There’s no question: Double-parking in San Francisco is rampant, and it routinely causes danger for people on bicycles and delays for Muni riders.
Just a day after Supervisor Scott Wiener held a hearing on the issue at City Hall at the beginning of the week, a Muni bus driver and car driver collided on Mission at 20th Street as the bus driver passed a double-parked car. The driver who was hit reportedly pulled out of a parking spot in front of the bus. Three Muni riders were hospitalized, and the crash caused major delays on one of the city’s busiest transit corridors.
A study cited by Ricardo Olea, an SFMTA traffic engineer, found that for each block of Mission with at least one double-parked vehicle on it, Muni buses lose about eight seconds. He also noted that since double-parked cars aren’t typically included in traffic collision reports, it’s unclear how often they lead to crashes.
But while there’s little data to paint a full picture of the problem, anyone who regularly navigates San Francisco streets can tell you that double-parked cars impeding traffic lanes and bike lanes are ubiquitous.
When I watched a car sit in the Folsom bike lane in the Mission last summer, the driver didn’t leave until 20 minutes after I arrived, and even then he only left after the parking control officer I called in showed up to ticket him. His double-parking forced dozens of bicycle commuters to merge into a lane with motor traffic.
Last Friday evening, I watched a train on the N-Judah — Muni’s busiest line — sit helplessly behind a car left on the tracks on Ninth Avenue as the operator honked to get the driver to move. It’s a scene that repeats itself regularly in my neighborhood.
Parking enforcement is primarily the job of the SFMTA’s PCOs, though police also have the authority to cite violators. Officials from those departments say enforcement seems so abysmal because PCOs are short-staffed, they’re busy citing other violations, and they often just decide not to ticket double-parked vehicles.
Wiener says the problem of lax enforcement is unacceptable. Along the entire length of the Castro/Divisadero Street corridor, where double-parking is a common sight, he noted that only one ticket for double-parking is issued on an average day.
“If people have an absolute minimal fear that they’re ever going to get a ticket, they’re not going to care and they’re going to double-park,” Wiener said.
The lenient attitude toward double-parking seems entrenched at the SFMTA and the SFPD, however. It’s common to see officers from both departments simply ignore violators, and when they do address those drivers, they often just tell them to move along, officials from both agencies admitted at the hearing.