SFMTA Begins Work on Fell Street Protected Bike Lane

Fell at Scott Streets, where the outgoing bike lane has been partially ground off, and "No Stopping" signs have been posted along the curb all the way to Baker Street. Photos: Aaron Bialick

Note: I returned last night from an East Coast vacation and Streetsblog meet-up, and was fortunate enough to avoid the worst of Hurricane Sandy. Best wishes to all of those who are recovering from the storm and the devastation left in its wake. Check out the coverage from my office-exiled colleagues in NYC about how New Yorkers are handling the transportation crisis.

On a more positive note, I was so excited to come home to the following news that I chose to get back on the beat a day early to report it. Thanks again to Robert Prinz, Bryan Goebel, and my editor-in-chief Ben Fried for keeping the blog up and running in my absence.

The first signs of change on Fell Street to make way for a physically separated bike lane have appeared between Baker and Scott Streets. Crews from the SF Municipal Transporation Agency began the work yesterday, grinding off street markings and installing “No Stopping” signs so they can remove all of the parking spaces along the three blocks.

Although a few parked vehicles remain on the curb, along with the regular queue of drivers at the Arco gas station (which the new bike lane won’t remove), the absence of curbside parking gave bike commuters and tourists a taste of what it’s like to have more breathing room on the crucial westbound link from the Wiggle to the Panhandle.

Tanya Milosevich, who bike commutes from the Mission to her job at Arizmendi Bakery in the Inner Sunset, was unaware of the plan to improve the bike lane, but called it “amazing” when told about it. “It’s always a little dicey there,” she said.

As we’ve reported, striping for the protected bike lanes on both Fell and Oak Streets is expected to be complete by this winter, with concrete barriers and sidewalk bulb-outs to be built by next summer. We’re waiting for word from the SFMTA on when the striping on the Fell lane should be finished.

Fell at Broderick Street (the parked vehicles are there illegally).
This pair of Golden Gate Park-bound visitors said they found themselves confused by the temporary state of the street (and the gas station queue) today, but the new bike lane should be a lot easier to navigate once it's finished.
  • FINKY

    EFF YES!

  • Bruce

    Grinded? WTF. GROUND.

  • Williethirdstreet

    Grindr?

  • BTinSF

    So soon we’ll be able to see one or two–as in your pictures–cyclists using a lane where thousands of cars per day could be . . . all for political correctness.

  • Sprague

    Three blocks of parking is being removed (and most of it is being replaced nearby) so that thousands of daily cyclists can safely pedal through the neighborhood.  This project makes Fell (and Oak) safer and more efficient for all users.  A growth in cycling will be apparent as a true network of truly safe bike lanes is finally established.

  • Davistrain

    And the photos show people in “normal” clothes, riding upright, not hunched-over athletic cyclists in skin-tight shorts and colors not seen in nature who look like they’re in training for the Tour de France.

  • mike

     BTinSF: All for safety and for giving people good options for getting around the city. Thousands of people (literally – there is a counter in the street) ride down this street today, with the numbers increasing year to year. We’re talking about some parking spaces being removed and some being relocated for improved safety. And so that fewer people have to drive and take the parking spaces you’re probably looking for.

  • BTinSF: You’re suggesting we should remove parking to make more lanes for cars?

  • Mom on a bike

    @e599e67c71be96169304a899e32e5fe2:disqus Keep on fooling yourself like the idiots on SFGate who blustered about how the fancy new Dolores Park playground would sit unused because there are “no kids” in San Francisco anymore.

  • “One or two” … per second 😉

  • Leon

    Why ride down Fell if you don;t feel safe? Why not ride down Hayes instead, where there’s less car & truck traffic?

    Why force cars, trucks, bikes and peds to use the same street?

    Break them up, and have bikes use parallel, but less trafficked routes.

  • Mom on a bike

    Attention cyclists! As of 10 this morning this newly signed section of Fell was corner-to corner full of parked cars. Guess it should hardly surprise anyone that drivers around here just don’t notice important signs, or otherwise feel rules don’t apply to them.

    Please call DPT 553-1200 option 8 when you have a chance. You might also want to inform the rude dispatcher that it’s not reasonable to provide an address in all situations. A description of closest intersection is plenty of info for a mass violation.

  • Another really great option for reporting this kind of stuff–get the 311 San Francisco Civic Reporter CitySourced App available for Windows, Android, Iphone and Blackberry.  (Free.) You just take a picture with your phone, make a comment and send it in. Things to report:  potholes, illegal parking, illegal dumping, damaged tree, streetlight out, etc.  It notes your location.  So take a photo of an illegally parked car (with license plate number, if you can) or the pothole that annoys you the most, and send it in.  It may not get a DPT person out there right then, but the city does look at the complaints and sets priorities based on the trends it sees.  A dozen separate reports of illegal parking on one block will get attention. 

  • Thank you for your concern.  I’m sure you know better than all the cyclists who stubbornly insist on the direct, less-hilly route.  Perhaps it’s time that you educate us properly so we stay out of your way and take the street you want us to.

  • I welcome your solution being implemented, with biking boulevards separated from motorized traffic.  I’m afraid I’ll continue to use the existing infrastructure until you’re able to make that happen.

  • This is sort of like the new Skate Park in Seattle – skateboarders using the space under a bridge where thousands of trolls per day could be!

  • @KarenLynnAllen:disqus I downloaded that app but I don’t see an item for illegal parking…

  •  HI Sean,

    I would put it under pothole in bike lane item, and then in the comment indicate vehicle illegally parked/illegally blocking bike lane. I was assured by SFBC that this is legit, and on the 311 app website with lists of reports by neighborhood, there are quite a few reports of illegally parked vehicles (blocking sidewalk, etc.).

  • Mom on a bike

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus I just sent a note to CitySourced with the suggestion that they add an ‘illegal parking’ category or something. Thanks for the suggestion! I downloaded this app a while ago and sort of forgot about it.

  • Anonymous

    Mom- According to this article the signs were just posted last Thursday, so 4 days ago–less than a week. A lot of people with cars in this city often only move their vehicles once a week for street cleaning so depending on what day street cleaning is on this section of Fell, many may well not have even noticed the signs yet. I wouldn’t get all up in arms quite yet.

  • Anonymous

    Those “Golden Gate Park-bound visitors” should be wearing helmets! Not a good example to be showing, IMO. The new bike lanes are a positive step but can only do so much for bike safety. The other part is riders taking personal responsibility for their own safety.

  • mike

    If collisions don’t happen, helmets aren’t necessary. Best way to improve safety is to prevent the collision in the first place.

  • Gneiss

    Those car drivers should be wearing helmets!  Not a good example to be showing, IMO.  The new speed limits are a positive step, but can only do so much for car safety.  The other part is drivers taking personal responsibility for their own safety.

  • Otrannel

    The no parking any time signs were installed during the street sweeping day for that side of Fell.

  • Anonymous

    @002ec2dcc5273303fbfd34e45385ab64:disqus Cute, but bike riders are far more vulnerable than car
    drivers in a collision with a vehicle. Cars (at least most) already have safety
    features in case of accident; they’re called “seatbelts” and
    “airbags”. Regardless, my comment had nothing to do with cars, it was about
    bikers. And the fact is that to not wear a helmet to protect yourself as a
    rider is either ignorant, vain, or straight-up irresponsible. Maybe a
    combination of the three. Much as not wearing your seatbelt is for a driver.

  • @FellStBlues:disqus Hoping to curb rather than fuel yet another helmet debate here, but please check out some of the research on helmets. This piece I did has a round-up of links: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2012/05/02/ktvu-reporter-documents-own-harassment-of-cyclists/

  • Anonymous

    @df4b98aef659ee5ae18426484a7d261b:disqus I have to disagree. You’re “putting the cart before the horse”, so to say. Yes, “preventing collisions in the first place” would make everyone safe, however I hardly think it is practical to expect to be able to prevent 100% of collisions. Unfortunately collisions happen and are going to continue to happen (between two cars, car and bicycle, car and pedestrian, bicycle and pedestrian). New laws and developments like this bike lane can certainly help to lessen the likelihood and frequency of collisions and hopefully we see more of this, but in the end a person must take steps to ensure their own safety as well. Let’s hope someday we live in a perfect world where there are zero collisions and helmets are superfluous, until then, personally I think it’s wise to wear one just in case.

  • Joel

    Not sure if this applies to permanent regulation signs, but construction tow-away signs give a 72 hour grace period before they take effect.

  • Anonymous

    @FellStBlues:disqus wrote:

    Cute, but bike riders are far more vulnerable than car drivers in a collision with a vehicle. Cars (at least most) already have safety features in case of accident; they’re called “seatbelts” and “airbags”.

    Not true. First, the reason seatbelts and airbags are even needed in the first place is because a car is moving so fast, so it’s kind of a catch-22 argument. Also, in high-speed accidents, not even seatbelts and airbags can save you from a traumatic brain injury; the occupants of the vehicles are still deaccelerated so quickly (even with an airbag) that they receive major injuries to the head.

    If you look at the statistics, the leading cause of brain injuries after falls is motor vehicle accidents (though I’ve seen other statistics that show falls and motor vehicle accidents about the same):
    http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/causes.html

    A more detailed looks shows that there is a much higher rate of head injuries among motor vehicle occupants than bicyclists, ~2.0 versus ~0.1:
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6005a1.htm?s_cid=ss6005a1_w#Tab10

    Even in absolute numbers, ~25 more people are killed by brain injuries in cars than on bikes (same source as above).

    Now, we can easily argue semantics here and get into all sorts of details about these statistics, but I think the point is clear: if we are truly concerned about preventing brain injuries in the population at large, we should be requiring motor vehicle occupants to wear helmets. To just focus on bicyclists is a very clear bias against one mode of transit (which, by the way, has lots of other health benefits that driving a car does not).

  • Anonymous

    @jd_x:disqus Not true that seatbelts and airbags ARE safety features? Not true that a bicyclist is the far more vulnerable party in case of a collision with a car?

    I’m not arguing that vehicle accidents aren’t dangerous and extremely injury producing. Fact remains I was talking about cyclists, not cars, this article is about cyclists, not cars. The fact is that “Cyclists shouldn’t wear helmets because drivers don’t” isn’t a valid argument against why helmets help make the rider safer. 

    I personally have a friend who suffered some permanent (though thankfully very mild) brain damage from a bicycle accident, who was not wearing a helmet (and wished afterwards that he was). I also have friends and family members who’ve been in bike accidents and were wearing helmets, and I happen to think they could have been hurt a lot worse if they hadn’t been. I’m not saying it should necessarily be a law, but I wish more people would use common sense. Personally, I’m going to wear a helmet in the case of being thrown head-first to the concrete, thanks.

  • VCS

    I grew up in the days when nobody wore bicycle helmets — two concussions on two separate occasions. Many other kids got “their bell rung”. (Of course in those days, concussions weren’t seen as a big deal either.) Won’t catch me without a helmet.
    As for “traumatic brain injury death”, that is the most extreme scenario, and I wonder if a bicycle helmet would even make a difference. 

  • Anonymous

    @FellStBlues:disqus wrote: “Fact remains I was talking about cyclists, not cars, this article is about cyclists, not cars.”

    But you are displaying a bias against bicyclists that results from a pro-car society; you can’t talk about bicycle safety without talking about cars (since most accidents to bicyclists are caused by cars). The point is that *many* more people (both absolute and relative numbers) are hurt and killed by head injuries in cars, but yet you only feel it necessary to comment on the issue of helmets on bicyclists and not car drivers in, say, car commercials (I’m assuming here that you don’t say, every time you see a car commercial or any article about a car, “Hey, that driver should be wearing a helmet.” …. if you do indeed think that, then all my arguments here are moot and I stand corrected). This is *classic* bias. You may be right (though many would disagree) that bicyclists should wear helmets, but then *certainly* car drivers should also wear helmets, and to just go picking on a small percentage of the total cause of head injuries is — especially when bicycling also has other health benefits which studies have repeatedly shown result in a net health benefit even when considering accident rates with cars — is irrational and biased. And it is indeed very relevant here because requiring helmet-use has repeatedly been shown to diminish the number of cyclists which in turn means a net health *loss* for everyone. And our goal should always be increasing the *net* health benefit to society, not looking at little bits and pieces independently of the whole.

    Finally, your anecdote about a friend getting a brain injury on a bike is irrelevant since for everyone you can give, 10 other people can give such a story from a driver who, if they had been wearing a helmet, would have been much better off. We don’t decide policy by anecdotes exactly for this reason, and instead use statistics (like the ones I referenced). Again, your individual anecdote is just one piece of the whole, and when you look at the whole, you have to consider everyone’s anecdote, which results in statistics (which also are less subject to bias). And that is how we determine policy.

  • Anonymous

    @jd_x:disqus As a cyclist on the street, a car driver wearing a helmet is not going to make  me safer, period. 
    There are three things that can improve my safety: safer  bike paths/lanes, people driving more safely around me, and taking precautions such as wearing a helmet and using bike lights at night. Only one of these factors is something I have control over so I choose to take personal responsibility for as much of my safety as I can. 

    It is my *opinion* that this is a smart, responsible thing to do, the *opinion* I expressed here in an article about new bike lanes and how they will make this area safer for cyclists. I’m not expressing some deep, dark prejudice against bikers, I’m expressing, again, an *opinion* about bike safety. 

    And yes, my opinions are influenced by my personal experiences, as well as those of people I know. I am not holding these anecdotes as some sort of scientific study and declaring that they should decide policy, I am saying that as they have happened to people I know closely, they tend to have a more immediate, emotional impact on me and my decision to take precautions. When I leave the house for a ride I don’t google the latest study or statistics about head injuries to determine whether I should wear a helmet, I think about the time my friends have been hit or about the time my dad got hit, and I decide to wear a helmet, just in case. 

    Why does it have to be some sort of nefarious conspiracy against/oppression of bike riders when someone says it’s a good idea to wear a helmet? Would it make you feel better if I said drivers should wear helmets as well? 

  • Anonymous

    @FellStBlues:disqus You are (obviously) totally entitled to your opinion and you are more than welcome to a wear a helmet, especially in light of your own personal experiences. That’s great, and nobody can fault your for it (FYI, I always wear a helmet as well). The problem is when you try and mandate it or, less severely (as is this case here), you bring it out of the blue as if it somehow indicates unsafe behavior to not wear one. Yet *even* if not wearing a helmet, studies have shown that riding a bike is a net health benefit to the riders (and to the rest of society for getting cars off the road). So it distracts form the argument at hand to keep rehashing the helmet issue. As those of us who spend time on this website and other such forums, we waste so much time talking about the damn helmet issue when 1) even if you want to argue that helmets increase the cyclists safety, it still is a net health benefit to ride a bike without a helmet, and 2) it’s an inconsistent argument since the same people arguing that it is more safe for a cyclist to a wear a helmet complete neglect to mention (or rather, don’t realize) that a much bigger problem in our society is motorists not wearing helmets.

    I’m only on your case not because I don’t think you (or anyone else) shouldn’t wear a helmet, but because it is *irrelevant* to a conversation such as this which is *not* about helmets. You just brought it up out of the blue and it’s distracted us from the issue at hand … I’ve already wasted all this time discussing it with you! Arhghghghg ….

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