyclists and that’s considered acceptable.

    Cycletrack Now.

  • When the 49ers move out we can move the DMV down there 🙂

  • I am surprised to learn that in 2008 there was a plan to tear down the DMV office and build new housing and retail there: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2008/09/15/story4.html

    I wonder whether the current DMV site was acquired for the Panhandle Freeway and built there as a way to use the land after the freeway was cancelled. The timing is about right but I’m just speculating. Anybody know?

  • icarus12

    A mountain out a molehill. Move on to other topics. There is so much still left to do to create and maintain viable foot and bicycle routes through the city. I can’t believe the amount of fire this generates among my fellow bike riders. And for all those who are truly fit — what’s the problem with biking off Fell Street? I am not fit, and I do it for peace of mind. It’s no problem at all to include one extra block of uphill in my routine rides to the western part of the city. But hey, I already know the answer: this is about principle, and standing up for principle is really, really exciting.

  • Sean

    You’re right, screw it, this is totally 110% about principal and not about safety and legal access to one of the most widely used routes in the city. I never go through there (up and over Fulton for me) but something has to be done about that section.

  • Nick

    Does anybody have any data of how many bicyclists ride through Fell daily? My guess is around 2000-3000 which might be why this is such a lightning rod of an issue.

    For years I would never bike downtown because of how intimidating Fell and Oak looked. The Panhandle was very much the end of the line.

  • Brandon

    In addition to the arrows, why didnt they write “bike lane” or put a picture of a bike in the bike lane. I dont know that area from from the picture it still isnt totally clear.

  • William A. Rutledge

    @airAndMagic I have been wondering if this isn’t just the solution we’re all looking for and I wonder what has been said on the subject.

    The new arrows and dashes was certainly a hazard on my Friday return commute, with cars turning into the Arco as well as prepping to turn onto Divis. I’m not so timid to avoid riding in the car lane, but this spot is a CF, to be sure.

    I’m sure a north side bike lane to Stanyon would cause some backups for cars turning right.

  • We were out there again on Friday. In our hour and a half or so of standing there, we saw a few near collisions, including between a driver and a cyclist. Most of the problems this week were on the exit on Fell Street.

    It is a complete cluster*%$&. A complete redesign is needed, not just some paint.

  • Nick

    OK, someone needs to get out there with a tape measure to verify the width of the bike lane meets State DOT standards. Look at the cyclist in the picture. Would he have 3 feet of clearance on either side of him to comply with the other State regualtion that makes it illegal to pass within 3 feet of a cyclist?

    Most “narrow” bike lanes in the city are 5 feet wide, or the width of your bicycle.

    I’ll take a wide bike lane with no green paint over a narrow green one any day.

    Cycletrack Now.

  • @Aaron Bialick – read my post again, the solution is clearly stated.
    @William A. Rutledge – i’ve looked at it so many ways and short of removing the gas station, this is the only equitable solution i can think of. it certainly isn’t great, but it would, in theory at least, work.

  • actually, let me make that more clear — at the corner of divis and fell, red lights block cars in all directions for a bit while bicyclists are allowed to cross the intersection and get back to the left side of the street for entry into the panhandle.

  • airAndMagic –

    Doesn’t it seem a bit cumbersome to move the bike lane around the gas station entrance and make bicyclists go back and forth on one block? And you’re right, it would create a pretty confusing situation.

    This issue has to stop being framed as how to adapt the bike lane to the gas station’s needs when the reality is that the gas station is in the way of safe and easy passage for people on bikes.

  • @Aaron the question is not how to adapt the bike land to the gas station.

    I don’t see that the gas station has to conform to the bike lane or the bike lane has to conform to the gas station. It’s simply not that black and white. Surely there is a good solution for both cyclists and motorists. Bikes can’t simply trump cars, there’s no equity in that. Plus, we have our fair share of bonehead cyclists.

    I actually liked the idea of a right hand bike lane all the way down to Stanyan. Riding through the Panhandle isn’t always ideal, what with two way bike traffic, joggers and strollers, dogs and death monster crossings.

    It’s not just the ARCO, as another person mentioned. There’s the tow truck agency, there’s the 76, there’s the left hand turns onto Divis. Closing the curb cut would increase traffic on Divis, already busy with traffic. This wouldn’t just impact cars, but Muni transit has a busy line from Bayview to the Marina.

    A real solution for safety would be an insulated bike lane. I would think most likely on the right hand side of Fell to address the impatient left turners. With a buffer of parked cars, maybe cycling/pedestrian only green lights for 20 seconds before traffic green lights at Masonic or more.

  • @aaron, no, it doesn’t.

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