Today’s Headlines

  • SFMTA Says Taxis Can Block Bike Lanes (Taxi Town)
  • SFCTA Board to Consider Funds for Masonic Project Today (Bike NoPa)
  • SFPD Seeking Hit-and-Run Driver Who Hit Bike Rider in the Mission (SF Appeal)
  • Muni Hoping New Part-Time Drivers Will Cut Ballooning Overtime (City Insider)
  • Muni Cutting Down on Switchbacks, But Passengers Still Complaining About Practice (SF Examiner)
  • The Late Cameron Beach, “In His Daughter’s Own Words” (Muni Diaries)
  • N-Judah Train Derails at Duboce and Church (SF Examiner)
  • Two Drunk Drivers Arrested in Yesterday’s SoMa Crash That Injured 8 (SFGate)
  • Automakers Embrace Hands-Free Text-Messaging Technology (WaPo)
  • New Paving Approach Saves Money and Is Environmentally Friendly (Mercury News)
  • San Jose Business Owner Killed on Segway by Elderly Drunk Driver (Mercury News)
More Headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill
  • Is it just me or is this the first we’re hearing about allowing taxis to block bike lanes. Seems like there should have been room for public comment?

  • Anonymous

    Totally agreed. I was blown away when I read that. I never even knew that was on the table, and I’m definitely upset and really irritated that they snuck that one by.

    SFMTA is giving huge mixed messages: they want 20% of trips to be by bicycle by 2020 and want to make riding a bicycle safer in the city, but then they are letting taxi cabs block the bike lanes?! They are saying: we think it’s important to make cities safe for cyclists … *except* if taxi cabs are involved, in which case the convenience of the cab driver and passengers trumps the safety of the cyclists. That is completely contradictory. Either you want the bike lanes free of cars, or you don’t; there is no half-way.

    Especially since cab drivers are the *worst* offenders out there. You would think, being professional drivers and spending their whole day behind the wheel, they would be outstanding drivers: courteous, drive smoothly, drive predictably, know all the laws, not take short-cuts roaring through residential areas or major bike routes, etc. Instead, they are the worst drivers out there and most of my near-misses on my bike have come from cabs.

    Streetsblog: can we get a full-page story on this issue? We need to bring attention to this sneaky little maneuver. We also need to get the Bicycle Coalition on this. This is totally BS, and the city needs to be called on their contradictory messages.

  • Aaron Bialick

    jd_x: Already on it.

  • I sent inquires to SFBC as well as some SFMTA folks (Christiane Hayashi and some PR emails I found) to see when/if public comment was ever accepted for this.

    Reminds me of the whole fiasco with the Golden Gate bridge west bikeway shutdown.

  • Rbprbp

    Re: taxis: Blow this one open, Streetsblog. Really bad policy, really bad process.

  • Anonymous

    Re: taxis in the bike lane. I was just reading through the  instructions posted on the website to which Streetsblog links. And this is a disaster. It says:

    “When you can use a Bike Lane: It is important that you only use bike lanes for pick-ups or drop-offs upon customer request and only if there are no other safe locations nearby.”

    First, how can the city talk about safety of the passengers yet completely ignore the safety of cyclists? That’s blatant bias against cyclists. Somehow, we can make sure the passengers are safe but to hell with the cyclists — they can deal.

    Second, there are ALWAYS safe options nearby for a cab … it just might involve the passenger walking half a block. A cab can always turn onto a side street without a bike lane and double-park there. For example, on Valencia, the cabs can easily turn just around the corner on a numbered street where there are no bike lanes rather than stopping directly in front of the drop-off spot and blocking the bike lane.

    And if the city really wants people to be able to be dropped off or picked up directly at the middle of the block, the they should remove parking spots and create loading and unloading zones for taxis. After all, if people are riding cabs, they don’t need parking spots. I think this is actually the best solution. On heavy pedestrian and bike corridors like Market and Valencia St, there should be a couple spots that are for cabs loading and unloading only in the middle of every block. People looking to pick up a cab can just go there. When you think about it, the whole of catching cabs right now is kinda nuts: people just stand in the road and flag a cab who just stops right in the middle of road, which is dangerous for cyclists and motorists. The whole idea of cabs in cities that prioritize pedestrians and cyclist needs to be rethought.

    Finally, I did see some good news in the instructions:

    “A defensive driving training module specific to driving safely around people on bicycles and bike lane policy is now required as part of driver training for new taxi drivers. This training curriculum is under development and will be included in new taxi driver training classes conducted by SFMTA Taxi Services.”

    Wow: god knows that is really needed! It would be nice to see cabs actually be courteous, safe, and professional drivers, and this is one step in that direction.

  • Upright Biker

    One more reason why bike lanes should be curbside, then parked autos, then traffic lanes. We as bike riders should not have to mix with auto traffic except when absolutely necessary.

  • They can just stop in the middle of the street. Wait, that would block traffic? Those cyclists over there – they are apparently “not traffic”

  • Anonymous

    Yep, completely true. But until we get those, cabs can’t be treating bike lanes as their loading/unloading zones. Until then, the city needs to enforce the policy that bike lanes are never to used for any vehicles (except in emergencies), cab, delivery truck, personal auto, whatever.

  • State law says that bike lanes can be used for loading/unloading.

    No comment needed, the law has been on the books forever

  • Folks, the law has always said that cars can enter the bike lane to park, load/unload, turn right etc.

    This is just reminding the police that they were illegally ticketing cabs.

    Wouldd you all prefer the cab stop in the car lane…and the passenger open their door into the bike lane?

    Pulling into the bike lane is actually safer for cyclists. Its predictable.

  • Not true. The SF transportation code (excerpted from http://www.sfbike.org/?bikelane_rules) states: 

    “No person shall park any vehicle such that any portion of the vehicle is within a marked bicycle lane. No person shall block any portion of a marked bicycle lane with his or her vehicle on weekdays from the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Any person violating this Section shall be subject to a fine of $100. The Department of Parking and Traffic may install signs or otherwise alert motorists of this prohibition and the fine”

    An exemption is made though…

    “This Section shall not apply to commercial vehicles if an exemption is reasonably necessary to load or unload merchandise or passengers at any hours except between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.”

    Regardless, it seems fairly clear to me that the bike lanes are heavily protected at a minimum from 7-9 am and 4-6 pm. 

  • Anonymous

    @Jamesboat:disqus wrote: “Would you all prefer the cab stop in the car lane…and the passenger open their door into the bike lane?”

    Nope, but that isn’t the only other choice. See my post below: cabs can pull over to a side street. Further, on heavily trafficked areas, the city can remove parking spots and create loading/unloading zones for cabs. It makes no sense for cab to just stop in the middle of traffic, be it bicycle or automobile. That needs to change.

    Finally, can you show me the law that says cars can park in the bike lane to load/unload? Right turns is one thing (and that isn’t in the middle of the block), but I’m pretty sure you can’t double-park.

  • “enter” the bike lane does not mean “park in” the bike lane. That law is about needing to *cross* the bike lane, when safe, to get to the curb, where you can then park, load/unload, turn right, etc…

  • Would you all prefer the cab stop in the car lane…and the passenger open their door into the bike lane?

    I think… yes. In this situation the passenger would be opening their door into traffic much as a driver getting out of a parked car. I believe that stopping in the traffic lane with the bike lane to the right of the car would be a scenario that lends itself to the passenger watching to see what it is they are opening their door into, because it feels as if they are “being dropped off in the middle of the road”. Cars parking on the side of Valencia just whip open their door. The drivers who parked in the median of Valencia were very very careful getting out.

    Your mileage may vary.

  • Any narrow lane at the side of a road not physically separated from car traffic by some kind of barrier is, for all intents and purposes (and evidently by California law), a flex lane for motorized vehicular traffic. And you have to admit they are wonderfully multi-purpose!

    These narrow strips of asphalt, charmingly nicknamed “bike lanes” for reasons lost to memory, function as highly convenient double-park-in-me lanes for vehicles stopping for a latte, garage sales, or to pick up dry cleaning. (After all, driving 30 feet further might necessitate paying for parking and walking a few steps.) They also serve as instant loading zones while drivers unload Pepsi, Doritos, UPS packages or passengers of all stripes. (After all, pulling into the yellow loading zones available on nearly every commercial block might require at least half a second to pull over. And just imagine inconveniencing taxi passengers by not setting them down within five feet of their destination!)

    Best of all, the city can pretend it has created miles of bicycle infrastructure by calling these double-park-in-me, instant loading zones “bike lanes”! It’s curious bicyclists get so grouchy about these narrow strips being full of cars and delivery trucks since they seem to be working out so well for everybody.

  • Paul Rose, of SFMTA, just replied to my question about public comment with the following:

    “We have to further our efforts to improve safety for our customers with disabilities, as we continue to build out additional bike infrastructure throughout the City. At the SFMTA, we work hard to find workable solutions to address safety concerns for all modes of transportation in our scarce right-of-way. This plan allows for the safe use of bike lanes, while at the same time, provides curb access for paratransit van and taxi customers with disabilities. See some of the guidelines for Taxi Drivers and paratransit vehicles below:”

    <>

    I replied, asking whether or not public comment was sought for this.

  • Anonymous

    Where to begin …..

    “We have to further our efforts to improve safety for our customers with disabilities”

    That is a smokescreen. That’s like saying we shouldn’t support bicycle infrastructure because not every person (eg, handicapped) can ride a bike. Giving taxis free reign to block the bike lane whenever they want just because a small portion of their passengers have disabilities is BS. This measure doesn’t just talk about customers with disabilities, but any passengers; in reality it’s allowing cabs to unload/load in a bike lane *regardless* of who their passengers are. After all, the cabs will have a sticker on their bumper saying they can’t be ticketed! It’s like a get out jail free card, and this guy is completely avoiding that issue.

    You should ask Paul Rose: so that means you will still give tickets when cabs block the bike lanes if their passengers are *not* disabled?

  • @jd_x:disqus Done. Will post if I get a response.

  • @google-c1054b713ae4d63cc3ebaf620c20fb35:disqus  using a bike lane for a legal purpose is not blocking it. IE: One MUST enter the bike lane to turn right, and this person may be sitting in the bike lane for a full 2 minutes depending on the light cycle. Thats not considered blocking the lane, so why would 30 seconds of legal loading be?

    @jd_x:disqus  loading/unloading has its own statue and is not considered parking or double parking.

    @twitter-14678929:disqus youre also using the word “park” when thats not what the conversation is about. Loading/unloading has a set definition, separate from parking. Nobody is talking about parking.

    If a cab stops in the car lane, the passenger opens their door on the right side….and passengers NEVER except traffic to the right of the vehicle (nor shouldd they). Any cyclist getting doored has no escape, theyre stuck between parked cars and a stopped cab.

  • Jass – is it legal for someone to stop in the bike lane on Valencia and wait there while their friend runs into Ritual for coffee?

  • Anonymous

    @Sean Rea: At top of the page you quoted (http://www.sfbike.org/?bikelane_rules) it says: “This page is out of date. The SF Traffic Code was re-written, and
    Section 38.N was removed. This page will be updated in the future.”

    @Jass: Can you point to the section in the vehicle code that allows double parking when loading/unloading?

  • Aaron Bialick

    Haha wow, Streetsblog readers taking it into their own hands. Don’t be too hard on Paul, he’s a good guy (just the messenger!).

  • Hey, I wasn’t hard on him. Just asked whether or not they accepted public comment.

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that if taxis (and others) insist on behaving in a hazardous manner, we should do our best to mitigate these hazards. Maybe we should start carrying around an orange flag, a pair of collapsible cones, and a couple of road flares, so that we can stop and direct traffic around them when the situation warrants. If nothing else, it might embarrass them into thinking twice.