Fell Street Bike Lane Still Popular Among Bike Commuters, Parked Trucks

Ted and Al’s Towing trucks are routine sights in the Fell Street bike lane. Photo: Patrick Traughber/Twitter

The more than 1,800 people who use the buffered, curbside bike lane on Fell Street every weekday continue to be faced with a familiar hazard: parked trucks.

Photo: Gisela Schmoll

As we’ve reported, drivers, including SFPD officers, routinely park in the Fell bike lane with impunity. The vast majority of violators appear to be accessing three businesses on Fell between Divisadero and Broderick Streets: Ted and Al’s Towing, Bank of America, and Falletti’s Foods (which is actually around the corner and has a loading area). Drivers also line up along the curb in front of the Arco gas station at Divisadero, but the SFMTA made that queue legitimate by re-striping the section in 2010.

“It is so bad that frankly, there may as well be no bike lane as almost every time I ride or walk past here I see someone parking in it,” bike commuter Gisella Schmoll wrote in an email to D5 Supervisor London Breed.

Schmoll said the “worst offenders” are Ted and Al’s Towing trucks, whose drivers “are clearly not loading or unloading; often the driver is just sitting in their truck.” As a regular user of the Fell bike lane, I can also attest to that.

As reported in a nationwide study of protected bike lanes released this week by Portland State University, bike traffic on Fell increased 46 percent in the first year after the bike lane was upgraded from a skinny door-zone lane to a wide, curbside, buffered lane. All car parking along the south sides of Fell, and its one-way counterpart Oak Street, was removed for three blocks to make room for the bike lanes. The SFMTA tracks bike traffic on Fell with an in-ground sensor, and its data are posted online every day.

A truck stopped in front Bank of America, which has a parking lot around the corner. Photo: Gisela Schmoll

With the kind of increase we’ve already seen, imagine the boom in bicycling we might see once the bike lanes are physically protected and free of parked trucks and cars, which squeeze bike commuters alongside three lanes of heavy motor traffic.

Thanks to a push from Supervisor Breed, the existing bike lanes were on the ground by Bike to Work Day last year. Plastic posts were also installed in the buffer zones to help discourage drivers from entering them, but they were removed when the bike lanes were re-paved. There’s still no word from the SFMTA on when we can expect landscaped traffic islands to be installed in their place — crucial finishing touches that have been repeatedly delayed and were promised some time this year.

“With the city’s supposed commitment to Vision Zero, I would expect that this highly used bike lane would be a priority for both enforcement and getting a permanent physical barrier,” Schmoll wrote. “Additionally, I don’t see the point of adding biking lanes and still making it legal for delivery trucks to load and unload.  Let delivery trucks block cars, not vulnerable bicyclists. If we want to get people out of their cars, reduce traffic and pollution, the first thing we need to do is make bike lanes for bikes!”

  • Beef Vindaloo

    You act like cyclists are bitching about these trucks just for the sake of bitching, as opposed to having their physical well-being put in jeopardy on a daily basis being forced into rush hour traffic, just so some delivery trucks can park illegally and enjoy some convenience. Attitudes like yours are exactly why this problem still exists today.

  • Guest

    I smell a Troll!

    Marvin Papas is cherry picking single weak points from otherwise intelligent posts (not that the average quality of posts in reply to him isn’t going down) to quibble with while ignoring whatever he pleases, and is deploying logically weak arguments, covering with volume.


  • Josh Berkus

    The other thing you might do is contact the owner of Ted & Al’s. I seriously doubt that standing in the bike lane is official company policy.

  • Guest

    The Armored Car company probably has a policy or even a contract dictating that they park as close as they can to those doors.

    Banks are interesting places for procedures. I know someone who worked at one (well into the Suburbs). The morning security procedure was four people in four separate cars with cell phones parked in different areas of the parking lot where they each had a clear view of the front of the bank had to be in place before the manager got out of her car and approached the front doors.

    Before unlocking the bank, she would do a walk around inspection of the entire building starting and ending with the front doors. At that point she would unlock the doors, let herself in and then immediately lock herself in and do an inspection of the inside of the bank, before finally giving the signal for the other employees to enter.

    How do we get that Armored Car to park somewhere else? No idea. But I would guess it’s more likely that if a mirror is smashed they have to lockdown and call 911 than it is they get to go trigger happy and chase someone down the street. The SFPD will have video of you doing it, though.

  • Guest

    Dear Troll,

    May I call you Troll? Lets do some minor edits on your post:

    Subset? Try the majority of drivers blowing through the speed limit (don’t you dare deny this) . Bikes slowing sharrowed lanes???TAKE TO THE STREETS IMAGINE THE HORROR. How about… y’know what, I don’t even know what your point was in this sentence? From Critical Mass (which is every day for drivers) to obeying daily traffic laws drivers are synonymous with disrespect.

    I’m really having trouble not editing your horrible punctuation and grammar.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Armored cars are chronic double parkers, not just for banks. They’re regularly blocking a lane on 5th street as well as Market. Maybe time for them to improve their policies? Double parking certainly puts them and others at risk if they’re trying to protect the money.

  • murphstahoe

    The word “Majority” is a subset of the word “Subset”

  • jd_x

    What if, like most roads, the space currently occupied by the bike lane was parked cars? Then what? Obviously, they would park in the road and block cars. Why should this be any different? Why should cyclists have to have their safety jeopardized?

    This smacks of what SFPD is doing and saying that putting the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is secondary to their weirdly conceived ideas that livable/walkable infrastructure reduces response times.

    We can come up with better solutions than just saying that it’s a zero sum game and that somebody has to pay a price. I’m pretty sure that, as a society, we can find a way to not block bike lanes and still let armored cars do their job safely. It’s all about accommodating this in the design.

  • jd_x

    You could try using Google Maps and see there are parking lots all around the businesses in question:

    And even if there wasn’t parking lots, the solution isn’t to block the bike lane and force cyclists into dangerous situations but to create street parking solely for the businesses which are metered and have short turn-around times (10 minutes).

  • jd_x

    “(How I love swimming against the tide).”

    Also known as trolling. Good you can admit it.

  • shamelessly

    I recall reading a few years back that when people were parked in a lane that became a no-parking zone at a certain time of day, after that time they were ticketed with a moving violation because at that point they were *in* a traffic lane. IANAL, but it seems to me the same rule should apply here.

  • Guest

    mmmmm, did I touch a nerve? Such anger….laughable. Have a nice day!!!

  • Marvin Papas

    Did I touch a nerve? Such anger….laughable. Have a nice day!!!

  • Justin

    There should be clearly painted PROTECTED bike lanes on both Fell and Oak streets between Baker and Shrader St, I think it would make a good amount of sense to do that 🙂

  • Prinzrob

    When bicyclists “blast” through a stop sign at 10 mph it’s a big problem indicative of a scofflaw culture, but then drivers slow down to “roll” through a stop sign at 10 mph it’s a “Hollywood stop” and something everybody does, no big deal.

  • Goodgulf

    It’s worth noting that parking in bicycle lanes is perfectly legal. The only thing that would make it illeagal is No Stopping/Parking signage. I can see a no stopping sign in the top picture, but I don’t see them in the others.

  • SteveDombek

    Can you cite this? What makes a bike lane different than any other traffic lane in terms of stopping/parking?

  • Prinzrob

    There’s a lot of gray area here, but there is indeed nothing in the CA vehicle code which specifically says that parking in a curbside bike lane is illegal, unless there is a red curb or “no parking” sign, or unless a city has it prohibited in their municipal code. Here’s some background: http://bikinginla.com/2010/01/12/our-government-in-action-encouraging-drivers-to-park-in-bike-lanes/

    That being said, the buffered bike lanes have double white lines at most points, which legally means “no crossing”, so any drivers entering them are still breaking the law. Other sections which have a dashed white line on the bike side and a solid line on the car side mean that cyclists can exit but drivers can not enter, and sections with only dashed lines means anyone can cross. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21460.htm

  • WeAreMany

    BS. I’ve seen DPT ticket people for parking in the bike lane on Fulton. It happens. It’s considered a traffic lane and you can’t park blocking a lane of traffic.

  • Prinzrob

    The Fulton bike lanes are next to parallel parked cars, so the ticket would have been written for double parking but not for blocking the bike lane. For bike lanes next to the curb either red paint, double lines, or signage is needed to legally keep drivers from parking there. I hate it too but that’s how the messed up law is.

    Check out the eastbound bike lanes on 8th Street in Oakland if you want to see how stupid this is. Completely full of legally parked cars.

  • WeAreMany

    I regularly see cars blow through stop signs and do other illegal things. I guess that means all car drivers are careless?

  • WeAreMany

    It seems like there are contradictions in the vehicle code. For the purposes of making right turns, I’m pretty sure bike lanes are considered traffic lanes and cars are supposed to merge into them before making their turn. I would think that if it’s a traffic lane in one situation, it should be considered a traffic lane in all.

  • Guest

    Laughable anger indeed! Oh, did you not recognize your own writing?

    Also, I notice you upvoted your own post at the root of this thread. Nice to know you have at least one fan!

  • Guest

    Go for it. Nothing’s stopping you.

  • Prinzrob

    Indeed. People cite the vehicle code as if it was a scientifically sound, airtight document, but in reality it is constantly changing and there are plenty of holes, grey area, and contradictions. And don’t even get me started on the CA DMV driver’s handbook!

  • WeAreMany

    Have you ever seen delivery drivers who use carts when they can’t park right in front of the store? I have. It’s totally possible. Come on….at least try using that brain of yours.

  • jd_x

    But cars can cross solid white lines to park, right?

  • Prinzrob

    Not a double white or yellow line, which a driver can only cross to make a left turn or enter a driveway. The bike lane “buffer” striping is considered a double line which is why cities usually stripe a dashed line on one side of a buffer when drivers do need to cross it to reach a legal parking spot (like this: http://licpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/nyc-buffered-bike-lane-300×196.jpg )

    I don’t there is any specific legality in CA concerning single, solid white lines, but the usual rules about drivers entering a bike lane only to prepare for a turn or reach a parking spot still apply.

  • Beef Vindaloo

    I find it extremely difficult to believe that it is perfectly legal to park in bicycle lanes. If that were really true, why wouldn’t all cars just use the bike lane for their regular parking, instead of paying for metered parking or parking in paid lots?

  • Prinzrob

    Because double parking is still illegal, and most bike lanes are situated next to parked cars. Otherwise, curbside bike lanes need to have red curbs or “no parking” signs to legally keep drivers from parking there. Most do.

  • Brad

    The majority? False.

  • Brad

    Drivers are too busy looking at the radio or their phones to bother looking where they’re going. Don’t try to deny this.

  • @HappyHighwayman – Perhaps start a monthly ride asserting your right to the streets, build community, watch it reach 500 cities, and so on and so forth, in that manner?

  • @Marvin Papas – One of the main burdens of the state is soup to nuts welfare for cars. I trust you’re for removing the staggering subsidies that prop up this dangerous and unsustainable practice, then? That’s the place to start, of course, where the problem is most acute.

  • HappyHighwayman

    Like Critical Mass? 🙂

  • Those motorists aren’t wearing helmets either, despite having exactly the same legal obligation to do so (and a much higher risk of head injury).

  • TowMan

    I used to work at Ted & Al’s. The main reason we would double park or park in the bike lane was to either load or unload towed vehicles or more likely to get a particular truck in or out of the shop. It is common for one driver to have to pull out several trucks just to get to his. They have around 30 drivers and 30 trucks operating out of that building. Once the task is complete, the trucks are brought back in the building as soon as possible. That’s how it’s been done for decades but only because there is absolutely no other way. So as long as they operate out of that location, it will continue. They have no special relationship or arrangement with the city or police other than their permit to operate.They do not tow illegally parked cars for the SFPD either. They are primarily a AAA contractor doing business the best they can on a busy street with a fairly new bike lane in front. The only solution I can think of is to paint the bike lane similar the the entrance of the nearby ARCO with a lane for tow trucks to enter and exit the building.

  • slooney64

    If a car or truck double-parked for any legitimate (or illegitimate) reason, I much prefer that they block the bike lane instead of leaving the bike lane free, then crossing it blindly carrying loads, opening doors, or pushing hand-trucks across it. I feel much safer going around the vehicle to the left where there is usually half a lane free. I frequently encounter this on Potrero where some delivery trucks “politely” leave the bike lane free. I never ride through a bike lane when it has parked vehicles on both sides. Too many possible hazards and nowhere to go.

    The bike lane is not sacred. It’s safer to go around to the left in many cases, just as it is when cars are turning right. Many drivers don’t realize they should be in the bike lane in these cases. I was recently tsk’ed by a driver for refusing to pass them to their right when they had their right turn signal on. Not gonna do it. I’ve hit 3 cars that way in 2 years. (No injuries thankfully, but some nasty dents.)

    If vehicles are sitting in the bike lane for long stretches of time, that is a different issue. I’m addressing their safest position, not their decision to park or the length of time they park.

    Qualifications: I have commuted 4000+ miles in San Francisco in the past 2.5 years.


Today’s Headlines

Man Struck, Killed Outside Crosswalk by 38 Muni Bus Driver at Geary and Lyon (CBS, SF Examiner) One Year in, Bay Area Bike Share Expansion at a Standstill; Birthday Specials Planned Thursday (Exam) Ted and Al’s Towing Trucks Continue to Block the Fell Street Bike Lane (Hoodline) SF Weekly Bike Blogger Tests the 3-Foot Passing Law by […]