Eyes on the Street: Cops Tell Double Parkers to Get Out of the Bike Lane

motorcycle_cop_on_valencia_1.jpgPhotos by Bryan Goebel

We’ve written before about obstructions caused by motorcycle cops parked in the bike lane (and the SFPD generally doesn’t have a good reputation among cyclists), but yesterday around 4:30 p.m. — a few hours after Sunday Streets wrapped up — I spotted a cop parked in the bike lane on Valencia Street just before 16th for a good reason: to shoo away a motorist who was double parked.

"What are you doing?" I asked his partner, who stopped in the street.

"This car can’t be parked here. It’s the bike lane," he responded.

A woman who was a passenger in the car got out, darted across the street, and brought the driver back, and he was gone within minutes, but without a ticket. Double parking in a bike lane carries a $100 fine and San Francisco’s law is "explicit about the bikes-only limitation," according to the SFBC.  However, it’s the first time SFBC executive director Leah Shahum has heard of SFPD motorcycle cops telling cars to get out of the bike lane. I watched them do it on a few blocks of Valencia.

"We encourage the police department to enforce the law," said Shahum. "It’s not just an inconvenience for bicyclists it’s a serious hazard and we’d be thrilled to see them enforce it regularly." 

motorcycle_cop_talking_to_driver.jpgA driver is told to move his car out of the bike lane.

  • Parking in bike lanes is evil and produces bad karma. To have it also actually produce a parking ticket–well, that would be delightful. Can the cops hang out by the Gas Station from Hell on Fell at Divisadero where nearly every day the cars waiting in the bike lane force me to merge into forty mph traffic? It would be much appreciated.

  • While riding my bike there have been many times that I have asked police officers on Valencia Street to cite all of the cars double parked in the bike lane. Invariably they just shrug their shoulders and feebly offer some lame excuse why they don’t have the time to do it. It would be excellent for both safety and city revenue if cops started giving out tickets for these parking violations.

  • Yangmusa

    I have also seen a motorcycle cop ticketing a driver parked in the bike lane at Fox Plaza. Just once so far, but it made my day 🙂

  • And Muni fares are going up because they’re not bringing in revenue from parking enforcement.

    Call DPT to report double-parking: 553-1200

  • nice! I saw, for the first time in the last three years, two SFPD on a muni bus last week. They’re on a roll.

  • the greasy bear

    Motorists double-park in bike lanes everywhere in San Francisco, effectively stealing SF’s paltry cycling infrastructure and converting it to temporary car parking.

    SFPD occasionally tries to reopen a blocked bike lane, as we see in the photo here–but that is the rare exception to the rule–cars take everything from cyclists, with impunity. Perhaps every cyclist who encounters a motorist closing down the bike lane should sidle upside the illegal parker and also stop–right in the middle of the “car lane”–and stay put, until that motorist returns the bike lane to cyclists?

  • Rachael

    Speaking of double parking, I was biking west on Duboce (where the N leaves the tunnel) and a couple had double-parked their SUV before Steiner such that with the driver’s door open the N train operator had to wait for the driver to shut the door before proceeding. I on my bike was just trapped behind the car until the N fully passed. The reason this couple decided to double park: as far as I could tell it was to take up a few bags of groceries. Somehow I (and many other non-drivers) manage to bring home our groceries even without cars.

    I wonder if Muni operators couldn’t be charged with the ability to take down license plate numbers, date, times, infraction? Send the double parkers a bill in the mail …

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Rachel you may have noticed the cameras which have appeared in the front windows of certain Muni vehicles lately. Supposedly they will be used to enforce double parking and bus lane violations.

  • The best way to get rid of double parking in the fell street bike lane is to get rid of the gas station entirely, or re-arrange it somehow so the cars can que on the property. i think that gas station has really cheap gas. They always have a line there. The cops do have a lot to deal with and often overlook many things. the cop term for it is FIDO or “f*** it drive on”

    The best way to deal with bike lane double parking would seem to be to create a class of MTA enforcement staff that specifically concentrates on ped/bike space violations. The MTA is pretty broke right now, so don’t know about that, but possibly federal funding could be found. The way to do this would be to move authorizing legislation through the MTA Board of Directors maybe with a supporting resolution from the Supervisors. This would work even better if you found the MTA the money as well.

    Or with the police perhaps a quota system could be developed in that they would target x number of violations cited per shift, or one or two motorcycle cops could be sent out specifically to write bike lane tickets in their in between time. The way to do this would be to move through the Police Commission and the Supervisors and the Mayor. And/or you could just ask the cops what they think the best way to deal with the problem is, what their concerns are, how it could be best addressed within the existing system.

    Asking a cop on the street is ok but that is within their discretion then, so as in the example above sometimes they are going to be like whatever FIDO, gots to go now.

    Even something really simple like going to their morning meeting or whatever and asking them to write more tickets could help a lot, but you would have to go repeatedly unless you make a structural change.


  • If I have the time, I’ll stop right behind a car parked in a bike lane and pull out a pen and piece of paper and start writing down the license number. An amazing number of drivers will plead with me not to give them a ticket, as if the new uniform for traffic control officers is a Hawaiian shirt and pants tucked in droopy tube socks! If they move then and there, I tear up the “ticket” with a stern lecture to never do this again. Warning: Many drivers react very hostilely to this fake enforcement. Be prepared.

  • Our lax enforcement actually encourage double parking. The message we sent is park you car anywhere at your convenience. Pay no attention to the disruption of traffic you might have caused. Everybody is doing it.

    It is not even because there is lack of parking. In my neighborhood I often see people park on the traffic lane to pick up coffee when there is free spot right on the opposite side of the street. The just won’t bother to make a U-turn and parallel park.


    A good follow up article here would be to talk to the police and ask them what’s up, what they think is the best way to improve things, you know do some journalism. Also you could talk to the MTA and ask what their ideas are what they would do, how to improve things, look to examples in other Cities, etc. This kind of dialogue is very important especially when conducted in a non-confrontational manner and moving towards solutions. Interviewing the Bike Corporation about the issue is the same old tired sound-bites. They are very good at press releases and packing meetings and generating letters and not so good at working through issues with the city government and helping create solutions. “We encourage the police department to follow the law” is even a mistatement they apparently would like to encourage the police department to actually enforce existing laws. The way to do this is to talk to them and help them.

    I mean the Hawaiian shirt thing is pretty funny but the point would be that its not an individual’s job to enforce the law. To deal with lack of funding etc. you likely could have a situation where volunteer enforcement people are deputized by the police or MTA given ticket pads and sent out. That is probably the most realsitic thing to do. Takes the pressure of of understaffed cops and MTA and addresses the issue. These people would have to be trained though to not be pricks and have some tolerance. There are times when double oparking is necessary to unload, etc, giving warnings is not necessarily a bad thing. There are also times when I have seen valets blatantly line up cars in a bike lane,etc. One time I saw a cyclist pull uop behind a lttle old lady and just scream “bike lane!” like some kind of psychotic freak. There was no other traffic on the street. He could have easily and safely gone around. I wondered if that same person would have done that on the next street over where some rather large construction workers were unloading.

  • Patrick

    What about the resturaunt on Embacadero south of the ferry building that VALET parks cars in the bike lane? And not just the car being pulled up for the patron to get into( who rarley if ever looks for biek when pullign out, but thats nothing new…), but 8-10 cars lined up, parralel parked, filling the bike lane for a couple hundred feet.

    I have tried stopping and talking to the person in charge of parking, and got a very cold “we don’t care” response with a blank stare.

    Does Gavin own the resturaunt or something?

  • ggggg

    The way to deal with businesses using the bike lane for private commerce, such as valet parking would be to ask the City Attorney to threaten or bring an action in public nuisance for obstructing the public right of way. The way to do that would be to do the work for the City Attorney make it as easy as possible, get Hererra into it, etc.

    The City Attorney is very busy though so they don’t really care. They will only care if something is presented to them in a complete, easy way. The public bike plan, the place to do such work was unfortunately privatized by the SFBikeCorporation in their all-network bike plan disaster. The SFBC caused the bike plan law-suit by lobbying to remove all other areas of study from the bike plan. They even removed CEQA work, which is why the law-suit was possible.

    So you are pretty much out of luck. The SFBC itself is far too closed minded to be able to concieve something like this. Their Board of Directors does not direct or make decisions. There is no way to propose ideas to them, etc. or even know what they are going to do. Their “democratic process” is highly undiscernable and mysterious. Basically, they are a totally staff driven mutant oddity that seems to really want a complete bike network. They are indeed so focused on the bike network that they end up working against other bike advocates and even against themselves. It is at time humorus to observe but mostly very counterproductive to the bicyclists of this city. What to do about businesses using the bike lane intentionally and such is a good example

    So as a citizen your options are to beg the beg the restaurant staff/valets to respect your rights (which apparently doesn’t work), beg the SFBC staff to effectively protect your rights(they will probably give you some stickers and a new blinky) or speak in the public bike plan about the problem and work with other citizens to resolve it (but unfortunately the public bike plan was taken away/privatized by the Bike Corp.)

    so in conclusion,in short, you are out of luck…

    …ride safely

  • greasybear

    “You are out of luck.”


    The city’s tens of thousands of cyclists are not beholden to this sort of agenda-addled defeatism.

    The issue is not the SFBC, nor the injunction, nor the stalled bike plan. The issue is how to get motorists to stop randomly closing down bike lanes by double-parking. Because the issue affected relatively few people until the recent and dramatic rise in SF cycling, there doesn’t appear to be much much thought or effort put into enforcing the relevant laws. Should we just give up? No way!

    Lobby. Agitate. Pressure. Petition. Confront. If it becomes clear the city cannot or shall not keep our hard-won public bicycle infrastructure open to its cyclists, then we will need to look into DIY solutions.

    At no point, however, will the ethos “we’re out of luck” be appropriate.

  • ZA

    I’m happy to read this. For all their necessarily gruff demeanor, I’m pleased to see that the SFPD can be even-handed in its enforcement.


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