Eyes on the Street: Renegade Bicycle Stenciler Strikes Again

The renegade bicycle stenciler has expanded his/her vision for a slower, saner traffic plan, this time asserting a bicyclist’s right to take a lane on Oak Street and not give it back. Sharrows be damned!

Unlike the previous iteration of the renegade bicycle stencil, which predicts new markings the MTA intends to lay down on the pavement in the Fell Street bicycle lane, this stencil is in a lane the city has no intention of repurposing, particularly for bicycles.

"This is a case of the citizen planners getting ahead of the city planners," said the SFBC’s Andy Thornley, who alerted Streetsblog to the stencils and provided the photos.

Perhaps because of our previous post pointing out the word-order error, the stenciler this time laid down the words in
the correct order, as would be read by a motorist or cyclist traveling
over them.

Also unlike the previous stencil, it appears the bicycle helmet on this renegade cyclist resembles a unicorn. What’s the safety implication of getting in a crash with that attached to your head, I wonder?

See the mythic, smiling horned-beast after the jump:

  • Wonderful. Let’s confuse the heck out out drivers…that really makes things safer.

  • I don’t find this funny. There are enough people who consider bicyclists nuts already. I don’t think this helps.

  • I always found those bottom-to-top words to be confusing. I read those words on the street backwards, whether I am biking or driving over them.

    But “mad props” to the stenciler.

  • “Let’s confuse the heck out out drivers…that really makes things safer.”

    Confused drivers slow down and look at their surroundings. I say yeah, let’s confuse them!

  • SFresident

    Not that I would advocate making vigilante changes to road design but if you’re gonna do this can you be a bit smarter about it. Make it look like a professional copy of city bike lanes. More drivers will follow the directives and it’ll engender less of a “crazy bikers” reaction.

    As-is it just kinda looks like an “angry critical mass bike-zealot” sort of thing.

    Oak should have a real bike lane.

  • Martha

    Hey Josh, confused drivers cause accidents. Not too sharp are we?

  • ZA

    With quiet roads on Page, the Wiggle, and Scott – I don’t see much need for a bike lane on Oak. Let the cars have Oak, especially if the cyclists and residents could have all of Page. Alternately, a cycle diversion on Waller and Scott could also be quite pleasant with minimal climb.

  • SFresident

    @ZA: Fell is only useful for westbound traffic, a full lane on Page going eastbound would work okay but if you’re coming from the panhandle you have to go up a steep incline on Broderick to meet up with Page (where you immediately have to plunge down a steep hill). Oak just has a slight downhill tilt. It seems like it would also make sense to pair a westbound bike lane on Fell with an eastbound lane of Oak – just like the car traffic. It might make sense to drop the lane at Scott but West of Scott Oak is the flattest and most direct route from the panhandle.

  • mcas

    @Martha: Actually, careless driving causes collisions. Go back and re-read what Josh said– confusion = attention.

  • jcs

    Drivers traveling as fast as they do down Oak will not notice there is a smile or a horn on the stencil, it is more to give cyclists a chuckle. These types of creative bike stencils are considered professional elsewhere as in Portland where the city adds on their own flare to the stencils.

  • kkb

    I saw this being made on my drive to work Sunday morning around 7:30am. Two women and a man in their late 20’s had blocked off the right lane down Oak with orange cones and wooden construction barriers. Ironically, their closing of the lane seemed to add more danger to the already precarious race down Oak street to the skyway.

  • Nick

    I always thought MTA would develop a sense of humor one day and stencil in:


    Or a bike stencil on the sidewalk with the words “Do it in the Road.” That would make a nice SFBC sticker come to think of it.

  • gd

    Oak definitely needs a bike facility. Page is not a practical substitute at all for Oak. The Panhandle is one of the City’s only real Class 1 bike paths, and it is very heavily used, including in the westbound direction. There needs to both eastbound and westbound connections to the Panhandle at both ends. Now, all the cyclists heading westbound (it’s quite a lot in the a.m.) are just dumped at Baker and then have to take a lane on Oak. I do it fine, I’m comfortable with taking a lane in heavy traffic, but that’s not the way to build a bike network. Because it’s downhill and cyclists go quite fast, any bike facility need to be plenty wide. I would propose eliminating the parking on the south side of the street between Baker and Scott and creating a wide bike lane, or something like that.

  • RachaelL

    I have to echo comments that Page is just not convenient eastbound from the panhandle for a cyclist … if you climb directly out of the park proper up to Page before it becomes the panhandle, it’s “okay” though the steep downhill can be disconcerting. But if you end up in the panhandle, Oak is far more reasonable since the climb up to Page is so steep. Plus, Page has stop signs every f-ing block. On Oak, you can basically go for blocks and blocks without stopping (even possible at the speed limit or very near it). There are quite a few routes around town that I choose over the slower, “safer” bike route merely because … you know what? I want to get to my destination without lots of stopping too, just like a driver. And a lot of the bike routes are not designated with that in mind.

    This particular renegade bike marking looks a bit … crappy though.

  • marcos

    Oak is one of the longest synchronized signal straight aways in the City where a bike can beat traffic, smooth slight decline pavement that’s only about 4 years old. The most dangerous part is between Broderick and Scott, but it is almost always passable on the center stripe faster than clogged traffic. Sure would be nice to conserve all of that momentum that would be lost at Divisadero to make it up and over the hill at a decent speed.

    As far as the stencils go, at least someone is trying something. Confusion only prevents collisions if the motorists gets confused and slows down at uncertainty before hitting someone rather than just plowing through the confusion as if it was the same as it ever was.


  • @kkb. don’t you think that you’re *driving* to work on sunday morning down Oak unironically made the ‘race’ to the ‘skyway’ (ps. do you mean the highway?) more dangerous? just to clarify the context and bigger picture here.

  • I’ve been wanting to do this for years! More, more, more!

  • velocycling

    I think it is the cyclist is holding a sword not a unocorn.

  • kkb


    Oak street traffic is all controlled by timed lights down to Octavia where you reach the Central Skyway. When I turn onto Oak from Divis, I always hit a red light at Scott, meaning my speed is controlled by the timing of each traffic light. Calling the drive down Oak a ‘race’ was a misnomer, especially if you are limited to 35mph(?) the entire stretch. The only danger I see in driving down Oak parallels any inherit danger that comes with automobiles. Of course, closing off part of a lane half way down the block IS dangerous. People turning from Divis were probably not expecting the closure and could have caused an accident. Anyway, I dont understand this desire to put a bike lane on Oak. You have the Wiggle, Market st, Octavia, and every much more quiet street that parallels Oak. And as for Page st. having too many stop signs… when have bikers stopped for a stop sign?

  • g

    The streets are a form of speech. Literally, words make the street. And you would think this speech would reflect a community’s values?

    Oak street is a good example because there isn’t any debate as to whether bikes use Oak street, they do every day. They are there in a form of assembly, in a type of speech, everyday. You can stand there and count them, watch them. Real people on their real bikes really there. It’s only the suspension of reality that allows for a different viewpoint and that suspension is of course traffic engineering — the world of light timing and capacity, a pseudo science of constant movement that interrupts the community’s vision of what the streets are or should be.

    Placing large bike stencils on Oak is of course obviously warranted, because the bikes are there and the City likes bikes. Its only reasonable to make the streets safe for bikes where bikes are. It’s only reasonable that the speech of Oak street, its regulatory lines and design, should be representative of the speech of Oak street in that people ride bikes on Oak.

    Otherwise these “citizens” are not equal on that street and not represented as if those are ghosts you see, just specters, the hollow outlines of a second class that actually does not exist, or exists only in select locales, only on a “network”.

    The stencils on Oak, originally demanded in 2002 before the Bike Plan was privatized and turned into a biblical disaster, are also very appropriate because they don’t take away car capacity. All you are really saying is bikes are here and bikes should be here. This is not encouraging bikes to be there because they are already there. Its just dealing with reality. Everyday bikes ride Oak street.

    This transcends the better way, the better route minutiae that advocates and planners can become so hopelessly mired in. It doesn’t matter. The bike network doesn’t matter. The bikes are there. The question is whether to sanction and to legitimize their presence or to ignore them and pretend they are not there.

    If you look out to the horizon, look up into sky, there is a whole host of authority, entire constellations, thoughts of the past which is the future that says people on bikes have a right to move just like all people have right to move. There are vast histories standing behind such assertions which will not be heard, because we are just planning a bike network, just finishing an EIR, just studying a study about a study — just administering the next fundraiser.

    And for now there are some kids out in the morning night with paint-buckets speaking for a City that can’t speak for itself.

    And with that, nice job, especially the smiley face. Good time.

  • @Matthew Roth: “…this stencil is in a lane the city has no intention of repurposing, particularly for bicycles.”

    Oak Street between Baker Street and Scott Street is a recommended long-term improvement in the SF Bicycle Plan. See Chapter 1 Bicycle Route Network at http://www.sfmta.com/bikeplan.

  • ZA

    re: Eastbound on Page

    It’s definitely less direct, but there’s a calmer way to go with minimal climb:

    Eastbound from the Panhandle, don’t merge onto busy Oak. Instead cross onto Broderick near the DMV, then go eastbound on Hayes. Cross Divisadero at the light, and then coast down Scott to Page. The subsequent climb on Page is not particularly strenous, and the descent to Octavia, then Market can be managed.

    Certainly less direct, but less stress too, and plenty of Sharrow markers to argue for your roadspace.

    To the issue of stop signs, that’s very much a personal decision.

  • RachaelL

    ZA / kkb — So cyclists should be risking tickets and accidents by running stop signs on Page in order to have as convenient a route as Oak but away from the cars?

  • I am not surprised that the city quickly covered the renegade stencil, while the sharrows on Scott remain missing or pratly covered after repaving was done over three-four weeks ago. Why can’t the city repaint sharrows where they already officially belong?

    As for giving Page to bicyclists and Oak to cars, this ignores the reality that Oak is part of the Wiggle on this short stretch, and that bicyclists using the inbound Panhandle are dumped into a car sewer. The stretch of Oak from the Panhandle to Scott should have a nice wide bike lane. That is a critical connection in the bike network that is missing.

    The renegade stencil raises the issue in a way that phone calls to MTA or city leaders have failed.

  • Sprague

    It would be wonderful if at least portions of Page Street were off limits to automobile through-traffic but open to bicycle through- traffic (like many streets in Berkeley). This could probably be done with few stop signs for the traffic on Page Street. The cyclists would then be able to legally and safely cruise.

  • general reflection, then @kkb. I’m very curious about the trend that streetsblog sf seems to me have many more motorists and not-so-excited about liveable streets people in the comments than ny streetsblog. I think this is actually a good thing, though it sometimes is surprising having read and commented on ny streetsblog before sf streetsblog got going.

    @kkb. thanks for the snide remark, i imagine mine was somewhat snide sounding to you. fair is fair, we can agree to be a little snide.

    first off, the region you are unironically making things more dangerous is because at the most basic level you are driving a cage around, from which you have limited visibility, spew pollutants at ground level that affect the street’s residents, and use a machine that is inherently dangerous (40,000 auto-related deaths in the US alone each year). In what sense do “we” have market, page, and octavia? I do not feel like I ‘have’ Market at all as a cyclist.

    the truth is we just don’t need a one-way, three-lane speedway in the city so western residents can speed to a freeway to take them out of the city. that’s fine if you want to have or use a car to get on the freeway, but we as a city (all residents, pedestrians, cyclists, muni-users, and motorists (notice you’re only part of the pie here)) get to decide how you’ll move through the city streets to get the freeway. three-lanes, timed, with no bike infrastructure (at 35mph or not) is not going to keep flying. as long as we keep such infrastructure around those who want to bike and walk more on safe and calm streets will not be able to and those who do drive will see no way out of the status quo, and will continue to think they have to drop ~$8,000/year on personal auto ownership (source: AAA).

    I hate to even get into the stop sign thing because it is a big issue and one we need to do a better job of talking explicitly about, but I feel it is important to address, even if for only an audience of one on this forum that does not get it. I routinely and regularly stop at stop signs. I stop at stop signs and put my foot down, smile, and wave on motorists parked at opposite stop signs, motorists that are approaching opposite stop signs, and most of all pedestrians. When no one is at an intersection, I may very well not stop at a stop sign. It’s stupid to do so. We didn’t have stop signs until we have 2 ton automobiles. When you run a stop sign, you might very well kill some one, and you have limited visibility from inside your car (cage). From a bike, my range of visibility is much greater, and more likely than not if I run a stop and hit something, it is me that is going to suffer and not the object I hit (unless it is a pedestrian–but as I said, if pedestrians are present, I put my foot down and stop). I think that you would be surprised to learn that most cyclists actually behave just like this.

    Ps. did you happen to read about the motorist that gunned a red light and took out a father and his young son on Valencia Street a few weeks ago? Am I asking you to answer for this? No. Then stop asking us to answer for some small percentage of cyclists’ behavior who wantonly and dangerously disregard stop signs.

  • marcos

    The lights for Oak are timed at what appears to be no more than 30mph. I had no problem keeping up with the timings when I had 700 wheels, but now that I’ve swapped out to MTB 28″, I’ve got to huff.

    I’ve never seen Oak at LOS worse than B along the panhandle. There is sufficient excess capacity that I can pass right hand turning autos in the second lane maintaining speed. This, at PM rush hour.

    The only gnarly part is between Broderick and Scott, and the movement of danger is negotiating through the Divisadero light, which is often off the timings and frequently LOS C or maybe D. Vehicles turning right onto Divis pose the greatest danger, and it is often safer to center stripe it like a motorcycle over this stretch to keep momentum and avoid turns because traffic is so slow, but you do lose perhaps half of your momentum in the process, and merge back to the right lane for the slog over the hill or the Wiggle.


  • bm
  • Mr SF



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