Eyes on the Street: Parking Progress on Baker at Fell and Oak Streets

Baker Street between Fell and Oak Streets. The parallel parking spaces on the right will be converted to back-in angled spaces. Photo: Aaron Bialick
The SFMTA's plans for Baker. Click to enlarge.

After the SFMTA last week announced another delay for safety improvements on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets, work began today on another aspect of the project: a reconfiguration of Baker Street between Oak and Fell, which is used by eastbound bicycle riders to connect from the Panhandle to Oak and the Wiggle. As of this afternoon, the previous striping had been removed and temporary markings put in place.

The SFMTA’s plans for Baker include converting car parking on the west side of the street from parallel spaces to back-in angled spaces, which will partially offset the roughly 100 spaces to be removed by the Fell and Oak protected bike lanes. By making that change, along with perpendicular space conversions on Baker between Oak and Haight Streets and Scott Street south of Haight, 43 parking spaces will be added (another 14 spaces are being created by removing two bus stops on Hayes Street at Broderick and Lyon Streets).

The work on Baker between Fell and Oak also includes an adjustment to traffic lanes: Previously, Baker consisted of four lanes along the entire block, with the two center lanes both reserved for left-turning vehicles. Now those left turn lanes will be shortened to make room for the angled parking spaces. The SFMTA’s plans also call for green-backed sharrows, bike boxes, and pedestrian bulb-outs along this block of Baker.

With this work to ensure that car owners aren’t too heavily inconvenienced by safer streets now well underway, the question is whether bike commuters will actually have to wait until the end of the year, as SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said last week, to see a three-block protected lane on Oak and protective concrete planters.

  • BK

    Just FYI, I believe the SFMTA ultimately determined to remove 21-Hayes stop at Lyon instead of Central.

  • Thanks, fixed that.

  • Anonymous

    SFMTA: Cars first, cars second, cars third…

  • Als

    Is this some joke? They can’t spend any resources fixing Oak but they have the resources to change Baker? ?? ???

  • Granted Fell came first, but really? Fixing Oak is a safety issue that the City has the responsibility to fix as soon as possible, but instead they’re prioritizing restoration of lost parking.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, but to be fair I see the back-in angeled parking as benefitting bicyclists to an extent. No chance of getting doored, a lower probability of being run over as the driver pulls out of the spot, and less lane blockage as drivers can enter and exit these spots faster. Obviously parking shouldn’t be a priority over safety, but I still see some tangential safety benefit from this parking project as well.

  • Anonymous

    they always have the resources to add parking

  • Does this mean the cyclists will stop riding through the pedestrian crosswalk at Baker and Fell so they can then go the wrong way down Baker or on the sidewalk so they can then make a left against the red light on Oak? Oh, right, it won’t.

  • mikesonn

    Does all this extra parking mean that drivers won’t continue to park on the sidewalk? Oh, right, it won’t.

  • David – apparently you have witnessed some cyclists doing something you disapprove of. Because of this, you believe that we should not improve facilities for the cyclists who do not do things you disapprove of.

    And that’s just ridiculous. Not sure if you are trolling or just stupid.

  • Jesse

    Good – there’s a billion stops on the 21 as it is. often 2 on the same block. Ridiculous.

  • This by itself doesn’t make things safer for anyone. This and the other parking changes on Baker make it harder for people to see other cars or pedestrians because a) it creates far more car density on the street and b) has become a magnet for long (and tall) vehicles to park perpendicularly. And those parking changes were only made so that the bike lanes could be added. Personally I would have taken the bike lanes without changing the parking but that didn’t happen.

    As for cyclists and their rate of flaunting the law at the intersections of Baker with Oak and Fell, I don’t think anyone who’s watched can say it isn’t high. These aren’t isolated cases. The photographer who took that shot must have had to camp for an hour to find a window when there were three bikes obeying the law and none breaking it. Maybe the new bike lanes will make it better, but I truly doubt it. It seems likely that they’ll continue riding the wrong way down Baker so that they can make the left onto Oak without waiting.

    I’ve personally almost hit several cyclists who came off the panhandle lanes at top speed into the crosswalk while I was making a left onto Baker from Fell. One jammed on his brakes and took a header over the handlebars. I stopped, as did several other motorists, to help. No cyclists stopped.

  • I took the shot. I just paused and photographed the first bicycle riders that came along.

  • Anonymous

    Does this increase in parking spaces mean the motorists will stop speeding, changing lanes without signaling, rolling through stop signs, driving in transit-only lanes, and parking in crosswalks and bike lanes? Oh, right, it won’t.

  • gneiss

    David,

    That’s a crosswalk on Baker where you’re expected to yield to pedestrian traffic given that they have right of way during the green phase of the Fell light. You could argue that bicycles are *not* pedestrians, and therefore not entitled to your courtesy there, but as one who lives in upper Haight and regularly turns there as well as at Masonic where cars are expected to yield, I take the approach that one should yield to people on bikes since they are coming off of a marked bike path and will probably be turning (or going straight) in front of me.

    Also, I suspect the number of cyclists going the “wrong way” down Baker is pretty minimal, but let’s think about what they are trying to do there. They are attempting to make a left onto Fell while staying out of the turning lane with impatient car drivers behind you and crossing traffic ahead of you. Most people on bicycles are not comfortable with the tenants of vehicular cycling and would rather act like a ‘fast pedestrian’ than a ‘slow car’ by being in the walkway rather than the road. After all, weren’t they just on a walkway coming off of the panhandle?

    Instead of getting all bent out of shape about those ‘scofflaw bikers’ why not instead think of what they are trying to do and make it easier for them to do it legally? We could extend the multi-use path to the east side of Baker and across Fell – voila – problem solved. Then car drivers would be expected to yield to cyclists (just like on Masonic) as they turned left onto Fell.

  • Yes motorists do all those other things that you mention, and they should be punished for it more than they are, I’ve driven in SF for 20 years. I’ve seen maybe 10 cars go the wrong way down a street. I see bikes do it on that stretch every single day. And there are about 50 cars for every bike on the road.

    Also, as I said, I was against the extra spots, even after doing the bike lanes

  • gneiss

    Sorry – I meant “left on Oak” rather than Fell… 🙂

  • Online, I always read about rampant scofflaw bicyclists (especially in comments 😉

    But in real life, bicyclists just about always yield to me when they should. Weird! (Pretty sure I live a preternaturally charmed life 😉

  • Of course I slow down and yield to pedestrians at that corner. What I’m talking about is a bike coming into the crosswalk at full speed and not turning until they get across so they can proceed the wrong way down Baker. This isn’t a courtesy issue. This is a bike doing something it shouldn’t be doing at a speed that makes it difficult or impossible to predict in time.

    This is nothing like Masonic, where bikes and cars are prevented from crossing that point at the same time. You never choose to yield there because you have an explicit left turn light. When you have the light the bikes are stopped. Unless you’re talking about the south side of the Panhandle where the bikes would be in the pedestrian only path (not that I don’t see that a lot too).

    The bikes going the wrong way are staying out of the turning lane only because they would then find it harder to turn against the red light. It’s easier for them to jump up on the sidewalk and then enter Oak by going through another crosswalk. There’s a marked bike line on Baker but they typically ignore it, Again this is the rule, not the exception for bikes traveling there. I see it every single day.

  • David – you buried the lede. You don’t CARE if it makes things safer for anyone. You only start to parrot that once someone calls you on your original troll.

  • Als

    David,

    If there’s a safe way to ride on Oak you’ll see a lot fewer bikes on the sidewalks in that area. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the proper way to transistion from the Panhandle bike path to the lane on Baker, and then from Baker to Oak.

  • David each one of those 10 cars you saw have several orders of magnitude more likelihood of causing an accident than those cyclists you see. And the other motorist violations we discussed have caused several fatalities this year. No wrong way cyclist has caused a driver OR pedestrian to die in SF.

    Anecdotally, last week me and my 4 year old son were almost run over by a driver on Stuart heading South at Mission. We got the green light/walk and started to cross Stuart on Mission in the crosswalk. The driver started to move forward and then hit the brakes. The driver gave me a dirty look for walking in front of her car, then started to look for the stoplight. Then she started to look for the stop sign. A wave of confusion came across her face as she could find no traffic control device. I looked at her and said “There is no stoplight because you are going the wrong way”. Not sure if she figured it out.

    I can’t even figure out how she managed to get where she did.

  • I would remove all parking on the west side of Baker between Oak and Fell (it’s currently mostly campers anyway). Then I would dedicate a left turn bike like that is to the right of the automobile left turn so that they would go smoothly into the new bike lane on Oak. I would consider adding a left turn and bike signal at the corner of Fell and Baker that’s similar to the one at Masonic. And I would enforce infractions of both motorists and cyclists.

  • gneiss

    David –

    1. Before the left turn light was installed on Masonic, cars were expected to yield to bicycles and pedestrians (maybe even fast pedestrians like people running). They didn’t and that’s why the left turn light phase (with 3 lights and a camera) was installed. If you want, I’m sure the city would be happy to install yet another *3* lights (and a red light camera) at Baker to prevent people from turning left into pedestrian, runners, and bicycle traffic on the crosswalk instead of the situation right now, which is that cars yield to pedestrians and runners when they are in the crosswalk, but cross when they are not.

    2. Baker does not have a bike lane going south. There are sharrows, sure, but those are not a bike lane. You can argue semantics, but what it means is that people on bicycles are sharing space with cars, and it’s not pleasant, particularly with the left turn there.

    3. Why not just have the sidewalk on the east side of Baker turned into a cyclepath like on the panhandle? Then people on bicycles would be able to do what is natural rather than your crazy “I yield to pedestrians and runners going full speed by not cyclists”. Riding on the sidepath there could be perfectly legal and then the turn onto Oak would be easier than trying to go left against oncoming traffic.

    Again, I would argue that you should yield to people on bikes at that intersection. Whose to say exactly where the cycle path ends? Why right at the panhandle on the north side of Baker? Why not on south side of Baker, where, after all, people are coming onto the path from Fell – even if there’s a sidewalk rather than bike lane there?

  • sounds like we need a left turn arrow for Fell onto Baker!

  • I would pay cash money to see you propose that in front of the angry parking mobs.

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