Fell Street Bike Lane Still Popular Among Bike Commuters, Parked Trucks

Ted and Al’s Towing trucks are routine sights in the Fell Street bike lane. Photo: Patrick Traughber/Twitter

The more than 1,800 people who use the buffered, curbside bike lane on Fell Street every weekday continue to be faced with a familiar hazard: parked trucks.

Photo: Gisela Schmoll

As we’ve reported, drivers, including SFPD officers, routinely park in the Fell bike lane with impunity. The vast majority of violators appear to be accessing three businesses on Fell between Divisadero and Broderick Streets: Ted and Al’s Towing, Bank of America, and Falletti’s Foods (which is actually around the corner and has a loading area). Drivers also line up along the curb in front of the Arco gas station at Divisadero, but the SFMTA made that queue legitimate by re-striping the section in 2010.

“It is so bad that frankly, there may as well be no bike lane as almost every time I ride or walk past here I see someone parking in it,” bike commuter Gisella Schmoll wrote in an email to D5 Supervisor London Breed.

Schmoll said the “worst offenders” are Ted and Al’s Towing trucks, whose drivers “are clearly not loading or unloading; often the driver is just sitting in their truck.” As a regular user of the Fell bike lane, I can also attest to that.

As reported in a nationwide study of protected bike lanes released this week by Portland State University, bike traffic on Fell increased 46 percent in the first year after the bike lane was upgraded from a skinny door-zone lane to a wide, curbside, buffered lane. All car parking along the south sides of Fell, and its one-way counterpart Oak Street, was removed for three blocks to make room for the bike lanes. The SFMTA tracks bike traffic on Fell with an in-ground sensor, and its data are posted online every day.

A truck stopped in front Bank of America, which has a parking lot around the corner. Photo: Gisela Schmoll

With the kind of increase we’ve already seen, imagine the boom in bicycling we might see once the bike lanes are physically protected and free of parked trucks and cars, which squeeze bike commuters alongside three lanes of heavy motor traffic.

Thanks to a push from Supervisor Breed, the existing bike lanes were on the ground by Bike to Work Day last year. Plastic posts were also installed in the buffer zones to help discourage drivers from entering them, but they were removed when the bike lanes were re-paved. There’s still no word from the SFMTA on when we can expect landscaped traffic islands to be installed in their place — crucial finishing touches that have been repeatedly delayed and were promised some time this year.

“With the city’s supposed commitment to Vision Zero, I would expect that this highly used bike lane would be a priority for both enforcement and getting a permanent physical barrier,” Schmoll wrote. “Additionally, I don’t see the point of adding biking lanes and still making it legal for delivery trucks to load and unload.  Let delivery trucks block cars, not vulnerable bicyclists. If we want to get people out of their cars, reduce traffic and pollution, the first thing we need to do is make bike lanes for bikes!”

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    Fell is bad, no doubt. Especially Ted & Al’s.

    But I find Oak to be worse. I can’t remember a morning commute that didn’t have a double-parker. Fell is more like 50/50 (at least during the evening commute).

  • the_greasybear

    There were three different cars obstructing the Oak St. “buffered bike lane”–one on each block–when I rode it Sunday. Which is to say, there was zero bike infrastructure available to this cyclist on that dangerous stretch of roadway. Epic fail.

  • Pretty much every protected bike lane in the city, apart from GG Park, has become a de facto loading zone. On Polk, the second the concrete barrier ends, the incursion begins.

    This clearly suggests we need to have more plastic posts immediately (this has at least stopped drivers from driving in the Folsom St lane) and work toward getting some concrete poured in the near future.

  • HappyHighwayman

    Wonder what would happen if trucks that parked in the bike lane got their mirrors smashed each time.

  • Oleander Muscovitz

    Thanks for propagating the angry, violent cyclist stereotype. Good work.

  • HappyHighwayman

    If the police and city aren’t doing anything, should the common man roll-over?

  • JB

    I think you haven’t been to Golden Gate Park in a while. The DeYoung Museum often uses the bike lane for loading zone despite having a loading dock.

    And then are the times where the JFK bike lane is used for parking. I guess some of those cars aren’t actually in the bike lane, but they are positioned to maximize damage to passing bicycles when the doors fly open.

  • I stand corrected. Order up the soft-hit posts! Or, as I believe it was once noted by one of our fellow Streetsbloggers:

    How about some “hard-hit” posts!

  • murphstahoe

    The root cause is the trucks, not the cyclists. No parking in the bike lane, no angry cyclists.

  • Beef Vindaloo

    Roll-over? No.
    Start a war in which the consequences for cyclists are far more serious than for drivers? Probably not the best move either…

  • Marvin Papas

    Rip out those idiotic ‘parklets’ and turn them into white zones.
    Besides the same cyclists bitching about these trucks get all agro when UPS can’t deliver their Etsy packages!

  • HappyHighwayman

    I actually agree. It’s not the best move, but most moves are ineffective. It’s fun to fantasize though. You are a reasonable person.

  • Dr_Ace

    I don’t have the video proof, but some of the soft-hit posts on Folsom street (around 6th I think) are already missing from getting run over so often. They don’t really do anything.

  • mikeo

    “Bitching”–huh, let’s block your lane and push you out into faster, heavier traffic and see how much “bitching” you’ll be doing. It’s annoying, disrespectful and extremely dangerous.

  • Josh Berkus

    I recommend having the DPT’s parking enforcement as a saved contact on your cell, and have it ready when you begin your bike commute. While the city is a noshow at keeping bike lanes clear, they enforcement officers *love* to issue tickets for any reason at all … and bike lane parking is like $150. I used to do this on Fulton, and eventually got a delivery business at Fulton & Octavia to stop parking in the bike lane due to the sheer number of tickets they accumulated.

    The tow trucks are a problem, though, because the DPT is unlikely to ticket them since they’re “collegues”. That’s going to require a supervisor-level crackdown. London, time to visit Ted & Al’s and give them the what-for!

  • Beef Vindaloo

    Yeah I hear ya. It’s extremely frustrating trying to bike around the city when cars constantly increase your risk of injury with no consequences to themselves, and sometimes without even a thought that what they are doing impacts cyclists in a very dangerous way.

  • Dave Moore

    I doubt the armed drivers of the pictured trunk will take the time to listen to the smashers’ reasoned arguments.

  • You’re right, some have been run over/are missing. But I have witnessed more than once a car going into the lane with the intent of driving in it, only to encounter the posts and move back out.

    I think we just need to request more of them, and more frequent replacement. Because once someone sees that it is possible to run them over and not damage your vehicle, it becomes a free-for-all.

  • HappyHighwayman

    It’s illegal to carry guns in SF

  • Dave Moore

    Aren’t guards delivering cash to a bank likely to be permitted to carry guns?

  • Greg

    Is it?

  • tiramisu

    The bike lane on JFK is a joke.

  • HappyHighwayman

    Sorry let me clarify: I believe that it is illegal for civilians to carry concealed weapons. I believe those requiring it for their jobs, such as security guards, may open carry. I doubt a tow truck driver is legally carrying and would shoot someone for breaking their mirror, as they would then go to prison for a very long time.

  • Dave Moore

    Agreed on the tow truck drivers. I was talking specifically about the truck in the picture, which looks to be an armored vehicle at the bank. I’m pretty sure that breaking a mirror on a such a truck would go badly for everyone involved.

  • HappyHighwayman

    Sorry there were multiple photos and I didn’t notice that truck until I scrolled through.

    I actually think the odds of getting shot by a security guard are far lower than being shot by an idiot tow truck driver illegally carrying. Security Guards are pretty well trained, and aren’t going to open fire on a cyclist. Then again, this is America and people do stupid stuff all the time with firearms.

  • Marvin Papas

    On ‘extremely dangerous’
    Do you know how many days I see cyclists blowing through stop signs? Try every single day…..acting as if they have the right of way a split second after disobeying the law.

  • Rain__or__Shine

    I was just thinking about the posts the other day. It’s been less than a month and most of them look like they’ve been through hell already. There is (at least) one missing, and the black stump is a bit dangerous on its own.

    I’ve actually not personally seen a car encounter them since the first day, but they are clearly doing their job.

  • murphstahoe

    So you’re saying because cyclists blow through stop signs, that parking in the bike lane is not dangerous?

  • Rain__or__Shine

    I snapped this photo on JFK back in Feb. I don’t know how long the van had been there, but it was long enough to get totally parked in.

  • mikeo

    A set of people putting themselves at risk does not mean you get to put other people using the same transportation method at risk. The set of bicyclists *includes* those who run stop signs, but does not equal those who run stop signs.

    This is utter nonsense–an entire group should not be denied proper protection or safety just because a subset of that group doesn’t follow all preset rules. That is entirely unfair.

  • mikeo

    I think they’re saying that because some (or many) cyclists blow stop signs, it can be justified to further endanger the entire set of people on bikes (or at least that seems to be implied). A very unfair and ridiculous conclusion.

  • jd_x

    Your point about tow trucks is exactly what I was thinking: DPT won’t ticket them. Hell, that’s the main reason they can get away with it so blatantly and so often. Can cops give tickets for non-moving violations? (Although, I doubt SFPD would do squat either given their bias against cyclists.)

    What we need are planters installed. I also think cyclists riding by should stop and tell them. I know that sucks and it really shouldn’t be the cyclists responsibility, but I can’t think of what else will work.

    How about people go on Yelp and give Ted & Al’s 1-star for endangering the lives of other members of the community? I think Ted & Al’s needs to be shamed because clearly they can’t use common sense.

  • Marvin Papas

    Subset? Try the majority of cyclists blowing through stop-signs (don’t you dare deny this) . Trucks blocking bike lanes???TAKE TO THE STREETS IMAGINE THE HORROR. How about stopping and letting the traffic pass waiting for a break? From Critical Mass to obeying daily traffic laws cyclists are synonymous with disrespect.

  • Marvin Papas

    So you’re saying merchants should be punished with deliverers not being able to deliver in favor of impatient cyclists? Can we be adults and assume a level of risk whilst riding bikes in San Francisco instead of relying on the overburden’d state from soup to nuts welfare (and yes I’m a Democrat who voted yesterday, did you)?

  • jd_x

    The punishment for rolling stop signs when the there’s nobody at the intersection isn’t: all cyclists should be forced into high-moving traffic and have their safety jeopardized. Your system of justice is utterly twisted. The equivalent (actually, a much worse infraction) would be if there was a lane next to the road only for fast-moving semi-trucks and, every time a motorist went through a red light (I would say that at nearly every intersection a car blows a red light most cycles) or sped or talked on their cell phone they would be forced into this lane suddenly. That would give you some sense of what you are talking about and how utterly convoluted of logic it is.

  • ejcsanfran

    The other side of the coin: I made a point of thanking the FedEx driver who double-parked on Howard @ 1st, but did so in the right vehicle lane, leaving the the bike lane clear.

  • Marvin Papas

    Then what is the solution my logical savant?

  • jd_x

    Cars and trucks don’t block the bike lane.

  • Bruce

    So providing safe places for one to ride a bike is “soup to nuts welfare”? Why is providing space for people on bikes any more statist than providing space for people in cars and trucks?

    And who said merchants can’t have deliveries? The BofA has a parking lot right around the corner! And there is street parking on the other side, not to mention on every side street!

    Your rantings are a paragon of “windshield perspective”.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    The cyclists who blow through stop signs are probably more at ease engaging with traffic and going around double-parkers.

    If we ever want our bike culture to shift to one where cyclists who aggressively usurp right-of-way are seen as anomalies, we need clear and safe biking infrastructure to bring in new riders who wouldn’t otherwise be there. Riders who aren’t used to having to force themselves into the roadway in order to stay safe.

  • Marvin Papas

    Logically this is impossible in such a small and dense city that has main driving arteries passing mixed commercial and residential buildings. Lets be realistic.

  • Bruce

    Where the hell are the planters we were promised? Why does it take so f’ing long? Go down to Lowe’s on Bayshore, buy some goddamn planters and put them in the buffer zone already!

  • Marvin Papas

    (How I love swimming against the tide).

    Did you say parking lot in San Francisco? Um, where?

    Tell that to the corner stores on Fell, Fulton, Cabrillo…

    Your vocabulary is buzz worded.

    Windshields are in place to provide perspective, n’est-ce pas?

  • Marvin Papas

    Well put. I don’t disagree. I just see cyclists, a few sans helmets, blowing through stop signs through busy and empty intersections sometimes without thinking.

  • Bruce

    Windshields are in place to provide protection from the elements, not a warped worldview in which auto drivers are the only ones entitled to use our streets.

  • Marvin Papas

    ‘Worldview’? this is getting better and better. Tell me your opinion on emerging market economic development vs. environmental impact vis a vis Brazil with its expanding economy lifting many into the middle class vs. the threat to the rain forests and water resource contamination.

  • That’s so bogus. All drivers also roll through stop signs, mainly when there’s no cross-traffic or pedestrians to stop for. Nearly all cases of cyclists “blowing” through stop signs are the same. Even if they don’t stop, they yield and take their turn. Fix the law and quit blaming cyclists for behavior that is safe and practical. (And ticket the rest 😉

  • JB

    Is that truck making a u turn? It doesn’t look like there is anyone inside. I’ve nearly been clobbered at least a half dozen times and watched one guy eat shit when people execute u-turns in a similar fashion. The wall of cars makes it impossible to see the vehicle intruding into the bike lane and the curb makes it impossible to escape for most people.

    SF would have people believe they are doing bicyclists a favor with that protected bike lane. It’s a favor to motorist by clearing the way for them to drive through GG Park.

  • Beef Vindaloo

    I’d go a step further and say the root cause is more the law enforcement that refuses to enforce the no parking in bike lanes law, thus tacitly encouraging this wretched behavior from the trucks…

  • mikeo

    I think it’s fair to ask the state to not create conditions where people feel they are going to be killed getting to work. And who said anything about punishing merchants? Asking drivers to not park in the only lane safely allotted to cyclists is really not that much to ask for.

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