Eyes on the Street: Market Street Bikeway a Favorite SFPD Parking Spot

A police cruiser parked in the bike lane in May. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Just as one problem improves for bike commuters on Market Street, another arises. Some San Francisco police officers have apparently grown fond of parking their cruisers in the westbound protected bike lane on Market at Polk/Tenth Street, next to Fox Plaza.

Back in May I snapped the above photo of a cruiser forcing a platoon of bike commuters to stop and squeeze by. I peered into the adjacent Starbucks for any officers, but seeing none, I gave them the benefit of the doubt, presuming it may have been a fluke. I don’t regularly commute on Market, so it was hard for me to tell if this was a recurring problem.

But this morning, bike commuter Stephanie May sent in photos of a cruiser parked in the same spot, and she said she sees it all the time. In fact, she returned this afternoon and snapped more photos, saying the same police car seems to have been parked there all day.

The same location this afternoon (note the progress on the building construction). Photo: Stephanie May

“I understand if there were an emergency, but there are no officers in sight,” said May. She said she sees street sweepers parked there as well.

Protected bike infrastructure is meant to be just that — protected from motor vehicles. But these officers apparently haven’t picked up the message from the green paint and poles. And why is the SFMTA (headquartered one block away) allowing SFPD to park on one of the city’s most frequently touted bike improvements?

Someone needs to nip this problem in the bud before it grows to be as rampant as it is in New York.

  • Henry

    It was parked there yesterday and when I passed by today about half an hour ago. Amazing.

  • Anonymous

    SF Cops are too fat to ride bikes.

  • mikesonn
  • Vitaly Gashpar

    Yup, snapped a tweeted a photo of that same cop myself around 1 today.  https://twitter.com/v1talyg/status/245966482259996672

    [Edit] Ha, I see someone beat me to posting a link to my own tweet!.

  • mikesonn


  • voltairesmistress

    Thanks for pointing this out.  Could you follow it up by sending your evidence to the SFMTA and SFPD?  The police’s casual misuse of safe space for bicyclists has to stop.

  • Vitaly Gashpar

    I just sent an email to the Tenderloin SFPD putting them on notice of this. 

  • Fran Taylor

    This problem of police contempt isn’t limited to bike lanes. Some years back, I noticed a cruiser completely obstructing the crosswalk and curb cut right outside the St. Francis ice cream parlor at 24th and York. Sure enough, two cops were sitting at the counter, and when I loudly asked to the room in general if anyone owned the black and white car blocking the wheelchair access, the male cop replied rather belligerently, “That’s an emergency vehicle.” When I asked if it was hot fudge emergency or a butterscotch emergency, the St. Francis owner began to look nervous, so I just left. They hate us.

  • kg

    San Francisco has the laziest police I’ve ever seen. I’ve never once seen them patrolling on foot. If they are on foot, they’re standing around talking to a bunch of other cops shooting the shit.

    They take an entire lane on Eddy in front of the TL police station. Why? Because they’re above the law. Way to lead by example guys.

  • jry

    why is the SFMTA (headquartered one block away) allowing SFPD to park on one of the city’s most frequently touted bike improvements?

    because the touting is more important than the improving

  • Anonymous

    Aaron: thanks for reporting on this. It’s pretty hard for our government to tell private motorists to stay out of the bike lanes when those who are supposed to be the best upholders of the law (cops) can just flaunt the law and totally disregard the safety of the people they are supposed to be protecting.

    Somebody out there needs to video tape these cops going into the Starbucks and coming back out, because I can tell you that — if we are lucky enough to get a response form SFPD on this issue — they will slough it off saying that it is an emergency unless we have proof that they are just getting coffee. With everybody armed with video cameras these days, that’s what it’s going to take to get SFPD to stop pretending like they area above the law.

  • mikesonn

    D5 sup Olague was parked in the bus stop in Lower Haight one night forcing a bus I was on to stop in the middle of the street and people had to walk around her van. Talk about setting an example.

  • @jd_x:disqus Wherever they’re going, the extensive amount of time they’re parked leads me to believe it’s not Starbucks (and, as I mentioned, I didn’t see them in there that one time). If they are sitting in Starbucks all day, the SFPD’s issues may run deeper than we thought…

  • Anonymous

    @azb324:disqus Good point. What is it then? The fact that it’s in the same spot all the time certainly lends evidence that it’s almost certainly not an emergency. Be great it there was a counter on the sidebar of this website which tracked how many times a cop blocked the bike lane on Market St (with a link to the specific details of each event).

    And even if it is an emergency, why can’t they block the car lane? I think it’s interesting that it’s always the bicyclists that have to sacrifice.

  • voltairesmistress

     Last week I rode by and saw the police cars blocking that entire lane on Eddy, even though there were several “police vehicles only” parking spaces on both Eddy and Jones surrounding the police station.  But I guess double parking on Eddy allows officers to walk a few feet less to the entrance.  Sigh.

  • Gneiss

    This really shows that SFPD is mostly interested in traffic law compliance rather than road safety.  The action of those officers creates an incredibly hazardous situation for a significant number of road users, but is considered a minor traffic law infraction.  In contrast, a cyclist coasting thorugh a stop sign on a quiet residential street represents low risk to other road users.   But because the police focus on compliance rather than safety, they think nothing of blocking the bike lane, but everything on stop sign violations.

  • Abe

    Here’s another example from earlier this summer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8838/7858579186/

  • jim.moore70

    For whatever reason, emergency or other, all service vehicles could park on the very wide footpath on Market Street with very little impact for pedestrians compared with blocking either the entire cycle path or one of the motorised vehicle lanes. This practice would appear to be acceptable in the Netherlands and they are the No.1 cycling country in the world.

  • Guest

    This is a situation where you should be as amicable as possible. The cops don’t need any more reasons to dislike bike riders. We depend on them to enforce the very laws that aim to keep the public safe. Just a reminder.

    That being said, these guys should really find a better place for that cruiser.

  • Maybe invest in a few fake tickets: http://www.vat19.com/dvds/parking-tickets-booklet.cfm

  • Aaron Anderson

    Unbelievable. Now that you mention it. I’ve seen cop cars in that exact location many, many days.  And, on my ride home from work tonight, lo and behold. Another cop car in the exact same location.  I was going to snap a picture to post, but was in a  hurry to get home for back to school night at my kids school. What’s up with this cop car in our lane?

  • Guest

    Before you all go trying to jump to conclusions, I’m sure the parking privilege of SFPD is taken advantage of. I myself always wonder where the **** the police are when I see a cruiser ‘abandoned’ in the same matter.

    I recall a time a few months back when I witnessed an accident. I recall seeing a cruiser a block back so I rode back hoping to find the police that should accompany it. Did not see anyone in the nearby cafes and shops, and called 911 instead. Took about 15 minutes for a response on site. Granted, it wasn’t life threatening, but it was also along a major artery that needed someone of authority to guide cars so they don’t idle and rubberneck.

    Crimemapping.com shows about 6 reported incidents from 9/4 to 9/6. Four of which I would say would warrant parking a cruiser in the ‘immediate’ area. So, who knows what they were doing, or up to. Mid to lower market isn’t exactly the safest place.

    I do however encourage people to spend a few minutes to find where these police are when a cruiser is ‘abandoned’. Bike lane, red zone, whatever. Look in the nearest cafe or eatery. If they are inside chilling out, I recommend taking down the cruiser number and filing a citizen’s complaint.

  • guest

    Denver boot?

  • Stephanie May

     Er, that was the same police car. It was still there when I left the area at 5:45.

  • Anonymous

    Get campaign flyers for Jeff Adachi’s pension measure and put them on the windshield

  • atom

    Glad this issue is being touched on here.  Also, if you know how to address the parking garage on Post West of Divisidero that insists on putting their ‘Valet Parking’ sign in the bike lane, I’d love to know.  (I move it whenever I pedal past.)

  • Sprague

    In some countries (ie. contemporary Austria), police officers are held to a higher standard and subject to a fine that’s double the normal amount when caught violating the law.  Police disregard of the law encourages others to do the same.  I was a bit surprised yesterday to see a taxi using the new bike lanes on 8th Street as a taxi lane, for several blocks  (and he wasn’t picking up or dropping off a fare – nor was there any congestion).  This taxi driver’s misuse of the bike lane wouldn’t be possible if this bike lane was parking protected.

  • GS

    We should all write to the local police stations to complain.  I rode down this stretch last week and saw a police car parked there.  At the time I gave them the benefit of the doubt (as I don’t ride Market often) but after reading this article this is clearly a pattern of privilege abuse.  For your convenience, here are the e-mails of the three local police stations who have jurisdiction:   

  • The Greasybear

    And, just like that, all the intended safety benefits of the “protected” bike lane magically disappear under the tires of an SFPD cruiser, putting riders on the city’s busiest bike route in direct danger of collision with auto traffic. This is just the latest example of SFPD’s open contempt for San Franciscans who ride bicycles. SFPD needs to change.

  • I reported that one to 311 yesterday.  (It was there in the morning on my way to work, and there in the evening on my way back… some emergency!)

    They told me to report it to the police.  Ha!

  • Mike

    How about the fake ticket this schlub uses when he parks in the bike lane:


  • I commute past there and see this at least once a week.  Maybe the SFPD should get some of those blue taxi stickers that say they’re “authorized” to park in the bike lane.

  • jry

    I doubt it’s contempt as much as apathy — according to KCBS (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2011/11/11/few-sfpd-officers-use-loan-program-to-buy-homes-in-city/), 75% of SFPD officers live outside of San Francisco. I’m guessing that with a starting salary of $89k (http://www.sf-police.org/index.aspx?page=1655) and likely free parking at the precinct, these officers are driving to work from the suburbs and so spend most their time behind a windshield. 

    With this limited viewpoint and no recourse for parking in bike lanes, bus stops, crosswalks, or sidewalks, they have little reason to know or care what it’s like to be a bicyclist, pedestrian, or MUNI rider in SF. The same can be said of firefighters (who park their luxury cars all over the sidewalk on 26th near Church), most elected officials (SFBC-endorsed Mayor Lee is known to be chauffeured two blocks to and from City Hall on Bike to Work Day http://blog.sfgate.com/cityinsider/2012/05/10/what-happened-to-the-biking-mayor/), and the generally horrible drivers of San Francisco (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2012/08/28/cities-with-the-worst-drivers-2012/). 

    To them, the people who choose or can’t afford to participate in the daily carnage on the roads are yet another special interest that needs to be minimally appeased. 

  • Anonymous

    This one’s actually a lot better, since there’s room to pass. I don’t fault police for pulling over if they need to, and this is probably the best way to do it (with due regard for the safety of pedestrians and everyone else, of course).

  • Vitaly Gashpar

    Update: Here’s what I received in response to my complaint emailed to SFPDTenderloinStation@sfgov.org.

    “This matter has been forwarded to the Office of Citizen Complaints per Department policy…it is unknown if Tenderloin Station vehicles are involved as Market Street is on the District border.” 

    Way to own that, SFPD! Maybe we should all shoot them an email?

  • mikesonn

    Did you include the picture? Do they not know which car numbers are dispatched from their station?

  • Caren

    Imagine if the regularly parked in an engine powered traffic lane….it would never stand. people powered transit is not respected across the board. once it gets more prominent it will stop perhaps, but with only 45 miles of over a thousand miles of roads with lanes – you have to expect abuse and continued disrespect at all levels – government is empowered supposed to protect the minority, so this is true injustice, not just an annoyance.

  • Caren

    what is the policy for citizen arrest in CA? I know it wold be thrown out but enough of these submissions and something might happen


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