Eyes on the Street: SFMTA Installs Green Bike Lane on Fell Street

IMG_1507.jpgPhotos: Bryan Goebel

In its best attempt yet to prevent drivers from obstructing the bike lane on a troubled section of Fell Street, alongside the Arco station, the SFMTA painted the lane green today, along with the dashed lane from mid-block to Divisadero Street, as part of its new configuration. Michael Helquist of BIKE NOPA had the story up first this morning, and said the Fell entrance to the Arco station was closed for the morning and early afternoon.

"We're thrilled to see the city continue to experiment with green pavement to designate bicycle right-of-way along important bike routes," said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "We're eager to see whether the use of green on Fell Street can call more attention to the bike lane and make it easier and safer for everyone traveling through this intersection. The city deserves credit for implementing long-overdue improvements at this confusing intersection and working to increase the safety of everyone who uses this street, but of course we'll all be watching closely to see whether this solution is enough."

A number of bicyclists waiting for a green light at Divisadero this afternoon shrugged, and said they didn't know whether it would solve the problem of drivers blocking the bike lane. The chaotic intersection has been a problem for years. Drivers violate the bike lane by crossing over it and waiting to enter the station to get cheap gas. Some activists have said nothing short of eliminating the curb cuts, closing the Fell entrance, and installing a cycletrack will do the trick.

"It's a start. A separated bike lane would be nice. Shutting down this entrance would be nice. There's all kinds of things the city could do, but you know, I don't want to appear critical because it is very nice," said Steve, a bicyclist whose daily commute takes him through The Wiggle.

IMG_1458.jpgThe SFMTA recently eliminated five parking spaces to add a queuing lane for drivers.
"I think that this is great because this block has been a problem and for somebody who bikes this every day it's just been extremely dangerous," said Abby, who didn't want to give her last name. "I think this will make a difference. The green is really visible."

Stuart Matthews, who has been organizing protests at the Arco station over the past few months and writes the Fix Fell Now! blog, was taking photos of the new green lane this afternoon, and monitoring driver behavior. He acknowledged the changes that have been implemented recently do seem to be making a difference, even though it's not an ultimate solution.

"The problem is that they're doing things piecemeal and it seems like they're trying to appease the bicycle community rather than fix the problem because actually fixing the problem is going to cause more of a reengineering and less of slapping paint on the road because it's not going to change traffic patterns," he said.

"I agree it's gotten better over the past two weeks but it's no where near where it needs to be."

IMG_1493.jpgDrivers are still blocking the sidewalk.
One thing that is clearly evident is the new signage telling drivers not to block the sidewalk is not working, and the environment has not improved for pedestrians. Drivers queued to get gas are still idling on the sidewalk, and often roll into the crosswalk on Divisadero while they're waiting for the light.

Natalia Ackerson, who lives in the neighborhood and said she mostly walks to get around, said crossing Fell with a stroller and her 2-month-old son, Nico, can be scary.

"Before, when they didn't have the signs, the cars were coming from every direction," she said, referring to the gas station. And about the green bike lanes? "I think it's a good idea that they marked it green so the cars can now respect the bike lane. But I don't know, we have to wait and see."

As Helquist pointed out on BIKE NOPA, the SFMTA does plan on studying what impact the green lane has on both car and bike traffic. Last week SFMTA interns were out counting how many drivers were violating the bike lane on both Scott and Fell streets. The before and after data they collect could bolster efforts to paint more green bike lanes across the city.

IMG_1480.jpgNatalia Ackerson, left, walks across Divis Tuesday afternoon as a driver squeezes pedestrians in the crosswalk.