Eyes on the Street: Stenciler Urges Drivers to Keep Clear of Bike Lane

3698773956_a9461d53af_o.jpgFlickr photo: thornley

A mystery stenciler/good citizen isn’t waiting for the MTA to implement measures to stop the mess of drivers seeking cheap gas from continuing to obstruct the bike lane on Fell Street at Divisadero. Early Sunday morning, someone stenciled "keep clear" signs in the bike lane, and painted antlers on the bicyclist symbol.

Anyone who has pedaled down Fell knows this gas station has been a troublesome spot for bicyclists for some time now. We don’t know yet what kind of impact it’s having on drivers, but feel free to share your impressions in the comments section if you’ve pedaled by recently.

MTA spokesperson Judson True said the agency has been planning to put in similar markings. Although crews plan on grinding out the fresh unofficial markings "soon," he said they intend on replacing them with essentially the same thing, except the signs that read "keep clear" will have the word order switched, with some additional signage warning drivers to stay out of the bike lane.

"We’ll see if those signs and markings work and if not more extensive measures, such as parking changes, may need to be explored," he said.

If the MTA were to remove parking, it would be on that portion of Fell Street, where a tow-away zone would be created. True said MTA staffers have been in discussions for some time now with the owner of the gas station to consider options. 

See the old bike lane and the antlered cyclist after the jump.

Fell_street_4.jpgA normal afternoon in the Fell Street bike lane. Photo by Bryan Goebel.

fell_2.jpgFlickr photo: thornley

  • kit

    HMMMM. Feel free to disagree with me, but the second I saw that bullshit in front of me I’d be swinging right around that mess. If that lane stays open that’s going to give cyclists a mistaken sense of safety and a one-way ticket to a left hook.

    Better to have those cars squeeze into the bike lane and leave half a lane for bikes to pass them on the right.

  • John

    It works! On Monday when I came through around 6:00PM, four cars waiting to get into the gas station were all lined up as far to the left as possible, actually leaving room for cyclists to get by without having to take the lane. Now, what can be painted on the street at Masonic to call attention to the NO LEFT TURN arrow? And when do we get our bike box back on Scott?

  • kit

    See that’s what I’m saying, I’m not a hardcore vehicular advocate, I’m a moderate, and in this kind of situation I would MUCH rather the cars NOT keep the bike lane clear so I can pass on the right.

  • AP

    What a great idea!

    How about going out and painting some bike lanes green?

  • whiz

    Whoever stenciled this in should paint the curb red and finish the job, because it will take MTA three years to do so.

  • patrick

    I drive by that station every day on my way home from work, and while is an annoyance for drivers (the entire lane often gets blocked by cars trying to get in the station), it’s an absolute danger for bicyclists as the stopped cars force them into the very busy traffic going up the street. While I applaud this person’s efforts I don’t think it will be enough, there are often 10-15 cars waiting to get in there and I suspect they will pay little attention to the writing after people get used to seeing it. I hope there is a better solution in the works.

    @kit, if you knew anything about that area you would know to drive in the middle or right lane when you approach divis, since when cars are blocking the bike lane they are also blocking the left lane, making it completely impassable.

  • marcos

    It would be nice if businesses which have ongoing problems with autos occupying public facilities like Muni lines or bike lanes hired someone to direct traffic in order to keep conflicts safe and flowing, but legislation is always an option.


  • t.eugene

    Now if we could do something with the bicyclists that ignore pedestrians when they make a northbound left from Scott onto Fell. Or the bicyclists that (illegally) cross the southbound lane on Scott to (illegally) use the sidewalk and pedestrian ramp to get to the bike lane on Fell. Hopefully the new Scott Street striping bike plan project will allow pedestrians to stand on that corner with out fear of being broadsided by a bike.

  • Seven

    Perhaps in sympathy, pedestrians should stencil “No Bicycles” on sidewalks around The City.

  • I have an odd view on this, as I am now car-less (and car free!) but used to drive down Fell every single damn day for my old job in South City (this was before BART ran to South City and San Bruno, and when I worked very long hours and transit didn’t run late). So I trudged home via my stupid car from there to the Inner Sunset.

    That gas station sucks for drivers as you have to get in the left lane, drive in and then try and either a) get out BEFORE the stoplight (good luck with that) or you end up going on Divisadero out of your way. Either way it sucks but the ARCO is usually the one with the cheapest gas.

    Then of course you have to navigate with people who don’t understand the concept of a one way multi lane road. Bicyclists caught in the middle of this? Hey, you’re a helluva lot braver than I – if I was a biker I’d pedal like the wind the frak away from Fell.

    Now the thing is, this area is a quasar of gas station activity. There’s ANOTHER ONE with a bigass carwash on Oak, and then ANOTHER across Divis as well. Let’s just say that with this trifecta, no one wins.

    Peds don’t win – we’re all dodging cars. Cars don’t win – we’re too busy pissing off each other with our inability to follow traffic signals and common sense in a dense area causing traffic jams for cars, buses, and so on. Bicyclists? Holy frak, good luck with that. Bring your armor and your gun.

    I’m not paid enough to know the answer, and I’m not a fan of knee-jerkism, but I’m not sure a stenciled bike lane will tell the minions blasting through there to keep an eye out for y’all. I don’t mean that to be a jerk, I mean that in the “SF drivers are some of the dumbest in the world oh GOD don’t get killed please” way.

    oh and don’t expect the gas station people to do a damn thing without the threat of La Ley shoving a boot up their ass. Trust me.

  • jon

    Actually, bike lanes on Fell were originally conceived in 1999 by a shadowy group called the Dept. of Traffic Corrections. They lasted three days.


  • jim

    I find the Fell St lanes too scary to use so I use Fulton St instead even with the hill.

    We need to look at the big picture. There should not be an unprotected bike lane on the left side of Fell that goes past a very popular gas station. I would go so far as to say that it is irresponsible to have such a facility there because it exposes bicyclists to a high degree of predictable danger.

    The connection between the panhandle (and GG Park itself) is simply too important for conditions to be this bad. One possibility is a bidirectional, fully protected bike lane on Oak St instead of Fell. There is no gas station and it is one block closer in to the wiggle. We could also do it by having bike lanes on both sides of Oak, one of which would be contraflow. We would need to remove parked cars for 4 blocks but it would be well worth it.

    Any other suggestions for a better facility than the current Fell St bike lane?

  • Nick

    Those few blocks of Fell (and Oak) do more to discourage bike commuting into downtown than anything else. The contrast in safety from that of the Panhandle Path to a 3-lane residential expressway is stunning.

    If there was to be a new front in site-specific advocacy (similar to market/octavia), this should be it.

  • How great–The Gas Station from Hell is getting some attention! I’m out of town right now and so can’t view the guerilla traffic markings in person but I’m sure liking the little antlers.

    I don’t think it’s a reasonable solution to advise bicyclists just not to ride on Fell. The Three Blocks of Terror between Scott and Baker are tremendously important to bicyclists who travel east/west in the city because they are the connection from the Wiggle to the Panhandle, which in turn is the connection to Golden Gate Park. The eastbound stretch isn’t quite so awful because lights slow the cars from Baker to Divisadero, leaving only Divisadero to Scott a white knuckle ride. But going westward all three blocks are a horrendous experience of 40-45-even 50 mph cars zooming by your right elbow while you are forced to merge into said terrifying traffic to get around the gas station line. It easily is the worst part of every trip I take east/west in the city, and if Page Street didn’t have the monster hill that it does, I would take that instead.

    My answer would be to take out parking and created protected bike lanes (I would go for bidirectional lanes on Oak.) Of course I realize this wouldn’t be popular with the neighborhood. The thing is, the back up for the gas station has got to be truly nasty for the people living in that area with all the noxious fumes created by the idling cars. Because gas stations are such environmental hazards, maybe they shouldn’t be located so as to endanger the health and safety of residents? Maybe we should be rethinking how and where we fuel our cars altogether?

    To those pedestrians frustrated with bikes, I agree that bicyclists shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalk, and it might actually be a good idea to stencil “no bikes” here and there. However, I am somewhat sympathetic to the bicylists who ride on the sidewalk those stretch of blocks, because not everyone has the nerves of steel to cope with the traffic as it currently exists.

  • These markings definitely help the situation. Not perfect, but better.

    In a true Green strategy Fell and Oak would both have a traffic lane removed to create a physically separated bicycle lane their entire length, painted green, with curb cuts not allowed.

    Just kidding, because that is politically (not technically) impossible!

  • Pat

    They should really just make Oak two-way and close Fell to car traffic altogether. Greenway from Panhandle to Alamo Square?? Yes please

  • ZA


    You have my full support! As a cycle-commuter in the city, I’m unhappy to see so many new cyclists keeping to sidewalks (and going counterflow on too-narrow bike lanes). Stencil away!

  • CBrinkman

    “In a true Green strategy Fell and Oak would both have a traffic lane removed to create a physically separated bicycle lane their entire length, painted green, with curb cuts not allowed.”

    In these tough economic times I wonder how many home owners/landlords would sell their curbcut rights – like selling your development rights to preserve open space – for a lump sum. That property would lose forwever the right or opportunity have a curb cut – but they could keep thier garage for storage, housing, or bike parking.

    On the downside, that would create more curbspace for parked cars, unless you trade the curbcut for a green space or bike lane.

    Oh, rode Fell St yesterday about 3:30pm, bike lane blocked by 8 or 9 cars. Couldn’t even see the renegade painting.

  • Alex

    I saw these yesterday. I think they are fantastic. The traffic was improved, considering it is Fell. I am actually curious about the repercussions of fixing this spot. It screwed up traffic and slowed the flow of traffic.

  • Heather

    I saw these stencils before reading this and thought they were very sweet. Fell is part of my regular route, and it can be a nightmare around this area. Anything that raises awareness from both cars and bicyclists about the problems at this gas station is appreciated. Clearly, cars should be more careful. However, I guess bicyclists, as always, are ultimately responsible for taking the time to stop, slow or go around distracted drivers acting irrationally to preserve their own sanity and safety.

  • Daria

    Jim (#12), I agree with you! It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed here and in other places along commuter bikeways (namely, Market Street!!!). There simply MUST be safe protected bike lane options so that bikers can traverse the city without constant fear of death. I would bike more if it didn’t take so much courage.

  • Kat Szymkowicz

    Can someone explain the law to me? CA law says to make turn you MUST enter the bike lane prior to turning. The DMV will fail you on your driving test if you FAIL to enter the bike lane prior to turning on to Broderick from Fell. How is the turn into a drive different (or is it??) I’m not being difficult, I am honestly confused.


SFMTA Implements Changes at Fell Street ARCO, But Is It Better?

A cyclist is forced to squeeze between two cars waiting to get into the ARCO station. An all-too-frequent occurrence that is still happening despite the SFMTA’s new configuration. Photos by Bryan Goebel. At the corner of Fell Street at Divisadero it’s frightening to witness the minute-by-minute close calls between drivers and cyclists on a one-way […]